Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tintamarre Island Adventure

Photo Credit: nicaboatcharters.com

An uninhabited island located 2 miles off the northeast coast of French Saint Martin, Tintamarre is a beautiful tranquil place to visit.  Known as “Flat Island”, Tintamarre lies within the boundary of the Saint Martin Nature Reserve.

Traveling with our boat guests Martha and Melissa, we departed Marigot one morning (starting point on map... the 3rd arrow after Simpson Bay), heading to Tintamarre for a day trip. We had to wait to get through the Marigot bridge, then had to stand off and wait for 20 minutes in Marigot Bay so that we could head back to the west side of the bridge to get fuel. 

Here's Melissa, starting out for the day feeling pretty good.

As it turned out, the night before we had all imbibed a bit too much and the morning of departure we were all suffering varying degrees of the "cocktail flu". Martha was looking pretty chipper... but she didn't feel too chipper. 

We rocked and rolled our way the entire two hour, 12 mile trip.  It was certainly did not help with our "flu" recovery. Melissa decided to lay down on the bow of the boat to catch some rays, but it only served to make her queasy. 
Our Approach to Tintamarre Island

When we arrived to the island, we picked up a mooring ball on “Baie Blanche”, the calm leeward side of the island. This side of the island is quite popular, with charter boats from St. Martin arriving with boat loads of tourists to snorkel, swim and beach comb. 

We were all a little worn out from the trip and still suffering from the night before. Everybody except me sacked out when we arrived.  

Captain LA and LuLu visit "Planet Naptune".  Admittedly, one of my favorite places, too, but for some reason I could not sleep.

All Alone in Paradise!

I read for a while until, late in the afternoon, the tourists departed the island, leaving the island deserted. 

I asked LA to run me to shore in the dinghy for some exploring. I just couldn't resist a deserted island! 

I walked down the beach and found a "trail" to walk across the 80-acre island. As I was soon to discover, "trail" was a pretty loose term. Looks like what happened is many people walked off the beach toward the brush in search of a trail... then after they saw what they were going to have to DO to actually hike that trail, they obviously turned back. The trail ran out just a few hundred yards off the beach.

Which is probably what I should have done as well! Oh no, not me! I was not going to let some dense scrub brush and cacti get in my way. It was pretty rugged and it was hard to find a trail.  I ambled around in a zigzag for quite a way (actually, I pretty much blazed my own trail) searching for anything that remotely resembled a trail. 

And to make matters worse, I met up with a mean little cactus who succeeded in latching on to me as I hiked past it. Ouch! Double Ouch! (insert favorite cuss word here).  If you look at the photo closely, you will see that there are several spines sticking in my leg at all angles. I couldn’t pull the spines out! They were stuck in too deeply!  I had to hop along for a few yards until I found a stick that I could wedge under the spines next to my skin and pry the cactus straight off!  (Ouch again and insert more cuss words here). Such are the hazards of hiking alone on a desert island!

Note to self... quit looking up and start looking down! I might not be able to see a trail, but at least I could keep a sharp eye out for cacti! Picking my way gingerly across the island, I found the remains of a cotton plantation, several house foundations, and the remains of an airstrip.  
 A bit of history... a man named Mr. van Romondt once inhabited the island. Legend has it that van Romondt, fed up with paying taxes in Sint Maarten, boarded up his “Mary’s Fancy” estate and sailed off to Tintamarre sometime around 1907. There he hired workers from Anguilla and Sint Maarten to build him a large manor house with a farm, where he cultivated Sea Island cotton and raised cattle and goats, and made cheese and butter which were renowned throughout the West Indies. 

The island has now reverted to scrub brush and wild goats. Obviously, the goats were a hardy prolific bunch as I came across a herd of them heading across the island. Which also had an added bonus that I could follow their trails. I got as close to them as I could without scaring them away, taking a few photos along the way, and followed them across the island. 

There was a pretty good-sized herd, about 30-40 of them...mamas, daddies, and babies in tow. 
Unfortunately, they were just grazing along the middle of the island and had no intention of going anywhere near the beach, so alas, there were no trails leading to the beach. They ambled off, leaving me goatless, and on my own.

Being determined to reach the other side of the island, I finally found a place to get through the thick scrub brush to reach what I hoped was the windward beach.  I low-crawled under this tree and then crawled on my hands and knees through the bushes to finally come out on the other side... the beach!

The beach was wild and rocky and untamed. It was definitely not a place for swimming as the current was too rough. I could see all kinds of fish swimming in the surf.

I meandered down the beach and had a great late-afternoon view of the island of St. Martin. 

It was getting late and I needed to make my way back to the other side of the island.  I found a big trail that led back to the island’s interior. It looked like the lower east side of the island was the way most of the beachcombers crossed the island. I was sorry I had not come across this nice trail when I started this little adventure!

Aah... not so fast, Miss Robinson Crusoe! The nice trail ran out quickly and once again I was faced with scrub brush and cacti. I knew that tourists had to be hiking across this island... but where, oh where, did they cross???

I picked my way carefully back, looking down the whole way. The brush got thick as I approached the leeward side of the island. I found a sand trail through the brush and suddenly the beach appeared.

I was relieved when I saw my beloved Genesis waiting for me.  LA was already on the bow scanning the beach and waiting for my appearance. Fortunately, this was not his first rodeo dealing with me and deserted beaches, so he was not worried.

I radioed LA on the handheld VHF and he came over in the dinghy and picked me up.  It was time to head back to St. Martin.  Everyone on the boat was well rested, and ready to head back to St. Martin for a night of fun.

The sunset put on quite a show for us as we leisurely motored over to Grand Case in a short 45 minutes.

There is a lot of history about this tiny island... involving kings, a navy, and an airline. Want to know more?  Click on these links:
Tintamarre: A History
The Smallest Kingdom in the World

No comments: