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Cruisin'

Nu la navigation de plaisance avec Peggy & Paul

sunny 86 °F

It's Wednesday, the high point of our trip. We make our way to Peggy and Paul's boat, the aptly named Coastal Pleasure, at Oyster Pond Marina. We have our snorkel gear and not much else, because little else is needed. David and Pauline and Al and Bonnie are already there. We meet two other couples, Brenda and Steve and Pat and Alan. After introductions and fitting out, we get on board and head out of the marina.

We know from years of sailing experience experience that there are few things better than being sans culottes on a boat in hot weather. Being hosted by Peggy and Paul makes the experience simply exquisite. Peggy is a charming hostess, always in motion, making sure her guests are having as much fun as she obviously is. Paul has a wry sense of understated humor and handles the boat expertly. He is a perfect counterpoint to Peggy's infectious laugh. Within minutes, we are drenched by spray from the bow, rocketing at high speed toward Orient Beach.

Two things are accomplished by this: we get to wave at the folks at Club O and Peggy and Paul get to do a little au naturale marketing. We anchor and snorkel a bit around Green Cay and then round Pinel, heading for Baie de Petite Cays.

It is here that we enjoy the famous "mud baths." I am frankly skeptical about this, but what the hell? Paul mixes up a batch of mud and all of us smear it all over ourselves, and I mean everywhere. In the hot sun the mud dries almost instantly. We are told to lie down in a starburst pattern and Peggy takes photos of the group with our cameras. (Sorry, readers. The Cruise Code of Confidential Fun prohibits sharing.) Caked with mud, we then plunge into the ocean and wash off the mud. As promised, my skin is as soft as a baby's bottom. (I haven't actually touched a baby's bottom for years but I'm pretty sure this is what it felt like.) I now understand why people spend big $$ at spas for mud treatments.

It's then on to more snorkeling at Creole Rock in Anse Marcel, and then to Happy Bay for lunch. We are served delicious ribs and chicken, sandwiches, and chips and quacamole. Having been swimming we are all famished. The food is excellent and we all get back into the water to escape the heat before continuing our circumnavigation.

More stops, more swimming, and finally we return to port in Oyster Pond. I overhear good-natured grumbling about the need to get dressed as we say our goodbyes to Peggy and Paul and our shipmates. Tired, salty and still finding bits of beauty mud in unusual places, we head for the inn. We pick up sandwiches at Tap 5 and after showers, read ourselves to sleep. The Hellfrog's spell has been broken.

It's difficult to describe Peggy and Paul's trip in anything but superlatives. They work very hard to create an unforgettable experience. The cost of the cruise is far less than we'd be willing to pay for such an adventure. We saw parts of the island we'd only heard about, met new friends, and generally indulged ourselves.

Sans souci, sans culottes.

Nothing is better.

Posted by Sea'n'Sun 06:22 Archived in Saint Martin Comments (0)

Going Commando at Club O*

Under the yellow umbrellas

sunny 86 °F

It's Tuesday, and the trades have returned, rustling the palm leaves outside our room and bringing welcome relief from the heat, which has also moderated. The Saharan haze is still with us and the sky alternately looks threatening and promising. The Hellfrog's spell has largely been broken. Our skin color has turned to tan and we're well rested. We're ready, baby.

We stop at Tap 5 in Orient Village and enjoy pain au chocolate, then head for the Yellow Zone. Our friends are there and within minutes of our arrival we make dinner plans for Pineapple Pete's in Simpson Bay.

But first, lunch at Chez Leandre. David recommends the conch chowder, and he's so convincing that we share a huge bowl. I have mixed feelings about conch. Most of the conch fritters I've eaten in the Keys and Bahamas have been greasy gut bombs. Conch itself is chewy and damned if I can detect a unique flavor, but I keep trying. In this case, David is right. The chowder is delicious and the curry chicken wrap is a perfect beach lunch. On the way back to our chairs we have our photo taken in front of the Club O sign. I'm thinking, "Christmas card," but am overruled.

More beach time, more chatter with our friends, more sun, more frozen daiquiris from the Perch. As if that wasn't enough fun, we head to our room and shower for dinner. Pineapple Pete's is about 30 minutes away. We find it without difficulty and arrive with just enough time to enjoy a mojito before the rest of our party arrives. Dinner is delicious and we discuss our upcoming trip with Peggy and Paul the next day. Gary and Berne did it the week before and assure us we'll have a wonderful time. We have no doubt and say our good nights. We are exhausted and not even the Hellfrog can keep us awake.

*According to Wikipedia, which knows everything, "going commando" is the practice of not wearing underwear under one's outer clothing. The term is theorised to be related to the much earlier term "going regimental", which refers to wearing the kilt military style, that is, without underwear. I try to be educational as well as boring.

Posted by Sea'n'Sun 05:29 Archived in Saint Martin Comments (0)

Marigot & Philipsburg

Sunburn recovery mode

sunny 88 °F

We have drifted in and out of sleep, punctuated by the Hellfrog's sinister serenade. It continues to be hot and still. The satellite view of the region shows showers in the area, but that's nothing new in the tropics. Being extra crispy, we decide to skip the beach and go shopping.

First to Marigot, a pleasant seaside village with some interesting shops and an open air market. We walk through, but having been here the year before we don't see anything that strikes our fancy. We decide to drive to the top of Fort Louis, which is easier said than done because the street entrance is blocked. After driving in circles for a while, we manage to find our way up the hill. I take some photos of Marigot Harbor, then it's off to Philipsburg.

We tried to visit Philipsburg last year. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday and there was a bike race underway. Streets were blocked and traffic was redirected down side streets. Being unfamiliar with the area it was frustrating and we finally said, to hell with it. This year the challenge was finding a place to park. We finally parked on a newly created sand berm that was so white the glare was painful. Then it was a twenty minute walk to the main shopping area through narrow, airless streets. By the time we reached the action we were drenched.

Philipsburg is an industrial port and a major cruise ship port of call. The town hosts an interesting mix of tacky t-shirt shops and upscale jewelry stores, eager to sell bling to the flood of cruise rats that scamper off the tenders. There are also a number of open air restaurants along the boardwalk. The stores hold little interest for us, but the restaurants are inviting. We settled on Taloula Mangoes and rehydrated with a Presidente. The food was good, but now we faced the prospect of trudging back to our car. When we finally arrived, we were thoroughly cooked and ready for home.

We took the eastern route home, stopping at Oyster Pond, where we were scheduled for a snorkeling cruise on Wednesday. After finding the marina it was back to the inn to soak up some air conditioning. The Hellfrog does some practice scales, gearing up for the evening's concert. We hardly notice him and after an evening of reading in bed, we are asleep within minutes.

Posted by Sea'n'Sun 05:08 Archived in Saint Martin Comments (0)

Whole Lot a Bakin' Goin' On

Club O, where nothing is better.

sunny 88 °F

Sunday morning. It's hot. Really hot. And still. The usually reliable trade winds are taking the weekend off and the sky is hazy with Saharan dust. Dark clouds scurry through, making a day on the beach seem less certain than the night before. Even worse, we have not slept well. We have spent the night being terrorized by a creature that emits a high-pitched cry that resembles a squeaky hinge. Every 10 seconds he (she? it?) calls out, jarring us out of whatever state of sleep we've reached. Periodically, it torments us by going silent for a few minutes and just as we believe that it's decided to shut up or move on, it begins again. By 3:00 AM it has either gotten laid or established it's territorial ascendancy and goes to sleep or just shuts up. We are told it is a cocqui frog. We call it the Hellfrog. Much too tiny to find and forcibly relocate, we learn to adapt to it and by the end of the week, we barely notice it.

We head to Orient and zero in on Club O. There we find fellow TTOLers Gary & Berne, Al & Bonnie, and David & Pauline. Though we've never met them, we have traded emails in the run up to our trip and it's a treat to finally meet. We stake out our chairs and bake. The breeze is still a no-show and the heat caroms off the sand and water and settles on our skin, blanketing us. Fortunately, frequent dips and Caribs keep us acceptably comfortable. The eight of us trade stories and tips about the island and have one of the best times I've ever had on a beach.

By the end of the day we are glowing, pink in some places, pinker in others, especially those areas that rarely see the light of day in public. Back at our room we wash off the salt, sweat and sand. We drive to Grand Case to Talk of the Town, Too, a lolo we've eaten at before. The breeze is still AWOL and TOTT is crowded and slow. By the end of dinner we're once again hot and sweaty and ready for bed. I lie in bed, feeling the heat rise from my body to do battle with the air conditioning and wait for sleep to come.

The Hellfrog, safe in a palm tree, smiles to himself and takes a deep breath...

Posted by Sea'n'Sun 04:57 Archived in Saint Martin Comments (0)

Two Tickets to Paradise

We've waited so long, waited so long

storm

Up at 4:00 AM for a 7:00 AM flight to Charlotte. I manage to get my heart started and we drag ourselves to check in. When we arrive at our gate I check my Droid for the hundredth time to make sure that there are no thunderstorms between us and Charlotte. The skies are clear and we actually arrive early in Charlotte. We do some hunting and gathering for lunch and settle in at the gate. (By the way, CLT is a great smaller airport. Well laid out and good services. We would rather connect here than just about anyplace else.)

We get out of CLT on time and break out the iPods & Nooks. The flight is smooth and pleasant and we arrive on time. So far, everything has gone effortlessly. We go through immigration and wave at the empty customs booth and head for the exits. Two small boys help us with our luggage and shepherd us to the car rental van waiting out front. Fifteen minutes later we pull out of the rental agency (under the big tree on a side street; no shiny counters here.) The Admiral pulls out our trusty map and we're off. And at that moment, the heavens open up and we're treated to a Caribbean squall as we work our way through the narrow streets of Marigot.

As it happens, the region has been under the influence of a nasty little low pressure system for most of the past week and the weather has, according to friends already there, sucked: hot, rainy, and still. We drive through heavy rains, which stop just as we arrive at Sol e Luna, the inn where we are staying. As we unpack several more sqaulls work their way through the area, which temporarily breaks the oppressive heat that has accumulated over the past few days.

We head to the new grocery store (US Market) near us and stock up on the necessities: gin, tonic and limes, the holy trinity of sailors everywhere. Then it's off to Villa Pizza in Cul-de-Sac for one of their veggie pizzas on a paper thin crust. Throw in a couple of Caribs and we are happy.

As the travel-infused adrenaline begins to dissipate, we slide between cool sheets and Eddie Money's song goes through my head.

I hate that song.

Posted by Sea'n'Sun 04:48 Archived in Saint Martin Comments (0)

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