07/05/2017 – Farewell the BVI

It is 27 hours since we crossed the start line outside Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola, our home for the past 8 days. The excitement and anticipation of our travels ahead, towards Bermuda, onwards to the Azores and finally home to Portsmouth Harbour, England, is tinged with sadness. We have said goodbye to the Caribbean islands for almost certainly the last time. When we left with ARC Europe in 2010 we were already planning a return with, hopefully, a bigger boat. The plan came to fruition when we bought Starblazer and returned to the Caribbean and onwards around the world. Now we have to make plans for different sailing destinations! ...... ...... All is not doom and gloom on board though. The first 24 hours gave us fantastic sailing, reeling off 165 nM towards Bermuda plus 7 miles in a sideways direction to wriggle clear of the Virgin Islands. We also had a good start, crossing the line in 7th or 8th place out of 35 boats going to Bermuda. All night long we could see the lights of 3 boats behind and 3 boats ahead though this afternoon I can only spot 3 of them. On handicap only 4 boats are rated slower than us so we believe we are doing really well, however it’s a bit of a lottery because the wind is forecast to drop and we can’t motor as fast as we can sail. We also cannot use the cruising chute because the bowsprit pole managed to bend the stem fitting where it was tied to one of the rollers but at least we replaced the jib with the 150% genoa for the journey. ...... ...... It’s early days, but the catering department (i.e. me) has a reputation to defend. Yesterday’s lunch, half an hour after the start, was pizza and dinner was beef carbonnade with potatoes followed by yogurt. ...... ...... Joyce

06/5/2017 – Three weeks in the British Virgin Islands

We set off from St Martin on Easter Sunday evening, at about 1700, for the 75 nautical Mile (nM) journey to Virgin Gorda. We slowed ourselves down by keeping two reefs in the main and varying the amount of jib because we didn't want to arrive in the dark! No, we are not scared of the dark but the waters around the islands are strewn with reefs so a daylight arrival is sensible. We anchored just before 0800, perfect. .... ...... North Sound, Virgin Gorda is a large area, dotted with mooring buoys but with plenty of space to anchor and, more importantly, good holding. The weather deteriorated soon after we arrived so, after clearing in, we moved out of Gun Creek to a more protected anchorage and just sat on board for 48 hours. We had an excellent lunch at Saba Rock, with free wi-fi thankfully. We motorsailed to Road Town on Tortola in search of SIM cards for the I-pads, stayed overnight, then sailed and motorsailed to Jost van Dyke where we anchored in Great Harbour for the first time since 2000. We had a BBQ ashore at Foxy's, an iconic bar. ...... ........ After a few days anchored there we sailed to Norman Island. The Bight was heaving, full of yachts and catamarans on moorings so we anchored in Benures Bay. It was fairly calm there and the snorkelling was good, John even saw a Nurse Shark laying on the bottom. Next stop was going to be Cooper Island but the entire Bay is taken up with buoys now unless you fancy anchoring in 16m plus so we anchored off Salt Island instead. The next morning we took Starblazer back to Manchioneel Bay and picked up a mooring while we snorkelled off Cistern Rock. Unfortunately there was quite a current flowing and it was quite rough. I was not happy, particularly as there wasn't a lot of fish life so we quit, had a shower then went ashore for lunch. We went back to Salt Island to have a wander ashore before motoring on to Deadman's Bay on Peter Island. The snorkelling off Peter Island was shallow, along the rocky shoreline. It was quite good, there were masses of small fish, absolute clouds of them. The highlight for me was spotting a turtle, unfortunately not close enough for a photo. There was also a ray which eventually spread its wings and hurried off when John tried to follow it. .... ...... We arrived here in Nanny Cay on Friday morning with an appointment for a lift out. The next three days was hard labour! Apart from repainting the antifouling stripes I'd added above the Coppercoat in New Zealand, I polished the top sides end to end. The boatyard ladders were challenging, with big spaces between the rungs, however I completed the job. Tuesday afternoon we were dropped back in and have spent the past few days getting ready to leave and socialising with the other Rally boats. We'll be untying our lines within the next 10 minutes, ready to leave for Bermuda. I shall continue to post blogs to both the World Cruising Club site and to Starblazer's website. You can follow our progress on Yellowbrick ( link from World Cruising Club/ ARC Europe) or on SPOT. ..... ...... Joyce. Sent from my iPad

