Wednesday, January 23, 2008

10 Things I Love About St. Martin (Maarten)

I visited St. Martin (Maarten) with my mom 8 years ago, and though we had a wonderful time, I didn't think the island was all that great. It was too full of cruise ships and more than a bit run down , especially on the Dutch side. I certainly couldn't have imagined returning, much less compiling a top 10 list of the reasons this place is awesome. Ahh, how one's priorities change when living on a boat....

1. Free and easily accessible garbage disposal--On many of the islands, it can be difficult and expensive to dispose of trash accumulated on board. You usually need to find a marina willing to take the trash and pay between $2-$5 dollars per bag. Here, our boat is anchored near a dinghy dock that has a large (and free!) dumpster near by.

2. A multitude of dinghy docks--sometimes, when heading for shore trying to find a close, safe spot to put your dinghy is like trying to find a parking space at the mall around Christmas. In St. Martin, just about every restaurant, marina and boat-related business has a dock to tie up to and while we have heard some reports of theft, it doesn't appear to be as rampant here as it tends to be further south.

3. Milk for less than $16/gallon--As we've traveled south, groceries have become increasingly expensive. In the BVI's, we saw UHT milk (which is all we drink these days) priced at $4/quart or $16/gallon!! At the market near the marina here, prices for milk (and everything else) are close to, if not less than, what you'd pay in the states.

4. French immigration and customs--As I'm sure most of you know, St. Martin is actually split between the Dutch and the French which means that arriving by boat, you can check into either side of the island. On the advice of a fellow Island Packet owner, we checked into the French side. We were in and out in less than an hour, were told we could stay as long as we wanted and were charged a whopping 8 euros. By contrast, many islands charge $50 dollars or more, limit your stay, and require you to visit several different offices (both customs and immigration) before you're officially cleared in.

5. Shrimpy's, the bar--Shrimpy's is the unofficial cruisers bar in Simpson Bay, home to delicious $3.50 sandwiches, free beer on Sunday's and most importantly, free and mostly reliable internet access.

6. Shrimpy, the dog--The aforementioned bar is also home to an adorable and friendly dog named Shrimpy. As we had to leave our basset hounds back on land, we've been missing canine companionship. Though Shrimpy could never take the place of Sammie and Annabelle, it's been nice to have a dog around again.

7. French bread, French cheese, French desserts--As half of the island is French, we've been able to get fantastic bread, wonderfully stinky cheese and gooey chocolaty pastries whenever we want. Kevin has been in heaven since we arrived.

8. Marci's Mega Gym--French food aside, Kevin and I do try to make an effort to lead a somewhat healthy lifestyle, so it was great to find a gym right near our anchorage with weekly rates right around $20/person. Now, there's no A/C, so the experience has been a bit like lifting weights in a steam room, but it's been really nice to get in a proper work out.

9. Al and Linda--We first met our Canadian friends Al and Linda in Cape May, New Jersey and have kept in touch ever since. The last time we saw them was in Hampton VA in early November as they prepared to travel to the BVI's by way of the Caribbean 1500 rally. Given our different schedules and plans (at the time, we were still thinking we'd go all the way down the intracoastal and then work our way down into the islands), we weren't sure we'd ever meet up again, so it was great to run into them here. In addition to being great company, they've also been great guides to the island, as they've been here for about a month now.

10. FLAT calm anchorage--I didn't rank order this list--but if I had, the absolutely protected anchorage that is Simpson Bay might have made the top of the list. I've mostly found a means of managing my sea sickness, but nothing makes for a less restful night (or more cranky morning) than sleeping on a boat that's rocking back and forth as its buffeted about by wind and wave. In the BVI's we dealt with more than our share of bouncy, rolly nights, so this has been a very welcome change.


Blogger cath said...

We've been to St Martin twice and we really enjoyed staying on the French side. Good food, nice beaches. Makes me wish I were there now :)

January 24, 2008 at 2:08 PM  

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