St. Martin/Sint Maarten: April 17-29, 2007

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

St. Martin/Sint Maarten is one island, divided roughly in half into a French side:  St. Martin, and a Dutch side: Sint Maarten.  With but 37 square miles, it is the smallest island in the world to be divided by two sovereign powers.  Located at the northern tip of the Leeward Islands, it is a convenient stop for cruises to or from Anquilla, St. Barth's, Saba, Satia, St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat. The French/Dutch border on land is transparent; residents and visitors pass back and forth freely.  Equally transparent is the border on water with respect to dinghies.  But for vessels, things are different.  Vessels entering on the French side must clear in and out of Marigot.  Vessels entering on the Dutch side must clear in and out at either Phillipsburg or Simpson Bay (just outside the bridge providing entrance to Simpson Bay Lagoon.)  If a vessel clears in on one side, and wishes to go to the other, it must clear out on the same side it entered and then clear in on the other side.  There are two bridges providing access to the large protected Simpson Bay Lagoon.  The entrance fees to St. Martin are more modest, but the French entrance to the Lagoon can be problematical for larger vessels.  Conversely, the Dutch side has more substantial fees, but an entrance to the Lagoon that is large enough to handle large yachts.  Phillipsburg has a port large enough for cruise ships, and therefore also has the associated concentration of vendors of duty-free liquor and luxury items.

Marigot, St. Martin

Although many cruisers seem to automatically head to the protection of the Simpson Bay Lagoon, we had good luck with anchoring instead in Marigot Bay.  Not only did this provide us with easy access to the immigration office, it also provided us with convenient access to the village of Marigot, which, as one of the guide books says, is like a small town from the French Riviera that has been moved lock, stock, and barrel to the Caribbean.  Within easy walking distance is the trendy Marina La Port Royale, where we had some superb French-style meals in a few of the over 50 restaurants in the marina area.  I will mention two right on the waterfront of the marina:  La Brasserie de la Gare and Tropicana.  (Sound of smacking lips.)

We came and went from Marigot.  On the last visit we took the dinghy into the Lagoon and had lunch at Turtle Point and then walked the short distance to the Sint Maarten airport, where we picked up Barb's sister Audrey, who had flown in from Kansas.   We hung around for a few days, showing her some of the high points, including more mussels and French fries at La Brasserie de la Gare.  Barb and Audrey enjoyed the chic shops, and Chuck drug them both down to one of huge chandleries at the far south end of Lagoon where he purchased about a gazillion dollars worth of bottom paint, to be stashed away for later application to the lovely Miss Tusen Takk II during the long hot summer in Trinidad.   When we checked out at Marigot, we didn't really leave.  Instead, we spent another day, going around to Orient Bay, where we did some snorkeling off Green Island, and of course paid a return visit to the nude beach.   (See below.)

Marigot w/ Ft. Louis in background

Statue in town market

Marina Fort St. Louis with Ft. Louis in background

Another view w/ Marigot Bay anchorage in the foreground

Relaxing in one of the many restaurants of Marina La Port Royale

Barb and her sister Audrey up in Ft. Louis

Another view w/ north part of Marigot Bay in background -- note the "fixer-upper" in the water

Looking south: the marina, then south Marigot Bay, then Simpson Bay Lagoon, and then the Caribbean Sea


Baie Orientale (Orient Bay), St. Martin

Perhaps the Caribbean's most famous and popular beach, Orient Beach is a long crescent-shaped beach that runs along the southern and western edge of Orient Bay.  Sub-areas of the beach are known by the adjacent beach-front restaurant: Bikini Beach and Monokini Beach and Coco Beach, etc.  As a French beach, topless bathers are not unusual.  Less common, perhaps, is the large section of the beach in front of the clothing-optional Club Orient Naturalist Resort.  There are no barriers separating this section from the others.  Totally nude bathers strolling down the beach, as they are leaving the area, don a minimum of clothes when they reach the border defined by a low breakwater, but strollers in the other direction may or may not strip naked as they enter the region.  It is possible to sit down at a snack bar and order a beer, and be joined by someone in the next stool that is totally nude.  Cameras and cell phones are banned in the nude section, so the gentle reader will have to rely on my verbal descriptions of the scene.

For those of you who have never visited a nude beach, and would like to do so au naturel, I will kindly give you a few pointers.  (No pun intended.)  You gain the most respect if you are already brown (everywhere) as you stroll.  A few earlier sessions in private would be advised.  You lose points if certain parts of your anatomy are pink when others are brown.  You lose even more points if the pink has developed into magenta.  Excess body hair is also to be avoided.  The closer you come to having no body hair (other than on your head and eyebrows), the more points you will be awarded.  As you walk, you should be totally self-assured and supremely casual and totally disinterested in the appearance of others.  Wearing sunglasses with lenses as dark as possible will be immeasurably helpful in creating the appearance of the latter.  Do not be overly concerned about any extra pounds you may carry, or about any parts of your body that in an earlier time might have been perky but that are now a bit saggy.  You will see immediately that there are bodies of all types on the beach, and that many (nay, most) of them carry extra pounds and do a considerable amount of sagging.  So, to summarize:  be proud, be brown, be hairless, and never never gawk!

Orient Beach -- non-nude section looking east

... and looking west

Lunch at Orient Beach w/ Steve and Linda


Phillipsburg, Sint Maarten

We (Tusen Takk II and Seaman's Elixir) caught a local bus and went to Phillipsburg, planning on watching a parade associated with Carnival.  Oops.  Wrong day.  So we did a little shopping and a lot of window shopping, and had a nice lunch.

Phillipsburg has two main streets: Front (classy and expensive) and Back (serves locals as well as bargain seeking tourists). Guess which this is!

Hen with chicks right in the fashionable section of Phillipsburg

Life in the Caribbean is so tough

Deserted Front Street on a day with no cruise ships

Another view of Front Street

Interesting display at a tobacco shop

Interesting mural in alley between Front and Back streets

Lots of French food on the Dutch side

Waterfront in Phillipsburg

We're only 1458 miles from Charleston, SC!

The creator of "Yoda" retired from Hollywood, bought a sailboat, and ended up here in Sint Maarten


Grand Case, St. Martin

The anchorage at Grand Case can sometimes be rolly, say the guidebooks.  But we found the anchorage to be quite comfortable, and much less rolly than Marigot, even on the same days in the same weather conditions.  Marigot has the charm of the area around Marina Port La Royale, but Grand Case has its own charm.  The second-largest town on the island, Grand Case bills itself as The Gourmet Capital of St. Martin.  There are over 20 eateries that sit on its main street, and they range from outdoor rib shacks featuring mostly West Indian foods to elegant award-winning restaurants that specialize in Parisian cuisine.  Steve and Linda joined us one night for a dinner at one of the latter: L'Auberge Gourmande.  Near the end of the meal the ladies declared that they had decided two things:  never to cook another meal again, and never to leave the island of St. Martin.  Yes, the meal was delicious.

There are also a number of chic boutiques along the boulevard, many of which Barb and Linda felt obliged to take full advantage.  Interesting note about sizes:  in America sizes have been shrinking of late, but here they have not:  what would be called "small" in the USA is called "large" here in St. Martin.

Even in paradise there have to be garbage dumps

Northern edge of Grand Case Bay -- note the stone walls on the hills; they are about thigh high

Grand Case Anchorage

Grand Case Ferry/Dinghy Dock

Flag courtesy of ITA's Flags of All Countries used with permission.