A typical day?

At the airport a little early to get Abuela and Abuelo back to Canada.

At the airport a little early to get Abuela and Abuelo back to Canada.

Jaci and Abuela ...

Jaci and Abuela …

Genna and Abuela

Genna and Abuela

Kate and her Abuelo

Kate and her Abuelo

Jack not really ready for Abuelo heading home.

Jack not really ready for Abuelo heading home.

Yesterday started a little earlier than most, I awoke to the sound of silence. The air conditioning in our room wasn’t working … well, the fan wasn’t running. Now, our AC has always been broken, since it never goes off … the thermostat doesn’t work, so it is either on or off. Now, this morning the AC was off :(. The last time our air conditioner messed up (last week), it was a cooling water pump bearing, which made a horrible screeching sound … So … almost 6A, and silence … better check it out :).

Discovery on a mooring ball at the Pinel anchorage, that's St. Martin in the back.

Discovery on a mooring ball at the Pinel anchorage, that’s St. Martin in the back.

I went to the salon to find that the air conditioner was also off in there … ahh … progress, maybe we lost power. I check the breakers, and yep, the main breaker was off … I reset the breaker, but still no power … Oh, maybe it is out in the marina. I head outside (stopping to put on shorts) and find that the marina has power, but we don’t. Discovery is plugged into a pedestal, so I check the breaker in the pedestal … yep, breaker off … hmmm … I flip it on, to be rewarded with flames, a large pop and a interesting odor … the plug we are connected to is now on fire.

Girls spent several hours collecting samples. We had a cheap fish light over the side, attracting fish ... saw squid, fish, worms, eels ... Genna had a book and flashlight identifying them :)

Girls spent several hours collecting samples. We had a cheap fish light over the side, attracting fish … saw squid, fish, worms, eels … Genna had a book and flashlight identifying them :)

Kate making some money cleaning the hull of Discovery. Scraper in one hand, scrubber in the other.

Kate making some money cleaning the hull of Discovery. Scraper in one hand, scrubber in the other.

I unplug Discovery from the pedestal and now have to figure out if we caused the problem, :( … 615A, need coffee … but that needs power, so back onboard to try the generator. I switch everything off and get the generator running. I then turn on each load one at a time and everything goes great … phew, at least the electrical system on Discovery is still Ok. I make coffee and watch the sun head higher into the sky.

The pedestal on the dock is designed for superyachts, which take more power than we possibly could. This means that on the pedestal is a second 50Amp plug that I can use … maybe its just the plug. I switch plugs, put my coffee down and turn the breaker on … I am rewarded, with fire, pop and smell … I quickly turn off the breaker … ugh. Maybe it’s the cord.

:) ... a pair of local divas.

:) … a pair of local divas.

Carjacked in St. Martin ... get it, carJACKed ... haha, I think I'm funny.

Carjacked in St. Martin … get it, carJACKed … haha, I think I’m funny.

My helper wanted his picture taken.

My helper wanted his picture taken.

I bring the cord onboard and get my tools out … I take the cord end apart to find some corrosion, but nothing that should have caused the problem. I now spend the next 45 minutes, cutting the end of the cable, stripping and putting the connector back together. At least I know that I have a “corrosion free” connection on my side.

I try the pedestal power without anything plugged in … to find that it still catches fire, make a pop sound and starts to smell … well, at least it isn’t us! It’s now almost 9A :(, no internet, no air conditioning, and kids starting to complain. I explain the problem to the marina office and ask them to configure another pedestal near us … you see, there really is no standard in the world for electrical power and depending on where the boat was built, it is either 50 or 60 hz, 120, 240, 380 or 480 volts, either 1 phase or 3 phase … so we can’t just plug in … we need the office to configure the plugs for 60hz, 240V, single phase. Almost 10A and we are back to normal, plugged in to a new pedestal.

In conversations with the marina guy and electrician I learned some interesting things … electricity on the island is very expensive (our bill for the boat for 1 month was higher than our home bill in Florida). I commented about that, and they laughed … they explained that a typical superyacht’s electric bill is over $1000/day … that’s $30k+ /month … wow!

I cleaned up my tools and hung out with Jack, taking measurement to see how many solar panels I could get on the boat … being told that electricity is more expensive in other islands, made me want to consider alternatives.

