So off we went. 700 miles of sea to be sailed over with a couple of tricky little obstacles on the way. The first, a low pressure system with its attendant fronts was heading across the US and looking to exit the coast the day we arrived. That was okay. Providing everything went according to plan, we would be in New York Harbour as it came through and spared the worst of its effects.
I should add at this point, that we had been delayed in Bermuda due to an endless succession of weather systems identical to this one. Each had provided the route we would take with storm force winds and huge seas. Additionally, the wind would be on the nose making for a difficult, long and uncomfortable passage. Thunderstorms also tend to ‘hang out’ with this sort of weather. We had witnessed a few whilst waiting to leave, so the prospect of setting out in that sort of weather really didnt appeal. That and the fact that the first fifty miles or so would be close to dangerous reefs. We would be foolish to head out in such circumstances. What we had now was a gap and a short one at that.
The second tricky obstacle was a small front passing, which would put the wind on the nose for a day. This was something I was prepared to live with. We had already extended our visas in Bermuda as they only allow for a 21 day stay. Another extension would be as welcome to them as it would have been to me.
The third little obstacle was a little number known affectionately as the Gulf Stream. Thats right, its what allows us in the high latitudes in which we live in the UK, to go swimming.
Imagine a river between 10 and 60 miles wide, flowing very quickly, between 3 and 6 mph, trust me thats quick, all the way from below Florida, up the East coast of the US before it turns a hard right and ends up on the left hand edge of Blighty. You are probably thinking its a bit like a sort of tide thing, but its not. It has sharply defined ‘banks’ which change, sometimes daily, with small eddies on either side. It has a totally different colour than the surrounding ocean and a much much higher temperature. Its an obstacle to us because it flows so quickly. If we dont take the flow of the stream into account, we will leave it at a point that we didnt bargain for. This could add a lot of time onto our trip and we could encounter other weather systems as a result. But the main reason the strength of flow is a problem, is if the wind comes from the opposite direction. Those of you who have been sailing in the Solent will probably remember how when the tide turns so that the current is flowing against the direction of the wind, the waves become dramatically bigger. Imagine that on a much much grander scale. Current thinking is that if the wind is against the flow of the Gulf Stream by 20 - 25 mph, the conditions would be exceptionally serious for a small sailing yacht. Now we arent that small, and we are built for very rough conditions, but I dont like to take chances, especially with guests on board! This feeling was exacerbated when I was told a story by David from Northern Breeze, when in a phone conversation he mentioned that a work colleague of his had been rolled in a large yacht during a similar passage earlier this year. Happily, I’ve spoken to the person concerned and both they and their boat are now fine and continuing their adventures in the Pacific. He is an offshore worker in the oil industry and he recounted that he had never seen waves like it and that it all happened so quickly. Needless to say, I was nervous, but also had given some thought as to tactics in the event of such a wind being forecast. One of those tactics was to enlist shoreside help in the form of a professional forecaster who would help us define the stream’s boundary and ensure there was no forecast of potentially dangerous winds, from the North, on our approach.
So off we hop. A beautiful day to start. Just what the doctor ordered for James, his first sailing trip offshore. Feeling a bit woozy to start with, he was beginning to really get in the swing of things. We were about 100 miles from Bermuda, when the satellite phone rang. It was Bob the weatherman. Bob wouldnt normally have called, but he was very concerned that according to some of the computer models, a new powerful low pressure system was forming rapidly and threatened to cut straight across our path. What would we like to do about it? The choices we had were to return asap to Bermuda, not great; head south west and try to track under the low. This was possible, although it would really scupper our course and give contrary winds for a couple of days. The third option was to see what happened and keep on our current course.
In the end, given the possibilities and that the computer models were due to update in a few hours, we chose to split the difference and head west for a bit until all became clearer. That was we had a couple of options open to us should the conditions deteriorate. A few hours later, Bob phoned back. The low that looked so dangerous was now much weakened and heading further south. He had the chance to look at other sources of weather, as had we, and we made the decision to resume the original course, full steam ahead. Both Sinead and I were below having conferred on some navigational issue when there was an almighty bang and crunch. Our first thought was to check for water in the boat. None appeared, then we ran on deck to see what might have happened. Despite looking and checking we could see no object or no damage. We were both confused. It had been an almighty crash, but everything seemed to be working normally.
