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Creek AnchorageAll of our non-sailing friends ooh and ahh when we talk about owning a sailboat (a 30′ Catalina), imagining an exciting day under sail, battling big swells and taming sails stretched to the limit while the rail is buried under water, me at the helm braced against the heeling boat while the Admiral man’s a jib winch, trimming the big genoa to keep us on track.

They’re always a bit surprised when I say that the best part of sailing is when you’re done.

On a recent weekend we went to the marina, looking forward to an overnight trip to a nearby creek. We ran down our checklist: full water tanks, Jamaican beer, snacks and dinner ingredients.  We crank up the diesel and creep out of our slip and head for the open water. It’s warm but with low humidity if feels more like September than July.  We pass two young ospreys on a daymarker nest and they give us a wary eye as we motor within a few feet of them. Seeing that we have no food for them so they return to scanning the sky for their parents.

As we motor out of the lee of the creek we feel the breeze begin to build and after another mile we point into the wind and raise the main and unfurl the jib. Then there is that delicious moment when we turn off the engine, fall off the wind and the boat takes  off. We are sailing, almost silently.
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DoctorI’ve finally discovered research which supports my contention that I need to take a vacation at least every other week.

Westman M. & , Eden D. (1997).  Effects of a respite from work on burnout: vacation relief and fade-out. Journal of Applied Psychology, 82(4), 516-527. From the abstract: “…burnout returned part way toward its prevacation level by 3 days after the vacation and all the way by 3 weeks after the vacation.”  Briefly, the positive benefits of taking a vacation staved off burnout from 3 days to 3 weeks.

This means that the psychological benefits of taking a vacation fade at roughly the same rate as one’s tan. Having an all-over tan may delay the return of burnout somewhat, but that has not been fully investigated. I’m considering submitting a research proposal to the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institute of Health, and Oprah Winfrey to fully study the issue of tan-fade and the onset of burnout.

If you’re interested in being a subject for this study, please leave a comment and let me know what tropical destination you’re willing to travel to for science. Remember, this is for science. Science. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

SXM1The end of a vacation is always a bittersweet experience. On the one hand, you hope you’ve wrung every drop of fun and relaxation out of each waking hour. On the other hand, you’re ready to get back to familiar territory: your home, your dogs, your bed, your stuff. Your bills. Your overgrown lawn. Your job.

Recovering from our toasting on the Tiko Tiko, we were unsure whether we wanted to spend one last day at Club O. Our uncertainty lasted perhaps 10 minutes. But first, a trip to Maho Bay and the Sunset Beach Bar and Grill. We visited the Sonesta Bay Resort. It seemed to be focused on high roller types. We are not high rollers. In fact, if there’s such a thing as a low roller, that would be us. Moving on to the Sunset Beach Bar and Grill was slightly a better fit, but only marginally. The chief attraction is the proximity to the runway at Princess Julianna Airport. Otherwise, it was a Carib and time to move on.
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SXM1The Tiko Tiko cruise, originally scheduled for Wednesday, happened on Thursday. We joined two other couples, Gerhard and Leah from Holland and Gene and Annette from Dallas. Philippe, the captain, welcomed us aboard and we headed for Tintemarre, a small island only a few miles away. After dropping anchor we swam ashore and Philippe brought our belongings to the beach in his dinghy. He erected three yellow umbrellas, the universal symbol of sun worshipping. We put on our snorkel gear and explored the rocks around the island. Not a lot of coral, but many interesting fish, none large enough to eat us, which is reassuring. Annette asks why we never hear reports of sharks in Saint Martin. None of us have the answer but I find myself looking just a bit more carefully while under water.
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Our plan to sail on the Tiko Tiko fell through when not enough people signed up for today’s cruise. No problem–Captain Philippe rescheduled us for the next day and he already has enough guests so we’re on.

SXM1We headed for Grand Case, the reputed gastronomic capital of Saint Martin and only a few miles from our villa. There must be three dozen small French and Italian restaurants, all with good reputations (and prices to match), but we are hunting for a different trophy: the Talk of the Town Too, a lolo. “Lolo” means “locally owned, locally operated,” a name that does not do TTT justice. Lolos are mom ‘n’ pop street cafes. No frills, no table cloths, no perky waitresses, just basic, tasty food.
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SXM1Pinel Island is a tiny island a mile or so from SXM, accessible only by ferry unless you have your own boat. Ours being 2,000 miles away, the ferry is our only option. Other tourists show up at the dock at Cul de Sac and at 10:00 we all clamber aboard for the 5 minute trip. Upon arrival a beach boy (yes, that’s what they’re called) begins collecting money from people as they choose their beach chairs and umbrellas. Not surprisingly, we choose the chairs furthest from everyone else. Not surprisingly, we are immediately joined by a family with three girls, two of whom are busy bickering with each other. They turn out to be nice kids. Not so the hooligans behind us. OK, they were normal too. Just be normal over there, please. Thank you very much.
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SXM1The obligatory squall passes through at 0600, waking us up in the process. We decided to head for Marigot for breakfast. We parked next to one of the marinas and headed toward the center of town. On the way we came across a tiny puppy that no one claimed and seemed lost. It followed us for a bit before heading towards the next prospective owner. A few minutes later the Admiral emotionally expressed her concern. As the male tough guy I pointed out that he seemed well fed and eventually his owner would claim him, but privately I shared her fear and throughout the day I’ve thought about him, hoping for the best.

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SXM1Today’s opening number was a quick squall passing through and pounding a loud tattoo on our villa for about 20 minutes. Then it was an oh-so-French continental breakfast around the pool at the L’Astrolabe, quite a contrast to my typical morning ritual at home. After a frustrating trip to Phillipsburg (it was Sunday and a big bike race had hijacked the main road) and a drive through Marigot, we went to Grand Case for a restaurant scouting trip. Having spotted some promising candidates we headed back to the villa. It’s beach time, baby.
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