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St.Maarten and back in homewaters

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To give the broker time to lure prospective buyers to Witte Raaf, we stayed for four weeks on Sint Maarten/ St.Martin. Reluctantly, because this dry island is not the love of our lives. “The Friendly Island” they call it, and surely there is nothing wrong with the people. But in our opinion something is missing. Only incidentally you meet some local atmosphere and the locals you see around are most of the time not even born there,  which is not contributing to a consistent unity.
The lack of coherence is underlined by the fact that this tiny island is divided in two parts. Both “countries” share a love-hate-relation, in which jalousy (the French own the biggest part but the Dutch have the international airport, the biggest and most expensive facilities for yachts and the biggest cruise ship terminal plus facilities) and cooperation alternate. Everyone hops to and fro across the border to get the best of both worlds: shopping on the Dutch side is profitable, especially booze and cigarettes, but French cheese, bread and pâtisserie are also highly appreciated by the inhabitants on the Dutch side.

Despite the good things (the lagoon is an excellent anchorage surrounded by lively pubs offering free WiFi) in our opinion St.Maarten is not very different from all the surrounding islands. They miss the attractiveness of the islands south of Guadeloupe, that are so lively. People there like to communicate; they want to share their paradise with you and are interested in other people. And animals, as they even inquire about our cats!
So we were happy when there was a “weatherwindow” and we could leave. We had fair winds and calm seas and St.Kitts showed us a beautiful rainbow. But we carried on to Nevis (one should grab every easy mile in daylight) and after 70 miles Nevis welcomed us with squally weather and illustrious neighbours: a.o. Stars & Stripes, with which Dennis Connor won the America's Cup.

Sailing underneath Montserrat we realized the impact of a vulcanic eruption on people. It was not directly Pompeï, but the biggest part of the island is covered in ski pistes of lava, inaccessible and also prohibited area except for disaster tourism. In the afflicted area some structures have appeared: a tourist office and some guest houses, and a chopper flies on and off with the carriers of economical influx. The vulcano is still active, two years ago we swept ashes from the deck when we were even way off in Martinique, and it looks on the verge of erupting again. The stench of sulphur and the heavy pressure on the lungs made us sail on quickly to be able to drop anchor after 76 miles in Guadeloupe, where the mountains are at least lush green.

On the afternoon of the third day we arrived after a pleasant 40 miles in Dominica and in the future the world ends here and we never have to sail farther north again. Homewaters. Illustrated by the boatboys (who in fact are certified tour guides) who greeted us upon arrival, but didn't offer themselves for business???!! We are Fire's friends and they warned Fire that we had arrived.

Fire hurried along just when we were having dinner: thank god it was a spinach omelet with fried potatoes and lettuce (Fire is a rasta thus vegetarian), so we could set a third plate without any problem. This is the nice thing about Dominica: spontaneity and catching up while smoking marihuana cigarettes (for which we supply the cigarette paper, as the sale of this is forbidden heren!!). And the following day Fire had a giant steak of marlin delivered to our boat, enough for two days.
By the way, Dominica is the only island where fresh water is delivered free of charge as well: in a big rain squall we topped up our tanks with more than 100 liters.

But leaving Dominica, the alternator suddenly did not charge and the engine wouldn't start. Fortunately we had just met Nina and Lennert, who is… an electrician and he was so kind to help us out. Sounds like a piece of cake but it definitely was not. After a couple of days we waved goodbye to our saviours... and of course AGAIN our engine would not start. JW was already thinking of various disaster scenario’s but P had paid good attention to what Lennert did and got the engine to work again. JW was awfully proud!

So we ended up in Martinique in the typical French-Caribbean village of Case-Pilote where the main dealer of Volvo Penta in the Caribbean is located. After last year's bad experiences and mistakes on Volvo Penta's side, they had promised “to give us good service next time”. That time was now! Unfortunately “all mechanics” (two people) were out on a huge job in St.Barth. But the VolvoPenta-boss pulled some strings and Philippe came, a local who appears to help him more often. After eleven hours of work in three days we were friends and the evening before our departure he brought his wife along and promised to come to Suriname soon.

And in the meantime we appreciated the little port of Case-Pilote more and more; it reminded us of our once favourite port in Normandy, Port-en-Bessin, also buzzing with fishermen's activity. Small fishers, big fishes, even blue marlins. The VolvoPenta-boss was afraid that the fishermen would not accept our staying in their port for a week, but nothing was less true. Electricity and not the right plug? Cables were unrolled immediately. Water? Of course, this is the hose. Showing interest in their business is part of the deal and they love to make conversation, as tourists are rare in their port. Unluckily the relaxed local atmosphere won't last, because in two or three years a marina will be constructed. Including a shopping mall with fancy restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. But also modern improvements such as ATM’s and WiFi, which are not unpractical...

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