As it turns out, that was a taste of things to come. The forecast southwest winds didnt materialise, instead we had them from pretty much on the nose, just above west. We were keen to reach New York for independence day and that skewed our thinking somewhat. In retrospect, we would have done better abandoning that idea totally trying for a different destination, although none seemed that easy at the time and we were sure the wind would back... soon. So in the meantime, we chose to alternate between sailing as close as we could to the wind and motorsailing. Neither of these options are a bundle of fun. The seas were not huge, but steep, so we couldnt make much speed through them. Coupled with that, when sailing towards the wind, the boat adopts an angle and motion which at best are very uncomfortable and at worst are downright so. After several days of similar weather, we were flagging. Sinead, conscious of looking after the crew was cooking like a five star chef in conditions that James refused to believe were possible. On day three and four the squalls, thunder and lightning joined the party. As this was James’ first trip, only Sinead and I stood watch overnight. By the end of the fourth night, we were both exhausted. We managed to keep gong, partly due to the excitement that James showed everytime a squall came through. Once in a while a little monster would hum through and the waves and spray would fly about. To his credit, James seemed to be loving it! I think that spurred us on. It wasnt really that rough or cold, although we were in full gear at night, but it was uncomfortable. Couple that with the increasingly lavish light show we were being treated too each night and New York couldnt have come a moment sooner.
On the fifth day, we met the Gulf Stream and a funny thing happened. Although things had not gone totally to plan, the wind had finally swung to the South and increased. This was no problem though as long as it stayed in that direction. Horror of horrors, should it choose to swing through 180 degrees when we hit the Gulf Stream. As we arrived at the very edge of the stream, that is, of course, exactly what it did. Not by degrees, not over some hours, but in an instant. One second we were making six knots, twenty seconds later, both sails had backed and we were making precisely none at all. So.... next dilemma, do we go in or do we just hang around in the middle of the ocean waiting for it to stop playing games and change back. Well.... we did a bit of waiting, and to be fair, the wind tried to change back, but it just wasnt having it and to compromise, it settled into a gentle 5 knot breeze from the North. We went in.
What followed was a spectacular all night light show, which mercifully stayed behind us and absolute flat calm seas, With no wind we were forced to motor, but at that stage, beggars really couldnt be choosers. To be fair it was absolutely beautiful. The light show, the stars, the warm air from the water and most important of all, a chance to grab a few hours of smooth, calm, uninterrupted sleep!
The sleep really rejuvenated us, so much so that although the wind still hadn’t picked up by lunchtime the next day, we caught a fish! a good sized mahi mahi, which to James delight, we then had as sashimi, followed by grilled fish etc. I tried drying some using a technique used by Rob and Sue on Barbarossa. I’m happy to report it was delicious, although is an acquired taste! I acquired it rather quickly.
A beautiful day and far too good to last. Serious thunderstorms loomed ahead, which we took some pains to avoid. It was really obvious to see how the Spain thing had affected Sinead and me. Once, there was nothing I’d rather be doing than watching a storm, now we slunk below decks, our places taken by James who still found it fascinating. Only once did we have to make the decision that we really all needed to be down below as the situation wasnt looking pretty at all. Along with the thunder came the inevitable wind. On the nose of course, where else. Our approach to the New Jersey coast was made dodging ships and storms, like being a pilot and sailor simultaneously. If you want to read more about that, theres a bit in the post about lightning. I think it may be called wash day, as thats when I wrote it.
Due to the traffic and the ‘severe thunderstorms’ both Sinead and I spent much of the last 36 hours awake. Tired? exhausted! but any fatigue was instantly put aside as we finally entered New York Harbour.
At the end of the day, this had been a rotten old passage. Not particularly rough most of the time, but fraught with difficulties and very uncomfortable. James had done a stirling job and seemed to have really enjoyed it. I’ll ask him to write a little note and maybe we’ll see the truth!
And the crash? A couple of days after our arrival in New York, I raised the ‘oar’ of our Aries self steering device. The lower half was completely missing!
The first thing that strikes you about Bermuda happens when you are still the best part of a day away. It happens when all of a sudden, your VHF radio jumps to life. For those who dont know, our VHF radio is what we use for short range communication, usually only up to about twenty miles or so. Unless there is another ship around, its quite unusual for it to do much at all, other than use up much needed power. We keep it on though, just in case there is another boat within range, who may be having some sort of trouble. It also casts enough light in the cabin to stop me tripping over things when it comes to changing watch.
