Sunday, April 10, 2011

St Martin and Sint Maarten,
One Island Two Countries.
4th – 8th April 2011 
This island has two names, Sint Maarten  on the Dutch side and St Martin on the French side,  with the border running straight through the middle. It has the best of both worlds one could say. Wonderful French cuisine and bakeries and  just a dinghy ride over the boarder to the up market vibrancy of the Dutch side. A huge inland lagoon forms part of the border, with each country having a lifting  bridge to provide access for the yachts. We chose to anchor in Bay De Marigot outside the lagoon on the French side as we preferred the clear water for swimming.
Staying  only five days we were very busy and made  many dinghy trips across the lagoon to the well stocked chandleries on the Dutch side . We met up with friends whom we’d not seen for months and also met knew ones who were heading down to Grenada for the hurricane season.  We enjoyed sunset drinks, aka rum punches,  at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club and in keeping with local tradition, clapped  and waved at the yachts and huge powerboats that made their way through the rather small lift bridge and into the lagoon.For some of the bigger boats it was quite a squeeze.
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One evening there was a large crowd gathered at the club and it turned out that a small raft named Antiki with 4 people aboard  was about to arrive.They had  just crossed the Atlantic Ocean and Sint Maarten was their first landfall. The passage had taken around 65 days and to us it sure didn’t look a very comfortable mode of travel, still they had made it and what a huge achievement it was .
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Another popular meeting place was Lagoonies cafe on the waterfront  over at the aptly named Lagoon Marina.The cafe is famous for it’s great food, live music and this is where i enjoyed the  best Pina Colada I've ever tasted .
It is easy to see why some  cruisers stay  here for years, the island is very easy going and you can come and go as you please to either side  by bus, car or dinghy. There are great supermarkets, both  French and American, the currency is Euro and/ or  US dollars and there is a plethora of big chandleries, marinas, and  yachting infrastructure and as an added bonus,everything, even boat parts are duty free on the Dutch side. The island  also has a number of  daily airline services to the USA and Europe. So we soaked it all in during our short stay and have put it on the list for a second visit next year.
With the weeks disappearing and the British Virgin Islands beckoning it  was, as always, time to move on.
Cruiser Info :  St Martin: Check - in at the Capitanarie office at Fort Royal Marina,inside the lagoon. Fee was Euro 5.10. The office is closed on Sundays and from 1200 –1300 Mon – Sat(lunch). Free Wi–Fi  and dingy dock at the office. No charges to anchor on the French side of the lagoon. A small annex of Budget Marine is located just before the French opening bridge on the ocean side. Scrimpies laundry is opposite.
Supermarket (large) with dock on the lagoon side just behind the fuel dock.Giante supermarket is 10min bus ride from the office , ask for a map when checking in. 
Cruiser VHF net on ch 68 @ 0800 Mon – Sat.
 Sint Maarten  : Check in /out with customs alongside  the Dutch bridge. Fees are high AND  there is a weekly fee to anchor on the Dutch side of the lagoon.
Chandleries: Budget Marine, Island Waterworld, Electro Marine,  Ace Hardware ,Riggers, sailmakers etc,etc

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