18/02/2016 – Bad news, Good news!

NB I am trying to make this text more readable because it leaves me properly formatted with paragraphs. The website gets rid of the paragraph spacing and line returns. In this blog I will put in a line of 10 hyphens to indicate a new paragraph. I hope this improves the readability. ---------- Marine diesel is relatively expensive in the French islands so John decided to decant 5 of our cans into the tank and just get them refilled. It is slightly cheaper in St Martin because the Dutch side of the island is duty free so they have to compete! He took the cans around to the filling station and cleared out of Martinique at the same time, early on Thursday morning, 02/02/2016. We pulled up the anchor, motored out of the bay of Fort de France then had a great sail just about all the way to Saint Martin. We ran the generator for a few hours on Thursday to top up the batteries for the night. Friday afternoon we tried to start the generator again, the starter motor spun but the damn thing wouldn't fire! Never mind, we expected to arrive on Saturday morning so there would be plenty of time to sort the problem. In Marigot it is possible to clear in on the computer in the Island Water World chandlery for a €2 donation, similar to the process in Martinique, we also bought a new pilot book for the area as the only one we had was bought second hand for our 2009/10 trip! We had an excellent lunch in Le Pourquoi Pas cafe/bar, possibly the best mahi mahi I've eaten! ---------- Sunday was a working day on board Starblazer. I did the washing while John examined the generator. He could find nothing wrong so suspected the injector might be blocked. The Monday morning radio net gave us some useful information re car hire, importing goods, diesel engineers, and sim cards. John took the injector ashore where someone checked it, found no fault but suggested back pressure caused by an exhaust blockage might have caused the starting problem. He returned to the boat with 2 SIM cards, so we now have some connectivity. Back on the boat, the exhaust, both wet and dry, was clear. John skyped Business Point to hire a car which we picked up on Tuesday afternoon, we also discovered an Apple shop which directed John to an authorised Apple repairer. We decided it would be a good idea to drive to Philipsburg to find the Cruise Ship Terminal for the next morning and check out a freight company he had been told about. We couldn't find the freight company! We had dinghied to the Simpson Bay Marina where Business Point is located so John returned to Marigot in the dinghy while I drove. I get all the good jobs! Less than 7 miles took me over 2 hours, the traffic was horrendous. ---------- We left the boat early and were in the car by 0800, surprisingly the roads were almost empty! With lots of time to spare we tried to find the freight company again. After asking several places, John was eventually steered in the correct direction. If you have an item sent to an address in Florida by Tuesday it gets loaded on a ship on Wednesday, arrives in St Martin on Sunday, unloaded and sorted on Monday and ready for collection on Tuesday. St Martin is a tax free island so an alternator from EBAY cost us $123 with free shipping within the US however it would have missed the Tuesday deadline so we paid extra for 48 hour delivery plus tax, totalling $180. The freight charge to Sint Maarten (the Dutch side of the island) adds just $17.50, much better than the $550+ total for the alternator we'd been quoted elsewhere. ---------- We met Chrys and Roger at the gate to the cruise ship terminal and set off around the island. We had a lovely time, apart from a long traffic jam caused by roadworks! When I say 'around the island' I mean it. The main road goes in a circle from Philipsburg via Marigot, Grand Case, Quartier Francais, Oyster Pond and back to Philipsburg. We had coffee in a lovely restaurant high up overlooking Baie Orientale then wriggled our way down to a beach where we shared a bottle of Champagne. From there we visited the Butterfly Farm, very informative, beautiful butterflies from all around the world, lots of baby caterpillars, chrysalises etc. This took up rather more time than we expected so lunch at Oyster Pond was rather belated but the restaurant in Captain Oliver's Marina serves lunch until 1700 when dinner starts! We finished the day by walking along the beachfront in Philipsburg then a Happy Hour drink before returning Chrys and Roger to their ship, or at least to the gate. It gave us a wonderful chance to catch up with what has been happening at home since we last saw them in 2013. ---------- On Thursday we returned the car, this time leaving the dinghy in Marigot. We took my iPad to the repairer, the good news is that it can be repaired, the bad news is they got John's e-mail address wrong so we only found out when he skyped them a week later that we needed to pay for the parts before they'd be ordered. I should get it back next Tuesday, the same day we need to get to Philipsburg to collect the alternator. We'll go by bus, only $2.50 each all the way. It's a reasonable walk from the iPad repairer to the Philipsburg / Marigot bus stop but probably not worth the hassle of hopping on one of the local taxi/bus vehicles. ---------- One thing we discovered is that when you clear in on the Island Water World computer you are supposed to be anchored in the lagoon even though the screen offers you the choice of Marigot Bay as an anchorage. Since the Dutch side has started charging to anchor in the lagoon or in the bay outside the lifting bridge the French side has decided to charge for anchoring in Marigot Bay! We had a visit early one morning from an official from the Capitainerie who explained that John had to check in at the ferry terminal. It's not expensive, around €3.50 per night for us but it is a hassle! To be honest, when I read up about Marigot in the new pilot we bought when we cleared in it did mention needing to check in at the ferry station to be charged for anchoring so we were not totally surprised. ---------- Zooming across the bay from the boat to the dinghy dock in Marina Port Royale, inside the lagoon and potentially more secure than the town dinghy dock, I noticed Pipistrelle. We originally met Bob and Elaine in Gibraltar in 2009 before we both made our way to Gran Canaria for the start of the ARC. We stopped by to say hello when we saw them in the cockpit. We had lovely time catching up over sundowners a few days later. Unfortunately we moved into Marina de Fort Louis at very short notice when John got a message that the Fischer Panda accredited repairer could send an engineer immediately and Pipistrelle had left when we went back to the anchorage. The very good news is that Alex has got the generator engine running again. It turned out that the tappet gaps were out of adjustment! Now we have something else to check when it gives us problems. Earlier in the week the Honda also refused to start but that was sorted with a new spark plug; but only after cleaning the carburettor, cleaning the plug, checking for a spark, reinstalling, still not starting, a bit of head scratching then a trip to the chandlery for a new plug! ---------- Yesterday John paid our harbour dues in Marigot and we motored about 3.5 miles to Grand Case bay where anchoring is free. We went snorkelling at Roche Creole, last visited in 2006? with Tony and Judi on Windeye. The visit was spoiled slightly by a dive boat dropping off lots of snorkellers, that's not the problem, the problem was that they were feeding the fish so a swarm of sergeant majors came straight at you expecting food. Apparently they can get a bit aggressive but fortunately we just swam through them, the fish that is, and made our way back to the dinghy which was tethered to a buoy. The marine park maintains three dinghy moorings, 4 bigger moorings suitable for boats up to 15 metres and several for commercial dive boats, all for daytime use only. We'll probably snorkel there again today then go to Tintamare Island on Sunday before returning to Marigot on Monday. ------------ Joyce. Starblazer

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