Today was a bit more varied than the previous ones and involved elements of action, suspense and excitement. It began with the morning radio network, as usual; but then I realized that I needed to get to Budget Marine by 09:00AM in order to drop off my empty propane tank for refilling and the network ended just before 08:00. I got ready and into the dinghy by eight and then had the long walk to the remote parking location by the airport which I did in double time and found my car, unscathed, but all alone along the roadway. I got going and chose to go around the long way in order to avoid the congestions around Marigot and was soon stuck behind a convoy of slowly moving cars behind a truck which seemed to have only 2nd gear and was crawling around the curves and up the inclines. Due to oncoming traffic and the size of the truck I knew that we weren't going to pass this behemoth of the streets and I had that sinking sensation of knowing that I probably wasn't going to make. Then our convoy turned a corner and caught up to a much shorter convoy behind a construction site backhoe and my fear of arriving too late turned into certainty. As there's only one road there was no hope of finding a shortcut or other route so I gave up on refilling propane and turned up the radio and relaxed. But soon thereafter the truck turned off and just a few meters further the backhoe driver had mercy on traffic and pulled aside to let us pass and soon I was making sufficient progress to have a faint glimmer of hope. Traffic around the Cost-U-Less store is always congested but I'd already planned that in and I finally made it to Budget Marine at 09:05AM and they graciously let me pay and put my tank amongst the others waiting for pickup.
That task completed I went to Lagoonies for a coffee and croissant and did my e-mails and downloads before checking out sails (for my storm sail and trysail), bought an oil filter for my generator as a spare and checked out items at the chandleries. I wanted to buy water and beer and since the Cash-and-Carry was out of the sparkling water I was looking for (Perrier or San Pellegrino in plastic bottles) I chose a French brand called Badoit, but at the register I was shocked at the price of $17 per 6 bottles and I had a couple of cases which I then dutifully returned and kept the much cheaper beer in my shopping cart. This I returned to the boat and stopped at the car rental agency to extend my rental by one day, but there was nobody there and I returned with a handwritten note after depositing my shopping aboard.
On the way back to Marigot I saw a small sign for Pic Paradis which I'd heard from Mark was the highest peak on the island, so I detoured up the small road and despite being alone in the car and in low gear I wasn't making much headway until I turned off the A/C - those couple of horsepower made a big difference and once parked at the end of the road and walking up a shot but steep path I was rewarded with a wonderful view down the hill with a vista going from Tintamarre all the way to St. Barths. I spoke with a family vacationing from southern California and we looked for a suitable photo location on the other side before returning down the hill.
I then drove over the causeway bridge to the airport side and called Carmen on Bernd on the VHF to confirm our dinner arrangement that evening and the returned across the bridge. I was, I though, in luck - I ended up being the second car in line at the barrier and whipped out my camera to get an “action shot” of the process and the lone cruising boat waiting to pass. The bridge turned, the boat went through, the bridge turned shut again and the barriers.... remained down. 2 minutes. 5 minutes. 10 minutes. I got out to see what was happening and soon realized that the two bridge tenders had done the same and were moving around in a concentrated manner that told me that things weren't going well. I noticed that the bridge wasn't quite closed and that there were a good 20 centimetres separation along the centre line between the mobile and stationary portions of the bridge. Not good. After a length wait the two gents ended up climbing down a ladder (access to which they had to unlock) and at this time I opted to do a U-turn and go the long way around. This choice was a wise one, as the bridge was still closed to traffic at 19:30.
I was to meet Carmen, Bernd and Mark at Spinnaker's in Port Royal at 18:30 for a drink before heading off to a Moroccan restaurant in Marigot but the delays with the bridge and getting propane and doing my final chores meant I wasn't able to return to the boat to shower and change but I did have a reserve clean T-Shirt in the car so ended up stopping at Lagoonies again to do e-mail and internet and then proceeded directly to Marigot to meet my fellow diners. I parked close to the restaurant and walked to our meeting point and after some conversation we headed off to dinner. The restaurant is called Le Marrakech and was a very pleasant surprise as the inside decor was tastefully done and gave us an intimation that the food was going to be very good. We ordered some appetizers and Moroccan wine and once the food arrived we dug in and it was excellent. Then the main meal arrived, in waves, and it was not only incredibly tasty but the portions were American sized as well and none of us had a hint of a chance at finishing our food.
