The day of departure from Oyster Pond to sail St Martin was finally here. The first item of business was the chart briefing from Moorings. Victoria did a great job of making sure we knew things to look out for, and where to avoid during our trip. She even gave us some great tips on places to visit, and eat, in the different places we planned to visit.
At 11:00 our boat, the Pissouri, was ready. Our crew consisted of 4 couples. Besides Heather and I we had: Aaron & Stephanie (my brother and his wife), Adam & Tracy (new friends that wanted to try sailing), and Mike & Kate (my wife’s brother and his girlfriend)
Our Crew for Sail St Martin (from left to right)
Heather, Shane, Aaron, Stephanie, Tracy, Adam, Kate, and Mike
While the rest of the crew unpacked their bags and settled in, Victoria gave me a detailed briefing on the boat. This is the 3rd Moorings base I have visited, and by far the most detailed boat briefing I have ever received. I felt like I knew every inch of the boat before we left. Just the way I like it.
At about 12:30 our provisions arrived. A quick inventory showed that all we were really missing were some coffee filters. I checked with the Moorings office and it turns out that coffee filters are not part of the standard provisions. However, they were kind enough to give me some from their office coffee pot.
Customs Tip #1: The Moorings office was able to clear us out of St Martin effective the 2nd day of our trip. If memory serves the cost was $10. Clearing out this way saved us from having to stop at the customs office in Anse Marcel before heading to Anguilla on day 2 of our sail St Martin trip.
By about 1:15 we were ready to cast off and head for Grand Case (pronounced Grand Cass). This was our planned stop for the night. A Moorings captain was kind enough to navigate the boat out of the crowded dock area into a smaller inner harbor. Here we raised the main sail before dropping the captain in a chase boat and motoring out to sea.
Raising the main sail like this was new for me. The channel leaving Oyster Pond is very tight and surrounded by reef. Apparently at least one boat has been lost here when the engine failed and the captain had no way to control the boat. Raising the main sail, would provide backup controls (the wind) in the event of an engine failure. Moorings requires that you leave the main sail up when exiting and returning to Oyster Pond… just in case!
Leaving Oyster Pond was an adventure to say the least. Besides the tight channel, you are leaving on a windward coast. With 15 to 20 knot winds the day we left, it was a wild ride. Several times the bow dug in and sprayed water all the way to the back of the boat. Needless to say, I was white-knuckling the helm and was happy to emerge from the channel into open water.
Once we were sufficiently clear of St Martin we pointed the boat north, unfurled the genoa, trimmed the sails, and shut down the engines. We were making about 8 knots on a port beam reach tack. After passing Tintamarre to starboard, and clearing the north side of St Martin, we turned and headed west. At this point the wind was directly behind us so we decided to run wing-on-wing.
Soon enough we were abeam Grand Case. We lowered our sails and motored in the remainder of the way. We found a great piece of sand to anchor in, let out 7:1 worth of rode, and let the boat swing to the anchor. After backing down on the anchor at 1,500 RPM we were confident we were set. We were pretty proud of ourselves for setting the anchor on the first try.
Since it was already late afternoon we quickly loaded everyone into the dingy and headed to Creole Rock on the northeast side of Grand Case Bay for some snorkeling. The snorkeling here was not great, but it was a great place for everyone to get their gear adjusted. It also allowed everyone to get their feet wet (see what I did there) for a week of snorkeling.
When we returned to the boat, we took showers and headed ashore for dinner. There are two docks at Grand Case. One is obviously a dingy dock, and the other is larger, commercial-looking dock. When we were there the dingy dock was closed so we had to use the larger dock. Luckily we found a dingy dock around the left side of the larger dock as we approached it. We were able to offload everyone there and then walk the dingy down the dock to tie it off. This way our dingy was not blocking others from using the dingy dock.
We ate dinner at C’est La Vie. The food was amazing, and the atmosphere was perfectly Carribbean. Our server introduced us to their specialty banana vanilla rum. Everyone enjoyed it, and sampled it multiple times! After dinner we headed back to our boat and settled in for the evening.