Saba to Sint Maarten
After those few unforgettable days in Saba we set sail for Sint Maarten, 25 NM north. For the first time since I don’t remember when we are not tacking against the wind, we are not heading east towards the trades! We are almost on a beam reach and Fata is doing 6 to 8 knots! Way to go Fata! The wind is 20-22 knots and the waves are 5-6 feet but not against us for a change. It’s a nice sail.
We arrive in Philipsburg after only 4 hours of sailing, with a small tuna, about 20 pounds, we caught just outside the reefs. The kids are not too excited about the tuna, especially Maya. Now we’ll have to eat tuna for a month, she almost cries.
Sint Maarten and Saint-Martin
Saint Martin is an island in the northeast Caribbean, 300 km (190 mi) east of Puerto Rico. The 87 square km (34 sq mi) island is divided roughly 60/40 between France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is one of the smallest sea islands divided between two nations. The southern Dutch part comprises Sint Maarten and is one of four constituent countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The northern French part comprises the Collectivité de Saint-Martin and is an overseas collectivity of France. (from Wikipedia)
The unofficial story behind the relatively civilized division of the island in 1648 after some years of dispute between France and Holland goes like this:
Each country chose a walker, a French guy and a Dutch guy, put back to back in one end of the island, and made to walk in opposite directions along the shore. The line between the starting point and the point where they met became the border. The French ended up with a bigger chunk of the island because, they say, the French guy who was hydrating himself with wine while walking was less drunk and therefore faster walker than the Dutch guy who was drinking Jenever (Dutch Gin). The Dutch say, the French guy cheated, blaming him for running, which was against the rules.
Even though smaller in territory, the Dutch side is more popular than the French side, with its cheaper currency and duty-free shops. With a large international airport and a sea port for cruise ships, the main economy on the island is tourism.
After a few days at anchor in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten’s capital, we became bored with nothing interesting to see or do really. The place is noisy, crowded with tourists pouring from cruise ships almost daily. There are some hiking trails in the hills, but nothing like the ones on Saba. There are lots of beaches, most full with people, but nothing like the beaches in the Bahamas or the BVI.
Yet, there are a couple of good reasons making it worth stopping in Sint Maarten: the beer and the cheese.
Next to the marina in Philipsburg there is a place, like a museum or an art gallery, only there is no art in it but cheese. Amsterdam Cheese and Liquor Store. Hundreds of cheese varieties coming straight from Amsterdam all presented in a big showroom. The best thing about it is that it’s cheap (and there are free samples!). We bought a few wheels of Gouda, 8 pounds for $30 cash each.
And there is the beer. Sint Maarten is a famous beer haven. Duty free shops sell Heineken, Corona and Presidente for less than 1 dollar the bottle. Every time we go someplace we always return on the boat hauling cases of Presidente, our favorite, stocking up for down the islands where one beer costs 4 -5 dollars.
Life can be real good in the Caribbean, sitting in the cockpit, cool breeze, watching the sunset, sipping cold beer, eating cheese cubes…
Evo’s Green Heaven