25 April 2014

Aboard Fiona in St. Martin

April 10pm

I always say that the hardest part of a cruise is the first couple days. These are the very necessary transition period where you let go of the astonishingly comfortable life we normally live onshore, and gradually adapt to the much smaller, usually uncomfortable, and sometimes bumpy life aboard ship.

I first learned this fact of cruising life upon leaving Steinhatchee, FL, at the start of a very long sail back to New York. Not only did it come to me as a surprise, not only did I not enjoy the experience, I resented it. I rebelled against it. I fought it.

It was only after going through the same experience, again and again, every time I set sail again in the  Blue Moon after a break ashore, that I realized it was part of sailing. Something that needed to be dealt with. And the easiest way to deal with it was to give in to it. To grieve for the comforts of land, and then to get over it.

Watching Helena struggle to adapt to life onboard Fiona again just confirms my theory that this is a universal feeling. I even suspect Eric suffers from it. Just a little.

What do you think? How long does it take you to get 'into' the cruising life?

Anyway, we arrived in St. Martin after a very early flight, and I've imbibed my first rum drink. If it's 5 pm, it must be happy hour.

Ah.... the cruising life!
We'll have two days to enjoy St. Martin, Eric tells us. That's great, because it looks like a beautiful Island. Can't wait to get out there tomorrow.

Meanwhile, where's my second Fiona cocktail???


We arrived with a BANG!

Sorry to start with such forceful title, but it has been amazing since pretty much after lunch.

Flight AA 1569 arrived 10 minutes earlier than expected and as soon as we deplaned the smell of the airport hit me. The lovely, nostalgic smell drew me back to memories of Singapore, where I lived from 2000 to 2002. John told me that is was probably mildew. Hahahaha, he was right. We waited for our luggage to arrive, walked through Customs, and saw Captain Eric waiting for us in the main arrival hall. He'd trimmed his beard, had a nice suntan, and looked not a day older since we last saw him in Brazil.

Walking outside I got hit again, this time by a wave of heat that I have been longing for since last August. Immediately, I felt overdressed in jeans and short sleeve t-shirt. Fantastic!

The airport was on the Dutch side of the island, but 15 minutes later, the cab wished us into France, or at least the French side of St. Martin.

While driving to Fiona, Eric outlined his sailing plan. We will leave Saturday after lunch for an overnight sail to the Virgin Islands. What? That was not part of the deal… BANG!

I started to panic. No, I don’t want to do this… What about the pirates in the Caribbean that my father had warned me about?  What about getting run down by run away cruise ships? Monster oil tankers? Getting kidnapped and sold into slavery in some South American country???

Ok, John calmed me down. He lightly suggested we use the next couple of days to get used to the boat and to let go of our mutually exclusive hangups.

Fiona was moored at very posh and nice marina. Gleaming white super yachts lined the docks on either side. Boat boys polished already shiny plastic. Marina workers in crisp uniforms practically saluted as we walked by. And there was Fiona, just as I remembered her. But what was this? An 8-foot plank leading from the dock to Fiona's stern? I have to walk across that??? I am not making this stuff up. John and Eric managed somehow to carry our two heavy bags across the gangplank without falling off. After a moment's hesitation, I tottered across behind them, and breathed a sigh of relief when I grabbed Fiona's stern rail. That's when Eric suggested we go out for lunch.

Crossing the gangplank
Lunch was in a French patisserie… oh, I love everything French. The people look so sophisticated, well dressed, the food is great, the wine flows freely and the men and women are beautiful.

Very informal French restaurant
Back on Fiona, we still have to unpack. I made a mess of my stuff already while looking for flip-flops and sunblock.

Ummm... did I really need all this stuff?
Out on deck, John and I hung the tarp over the cockpit, just like in the old days, and we are now relaxing in delicious shade, watching million-dollar boats sail in and out of the marina, waiting for the 5 o’clock happy hour (with double rum portion) and nice dinner in town. Probably at some nice French restaurant. Again.

Love this island.

The marina
By the way, we arrived to a nice surprise: nice washed clean bunk mattress covers. Thank you Captain!

Next Episode: Rubbing Fenders with the Rich and Famous


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