St Martin | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Sailing BVI to St. Martin 2015

By Sheryl Shard, copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Greetings from the half-French half-Dutch island of St. Martin/St. Maarten in the Caribbean!

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Sunset anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon, St. Maarten

After almost two idyllic months cruising in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) we are now anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon on the Dutch side of St. Maarten.

Departing the British Virgin Islands
Wednesday March 24 we raised anchor at 0600 and slid off the shallow bank we were anchored on at the mouth of the inner harbour at Road Town, Tortola, in the BVI planning to make an 18-hour non-stop upwind passage to Simpson Bay in St. Maarten. After showering and getting ready to depart, we determined we were too low on water for comfort. We had enough to be fine for the day but decided it would be safer and more convenient to top up our water before sailing offshore across the Anegada Passage. You never know what can happen. So instead of leaving for St. Maarten from Road Town we decided to sail up the Sir Francis Drake Channel to North Sound, Virgin Gorda, where it would be easy to stop at Leverick Bay Marina to fill up on water. The timing was good. It would be open by the time we got there.

Wednesday was a beautiful day with winds E 10-15 and a forecast that the winds would go to the NE in the afternoon, meaning we could sail versus motorsail to St. Maarten for at least half the day. Sailing from North Sound out the Necker Channel would give us an even better angle on the wind improving our chances of sailing upwind so was another good reason for changing our plans to go up there.

We motor-sailed up Sir Francis Drake Channel to make good time for the marina opening and marvelled at how few boats were out at that time of the morning. Not a bad morning commute :-)

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Leaving the inner harbour at Road Town, Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands

Luckily there was space at the dock when we arrived at Leverick Bay Marina - just a charter catamaran and a mega-yacht with a guy polishing the helicopter on deck - with space for us at the back. Water is 15 cents US per U.S. gallon and we totally filled our water tank for $22.00 US. Even with lots of showering and cooking and washing up we can go for about 2 weeks without a fill. Since we have good water capacity on our Southerly 49, Distant Shores II, we chose not to go with a watermaker on this boat since it's easy to get water where we've been cruising with the boat in Europe and the Caribbean. But at some point we may choose to add one. We had a Schenker watermaker on our previous boat, a Southerly 42.

We quickly filled and set off happy that we hadn't been delayed too much. Life in the galley at sea was going to be much better now that I didn't have to watch the water levels too closely and we could have a good long hot shower when we made landfall later that night.

Crossing the Anegada Passage
I won't go into too much detail about crossing the Anegada Passage since we have made the trip several times and have written about it in previous newsletters about St. Martin plus documented it in Distant Shores episodes in season 6 and season 9. However, I will say that on this trip the air was so clear that we were 40 nm away from the British Virgin Islands before Virgin Gorda disappeared below the horizon and we picked up St. Martin when we were 32 nm away! The whole voyage from Road Town was just over 100 nm.

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We saw lots of boats including the tallship cruise ship, Sea Cloud II, on the Anegada Passage en route to St. Martin

Arriving in St. Maarten
On this trip the winds never did go to northeast as predicted but picked up to 15-20 knots from the east which was pretty much "right on the nose". Distant Shores II is a long narrow boat with a 10 ft. 3 in. draft with the keel down (2 ft. 10 in. with the keel up for shallow draft) so slices through the waves and goes great to windward so despite this and the time we added for our water stop we were anchor-down at the Simpson Bay anchorage in St. Maarten at 10:30 PM, an hour and a half earlier than we predicted. Woo hoo!

The anchorage at Simpson Bay is large and we've come in there in the dark several times before so it was no problem arriving especially with the moonlight. We anchored at the back of the fleet in 4 metres with a sand bottom, so good holding, and despite it being a little rolly, as it often is here, we slept soundly. The only disturbance we had was at around midnight when a very drunk but happy couple returned to their boat in their dinghy and mistook our boat for theirs so were loudly puzzled why the stern ladder was raised. They burst into gales of laughter when then realized they were trying to board the wrong boat and sped off :-)

The next morning we saw another boat had anchored behind us in the night but the captain must have been very tired and not set his anchor carefully or not put out enough scope. We watched him drag across the harbour and almost out to sea! We couldn't raise him on the radio and we had our dinghy on deck so couldn't chase him but just as we were about to lower it and go after him we saw someone on deck and the situation was remedied.

