Monday and all about St Martin

Mon 22 Nov 2021 08:32
19:33N 25:36W still mostly motoring at 5-6knots in sea under 1metre. The Sunday-Monday winds were light 2-4 knots "gusting" 6 to 8 from the north, later true NNE perhaps 5-8 true giving 0-1 very variable knots, circling from all points and currently a not-unhelpful but actually unuseable 1-2knots coming from astern. The 15N 30W waypoint is due late Wednesday. Rainy grey yesterday, much brighter today.

This time of year is when lots of the Caribbean sailing cruisers aim towards St Martin. There's other islands in the E Caribbean island chain of course, from Trinidad in the south all the way to the Virgin islands in the north, but St Martin is a primary hub for yottie liveaboards in the main winter season.

Some will head there from the US and Canada, some from Europe via the Canaries or the long route from South Africa. Others who took the easier summer option and migrated south from St Martin earlier in the year to the less hurricane-risky islands like Trinidad, Grenada and the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) will return north. Many spend months each year in St Martin, from before Christmas to well after Easter. A fair number live there year round and take their luck with hurricanes, or dodge south as needed. It's Caribbean Cruiser Central.

St Martin has gentler weather than some hotter and more rainforesty southern carib islands, isn't too officious, and allows outsiders to work there. There's two governments each covering their half of the island, so you can choose American-flavoured Dutch side (Sint Maarten), or slightly Caribbean-flavoured French side (St Martin), with some but not much co-operation between the two sides, and open passage for civilians either way. The laid-back chaos extends to the Euro being the primary currency on the French side, US Dollars and Dutch Guilders on the Dutch side, and US Dollars (cash) very welcome everywhere.

St Martin/Sint Maarten has a weather-protected inland lagoon in which to hide out and/or zip around on dinghy or by boat through scheduled opening road bridges from the sea on either side. On the Dutch side it's deep enough and the road bridge wide enough (17metres) for all but the most giant superyachts and several marinas. The French bridge into the same lagoon is 10m wide and good for almost 2m draft.

Also bordering the lagoon is the international airport with airport code "SXM", busy with private jets too, and many refer to the whole island as "SXM" for short. There are other islands nearby, such as cute St Bart's just 10 miles away, the perfect voyage distance for those superyacht guests. On the Atlantic side there's Orient Bay with anchorage and hedonistic tourist beach.

For all these reasons there are lots of boats, lots of boatfixing facilities, and lots of boaties. And a morning VHF net to arrange meetings, sell things, organise activities and so on.

I was in St Martin during the 2020 lockdownery, the French side allowed supermarket visits, and delivering food to other boats was ok too. So I took croissants to some others most mornings. The police stopped me, and I explained that no, it's not a commercial venture and offered him a croissant. A French police officer could of course see no problem with anyone delivering croissants, munched the croissant and let me on my way. I saw the police boat many times during lockdown, each time waved a croissant or paper bag, and they waved back. I might have met even more people that year than most years, and our c-19-limited activities included doing a radio play, now on youtube - google youtube reservoir dogs radio play.

But... I've agreed to drop into Martinique first, and that gives an excuse to cruise northwards through some more islands. Les Saintes and Guadeloupe would be my favourites on the way towards St Martin and at some point I oughta go to St Kitts too.