It was tough driving back to Grand Case after that heavy and satisfying meal and transferring the acquisitions to the dinghy (which was the last one left at the dock) and motoring back to the boat but I made it. Once aboard I took a shower to clean off the day's grime and despite feeling full I drank a whole litre of water prior to going to bed.

Pic Paradis is the highest hill on St. Martin and I took the narrow road up to (almost) the top for some nice views down the mountainside. This is the final stretch up to the top of the hill (it is steeper than it looks in the picture).
(2014-02-12 14:07:25 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/3.5, 1/80s] ISO 100)
Reefs and kitesurfers Pic Paradis is the highest hill on St. Martin and I took the narrow road up to (almost) the top for some nice views down the mountainside.
(2014-02-12 13:48:06 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/10.0, 1/200s] ISO 100)
Reefs and kitesurfers
Pic Paradis hilltop sign Pic Paradis is the highest hill on St. Martin and I took the narrow road up to (almost) the top for some nice views down the mountainside. It was nice that they put a sign showing the points of interest seen from the hilltop.
(2014-02-12 13:46:10 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/10.0, 1/160s] ISO 100)
Pic Paradis hilltop sign
Ile Tintamarre Pic Paradis is the highest hill on St. Martin and I took the narrow road up to (almost) the top for some nice views down the mountainside. This is Ile Tintamarre where the old runway can just barely be made out.
(2014-02-12 13:47:20 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/10.0, 1/250s] ISO 100)
Ile Tintamarre
St. Martin Causeway Bridge about to open The new causeway bridge in St. Martin just closed on me, I was right behind this car, and then it broke when closing and I was stuck there for about an hour before doing a U-turn and going around the long way.
(2014-02-12 15:17:47 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/10.0, 1/320s] ISO 100)
St. Martin Causeway Bridge about to open
Causeway bridge opening St. Martin's new causeway bridge slowly rotating open to let boats through.
(2014-02-12 15:18:52 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/10.0, 1/400s] ISO 100)
Causeway bridge opening
Rotating bridge in St. Martin stuck The new rotating causeway bridge opened, then didn't quite close again and was closed to traffic for many hours (I was 2nd in line and did a U-Turn after almost an hour)
(2014-02-12 15:37:09 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/22.0, 1/50s] ISO 100)
Rotating bridge in St. Martin stuck
Bridgekeepers inspecting problems The bridge in St. Martin was stuck in the almost-closed position and the two bridgekeepers are trying to see if they can fix the problem.
(2014-02-12 15:40:25 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/6.3, 1/1000s] ISO 100)
Bridgekeepers inspecting problems
Almost closed and stuck The two bridgekeepers inspecting the status of the turning bridge, which seems to be stuck just a few centimeters from closed.
(2014-02-12 15:39:52 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/6.3, 1/640s] ISO 100)
Almost closed and stuck
Boat propane fills The tanks need to be delivered by 9AM (and paid for) then can be picked up after 16:00; here my tank is being unchained.
(2014-02-12 16:03:26 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/6.3, 1/160s] ISO 100)
Boat propane fills
Mark, Carmen and Bernd at Marrakech Here we are digging into the tasty appetizers at Marrakech, a Moroccan restaurant in Marigot, St. Martin
(2014-02-12 20:01:19 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/6.3, 1/60s] ISO 400)
Mark, Carmen and Bernd at Marrakech
9 appetizers at Marrakech Very tasty appetizers at Marrakesh in Marigot, St. Martin
(2014-02-12 20:01:48 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/6.3, 1/60s] ISO 1250)
9 appetizers at Marrakech
Carmen and Bernd between courses Carmen and Bernd between courses
(2014-02-12 20:30:36 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/6.3, 1/60s] ISO 1250)
Carmen and Bernd between courses
Mark digging into the main course Mark savoring the main course (lamb) at Marrakech in Marigot, St. Martin
(2014-02-12 21:05:12 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/6.3, 1/60s] ISO 1250)
Mark digging into the main course
Marrakech Outside of Le Marrakech in Marigot, St. Martin.
(2014-02-12 22:27:45 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/6.3, 1/60s] ISO 1250)
Marrakech
 
Pic Paradis Panorama Pic Paradis is the highest hill on St. Martin and I took the narrow road up to (almost) the top for some nice views down the mountainside.
(2014-02-12 13:43:47 NIKON D7100 with a "18.0-250.0 mm f/3.5-6.3" lens. [f/10.0, 1/320s] ISO 100)
Pic Paradis Panorama
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