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Log of the SPACESHIP Earth, 990705
5 July 1999


Dear Family and Friends,

Happy day after the Fourth of July. We're in Sint Maarten. Of course the Dutch think the 4th of July is just another day of the month. The French side will celebrate Bastille Day the 14th of July. The US Navy is here. The aircraft carrier USS John F Kennedy is anchored outside of the harbor. The 5000 men and 500 women ride back and forth on small boats called tenders which run 24 hours a day. They stand around with a beer in each hand, but they're very pleasant and well behaved. Of course, we don't see them after midnight. They had a great fireworks display last night.

We're in Bobby's Marina which is really a boatyard. Spaceship is up on blocks and we're repainting the hull and doing some needed repairs. The bottom paint which had stayed clean for three years all of a sudden started letting things grow. Hopefully we'll go faster with a clean bottom and new paint.

We left George Town on May 29, 99 and had an exciting but slow trip to Sint Maarten arriving June 18. Twenty days at sea is a long time to go 728 miles. The wind was always on our nose and we ran into a couple of storms which slowed us down. One night a storm blew so hard that we lost all the distance we had made that day.

Some days were beautiful and sunny, others were dark and stormy. Some nights the stars shone brilliantly and Venus was so bright it cast a shadow and the moon would come up clear and the world would be beautiful. Other nights there were no stars, no moon, dark clouds, sudden squalls, lots of racket and a feeling of disorientation. Sometimes it was hard to tell which way was up because the there was no horizon, just darkness everywhere.

We saw lots of birds: Tropic birds, beautiful white birds with a long white tail feather also called Longtails; Boobies who can swim almost as well as they can fly; and Shearwaters. All these birds live on the ocean except for breeding season when they go ashore to build their nests. A Halcyon is a mythical bird that builds its nest at sea.

We also saw a whale. We think it was a sperm whale like Moby Dick only grey. Our book says the females stay in the warm water all year and the males migrate to the colder waters up north. It slapped the water with its tail twice. Someone said this is a sign of annoyance, but we guess he/she decided we were no harm. Then it breeched. Bigger than our boat, it jumped clear out of the water except for its tail. What a sight and what a splash. This went on for forty minutes. We wish we had a zoom lens on our camera.

We sailed into San Juan, Puerto Rico for one night of rest and then we stopped in Francis Bay, St John's, USVI and Savannah Bay, Virgin Gorda, BVI, and then we motor sailed to Sint Maarten. We normally do not turn on the engine, but we were both ready to just get here so we motor sailed. That means we had the engine running and we had the mainsail up which helped our speed and also kept us from rolling in the swells.

The island of Sint Maarten/St Marten is a great place. The southern half is Dutch and the northern half is French, but there are no border guards just a cement obelisk on the side of the road to show where the border is. We can take a bus (actually a van) from one side of the island over the mountain to the other. The mountains comes right down to the water and the road climbs up the side of a mountain and we get a great view of the Dutch harbor and then the French harbor.

Sint Maarten/St Martin has a large lagoon in the middle which everyone thought was a great hurricane hole until Hurricane Luis came with 200 mph winds in 1995. 1400 boats came into the lagoon before the hurricane. 1200 of them sank. Not only because of the waves or wind but also because people didn't anchor the boats properly and they broke loose and banged into one another until they caused holes in both hulls and sank. The boats that were anchored properly got hit by the boats that broke loose.

So Sint Maarten/St Marten is no longer considered a safe place to be during hurricane season. Which means that we have to go south to Trinidad or Curacao, below the hurricane belt.

Love, Ed and Wendy

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