Tuesday, May 21

Mission Accomplished

Once we parted ways with Patronus again, we got down to business.  We came to St. Marrten to get a brand spankin' new autopilot but we left having done so much more.  Autopilot, check.  New upholstery, check.  New stove, check check.  Mission Accomplished.

We anchored in Simpson Bay for most of our stay but spent 2 nights at Palapa Marina while the autopilot was to be installed.  A lot of the marinas in the Caribbean don't have slips like what we are accustom to in the states, with a dock running alongside the boat.  Instead they require the boat to back into a quay and attach a bow line to a mooring ball to keep them straight.  Each boat puts out fenders to protect them from their neighbor and it can be a tight squeeze.  Make sense?  We very seldom stay at a marina and until St. Marrten, we had always been in a slip.  First of all, I must preface this story with some vital information:  this marina was used to berthing mega yachts, not little guys like us.  Ok, let's continue, so we motored up to the outer edge and the dock master was there to meet us in his boat.  We started making our move, turning around to back into our designated spot.  The dock master told us precisely when to drop our anchor and then it was straight back 125' to the dock.  Easy peasy, right?  Well, it might be easy if you had a captain and full crew or perhaps you had done this technique once or twice before.  Yep, you guessed it, we had neither!  Craig is really good at driving the boat and we got the anchor down when the dock master told us to.  And we even backed up to the wall without hitting it.  The quay, mind you, was a concrete wall that rose about 4 feet out of the water, which is the perfect height if you are a mega yacht.

Let me just say that the mega yachts on either side of us didn't have as much confidence in our abilities, because they had crew members out with roaming fenders in case we came remotely close to touching.  This is funny because the marina wasn't that crowded and were not really that close to the boats on either side of us.  What was even more comical than that, we didn't even come as high as their rub rail!  We were so small next to them.  Craig made them smile when he yelled up to them, "Stand clear, I've never done this before."  Anyway, once we initially got set up, we needed to tie up some additional lines to help us stay straight in the light breeze.  I guess the dock master was pleased with our abilities because he left in his boat and the guy on the dock helping with the lines also started to walk away.  I cleared my throat and said "excuse me, but can someone help us?  We don't have 300 feet of line to attach to the mooring ball way out there."  You know, because a mega yacht's bow would actually be way out there!  He said "uh, sure.  Maybe you can toss a line to the boat next to you."  I took one look at the gorgeous sailboat on my starboard side and thought to myself, yeah right, who are you kidding!  To be fair, the crews on the boats next to us offered to help and were really friendly.   In the end, we all decided we would be fine with just our anchor out front without the line to the mooring ball. The marina even lent us a gang plank to use to get on and off the boat.

Here we are, all tucked in nicely

An example of some of the boats in our presence.  In case you can't tell, these are 100+ feet long!

Our brand new autopilot, ready to be installed, as soon as Andrew was done with the Gunboat across the harbor.  Once on board, he and Craig were getting ready to install it in the other hull (under the girls bed instead of ours), when Andrew took one look at our old autopilot and said he could fix it.  Craig and I looked at each other and said we didn't care, we wanted the new one!  He said that he was a honest man before he was salesman and he just couldn't sell us a new one knowing that our old one could be fixed.  We informed him of our trials and tribulations to date but agreed to let him do one simple test before making the decision.  The very next day, he said the test went perfectly and that he had full confidence he could rebuild it.  He had the kit in stock, so we wouldn't be wasting time ordering parts either.  We said ok.  So, the final conclusion.....we have our old one, rebuilt, working like a charm!  Someone, knock on wood please.

Our poor sailing dinghy has seen better days.  This is what happens when kids bang the dinghy on the back of the big boat.  It ruins the fiberglass.  Craig found someone to do the work, but it couldn't be done until the following week.  Our plan was to stay in St. Marten for a few days and then head up to the BVI's to meet Patronus and their friends.  Waiting until the following week just wasn't going to cut it.  Our friend Matt, on Sea Schelle, was super helpful in giving Craig the confidence,  assistance and materials to fix it himself.  Thank you Matt.

