Anguilla - Road BayBy Sheryl Shard
Photos by Paul and Sheryl Shard

“Simpson Bay Bridge. Simpson Bay Bridge. This is the sailing vessel, Distant Shores II, standing by for the 8:30 outgoing opening.”

“Roger. Roger. Cap'. Bring her right up. The bridge will be opening in five minutes.”

I set down my handheld VHF radio which was set to channel 12 for bridge communications and glanced around while my husband and long-time boating partner, Paul, moved our Southerly 49 sailboat as safely as possible up to the bridge channel entrance keeping an eye on the affect of wind and current on the boat's position.

St. Martin/St. Maarten
It was a sunshine-filled spring day in the Caribbean island of St. Martin, a unique island that is divided in two and managed by two different nations. The region to the north is owned by France and the region to the south is owned by the Netherlands (Sint Maarten in Dutch). The story goes that in days of old following a fight over the island, the French and Dutch decided the best way to resolve ownership was to appoint a Frenchman armed with a bottle of wine to walk in one direction and a Dutchman armed with a flask of gin to walk in the other direction around the island which is barely seven miles in each direction. Where they met became the boundary. The French ended up with a bit more territory than the Dutch because the gin was stronger than the wine. There is no historical fact to this story but it is well-loved and describes the whimsical atmosphere of the island.

St Martin - Marigot BayPaul and I were on the Dutch side of St. Martin at the moment, hovering in the shallow interior waters of Simpson Bay Lagoon, waiting to exit through the Simpson Bay Bridge into the bright blue Caribbean Sea beyond. Behind us, forming a neat line, were several charter boats, a mix of monohulls and catamarans with excited bareboat crews aboard, and two gleaming megayachts with all hands standing-by in crisp uniforms positioning enormous fenders and conversing to one another via headsets in preparation for transiting the bridge. Despite our differing levels of experience, income and the type of boats we were traveling on, we were all of the same tribe, loving to be out on the water, and eagerly awaiting the first bridge opening of the day so we could all head out to sea for new adventures.

The island of St. Martin is considered to be the yachting capital of the Caribbean where all supplies and services needed by sailors, powerboaters, charter fleets and megayacht owners can be found. As icing on the cake, supplies are all duty-free for yachts in transit. As a result, St. Martin is a cruising sailor’s crossroads where we and most sailors spend a little time each season to make repairs, do annual maintenance, have spare parts shipped in, stock up on provisions and catch up with sailing friends we have befriended in ports all around the globe.

St. Martin/St. Maarten is also a great place to dine out since the selection of international cuisine is top-notch yet there are abundant sailors' bars and beach bars to fit every budget. And the number of golden sand beaches is pretty much unmatched by any other Caribbean islands making it the region's most popular (and busy) holiday destination. Ready and refreshed after a visit here, everyone travelling by boat heads off to explore the charming islands surrounding St. Martin, to sail up- or down-island or jump off for big offshore passages or ocean crossings for which St. Martin is also well positioned.

St Martin - Sandy Ground BridgeWith all this going for it, it is not surprising that the island of St. Martin is also the headquarters for many charter fleets. If you are new to bareboat chartering, a week's cruise around the island is a delight since not only are there steady reliable tradewind conditions, many anchorages and excellent marina facilities, you also get to experience the cultures, cuisines and protocols of two different European nations in one destination.

If, on the other hand, you are looking for a chartering experience where you can stretch your skills a little and do some blue water sailing to other islands in a safe environment the island of St. Martin is definitely worth investigating since you can make short offshore daysails to the British island of Anguilla to the north, the French island of St. Barthelemy to the southeast and the Dutch island of Saba to the southeast. On most days with good visibility all three islands are within view when you leave St. Martin.

A real plus is that St. Martin is easy to get to. The Princess Juliana International Airport on the Dutch side of the island is a Caribbean hub with direct flights from major cities in Canada, the USA and Europe making it easy for guests and crews to fly in without having to waste time making connections allowing them to get out on the water as soon as possible. The cruising destinations from St. Martin as a base are only limited by time, weather, the charter companies' restrictions and experience.

Bing. Bing. Bing.
We could hear the barrier gates on the bridge go down to stop the traffic on the road so the bridgetender could raise the single bascule bridge allowing us to transit out of the lagoon. There are only two ways to exit the huge Simpson Bay Lagoon which spans into both the French and Dutch territory and harbours hundreds of boats at anchor as well as several marinas and boat yards. On the Dutch side you exit from the Simpson Bay Bridge at Cole Bay and on the French side you exit at Sandy Ground Bridge at the main town of Marigot. Spanning the lagoon on the Dutch side near the border is the new Causeway Bridge allowing you passage from one territory to the other. All bridges have scheduled openings throughout the day.

