During our mad dash south in 2006 we had stopped at St. Martin for only a few hours. To be correct, we stopped at Sint Maarten; because we anchored on the Dutch side. St. Martin is one of those unusual islands that is home to 2 countries, like Haiti and Dominican Republic on the one island. St. Martin is the French side and Sint Maarten is the Dutch side. Each has its advantages and special characteristics, but we prefer the French side. There is an enormous lagoon shared by both French and Dutch. If you have a shallow draft boat you can enter the lagoon on the French side. But if your boat draft is greater than 6 feet then you must enter on the Dutch side. There are draw bridges and getting in and out can be delayed, so plan your egress carefully.
Most cruisers enjoy being anchored in the lagoon. Since we aren't like most cruisers; we, of course, do not like being anchored inside the lagoon. Sure, it is large and calm and has easy access to all the businesses; but it is also nasty looking water. I am sure all those boats are not using their holding tanks and that sewage is being discharged directly into that shallow lagoon. And they run their watermakers in there. Uh-uh. Not for us. We like the French side, anchored in the bay. It can be a bit rolly but is worth the occasional slight discomfort. We anchored at Marigot and could take our dinghy into the lagoon to go anywhere when we needed to shop or when we wanted a Mexican food fix at the restaurant/bar on the lagoon edge on the Dutch side. The French and Dutch don't care where you go on the island or by dinghy and no immigration controls are effected. But they do care if you bring your big boat from one side to the other, and you must officially clear out of one country and into the other if you move your yacht. The Dutch charge a minimal fee for being anchored inside the lagoon. The French also now charge a fee for being anchored at Marigot, although this is a new fee and was not in effect when we last visted in early 2007.
Shortly after Theo, Teresa, Lauren and Kristin departed from visiting us in the Virgin Islands, we sailed straight to Marigot. Whereas our passage in May 2006 was the worst passage ever, this time it was delightful. We intended to stay in St. Martin only a few weeks; but that turned into almost 2 months. Bill's brother, John Rouse, came to visit. Our friend Glenn Martin came to visit. And our friends Donna and Bruce Rill came to visit. Not all of them at the same time, thank goodness. That would have really been crowded accomodations on our boat. We enjoyed seeing them all and each is welcome to visit us again anywhere, anytime.
We ran into probably a dozen cruisers that we had met in Grenada and Trinidad the previous summer. A very nice surprise was meeting up with Pierre and Ellen on S/V Lady Annabelle. We had met them in Trinidad and did not know they were headed up this way. Donna and Bruce were visiting when we met up with Pierre and Ellen and the 6 of us went to dinner in Grand Case a couple of times.
Mardi Gras was celebrated while we were in St. Martin. This is quite a celebration in Marigot each year. They have elaborate costumes and parade through the streets. It was fun. First time we had been to Mardi Gras celebrations in St. Martin.
The Heineken Regatta was held while John was visiting us. That was also the first time we saw a Heineken Regatta. We didn't care a whit about the races, but the street party afterward in Marigot was lots of fun. We enjoyed watching a heavily tattooed guy we dubbed The Paella Dude. He cooked up enormous woks of paella on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant. Quite a character.
During the week leading up to the Heineken Regatta we happened to see The Maltese Falcon several times. Once it was anchored off the Sint Marteen and once it was sailing south down beside the island. That is one horribly ugly boat under sail. It is faux-square-sail-rigged with electrically controlled "square" sails that furl into the masts; not the yard arms but the masts. The sails are flat when in use and look for all the world like a bunch of window shades instead of sails. Can you tell I really don't like this boat? We have since seen The Maltese Falcon several times in French Polynesia. This is a photo taken in Rangiroa in the Tuamotu in French Polynesia in June 2008. The inset at the top left of this photo shows the people standing near the stern; so that gives you an idea of the true size of this yacht. And I still think it is an ugly boat, for all its electronic marvels. BTW, it is for sale if you are interested.
OTOH, S/V Mirabella IV is an enormous gorgeous sailing yacht. Mirabella IV was anchored in the outer fringes of Marigot Baie when we departed from St. Martin on March 9, 2007. I snapped a photo as we sailed past the stern. There was a woman sitting on the stern steps, which helped give perspective as to the true size of this yacht.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in St. Martin and it was difficult to force ourselves to move on. It is one of those places where we could stay a long time before getting tired of it. Definitely going back there when we complete our circumnavigation.