The mess of tools and materials during the repair job.  Matt, pictured here, stirring the fiberglass concoction.

Painting the concoction on the dinghy while the dinghy is hanging upside down off the back of our radar arch.

After it's dry, then it has to be sanded.

Isn't she beautiful again....she just needs a little paint.  Not too shabby for a job done hanging off the back of our boat.

Next up:  a new galley faucet.  The old one was, well, old and unsightly.

Clearing out under the sink, I gave Olivia the task of matching lids to plastic containers while we worked on the plumbing.  

All done!  Doesn't it look purdee!

And while we're at it, let's get an estimate on getting the cushions re-upholstered.  Why not?  We had been in and out of the Palapa Marina office so many times during our 2 day stay, I'm sure Lorena, the office manager, was tired of us.  Every time we went into the office, we had multiple questions or needed recommendations or directions to places in town.  Lorena always had an answer, she was a wealth of information and a wonderful resource!  She hooked us up with an upholsterer and acted as our translator too, because he only spoke spanish.  We were just curious and never thought anyone could do such a job in our short time frame.  But Manuel surprised us with a good price and a short turn around time.  We were without our cushions for a total of 3 days!!  Oh, and we had the cushions done in each cabin and a repair to one of our outside cushions as well.  St. Marten was proving to be the place to get boat projects done.

Speaking of boat projects...here was yet another one.  Our old oven/stove had worked in the beginning of the trip but over time the oven stopped working.  I won't bore you with the details, but we hired a gentlemen to come out and try to fix what ever the problem was.  He took it all apart and spoke only french.  He rattled off what was wrong and handed us some parts.  He collected his modest payment and we thought he was a hero for fixing our oven.  Come to find out a couple of days later, when Kate's cookies burned, that he had removed the broken thermostat that regulates the temperature.  It would turn on and stay on, but I couldn't adjust the temperature.  It would run full blast ALL the time.  Not only that, if you just turned the oven knob and didn't light the burner it simply filled the cabin with propane!!!  This was a major safety issue to say the least, so we knew we had to do something.  We tried to find the replacement parts and then turned to local Budget Marine for help.  They came back to us and said that the part was obsolete and they don't make it anymore.  Great.  Now what?  Bottom line, we had to buy a new oven/stove.  We couldn't sell the boat that way and more importantly, I needed something to bake in.

After two days of researching, measuring and combing the chandleries we picked out our new oven.  Of course, it was not the same brand as our original, so the specs were ever so slightly different than our old one.  So Craig had to make our space a little bigger.  We even borrowed the tools from Budget Marine.  They went above and beyond the call of duty to help us in every way.  Definitely the best chandlery experience we have had during our year at sea, bar none.

Installed, our new Force 10, 4 burner stove with oven and broiler.  I LOVE it!

Tah-Dah, our new cushions....all done too.  We went with a classic navy sunbrella fabric for durability, sun protection and the ability to hide stains and filth from 3 kids!  

Since we ended up staying in St. Marrten way longer than we 'planned', we decided to rent a car and get our Bahamas provisioning done.  It's been a long time since we've driven a car!  

They had great stores like Cost U Less - very much like Costco.  We filled 2 carts!

Our reciept!

This picture is for Chris Conway...we thought you had put in an order for paper towels when we saw the sign that read "sold, don't touch"!!  For those lost in translation.....paper towels and toilet paper are like precious gems in the Caribbean....or at least they are priced that way.  So cruisers must stock up when prices are low!

We barely got it all in our compact car - which they called a midsize!  I guess it's all relative when you are on a small island.

Maggie helps cart the stuff back to the boat

The fun task of organizing, finding space to stash it all and taking inventory of where you stashed it!

Overall, it was an extremely successful, albeit expensive, stop in St. Marten.  We most certainly felt like we had accomplished our mission and then some!

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