Where was I? Oh yes, about fifty miles away, a long way before we would expect to hear even a peep from anyone, a voice chirps up on the VHF: “Vessel in position, XYZ (I quickly check to see where we actually are), this is Bermuda Radio, do you receive? Over” Lordy, I think, its us! “Bermuda Radio, this is the yacht Foxglove, how can we help? Over?”
Then proceeds a good fifty questions as to our intentions, the safety equipment we have on board along with its make and serial numbers, whether we have charts of the area (Bermuda is surrounded by reefs, some up to twelve miles offshore) followed by pilotage instructions as to the best course of approach and a favour. The Bermudians had us on radar and also had another contact in our near vicinity. “Would you mind going to take a look as to what might be there?” we were asked. Well, game for a laugh as ever, we altered course to go and take a peek. Half an hour later, although we had the object on our radar, we could see sight nor sound of it. A thick mist started to descend around the boat and I’ll admit, I started to feel a slight note of apprehension. Even from what appeared on radar to be no more than 100 metres away, we could see nothing.... spooky.... Out of courtesy (fear) I called Bermuda Radio to report that although we also had the contact on radar, we could see nothing, when almost simultaneously, a dark object loomed ahead! We passed within fifty feet of the ‘object’ - a fishing marker buoy which had broken loose and had a huge radar reflector mounted on top of its long pole like shape. Of course, I knew this all the time. I mean I wasnt really scared or anything and I know that the Bermuda Triangle, which we were now pottering about in, had very rational explanations. We hauled it aboard, along with all the sea life that had made it home, and resumed our course for Bermuda. Humbled. Again.
Bermuda Radio rates a mention here. They are one of the highest power marine radio stations in the world, or so I’m led to believe. They coordinate almost everything in the sea area, from search and rescue to traffic separation and from security to weather broadcasts. They do it all exceptionally well. Many days later, we were sitting at anchor as a particularly strong storm hit the island. It was about eleven at night, quite dark and all of the yachts in the anchorage, of which there must have been a good fifty, were rocking and rolling to the violent gusts that were working their way into the harbour.
Once again, up pipes the VHF: “Red yacht in the anchorage, this is Bermuda Radio, do you receive? Over” This was repeated several times. Knowing the yacht in question, a large Maxi 60, I poked my head up into the gale to find the boat in question, not where it had started earlier that evening, about half a mile in front of us, but twenty yards to our left! We responded to Bermuda radio and after a bit of ‘to-ing and fro-ing’ managed to rouse the crew of the other yacht.
What amazed me about the whole thing is not just that the person on duty was watching (there is only one person on duty) but that they had seen a yacht’s anchor light move and had known which yacht it was. That wasn’t the only time we saw them go above and beyond the call of duty. Sadly the next time didnt end so fortuitously, although probably thanks to them, no-one was hurt, the only casualty being a 42 foot yacht, abandoned in heavy seas. Its rare we ever have cause to come into contact with services such as this, but a lot could be learned by other countries, not least the UK, on how valuable a service like this can be and how well it can be run.
So, Bermuda. Its easy to think of Bermuda as another jeweled island in the Caribbean. Except that its not. Its almost a thousand miles North and a good five or six hundred from the nearest land, Cape Hatteras, half way up the East coast of the US.
Bermuda has its origins as a volcanic island, or rather collection of islands and surrounding reefs. As is the case with many islands in this area, it was involved in the slave trade on sugar plantations before being discovered as a tourist destination by one of Queen Victoria’s daughters in the late 1800s. Tourism is now its second industry, being beaten into submission by offshore banking, insurance and other businesses keen to take advantage of tax incentives and a stable government. Did I mention,Bermuda is one of the UK’s few remaining colonies. It is ‘governed’ by a UK appointed governor, but has its own elected ‘premier’ who takes responsibility for the day to day running of the island, not without a certain amount of notoriety! I won’t go into that now, but take a look at some of the recent political history, even as recent as a couple of months ago, when Bermuda agreed to take refugees released from Guantanamo Bay. You will start to build a picture of how things work. The Premier’s name, oh yes, Ewart Browne. As Sinead remarked, not a good time to be in politics and named Browne.
Based on some of these actions and the fact that Bermuda is a UK Colony, you would think it would be easy enough to buy a house, set up a business and live here quite comfortably. A little like the Isle of Wight perhaps. As you can guess, its not quite so straightforward. Here is a short excerpt from the local government pamphlet on immigration:
Dont count on winning Bermudian citizenship any time soon. Some foreigners (and we are referred to as that) have spent 30 years here without rights including the right to vote. Without citizenship, you may not buy real estate, own a business or a car.
