22 February 2013

St.Maarten vs. St.Martin

in the front: Dutch lagoon / behind the new bridge: the crowded French lagoon

Last season we've been anchored for two weeks in Marigot Bay on the French side of St. Martin as this was more recommended by many cruisers than the Dutch side - as a matter of fact mainly because of the fees. But you know what? It's bullshit, as usual in life you get what you pay for or better: Check it out yourself and don't listen to others. 

Laying in the lagoon (French or Dutch) is anyway not as nice as laying in the clear water bays surrounding the island. Nevertheless, we decided to go in because there was a bad swell predicted. So what are the fees? French lagoon: nothing. Dutch lagoon: bridge fee is USD 21 for boats 12 meter and up and another 20 USD per week. Even though the French lagoon is free, the main anchorage Marigot Bay is not as you have to pay approximately 3 USD a day. Another common cruiser complain is the fact, that the Dutch side has some Coast Guard patrolling. Yes, they may search your boat or check if your dink has light at night. But this controls also help to keep the human trash away which tries to rob your boat. Remember, we wrote about our first incident we had while under way. It was in Marigot Bay and since then Noonsite has published more, very disturbing news for that part of the island. 

As I said, you get what you pay for: The French lagoon is crowded like hell, mostly with French boats. And if you know me you know what that means. French are for sure fantastic sailors, they showed that again at the last Vendee Globe. But I could provide you with scientifically proven material that they cannot anchor! I have seen more French boats dragging than sailing. Really.

This time we discovered some new to us "Dutch advantages". The Check-in was very friendly and yes, we like to stay around some Mega Yachts, it's just amazing what you get to see here. The usual rides to Budget Marine and Island Water World are short. But more important, the anchorage has approximately one third of the boats per m2 than the other side of the lagoon. The restaurants may not be French style, but since we anyway can't afford that every night we like the more fun bars on this side. There is even an adult bar which says they had the nicest butts on the island - Since I was not allowed to check that out in person I have to admit I can't confirm the truth of this interesting statement.  

A short walk or dink ride away is the beach of Simpson Bay - picture postcard like! Another recommendation is the Karakter beach bar. It has more St. Tropez flair than what we saw in real France. Or check out the Indian restaurant Lal's if you like heart rupturing but delicious butter chicken. Nice, tax free shopping is in dink distance. I'm not saying the Dutch lagoon is perfect, the noise of the starting airplanes is astonishing but overall we're happy we checked it out - and we'll come again.

Simpson Bay Beach

In summary: The French lagoon is cheaper. But you might not get the chance to spend the saved money anyway; You're now all night awake, terrified and ready to defend your valuable boat against thieves or to fend that French boat off which dragged on to yours. That's when we sip a beer and listen to some live Jazz in this one nice beach bar. Well worth 20 bucks or so extra a week.


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