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Coming through the Simpson Bay Bridge, St. Maarten

At 0930 on Thursday morning we caught the Incoming Bridge Opening at the Simpson Bay Bridge (bridge opening times here) and went into the smooth protected waters of Simpson Bay Lagoon where we anchored in our favourite spot in a very shallow but convenient-to-everything spot near the bridge. However we barely had the anchor down when a family in a Bavaria went aground beside us not realizing our Southerly 49 is shallow-draft. This happens all the time so today Paul wrote a new Tech Blog, Warning Shallow Water, that is essentially a field guide to Southerly Yachts. Our boat looks very similar to a new deep-draft Jeanneau so people see our boat and assume there is lots of water around us. We’re getting very good at helping people get their boats off shoals…

After helping the Bavaria get free of the ground, we took the dinghy to the customs dock which is right in by the bridge and cleared in to St. Maarten as well as paid bridge and anchoring fees. Info on clearing in at St. Maarten.

We'll be here for a couple of weeks before heading down-island doing the maintenance and repairs we weren't able to complete when we were here at Christmas before flying home to conduct boat show seminars. On the to-do list is to build a new cockpit hatch, service the freezer and generator, install a new winch base on the mast winch since the support is corroding, make some new oar holders for our Avon dinghy to store them better and pick up our new Sailrite Ultrafeed LSZ-1 Plus sewing machine and get to work on some long overdue canvas projects. Can't wait!

What spring maintenance projects are you working on? We welcome your comments below…

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St. Martin - Running and Hiking Trails

Paul aboard S/V Distant Shores II ready for an 8 km run in the hills of St. Martin

It's important to get off the boat once and awhile and do activities that help keep you fit when you're living afloat. Something Paul and I like to do regularly is to participate in local running or hiking activities. We love to be outside and running and/or hiking gets us out into the countryside to explore places in the area we're visiting that we might not see otherwise.


Today, Sunday February 23/14, Paul participated in the Gymfit Time Trial de Bellevue, an 8 km run along trails in the hills of St. Martin, the French side of the island.


We had hiked these same trails with our friends, Lynne and Ken of S/V Silverheels III, a few days before and Paul and Lynne, the runners in the group, had done a few runs too. You can learn more about the trails of St. Martin at and find out about organized outings too.

Lynne of S/V Silverheels III and Paul on Bellevue Trails

And the week before, we had taken a break from editing and boat projects to enjoy a hike on a lovely shady downhill trail past an old sugar mill in St. Martin with about 30 fellow cruising sailors that Mark from S/V Sealife had organized. So the social aspect of hiking and running in foreign countries is as important and as pleasurable to us as the exercise and exploration.

Paul on a hike we did with fellow cruisers last week. The views over the island are beautiful.

Paul signed up for today's 8 km run at Tri-Sport St. Maarten Tours on the Dutch side of the island who also offer hiking, cycling and kayak tours but the majority of the runners participating today were from the French side and were French speaking locals. Events like this are a really fun way to meet people that live in the country you're visiting and become immersed in the culture a little bit, rather than just socializing with other travellers.

Paul running on the Bellevue Trails on the French side of St. Martin near Marigot

When in Grenada this past summer, we both joined a fun running club called the Hash House Harriers (HHH) which is an international running club with both hiking and running events. I hiked and Paul walked and the trails were timed so that hikers and walkers finished around the same time. A BBQ followed so it was always a good time.

Sheryl on a Hash House Harrier event on the north coast of Grenada.

Every weekend in Grenada there was an HHH event on trails in a different part of the island so we really got to see some unusual places and meet great people! See our newsletter "On! On! Hashing in Grenada" about this. We also got back in to shape in a hurry since the trails were up and down hills, across or along creeks and rivers, through forests and plantations, along beaches, up cliffs. Great fun!

In Grenada we really got in shape participating in a Hash House Harrier event every weekend.

We had participated in HHH events in Gibraltar many years before. One of the runs was through the tunnels of the Rock of Gibraltar! When you're a Hash House Harrier you're welcome to join in the events held in any country there's a club.

Today's 8 km run in St. Martin started early, at 7:00 a.m., since it gets too hot to run during the day. To get to the Race Start, Paul and Lynne took our dinghy to the dock at Port de Plaisance Marina on the Dutch side of St. Maarten.


