Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | December 4, 2011

Inside the Lagoon

N 18° 03.77′   W 63° 05.31′

Simpson Bay Lagoon, Marigot, St. Martin

We have been enjoying our stay in the Lagoon. I have included a map, compliments of Wikipedia, to show the unique geography.

As you can see, the Lagoon is a lake-like body of water on the western side of the island.  There are two small entrances that aren’t marked on this map, one near Marigot (pronounced MA-REE-GO)in French Saint-Martin and one at the skinniest southern point between the airport and Cole Bay in Dutch Sint Maarten.   Because of the prevailing easterly winds, these harbors on the northeast and southeast corners of the Lagoon are typically the calmest locations. 

These two areas serve as hubs for boating activities and services with the Dutch side catering to mega-yacht visitors. We can get to Cole Bay from our location in Marigot in about 10 minutes via dinghy. There are free dinghy docks where one can tie up to shop, dine or explore on foot. There are no customs requirements if we wish to move around between the two countries by land or by dinghy – only if we want to move the big boat.

Pollution has been a concern here since there is little fresh water flow and lots of surrounding civilization and marine activity.  Environmental groups have been working to improve conditions. We were surprised to find clear water in some parts of the Lagoon with a view of starfish on the bottom 10 feet down. The harbors, though, are not pristine. We will need to go outside periodically to Marigot Bay or Simpson Bay (outside near the airport) to use the watermaker.

Boats enter the Lagoon through either the French bridge on the north or the Dutch bridge on the south.  Boats that cannot fit under the bridges have to wait until there is an opening, typically scheduled three times per day. There are fees to pass through the Dutch bridge, which is wider and has a deeper channel. Mega-yachts use this entrance.

We smaller vessels have a choice of entrances. Until now, since the French bridge is currently “en panne” – broken, out of order, stuck in the closed position. That is good news for cars and the congested island traffic but not good news for the boats that want to get in and out of the Lagoon on the north side.

They aren’t sure what is wrong, how to fix it and when that might be accomplished. No one seems very excited about the situation. C’est la vie! That’s how it goes in the islands.

I’m thinking – what if the Dutch bridge breaks down? How are we going to get out?? What about the new arrivals expecting the bridge to be working??? It would have been a major disappointment had we found a broken bridge after the Anegada Passage. Yet another voyage would have been required to go all the way around the island to the south entrance. Hope they get that thing fixed soon. I’m starting to feel claustrophobic. 

I confess that we have been taking our time to get to know our winter home. Since the last post the weather cleared, was phenomenal for several days and then descended into more rain and dreariness. We got totally drenched during a brief outing to the “jumble” (boater’s flea market) at the local boat yard on Saturday morning. If this continues I am going to have to invest in better rain gear.

We have gotten out to enjoy some of the wonderful French cafes in Marigot, which are much more appealing to us than the predominantly Puerto Rican and British Caribbean dining out options we had all summer. The crepes are awesome. Bob is amazed that his favorite raw selections of beef carpaccio and steak tartare – hard to find at home – are on just about every menu. I had a Salade Nicoise at Cafe de Paris that was out of this world and no tiny portion, either. We are going to have to exercise moderation here or we will end up fat and broke.

Bob has been working on the energy project and has explored solar and wind generators and improved refrigeration. He is now convinced that a solar system will best meet our needs and help to extend the life of the batteries. He is very focused on this matter. I don’t think he will be doing or thinking about much else until he has made a final selection and placed an order. Hopefully tomorrow!

Inside the Lagoon: Mega-yachts docked on the Dutch side, which accommodates deeper draft vessels. Boats in the distance are at anchor on the French side near the landmark known as Witches Tit. The French side of the Lagoon does not charge anchorage fees and is more popular with the smaller vessels.

Simpson Bay (Dutch) bridge: If the scheduled times don't suit, one can arrange a special bridge opening for $1000.


Tranquil French anchorage mid-Lagoon, and yet another beautiful rainbow


Sandy Ground (French) bridge. We thought the bright yellow banners were promoting a festival until we got closer and saw - oh, no, the bridge is "en panne" - out of order!



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