Jaci sailing ... just a few lessons and they are doing great.

Jaci sailing … just a few lessons and they are doing great.

Kate working it, sailing for the mark

Kate working it, sailing for the mark

Jack and I getting ready to mount our challenge for the next America's Cup ... he is a good tactician, "Daddy, the boat is over there!"

Jack and I getting ready to mount our challenge for the next America’s Cup … he is a good tactician, “Daddy, the boat is over there!”

I take Jack and Genna to Phillipsburg with me to pursue a lead I got about cheap Kayaks … all gone :(. We head back to the boat and pick up everyone else and head out to lunch and explore a part of Marigot we had not been to before. Marigot is the capital on the French side. We find a parking spot by the Louis Marina and go for a little walk. The big attraction is the “mall” for the girls … which turns out to be 6 expensive boutiques :( … we walk into a little cafe and try to grab lunch.

The owner/chef, doesn’t speak English … he calls a dutch friend who speaks English and French … and between the lot of us, we get taught how to order what we want in French … he was very nice and we had a great lunch. Girls added 10+ words to their vocabulary and practiced them … we’ve found everyone here to be very helpful and it is so nice to watch the kids try to order in French, say merci, s’il vous plaît, and other things …

Yep ... Ninja training ... Jiu Jitsu classes in SXM.

Yep … Ninja training … Jiu Jitsu classes in SXM.

Back to the boat … I take Genna and Jack to Jiu Jitsu (or ninja training) and then head over to wait for Kate an Jaci who are doing their sailing lessons at the yacht club … although the morning started rough, the afternoon was shaping up nicely … watching the girls sail, while sitting at the sailing club having a cold beer … not bad.

Back to the boat and dinner time … Kate is performing at Topper’s tonight, so I volunteer to drive her to the dance studio (she likes to ride with the other performers) … a swing by work for an hour, then head out to watch her perform … She did great, got lots of compliments and entertained a large crowd … me beaming in the back with pride.

Jaci on "Rock and Roll" (a 34yr old horse) with her riding classmates.

Jaci on “Rock and Roll” (a 34yr old horse) with her riding classmates.

Jaci with Mirage, love that smile.

Jaci with Mirage, love that smile.

Back in the car, and home around 10P … tomorrow is another day, not sure it will be typical either.

Staying connected

Kate on the right, our second encounter with a shark on the dive. Her dive instructor, Alfredo checking her air ... we are down about 45ft, reef on the left goes up to 15ft.

Kate on the right, our second encounter with a shark on the dive. Her dive instructor, Alfredo checking her air … we are down about 45ft, reef on the left goes up to 15ft.

First time Kate saw the shark ... stayed calm and started swimming towards it :)

First time Kate saw the shark … stayed calm and started swimming towards it :)

I was thinking of titling this post, “When you’re smartphone becomes dumb.” or “Why you don’t need a new iPhone” … you see, here on the island, we do not have data on our phones. Which means, no Google, no email, no Facebook posts, no check-ins. When we started our adventure we switched over our 3 phones to unlocked phones … this way we can put different sims in them as we travel from place to place. This, in theory should make it easy, and cheaper to stay connected and allow us to communicate.

Cool dive/snorkel place in Little Bay. This is in about 20ft of water, they also have a submarine, airplane, boat and couple of other things :)

Cool dive/snorkel place in Little Bay. This is in about 20ft of water, they also have a submarine, airplane, boat and couple of other things :)

Being goofy of Pinel Island.

Being goofy of Pinel Island.

In the Virgin Islands we found that a data plan for a phone was about the same as it was in the US and that it was cost effective to have our phones with “internet” … heck, this was the way we got internet access for everything, as we would tether a phone to the computer to allow everyone to have access. We found that it wasn’t really that cheap, as the plans are metered and in the end, it cost us about $100/wk. Expensive by US standards, but not too bad for 7 people staying connected.

When we got to St. Martin and looked into something similar we found that the phone (voice and sms) was a little cheaper, but cellular data was very expensive … to get the same as we had in the BVIs would cost us about $300/wk, and be super slow, as the network here is barely 3G and changes from one side of the island to the other. In the end we opted for just basic phone service.