Then they had a 2 km walk up the road to the Race Start in Marigot on the French side of the island, crossing the border from the Dutch side along the way.

Paul and Lynne warm up for their run with a 2 km walk to the Race Start crossing the border into the French side of St. Martin.


At the Race Start there were about 80 runners and each runner was given a start time 30 seconds apart to stagger them on the trail. The times were determined by a draw of names.


Paul's start was at 21 minutes after the first start and, by chance, Lynne's was only slightly later at 28 minutes after the start. Paul was #240 and Lynn was #236.


The brochure said the trails would offer beautiful panoramas and “the chance of encountering goats and monkeys”! We've never seen a monkey on our hikes on this island but have seen goats. However, today the only wildlife encountered were cattle that made large deposits on the trails. Hmmm. The runners had to really what their steps.


Ken (Lynne's husband) and I were at the finish line to cheer on our mates as they crossed the line within a few minutes of one another.

Paul crossing the finish line after running 8 K through the hills of St. Martin.

Cruising friend, Lynne of S/V Silverheels III, crossing the finish line.

The last runners finished about an hour afterwards. It was great since there were people of all ages and several families with children participating together.

Family running teams.

Youngest prize winners at today’s 8 K run in St. Martin.

There were lots of prizes too donated by local businesses and sponsors for the winners of various categories and the 1st prize winner got to sit on a chair and rest :-)


The $15 US entry fee for the run included a very nice breakfast of fresh fruit, yoghurt parfaits, and other snacks plus lots of water, juices and PowerAde.


It was a fun morning and a great time was had by all!


We are now having a restful Sunday afternoon on board Distant Shores II. If the spare part we're waiting for our Mastervolt generator arrives tomorrow, it will be our last day in St. Maarten. The weather is looking good for sailing to the British Virgin Islands on Tuesday. We’ll keep you posted...

Have a good week!

Warm regards,
Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard S/V Distant Shores II
Simpson Bay Lagoon
St. Maarten

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St. Maarten - Locker Clear-out and Inventory


Simpson Bay Lagoon

For the last couple of weeks Paul and I have been aboard Distant Shores II anchored in the protected waters of Simpson Bay Lagoon on the Dutch side of the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin. This island is unique in that half the island is Dutch and the other side belongs to France!

Paul and French flag at Fort Louis, St. Martin

It is also a major yachting centre and duty free port which for sailors means it's a great place to stop to do boat projects, repairs, and annual maintenance; stock up the boat with food and goods from around the world at affordable prices; top up the fuel tank and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow sailors.

Paul checking out the latest Raymarine equipment at Budget Marine, one of the major chandleries in St. Maarten

See my newsletter from our last visit, “Leaving St. Maarten” - 05/06/13. The island is a “cruisers crossroad” and you are bound to meet up with sailors you have met elsewhere on your travels. It's also a jumping off spot for sailors heading up or down island, offshore to Bermuda or Panama or across the Atlantic to Europe.

Dinner on board SV Banyan with cruising friends, Alex and Dave.

Like most of the crews on the boats anchored around us, we're taking the opportunity to do a little spring cleaning before the next leg of our voyage. Paul and I try to empty, inventory and clean out every locker on the boat at least once a year and St. Maarten is a good place to do it since here we have access to just about everything that we might need to replace, upgrade, repair or re-stock on our Southerly 49 sailboat. Our plans for this spring include time in the out-islands of the Bahamas where self-sufficiency will be key.


Before loading your boat with provisions and spares, we find that doing a thorough locker clear-out and cleaning helps you to rid yourself of unnecessary clutter to make room for the fresh supplies coming on board. It also helps to remind you of the stores you have so you don't purchase things already on the boat. It's surprisingly easy to forget what's on board despite valiant attempts at updating your inventory lists. Things do settle to the bottom of lockers and erase themselves from your memory or fall off lists.

Checking lockers regularly means that “disasters” such as exploded soft drink cans or cracked ketchup bottles don't go undetected. It is really depressing to return to the boat exhausted from shopping and find a locker you are about to fill with groceries is in an awful mess.


