Total distance sailed: 2769 NM
Midnight GPS position: N 18.03 W063.00
Sea state: Calm
Well, I didn’t think we’d make it on the diesel we had left, but due to some crafty diesel saving plans by Skipper Steve, we made it. We arrived at Captain Oliver’s Marina on St. Martin Island at 9:10am this morning with light winds and a clear blue sky. St. Martin was clear ahead of us, the air clean and crisp.
First stop was the fuel dock, where we moored up. With another time change, we arrived at 7:10am local time, so we had to wait for two hours before we could fuel up. Steve and Ellie, being rather fond of their alcholic beverages, made a beeline for the marina’s bar after the 22 days at sea; Steve runs a ‘dry’ ship, so this was their first opportunity in as many days to have a drink. I had a small beer and then left them to it. I was itching to go for a skate around the island to see what there was to see.
This is the first of many Carribbean Islands that I am sure I will end up seeing before I get to the US, but what an interesting place it is. It has a real island feel, with locals any more laid back they’d fall over, rusting vehicles (on the road and off), run down shacks on the beach, derelict beachfront hotels…
I was happily skating along the road when I head behind me a pre-adolescent Bob Marley like voice call out ‘Ey mon, wha’ chu doin’ dat for?’. Turning around, I saw two boys running after me. I stopped and had a chat, the boys eager to have a go on my skateboard. They dragged me back to their house, and I spent a god 15 minutes chatting to their father on the front steps. The population of St. Martin is around 20,000, the main industry for locals being construction. There are many different nationalities represented here; French, Dutch, Jamacan, Dominican, Cuban…
It was a short skate back to the marina, and during lunch at the bar, we met some more locals there. One of them, called Fernando, took me for a drive down to the Latin quater of the island, where he lives. Houses here tend to be much more run down, as is the infrastructure. No foot paths, rough gravel driveways. Fernando introduced me to his friends, all gathered around an old wooden cable drum that acted as a table for playing dominoes. Four men sat around the drum on dirty plastic charis, slapping the dominoes down with seemingly excesive force, as if to demonstrate just how impressive their move was.
As soon as I arrived there was a flurry of activity whereby I was promptly sat down as one of the players. I knew the basic rules of the game well enough, but there was obviously some fairly serious strategy going into their moves. I could hardly understand a word I was being told as they explained with great care how I was to make the most of the dominoes in my hand. The thick Carribbean accents, coupled with speed of delivery and some slurring induced by missing teeth made it hard work.
Patrick, an middle aged fellow with skin darker than most other folks, was especially helpful in making sure I knew what I was doing. The kindly old fellow wore a tattered baseball hat on his head, that was obviously there only because he couldn’t find anywhere better to put it. His dark sunglasses hid slightly bloodshot eyes that shifted from one player to the next around the table as he occassionally glanced at his hand of dominoes. He was missing most of his front teeth – top and bottom – with ones either side of the gaping hole looking to also be on their last legs. He had a simple walking stick made of some form of coarse grained wood. His belly hung over the elastic of his shin length shorts, dusty leathery feet slipped into some basic PVC slip-on shoes. He laughed often, a deep resonant laugh, and enjoyed pointing out the errors and downfalls of his opponents’ domino skills. When things didn’t go his way in the game, he grinned ear to ear, as if to cover for his own lapses in domino genius.
I was taken aback by everyone’s apparent familiarity with a stranger just appearing in their midst. There was no ice to break, just an instant acceptance of me. Fernando later took me for a drive along with some other friends around the island, even going to far as to taking me out to dinner.
So with such a wonderful first impression of Carribbean people, I have decided to island hop for a bit here in the Carribbean. I will try to hitch rides on yachts moving between islands, and go as far as Barbados, getting my US visa while I am there. Once I have my US visa, I will island hop back up the Carribbean islands up to Florida. No use in rushing over to the US too soon – it’ll be too hot to skate there anyway!