Mad Fish

Mad Fish
On delivery from Scotland

Thursday, 11 April 2013

St Maarten - 30th March to 7th April 2013

St Maarten – Sat 30th March  to Sun 7th April 2013

We arrived in the Dutch St Maarten. Primarily this is a provisioning stop, but in the book it also looks nice.

We had to wait for the bridge to open at 5.30pm. It is amazing watching the super yachts squeeze through. The yactclub is a great place for sundowners and also to watch the boats come in. We were even treated to the sight of boobs and willies as a party boat came through. Umm very classy!


The island is split in 2 between the Dutch and French. We went in the Dutch side. It cost us US$7 for the bridge, US$20 for a week’s mooring and US$7 to clear customs. It was flat calm in the lagoon, even though it seemed to blow 20 knots for the whole duration of our stay.

There is a large concentration of live aboards on the French side where it is free. It is also shallower on that side and our friends Fabiola draw 11 feet so we stayed on the Dutch side with them. Rafiki joined us a few days later.

The chandleries and supermarkets removed us of our cash, on numerous visits during our week. We filled 5 trollies with an array of food and drink that will hopefully see us through the expensive BVI’s and to Bermuda. I now have all the tinned and dried food for the Bermuda to Azores leg, so hopefully I can relax a bit. Every cupboard is stuffed. It is amazing what we do to save money. We have fallen foul of poor trade descriptions again. The Cerres orange juice stated in big letters 100% juice, many are more like squash. When we opened it, Ethan pulled a funny face and on closer inspection of the ingredients it is a mix of orange, grape and pear juice. We have 15 litres so we will endure much face pulling. The apple is all apple so Oli and I are OK. I really miss UK supermarkets where you generally get what you expect.


I have decided that I would no longer want to be a super yacht hostess as I watched them push trolley loads round the supermarket. They probably had the same number for a weeks’ worth of guests, as I did for the next 6 weeks. All far too much hard work for my liking.

St Maarten is also famous for the airport which again is on a beach. This one however takes jumbo jets and people actually hold onto the fence behind the jets as they take off and get blown across a road onto the beach and into the sea. The slightly more sensible stand on the beach and experience it from there. The really sensible sit in the Sunset Beach bar drinking a beer and laughing at the stupid people getting blown over.


We actually spent a week in St Maarten as our friends on Fabiola experienced some technical problems that Russell helped to fix. It meant that I could get school, washing and some trips to the beach in.

I cannot say that I would recommend St Maarten as a holiday destination. It is not as beautiful as the other islands. I am sure that had we managed to explore more of the anchorages then we may have had a different feeling. The wind and swell though was not conducive to exploring and therefore we just sheltered in the lagoon.

You need to also beware of the rather loud music played on Fri and Saturday nights until 4am. The first night we were there the whole boat shook. It seemed that a famous Dutch DJ had flown in for a weekend of heavy dance music. The music was played outside. We were anchored off the dock, so those on it must have got really fed up. Ethan woke up at 2.45am and we did think about going and joining them. Instead we got out all the teddies and danced with them instead. When the music stopped I still couldn’t sleep as it was just too quiet. 

The yacht club was very friendly and the boys enjoyed a morning of sailing in optimists. It was USD15 per child for 3 hours. 3 hours with no kids. Bliss.


