Maintenance: Our liferaft dates from 2018, so a service was overdue. In Mexico and Panama, we hadn’t really looked around for an inspection workshop. But here on St. Martin there is one, pretty much the only one in the Caribbean. An initial enquiry told us that we had to make an appointment weeks in advance, as it is high season here at the moment. The email reply came shortly before midnight. The owner of the workshop probably only has time to answer her emails at that time. After we explained our situation, that as cruising sailors it is not so easy to make long-term appointments, we got a nice reply and the promise to find time for us in between other jobs. When the weather calmed down a bit, we set about hoisting the life raft into the dinghy and lifting it out of the boat again at the dinghy dock. By taxi we went to the workshop.
During the maintenance, everything was fine, but the raft was full of ants. For such a service, a life raft is inflated in an air-conditioned hall, the seams and accessories are checked, the whole thing is dried and then folded up again. We got photos. Now we know what the part looks like and that there is actually something inside the box 😉 In a multihull that cannot sink, the life raft is actually “only” needed in the event of a fire on board, or as protection from the weather in the event of a capsize.
Talking about ants: These critters sometimes make it onto the boat. It’s supposed to happen via eggs in cardboard packaging, or when you’re standing on land, they just crawl up. We had a double plague: larger, 0.5 to 0.8 cm long, almost transparent ants and small ones that you can hardly see. We fought the big ones with ant poison. I had scattered it everywhere during our stay in Germany. After that, there were only a few ants left. I discovered another nest in the cupboard, but at the moment it looks like they are gone. We had reduced the small ones with another poison. They had also become fewer for the time being. But maybe they were just displaced by the big ones, because now they are back. We fight them with baking soda. Finding the nests is almost impossible, there are simply too many cracks and inaccessible corners on a boat.
Our fire extinguishers were also overdue. That was easier. We brought them to the dinghy dock in the morning, they were picked up there and brought back at noon. Two dinghy trips in one day! A whole day’s work 😉
We were already looking forward to our departure date with confidence. Then Friday the 13th approached. Now, through years of observation, I have discovered that Friday the 13th is not an unlucky day. But quite often things went wrong for me on Thursday the 12th 🙂
On this Thursday, the Volvo service came. Everything is fine with the engine. BUT: Water is getting into our saildrive! (That’s the piece where the screw is attached, there’s a seal.) Means: We have to get out of the water! Only for the period of the repair, but here we go again: Is there a crane wide enough, or another possibility? Fortunately, St. Martin is prepared for all kinds of ships. There is also a travel lift that can lift us. All that was left was to make an appointment.
E-mail contacts brought only moderate success. Only one shipyard responded at all. So we went in person. Fortunately, the people here all speak English well, which made communication easier for us. First we went to the Volvo dealer. Their technician was supposed to work on another engine all week. But since our service not yet finished, he would interrupt this work for us if we could get a crane appointment. So, off we went in the dinghy and over to the Dutch part. There we walked around the shipyard and looked for the office. A security man was not happy, but pointed us in the right direction. The lady in the office sent us out again to find the site manager. A tall blond with a ponytail. He was very relaxed and said that Friday would be quieter, so we could come and hang in the travel lift for a while. We happily agreed and drove back to the Volvo dealer to fix the appointment there as well. Confident that everything would be fine now, we started hoarding groceries at the supermarket. The route is not far to walk, but the pavements are uneven and parked up for long stretches. With a fully packed backpack on your back and two heavy bags in your hands, the distance feels longer and longer. But we bravely fought our way through with various rest stops.
To get to the crane on Friday, we had to drive into the lagoon. It doesn’t sound so bad, but it brings complications. There are 2 access roads, each with bridges. One access road is not wide enough for us, only 10 m, there is not enough left and right. So we had to drive around the corner to the other bridge. We had been given opening times. But what about the fact that the bridge and the shipyard are in the Dutch part of the island? Better to ask again. You are allowed to move freely on both parts of the island on foot, by car and by dinghy. But if you move your boat, it’s a different story. We had to clear out and clear in again around the corner. So on Thursday we set off for Simpson Bay. You might think that the island is EU. But, far from it. The Dutch part became independent in 2010 and is no longer an EU country, only retaining the Dutch King. And with the transition to the Caribbean states, they have probably also taken over the local bureaucracy. Clear in: 4 ladies are in charge, 2 are eating, one is looking at her mobile phone, one gives us 2 forms to fill out. On both you have to fill in the same data, including how long you want to stay. We hand in the forms, are asked again how long we are staying: Only one day, until tomorrow for a crane stay. Stamp, slip of paper back, second window for payment. We pay for the stay in the bay and the bridge passage. Please go back to the first window for another stamp. There the mobile phone lady takes our slips. She frowns and says it would have been easier if we had just said we would only stay one day. That is too much for Mathias. Usually he stays calm on such occasions, but this time he can’t help mentioning that, firstly, we had said we only wanted to stay at the crane for one day and that, secondly, the employee could have read her specially requested TWO documents, on both of which the next day was entered as the departure date. The mobile phone lady forbade herself to criticise the border officials. I quickly pulled Mathias away from the counter. The slips of paper stayed there and we didn’t have to show up again the next day. One wonders, what was the point of all this? To produce paper to file? Is this really how smugglers are caught? Well, we had paid our fees and were able to enter the lagoon the next morning at 9:30, when the bridge opens for incoming traffic.
After entering the lagoon, we wondered: isn’t there something hanging from the travel lift? When we asked, we were assured that the boat was about to enter the water. We hover on the spot – nothing happens. Finally, a fast, noble dinghy comes roaring along and only now drops off the skipper of the private sports fishing yacht. He really wanted his boat the water this morning, but hadn’t taken into account the drive to the boat. The trip across the lagoon was quicker. In the end, we still had time, because the Volvo mechanics were not there yet.
Manoevering into the crane was a small challenge, because our bow thruster had failed in the waiting position in front of the bridge passage. Another point for tht To-Do-List. That list just doesn’t get shorter.
Our freshly inspected life raft was delivered together with the inner workings, which have to be replaced during maintenance. We were interested to see what was inside. Plenty for us, because the raft has to be designed for 10 people. Lots of water bags, signal rockets and smoke flares, also dry food for 3 days and 10 people. It says not to eat more than 3 of these a day. Sounds like lembas bread from Lord of the Rings 😉
Flushing and repairing the saildrive took a couple of hours.
Then we waited in the crane bay for the bridge to open again for outbound traffic at 4pm. The passage is too narrow for traffic in both directions and also the waiting area in front of and behind the bridge would not be enough for traffic in both directions. Therefore, there are different opening hours for each direction. In the afternoon, you can only get out at 4 pm, so it was good that this had worked out.
We drove back to Marigot bay, where we cleared in again and also cleared out for 2 days later. For the next port, you need a document from the last port. Actually, we just wanted to do some more hoarding and refuel, but my gums hurt and a crowned tooth started to wobble again. So I went to the dentist after all. He couldn’t do much, but at least he could prescribe medicine.
Mathias used the time to make a few trips to the supermarket on his own. We had a lot to stow away:
The following day, we were to set off for the Bahamas.