The easiest way to achieve Bermudian citizenship is to have the good fortune to be born here.
If you have been married to a Bermudian for over ten years you can apply. The government will then put an announcement stating this in the island newspaper. Anyone who thinks you should not be granted Bermudian status is invited to send a written letter to the Chief Immigration Officer.
The paragraph ends:
Having a Bermudian connection is key to getting citizenship after 20 years, otherwise, there is virtually no chance of you receiving it.
Why am a writing about this? Well, although Bermuda is undeniably beautiful, it has some of the most unspoilt beaches I’ve seen, with crystal clear water, some beautiful colonial buildings, actually whole colonial towns and is extremely clean and tidy, you can’t help but feel that you arent really that welcome there. The people are extremely friendly, but it felt to me like they were all like characters in a film, a bit like The Truman Show or Westworld. They were happy to see you and act out their little part in the fantasy, but only because they knew you would be spending innordinate amounts of money (a bag of minstral sweets was $7) and that you were going home soon!
Please don’t get me wrong, a week spent here, hiring a scooter and touring the island would be a great holiday (money aside). Its beautiful, the history is well presented, there are lots of watersports to enjoy, the people are, for the most part, honest and friendly and the climate is great too. So what’s wrong?, well for me it lacks the ‘jagged edge’ of reality, Its too ordered, too nice. Even the business men strutting around in comedy pastel shorts with long socks and a blazer feels like a show for the uninitiated. Tradition it may be, and I’m all for that, but when the island adopts a pair of shorts as one of its national crests, you have to ask yourself if it really is for real?
I could talk about the place at some length, but really the only way is to join the masses and go take a look.
Due to some pretty horrendous weather, we ended up spending the best part of a month there and for both of us, especially for me, as I tend to tire of a lack of sincerity rather quickly, it was more than enough.
There were some high points however.
Meeting Rob and Sue on the yacht Barbarossa was one of those points. It was one of those things we wished we had done within minutes of arriving in Bermuda. As it was we met them several days before leaving. When Rob was about 21 and Sue 17, they had built a 50 foot concrete boat in essex with the aim of sailing around the world. They did that and apart from one week in a tent, they have been living on this boat ever since. That includes raising two children, cruising the world with them - neither left ‘home’ until they were gone eighteen. Little known to us, we had bumped into them previously, some years ago in the Canaries. Rob, who makes videos as a hobby, had recorded us entering harbour in La Gomera, struggling with our headsail reefing. He had used this bit of film to demonstrate to Sue why he preferred hank on sails over the next four years!
There isn’t much I can say about these two here apart from they are two of the most quietly inspiring and down to earth people I have ever met. I hope we see more of them in the future.
Another bit of excitement for us was winning the pub quiz in the yacht club, which in the UK would normally get you a pint of lager, won us a $100 meal in the restaurant downstairs owned by its entertaining chef Abdul. $100 dollars doesn’t stretch that far in Bermuda, but I have to say the meal was rather good! My only very slight disappointment was the lack of my favorite barman, Mercio, who was at an interview. Oh, whats the job I enquired? Oh insurance, was the response, he’s an underwriter. Which, to my mind, kind of says it all.
During our preparations to leave, James, one of Sinead’s American cousins made the foolish error of saying how he would love to come and try a bit of sailing. Perhaps even more foolishly, I replied that we would be sailing for his homeland in a few days and he would be more than welcome to join us. Foolish on my part perhaps because, well you know my thoughts on passage making, foolish because this next passage had a reputation as being a bit of a troublesome one and Foolish with a capital F, because, and you will be happy to know, it lived up to its reputation.!
So finally we set sail from Sint Maarten. Those of you who have read my notes on passage making can be assured that all of the usual machinations took place. Shall we go, shall we stay? Whats the weather going to do? Should we wait until tomorrow? Should we go yesterday? And yes, all of the usual culprits are making themselves known with their “should wait a month”, “Really....? tomorrow!!?” and “Thats the last we heard of Dennis”.
For our part, the skippers were protesting our usual “Once I’m are out there, I’ll take what we are given right on the chin, but I dont want to leave on a bad day, sets the crew up all wrong”, when what we really meant was “I’m scared stiff of what we might meet out there and if today is anything to go by, I wonder how much a plane ticket would cost”
But we left anyway. Like so many in Sint Maarten, if we hadn’t left then, there was a good chance that we never would. we would probably set up a business, buy a house, make more friends....etc etc. Places like this are universally known as ‘Port Velcro’ Easy to arrive, nice and solid, almost impossible leave.
