Saturday, March 15, 2008

Our Friend's Blogs

We just added a link (see left-hand side) to the blogs of some of our sailing friends. We thought you might enjoy seeing and hearing from them.
Hans and Kristen sail Whisper, another little, but mighty 27 footer. Hans is from Sweden and Kristen is from Vermont. We first met on the ICW in 2006 and have been having a great time ever since!
Renee and Michael on Jucumba are from Arizona. We spent hurricane season with them in Luperon and have been trying to catch up with them ever since!
Enjoy their blogs and their exploits!

St. Martin, March 2008

Bonjour from St. Martin! It’s been a while since we last updated our blog but we have been so busy. We’ve been here almost 3 weeks already! So many beautiful beaches, good restaurants and great wine, well, it’s hard to fit it all in! We left Virgin Gorda, BVI on February 25th and arrived in Marigot, St. Martin 24 hours later. It was a good overnight crossing taking us 100 miles in 3 long tacks with moderate winds and seas. No complaints from this crew!
We cleared customs on the French side. For our cruising friends who are reading this, this is the way to go. We were only charged $8 and didn’t have to give an anticipated departure date. The Dutch side charges by the week and one cruiser told us he paid $30 for a week and then would have to go back to renew. Regardless of which side you clear in on, you’ll probably end up heading into the Simpson Bay Lagoon for awhile. It’s the same water, why pay more!

The beach at Groot Baai, downtown Phillipsburg.

First, a little geography lesson on Sint Maarten/St. Martin. This 37 square mile island is the smallest island in the world to be divided by two sovereign powers. French St. Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten exist in harmony together with only a sign at the border to let you know you’ve traveled from one country to the other. But there are differences. The obvious one is that you hear French spoken in St. Martin although everyone we’ve run in to has spoken some English. The differences are more in attitude and approach to life. Phillipsburg on the Dutch side is a busy, bustling city with lots of traffic, tourists and cruise ships. A popular cruise ship port, it is loaded with restaurants and souvenir shops much like St. Thomas. The beach in Groot Baai (Great Bay) butts up against a boardwalk where tourists walk, dine and shop. Marigot on the French side is also a busy city. But there it is all about the cafes where you stop to enjoy a drink while you watch the world go by. We have found it quite difficult to resist. If forced to choose, it is the French side for us. This is also the most international harbor we’ve been in thus far with boats from England, France, Germany, Australia, Sweden, Canada, South Africa, the United States, the Caribbean and more.

A few days after we arrived we moved from the lagoon to Anse Marcel, a pretty area on the north coast of the island. Our friends Mike and Marcia were coming to visit from Milwaukee and they had booked themselves into a hotel on the hill overlooking the bay. We decided to stay at the Port Lonvilliers Marina for the convenience and proximity to their hotel. This was our first time in a marina in almost a year. It was nice to know that Merengue was safe and secure while we were out and about from morning to night. And we enjoyed the amenities that a marina has to offer.

View of the marina and Anse Marcel from The Marquis Hotel.

We had a great time with Mike and Marcia. The 4 of us have vacationed together many times in the past. We enjoyed the luxury and convenience of their rental car as they drove us all over the island where we stopped to enjoy the beaches, bars, restaurants and shopping. We don’t get to travel by car very often and it was fun. We wandered the streets of Marigot, Grand Case and Phillipsburg and relaxed on the beaches. We took a ferry to a small offshore island called Pinel where we snorkeled, hiked and yes, more relaxing on the beach.

Mike and Marcia make friends everywhere they go!

Hanging out at one of the beach bars on Orient Beach.

Mike, Jim and Marcia on the beach at Anse Marcel.

Pinel Island
View of St. Martin from Pinel Island.

The windward side of Pinel.

Marcia and friends building sandcastles.

St. Martin is known as the gourmet capital of the Caribbean and we sampled it all! We ate French, Italian and Creole cuisine in the finest restaurants and barbecued ribs, chicken and fish from the “Lolo’s” in Grand Case. Our week with them flew by and we hated to see them leave. I hope they enjoyed themselves as much as we did.

We are now back in Simpson Bay Lagoon, anchored about mid-way between Marigot and the boating facilities on the Dutch side. This is a cruising mecca and you can get any kind of boat work done here. We’ve been making the rounds of all the marine stores to fill our ever present shopping list. And we’ve decided to stay a few more weeks to have Merengue hauled out and her bottom painted. She’ll come out of the water on the 25th and we’ll be living on the hard for about 5 days while we do the work. Can’t say we’re looking forward to that but it needs to be done. We’ll let you know how it goes! Until next time, fair winds!