Getting ready for a ride .... have to remember to wipe the camera.

Getting ready for a ride …. have to remember to wipe the camera.

Beach bar at Pinel Island. There are two on the island and they close by 6P, open by 10A ... very cool setting ... the gift shop, an old sail strung between palms with stuff under them, had a little rope with sign that said "Respect my stuff" :) ... was very nice before everyone showed up.

Beach bar at Pinel Island. There are two on the island and they close by 6P, open by 10A … very cool setting … the gift shop, an old sail strung between palms with stuff under them, had a little rope with sign that said “Respect my stuff” :) … was very nice before everyone showed up.

Pinel Island with St. Martin as a back drop ...not bad.

Pinel Island with St. Martin as a back drop …not bad.

What we did find was that WiFi access is fairly prevalent … we have access on the boat, as the marina provides this (at a fee). But what is really interesting to me is that just about every establishment/business provides WiFi access. You go to a shop, restaurant or bar … order something and ask “What is the WiFi?” … they in turn hand you your beer, etc and let you know the name of the WiFi network and the password. As you visit different places on the island, your list of “known” networks increases … right now my phone has 50+ different WiFi hotspots in it …

Kate following her instructor on the dive ... this was very cool, you could tell Kate was a little nervous by how she was swimming, but she did great.

Kate following her instructor on the dive … this was very cool, you could tell Kate was a little nervous by how she was swimming, but she did great.

Not bad for your open water cert dive ... caves, sharks, 250yr old wreck, reef ... I think she is going to be spoiled by this.

Not bad for your open water cert dive … caves, sharks, 250yr old wreck, reef … I think she is going to be spoiled by this.

Turns out that about the only time that I am not connected to the internet is when I am moving, either in the lagoon on the dinghy or in the car … this it turns out isn’t really bad, as driving here requires a little more focus :). I’ve never been charged for access, many times they don’t even ask me to purchase something … a few times the network has no password … in the end, it seems to work very well …

From conversations, most people have internet access in their homes, it is about $40-50/mth … not bad, but still a little expensive for some locals. There is little “online” shopping, and little use of local internet businesses … maybe an opportunity :).

A lucky guy with one of his ladies ...

A lucky guy with one of his ladies …

Very much like this picture of my dad ... everyone misses Abuelo and Abuela.

Very much like this picture of my dad … everyone misses Abuelo and Abuela.

You see many kids with blackberrys and simpler (basic) phones … you come to realize that the smartphones are more a status symbol, usually denoted by the cases with rhinestones :) … maybe being “always on” isn’t all that great, I wonder if this compromise isn’t bad.

We have noticed one thing … when we are out at anchor, where there is no internet connection, our kids seem to play more with each other. They are doing other things, usually together. Whether it is painting, playing, dancing or swimming … it is noticeable. I wonder if there isn’t a threshold with connectivity … you get so much that you become isolated, living mostly online … we’ll keep a watch on this, very interesting developments.

Oh yeah, Jack doesn’t care about being online, just about being able to get the Xbox running … when at anchor the standard question is “When is the generator going to run?” … I found him the other morning trying to figure out the controls to get it started :).

Interesting article about Pinel Island http://www.caribbeanpaddling.com/saint-martin-sint-maarten/pinel-island/ … sorry the pictures don’t have anything to do with the post, but noone wants to see pictures of phones :)

Another world

Certified PADI scuba diver

Certified PADI scuba diver

The last couple of weeks have been great, busy and filled with new experiences. My parents came to visit for 2 weeks, which meant we had a great time with a full boat … our little 2 car garage had 5 adults (Kelly/Anna with us also) and 4 kids. This morning is a little sad, Anna left on Monday to head back to college in Germany and Abuelo and Abuela headed back to Canada.

3 Generations of Alonso's getting ready for the water.

3 Generations of Alonso’s getting ready for the water.

We watched a few of these guys swimming around ... he was about 30cm long.

We watched a few of these guys swimming around … he was about 30cm long.

Jaci on snuba ... she and I shared a tank that floated in a little boat on the surface.We each had a 50 ft hose that connected us to it. Jaci is too young to get certified :(.

