St Martin - 31st March

Mike and Liz Downing
Tue 31 Mar 2009 03:11
From St Kitts we sailed another 65 miles north to reach St Martin. It was a lumpy bumpy sail with  confused seas, particularly when we sailed round the north of St Kitts, between St Kitts and Statia where the seas were short and breaking - we had quite an 'exciting' hour or so with winds around 26kts. But Aurora B powered her way through, close hauled and under well reefed sails. From then on the wind was mostly on the beam so it was a fast passage, and the sun shone all day long.  As the sun was dipping towards the horizon we entered Marigot Bay on the French side of the island and dropped anchor. This is another Marigot Bay and not to be confused with the one in St Lucia. It's a big and truly lovely bay with beautiful turquoise water that's only 8 to 15 ft deep. It carries these depths for a long way and we ended up anchoring in only 10 ft. 
Anchoring in Marigot Bay
Having arrived, the weather was right the next day for a trip to Anguilla, just 5 miles or so to the north. The northerly swells were forecast to return, so it was always going to be a quick visit. As it turned out, it was very quick, just one night and we had to return to St Martin. The entry for Anguilla has a few pictures to record the flying visit.  
St Martin is half Dutch and half French, the border goes from west to east, sort of across the middle. There are no actual borders on land, but you can tell when you cross from the French side to the Dutch by the very good roads that suddenly becoming bumpy and unkept! If you sail from the French side to the Dutch, or vice versa, you do need to clear customs on the French side and clear in again on the Dutch side. Both sides of the island have good shopping and the island is called the shopping mall of the Caribbean. It's all is duty free - so supposed to be cheap. Compared to the other islands it is, but not compared to the UK or USA. On our return from Anguilla we risked entering Simpson Bay Lagoon to meet friends we originally met in Las Palmas. Risked because the French side of the Lagoon is not very deep and at close to 7ft draft, running aground was a real possibility - and we did, several times! On one occasion we had to unfurl the genoa to heel the boat over to get off. As a result we decided to go straight into the marina where the channel was deeper and berthed right next to our friends. That's one of the beauties of cruising, you keep bumping into friends along the way, some you haven't seen for months. The Lagoon stretches several miles across the island and you can get to it via lifting bridges on the French or Dutch side. Lots of boats anchor inside as it's sheltered, and quite a few boats look like they have been there for years. 
A view from our berth in the marina which is a quadrangle with shops and open-air cafes and
restaurants on 3 sides, so its snug and quite atmospheric at night.
The water front at Marigot - the dinghy dock is just beyond the yellow boat.
On of the many pretty restaurants in Marigot.
The main airport is on the Dutch side and the end of the runway is right next to the beach. You can get much closer than they would ever allow in the UK and get good pictures of planes coming into land, and some, not us I hasten to add, take advantage of being so close. As the planes take off in a direction away from the beach, the blast goes across the beach and people cling on to the wire fence and get blown horizontal, while others allow the blast to blow them across the sand and into the water. There are lots of warning notices, but they don't stop crazy people having fun! The pictures below give some idea of what it's like. 
Looking across the bay, with the end of the runway to the right..
Looking out to sea.
A plane heads across the bay to the runway.
A surfboard stuck in the sand and converted into an Arrivals Board!
The warning notices and a plane getting ready to take off.
Another plane preparing to take off and people on the beach get ready..................
............. to be blown into the water!
Having stayed a week or so in Simpson Lagoon it was time to go back out into Marigot Bay and carry out some maintenance - changing our 4 anodes under the water, re-antifouling the bow thruster propellers (had to take them off to get to the bow thruster anode), and cleaning the hull from stem to stern, the diving gear earning its place on the boat once again. Once complete it was time to head south back down the islands.