Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | March 5, 2012

Regatta Weather

N 18° 03.77′   W 63° 05.31′

Simpson Bay Lagoon, Marigot, St. Martin

The Mar Azul dinghy venturing offshore to catch a glimpse of the Sint Maarten Heineken Regatta

We are ready to move on with Bob more enthusiastic than I to transition into travel mode. I have relished our time in St. Martin and while I look forward to new destinations find it hard to say good-bye to such a pleasant place.

The last major cold front back home kindly dipped southward enough to disrupt the weather patterns while our friends were here. Now the trade winds are blowing in force with no sign of relenting. We are looking for calmer seas than the current 20 – 30 knot winds and easterly 10 foot swells permit.

The good part was that we got to stay for the Heineken Regatta, a major sailing event. There were four days of races and evening music and parties in a different location each day. The Regatta organizers did a good job involving the whole island and included boaters, tourists and locals in the fun. The rigorous racing weather generated speed and excitement. Check out the Heineken Regatta Facebook page for some terrific video clips that capture the energy of the competition.

The largest class crossing the finish line in Marigot

Some of these racers are pretty serious. We met a live-aboard couple in Ponce who race their boat in cruising class in these types of events. Racing required moving ALL of their personal possessions off the boat to minimize weight. Can’t imagine wanting to undertake that amount of work!

Bob’s racing experience includes a couple of crew spots while in Tampa and a Hobie series 30 years ago when we were getting familiar with our first 16-foot sailing vessel. He and his best buddy Mark were most interested in having fun and they showed up at the Washington Sailing Marina – yes, that was in Washington,DC, right next to the Reagan Airport, every afternoon for 12 weeks. They weren’t the most expert sailors and rarely placed in individual races, but to the annoyance of their competitors their perseverance won them first place overall. I’m trying to remember why I didn’t want to crew, but it’s probably just as well. Too many dunkings in the muddy Potomac River might have prematurely ended our boating life, and Bob and Mark took their share.

Oh, well . . . there was no trawler class in this regatta. We were limited to being spectators and celebrants. Crew spots are hard to come by and people paid for that privilege. We attended the festivities at Port de Plaisance on Thursday and in Marigot on Saturday, and watched the finish of the largest vessels from the dinghy just outside Marigot Bay. That involved a crazy dinghy ride in big seas and I have a new appreciation for action sailing photographers.

We have replenished the ship’s stores in preparation for moving on.  We did another Grand Marche outing for American products and a trip to the French market. We are getting better at this.  Credit cards worked (fingers were crossed) and cargo-damaging rain showers were narrowly avoided as we ferried our precious purchases in the dinghy. The Captain is assuming a more active role in these expeditions and now gets his own list and cart. I am learning to live with the choices that have been delegated in exchange for the extra help on shopping day.

I know, I know, there is food available throughout the Caribbean, but repeated trips to the same familiar and well-stocked markets is a luxury.

We have learned that two loaded shopping carts is the max the dinghy can hold.

The Mar Azul crew has set another record. It has been 3 ½ months since we have rented a car. With the exception of a couple of shared taxis for outings with friends and rides chauffeured by our friend Glen while he was on the island, we have gotten along fine via foot, dinghy and public bus. We are surprised that we didn’t feel we needed a car and didn’t miss having one. The geography of the Lagoon allowing for extensive dinghy use, the efficient bus system here and the complimentary marina transportation provided by the Grand Marche simplified our needs.

Now we are watching the weather, complicated by the latest internet snafu. When we find the right window we plan to make the short hop back to St. Barts to stage for a 10-hour or so trip to British Barbuda. We plan to spend a couple of weeks in this sparsely populated hideaway, then on to Barbuda’s sister island, Antigua, for a brief visit, then Guadeloupe and associated French islands, for about a month. We will give the French destinations a strong preference on our trek down island since they have simpler dog entry rules.

We will soon need to confirm a specific plan for the summer season and our future course. I am the less comfortable sea traveler and Bob is deferring to me on the choice of major routes. Clockwise to the intriguing Western Caribbean, with more sea days, longer passages, some very interesting cultures and less traveled destinations, or northward through the friendly Eastern Caribbean, with shorter trips, time to further enjoy familiar places and still more destinations to explore? I know the direction I am leaning and look to the more southerly voyages after Barbuda, not battling the trades head on, to hold the key.

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