Jaci on snuba … she and I shared a tank that floated in a little boat on the surface.We each had a 50 ft hose that connected us to it. Jaci is too young to get certified :(.

Modeling my gear ...maybe I missed my calling :)

Modeling my gear …maybe I missed my calling :)

As always we spent a bunch of time in the water, maybe more than normal in the last couple of weeks as Kate was working on her scuba certification and we all joined in on the fun. Kate completed her last 2 open water dives on Friday … she is now, officially a certified diver.

First time breathing underwater for Kelly

First time breathing underwater for Kelly

Can you spot the 250yr old anchor?

Can you spot the 250yr old anchor?

Getting ready for her deep water (45-50ft) dive.

Getting ready for her deep water (45-50ft) dive.

Her teacher, Alfredo is from Peru, speaks decent English but with a heavy accent and a smallish vocabulary. He used to be a Special Forces diver in the Peruvian Navy, small, stockish built guy, with a quick smile. He explained that he felt much more comfortable in the water than on land …and watching him with Kate … I’d have to agree.

For Kate’s first dive, a bunch of the family joined her … Kelly did a “discovery dive” with full scuba equipment (her and Kate’s first time). Jaci and I did snuba, like scuba, but we had a hose connected to a surface tank, instead of carrying the tank with us. Michelle and my dad snorkeled … yep, 75 and still at it … 3 generations of Alonso’s in the water.

Michelle found an octopus in about 10ft of water … this is incredibly rare, in the 15 yrs of diving, we’ve never seen one in the wild … he was big and very well camouflaged. Everyone got to see him. We also saw a few squid swimming around … also very cool.

Our morning and lunch stop. We are in about 10 ft of water, the resort ashore (La Samana) is currently closed, so very few people around.

Our morning and lunch stop. We are in about 10 ft of water, the resort ashore (La Samana) is currently closed, so very few people around.

Jack is extremely happy with his "speedo" ... he likes wearing it ... I think he is pulling it off.

Jack is extremely happy with his “speedo” … he likes wearing it … I think he is pulling it off.

Just beside Rouge Bay, our afternoon stop, we snorkeled by the rocks, even swam through an arch ... we will explore the caves next time ... beach is only accessible from the water.

Just beside Rouge Bay, our afternoon stop, we snorkeled by the rocks, even swam through an arch … we will explore the caves next time … beach is only accessible from the water.

Scuba Anna ... first time breathing underwater ... Kate had to explain later that she was not doing the "Ok" sign :)

Scuba Anna … first time breathing underwater … Kate had to explain later that she was not doing the “Ok” sign :)

Kate’s second dive (which I joined as a snorkeler) was about teaching her skills. Alfredo explain very little on the boat, which made me a little nervous … basically, “Just watch me, I’ll explain” is what he said … then they both went into the water. Headed to the bottom in about 15ft. I watched as he explained using sign language and gesture what to do, how, why and when … wow… what a great teacher … no spoken language, yet Kate got 10+ different skills and demonstrated them … very impressed.

We came back a couple of days later to finish her certification with 2 more open water dives … the first at a reef about 4 miles offshore in about 45ft of water … it was a little bumpy and you could tell Kate was nervous and unsure … deeper, no land nearby and waves … all 3 of us got in the water, and I followed with my scuba gear on.

A wonderful dive, made even better by a visit from a couple of sharks … when I saw him (why are sharks to me always hims?), I worried what Kate would do … when she saw him, her eyes got big, then settled, then she started following and swimming after him … he was so cool, and as she tells, the highlight of her dive.

Me and a couple of my girls, just hanging out ...

Me and a couple of my girls, just hanging out …

Over the weekend, we took Discovery around the eastern end of the island and stopped in a couple of place to snorkel and swim. We got the dive gear out of the locker and rigged our 3 sets … the water was at most 12ft, so Jaci, Kate and I dove around for about 45 minutes … Jaci, like Kate is a natural underwater. She did great, even using Michelle’s gear which is a little large for her.

We got back to the boat, I rigged new tanks and gave Anna a “crash course” on using the equipment, I asked Kate to teach her and Jaci some skills and got them in the water … all 3 girls stayed under for about 30 minutes, around the boat … it was Anna’s first time :) … In case you are judging me, I was being responsible, I would look over the side and check for bubbles, I figured if they stopped, I’d put down my beer and go get them :).

