For several reasons we decided to stay in St Martin for a longer period of time. First of all, we wanted to celebrate Christmas here. We also ordered two batteries a week before and we expected these to arrive after Christmas. Our sail was slightly damaged so we needed to have this repaired but the sailmaker was so busy he only had time to do this after Christmas. Since we were staying here for two weeks Erwin took this opportunity to work on his “To do list” which was getting longer and longer.
We were anchored at the Simpson lagoon which was right beside the Juliana airport and directly under the flight path of the airplanes so it was very noisy but spectacular. In the weekends a plane would take off every fifteen minutes. Since the airport runway is juist 100 meters from the beach, one of the main attractions in St. Martin is watching the planes that are landing fly right above the beach. It was so crowded because hundreds of people were waiting for the planes to land. When a larger plane takes off you have to be careful not to be blown away by the blast. If you google it, you will find a popular YouTube film showing people, parasols, etc. being blown away by a KLM jumbo jet.
Since we were anchored at the lagoon we didn’t have access to water. We had three options which were to go to one of the marinas, collect rainwater or call the “water boat”. This time we decided to call the “water boat” which came alongside our boat to fill our water tanks.
St. Martin is divided between Holland and France. In the Simpson lagoon the Dutch and French side are so close to each other you can easily travel with the rubber boat from one side to the other. The Dutch side of St. Martin is more American than Dutch. The language is English, the local currency is the US$ and they use 110 volts. The Dutch side is also newer, well maintained and more focused on the yachting industry. There are mega yachts moored there and one particular yacht that stood out is the “Apple” yacht of the late Steve Jobs. The language on the French side is of course French, the currency is the Euro and they use 220 volts. It has a more quaint and authentic atmosphere with the small cafes and creole restaurants and houses but it is also more worn down.
Philipsburg, the capital of Dutch St. Martin is a very lively town with many restaurants, bars and shops. We have seen the most tourists in this town, it must be because of all the tax free shops. The two main streets which are called front street and back street are filled with shops so it’s literally shop till you drop. Front street has more upscale shops and back street more down scale. We also noticed that almost all the shops were owned by Asian Indians.
Except for St. Barthes, we didn’t really feel the Christmas spirit in the Caribbean. There were not a lot of Christmas decorations and we hardly heard any Christmas songs. We however contributed to the Christmas spirit by decorating our boat with Christmas lights and colored lamps (courtesy of Lucio Melotti). Somebody commented that if there was a contest we would definitely be the winners. At least we could find our boat easily at night 😜.
We met other Dutch cruisers who were also anchored at the lagoon. We had a very lovely and spontaneous Christmas Eve with Sipko and Angelique in their boat the “Hagar” together with Bas and Agnes of the “TiSento”.
The biggest advantage of staying longer in one place is that you meet other cruisers and have the chance to know them better.. There were a few Dutch cruisers who were anchored in the lagoon for a longer period of time and we had drinks with them and went out for dinner. We had a very lovely and spontaneous Christmas Eve with Sipko and Angelique in their boat the “Hagar” together with Bas and Agnes of the “TiSento”. On New Year’s Eve, the “Hagar” invited 17 other cruisers to their boat to celebrate the new year. We had first row seats for the fireworks because the barge with the fireworks show was moored a few hundred meters from their boat.
The next day we needed help with putting down the Christmas lights and putting up the repaired sail and Bas and Agnes were kind enough to help us. After that, we gathered at the beach for the Dutch tradition of the New Years’s Dive. Hundreds of people were there and some of them even had the traditional Unox muts. In the evening we went to another beach where a live band was performing. It was a great way to end our stay in St. Martin and to say farewell to our new friends.
The original plan was to sail to the British Virgin Islands but we heard from other cruisers that it was quite expensive. We also heard a lot of great stories about Cuba, so even though it was out of the way, we decided to alter our plans and sail directly to Cuba.