SHARK!

Our friends Dan and Venessa come to visit, and we sail around the island, go diving with sharks, and party with Delos!

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With our visitors arriving in just two days, we needed to make a beeline for St. Martin. We departed Jolly Harbour at 6:30 a.m., motoring for the first little while in the absence of wind. When the wind finally filled our sails, it was a downwind run, not Ar Sgrail’s fastest point of sail. Averaging 5 knots, we rolled around for most of the day until St. Barts came into view. Here we were treated to another rare sight: a humpback breaching in the distance!

It was so amazing to see, even from far away. We have been so lucky this season, especially with our whale/dolphin extravaganza from the last crossing.

After 18 hours, we finally dropped the hook in Marigot at 1:30 a.m. Less than 8 hours later, we were back at Time Out Boat Yard for the monthly yard sale. It was so nice to see so many familiar faces – it almost felt like a homecoming. From people’s reactions you’d think we were gone much longer than 7 weeks! Our friend Marcin took some great shots of the event:

thanks to @Tobysarl next Fleamarket been hosted yesterday,great deals,lot of fun,friends and party:)#SXMX #boatandyachts #sxmstrong #carebeanlife #crazyfun #lakesseasoceans

Posted by Marcin Spadi Zielinski on Sunday, March 10, 2019

The next day, our friends Dan and Venessa arrived from Montreal, with a special delivery!

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Hurray! Peanut butter!

We celebrated their arrival and introduced them to life on St. Martin with a delicious pig roast and a couple of Presidentes at the Dinghy Dock Bar. The next day we provisioned for the week and hiked up to Fort St. Louis for amazing views of Marigot Bay and Anguilla in the distance. That night we ate on deck under the stars, as the moon smiled down on us with its Cheshire cat grin.

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View of our anchorage in Marigot from Fort St. Louis

The next day we set out on a shakedown sail, mostly to test out our new crew and ensure they were comfortable on the boat and didn’t get seasick! Dan and Venessa have sailed with us before on the Ottawa River and even had their own sailboat for a while, so we weren’t too worried, but sailing in the Caribbean can sometimes be a little more spirited than what we’re used to on the river. But Dan and Venessa were totally fine, and we ended up anchoring in Grand Case for the night.

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Our crew for the week!
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Dan at the helm
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D&V at the beach in Grand Case

After going snorkeling on Creole Rock we went ashore for an excellent Creole BBQ at the Lolos. We also happened to be there on a Tuesday night, when there is a huge night market in Grand Case, with Carnaval dancers, bands and artisans selling their wares. We closed out the night watching Tanya Michelle, an incredibly soulful singer with a beautiful voice.

The following day we sailed around the corner to Île Pinel, since none of us had ever been to this little piece of paradise. We arrived fairly late in the day, so we cooked up some duck magret on the boat and agreed to explore the island after a good night’s sleep.

The next morning, Mel made crêpes and then we lazed around the boat reading. We then mustered up some motivation and dinghied ashore for lunch at Karibuni (try their ceviche – it’s fabulous!). We then continued our lazing on the beach, cooling off occasionally in the shallow water. Later on, David snorkelled around Petite Clef Island to our stern, which turned out to be one of his favourite snorkeling spots, even after a run-in with an eel.

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Ile Pinel from the boat
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Ar Sgrail in the distance as seen from the beach

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Lunchtime at Karibuni

We had to be in Simpson Bay the next morning, so we decided to introduce Dan and Venessa to night sailing. We left Pinel at sunset and stargazed the whole way to Simpson Bay, arriving just in time for bed.

With Friday being our guests’ last full day in Sint Maarten, we knew we had to make it an amazing one. We started the day off with a dive with Ocean Explorers. They know all the best dive sites and dive them so often that the marine life is totally comfortable with them. So when they announced—as we were about to get in the water—that there would be sharks and that they might come close, we knew we were in capable hands, but it only partially quelled our instinctive reaction (panic!). As soon as we dropped into the water, there they were: 6-foot reef sharks swimming below us. David thought Mel’s eyes were going to pop right through her mask as she continued to make the underwater sign for shark with each one that came into view. It was definitely nerve-wracking to be surrounded by these predators, but they were just curious about our presence and, as we had been warned, had no qualms about getting close. After 45 minutes of swimming with them, we knew that they had no intentions of harming us and that any concerns had been completely unwarranted. It’s so unfortunate that sharks get such a bad reputation when they are so critical to the marine ecosystem. It was incredibly fulfilling to swim with them, and this amazing experience helped Mel get over her unfounded fear of sharks. We got out of the water totally elated and high on such a unique interaction.

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Mel: “I’m ok. I’m not freaking out”
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David’s turn to come through the cave
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Curious sharks coming to check out why everyone’s going through the cave
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“Is it right behind us?”

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On our dinghy ride back to Ar Sgrail, we saw a familiar boat: Delos! We stopped by to say hi and invite them to happy hour at the Yacht Club. Just a few hours later we yet again found ourselves drinking and chatting with the Delos crew. We also joined them for dinner at Little Jerusalem, the best spot for shawarma on the island. And then (what else?) more drinks. It ended up being quite a late night, one that you wake up from the next morning wondering if it was all a dream, and then realize no, that actually happened, and that’s why I desperately need Advil. But Dan and Venessa said it definitely won for Best Day of Vacation Ever, so it was worth it.

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Group shot at the St. Maarten Yacht Club
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Señor Brady tries on David’s how-did-you-know-I-was-Canadian hat at Little Jerusalem
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What happens the day after partying with Delos

Where the wind takes us next: That might be it for this season! We haul out in just a few weeks before heading home to enjoy summer in Ottawa…

4 thoughts on “SHARK!

  1. Eeps, the PADI Rescue Diver in me can’t believe they led you through any type of ‘cave’. Looks like a great dive though. What clear water your had for those sharks too. Awesome! I’m hoping Ottawa will be snow-free for you when you arrive, but I can’t guarantee it. 🙂

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    1. The “cave” was only about 15 feet long and open on both ends. It was more like a large tunnel. The sharks sure were interested in the flash from the camera.
      We are hoping for a snow-free Ottawa…if only to be able to get the car and bikes out of the garage and up the driveway!

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