Cruising St Martin.       French courtesy flag    Netherlands Antilles flag    Contact me.

This page updated: April 2015



Overview
Legalities
Places
Facilities


Overview



St Martin (French) courtesy flag    Sint Maarten (Netherlands) courtesy flag

French and Dutch; north half is French.

Guidebooks:
"Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands" by Chris Doyle.
"Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands" by Stephen Pavlidis.

Cruisersnet.info
Sint Maarten Cruisers & Boaters (SXM) Group on Facebook

Do cruiser-hailing on VHF channel 10.
Cruiser's radio net: VHF 10 at 0730 MTWRFS; starts with weather.
Marine weather on 91.9 FM at 0900 and 1200.
Some BBC content on 101.5 FM, 1300 AM ?
Sometimes in early morning can hear 970 AM (from USVI) and 1000 AM.
BBC on 95.5 FM and 99.9 FM from midnight to 5 AM.
BBC on 9740 from 0700 to 0900.

Weather radio:
- Daily (except Sunday) net at 0730 on VHF 10.
- Weather 1300 AM at 0830, 102.7 FM at 0930.
- FM 91.9
- TV channel 9.

Security: While I was there 1/2010, a boat anchored in the Lagoon just W of the French bridge was boarded by (possibly armed) thieves at night. The owners came back in the dinghy, saw the thieves, left them alone, and the thieves left. Apparently, this is a reasonably common occurrence. And I think the French side near the bridge and Marigot may be the worst area. There are reports about dinghy thefts, too (at night, I think, both from dinghy-docks and from boats). 4/2010 a couple of laptops were stolen from a boat anchored in Simpson Bay, on an evening when the owners were ashore at a cruiser's get-together. End of 4/2010 (as Carnival started up): two or three armed robberies of cruisers at or near the dinghy-docks in Marigot, at least two of them in the Port Royal basin in early evening.

Security: 6/2012: lots of dinghy-thefts and boat-burglaries reported in the Lagoon. Sounds like a bad situation.



Legalities



Must have an exit clearance from previous country.

Supposed to clear in/out when moving big boat between sides of the island. No problem when moving from one side to the other by land or dinghy. I have seen police patrols in the Lagoon, and they may check to see if you're anchored on the same side that you checked-in on.

French-side legalities:
[From noonsite:] French-side fees have increased 1/2009: 20 Euro upon arrival, 5 Euro upon departure. [My experience: 5 Euro arrival.]
Anchoring in Marigot Bay is now very expensive: .35 Euro/meter/day for the boat; Euro is about $1.40 8/2009; works out to about $7/day for my 44-foot boat.
There is currently no charge for French lagoon, Grand Case, etc ... only for Marigot Bay.

Port Authority Hours: MTWRF 0800-1200 and 1400-1600, Saturday 0800-1200.

Marina Fort Louis office is on Marigot waterfront opposite Marina Fort Louis; department is named DISSILEC, and hours are MTWRFSS 0700-1900.

From Ed Kelly on "Angel Louise" 4/2009:
... anchored for free on the French side in the Lagoon ($8 check-in if go in bridge at Marigot) ...

St Martin charges for being out in the Bay at Marigot only. I think that was the fee they were charging. But we got by it, by making a day trip from the NE BVIs at Virgin Gorda on the North end.

If you leave at 4 AM, get to Marigot Bay as dusk falls ... (it's easy anchoring and nice bay) ... Go through the French Bridge at Marigot into the Bay at the first opening and check in that morning. Tell them you arrived in at 4 AM the same day you checked in, just to wait for the bridge; they may not charge you. It is free in the French side of the Lagoon.

The French suspended their fees. To go in through the Dutch Bridge it's like $35 and then they charge you a daily fee to anchor on the Dutch side. It's pricey. But if you stay on the French side you can dinghy to the Dutch side ... leave boat at Sint Maartin Yacht Club dock next to the Dutch Bridge for free and enjoy the place. ...

French were easygoing ... We loved it there. They had a bus type system similar to the Safari bus at St Thomas only nicer taxis.

