this island is barely 7
miles in each direction, it is perhaps the best known
holiday destination in the Leewards. It is blessed with
a multitude of superb white sand beaches, backed by
pleasantly scenic hills. Its fame has come from the way
it has embraced tourism wholeheartedly with casinos,
condominiums, and scores of hotels. The whole island is
one duty-free shopping plaza. Shopping is not restricted
to cruise ship passengers. Two of the Caribbean's
biggest chandleries are based here: Budget Marine and
Island Water World. With the help of their customers,
they have generated enough buying power to be able to
offer excellent prices to yachts. Their catalogue prices
are a little higher than some US discount prices, but in
duty-free St. Martin a further ten percent discount for
cash in normal, and you can often negotiate more
substantial discounts, depending on the items ordered
and how much you are spending.
is divided across the middle. The northern part is
French; the southern part Dutch. There is a charming
story, completely unsupported by historical fact, that
the French and Dutch were so civilized that, rather than
fight over the island, they had a Frenchman armed with a
bottle of wine walk in one direction and a Dutchman
equipped with a flask of gin take the other. Where they
met became the boundary, and the French ended up with a
bit more because the gin was stronger than the wine.
In the early days the island
was important to the Dutch because of the salt ponds in
the southern part, which is why they settled that half.
St. Martin was successful for a time as a producer of
tobacco, and then of sugar. With the collapse of the
sugar market, it started a long decline. In 1939 an
attempt was made to halt this downward trend by making
the island completely duty-free.
The strategy worked, and St.
Martin slowly became the Caribbean's number one shopping
mall. Today it thrives, with about a million visitors
annually. Hotels are everywhere, cruise ships call
daily, and there are many hundreds of duty-free shops
and restaurants, as well as over a dozen casinos. The
current boom has created so much work that many cruising
yachtspeople have found temporary jobs here.
n recent times, this island
has become the Caribbean's major destinations for power
superyachts. They make a magnificent show in the winter
season, especially at bridge opening time, when they
follow one another into the lagoon in majestic line.
There are excellent
most kinds of yacht work, and since the island is small,
it doesn't really matter where you are. Technicians are
used to visiting by car.
side has the excellent Sint Maarten Yacht Club,
which organizes many races, which can help the cruising
sailor get to know the local yachting community. They
are right next to the bridge with a good dinghy dock.
Wander in ask Petra Gilders for the racing and social
program. They also have a very active youth sailing
program. If you are staying a while, join the club; your
kids can enjoy the youth fun.
Regatta is on the first full weekend in March, a
world-famous international event that draws many famous
yachts. Perhaps the best cruising regatta is the Course
D’Alliance, a three-day race in November from St. Martin
to St. Barts, then Anguilla. Or maybe it is the Offshore
Regatta which goes to Statia and Nevis in June. If you
have a cat you can join in the multihull regatta in
March. There are many events, including informal races
year round, so wander in and ask. You can also look at
their website: www.smyc.com.
exist on both sides. Yachts
can anchor or pick up a mooring in all their usual
haunts. Fishing, including spearfishing, is not allowed
near any of the popular dive sites, including most of
the offshore islands and rocks. Moorings for divers and
snorkelers have been laid on many of the sites. These
are not for yachts, though yacht moorings are planned.
The French marine park goes from Oyster Pond to Roche
Creole, but excludes much of Orient Bay. Fishing, taking
of anything, polluting, jet skiing, and water-skiing are
all banned within this area.
Martin has good medical
and dental facilities. A
good clinic, easily accessible to the yachts, is in the
complex by Simpson Bay Marina. Check with Dr. Datema or
Dr. Ubbo Tjaden. You will also find a modern dental
clinic with dentists, hygienists, and an orthodontist.
French and the Dutch have emergency lifeboats, from a
rigid inflatable to an ocean-going rescue vessel. Call
VHF: 16 or dial 911.