Anguilla - Don't drink and Jibe T-Shirt“This is the Simpson Bay Bridge. The bridge is now opening. All vessels proceed to the bridge.”
Having been stuck in road traffic on many occasions which can back up for miles if there are lots of boats transiting, Paul had positioned Distant Shores II to slide through the opening just as the bridge was safely open so no time would be delayed. The boats behind us kept up close and no one was tempted to slow down or, heaven forbid, stop and look around to decide which way to go which would cause a pile up of boats behind them that were sliding through the bridge opening with nowhere to go to avoid them.

Ahhh. Out into the wide blue yonder.

We had cleared out of the Dutch side of St. Martin the night before so our options were open. We could carry on to Marigot to anchor off the picturesque town (port fees apply) and clear in at the port authority office at Marigot Ferry Dock or at the capitainerie in Port La Royale in the lagoon. If we chose to stay at Marina Port Louis the marina staff handles clearance for their customers. It is a delight to stroll through the town, climb up to the old fort for fabulous views of the island and lagoon, hunt for bargains at the straw market at the waterfront and, best of all, enjoy French restaurants, bakeries and cafes.

Just up the way a little further north is the anchorage of Friars Bay that has a reasonable beach and beach bar, good for a lunch stop on your way on to Grand Case. Grand Case is the gastronomic centre of St. Martin and during high season there is a weekly street party. Definitely plan to eat out here. The anchorage of Baie Grand Case can be a little rolly so plan your visit accordingly.

St Maarten - AccraCarrying on around the French side of St. Martin you reach Anse Marcel on the north end where you can anchor and enjoy the beach or opt for a peaceful night in the Anse Marcel Marina. Continue your cruise with a daysail to the small offshore islet of Tintamarre where you can pick up a marine park mooring. Tintamarre is about 120 feet high and just over a mile long. It has a fabulous beach along it's western shore and many walking trails.

Make your final stops at Orient Bay (we like to anchor behind Green Cay if conditions allow) where you'll find another remarkable beach and Oyster Pond (watch the reefs and follow the channel markers going into the harbour here). Oyster Pond is a completely protected lagoon where you'll find the Sunsail Charter base and enjoy the amenities of Captain Oliver's Marina.

St. Barthelemy
St. Barthelemy (St. Barts) lies to the east-southeast of St. Martin so is an easy offshore daysail. It's just a 12-mile sail to windward from Philipsburg or a fast 15-mile tack from the north end of St. Martin. Clear into St. Barthelemy at the port of Gustavia. There is an anchorage which can be a little rolly but if you are fortunate to find room in the inner harbour tied into the “trots” where you tie to a mooring at both bow and stern you will be very comfortable. This island is the playground of the rich and famous so shopping is fun. A popular and quiet natural anchorage can be found on the northwest corner at Anse de Colombier.

Saba
Anguilla - Sandy IslandThe small steepsided Dutch island of Saba lying to the southwest of St. Martin is a real treasure and one of our favourite Caribbean islands although it is somewhat challenging to visit. The anchorages are open roadsteds, deep and usually rolly in light conditions and treacherous in strong wind and swell conditions. Chose your weather carefully. The marine park here has 10 well maintained moorings on the west coast available on a first-come-first-serviced basis as well as four moorings in the commercial harbour at Fort Bay on the south coast. Hiking in the rain forest is the main attraction here along with the friendly people who live in small charming villages at “the top of the rock”.

Anguilla
We recently re-discovered Anguilla, the British island lying to the north-west of St. Martin. Our first visit was in 1992 and after that many restrictions were brought in involving expensive cruising permits to sail around the island and out to its outer islands. All this is for good reason since it is a small island with fragile reef systems but we hesitated to go back. However, this year we returned and were delighted that we did. The port of call for recreational boats visiting the island is Road Bay on the north coast where there is a lovely beach with many great beach bars and restaurants. There is no charge to stay here and you need go no further if you are on a schedule. To go anywhere else with your boat you must purchase a cruising permit. Day permits expire at midnight. It was $50 US per day for our Southerly 49 sailboat. Best option seems to be to rent a car or take a taxi tour to see this island. It's known for it's beautiful pristine beaches and luxurious resorts and they exceeded our expectations.

