Sunday, January 15, 2012

One Island - Two Countries - Saint Martin & Sint Maarten

Pulling anchor at first light, we were outta Statia - wanting to be long gone before Customs & Immigration ‘woke up’.  Another uneventful cruising day, but with weather looming that would lock us down for a few days - we cruised the approximately 30 miles into Simpson Bay on the Dutch side, nearly 4 hours after we pulled anchor.

Dutch Bridge Simpson Bay
Treading water for almost an hour,  waiting for the 11:30  bridge to open, we watched about 15 vessels doing the same.  Busy busy place this time of year - far different from when we were here in the Spring.  
As this is our second time on this 37 square mile island of two different countries (Dutch & French), read our blog dated May 17, 2011 with some history and some photos - I won’t be redundant!
Andy checking us in at Immigration
Cruising through the Bridge, with the Bridge Tender yelling his usual, HURRY HURRY, we continued on to the French side.  We are getting better - locals told us one CAN go thru the Dutch side without PAYING the huge fee and go on to the French side -- rather than go around the island and come through the French bridge to anchor on the French side.  We are smarter this is free to anchor on the French side and the Dutch charge big bucks to do so.   No matter, we are comfortably tucked behind Grand Illet in Simpson Bay Lagoon on the French side with plenty of room and good holding.  

 Yachts moored Med style - aft in to a dock, mooring line in front
Whoa!  Things have clearly changed since we were here in May.  Every marina is full of mega yachts - really big, huge, expensive yachts....billions of dollars in inventory is tied up all along the Dutch side!
Crew washing the hull - never quit; always washing
Amazing - helicopters & fancy ‘dingies’, wave runners and other water toys are visible on these boats.  Some of these dingies qualify in my mind as a go fast boat to aspire to -- fancy, fast and very very expensive!!                        Ahhhh, the money!  We also watched many a private jet taking off and landing at the nearby airport. 

Someone always has a bigger boat
Now, on shore, I’ve never seen a ‘rich and famous’....probably because I would not recognize anyone, never having made friends with many of those....
Carolyn, Joanne & Bill aboard Finally Fun

We’ve caught up with friends from Port Louis Marina in Grenada, Bill & JoAnne of Ultra and got to meet folks we’ve been communicating with via email and blogs for some time.  Mandy & Scott aboard Three Little Birds, who followed our waterway path 
Bob, Elain, Andy & Sharon aboard Mar Azul
through the Dominica Republic via our blog, are here with their 3 young sons, as are Elaine & Bob Ebaugh aboard Mar Azul, members of our DeFever Club!  Add to the mix, Carolyn & Paul of Catamania that we met while shopping in Budget Marine on shore, and we’ve developed quite a party crowd!  
Our two weeks in St. Maarten went quickly with a dinner party aboard Finally Fun for the crowd one night, cocktails aboard other boats and lots of shore time, wandering about.  

Beach at Philipsburg
Catching the bus with Bill and JoAnne to Philipsburg, we wandered about taking in the sights and the shops.  Philipsburg is a major duty free zone, the capital of Sint Maarten and the port for the enormous cruise ships that arrive here on a daily basis during the high season.   It is somewhat quaint, charming and busy!  
Philipsburg street off the beach

Get a massage, right on the beach!


Birds eating sugar 
On a mission, Andy & I did find the camera we’d been researching.  Our shop keeper, unlike the one in a duty free zone on another island, dealt fairly with us.  He matched’s price for the Pentax waterproof camera and threw in a chip, a case and a floating wristband.  Remember, the other duty free store I wrote about was trying to charge us $250 MORE for the same camera than the Amazon price!  Buyer always beware!  
Getting sand blasted!

A highlight!  AND the guide books make NO MENTION of this --- Maho Beach, just off the airport, is the site of all those videos and photos of folks being blasted by sand and getting knocked over by the blast of the jet engines as the plane takes off.  
Just overhead

With Bill and JoAnne, we hopped a bus, heading off to get exfoliated!  Exfoliated we did!  Standing on the beach, waving at the jets as they passed right over our heads to land, I was struck by how much fun it would be to simply FLASH the pilots and wondered why no one did THAT?  Perhaps jail time?? 

 As soon as one jet landed, another made ready to take OFF. 

Sharon & Joanne, full throttle 

As the planes  pulled into position at the end of the runway, engines screaming,  the heat blasting our faces and bodies, we hunkered down, ready to RUN!   As the jet pulls forward, engines full throttle, the blast is incredible!  Sand painfully whips into one’s skin, hair and eyes!  As I turned, looking toward the water, waves, made from the blast, were frothing their way halfway across the little Bay and swimmers were diving under.  A somewhat painfully fun experience!  