The world under the water is a truly like another world … It makes me understand more the need and interest in exploring other worlds … I wonder if we should start working on an Alonso space ship.

 

Exploring

Jackman going full euro :)

Jackman going full euro :)

We are trying to explore as much of the island as we can, moving from bay to bay and following suggestions for new beaches and places. We are exploring by car most of the time and on weekends, we head out of the lagoon and try to find somewhere new to spend a night or two.

This also lets us swim from the boat and just get a different perspective on things.

This island seems to have 4 kinds of people on it … locals, long term visitors (think snowbirds), overnight tourists (people coming for 1-2 weeks) and day tourists (cruise ship tourists, who are only on the island for the day).

The beaches and to some extent towns/communities on the island cater to each of these types. There are beaches that are mainly for the locals, these have very little services on them, so nothing to buy, nothing to rent … just a quiet place to play in the water. The beaches for the snowbirds are usually attached to the condo complex, usually small and hard to get to unless you are a resident of the place.

The overnight tourist beaches,have restaurants and some rental places, they are usually the main beach of the town, so restaurants are nearby to it and it seems like a place to spend a couple of days at.

The day tourist beaches have lots of bars, lots of umbrella rentals, and lots of activities, from Jet Ski’s to SUPs to para sailing. They seem to be empty before 10A and again after 5P … but in the early afternoon they are very busy.

Each for us has it’s own attraction … some are great for just relaxing, some are great for people watching and some are nice to sit and have dinner at.

View from the bow of Discovery while at anchor in Great Bay. That's Phillipsburg, on a very quiet Sunday morning.

View from the bow of Discovery while at anchor in Great Bay. That’s Phillipsburg, on a very quiet Sunday morning.

Kelly enjoying the sunpad as we head from Great Bay to find a place called Long Bay.

Kelly enjoying the sunpad as we head from Great Bay to find a place called Long Bay.

We had the entire beach at Anse Marcel to ourselves, 5 o'clock on a Sunday ... my favorite time to explore, always very quiet and relaxed.

We had the entire beach at Anse Marcel to ourselves, 5 o’clock on a Sunday … my favorite time to explore, always very quiet and relaxed.

Found this beach (and cave) from Discovery as we made our way to Long Bay... we are going to have to come back to explore this one.

Found this beach (and cave) from Discovery as we made our way to Long Bay… we are going to have to come back to explore this one.

The Front Street in Phillipsburg

The Front Street in Phillipsburg

One of the "local" beaches, not many tourists, very quiet, awesome water ... one of everyone's favorites.

One of the “local” beaches, not many tourists, very quiet, awesome water … one of everyone’s favorites.

Le Galion Beach, as seen from the swim platform... given a choice, we always seem to choose this place to come to.

Le Galion Beach, as seen from the swim platform… given a choice, we always seem to choose this place to come to.

This is our bay ... Simpson Bay ... we live in the marina by the red roof houses on the middle right ...

This is our bay … Simpson Bay … we live in the marina by the red roof houses on the middle right …

I think he is having a pensive moment ...

I think he is having a pensive moment …

Jaci took a bunch of great panoramas ... this one of Discovery at anchor in Great Bay ... we left a little early as the jet ski rentals started to take over the bay. The "thing" to do seemed to be to buzz Discovery :( ...

Jaci took a bunch of great panoramas … this one of Discovery at anchor in Great Bay … we left a little early as the jet ski rentals started to take over the bay. The “thing” to do seemed to be to buzz Discovery :(

Didn't want her picture taken :) ... but I'm never a good listener.

Didn’t want her picture taken :) … but I’m never a good listener.

Our big girls coming to hangout with us... Anna and Kelly in the islands at the same time... everyone very happy.

Our big girls coming to hangout with us… Anna and Kelly in the islands at the same time… everyone very happy.

Enjoying a quiet moment of reading as the sun sets ... kids inside playing games ...