Statia - 24th and 25th March 2013

Statia is a small Dutch Island 10 miles from St Kitts, and does not offer the best shelter. The guide said that you should expect to roll and with this in mind we expected to spend just the one night. We arrived mid afternoon and went ashore to see if we could get some US dollars from an ATM and also if customs were open to check in and out all in one go. Ruffian were also there and doing the same thing.
Customs was shut and we took a very hot walk up a steep hill. The ATM was experiencing a fault. We walked around a fort, more cannons and were surprised to see a small flock of brightly coloured parrots pass us. They were too quick to photograph but spotted by Ethan. He looked for them the next day on our walk but he was disappointed that we did not see them again.
With no money we returned to our respective boats for a cooling swim.
We decided to meet on Mad Fish for sundowners, which turned into dinner as we had caught a big tuna on the way, so there was more than enough to share. We were close to eating at 7.30pm when the coastguard passed us in a big black rib with about 6 people on board. They all wore dark clothing and carried big guns. We waved as they shone a search light, thinking they were just doing a security sweep of the bay. They then came along side and decided they wanted to board us.
Russell asked that the officer boarding, removed his hobnailed boots first and this did not go down well. We didn’t feel it was an unreasonable request as many people request removal of shoes before entering their home. We were asked for ships paper and passports and these were taken onto the rib and an officer dropped with us – we lost the battle of boot removal. We asked the rib if they wished to give us a line and they said they would just mill around. We were then asked to show them our flares and they looked in every cabin. The officer on board seemed quite sheepish and offered little understanding of what he was looking for. Fiona asked if they wanted to go and board their boat too but they were not interested. It seemed we were their duty for the night and that would be it. We were asked why we had not checked in with customs and explained they were not open and we were flying the Q flag and courtesy flag. Russell asked why when they had passed us in daylight they had not chosen to board when the experience would have been less threatening. The reply “we always board at night”. It was all very strange and we agreed that had we not had witnesses onboard then it would have felt worse.
If we were to have a repeat performance we would ask for ID and get authority by calling to check them out first. We would also insist that they check our passports on our vessel and not take them off as they could have just sped off with everything. I then suggested perhaps they were casing the joint to rob us later. After a long discussion we decided that we were basically powerless as there were 6 big guys with guns and if they wanted to do bad things to us then it was unlikely we were going to stop them.
It added some excitement to the evening but also made us realise how different sailing out here can be. You do hear stories back home of border agency vessels boarding UK sailors and them objecting to the way they are treated. The next day we asked customs and they said they would have come from Dutch St Maarten about 30 miles away. It seemed again like a complete waste of government money. The cost of employing staff to police the customs and immigration must be far higher than the fees they generate. We couldn’t pay the fees in Statia because even on Monday we were unable to get any money from the bank. The ATM was broken and they could not action any transactions over the counter. The island has an oil depot and Tankers were anchored offshore and also on the oil jetty. This again seemed completely out of place, however the people on the ships get paid on a Friday and this means that the banks get emptied of cash. This might also explain the coastguards looking for more on the big ships.
There is not much to do on Statia. We enjoyed the snorkelling in the bay. An artificial reef had been created to protect the beach from being washed away about 5 years ago and this had grown into a wonderful eco systems. There were hundreds of fish and corals just a few metres away from the boat. We found a conch shell and tried to prize the contents out to eat and keep the beautiful shell as a souvenir but we couldn’t work out how to do it.
The other thing to do is walk. We took the hike to the Quill which is 600 Metres above sea level. (  We set off early to beat the heat. So alarms were set for 6am and we met on the dock with Ian and Fiona at 6.30am. We checked customs and made sure they were shut before doing our walk. We walked along the dusty roads before they turned to tracks which then lead into the shaded forest of the quill. It was a good hour to walk to the top and it was a zig zag up the mountain. It was not too steep until we neared the top and ropes had been provided to help haul ourselves up. The view from the top looked into the crater. We were not quite at the top viewpoint so we could no see out to sea. There was a path to the very top, which would have taken another 30 minutes, but Chris Doyle suggested it was not for those suffering vertigo and it was quite a challenging path. We decided to take the less challenging 30 minutes’ walk to the bottom of the crater. This turned into an adventure of its own. The path quickly became rocks and boulders with ropes to help with the descent and also getting back up. The kids took it all in their stride whilst the adults were a little more conservative, perhaps because we realised if we fell it was along way down and would really hurt. It was hard work but very enjoyable. It felt like you were in the movie set for Jurassic park. Huge twisted trees towered above us. There were little red crabs hiding in shells. We also spotted a snake. The dog that had followed us all the way from the ATM machine desperately tried to get at the crab as it shot into a snail type shell. He also liked chasing the cockerels that seemed to live there too.
We were unsure if there was a path leading up the other side and also once we had got up if we could walk around, so headed back the way we had come. As we climbed we could hear a lot of school children and when we got to the top found a class of 30 to 40 children on a school trip. There were about 4 adults and the group were being given the chance to either return back to school or go down into the crater. This would obviously never happen in the UK, where health and safety would have deemed the whole trip too dangerous.
It took us a good 3 to 4 hours to do the whole walk and both our feet and legs knew we had done it. The next day my thigh muscles definitely knew they had been worked. We tried to get cash out and Ethan had to say goodbye to the dog after taking a few photos.
We got back to the boat and had a quick swim to cool off before heading off to St Barths. We had an excellent sail and caught a Barracuda and a little tunny.
Another Tuna.

Oil terminal, feels like being back at home.

The fort.
3.3hp racing against Ruffian. Waterline length won.

View into the crater.

 The wild chickens, the dog did try to catch one. The chicken was smart, the other side of the rock was a sheer drop.


The land crab, the dog tried to eat one.




This tree was made by strangling a living tree, which then dies and over time decomposes to leave the hollow tree. Quite amazing.
The way back up.


Never give a small boy a camera.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

More St Barths Photo's

The planes land and the end of the runway is the beach below.

Russ was surprised when this plane landed from the beach end of the runway. It was lower than expected.
A J class yacht getting ready for the start by sailing through the spectator boats.

The 5 J's just after the start.

The J class Ranger in white. Easy to spot as the other are all blue.

The Superyachts.

Some more beautiful than others. Adela above and Maltese Falcon below.

Those who take it more seriously sit on the rail.

What a difference a day makes. Wind and Rain make it a very dull day to race.


Saturday, 6 April 2013

St Barths - 25th to 30th March 2013

St Barths
This is the place that all the rich and beautiful people come. We therefore look quite out of place; with our high street sun bleached shorts and T shirts rather than our designer shorts and superyacht crew polo shirts.

