Z E N I T U D E
Blue Water Dreaming
St Martin, St Barth and Saba - Having fun with friends
Around St Martin - 20 January to 30 March 2007
St. Maarten(Dutch) or St. Martin(French) is an island housing two nations, two cultures, two languages, two currencies and two atmospheres.
St. Maarten the Dutch and southern part of the island is famous for its high rise buildings, nightlife, duty free shopping, cheap happy hours and affordable groceries.
As a small island in the northern Leeward Islands, St Martin has a big appeal. The international airport accommodates large planes and the island is an easy and convenient place to receive friends.
While we were getting Zenitude ready to receive guests we stayed at Marigot Bay. For a small fee you can use the services from Marina Fort-Louis including a safe dinghy dock, laundry services and internet. It was quite a convenient arrangement for us.
St. Martin the French and northern side is an overseas territory of France and a perfect mixture of the French and Caribbean attitudes. French is widely spoken (but most locals do understand and speak English here), buildings are modest, restaurants and groceries more expensive.
We always stay in the French part of the island where we can buy baguettes and wine at a reasonably price and hop on a rental car to the Dutch side when we need provisioning.
The island is also the boating capital of the Caribbean with all kind of merchandise and services. There are marine stores, hardware stores, rigging, canvas and electronic shops, skilled mechanics for all possible boat problems and of all nationalities. We just love it here .
Marina Fort Louis- At the dinghy dock
One of the beautiful beaches in St. Martin
Then, on January 27 our dear friends Donna and Austin arrive. It's Donna's birthday trip and we try to make it really worth it. They are escaping the winter in New Jersey and arrive to sunny St Martin for a week of Caribbean weather.
After a quick visit to town and a fantastic birthday dinner at a famous restaurant in Grand Case we leave Marigot Bay and go around the north tip of the island.
We spend some time in Anse Marsel, visit Tintamare and Orient Bay, stay a day in charming Ilet Pinel, then sail to Ile Fourchue where we spend a quiet overnight.
The weather is fantastic but their visit is short. On their last day we are back in Marigot Bay where they take a 'normal tourist' day, visiting Philipsburg, on the Dutch side and a walk up Fort Louis for a great view of the island.
Time flies and soon we take them back to the airport, a fun week is all of the sudden over.
Donna and Austin sailing around St Martin
The little sucre birds of Ile Pinel - There are more than 20 in the photo, can you spot them all?
Visiting Saba - 15 to 18 February 2007
Saba is a tall, tiny (5 sq. miles) steeply-sided volcanic island with virtually no harbour or shoreline. Because it is difficult to reach by boat and only small aircraft can land at the short runway, it has remained pristine and a delight to explore.
This island is only 28 nm to the southwest of St. Martin but a sail trip to Saba requires good weather information as the stay there tends to be rolly, even untenable under a northerly swell. So, with the blessing of our weather guru Chris Parker, we set sail to Saba one beautiful morning.
The main anchorage, Fort Bay, is on the west coast but it is open and very rolly even on calm days. We stopped there, for the entry procedures, but as soon as this was done we went to Ladder Bay in search of a mooring.
The Saba Marine Park has installed moorings for visiting yachts and dive boats in Ladder Bay. It is quite deep to attempt anchoring, even though we have seen some big boats anchored there. The moorings are available on a first-come basis for a very small fee. If you arrive to Saba and you can’t find an available mooring you will probably be in trouble trying to find a suitable place to stay at night. Luckily a couple of moorings were available when we arrived.
The main village is called ‘The Bottom’ and it sits at the top of ‘The Ladder’ which is an 800-step stairway that leads you from the small rocky beach right at Ladder Bay up to the village. It is a charming and peaceful little town. From this town you can get by taxi to the next town called Windwardside, where you can find many guest houses, shops and dive operators.
The island has only 1 road called "The Road" and before this road was completed in the 1950s, the only way to get from one village to the other was by foot on steeply stepped foot paths and trails.
These trails are now well maintained and hiking is a popular activity. We did the most popular hike on the island, up the 1,064 concrete steps (or so they say, we thought it was at least double this number of steps) to Mount Scenery. The path is easy to follow, but it is a tough climb. It is worth the effort for the spectacular vistas and gorgeous tropical vegetation.