Enjoying a quiet moment of reading as the sun sets … kids inside playing games …

There are currently 9 people living on the boat (Abuelo, Abuela, Kelly and the 6 of us). Kids having an "electronic" moment ... that's our new ice maker on the table, looking for a permanent home :)

There are currently 9 people living on the boat (Abuelo, Abuela, Kelly and the 6 of us). Kids having an “electronic” moment … that’s our new ice maker on the table, looking for a permanent home :)

Discovery is a very comfortable boat, we have a large landing platform in the rear ... 3ft across and 22ft wide ...

Discovery is a very comfortable boat, we have a large landing platform in the rear … 3ft across and 22ft wide …

Docked at our home marina at Port de Plaisance ... sporting our new grill, new rod holders and 4 new toilets :)

Docked at our home marina at Port de Plaisance … sporting our new grill, new rod holders and 4 new toilets :)

Check out the content look on this kids face ... at a French Cafe with a couple of beautiful older women :)

Check out the content look on this kids face … at a French Cafe with a couple of beautiful older women :)

 

Playing on St. Martin …

The beaches and the water in St. Martin are truly beautiful.

The beaches and the water in St. Martin are truly beautiful.

The longer we spend on the island the more we like it. It is an interesting place, with interesting history and some beautiful places.

I wonder if affinity to the ocean is genetic or learned ... both Michelle and I love the water and our kids can't seem to get enough of it.

I wonder if affinity to the ocean is genetic or learned … both Michelle and I love the water and our kids can’t seem to get enough of it.

It's easy to see why St. Martin is considered to have some of the nicest beaches in the Caribbean.

It’s easy to see why St. Martin is considered to have some of the nicest beaches in the Caribbean.

"We're wet anyways"

“We’re wet anyways”

The main attraction, as with many of the island has to be the water and the beaches … we’ve been exploring many of them, and are trying to get to each one … some are calm, some are crowded, some are isolated, some have caves … but all are very, very nice.

This is an old volcanic island, which makes it “hilly” … we found and old plantation that has been here for 300+ years … they’ve done a great job making it a “eco-tour” destination … they have a tree top restaurant, and adult pool and spa (kids didn’t like this), 3 zip line adventure and a great hike to the top of the island.

Jack at the top of St. Martin ... he and Anna did a hike, while the girls did zip lines.

Jack at the top of St. Martin … he and Anna did a hike, while the girls did zip lines.

Not a bad view from the top of St. Martin ... that's the island of Anguilla in the distance.

Not a bad view from the top of St. Martin … that’s the island of Anguilla in the distance.

Hiked up and down with no complaints ... even explained later that his favorite part of the day was climbing to the top of the island.

Hiked up and down with no complaints … even explained later that his favorite part of the day was climbing to the top of the island.

This is a "tree house" bar and restaurant ... built in the canopies.

This is a “tree house” bar and restaurant … built in the canopies.

How could you not hike to a place called Chewbacca rock ... didn't take much to get Jack up there.

How could you not hike to a place called Chewbacca rock … didn’t take much to get Jack up there.

Jackman chilling at a French Café ... waiting for his crepes :)

Jackman chilling at a French Café … waiting for his crepes :)

There are lots of places for kids to play as well … most cater to the local community, one that is close to us is KidsWorld … think Chuck’e’cheese, but with an outside area, jumpy castles and no pizza … Ok, maybe nothing like Chuckee…

The local island zoo has some exotic animals :) ... this one in it's natural habitat.

The local island zoo has some exotic animals :) … this one in it’s natural habitat.

Some of the other animals at the zoo ... I think the one in the back right is the dangerous one.

Some of the other animals at the zoo … I think the one in the back right is the dangerous one.

The kids made a visit to the local zoo … not the same exotic animals as we have at home:) … a small zoo, but lots of fun. The owner explained that they are having a very hard time convincing the authorities to let them bring in some bigger animals … they, I think have a fear of them getting out.

Taking a break from the island heat

Taking a break from the island heat

Maybe they will develop an interest in desert racing ... here's to me hoping ... they have the pose for it :)

Maybe they will develop an interest in desert racing … here’s to me hoping … they have the pose for it :)

Not sure we should leave them alone for too long.

Not sure we should leave them alone for too long.

Check out the focus on there two ... I think the concentration is impressive.

Check out the focus on there two … I think the concentration is impressive.

The entire boat is a gym

The entire boat is a gym

… and as always there is tons of playing at home.