15/04/2016 – Heading North

We cleared out of St Lucia as planned on Monday morning for the trip back to St Martin. What a trip! We had everything thrown at us: no wind, strong winds, torrential rain then back to no wind. Of course it usually goes wrong in the middle of the night and this trip was no exception to that rule. For the first time in a while we had shaken out the two reefs in the mainsail and made good progress Monday afternoon and evening. When the wind built a bit the full main and jib were a bit unbalanced and the autopilot couldn't cope. It resulted in both of us in the cockpit for a large part of the night. Poor John was hand steering when the squall hit us with torrential rain and gusts up to 32 knots, it wasn't nice! (John: When I finally got a waterproof jacket on the wet shirt and shorts warmed up!) Our second night at sea was almost the complete opposite, warm, dry and practically windless, at least we both got some sleep. .... .... The few days we have spent here in Marigot Bay, St Martin, have been spent provisioning in both Super U and Carrefour with three trips to Super U and two to Carrefour. The reason for the shopping frenzy is the wider choice here than we will find in the BVI (and particularly the low alcohol prices! says John). This morning we went to Carrefour on the Dutch side of the island for the second time. Unfortunately the heavens opened while we were in the store. We waited until the rain had largely stopped before heading back to the dinghy. Half way there the rain started and by the time we set off for the trip back to the boat it was torrential again. For the second time within a week we were both soaked to the skin. At least it was warm though the cockpit hasn't fully dried out 8 hours later. This afternoon John cleared out as we intend to leave tomorrow late afternoon and the chandlery where he does the clearance is closed on Sundays. Our next destination is the British Virgin Islands, about 80 miles away. We had hoped to leave on Friday but there was no wind so we postponed, allowing us more shopping time! .... ..... I think this is possibly the shortest blog I've written. Normal service, i.e. drivel, will be resumed next time. ... .... Joyce

