Thursday, January 24, 2013

St. Martin Info for Cruisers

This post is for our cruising buddies.  We decided to write this down because when we searched for info, all we could find in the guidebooks was a ton of info but not much advice.  They didn't give us the low-down on what we should do.  We learned bits and pieces from sailing blogs we follow and Harry and Maryke on Aurora were helpful but there was precious little in the sailing blogosphere.

So here is our take on St. Martin.

When coming into St. Martin - especially from the BVI, we don't know why you would clear in on the Dutch side.  Sure, all the services are there but you have to anchor in Simpson Bay, take your dinghy to the Customs and Immigration dock just before the bridge to clear in… then they charge you 20 Euros. Then hit one of the 3 per day bridge openings.  And if you stay on the Dutch side there are stiff weekly charges to stay in Simpson Bay Lagoon.  We guess if you were going to stay in the Dutch side harbours, like Philipsburg - not the Lagoon -  it would cost less but the harbours are so dependent on wind directions.  They can be great but they can also be very rolly.

French bridge is near the "d" in Sandy Ground, Dutch bridge is near the "m" in Simpson Bay
When you clear in on the French side you can come into the Lagoon through the French bridge for no charge.  It seems to open with the same regularity as the Dutch bridge.  You can clear into French St. Martin at the ferry dock near Fort Luis Marina in Marigot Bay - but they charge you a fee and for goodness sake don't clear out from there.  Even if you are temporarily parked in Marigot Bay the officials will charge you the exit fee and also a cost for the number of days you parked in the bay… even if you weren't there!!  The minimum fee is 20 Euro.

French side - no fee

Dutch side - 20 Euro
Go to the Captainery INSIDE THE LAGOON at Port Royale Marina.  Clear the bridge and bear left.  Or better still, put your anchor down in Marigot Bay OR in the Lagoon and dinghy over to the Captainery.  You can tie your dinghy at their dock. We anchored in Marigot Bay and waited for the next bridge opening.  The officers barely talk to you.  They send you to an upstairs room to use a computer… enter all the personal and ship information and then hit PRINT.  It prints on their printer downstairs and when you come back down they ask you "Euros or dollars".  They didn't even look at our passports.  In our case it was $7 to get in and $7 to go out after being there for 11 days.  After clearing in, we anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon near the Witches Tit and dinghied around to either side as necessary.  There is no charge to stay in the Lagoon.  When we left, we went through the bridge at 8:15 am, anchored in Marigot Bay and then dinghied back under the bridge to the Captainery.  Now, we think that if we had stated that we were out in Marigot Bay they might have charged us the harbour fee.  We're not sure.

Witches Tit
Once there, most of the marine services and groceries, etc are over on the Dutch side.  We noticed that the prices for most things were lower on the Dutch side as well.  So, we used the French side for exploring, entrance to the Lagoon and anchoring but usually travelled to the Dutch side for shopping and services (and Happy Hours).  If you are out at night, the Dutch Coast Guard was ticketing dinghies while we were there for not having the correct running lights.  Navigating the Lagoon is not hard.  There are markers but it is a good 8 feet deep in most places.  Easy, peasy!

There is a very helpful Cruisers Net run by Mike from Shrimpies... tune into channel 14 at 7:30 AM.

We were going to anchor in the various bays around the island but we found that the $2 busses took us everywhere we wanted to go and there were lots of good places to tie up and secure your dinghy before leaving to hunt for a bus.  The busses stop anywhere.  When you see one coming, just flag him down.  Both Island Water World and Budget Marine in the Dutch side of the Lagoon have excellent dinghy docks.  The Sint Maarten Yacht Club, right beside the Dutch bridge is another good place.  Also, Simpson Bay Marina, just around the corner from the Yacht Club has some dinghy parking and it is right across the street from pretty good grocery shopping and blazing fast internet at Burger King.  We always locked our dinghy.  The wine and liquor prices were spectacular at the grocery store.  Funny though, a case of 12 Presidente cans was $15 at said store but at the Chinese gorcery down the block the same case was $9.  I guess you have to shop.

Regarding internet… there is none… in the Lagoon.  Even with our fancy wifi amplifier-transmitter system.  The Lagoon is a black hole for internet which means every day you go in for happy hour somewhere and drink beers while you do your mail.  $1.25 Presidentes at Barnacles from 5 to 7, you can do a lot of internet for only a couple of dollars.  It is just around the corner from the new bridge - close to the end of the airport runway so you can run to the end of the dock when you hear a particularly loud roar to watch some behemoth take off.
Another down side to the Lagoon is that it doesn't flush… and everyone else does.  So we imagine it is none too clean.  We were surprised at how clear the water was and there was certainly no odour… but it was not inviting to swim.  The cool thing about the French side, though, is that you can simply take your boat out through the bridge… no charge… and spend the day in the nice clean, clear bay.  So you could go out the bridge at the morning opening and come back in the afternoon or evening, just as long as C & I know that you spent your time in the Lagoon (no fee).

We are currently at Anguilla getting ready to leave for St. Barts.  We will probably clear into Sint Maarten at Phillipsburg right in the south on our way.  We are hoping that the forecasted bit of north keeps it from getting rolly in the bay.

It doesn't get old 
BTW … plane spotting is great at Maho Beach.  If you are interested in seeing the KLM 747 come in, it arrives about 12:30 on Tuesdays, Fridays, Sundays.  Take the $2 Maho bus from the Yacht Club.  The Sunset Bar and Restaurant at Maho sells a mean tuna caesar salad, too.

We will edit and update this as we think of more.  Please comment if you disagree with anything we've written or if you have things to add.

1 comment:

  1. Most useful :) Thank you guys :D Looking forward to getting there!


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