But most important of all is that this is a great time to examine how well you are using the storage space available on your boat and to make changes while the boat is relatively empty. Organizing the boat in a way that is convenient for you and that achieves your goals makes it a nicer place to be. If you like cruising in remote places you'll make carrying lots of supplies a priority for your storage areas versus a crew that loves performance sailing who would keep the boat light and makes sail storage a priority. The more efficiently you use your boat's storage space, the more money you'll save, the better your boat will perform, the more comfortable you'll be and the better sense of control you will have in your cruising life. Sometimes it will seem to be the only thing in control! LOL.
A Few Tips on Efficient Organization of Lockers:
1.Store items near their point of use.

2.Analyze your storage spaces and determine their degree of accessibility. Items you use regularly should be stowed in the most accessible cupboards and lockers. To determine the best use for each locker or cupboard, think about what you're most likely to be doing when you’re standing near it or where you’re going when you walk by it.

3.Consider the importance of weight distribution. Keep heavy items like canned goods low down and lighter items like pasta in higher cupboards. Similarly store heavy items centrally and keep the ends of the boat light so she can sail well and respond to the seas. Weight in the ends causes most boats to bury their bows in the waves.

You Might also like the following...
Tropical Storm Chantal Arrives
Making Money While Cruising
Maintaining a Homebase
About the Southerly 49
Top 10 Canal Journeys

Departing St Maarten

Hello Friends,

I, Sheryl, just got back to the boat after a 2-week visit home to Canada for some business meetings and to catch up with family and friends. Paul stayed on board Distant Shores II anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon working on scripts and rough-editing 2 new episodes of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series while I was away. Paul and I have been married for 27 years and this is the longest we’ve ever been apart! Thank goodness for skype and facetime so we could make video calls :-) We had dinner together via skype a few times and whenever I was at a gathering of friends and family we would call up Paul on skype and pass him around. Isn’t technology marvellous!
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I flew back to St Maarten from Toronto yesterday and Paul met me at the airport and then treated me to lunch at the St Maarten Yacht Club. I had a great time at home but it was so good to be back on board Distant Shores II with Paul.
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Today was a day of chores. First thing this morning we raised anchor and headed for the fuel dock at Island Water World to top up the fuel and water in preparation to sail to St Kitts and Nevis tomorrow and then continue down-island. IWW generally has the best price on fuel in St Maarten. Today diesel was $1,18 US/litre and water 15¢ per US gallon. If you pay by credit card there is an extra 4% surcharge.
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Next on the list was stocking up on provisions. We like to shop at Le Grand Marche in St Maarten. We can take the dinghy to the dinghy dock at Port de Plaisance Marina and walk up from there. There's a very nice selection of European delicacies & wines at good prices since the island is duty-free. For even cheaper prices there is a Cost U Less (similar to Costco or Sam's Club) a bus or taxi ride away but Le Grand Marche is convenient. They give a 5% discount if you're doing a large purchase for the boat and offer free delivery in the store's van to the dinghy dock. We give a few dollars tip the driver who usually helps carry stuff from the quay down the dinghy dock.

As I write to you now, Paul is at Customs and Immigration clearing us out to leave first thing tomorrow morning. I’m on board stowing provisions. I’m protecting the wine bottles in clean socks to prevent breakage. I also group similar items and put them in self-sealing plastic bags. This makes it easier to find things and if anything breaks or leaks, the mess is pretty much contained in the plastic bag.
Everything is stowed under in lockers around the boat. Under the bed, under the settees, wherever there is space.
We came out of Simpson Bay Lagoon through the Simpson Bay Bridge at the 4:30 p.m. bridge opening. The opening at 4:30 pm is for outgoing vessels and at 5:30 p.m. it opens for incoming vessels. We are now anchored in Simpson Bay ready to sail off tomorrow morning, all going well.
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We may be out of touch for a couple of days as we island-hop south but will post again as soon as possible.

We’ll be in touch again soon!

Warm regards,

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard Distant Shores II

St Maarten - Carnival 2013

St Maarten Carnival Parade

Hello Everyone!

It's May 1st and therefore the May Day public holiday in the Dutch/French island of St Maarten/St Martin, as it is in many places around the world today, so most businesses are closed and people are enjoying time with friends and family.
There have been a series of public holidays in St Maarten since we arrived here last Friday sailing from the BVI. Yesterday was the St Maarten Carnival in celebration of the Dutch Queen Beatrix's 75th birthday. She is actually the former queen since she abdicated yesterday and her son Prince Willem-Alexander is now king, so the celebration continues for new reasons.
There was a big parade for the St Maarten Carnival in Philipsburg, the capital, so we met up with Canadian friends, Dave and Alex from SV Banyan, at St Maarten Yacht Club at 9:00 a.m. and caught one of the little buses that runs along the main road in front of the club to go and see the parade.