09/04/2017 – Another three islands

The plan worked and we left St Martin on Wednesday heading towards Montserrat. This is the one island I was desperate to visit as, for me, it was a case of unfinished business! In 2010 we anchored in Little Bay, the only anchorage available then, on a Saturday afternoon. The helpful Harbour Master suggested it would be better for us to stay on the boat and clear in on the Monday morning otherwise we would have to pay overtime charges. John went ashore on the Monday, cleared in and out, returned to Fair Encounter (our previous boat) to take me ashore but I was unhappy about leaving the boat. The waves had started breaking right under our stern, then someone came out from the harbour office to say we should move further offshore. In the end we just left so I had a nice shamrock shaped stamp in my passport but didn't set foot ashore! We arrived shortly after sunrise on Thursday and John went ashore after breakfast to clear us in and book an island tour for the next day with Joe Philip. We shared the taxi with two other crews, Peacekeeper who had been on the Caribbean 1500 with us and Sundog 1 from Canada. It was an excellent tour and we learnt a lot about the volcanic events between 1995 and 2010. Basically, the volcano had been dormant for 400 years but woke up in 1995, starting off with steam but quickly progressing to pyroclastic flows which, over the years, spread in just about every direction! Plymouth, the capital, was evacuated and temporary offices were set up for the government close to Little Bay. Those temporary offices are slowly being replaced by permanent buildings. The island also suffers from hurricanes and the associated torrential rains have washed mud and volcanic material down the sides of the volcano, especially along river valleys, burying the golf course under 6 metres of mud for example and wrecking the airport. In some of the villages houses had mud up to 5 or 6 feet deep piled up against them. It is amazing to see how nature has now taken over with verdant new growth on the fertile volcanic soil, hiding the houses among bushes and trees. The threat level is currently down to 1 though the volcano is still venting gases, almost all the island is open though Plymouth is still in a closed zone. It was a really interesting and informative tour. ....... ....... On Saturday we left for an overnight trip to Martinique, arriving Sunday at about lunchtime. We were treated to the sight of yole racing. These are local boats with no keel and a huge square sail. The crew balance the boat by moving their weight from side to side, often sitting outboard on poles or lying on them. In extreme situations we saw them dangling from the ends of the poles with their feet apparently running on the surface of the water! We were not surprised to see one boat capsize. The freeboard, that is the height of the hull above the water, is very low and you would see crew bailing frequently as they tend to scoop up water when they are well healed. Tacking seemed particularly difficult, often relying on two of the crew flapping the huge sail from side to side to begin to gather some speed to allow the helmsman to steer. It would not be an exaggeration to say we found ourselves in the middle of the action. The first race finished not long after we had anchored and a couple of boats passed our bow while the other six were well astern of us. The start of the second race saw half the fleet passing close ahead of us and the other half were not far astern. It was quite exciting. The crews were basically youngsters though a few boats had some slightly older crew, one thing common to all was their level of fitness because they were rarely still for long. I believe each boat represented a different town. The main reason for the visit to Martinique was a shopping trip to Hyper U and the sewing shop in the mall because I needed 5 DMC embroidery threads! This is the only stockist we have found in the Caribbean. ........ ......... On Wednesday we cleared out and made our way to Rodney Bay, St Lucia, ready to welcome our friends on World ARC finishing on Saturday. Trillium, a Hallberg Rassy 46, left with us in January 2014 and invited us to join them at the final dinner and presentation on Saturday evening as their crew flew home on Saturday afternoon. We were invited to join the group travelling to Marigot Bay in a fast fishing boat, to lead the fleet back to Rodney Bay. As we walked along the dock in Marigot Bay, saying hello to the boats we had sailed with on previous legs of the World ARC, Trillium invited us to join them for the Parade of Sail. Sadly, I feel we have missed out because we have never taken our boat into Marigot Bay (major engine failure last year) though we have now taken part in the Parade of Sail twice thanks to the kindness of good friends. At the dinner our table of 10 comprised four boats which set off in 2014 and one boat from 2015 whom we met in Fiji, the rest of the boats on the Rally had started in 2016, either from St Lucia or Australia. It was a good evening. ......... ......... The current plan is to clear out tomorrow morning and set sail for St Martin (again!) for provisioning before spending a couple of weeks in the BVI. It should take us about 48 hours though the wind is not forecast to last so there could be quite a bit of motoring. .... ....... Joyce

28/03/2017 – St Barth Bucket and St Martin.