Saba - Small VillagesWhether you are looking for an easy relaxing place to charter with some international flair or wanting to extend yourself with some safe offshore sailing to different islands, St. Martin as a base offers it all.

Fast Facts
Sunsail Yacht Charters
http://www.sunsail.com/yacht-charter/destinations/caribbean/st-martin/st-martin

Horizon Yacht Charters
http://horizonyachtcharters.com/stmaarten/

St. Martin Yacht Charters
http://stmartin-yachtcharters.com/

Dream Yacht Charters
http://www.dreamyachtcharter.com/english/destinations/caribbean/st-martin/

St. Maarten Yacht Club – Home of Heineken Regatta
http://www.yachtclubsxm.com/

St Martin - ProvisionsPrincess Juliana International Airport
http://www.sxmairport.com/

Cruising Guide Publications
“The Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands – Northern Edition Anguilla through Montserrat”
by Chris Doyle
http://www.cruisingguides.com/

St. Martin Tourist Office
http://www.stmartinisland.org/

St. Maarten Tourism Bureau
http://www.vacationstmaarten.com/#/

St. Barthelemy (St. Barts) Tourism Office
http://www.saintbarth-tourisme.com/en

Saba Tourist Bureau
http://www.sabatourism.com/

Anguilla Tourist Board
http://ivisitanguilla.com/

Photo Captions
Photo 1 - Anguilla – Road Bay, Port of Call: Road Bay is the port of call for recreational yachts clearing in and out of Anguilla. There is no charge to anchor in this harbour which has a lovely beach and many beach bars and restaurants. There are many restrictions and somewhat expensive cruising permits if you sail to other bays or the
outer islands so on a short cruise it is a delight to anchor in Road Bay and explore this delightful island by rental car or taxi tour and visit the out islands using affordable local ferries or excursion boats as an alternative.
Photo 2 - St. Martin – View of Marigot Bay & Simpson Bay Lagoon: View from Fort Louis looking down on Marigot Bay, Marina Port St. Louis and Simpson Bay Lagoon in the distance.
Photo 3 - St. Martin – Exiting lagoon at Sandy Ground Bridge: The Sandy Ground Bridge on the French side of the island is one of two ways to exit Simpson Bay Lagoon.
Photo 4 - Anguilla – Don't Drink and Jibe T-shirt: Partying and sailing seem to go together but here's a reminder: “Don't Drink and Jibe”.
Photo 5 -St. Maarten – Salt Fish Appetizers called Accra: Salt fish (dried cod) is a staple throughout the Caribbean and it is used in many local dishes. A popular appetizer with drinks is this area is salt fish fritters called “accra”.
Photo 6 - Anguilla – Beach at Sandy Island: A magical desert island. A great place to relax and get away from it all. You can rent the whole island for private events such as weddings.
Photo 7 - Saba – Charming homes in the small villages of Saba: The Sabans are proud of their island and maintain their traditional homes in pristine condition.
Photo 8 - St. Martin – Paul with a dinghy-load of provisions: Even if your boat is at anchor it is easy to stock up in St. Martin/St. Maarten.

Related Articles
Yacht Clubs
  • 22 May 2019
  • By Ethan

NWE comes to Canoe Cove

North West Explorations (NWE), The Pacific Northwest based yacht charter and brokerage, and marine services company will anchor itself in the Canadian market this spring.  

Lifestyle

  • Prev
I am new to boating. Bought a 2019 Ranger Tug in April followed by taking a short boating course ...
Arie and Maribeth sent us this photo from their honeymoon departing Killarney…I think they were in ...
This shot was taken last week by Jessica Lee, a freelance photography pro, Albacore racer and part ...
On a sunny and windless day we led Alicia and another sailboat into New York Harbour. There were ...
It was a trip 2 or 3 years ago, and all 4 boats traveled up to the Killarney area in a ...
My name is Alexandrine GOVAN, mother of a 5 years old girl and I found your contact on internet. ...
John Booth, who passed away just a few weeks ago was one of the most amazingly gifted and ...
We left Vero Beach on Saturday morning with Alicia, a boat from Sweden, following close behind. The ...
At the end of last month, Canadian sailors gathered on the Palma Beach in Palma de Mallorca, Spain ...
In 2019, C-TOW celebrates its 35th anniversary of providing 24/7 “Peace of Mind Boating” for ...