Sand is adhering to my head as I run!
That night, scratching my head, I realized I had sand stuck all over my scalp, about 1/4 inch thick!!!!  That sand did not ‘shake’ out either...lots of shampoo, scrubbing and a hard rinse - several times - got most of it out!  Phew!   
Wandering off the beach, we climbed our way up to a fancy resort, trying to find our way out up to the street and to Maho Village, a fancy casino area.  Stopped by a guard, we talked our way in with promises to stop at the Bar for a drink.  Money talks.  We did stop as the Guard watched us all the way!!  Ordering drinks in this very fancy place, we learned (a) No Tanguara gin (b) No limes to go in the bar brand gin and tonics (c) No painkillers - a de rigueor item on every bar menu (d) Not much of anything.  We finally figured out that this very fancy resort is an ‘all inclusive’!  Their bar was bare bones.  I guess one gets what they pay for!  This resort must not be spending Big Bucks on their guests.  Profit Margin seems to be high on the priority list!  Another Buyer Beware -  Live and learn and READ the content of any contract when signing up for a vacation! 

Pricy pizza w Bill & Joanne
Stopping in Maho Village for a 2 for 1 pizza and 2 for 1 beer and wine, and two small salads, we were shocked to see the bill at $120 total for the 4 of us.  Ugh...outta here too!
Stunning bar
Wandering about the Village (all modern, for the cruise ship trippers and mega yacht people), we found a Bar on top of a building that was jaw dropping.    On this rooftop,  covered in sand & greenery, were big sand balls holding real fire.  Other flames and lights with flames flickering, umbrellas, very comfortable couchs and even a BED or two for seating were everywhere. 
Fabulous views & ambiance!

 It was lovely to stand there taking it all in and to see the sea and the town lights twinkling all around, down below.  At 9:00 PM, however, there were NO customers.  We did not sit down to enjoy the ambiance, fearful of what the price would be after our pizza experience, but what a place! 
Making crepes on the sidewalk
Imprompteu dancing in the street
The little town of Grand Case is not to be missed on a Tuesday night!  
Local color & talent dancing in the streets


The music makers marching down the street

Negotiating a round trip deal with a taxi driver ($10 per couple), our little crowd headed there for an evening of fun and “harmony night” as the locals call it.  The streets are closed off, vendors set up their displays of home made rums, home made foods, jewelry and all the rest of the typical island trinkets on tables lining the streets and the entire town becomes a party. 
I found a beautifully carved wooden bowl and made a purchase.  I’d eyed these bowls even in the USA but this one was beautiful and far far less than any price I’d every seen own ‘work of art’ as a remembrance.  

Bill & Paul sampling home made rums
We grazed our way up and down the streets, sampling the rums, chatting with the locals and eating where the locals eat, at the end of the closed off streets, on picnic tables with foods cooked on grills right there.  
Our fun group enjoying BBQ in the street

Outdoor BBQs
Note the large tattoo

Life is all about Timing!  In the right place at the right time, we watched history in the making.  

Laura's parents & family awaiting her arrival in Simpson Bay
It was so exciting to watch Laura Dekker, the youngest person to

circumnavigate the world ALONE, complete her voyage here in St.

Maarten in the Leeward Islands, after 500 days at sea.   It was 

heartwarming to watch her sail in through the Dutch Bridge aboard 

her 38 foot sailboat, Guppy, with the mega yachts blasting their 

horns & the crowd cheering. 

The red sailboat in the background is Guppy

Guppy & Laura arriving at the St. Martin Yacht Club

Mega yachts in the background, Laura standing there by her boat

Her hull

An amazing accomplishment for one so young!

Laura's family greeting her at the dock
 Remember, the Dutch courts tried to stop her, saying she was too

young.  Her father sailed with her to St. Martin, where she began 

her actual journey, in spite of the court ruling.  She was 14 when

she left and is now 16 years, 4 months old.

We decided to head directly to the British Virgin Islands and the US Virgin Islands, skipping St. Bart’s and Anguilla.  We’d heard from every boater how expensive both places were - both to check in and out and to simply exist there.  We are not interested in $100 hamburger meals!  I’m tired of duty free shopping zones loaded with fancy watches, designer clothing and the like...Not My Thing. I want isolated anchorages, peace and quiet for a few days.

Ah, dirty Andy says this island of St. Martin/Sint Maarten is NOT Same Shit, Different Island.  He loved our time here.
Fun loving, smut minded Andy

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