Sint Maarten/Saint Martin is a real curiosity. A
verysmall island (only 88 sq. km), it is divided into two different
jurisdictions. About 60% of it is French and part of the EU, using the euro as
currency. The other 40% is Dutch and uses US dollars (shop prices are actually
all in Netherlands Antilles Florins, but in reality it seems these are not
in circulation so everyone uses US dollars. And on the French side they
take dollars as equivalent to euros, thus making the same item in the same shop
much cheaper in dollars than euros (on the Dutch side they have a proper
exchange rate). Passing from one side of the island to the other by land or in
your dinghy incurs no border formalities of any sort - but in a boat you must
check out from one side and then ito the other. The paperwork, time and cost in
doing so is much less on the French side. They speak French on the French
side (of course!), and English on the Dutch. The Dutch side is now
a separate country, one of four comprising the Kingdom of the Netherlands -
the others are Aruba, Curacao and Holland (= the Netherlands), while the French
side is an autonomous region of France. Wierd, or what?
For us the island has a huge attraction - full
scale European standard marine facilities. But to our surprise it also has a
seven screen cinema with an escalator - the first one we've seen since leaving
Europe, and proper supermarkets. Wow!
We came here to pick up the new genoa (large front
sail) that we had ordered in Antigua some weeks ago. The trip from the BVI was
foul and gruelling - 100 miles right into a strong wind, very big lumpy
seas, lots of rain and in the "wrong" direction - we're supposed to be
going west and north, not east . When we got here last Friday the sail
had not arrived from South Africa where it was made, and when it did so on
Monday we discovered that the guy who sold it to us and we thought we were
meeting to fit it was in fact on holiday at the next island, St Barts.
Confusion! So we threw the sail on the boat, cleared Immigration and set off in
a rush for St Barts some 16 nautical miles (25km) away to meet him before
he returned to Antigua on the Tuesday. And Alison so loves to rush, as some of
you will know.
Here is the Dutch-style lifting bridge giving
access from the sea to the inner lagoon on the Dutch side of the island. Note
the superyacht masts in the lagoon. We stayed at anchor in the cheap seats
More on St Maarten when we return from St Barts - I
have found some lovely big green iguanas sunning themselves by the side of the
lagoon so I hope that those of you just gagging for more of those lovely lizard
photos will be in for a real treat.