On the first day of racing the J Class has two races, described as windward/leeward. Basically they started some way offshore, tacked their way towards the harbour until they reached a turning mark then raised spinnakers to go downwind to the turning mark near the start then back towards the harbour and finally back again. This was repeated in the afternoon. The visibility wasn't brilliant. On Friday, day 2, the Js had another windward leeward race, this time starting further offshore. It was very difficult to spot their turning mark even through binoculars. 32 other boats, loosely placed in 5 different classes, had their first race, around the island anti-clockwise. They were sent off with a minimum of 30 seconds between each start though sometimes the gap was several minutes. The timings were based on their handicaps, the wind and sea conditions and, I think, the Class they were in. In a perfect world each class would have finished together with 5 minutes between each class. It's definitely not a perfect world. The last two days of racing saw the Js starting 30 minutes before the first of the others, but all classes followed a similar course. It might sound confusing but there were 3 or 4 courses used each day, going in the same direction but of differing lengths. These volcanic islands have a lot of rocks and islets offshore and these were often used as marks for the course so a shorter route would be inside a particular group of rocks. It made for some interesting racing with a few spectacularly close finishes. One of the rules of racing for the pursuit racers was that they should not get within 40 metres of another boat and they had each been provided with two rangefinders for the races! .......... Monday morning we cleared out of St Barthélemy and returned to Marigot Bay in St Martin. We hadn't planned to stay a week but we have! Tuesday John collected the rigging part from FKG in Cole Bay in the Dutch half of Simpson Bay lagoon which he has subsequently fitted. The winds have been particularly unfavourable for heading to Montserrat so we have done other jobs. ........... For some time now we have been finding water in the saloon bilge, we have also been getting through our tank water rather faster than normal. The bottom, leaking water tank has been disconnected but the water level has continued to drop quicker than expected so John decided to replace the water pipe between the tank and the pump. Long story short (ish), it wasn't easy, it took much longer than anticipated, there was no obvious fault found in the old pipe. Damn! All reconnected, pump turned back on and all we had at the taps was not much more than a trickle. Not good. The next morning the water flow stopped completely! To add to John's misery, when he removed the wooden grating under the floor where he stores oil etc. he dropped it over the stern, tied to the boat, to soak clean. When he went to pull it back on board his knot had come undone....no grating. Yesterday morning, with water only available from the foot pump at the galley sink (cold only), we set off to Cole Bay for John to visit the big DIY while I walked on the Carrefour. The DIY had no suitable wood so John joined me in Carrefour, litres of Gordon's gin at $8.95 brightened him up! After lunch on the boat he went to the chandlery in Marigot to buy a new water pump and walked to a large DIY where he managed to find suitable timber. The old pump seemed to run OK so he checked a strainer which he had removed for cleaning and discovered a washer was missing, allowing air to be sucked in. A suitably sized O ring did the job, the water flowed again and we now have a spare, brand new water pump! ........... We had planned to leave today as the wind was expected to die away to nothing but we weren't ready and the wind didn't drop until late in the day. John made up a new grating to support the crates with oil, water bottles etc., installed it but left it for the glue to set. Tomorrow morning we can re-stow everything that has been moved before we clear out and weigh anchor at lunchtime. That is the current plan but....... There is one other recurrent problem we are experiencing. The generator works fine for several days then it won't start. The wretched valve clearance has closed again and John has to adjust the tappets. The suggested cause is that the valve seats have recessed into the head and he is fast running out of adjustment, we do not have the time to get this problem sorted before we get home so it looks as if we will be unable to rely on the generator. .......... Hopefully my next post will be from a different island. Joyce Sent from my iPad

14/03/2017 – More from St Barth.

The original plan was to stay about a week to ten days but we have now changed our minds! We spent a week in the anchorage off Gustavia, zooming in to the harbour on a regular basis. There are a lot of dinghy mooring places provided, right in the centre of the town. One day we set off to walk to the Market U, a good sized supermarket on the other side of the island. It's only about 1.5 miles but it does entail a steep uphill section followed by a downhill section, sea level to sea level via the central ridge! Part of the route runs alongside the runway which is short and anything which overshoots would slide straight into the sea. Not only is it a short runway, the approach has to be much steeper than the standard 4 degree glide path because of the central ridge. Beyond the supermarket we reached St Jean which has a beautiful sweeping beach but it is on the windward side of the island. St Barth is expensive, two bottles of beer cost €12 at a beach bar. The supermarket appeared to be waiting for supplies as there were many empty shelves, particularly cooked meats and cheese. On another day we followed a walking route to see the historic buildings in Gustavia. We drew a blank with a couple, discovered one semi pulled down awaiting rebuilding, another which was completely rebuilt about 10 years ago. It was a good walk, though. On the rigging front we had some success. The local chandlery had a piece which was the right size but the holes for the toggle and the pin were too small. The good news was that it only cost €36, however the engineering company charged €120 to drill out three holes and weld the old one back together. The company in St Maarten e-mailed back to say they had the correct piece for €113 so we'll head back there to buy it and keep the machined one and welded ones as spares. So why have we changed our plans? This coming weekend is the St Barth's Bucket, a regatta by invitation only for yachts over 30 metres long/100 foot. There will be 6 J class yachts racing each other in a series of 5 races, there will also be a series of 3 pursuit races for a field of up to 40 other big beasties. The biggest is the Maltese Falcon which is 88 metres long, has three rotating masts and 15 sails. The anchorage is filling up with big, expensive yachts and we hope to see some of the action. We spent a long weekend in Anse Colombier which is part of a marine park. The snorkelling was O.K. though we didn't see any turtles. There were quite a few among the boats, they usually caught your eye as you watched yet another chartered catamaran making a mess of picking up a mooring buoy. It was as if the turtles surfaced to laugh as well! We went ashore to explore. The first time we followed a path which led out of the park, almost vertically. It was a cross between a scramble and some rough steps. Once we reached a roadway we found a viewpoint, scant reward for a strenuous 40 minute cardiac workout! As we returned to our starting point we met people coming around the cliff on another path. The second walk a couple of days later was longer but far less strenuous and had a destination, following the coastline around the peninsular. We reached Flamands Bay, with a lovely sweeping beach but no beach bars. At the far end of the beach there was a very smart hotel, we walked through their bar area, past Reception and on to the only road through the village. A cafe called Chez Rolande was open so we had a refreshing beer at a much more reasonable €4 each, O.K. still expensive but better than St Jean. We only got there just in time before it closed for the afternoon and the 1 person bar staff left all of the customers, us, and shut up shop. Today we came back to the Gustavia anchorage, passing Maltese Falcon on our way in. It certainly is a stunning boat. Hope to see some of the racing before we leave. We'll probably move on after the weekend or, maybe, Saturday or Sunday. It's partly a question of when we can clear out. Joyce

