The trip from Antigua to Saint Martin went fairly smoothly with a few exceptions. Around 3:00 am during Renée’s watch we ran into a couple of squalls and rain. I was asleep in the cockpit and awoke when I felt water landing on my legs. Wind perked up to around 26 knots but Renée handled the situation like a seasoned sailor. So I went back to sleep. A little while later we found ourselves in another squall but this time without rain so it was much better. The wind remained stiff for the next couple of hours as we passed the island of St. Barthelemy (St. Barts) and got closer to St. Martin.
In addition to the elevated winds, the seas grew to around 6 feet. This is not that bad for 5KNOTS as long as the period (distance between wave tops) is fairly long. Example – A period of 3 seconds means that there is only 3 seconds between the waves which can make it rather uncomfortable instead of a period of 9 seconds. Typically, the longer the period, the smoother the ride.
We had been motor sailing for about 12 hours by this time without engine or fuel issues. That came to a stop when we came over the top of a large wave and as we bottomed out, the engine quit. Not again? The wind by this time had dropped to 8-10 knots and seas were just around 3 feet. With the mainsail reefed for larger winds, we were not able to sail more than around 3 knots. Having just gone through this on the approach to Antigua, we knew we had bad fuel so we inspected the fuel filter. We assume we were shaking up our fuel with all the wave hopping and another piece of junk must have clogged the fuel again. As I was gathering up a new filter and a container to put some diesel in to prime the filter reservoir, I decided to give the engine another chance to start. Viola, it started so I just engaged the engine enough to move us at a slow speed but towards our final destination which was about 6nm miles away. After 15 1/2 hours, we finally arrived at our anchorage at Simpson Bay on the Dutch side of St. Martin and dropped anchor in around 18 feet of water. Once secured at anchor I flushed the filter reservoir a couple of times and changed out the filter. We will see how far this one gets us.
Whenever we are out in the ocean and there is a hint of big wind or waves we always wear our life jackets. In addition, whenever it gets dark, we put on our jackets and clip ourselves into the cockpit or our Jack Lines if going on deck. The picture on the left shows our jackets with EPIRB’s (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and straps. Should we have an emergency and need to signal the Coast Guard for help, we can simple turn on our EPIRB. It sends a message to the Coast Guard indicating that we are in trouble along with our position. We have one for each of our life jackets and then a larger one for the boat. Can never overdue safety!
We were super excited to finally make it to St. Martin and to be able to hang with our friend Kris that we met back in Brunswick, Georgia three years ago. Kris met us out at our anchorage and took us to French Customs & Immigration and the Dutch Customs to pay the bridge toll. St. Martin is divided in half with one side being French (Saint-Martin) and the other Dutch (Sint Maartin). You have to decide which side you will be anchoring in and then clear customs for that country. Since anchoring and checking in to the French side is free, we decided we would stay there. However, the French bridge into the lagoon is out of order, so we have to enter through the Dutch bridge. There is a $21.00 fee that gets you two bridge openings. One for your way in and the other when you leave.
Now that we were legal all that was left was to catch one of the scheduled bridge openings in order to enter into the Simpson Bay Lagoon and our final anchorage. We lined up for the 3:30pm opening and followed the channel to the back of the lagoon and anchored in 10 feet of water in Nettle Bay. This is a great anchorage with protection from wind and waves and the added plus of clean clear water.
We had been hearing reports that the Coronavirus was starting to get a foothold in the United States as well as the Caribbean Islands and the entire world. We were thankful that we were cleared with customs and in a good anchorage before St. Martin also stopped visitors from entering the island. The next day the French side of St. Martin declared a Quarantine and all nonessential businesses would stay closed. We went to the Copecoy Village on the Dutch side to stock up on groceries and scheduled for a water delivery to top off our tanks. We knew we were going to be here for several weeks quarantined to 5KNOTS.
We arrived in St. Martin on March 15th and are starting day 11 of the mandated quarantine. We are allowed off the boat and can go ashore for one hour to get food or for some type of emergency. Renée dropped off our laundry upon arrival knowing that in a day or two we would not have this opportunity. We listen to the Cruisers Net and local radio stations to get the latest news for St. Martin and surrounding islands.
We woke to a calm morning and decided this would be the day to scrub 5KNOTS bottom. It is easier to lightly scrub it every month or two rather than let it go for six months when the buildup would be greater and harder to remove. A monthly scrub removes the light coat of fuzz and keeps the hull clean so it can pass smoothly through the water. We also took time to relax and take a short swim.
I had been carrying around a couple of USB chargers that needed to be installed so this was the perfect time to get it done. Wish I had one for for the salon. Maybe things will ease up in a couple of weeks and I can go to town and get another. Renée decided to clean out the forward cabin. Look how nice it looks and then she put everything back. WOW! We call the foreword cabin “The Garage” because it holds all items that are too large to be stuffed under beds, seats and in cabinets. In a boat you make use of every possible opening to store supplies.
So everybody wants to know the answer to the $1,000,000 question, what are you guys going to do? Honestly, we do not know exactly but this is how we see it. We are in a protected lagoon and are securely anchored. We have plenty of supplies to last at least another month and beginning Sunday we are no longer allowed ashore. We are doing as many boat projects as we can and Renée has cleaned 5KNOTS I know at least twice since we have been here. A Clean Boat Is A Happy Boat!
St. Martin as the rest of the world is on some type of mandatory or self quarantine for the next couple of weeks. Here on 5KNOTS we are even better quarantined than if we were on land so as far as staying healthy, we are doing well.
There is no place for us to go at this time unless we want to make the 1,200 mile trip back to the USA and we would have to do it without any stops because islands are not allowing new arrivals. So this is really not a good option for us at this time. Our plan at this time is to follow the quarantine rules and stay where we are until such time as things improve. At that time we will make a decision as to which way to go. Our original plan was to sail to Trinidad and haul 5KNOTS there for the hurricane season. Trinidad is only 500nm from our location and is still our preference if time allows. Hurricane season starts June 1st and we wanted to be on the hard by then. However, hurricanes don’t usually get going until mid July so we feel we have adequate time to travel safely.
Until things improve, this is our view from 5KNOTS. Stay safe and healthy and hope to see you all soon.