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Port de Plaisance

port de PlaisanceTHE MISSON FOR today? Get some parts for the outboard and start replacing worn items. Toward the end of the morning broadcast of St Maarten’s radio net on the VHF, Mason on ‘Out of Africa’ announced he was off to Budget Marine straight after the net, I could ask him for a lift, so I quickly got dressed and I gave him a radio call. No answer. He wasn’t kidding when he said ‘straight after’, I could see him through my porthole. That was him in the distance climbing into his dinghy.

It was a leisurely row downwind to Port de Plaisance, it’s not that far, perhaps half a mile. Tying up on the northern corner of the marina under the watchful gaze of two Iguanas, I climbed out and made my way down quayside. I was parched already. I had prepared a bottle of filtered water but left it on the galley counter and the day was warming up quickly. It was only about 10am and I was making my palm tree shaded, looping way along the drive of the marina to the main road. I didn’t realize the road was so far away from the shore and, turning right, I still had a distance to go to get to the Chandlers.

A happy discovery along the way was the Carrefour supermarket. Dropping my backpack in a shopping trolley, I slowly wandered up and down the aisles, flapping my t-shirt to dry my back where the pack had been restricting ventilation. Carrefour’s air conditioning plus chilling out in the chilled food area did the trick nicely. Buying a bottle of water,  abandoning the shopping trolley and donning the back pack, the next stop was 5 minutes down the road at Ace Hardware. More free cool air, free toilets and cheap hose clips.

Both the chandlers, Budget Marine and Island Waterworld, are next to Lagoonies Bistro and Bar so I settled there for an hour, sipping iced mint tea, browsing the internet and catching up on email. The beauty or curse of my life here is that there is virtually no time frame to get things done. One day can run into the next. If the dinghy isn’t repaired today then maybe the next day. Even though I was on a self-imposed mission, I was enjoying the walk, the exploration and resting in the breezy shade of Lagoonies. Really there isn’t any work or play, it is all life. Employment installs the illusion of this separation.

Island Waterworld is a Santa’s Grotto of boat parts and yachty stuff. They are not cheap since the number of boats that come to this part of the island means that the law of supply and demand is well in the merchants’ favour, and the presence of ‘tax haven’ registered super-yachts means that a good proportion of their customers are reasonably well off.

Neither chandlers had the gasket or the diaphragm: a simple paper ring and piece of plastic film, but they did have the carburettor repair kit which included those two parts for $115. I settled for an in-line fuel filter and a can of carburettor cleaner spray and kept the $115 in my bank account.

I made my way back to the marina via Carrefour, to stock up on some groceries and grab some lunch from their buffet counter. Lunch was a picnic in the shade of a palm tree in the marina grounds, squinting at the white boats, basking in the sun on their pontoons.

Through the steel gates, nodding to the security guard I made my way back along the quayside to the dinghy. Breaking out the tools, spray and filter, I set about taking the carburettor apart again. I could almost do it with my eyes shut by now. My spectators were the yacht owner where I’d tied up near almost under his bow and a large Iguana at his feet. Buchi was a Harbour Pilot and the Iguana was no relation; it was wild and came to the boat looking for food. After giving me some advice and some distracting entertainment, Buchi left to collect his kids from school.

I gave the carburettor a good spray in every nook and cranny and reassembled everything within 10 minutes. My plan was to get as far as possible and as close to the shore as possible. The shelter from the wind that the shore provided would make rowing back to Glee a bit quicker and easier, and perhaps I’d be out of hailing distance from Buchi when he came back.  As it happened, the motor started after a few pulls and revved higher and smoother than it had since it broke down. The best part was that it kept on going all the way back to Glee. I was home in 5 minutes. Whatever the problem, the spray had probably flushed it out of one of the narrow channels between the jets in the carburettor.

It’s such a rewarding feeling having a problem solved by your own hands. Not only did I save money but I learned a great deal about this outboard motor that I would never have done if someone else had fixed it for me.

Tip for the day: Try one thing new today. Something that has an uncertain outcome. Drive a route you’ve never driven before without using your Sat Nav. Try some food you’ve never tasted before. Try fixing something you think you know nothing about – the internet is a great resource for this sort of thing. Each of these small things builds a habit of adventure and personal growth.


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