Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | December 18, 2011

Around The Friendly Island

N 18° 03.77′    W 63° 05.31′

Simpson Bay Lagoon, Marigot, St. Martin

View from Fort Louis overlooking Marigot, Marigot Bay and the Lagoon. Simpson Bay and the southern coastline in the distance.

We had several classic “Chamber of Commerce” weather days this week and spent time visiting more of the French and Dutch sides of St-Martin/Sint Maarten by land and sea.

The peaceful co-existence and collaboration of two countries on this 37 square mile island is a notable accomplishment. While both countries offer gorgeous waterfront and famous beaches, they are strikingly different. Somehow they have figured out how to collaborate to maximize tourism, their primary industry. The tagline “The Friendly Island” seems most appropriate. 

Folklore has it that instead of fighting over the island many years ago, a French and a Dutch representative were assigned to walk the perimeter of the island in different directions until they met on the other side. Their starting and meeting points designated boundaries on the east and west and a line was drawn separating the island into two parts. The Frenchman headed north with a bottle of wine to sustain him along the way, and the Dutchman took off to the south with a bottle of gin. The French ended up with a slightly larger portion of land, explained by the stronger effects of the gin on the Dutchman’s pace.

The Dutch side has much more development, condos, and nightlife. It houses the large international airport, the cruise ship terminal and hosts the majority of the mega yachts visitors at the marinas on the southern portion of the Lagoon. Traffic can be snarly and some days it make take an hour to travel just a few miles. English and Dutch are the official languages and English predominates. Prices are given in dollars and in guilders with dollars readily accepted everywhere.

The French side of the island offers less development, more nature preserves, quaint towns and beautiful villas. French is the official language. In the tourist areas English speakers are readily found.  Menus and print information are frequently offered in a bilingual format. The Euro is the official currency, although most establishments also accept dollars. Some businesses promote 1 Euro = 1 Dollar and that has been attractive with the current exchange rate. 

We moved the boat outside the Lagoon on Tuesday and Wednesday to make water. We exited via the Dutch bridge since the French bridge is still “en panne”with a grim prognosis. We were advised that we didn’t need to go through Dutch customs or pay Dutch bridge fees since we are French marina clients and our bridge is out of order. Another example of cooperation and goodwill between these two nations? We were hesitant, but waved at the bridge tender going in and out and had no questions or hassles. We did not anchor on the Dutch side, except to wait for the bridge, figuring that would be asking for trouble without visiting customs and paying all the fees.

Preferring less crowds and traffic, we picked a day with only one cruise ship in port to visit Phillipsburg. A public bus allows seamless travel around the island between the two countries, another well-coordinated service. It was efficient and inexpensive at $2 per person each way. Whenever we wanted a bus (they were actually various sized vans) one appeared almost immediately. It was much easier than driving in the traffic mess.  Traffic must be really wicked when five or six cruise ships are in port.

I was thrilled this week to arrange a much needed haircut. I have not been in a salon since March. Need I say more. There are lots of salons on this island and too many choices to research.  The pricey French salon vs. the local establishment with a deal on braids?  My problem was solved listening to the cruisers net, a daily VHF radio interaction for cruisers.   A newly arrived sailor and pro hairdresser offered house-call, or shall I say boat-call, haircuts. The locals wouldn’t be pleased, but I decided to go for convenience and help support a fellow cruiser. We also had the chance to meet Kelly & George, an energetic and friendly young couple who have spent the last year making their way south from Chicago on S/V Earthling.  Love their blog and perspective on their travels, link attached.

On the health front, the crew are feeling better this week and Bandit’s limp is slowly improving.

More mega yachts are in port on the Dutch side this week


The anchorage in Baie Longue off of La Samanna resort was a beautiful stop for the night. Pleasant but very cool swimming and crystal clear water for watermaking.


Watching the boats line up for the 9:30 bridge into the Lagoon. The bridge officials encouraged all the boats to hover closely to make the opening as quick as possible.


The Dutch bridge has a 55 foot width and some of the mega yachts literally had only a few feet of clearance on each side. They wisely took their time entering and exiting despite the coaxing of the bridge officials to hurry up.


Our water tanks were filled in time for the 11:30 bridge into the Lagoon. The captain positioned Mar Azul first in line. No problems getting our 15 foot beam through.


A comfy seat on the bus was definitely the way to deal with getting through traffic en route to Phillipsburg although Bob wouldn't have minded the trip via scooter


The beach off the boardwalk in Phillipsburg, sans cruise ship passengers



  1. Glad to hear you are both feeling better!

    You picked a great anchorage beside La Samanna, for your overnight out of the lagoon! There is great snorkelling along the shoreline of Baie Lounge, down from La Samanna.

    It looks like you hiked up to Fort Louis! Did you find the stairway out of town easily?

    I just got back from visiting Doug in Orlando. He is hopeful to make it down to SXM for the later part of February!

  2. Day boats arrived at La Samanna to swim & snorkel and at one point there were about 50 noodlers in the water. The deep water in the anchorage was pretty cold for we Floridians – brrr!!!

    Bob’s good sense of direction got us to Fort Louis. The guide books aren’t very specific – they just say “look up” and you’ll find the fort. We walked up the hill by the Catholic Church and then connected with the stairs. Pretty spot. I need to go back earlier in the am to get better pictures of the harbor.

    Hope we can connect in February!

  3. Hello Bob and Elaine, Looks like you are on a trip of a lifetime. Margaret and I want to wish you a very happy tropical Christmas and Happy sailing for the new year. St Martin has been on our list for a long time. Sam and Margaret Broady

  4. (don’t know if I did every thing right for you to receive, let me know if you got the note Sam)

    • Got your message, Sam! Thanks so much for the warm wishes. Bob should have also connected with you by separate e-mail by now.

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