But we did and hey, for once, we had a wonderful passage to Bermuda. Foxglove sailed like a dream and quickly too. The trip was only nine hundred miles, ha, see that ‘hindsight only’ creep in there, and we had good weather and a lot of fun all the way.
Seven days later (would have been less if I hadn’t made such a glaring navigational error on leaving St Maarten) we arrived at the mid Atlantic blob of Bermuda.
The weather was still perfect for a continued run to New York, but we decided to rest and spend awhile exploring this rather unusual British Colony before setting off the following week. Or so we thought.
I know, I know, its been ages since we last wrote, but lots has been going on and, oddly enough, the more civilised the place we moored, the less access to internet we have had. Well now we are a little more out in the stix, geographically perhaps rather than culturally and it seems like a good time to try and catch up.
So, where were we? Ah yes, St Martin rings a bell, or should I say Sint Maarten? The island is divided into two countries; The French St Martin and the Dutch Sint Maarten.
Legend has it that the French and the Dutch, being so civilised, decided on a peaceful method of defining the limit of their territories. A Frenchman and a Dutchman were placed on opposite sides of the island, the Frenchman with a bottle of wine, the Dutch with a flask of gin (he gets my vote). They walked towards each other and where they met, became the border. Needless to say, the French got somewhat more of the island, for reasons that any martini drinkers amongst you will be only too aware.
I won’t ramble on too much about the island’s colonial past, other than to say it was pretty successful, largely due to some clever spark’s idea of making the island ‘duty free’ of taxes. This continues today, although with a somewhat capitalist twist in that prices are lifted by slightly more than the tax, which is then taken off, resulting in prices being largely similar, if not slightly higher, than everywhere else in the Caribbean. Certainly considerably more expensive than the mainland USA.
Most people are either easily fooled, or like the sound that ‘duty free’ makes if you say it often enough and thus flock to this island to refit, repair and relax before heading North to the good ole US or South to the hot and sticky parts of the Caribbean. As such, the place is full of boat yards and every form of service to a yacht that you can imagine. And some. Its also a great place to come and search for work. Everything from working on superyachts, to underwater construction work in marinas is available, more often than not, no questions asked. Some of the stories we picked up here would be quite unbelievable, should we not have met the people concerned and seen the evidence first hand. I wont talk about these now, more to protect the innocent than anything. You never know, I might be looking for work here one day!
I digress. Not wanting to miss out on a bargain and to meet our old cruising pal Joe Caesar who had bought a boat there and was refitting it, we rocked up in Sint Maarten.
First impressions? Back to civilisation, for better or worse. Actually civilisation isn't the right word, more, commercialism I guess. We anchored in the lagoon, a huge expanse of water enclosed on all sides and entered by one of two lifting bridges. Sheltered enough, but with somewhat dubious murky water. Not the place to jump in for a quick ‘bath’.
Worthy of its name as one of the hubs of the sailing world, we instantly bumped into some old friends, Jon and Sam on Imagine, who we had met back in Gibraltar and both received a bit of a ‘dusting’ on our way to the Canaries and David and Jackie aboard Jackster, a couple who I had taken on a mile building course with Commodore Sailing back in the UK. David and Jackie had taken the plunge and bought a boat, a big boat at that, and were ‘living the dream’, or as I prefer to put it, ‘fixing the dream’. Fellow divers, their plans were to head south to the Caribbean, dodge the hurricanes and hole up in Trinidad for a few months. We spent some good times with all of them and will hopefully bump into them all over the next year.
It took a while, but we finally managed to find Joe. Actually we found Kate, Joe’s second in command on the good ship Shackles and another member of the ‘Taffia’. This was infinitely better than finding Joe, but curiosity prevailed and eventually we decided that we couldnt put it off any longer and met Joe for the obligatory beers later that evening.
Beers turned into, well, more beers before we were packed unceremoniously into a car and driven, along with a damp dog, to a barbeque at one of Joe’s friends, Lindsay.
Lindsay was Joe’s boss, a natural genius engineer, who works out of Bobby’s marina, a rambling chaotic but instantly homely boatyard. He and his wife, Margy, are some of the most hospitable people we met on the island. Their hospitality extends to our four legged friends, who they also collect, like stray people.
