Sint Maarten or St Martin – the choice was ours. We decided to head for the dutch side first and then head over to the French side after that.
The Dutch side is called Sint Maarten and is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It borders Saint Martin to the north, which is a French overseas collectivity. Quite bizarre really as you need to check in and out of either territory to go to the other, but you can take your dinghy across the lagoon between the two, no probs.
The run up from Statia to Sint Maarten was a nice broad reach and we made it with plenty of time to check in. Arriving at Simpsons Bay ,we had to dodge around one of the big super yachts who had managed to ground itself in the channel leading into the lagoon.. Pretty funny but they managed to get off and retreat to deeper water. We picked a spot outside the lagoon in Simpsons Bay just off the beach in beautiful clear water.
We hit Sint Maarten with the specific intention of getting some stuff fixed and spending some tax-free boat dollars at Budget Marine and Island Water World. To do this effectively you need to avoid the distraction of the numerous bars, restaurants and beaches that are also there. Needless to say these, when combined with quite a few friends we caught up with In these here waters, trapped us helplessly as you have probably guessed by now. Lagoonies, the St Maarten Yacht Club, Buccaneer Beach Bar, the Red Piano Bar, Karakter Beach Bar were all just too tempting to pass up.
In between the haziness of our hangovers, we did however manage to get a few things down. We paid our 21USD to go through the bridge and into the lagoon and got a marina berth for 50USD a day for a couple of days whilst an electrician came and sorted a few things out. The Lagoon is huge, and your dinghy becomes your car as you go from dinghy dock to dinghy dock to get to the various shops. We did quite a few dinghy trips across to the French side (and vice versa).
We found Carrefour and did some provisioning and Ace hardware and Electrotek was also a hit. You can find most things in Sint Maarten at a reasonable (for the Caribbean) price. We even found a Spanish wine store where you can spend a pleasant hour or two sampling some wonderful wine and cheese for free. Okay, it wasn’t exactly free as we did buy quite a bit of their wine.
After our stay at the marina, we went under the causeway bridge (free) and anchored in the lagoon for a night before going through the Sandy Ground Bridge on the French side (10m wide so a bit of a squeeze) to anchor in Marigot Bay. Checking into the French side is easy (and cheap if you go to the Chanderly in the canal just outside the bridge – a 2 Euro donation to Sea Rescue is all it costs).
We took a dinghy ride to the dock closest to the airport and walked 10 minutes to the end of the runway to check out the planes landing just above a pretty little beach – the one you see on all the postcards with a big plane metres above your head as it lands just after the beach. We got the obligatory photos and headed off either side to check out the beach bars, which were fun. Then we headed into Maho for some great sushi at Bamboo, before heading back to the airport to pick up Barbara.
Barb arrived just in time for some April Fools birthday the following day and we managed to get 16 or so of my friends and dubious acquaintances out to a wonderful dinner at an awesome French restaurant called Tropicanas. It made me very appreciative of the great people you meet and become friends with cruising around on a yacht. It sort of weeds out most of the dickheads (although you do run into them but they stick out a mile) and you get some wonderful authentic people as friends.
Birthday celebrations over, we had a few days spare to head over to Saba for some great diving before we needed to be back in St Barths for Les Voiles. So off to Saba we went.