06/03/2016 – St Martin, Sint Maarten and St Barthélemy

We spent a relaxed couple of days anchored off Tintamare Island. It's part of a large nature reserve but the snorkelling was disappointing. We explored the island, scrambling our way along the beach on the windward side where there are a lot of evil looking reefs just offshore and a wrecked yacht in the shallows. We also discovered an aero engine graveyard, at least 6 large rotary engines which will never run again. We stopped overnight in Grand Case and snorkelled Rocher Creole again then, early Tuesday morning, we pulled up the anchor to return to Marigot as John was in a hurry to collect his alternator! We'd anchored soon after 0830 and were in the dinghy by 0845. The heavens opened at 0846! The rain was torrential and we took shelter under the Sandy Ground lifting bridge, the French entry canal to the lagoon. Unfortunately my iPad wasn't ready so we caught a bus to Philipsburg. While John went to collect the alternator I set about finding Philipsburg Pharmacy which advertises that it will fill travellers' prescriptions. It took some finding but I eventually left with enough statins to last until we get home. New Zealand is definitely the cheapest, followed by South Africa with duty free and tax free Sint Maarten being the most expensive for statins! On the way to Simpson Bay (town) we had got very wet, John's iPad was in a waterproof case in his rucksack but it got wet. In the bar over a beer he found that the screen was not behaving as it should so we caught a bus back to Simpson Bay and made a beeline for the Apple repairer. They checked the number and said it should be covered by the warranty and that mine was ready. Wonderful news! If the trip to Simpson Bay was wet, albeit fresh water (rain), the trip back was worse. A strong wind was blowing and the lagoon was very choppy but nothing compared with the conditions in Marigot Bay. We got soaked to the skin but at least the new waterproof bag I'd bought for the iPad kept it dry. When John installed the new alternator it didn't work. Further investigation found a thin wire, the exciter wire (ignition light wire), which had worn through its sleeving was shorting to ground. Maybe the repair Benjy did to the old one is still good but we can't just swap them back as John had to get an engineering workshop to swap the new single pulley for the old double one. John also got an e-mail to say his iPad was fine, the next day they couldn't replicate the problem so he did another return trip to Simpson Bay. Thank heavens we bought a new outboard engine in the Channel Islands when we had to replace the old RIB in 2011. Does Brexit mean we'll be able to buy 2 stroke outboards in the UK again? I somehow doubt it! Carnival in St Martin lasts about 10 days. The weekend we were at Tintamare the individual adult entries paraded on one day and the children paraded on the next day. The following weekend the main parade, with large music floats and groups of dancers in fantastic costumes, took place on Saturday. It was much smaller than the Carnival we went to in Philipsburg in 2006, far more colourful than Salvador in Brazil last year but also far less deafening. I suspect the main crowds were on the main road where we subsequently discovered lots of food stalls, impromptu bars etc. We had a good position on a corner where the lorries and trailers had to effect a right angle turn without wiping out the rooftop balcony on one of the buildings. Tuesday and Wednesday were public holidays in St Martin so most shops didn't open on Monday either but some opened on Wednesday regardless. It is what the French describe as to 'Faire le pont', to make a bridge joining a public holiday to the weekend. A five day weekend can't be bad! It was time to leave St Martin with its active cruisers' radio net, good marine infrastructure, a Super U hypermarket within easy walking distance..... The list goes on! Thursday was the first day of the Heineken Regatta in Simpson Bay and we motorsailed offshore to keep out of the way. The trip to St Barthélemy, known as St Barth to the locals, was much closer to the wind than we would have wished though we sailed most of the way with the engine ticking over in gear as we needed to make water. We cleared in on Friday morning and discovered a good chandlery which John revisited on Saturday morning while I did the washing. He came back, came on board then I noticed the dinghy floating away. He dived in but the 20-25 knot wind was blowing it away faster than he could swim so he came back. We pulled up the anchor and rounded up the errant dinghy with Starblazer, festooned with the laundry, then re-anchored. I rushed forward at one point later on as I thought the sheet was about to blow away, on my way back to the cockpit I was looking down at the sheet, trying to fold it, and noticed a serious crack in part of the shroud fitting. For non-sailors, shrouds are the wires which hold the mast up and keep it 'in column', i.e. straight. The damaged fitting is one we replaced in New Zealand when it had broken completely on passage from New Caledonia. Today's task is to see if we can source a replacement here or whether we need to return to St Martin. See FB posts from John for details of the break and its temporary repair. Sailing isn't all about the problems, they just seem to gang up on us! We are fit and well, eating well, drinking well.... I mean, where else other than the French Caribbean islands would you find rum sold by the box, and not only small boxes? Joyce Sent from my iPad