The barbeque led to more introductions including two more of the most friendly people we were to meet, Patrick and Sophie Kinander, oh and their dog, Martin.
Over the coming few weeks, we spent a lot of special times with all of these people and have extremely good memories of all of them. Hopefully we have some new friends. I’d love to see more of them.
Two more things before I finish with Sint Maarten. Here was obviously the place to catch up with some of the more time consuming and larger repairs to Foxy. If you look at the photographs, you will probably catch site of me in the bowels of the good ship, fiberglass and epoxy at the ready. Apart from itching and scratching for some days afterwards, all the work we completed seems to be standing up to the rigors of cruising well. Maybe I should coat myself in epoxy?
We also had one of those heart wrenching ‘small repair’ jobs, which started with the removal of a bolt to stop a leak and ended with the removal of over thirty bolts, the traveller, some welding, finding some teak, sanding it to half its thickness.. etc etc
Whilst that little drama ended well, I see some more of a similar ilk, just waiting in the wings for a nice sunny day.
Finally, before we leave what will be our last island in the Caribbean for some time, its worth mentioning Sint Maarten’s airport.
St Maarten has long been a popular holiday destination for both the French and Dutch, numbers increasing such that larger and larger aircraft have been used to transport the crowds here. Did you know, that the airport here has the dubious honour of having the shortest commercial runway in use by a boeing 747? Whilst that fact may echo in your mind if you are flying here, it also makes for some great sport as the beginning of the runway is no less than two metres or so from the footpath alongside the beachfront road. The white sand beach itself is not more than ten metres from the footpath.
Alongside the footpath runs a low chainlink fence, the sort you might have in your garden. Beside this fence stands a small group of rather motley dressed tourists. You know they are tourists, both because they are pale and wearing odd hats and because no local with their head even remotely screwed on, would stand where they are standing, for love nor money.
You, for your part, are sitting in a little bar about fifty or so metres to their left. For the next half hour or so, nothing much happens. A small commuter flight from a neighbouring island putters over their heads, lands and makes it way to the terminal. But thats not what these people are waiting for.
Another fifteen minutes passes and you sense a little nervous excitement in the bar around you. Nothing too much, wouldnt be seen to be excited, that wouldnt be cool. Seconds later a boeing 747 passes over the beach at a height of about forty feet, about the height of the roof on a two story house and bounces just feet away onto the runway. It is impossible to describe what this is like, even with a photo, which you can look at in the photo section. To be so close to 400 tons of metal moving at about 180 miles per hour is mindblowing.
The tourists love it. But thats still not what they are waiting for.
A short spell passes. I get back to my pizza.
Ah ha... its starting. A small jet, about the size of something on which you would fly to Paris or Madrid is sidling up the taxiway. As it pauses to make its turn onto the runway, rather bizarrely one of the pilots, the co-pilot to be precise, has his little side window open and is waving to the the gathered mob grasping the fence. Now, I dont know how recently you have flown, or how much attention you pay when taking off, but let me run you through what usually happens. Firstly the aircraft lines up on the runway. Then follows a short pause whilst final checks are carried out. All being well, the power to the engines is increased, but only by a small amount whilst other checks are made. As this happens, the aircraft slowly starts its roll forwards before either, a few seconds later, full power is applied and you are on your way, or you pootle back to the terminal and the pilots get to have another cup of tea whilst someone puts your plane back together.
This isnt what happens at Sint Maarten.
Granted, after the waving, the aircraft lines up on the runway as you might expect. Indeed, the engines power up slowly, but then a very odd thing happens. The engines keep powering up. At first they do so in little stages, teasing almost, until you think they are running at full power, until finally there is an almighty roar as you realise how you were just being toyed with and the engines hit their full power. Stranger still, the plane doesnt move, strange until you see the effect on the crazed ones hanging on for dear life at the fence! Some have their feet flying in the air, some are trying helplessly to keep hold of their rather odd hat whilst not letting go of the fence. All, including the ‘smarter’ tourists who have set up camp on that ‘nice empty bit of beach’, are having a more powerful exfoliation treatment than could be bought in the most exclusive branch of Champenays.
Finally, the aircraft’s brakes can handle the force no more and another hundred, somewhat confused, people are catapulted from the runway and the sea has laid claim to another twenty pairs of oakleys and another bunch of silly hats.
As we depart Sint Maarten, I can only leave you to imagine the scene when the Boeing 747 decides to head back from whence it came.