The little local buses in St Maarten are great. You can just flag them down anywhere along the road and for $2 US a person make the 15-20 minute trip into Philipsburg from where we are located near the Simpson Bay Bridge into Simpson Bay Lagoon. The buses are vans that seat about 8-10 people. Just look at the license plate. It says BUS followed by a few numbers. Taxi vans say TAXI on the license plate followed by a few numbers. When you get on the bus it is courteous to say “Good Day” to everyone on board. Tell the bus driver where you want to get off and he'll stop there for you. You can ask to stop anywhere along the route. Everyone is very helpful if you're not too sure where the best place to get off is.
We'd been told that the parade would start at around 11:00-11:30 a.m. and that we should get to Philipsburg early since they'd be closing the road but when we arrived the streets, and even the usually crowded waterfront promenade, were pretty much empty. There were a few people setting up stands who told us the parade didn't start until 1 p.m. but that was further out of town and it wouldn't get to Front Street, where we were now, until around 2 or 3 p.m.!
Well, no problem. It was a beautiful morning so we strolled along the promenade and then Paul, Dave, Alex and I went for brunch at one of the pleasant waterfront restaurants. Some of the shops were open too, since Front Street in Philipsburg is a tourist zone and home to many duty free electronics shops, so we were able to pick up an additional computer drive that we needed as we wandered in and out of the stores filling time until the parade started.
It was well worth the wait! I think more people living in St Maarten participated in the parade than were watching it - and there was a good crowd!
The live bands on floats and troupes of fantastically costumed dancers were amazing!
People of all ages participated and since the parade route was so huge everyone attending could get a front row position to watch it somewhere along the streets.
The parade went on for over 2 hours. Wow! What a day!
These are just a few photos. The highlights are on video and will be included in a new episode of the Distant Shores sailing TV series.

Alex on SV Banyan is a really good blogger so check out her story and photos as well at

Happy Carnival, Everyone!

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard SV Distant Shores II
Simpson Bay Lagoon
St Maarten

Click here to check out our DVDs for more cruising adventures and tips!

British Virgin Islands to St Maarten

Sailing from BVI to St Maarten - Anegada Passage - April 27 2013

IMG_7674 sher swim

Hello Everyone,
The time arrived at the end of April to conclude our winter respite in the British Virgin Islands and begin the next leg of our voyage - heading south through the Caribbean island chain so that, come summertime which is hurricane season, we would be out of the hurricane belt.

The area of high risk for hurricanes in the Caribbean region, as defined by our yacht insurance company Pantaenius Yacht Insurance, is East of 98°W and West of 60°W, and between the Latitudes 10°N and 30.5°N. The “Named Tropical Storm Clause” in our insurance goes into effect from July 1st to November 15th. Different insurance companies have different limitations so check this out if planning to sail or store your boat in the Caribbean during the summer and autumn months.
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Paul at Pipe Creek, Bahamas

Another option for avoiding hurricanes in the summer would be to sail north through the islands of the Bahamas, one of our favourite cruising grounds as you may have determined by the number of Bahamas Distant Shores episodes we have filmed there, and then north to the Chesapeake Bay, another great cruising ground on the east coast of the USA that we have documented in the show. (Maine and the Canadian Maritimes are other appealing summer destinations for many sailors that cruise in the Caribbean for the winter, as is the Great Loop, a route exploring inland waterways of the USA and Canada.)

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Travelling through the Erie Canal, Chesapeake Bay and Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in Distant Shores Season 6

We have made the trip up from the Caribbean to the Bahamas, the Chesapeake Bay and home to Canada through the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes and Trent-Severn Waterway in the past and, since next season we are are planning to cruise the western Caribbean, going north would mean a long journey retracing our steps back to the Caribbean in the fall. So we have decided to take the boat south for Hurricane Season this year and explore more of the leeward and windward islands along the way.

