St Martin . .. or Sint Maarten

Susie and Adam (both think they are skipper)
Sat 2 Apr 2011 22:29
02:04.11, 18:02.03N 63:05.40W
The sail to St Martin was about 100 miles from Antigua, we wanted to arrive in daylight so decided to set off lunchtime from Antigua to get in around dawn at St Martin and for once the winds were great! - steady light-ish wind and for once. . about  the first time since arriving in the caribbean - we were going downwind.  This was actually our first full over-night sail since crossing the Atlantic, which after a 2 month break, seemed all very exciting to be out sailing again.   We had a great sail to St Martin - there are a few islands to pass on the way so we could always see land in the distance as we went past Monserrat, St Kitts, Nevis and St Barts - all places we will probably leave til next year for a proper visit.  Arrived at Simpson Bay in St Martin at 7 in the morning and anchored up.
St Martin is half dutch and half French - they put a dividing line across the middle which seems mad in an island 7 miles long.  We're on the dutch side which is probably more developed and more touristy - but has the advantage that there are big supermarkets and also lots and lots of yachting services - it's also duty free.  We went in the dinghy over the lagoon to Marigot, which is the small French Capital earlier in the week - bad timing though - went on Sunday and everything, apart from one coffee and cake, shop was closed.
We stayed anchored out in the bay for a few days then the wind turned to the south and it all started getting a bit rolly to sleep well - got fed up of getting up 4 times a night to try and stop general bits and bobs making a noise.  At this end of the island is a huge lagoon to which there are only two small entrances - both of which you have to go under a lifting bridge to get to.  We,ve been anchored just outside the bridge on the dutch side -  yesterday morning we queued up for the 0930 bridge opening so we could go into one of the marina's in the lagoon - sometimes it looks like chaos getting under the bridge but the marina staff try and queue people up in some order so getting in wasn't too eventful and there was no shouting required.
We're now in a Marina again - first time we have been in a Marina for 2 months so it was a bit strange.  We've been busy last couple of days running to the huge supermarkets to stock up on things again where they're cheap.  We've also bought some new toys for the boat - that's the problem with having chandelries about, it means you end up spending money in them - but at least the prices here are a lot cheaper than UK or anywhere else we've been so far and we had a little list of some much needed items.  We bought ourselves a little honda generator that is really quiet and means we can give our batteries a boost when they need it without having to run the main engine, even with our solar panels and wind generator the heat here means the fridge is on most of the time and eats most of our power so some instant power is definately needed.
We also got a very fancy pair of binoculars since the ones we bought in the UK have been well and truly destroyed on the journey as they were used so much,  binocs with a good compass we found essential when we were travelling at night and trying to work out where other ships are going without having to go downstairs and check radar and ais.  Hopefully our new binocs will stand the test of time a little better than the el cheapo ones we had before.  And of course - if nothing else - we can look professional skanning the sky with them.  The second use of binocs out here (and everybody does...... it not just us) is for spying on your neighbours in the anchorage, it seems to be a popular passtime - although with the amount of nakedness that goes on in sailing boats sometimes you get to see more than you actually wanted. . .  the other potentially embarrassing moment is when you lock binoculared-eyes with another yachtie who is also engaging in some spying.
Yesterday saw the wild excitement of Adam fitting a couple of fans in the boat - we put it off for a long time as we didn't want more clutter and 'stuff' - but when you're anchored somewhere really sheltered or in a marina it can just get too hot at night so I have been very excited about our new fans - Christmas come early.
We caught the bus to Philipsburg which is the dutch capital on the island the other day, Philipsburg is in a huge bay with a very long sandy beach and it has some nice old buildings and things. . . . . but . . . . it is American cruise liner/tourist central when it comes to the caribbean - there were 3 cruise ships in when we went there.  The beach is white sand and would be very pretty - but is also covered in beach umbrella's and large americans so you can't see a lot of it.  It is  THE duty free shopping area of the caribbean - so if you want camera's (or binoculars!),  perfume, booze and fags - then clearly it is the place to be.  In fairness we had a really good day out, we walked along the beach front until we couldn't cope with seeing any more pirate bars or casinos' - then went onto some of the streets further back to wander about the shops, this is where we got our binocs so were pretty happy with that - we then found a really pretty little old street with a fanstastic tiny cafe on it to grab a cup of tea and some great greek salad and a pizza all for only the price of a sandwich in Tesco.  At least out here all the cruise liners and vast numbers of people on them seem to go to the main towns on the islands since that is where the big ports are, leaving the small bays and towns to us on smaller boats.
Think we'll be here a couple more days yet as we have to do some exciting things like servicing the engine - then we'll get going again, there is a marine reserve on the east side of the island that we may go to to do a few dives - then after that maybe the BVIs - we keep on changing our minds.  It will be nice to get back to somewhere quieter again I think.
Some Pics of Philipsburg - main shopping street - I think all the cobbles and everything have been done up recently as it looks pretty smart
Couple of nice buildings dotted around
And here's a photo taken in St John's which is the Capital of Antigua - I forgot to get it off the camera and only just found it - it's a statue of the first president of Antigua following independence - it's a bit different but pretty good, hope that they paint it every year.