Return to SXM 2020

Simon Duff looking comfortable at the helm

Saint Martin, March 4th 2020. Last chance to party…

Race boats returning to the lagoon

Our stay in Saint Martin was a short one this year, cut even shorter when I came down with a nasty flu which knocked me for six ( I know it wasn’t the coronavirus as I have since been tested for antibodies in Grenada). Luckily we got the chance to catch up with our friend Simon Duff and to meet his partner, Pam before I was laid low by the nasty bug. Simon Duff crewed for us some years ago on our previous boat, Thursday Island. We have happy memories of those sailing holidays together when crossing the English channel was a big adventure and very happy memories of his superb cooking on board! It was great to see him looking so well and happy with Pam, both completely at home in Sint Maarten/Saint Martin. SXM has been

Some lovely blonde ladies

their home for 2 years during the British winter time, offering a great social scene, music, golf and the chance to escape to a more relaxed pace of life in Anguilla just across the water. Our stay here happened to coincide with the Heineken Regatta and after treating us to lunch at Lagoonie’s (thanks Pam!) they took us for drinks at the yacht club to see the incoming race boats as they got their marks for fancy dress from the judges on the terraces and a warm welcome from all the punters, happy to celebrate the day of racing, whoever had won. This was to be the last time (we don’t yet know for how long) that we would be in a party atmosphere. As you can see from the photos, folk were not standing 6 feet apart.

The boats receive marks for fancy dress as they return to Simpson’s lagoon after a hard day’s racing

Pam and Simon on board the Princess

The world was about to change and as I came down with my first flu in 2 years the thermometer became an essential piece of kit on board. I took my temperature and Simon’s several times a day, reassured that although I felt rotten, I didn’t have a fever. There were 2 confirmed cases of  coronavirus at the time on SXM but for now the partying continued on the island with multiple cruise ship visits every day and the concert celebrating the end of the Heineken Regatta attended by hundreds. My flu at least removed the temptation to go to that!

We did manage to meet up with Pam and Simon again when I was eventually feeling better although a coughing fit in the creperie where we met them for brunch emptied my half of the restaurant. Pam faced her fears and braved the long, bumpy dinghy drive across Marigot bay to come on board the Princess with us which was particularly courageous as she doesn’t swim. They both said nice things about our boat which, as every cruiser knows is the way to a sailor’s heart.

We didn’t know it at the time but we were about to be extremely grateful to Pam and Simon. They took us shopping in their car and allowed us to stock up at one of the large and affordable supermarkets on the island. We were soon very thankful for that provisioning trip when we found ourselves in a state of semi- quarantine in the Virgin islands. Also Pam saved the day when one week later we were desperately trying to repatriate my friend Rob who’d flown out to stay with us from France just as everything was starting to shut down. She was kind enough to drive to the airport and get hold of the Air France desk, persuading one of their employees to give us their direct line. Without this number and the help of those Air France staff it is fair to say that Rob would not have got on that last international flight home.

SXM in 2020 was our last taste this year of the Caribbean as we knew it; carefree, open to all, mad to party. Many thanks again to Simon and Pam for their hospitality and help.

Poled out ready for our trip north to the BVIs