The small marina is filling up with the superyachts coming to town to take place in an annual regatta called the St Barths Bucket. This was the brainchild of an owner who suggested a friendly race for a bottle of champagne chilled in an ice bucket. Five yachts competed in the first race and now 34 yachts have come to play. They all have their entourage of support vessels, some of which are bigger than the yachts themselves, which have to be 100 foot.
We arrived on the Monday and went straight to Anse Columbier and picked up a free mooring buoy. This is a marine conservation area and they have put the buoys down to encourage yachts not to anchor and disturb the grass beds where turtles like to feed. It was 5pm when we arrived and we decided a swim and check of the mooring gear was required. Ethan and I spent around 10 minutes following a turtle that was swimming along the bottom some 4 meters below us. It had 2 fish feeding beneath him. The water was much clearer than in the Tobago Cays when we had last had the opportunity to swim with these beautiful creatures. Unfortunately no photos of this, I really didn’t want to swim back to the boat and miss the opportunity. We stayed for 4 days and never saw a turtle again.
The next day we took a rather bumpy dinghy ride back down to Gustavia the capital to check in. I am glad we hadn’t stayed in the anchorage there as it was very rolly and also you had to pay for the privilege. The anchorage is huge and jam packed with mega yachts and the wash from the big tenders was not helping with the swells.
Russell battled with another online entry form and we paid EU 9 to print the piece of paper. We walked to try and get some gas and decided against it when we were told it would be EU 35 for the small blue camping gas cylinder. This was 3 times as much as we would pay to fill our larger propane. We decided we could last to St Maarten in a few days’ time. The supermarket did not seem to be as expensive as we anticipated and we stocked up on a few bits.

The next day we had suggested a BBQ on the beach with Fabiola, Open Blue, Chewsey and Ruffian. In true tradition we woke up to rain, which continued on and off all day. At 2pm we finally managed to brave it ashore to go for a walk to collect firewood. It was a little damp but we had an enjoyable walk along a cliff path towards the beach…. Given the time we didn’t make it to the beach but it looked to be a lovely walk. Ethan was not keen on the walk and had a strop about half way. His perseverance was rewarded when we came across a tortoise which was happy to be fed some nice juicy leaves that he could not reach. Smiles all around again we headed back to the beach and collected fire wood. By 4pm the clouds had broken and the rain had gone and we enjoyed a lovely bbq on the beach. The kids played in the sea and the adults drank beer. This is what it is all about.

The next day Chewsey and Ruffian headed off to St Martin (the French side) and Open Blue and Fabiola went to Gustavia. We went by dinghy to check out and have an explore. We purchased Russell a new pair of deck shoes as they seemed to be reasonably priced at EU 67 and his had literally disintegrated. We got some supplies for a picnic and headed off in the dinghy to watch the J class yachts racing. There start was at mid day and there was very little wind but they still looked impressive. We were able to get quite close as the sea state was quite calm as we blasted around off shore. The boys loved it and were amazed at the sound as they eased the sheets. It sounded like a cannon going off. Russell explained to them that they have to spray the winches with water as the friction of the rope on the drum can cause the rope to melt and fuse. They really are very powerful and beautiful yachts even in a meagre 10 knots of breeze.


Below : The J class Yachts heading out to race.


We headed back ashore and took a walk to the airport. This you might think is strange but the planes have to fly through a small gap and then it is straight down onto the runway which ends with a beach. We were not the only plane spotters. We then walked to the beach for a cool off and more plane spotting. The private jet pilots obviously liked the idea of trying to take peoples heads off or showing off by flying very low over the water as they take off.

It was back to the boat and an unplanned, but very enjoyable evening with Fabiola who had decided to leave the lumpy Gustavia and head back to Anse Columbier. The kids watched a film and the adults enjoyed a curry.
The next day Fabiola kindly returned our hospitality the night before by going out to watch the superyachts day 1 bucket racing ( .
Again the 5 J class (Velsheda, Ranger, Hanuman, Rainbow and Lionheart) set off at 11am and then a pursuit race started for the others. The slowest sets off first and the fastest last. The idea being the cross the finish line at the same time. This created a procession of superyachts over the next hour. The largest being Maltese Falcon with is very strange square rig. Not the prettiest boat, but impressive none the less.
J Class - PROVISIONAL as of Saturday 31 March
Race 1
Race 2
Race 3
Race 4
We had planned to head off to the island of IL Foucher but the kids overruled us and wanted to play on the beach. Keeping them happy is key so we stayed. The wind and the waves created gave us an evening of rock and roll so we were keen to get away the next morning. It was grey, wet and windy and we had to dig out the waterproof jackets. The sail to St Maarten was dank and we only needed to pull out the genoa to make a good 7 knots. We stopped to watch the J’s go round some small rocks. They were really pounding along in the 20 knot plus breeze beating into a sizeable swell. Such a contrast to the day before. It only took a couple of hours to do the 15 mile trip to the Dutch side of St Maarten and Simpson Bay Lagoon. We checked in and waited for the bridge open at 17.30.
MORE PHOTO's but they will not upload. Will post sperately....asap.....