Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | January 11, 2012

Mega Yachts and Dinghy Docks

N 18° 03.77′   W 63° 05.31′

Simpson Bay Lagoon, Marigot, St. Martin


Sint Maarten is a favorite destination for mega yachts, both power and sail. We have seen more large private vessels here than in any destination we have visited since leaving the States.

These boats often have huge tenders, bigger than the typical 8 to 11 foot craft we small vessels carry for shore transportation. Sometimes they have multiple tenders of various sizes, some nearly as large as our primary boat! Sharing a dinghy dock with these vessels can be interesting.

The ideal dinghy dock is lower than a regular dock to allow easier access. If it is on a pier, it has some sort of barrier to prevent the boat from getting lodged underneath and trapped in a changing tide. It has a rail or hardware so the dinghy can be tied and locked. Often dinghy docks are far from ideal and we have to improvise. An unused section of seawall, a vacant slip, a dilapidated fishing pier might be the only option. We have been surprised in our travels to find that locations that cater to boaters often have very poor dinghy facilities.  One would think that a welcoming dinghy dock = more boating business. 

The dinghy dock experience is unstructured, to say the least. Free dinghy docks are first come, first serve, with no designated spaces. If the dock appears to be full, one can usually squeeze in between the boats, gently pushing them apart. If the dock is completely jammed it is acceptable to carefully walk over the other dinghies to get to the dock, jump off, and tie a long line. Good dinghy dock etiquette dictates that the motor should be left down, not tilted up, so that it does not damage the other dinghies as the boats move around. A long line or chain is left so that the dinghy can move and other boats can maneuver.

One of the more colorful guides for this area forewarned about the poor etiquette of the mega dinghy operators. The guide explains that the biggest hazard at the island’s dinghy docks are the mega yacht tenders, driven by indifferent crew, who will use our little dinghies as fenders for their huge tenders. The stereotyping sounded extreme. Perhaps a little mega yacht or mega dinghy envy?

One day we were tied up at the Simpson Bay Marina dinghy dock to walk the dogs and check for packages at The Business Point, a mail receiving service. When we came back to the dock, a 20 foot or thereabouts mega dink was backing away pulling our dinghy along with it. The captain had powered over the small dinghies to get closer to the dock and one of our tubes had lodged under his boat. Bob politely alerted the captain “Excuse me sir, you are taking my dinghy with you”. He seemed oblivious. They exchanged a few pleasantries and got the boats separated. A smear of blue bottom paint on the dinghy chaps was the extent of the encounter.

Certainly not all the big boats show blatant discourtesy, but the mismatch in sizes does create problems. In practice there are few alternatives but to use the docks and hope for the best.


Dinghy dock at Shrimpy's is convenient for laundry drop off and pick up

Mega yachts like CakeWalk can carry multiple big tenders inside

Simpson Bay Marina dinghy dock is a common place to observe size mismatches


A typical busy day at the dinghy dock at Marina Port La Royale


Yacht Club Isle de Sol, Snoopy Island - a curious size mismatch at the main docks too!



  1. The mega yachts are amazing! Hard to believe how some people live… Yes, I have “mega yacht envy”! Is Shrimpy’s on the French side? It looks like the area near the French bridge?

  2. Shrimpy’s is on the channel just outside the French bridge. Run by a nice guy named Mike, who also moderates the daily cruisers’ VHF net on Channel 14. He and his family (and dog, Shrimpy) operate the laundry and a couple of yacht assistance services including divers for bottom cleaning. He was located on the Dutch side for many years, then moved the business to the French side. With our self-imposed water restrictions while in the Lagoon we are taking advantage of the great laundry service.

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