The first leg of our journey south from the BVI was to sail back across the Anegada Passage to the Dutch/French island of St Maarten/St Martin, a passage of about 90 nm. In February we did this in the opposite direction, going St Maarten to the BVI, which is generally a nice downwind sail with the current in your favour as well. (See Feb 26/13 newsletter).

But going the other way, from BVI to St Maarten, is a whole different story since you are sailing into the trade winds and with the 1 to 1.5 knot current against you, so you need to plan the eastbound journey a bit more carefully. As cruising sailors we are blessed with hundreds of great sailing days in a year so the general strategy for this passage is to wait for calm conditions, motorsail into it topping up your batteries as you go, and Get It Done. From St Maarten heading south through the island chain your angle of sail is better and you can expect days of great beam-reach sailing with regular trade winds blowing from the east.

Checking the weather forecast on WindGURU we saw light wind conditions predicted for Thursday April 25 and Friday April 26. On Friday, the wind was predicted to be slightly more ENE rather than E and since we were going to set sail from North Sound in Virgin Gorda at the most northern end of the BVI we would have not-bad angle on an ENE wind. If we left very early on Friday morning there was a good chance we'd be able to make the 12-hour passage under sail, at least for part of the day. (Of course you could skip St Maarten altogether and sail southeast to islands further down the chain to avoid a headwind bash but St Maarten is a great place to stock up on provisions, fuel, and chandlery items before sailing down-island so we really wanted to stop there.)

The Cruising Guide to the BVI by Nancy and Simon Scott have a good section on options for sailing south from the BVI to the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean.

A new customs office in the BVI has recently opened in North Sound (also called Gorda Sound) at Gun Creek just across the sound from where we were anchored off Saba Rock so in the late afternoon on Thursday April 25 we motored over to Gun Creek, anchored off the customs quay, and cleared out of the BVI. You can clear out 12 hours before your planned departure.
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Early the next morning, Friday April 26, we were up at 4:30 a.m. and raised anchor at 5:30 a.m. just as the sun was rising and the full moon was setting over Virgin Gorda, a beautiful farewell image of the BVI.
Sail to St Maarten03
Heading out of the sound into Necker Passage we noticed there were 3 other yachts in our wake. We wouldn't be alone out in the Anegada Passage.
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Necker Passage takes you out past Necker Island, the multi-million dollar private resort belonging to Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Airlines and other Virgin Group corporations.

We were soon out into open water, mainsail raised and self-tacking jib ready to unfurl but the wind never did set in from the ENE. It was light and on the nose, due E, the whole day. Motorsailing it was to be. It was a very clear day and Virgin Gorda didn't disappear off our stern until mid-morning. We each stood our watches listening to audio books on our iPhones to pass the time and watching the many sea birds and passing ships. The Anegada Passage is a gateway to the Caribbean for ocean-going ships travelling to and from the rest of the world.
Sail to St Maarten11
At the half-way point we passed sailboats heading in the opposite direction and the blue skies began to get cloudy. Then the radar started to show patches of squalls developing and by the afternoon we were getting scattered shower – brief and cooling.
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However, just after sighting St Maarten on the horizon in the late afternoon, we got a series of big squalls. No worries. The heavy rain gave the boat a good cleaning washing all the salt off the decks.
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At the same time as the squalls passed we noticed an incredible feeding frenzy going on. Hundreds of sea birds were diving on fish at the surface all around us. Now we're not very good at fishing but we thought if we put out a line in this location we couldn't go wrong. Over the years we've done a lot of fishing with the hand spear but not so much with a line. But now we're getting into it and found a great book to guide us, The Cruiser's Handbook of Fishing by Scott and Wendy Bannerot. We dropped our line but I guess we were a bit late doing it since no fish seemed interested in our lure. Oh well. Better luck next time.
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Just after 5:00 p.m. the skies had cleared and we were rounding the south end of St Martin/St Maarten in sunshine under blue skies. By 5:30 p.m. we were dropping the hook in Simpson Bay on the Dutch side of the island just behind SV Banyan owned by Canadian friends, Dave and Alex, who had left the BVI the day before us.
Sail to St Maarten13
That's the great thing about cruising. You meet so many great people on your travels and encounter them many times in many places. A welcome always awaits you.

Until next time,

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard SV Distant Shores II

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St Martin to British Virgin Islands

Hello Everyone,
Greetings from the British Virgin Islands!