They have a cool VHF net every morning with lots of info. It's a cruiser's graveyard as so many do not want to leave.

We found the most supplies, best prices, and easiest living in St Martin, even better than the USVIs.

My experience 11/2009:
Anchored briefly in Marigot Bay and caught the French bridge 0815 opening to get into the Lagoon. (No need to check in with Customs/Immigration beforehand.)

Bridge channel is hard to see from the Bay; it's at longitude 63.05.843, just west of big rocky bluff. Bridge tender doesn't answer radio until 15 minutes before opening; got the bridge tender by calling for "Sandy Ground Bridge" on VHF 16. Call to make sure he knows there is incoming traffic. There is a traffic light on the bridge to tell you when to go, but it's hard to see unless you're in the right position. Outgoing traffic comes out first. May be current of a knot or so.

Customs/Immigration is an office in the middle of the ferry dock complex in Marigot. $8 to check in; stay as long as you please. Asked where I was anchored; I said "in the Lagoon"; no further questions.

Lagoon is huge; lots of empty anchoring space. Lots of high-speed skiff and powerboat traffic, at least along north side of Lagoon, and down west side of Witches Tit; watch out for big wakes and dangerous traffic close to your boat.

Easier: check in/out in marina in Lagoon, nearest Marigot. In Marina Royale, at building called The Capitanerie. Closed from 12-3 for siesta.


Dutch-side legalities:
5/2008 we checked in to the Dutch side on a 47-foot boat, and paid a $40/week "harbor fee", plus tax. Fee schedule says 47-footer will be $5 to clear out, and would be $60 bridge fee to enter the Lagoon.

As of 1/1/2011, bridge and harbour fees will be reduced slightly for boats in 26- to 59-foot category. Reduction is about 25%.

Items from (Dutch, Simpson Bay Lagoon Authority) fee schedule 5/2008:
- Harbor fee: $20/week or portion of week for 8-13 meters long, $40/week for 13-18 meters. No mention of monthly or seasonal rates.
- Harbor clearance fee: $5 for 1-99 gross tons.
- Bridge fee to enter the Lagoon: $10 for 8-13 meters long, $30 for 12-15 meters, $60 for 15-18 meters.
- Office is just outside the Simpson Bay bridge; open every day (including Sundays and holidays) 0800-1800.

From Ed Kelly on "Angel Louise" 9/2009:
> I always assumed the Lagoon was chock-full of boats, and everyone
> wanted to be in there because of the shelter, and the overflow went
> to Marigot Bay. Now I'm told no, there is plenty of unused room
> in the Lagoon, lots of people like to be out in Marigot because
> the water is cleaner, they can day-sail, etc. Which is it ?

We did stay overnight in Marigot, and it is way cleaner, but they charged for Marigot (unless you tell em you just got there in the middle of the night and just waited for the bridge opening ... ahem ... and they let you go).

Go in the French-side bridge.

Knew a boat with a six foot draft that got in through the channel and no problem.

You need to anchor on the FRENCH side of the lagoon ... we did so under the witches tit. After you go in the Marigot bridge (Dutch side charges $30 to go in their side) you just turn right and stay in the channel. No problems. Plenty of room. I would not drink the water, but hey, you cannot have everything.

Some people seem to be confused about the "two countries, one island" situation. But it's simple: if you check in on one side, you need to clear out of that side before checking in anywhere else (including the other side). So it is wrong to do something like check in on the Dutch side, then move to the French side and check in there. And if you do that, the weekly fees on the Dutch side will keep building up until you finally check out of the Dutch side, even though you thought you were staying on the French side.

1/2010: There is some confusion about the French charge for anchoring in Marigot Bay. Some people say only part of the bay is controlled by the "harbor", and is charged for; the other part is controlled by the "municipality", and is free. Some say the legality of the charge is unclear, and if you refuse to pay you won't be forced to. Some say the police no longer stop at boats to collect the fee; some say they do. In the Customs/Immigration office at the ferry dock in Marigot, the officer says they charge for anchoring anywhere in the Bay; there is no dividing line. My feeling: don't anchor in Marigot Bay.

