03 Jun Come Sail Away – December 2016
From the beginning of time, there has been no adventure more storied than that of the high seas. Oh how I love the thought of it… As long as the waves are not too rough and there is someone around who knows what they are doing ( or can convince me that they do) and can keep me safe and there are no scary marine creatures… I could go on and on. I am a worry wart by trade, so the idea of sailing for a week on a catamaran in the Caribbean Sea was both exhilarating and terrifying for me. Don’t get me wrong—I have plenty of experience on a sail boat, ( note- I am saying “ on” a sail boat, not actually taking the responsibility of sailing or navigating a sail boat!) so it was a no brainer when we had the opportunity to sail out of Marigot, St Martin, with Captain Mike McDonald on Toocanoo, his 35 foot performance catamaran.
Marigot is the lesser known city on the island of St Martin/St Maarten. I love its French flair and scenic views. It is quiet in comparison to Phillipsburg ( on the Dutch side of the island) where all the cruise ships dock, and Simpsons Bay . where the party is at. Marigot is serene and peaceful and I never felt uncomfortable walking her streets. This is where Toocanoo is docked from December to April each year, and where Captain Mike’s charter departs from. It is easy peasy to get to Marigot from Thunder Bay with same-day flights in both directions with our friends at Westjet. Upon arrival in St Martin, the dock is a short taxi ride from the airport and soon you will feel the tensions of our busy world drift away. Maybe it is the sea turtles popping their heads up around the boat? Perhaps it is the icy cold Heineken on the deck as the sun sets? Or perhaps you take pleasure in an amazing meal from one of the myriad restaurants all within an easy walk of your floating home.
Simply put, living on a catamaran for a week is fun. You basically need bathing suits and some wrinkle free summer outfits. Even the fanciest of restaurants are not that fancy. You won’t wear shoes on the boat. There is no dress code and less is best. There is plenty of space to eat and drink and sleep comfortably—and isn’t that all we really need?
Captain Mike is not only the high seas most easy going guy, but he is also king of safety ( key to me). You start off by getting a drill of what you can and cannot do ( there are a lot of “ can”s and not too many “ can not’s” but it is important to pay attention!) Safety drills are very palatable while clutching a cold beverage ! Nod, sip, nod, sip… you get the drift. After a good meal and a good nights sleep in your berth, you are ready to hit the open water the next morning!
Your itinerary will depend mostly on weather. We were fortunate enough to have fair seas during our adventure; for that I am grateful, but one cannot control the winds or rain, so you need to embark on this style of journey with an open mind, willing to take whatever cards you are dealt by Mother Nature. That being said, our December cruise was perfection as far as weather was concerned. Our first stop was the stunning island of Tintamarre, just 3 km off the coast of St. Martin. It is a small uninhabited island that looks like it has been photo shopped. This is a perfect beach with crystal clear water, perfect for swimming and snorkelling. When I snorkel, I pray I do NOT see anything—true story We did see a few sea turtles, though, and a couple of fish who could not have cared less if we were there ( just how I like them… I will ignore you if you ignore me)!
Our next stop was St Bart’s, about 35 km away which made me a little uneasy boat wise.. but a few minutes of sailing had us on a nice level reach for the island and all I can recall is that I was happier than a clam. Now, that MAY have had something to do with my self medicating with icy cold beers, but I cant be sure! We arrived in St Bart’s, cleared customs ( which Captain Mike does on behalf of his guests.. so stress free!) , checked out the mega yachts docked in the harbour at Gustavia, bought some more beer and ice ( really this was my only responsibility for the week!) then made our way around the corner to a bay called Columbier Bay where we anchored for the night. Again, the beach is idyllic.. one wonders how these perfect places stay so clean and private. Captain Mike took the kids snorkelling with sea turtles while my love and I drank Prosecco and lounged sans clothes on the trampoline of the boat. It was bliss. There is also a wonderful hike to be conquered with dramatic seascapes on the other side of the mountainous terrain.
Day three brought us back over to St Martin to a spot just off the coast of Orient Bay called Pinel Island. This white sand, picture perfect escape from the modern world is totally walkable with lots of areas to swim and enjoy some sun. There is a restaurant and a shop on the island, and the lobsters they caught and served were HUGE! Great spot for snorkelling, kayaking and paddle boarding.
From there we sailed back around St Martin to what would become our favourite place… Grand Case and Happy Beach. I will tell you more about these two gems in a different blog…we loved it SO much that we went back 4 months later (without the teenagers) to just spend a week in this spot. Grand Case is the gourmet capital of the Caribbean and boasts a mile long white sandy beach perfect for swimming, snorkelling and walking. The food is outstanding as is the friendliness of the locals. No one wants to braid your hair here, or sell you weed. They just say hello and ask if you are having a good time. The food here is to die for and Captain Mike knows all the best places to go . This is the place you go to eat, drink, walk around and have a bit of night life.
Our final jaunt was directly north over to the island of Anguilla. Again, I was nervous for the crossing as it is a bit of a sail, but Captain Mike told me all the worst case scenarios and I listened, nodding and sipping in succession ( I am pretty good at that!) as I prepared myself for the worst. Well, it turned out to be AWESOME! We had a wonderful time at sea as the kids fished off the back of the boat and caught a barracuda ! Those things have TEETH and I was happy I was not in the water with him! One of my favourite memories is of Captain Mike wrestling the barracuda while brushing his teeth! THAT’s what I call multitasking ! It was a magnificent sail, and when we docked at Road Bay we were sad it was over for the day. A beer or two at “Dad’s” bar on shore was all we needed to get us back in to the swing of things. We arranged to have 2 ATV’s for the next day, and were rocked to sleep with thoughts of more white sand beaches and meat that had been on the BBQ for hours. Up with the sun, we were ready to explore the island. Again, we felt incredibly safe in this paradise, and had fun exploring beaches that you only believe to exist on postcards and screen savers. Our favourite was Schoal Bay with its pinkish hued white sand the consistency of flour, and its intense turquoise water. We enjoyed lunch at a beachfront restaurant and stared in wonderment at how a beach could possibly be so perfect. The rest of the day was spent exploring numerous beaches and neighbourhoods as well as sampling incredible fall off the bone $4 ribs at “Daves” in The Valley. After I got over my fear of falling off the ATV or being eaten by a dog ( I told you I was a worry wart!) I thoroughly enjoyed our self guided tour and we will certainly make our way to Anguilla again.
Yes—sailing with Captain Mike is an adventure, but a very controlled, safe, fun, never scary ( except that Barracuda… ew… I have since cut all the sparkly dangly things off my bathing suits), easy going, no stress type of adventure that everyone who loves the thought of being on the sea should experience. We can tailor- make your experience to suit your wants and desires ( Captain Mike is also a kickass kite-surfer and high adrenaline fun junkie!) so you will have a vacation unlike any other. Contact me for information and availability. Toocanoo is only available for 5 months of the year so space is limited.
NEXT TIME… Grand Case and Happy Beach- an adult only #RomanticTravelEscapes