Our first visit here was in 1985 when Paul and I chartered a CS 36 sailboat with friends to test out our dream of sailing to the tropics. Needless to say, we loved it and did the voyage from Toronto, Canada, on our own boat a few years later. A lifestyle of sailing adventure began and our work as travel documentary filmmakers and writers blossomed. Now, with over 20 years of years of international cruising experience, 90,000 miles of voyages on our sailing resumes, and over 100 X 30-minute episodes of our sailing adventure TV series Distant Shores being broadcast around the world in 24 languages, we are back in the British Virgin Islands(BVI) for probably our 10th visit.
This time we're cruising this beautiful island chain on our 3rd boat, Distant Shores II, a Southerly 49 variable-draft sailboat, which we sailed across the Atlantic Ocean last December as participants in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). We were accompanied by our ever-cheerful Australian friend, Matthew Heron, who is an excellent sailor and, as always, great crew for a passage. It was Paul and my 5th transatlantic crossing and we documented the experience for Distant Shores episode #111 which is still in post-production.

To see a Sneak Peek from this episode about how we dealt with squalls on the transatlantic passage Click Here.

When I last wrote to you, on February 15, we had just re-launched Distant Shores after a couple of weeks of annual maintenance on the French/Dutch island of St Martin/St Maarten. We spent a couple of days at anchor in Simpson Bay Lagoon finishing up projects and then did a big grocery run across the lagoon in our dinghy to stock up on European delicacies and duty free goods for the ship's stores before leaving for the BVI where things can be a bit more pricey although there is great selection.

We got rather enthusiastic and when the courtesy delivery van from Grand Marche deposited us at the dinghy dock at Port de Plaisance, we had so much stuff we were afraid we were going to sink the dinghy on the ride back to the boat! Luckily it was a calm day and by going very slowly we arrived safely back at Distant Shores II without losing any of our cargo.
The next day when everything was carefully stowed away in lockers under benches and berths, we headed out of Simpson's Bay Lagoon at the 5:30 p.m. bridge opening at Sandy Ground Bridge on the French side of St Martin. (Sandy Ground Bridge Openings are at 8:15 a.m, 2:30 p.m. except on Sundays, and 5:30 p.m. Outbound traffic before Inbound. Bridge Operator is on VHF Ch 16 or tel. (0590) 590 87 20 43. There are no bridge fees as there are on the bridge on the Dutch side.)
Conditions were good for anchoring off the town of Marigot in Marigot Bay. If there is a big swell from northerly directions it can be very rolly but we had steady east winds. Out in the clear open water off Marigot you can swim off the boat and beaches (the water in the lagoon is too dirty for swimming unfortunately) which was the first thing we did when we were anchored in Marigot Bay. This was followed by a sundowner in the cockpit looking at the lovely view of the town with Fort Louis overlooking all.
Paul and I try not to work on a Sunday and honour it as a day for family and friends so in the morning we took the dinghy back to St Maarten Shipyard and visited friends Peter, Monika, and their daughter, Claudia, aboard their boat, Tauá. We’d met Peter when working in the yard. His wife and daughter had just arrived from Paris and we were looking forward to meeting them. Like Peter, Monika and Claudia were great company and we ended up taking the bus into town together (you just hail little vans that have a BUS license plate as they pass by. $1 per person) to enjoy Sunday Brunch with them at ZeeBest Restaurant near the Simpson Bay Marina.
In the afternoon, Paul met up with long-time friends from our York University days, Terry Fraser and Michele Yard Fraser, who he picked up in the dinghy at the Marigot waterfront. Terry and Michele have had a timeshare in St Maarten for many years and know the island well. We had a great afternoon together aboard Distant Shores II and got caught up on everyone's news and adventures.

Back in Marigot Paul cleared us out from St. Martin (you can clear Customs and Immigration on Sundays at Marina Fort Louis, otherwise at the ferry dock or the harbourmasters office at Marina Port La Royale the rest of the week). We were planning to leave early the next morning for the British Virgin Islands.
Morning commute aboard Distant Shores II