DIY & How to

  • Prev
On the Friday before a weekend with a gorgeous forecast, I heard on the news that a boat had ...
A reader suggested we take a look at anchors. Anchoring seems simple enough. A weighted hook with a ...
If you’ve spent any time in a boat yard during spring commissioning season, you won’t find it out ...
As a busy marine mechanic, I tend to have the same or similar conversations often, and they’re ...
This time of year, great deals abound. That boat with the ‘for sale’ sign looks quite attractive. ...
For less than US$2,500, Jim Leshaw, a lawyer who lives and works in Key Biscayne, Florida, ...
Each spring, I tend to notice canvas. I wish it was because it’s been immaculately maintained and ...
I’ve had two emails over the past few weeks with a count-down to launch (47 days per the last ...
Last time we looked at making proper electrical connections – the tools, supplies and methods ...
Winter is a great time to look at some of the hidden spaces on your boat – to take stock of what is ...

Cables SecuredOn the Friday before a weekend with a gorgeous forecast, I heard on the news that a boat had exploded at a local marina; the boat’s operator was seriously injured. At the time, I heard that authorities were investigating and were attempting to determine the cause of the explosion and fire.

What would I do if an explosion occurs on a boat that I was working on? What was the cause? How could this happen?


 

 

Read more about Safe Starts............

 

  

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
The Canadian Yachting test crew last week had the opportunity to run the Bavaria S36 HT at St ...
ILCA is seeking new builders to complement its existing network of manufacturers, the International ...
Nelson Gilbert (1854-1921) began building canoes in Brockville in the 1890s, a time when the sport ...
I have heard a lot of talk lately about trends in yacht clubs where senior membership is getting ...
To get you in the mood for cruising the Boat Show then launching in spring, here’s a boat that ...
Quite simply, the styles of boats have changed. Where in past years a buyer might have been looking ...
At the boat shows, the Ranger Tugs’ classic tugboat lines always grab the crowds, with the wives ...
Sometimes a great idea requires an encore, and French yacht builder Jeanneau got that with the ...
Tactical Custom Boats announces the sale to a North American client of a custom Tactical 77’ – Fast ...
Bruce Elliott is an inventor. And when he sold the technology he developed to build utility poles ...

Beneteau Oceanis 30.1The Oceanis official US debut will be at the upcoming Newport International Boat Show in September and will be featured at the United States Sailboat show in Annapolis in October.

With an overall size under 30 feet and a light displacement of less than 8,805 lbs., the Oceanis is easily trailerable without a wide load permit. If you prefer to access your sailing grounds by canals and rivers, the lifting keel and rotating mast open a world of endless possibilities. Perfect for sailing on lakes or for coastal hopping, this new Oceanis is, nevertheless, a robust category B sailing yacht, fitted for offshore sailing. The smallest of the range offers the biggest choice of programs! 

Read more about the Beneteau Oceanis 30.1............................

 

Grady White Freedom 235 Dual ConsoleBy Jill Snider

Once again, I had the pleasure of joining CY’s test guru Andy Adams on a boat review. This time, out on Georgian Bay, we put the Grady White Freedom 235 Dual Console to the test. There are so many great things to tell you about this classic beauty.

Andy
If I were required to compare Grady White’s Freedom 235 Dual Console to an animal, I would tell you that she has the character of a Labrador Retriever. Here are a few reasons why...

Read More about the Grady White Freedom 235 Dual Console......................


Coal Harbour MarinaVancouver is ranked one of the most liveable cities in the world. You can explore much of the cityscape by water and moor at several marinas. The city offers the marine visitor a panoply of fine dining, waterside pubs, shopping and cultural amenities.

English Bay and False Creek, one of the choice urban boating destinations in North America, bring you into the heart of the city. Good moorage and anchorages are available and there is lots happening both on the water and all along the shoreline.

 

 

Read more about Vancouver...........

 

Marine Products

  • Prev
The Seabin device part of the Oak Bay Marine Group trial, has had promising results so far while ...
When I took the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV down to Wednesday night racing, the people that came over ...
Protecting your boat from scratches and dents isn’t always easy. That’s why the Big Bumper Company ...
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA - Forespar has just introduced a new smaller size version of their ...
As boaters we all have a very unique connection to the water and all the opportunities it presents. ...
Edited by the Quebec Marine Association under the direction of L'Escale Nautique (producer of the ...
Blue Guard has announced the general availability of the BG-One, a solid-state bilge pump switch, ...
With the introduction of the Ion Power Basic, a safe Lithium Ion battery formulated with Lithium, ...
Finding a car brand that you enjoy while it does what you need can be tough, as they can be ...
Yikes! No boat refrigeration? You’ve Got to be Kidding me!! But then again, true campers don’t use ...