French West Indies
When the car arrived, it was what they call a “matchbox” car. The owner of the rental company, Ramey Bardot, delivered the car. He took one look at me, laughed and said, “You're bigger than the car. We'll have to get you a bigger car.” Ramey returned in a few minutes with a bigger car. As time went on, Ramey became a good friend.
The well was to be drilled at a time-share under construction. The manager took me to a building, pointed to several cardboard boxes and said, “Here's your rig!”
“OK, where is my help?” I asked.
“You are the help,” he replied.
I don't generally operate the equipment, however they were supplying the car, lodging and the meals - what the hey! Meals for two people were about $100.
I opened the boxes to find a small DeepRock Hydra-Drill. Since I had no tools, I went to a local NAPA store and purchased a crescent wrench, a pair of pliers and a screwdriver - in all, they cost me almost $100.
I commenced putting together the drill, buying a gas can and gas and setting up the rig on site. Locating supply water on site was another problem. The garden hose worked. I dug a pit in the coral rock, lined it with plastic and commenced drilling.
Drilling in coral with mud is a problem from the start - lost circulation from the beginning to end. I knew that when losing circulation, you add lost circulation materials such as feed bran, crushed cottonseed hulls or cellophane flakes. What, no lost circulation materials? What else swells when wet - Wheaties cereal! OK, I probably purchased the entire Wheaties supply from the grocery stores on the island. It worked great but still required lots of water, mud and Wheaties.
I was drilling on a big bluff near the ocean, some 30 feet up. Often I would look over the bluff to see if my circulation material was leaking onto the beach. While looking down on the beach, I would see the prettiest young women sun-bathing. I wouldn't remember I was drilling until my rig and pump would run out of gas.
Sometime later Bess arrived and wanted to sunbathe on the beach. I told her fine, just go down the stairs to the beach. About an hour later, she came storming back and said, “You didn't tell me it was a nude beach!” It seems as though a couple naked old men came jogging by her.
At about 50 feet deep, I couldn't keep up with the lost circulation, so I rented an air compressor and commenced drilling with air. That worked great.
A local worker came by and asked it he could use the jackhammer and extra air hoses to make holes for palm trees in the coral rock? I assisted him in running the air line around the building and then hooking up the jackhammer.
I went back to drilling and a few minutes later, I heard the jackhammer - dat, dat, dat and stop. Concerned, I went to see what was wrong. The local worker was sitting on the sidewalk next to the jackhammer with his head in his hands. I asked him, “What's wrong?”
“Headache,” he said.
“What happened, party too much last night?” I then asked.
“Party too much last night,” he said!
Once I reached 70 feet deep, I had water - 10 feet at high tide and 6 feet at low tide. The water went up and down with the tide - salt water! I was concerned that it was salt water, however, this is what the client was expecting. They use reverse osmosis to remove the salt.
We went prepared to stay about a week; however, we ended up being there more than a month. Things don't happen fast in other countries with warm climates. Go to work early in the morning and work until about 10 a.m. when it gets hot; then siesta, lunch and siesta until about 3 p.m. when it cools off; then back to work until dark.
During our off time, we had the opportunity to travel around St. Martin and St. Maarten (the French and Dutch sides of the island).
Then we went by boat to Angela Island. We had to wake up the boat-ticket salesperson to get our tickets. When arriving and departing Angela, we had to negotiate the goats, ducks and chickens in the reception area. On Angela Island, we rented a taxi and driver for the day for $25.
Another day, we traveled by a big cabin speedboat to Saba Island. A person they named after Crocodile Dundee captained the boat. Again, we rented a driver and van to tour the island.
One day, we took a plane to nearby Nevis Island. I had been there on a consulting trip a few years before. As the plane left the ground, the cockpit was open and Bess brought my attention to the pilots and the instrument panel - the instruments weren't working. However, they started working with one bang on the dashboard from the pilot's fist. While in flight on this fully loaded 23 passenger plane, several of the passengers were passing a bottle of liquor back and forth and even offered us a swig. We declined.
Upon arrival at Nevis airport, we hired a taxi driver. He used a screwdriver to open the trunk and the rear door, then asked me to get out so he could get in through the passenger door - his door was broken.
While touring into town, the driver was giving us a verbal tour. He says, “Here on the right, we have the black beach.”
I say, “Where's the white beach?”
He says, “No, I mean black sand beach.”
As I said previously, Ramey became a good friend. Before departing St. Martin, we gave Ramey the DeepRock rig and the tools as it cost more to ship them home than they were worth.
When we turned in our rental car, Ramey took us to breakfast across the street from the airport. Bess kept reminding Ramey that we were going to miss our flight, as it was time for our plane to depart. Ramey said, “Not a problem, not to worry, I won't let you miss your plane … the plane's not arrived yet!”