The English autumn had been golden and fresh, but December bought rain. I had been enjoying the brickwork, but it was definitely time to leave. I drove to the airport with the wipers on their ‘hectic’ setting.
Many flights later, I arrived in St.Maarten (spelt Sint Maarten or St.Martin or any combination of the above). The Schooner Adix had sailed down from the USA, and arrived on the same day as me.
The crew did their best to represent themselves with pride and dignity right from their very first night – having amassed an un-payable bill at the local strip club, they lost their shoes running from the bouncer but had a scenic (if rather long) stroll back to the boat along the beach. To be fair to them, they did return to settle their tab the next day, and became friends with the owner of the club.
My own cultural exploration was slightly less adventurous. I did lots of running (I know – it sickens me too, and I hate to admit it) but the only pleasant roads seemed to climb vertically, and I spent more time sitting with the lizards and admiring the view.
The marina had a tennis court, which was welcome distraction from the bars, but it didn’t stop us for long. A nearby motor-yacht invited us to their dock party, and it turned out that their Captain had set up a serious rig (complete with smoke machines, strobe lights, massive speaker stacks and decks) on their aft deck, facing the dock. He was apparently a DJ in Ibiza before he sold his soul, but he still dabbles, and only hires crew with a penchant for Deep House and carrying speakers around at 3am. We danced like idiots, for a change.
Christmas was approaching fast, and all other jobs were put aside for the grand hoisting of the Christmas tree up the Mizzenmast. Bulbs were painted, spars were lashed, complex wiring operations ensued, and the whole fiasco was heaved up to the masthead. I remained skeptical and bitter about the operation until we started receiving complements about the Tree, and it became clear that it wasn’t going to fall and kill someone, at which point I conceded that it wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Meanwhile we continued to tear up parts of the deck so that our new winch bases could be welded on, at which point I would lay new teak pieces around them. In between times we busied ourselves with the tedious chores of being a superyacht crew – ziplineing and swimming, drinking and playing tennis. Oscar got ill wakeboarding in the dirty lagoon (where boats pump all kinds of nasty stuff). Australians don’t have the same hardy immune system as us, I suppose, but we like to let them join in anyway, because they are funny to listen to.
Christmas, when it came, passed fairly uneventfully. We had a very jolly meal on deck, and some secret santa gifts were distributed, but it’s hard to get right into the Christmas spirit when its 30 degrees outside and your family are all a few thousand miles away.
A few of us spent a weekend on the nearby island of Saba, where we explored mines, climbed towers, and I went on some beautiful long walks while the others dived. To get there I flew on a tiny plane with 5 other passengers, and we landed on the shortest commercial airstrip in the world. It’s an amazing island with little tourist infrastructure compared with its nearby neighbours. Even I had trouble being cynical whilst there.– e –