Starblazer, St Martin, Marigot Bay

Hi to all The plan was to collect the new alternator Tuesday and install it on Wednesday----- ---- Tuesday. Collect new alternator from Interline in Phillipsburg. Completed. Great shipping company. $10 shipping, $7.50 optional insurance. From Miami.--- During day collected Joyce's iPad after screen replaced I had fallen into 1m of sea with it in a backpack.--- Left mine in repairers as torrential rain going ashore got it wet, inside a waterproof case inside a rucksack. Home button not working. Might get a new one under warranty.--- Whilst in Phillipsburg went looking to find a company to make a new high pressure hose for the watermaker. Finally found them in Cole Bay and had new hose made. FKG are recommended but not cheap.----- Wednesday. Install new alternator. Failed, couldn't swap the new single pulley for the wanted old double pulley.--- Dropped alternators off at engine service company. --- Replaced high pressure hose on watermaker, that works well.----- Thursday went food shopping and collected alternators. IT company emailed and advised that my iPad is working fine. Water from torrential rain has probably dried out. Collected it. No time to install alternator and get to cruisers discussion on return Atlantic trip.----- Friday. Installed alternator. Rev counter works but no amps to the battery. 'OH BOTHER' or similar. --- Checked a few electrical things, bypassed alternator excitation supply (that red bulb that glows before the engine starts) as funny readings found whilst connected and disconnected. Alternator produces Amps. --- Disconnected engine cabling harness plug and re-connected, it now works!!. Disconnect and re-connect plug should not have cleared faults found. --- Deep thoughts over beer and lunch and went searching for cable fault. Found chafed wire insulated it and tied it away from the sharp edge. That could definitely have produced the faults found during the investigation.--- ----- Finally happy that we now have both alternators working. Job done, tools away. ----- Joyce has located source of two deck leaks into her clothes lockers after we found and fixed one on Monday. She already had her clothes in waterproof bags. ----- Work continues......... John, Starblazer

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