But the island is famous for the superb diving and we decided to take a diving tour with one of the many operators. It is not allowed in Saba to go diving by yourself.
They took us to an underwater plateau in front of the island, about half a mile west of Ladder Bay. The dive takes you from the plateau towards amazing pinnacles which rises from about 60 m to within 27 m of the surface.
We were disappointed with the tour as the dive was way too short. They alleged it was a deep dive and others started running short on air. But the result is that we paid a lot of money for about 10 minutes of really enjoyable underwater views.
The rest of the time we decided to snorkel and enjoy the marine life and the clear waters of this huge volcanic rock that is Saba.
Visiting St Barth - 18 to 23 February 2007
From Saba we sailed to St Barts. We heard that Carnival parade was about to happen in the streets of Gustavia and we decided it was a good time for a visit.
Short for St. Barthelemy, St Bart or St Barth is considered by many to be the Caribbean's most beautiful island, with dozens of white sand beaches, crystal clear waters and a green, hilly landscape with numerous lagoons. It is definitely chic and upscale, and a favorite of the rich and famous.
Gustavia, a duty-free port, is a picturesque place of red-roofed buildings, boutiques, a yacht-filled harbor, and a very relaxed lifestyle.
We visited some beaches and went on several snorkelling trips with our dinghy. Carnival parade draw a big crowd in Gustavia, we enjoyed the street parade and ended up in one of the pubs after meeting cruiser friends that somehow have managed to secure a table.
It was time to go back to St. Martin, get ready to receive friends again and get into the mood of the upcoming famous Heineken regata
The moorings in Ladder Bay
Up 1,064 + steps, why aren't we there yet?
Views from the top ....
A little plaza in Gustavia
Back in St Martin - Friends are coming ....
Marta and Fernando, our great friends from Brazil are in a vacation around the US and have accepted our idea to come and visit us before going back to their home in Rio. They have been in St Martin many times before but this time, we tell them, they'll have Zenitude to sail around.
We always have a fantastic time with them and this time is no different.
We visit Anse Marcel, go for a skin treatment at Tintamare Island, visit Orient Bay and little Ile de Pinel, enjoy a Creole dinner in Grand Case and end up their visit with the full moon party in Friars Beach.
The Heineken regatta is also part of this week's events. The racing and parties are of course legendary, but the overall atmosphere is equally enjoyable.
With Liliana and Eduardo
With Marta and Fernando
We rent a car and we are on our way to the familiar airport once more. We are restless waiting for Liliana and Eduardo, they are coming all the way from Buenos Aires!
Still in St Martin - More friends are coming ....
Zenitude is in beautiful Marigot Bay once more and when they arrive the first thing we do is visit the French supermarket and the French patisseries to get ready for gourmet cruising.
We've been in St. Martin for a while now so we are familiar with the many places where we want to take them. They are with us for 2 weeks so we are able to go around St Martin and visit Saba and St Bart as well. The weather is perfect except for a couple of rainy days.
Food is not a problem in the French island and all our meals are fantastic. They love to come to the markets with us and we enjoy buying all kind of French delicacies, we are so enthusiastic that we often buy more than we can possible eat. There is a trip to buy lobsters and the interesting dinghy ride back, the 4 of us with the 4 live and unhappy lobsters.
With Donna and Austin
Guess what, Liliana and Eduardo, high in the skies
At the market, live lobsters
Sailing wtith the Heineken Regatta
Marta and Fernando, ready for the full moon party
Lunch in Zenitude
Liliana and Eduardo enjoying a swim
Then, all of the sudden, the 2 weeks are over and we are sorry to see them go. Vacation is over for us for the time being as we have to start working on our 'to do' list to get ready to leave this fantastic island.
Our next sailing plans are linked to the West Indies 2007 Cricket World Cup, there are big hopes for Australia and we intend to follow the team as much as we can. With this in mind our next destination is Antigua. Finally on March 30, with good weather we leave towards Jolly Harbor and as we watch St Martin fading behind we are thinking: we'll be back, definitelly.