At 0630 on Monday February 18, we raised anchor and began a 84-mile crossing of the Anegada Passage, a strait that lies between the British Virgin Islands and St Martin plus the neighbouring island of Anguilla.
Many large ships enter the Caribbean Sea through this strait so we kept our eyes peeled and throughout the day we saw a lot of them. We had beautiful fresh tradewinds blowing from behind us so we poled out our jib and genoa and sailed wing and wing for the day.
After a great sail, we arrived at Round Rock Passage in the British Virgin Islands 12 hours later, just before sunset so the timing was perfect. From there we made a 20 minute run up to Spanish Town where we anchored for the night. First thing the next morning we cleared-in to the British Virgin Islands at the customs office at Spanish Town ferry dock on Virgin Gorda. Customs offices are open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm and Saturday 8:30am to 12:30pm. Closed Sundays and on BVI public holidays. For more info on locations and cruising permit fees Click Here.
Paul and school of Blue Tangs

We will spend the next couple of weeks break here in the BVI, relaxing at anchor, snorkelling, and working on scripts and editing. We have already filmed 2 episodes of Distant Shores about the BVI, one about bareboat chartering here if that is something that interests you. You can see both BVI episodes in the Distant Shores season 5 DVD collection. For more information or to watch a trailer Click Here.
Anchoring in Great Harbour, Peter Island. Photo by Andrew Evans

At the moment, Distant Shores II is anchored in Great Harbour, Peter Island, one of our favourite places for snorkelling. The sun is high so it's a good time to go for a dip and explore the reefs along the shore, so we'll say ciao for now.

Have a great week!

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard Distant Shores II
Great Harbour, Peter Island
British Virgin Islands

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St Martin/St Maarten

Hi Everyone,

Our Southerly 49, Distant Shores II, is back in the water in St Martin in the Caribbean, after a week of seasonal maintenance on the boat before we continue with a winter season of sailing and filming new episodes for the Distant Shores TV series in the tropics this year. We re-launched the boat on Monday and are now anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon near Marigot, St Martin (the French side of the island).
Paul and Sheryl at Toronto International Boat Show January 18-20, 2013

We have only been back in St Martin for 10 days since were home in Canada for 3 weeks doing presentations at the Toronto International Boat Show and other events, then flew back from Toronto on Feb 5.
Paul and Sheryl with Toronto sailor, Dave McGuire

Our flight back to St Martin/St Maarten was good on WestJet which has direct non-stop flights from Toronto YYZ to Phillipsburg SXM. There were 5 other Toronto sailors on the plane that we knew, all heading back to their boats after visiting home for the Holidays and Toronto Boat Show, so it was a sociable flight! We all met up again later on the island, at Barnacles, the sailors' bar in St Maarten.
Salt fish cakes or fritters are a traditional snack throughout the Caribbean.

There are lots of great restaurants and varied cuisine on this half-Dutch half-French tropical island. When we were in the boat yard we really enjoyed the Boca Marine restaurant that was on site. The appetizer pictured above is salt-fish cakes (dried salted cod made into fritters) which are a traditional snack found throughout many islands in the Caribbean.

St Maarten Shipyard, where we had hauled out the boat for storage before flying home, is very close to the airport so we just walked to the boat after landing and clearing in!
Sheryl walking from the airport terminal to the boat yard

The yard is right beside the runway so as we worked on the boat all week we had a constant Air Show :-)
View of SXM runway from Distant Shores II in St Maarten Shipyard

There were other sailors working in the yard too and the staff there were all really helpful and nice, so the time in the yard was very pleasant despite working with messy/toxic anti-fouling paint.
See previous newsletter for details and cost of the haul-out.

St Maarten Shipyard has a SeaLift which is like a huge padded forklift that they use instead of a travel lift. The SeaLift could raise us high enough to paint the full height of the keel. It was good to get a close-up look and see that all was well.
We re-launched the boat on Monday February 11 and will spend a few days at anchor in Simpson Bay Lagoon on the French side of St Martin finishing up some projects before sailing on. Mardi Gras celebrations are going strong in Marigot this week with the start of Lent. I've decided to give up "snow" for Lent this year :-)
On the weekend, weather permitting, we'll leave St Martin for the British Virgin Islands where we plan to stay for about 10 days. After that we will work our way slowly south through the island chain filming new episodes for Distant Shores season 9 in Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.
In May we will probably store the boat in Grenada for the Hurricane Season so will be home in Canada to continue with post-production on the shows in the summer for a change.

Have a really great weekend!

Warm regards,

Paul and Sheryl Shard
Aboard SY Distant Shores II
Marigot, St Martin
West Indies

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