In the dinghy: must have a light (even just a flashlight) at night; large fine if you don't. Also at all times must have a lifejacket and paddles (although the paddles may not be enforced very much) and maybe an anchor.







Places



Island is just loaded with marinas, boatyards, and stores.
Prices for everything except fuel are lower on the Dutch side ?
Duty-free, and maybe a discount for cash.

Main harbors:
- Marigot Bay (access to town of Marigot, which is most cafes and shops, plus ferry dock and bus access, a few boatyards and bigger stores);
- Simpson Bay Lagoon (divided in middle by French/Dutch line; most marine facilities are on south side; too many marine and shopping facilities to list).
North/French bridge: hail on VHF 16; bridge schedule is 3 openings/day except Sundays and holidays. As of 4/2015, times are 0900, 1430, 1730.
South/Dutch bridge: need to sign a form at Immigration to go through; hail on VHF 12; bridge schedule is 3 openings/day for each direction.
Central/causeway bridge: VHF 12; only about 6 feet depth through there.
- Simpson Bay (exposed to S; best place to check in/out on Dutch side; water may be polluted);
- Philipsburg (exposed to S; marine stores, Radio Shack, supermarkets, etc).
Small canal (in NW corner of Lagoon ?) has sewage in it.

From Jerry on "Persephone": Wonderful food on French side, and beautiful people.

Nude beach: Orient Bay Beach on east side of St. Martin; great anchorage and beach.

Snorkeling: at Ile Pinel, and Green Cay. But the island seems more of a dive place than a snorkeling place.

Philipsburg: cruise-ship-tourist place.

My experience 11/2009 - 3/2010:
  • Anchoring:
    Lagoon is huge, shallow; lots of empty anchoring space. Seems to be good holding in deeper parts, but very shallow parts are grassy and you may have trouble getting anchors to stick.
    There is a dividing line (on chart) between French and Dutch sides, and you must anchor on the side you checked-in on. But then you can dinghy or walk on either side.
    Lots of high-speed skiff and powerboat traffic, at least along north side down channel from Marigot and then to NW corner of Lagoon; watch out for big wakes close to your boat. Also a lot of traffic down the W side of the Witches Tit.

  • General strategy:
    Anchor in the Lagoon, take busses around the island, and maybe take ferries to Anguilla and St Barts.
    NE end of Lagoon has boatyards and repair shops, one big supermarket, one home-and-garden store and one marine store, and town of Marigot (useful mainly for ferry dock, Customs/Immigration, tourist info center, catching busses).
    SE end of Lagoon has marinas and marine stores and cruiser's bars and cruiser's services.

  • Bus system:
    No route map or schedules.
    Fare is $2 for non-locals.
    Few posted stops except in Marigot; just flag down a bus wherever you see it.
    They run until about 8 PM at night, I'm told. Fairly often during day, less often after dark.
    But I'm told: vans between Marigot and Grand Case run only until about 6 PM in the evening.
    From a tourism site:
    Buses run from about 6 in the morning to midnight and can be boarded at bus stops in towns or flagged down anywhere along the roads. They leave every hour from Grand Case and travel to Marigot, Cole Bay, Simson Bay, Mullet Bay and other major towns on the island. There are also Marigot-Philipsburg, Orleans-Philipsburg, and French Quarter-Philipsburg connections. Buses connect towns but don't generally serve the island's beaches.
    Just go into Marigot, go to main road on south side heading toward Dutch side, look for bus that says "Phillipsburg" on card in windshield, flag it down, usually pay when you exit ($2). Reverse in Phillipsburg. Bus that says "Maho Bay" or "Mullet Bay" or "Mlt Bay" goes past airport. In general, bigger busses do the Marigot/Phillipsburg route; smaller busses do other routes. Major routes (Marigot/Phillipsburg, Phillipsburg/Maho) seem to run very frequently.

    I'm told by a local and a van driver: generally busses/vans don't go to Orient Beach; that's a tourist destination, and you'll need to get a taxi.

  • Hurricane hole:
    Guy from "Tabascocat" recommends going into Plaisance marina if a hurricane threatens; they have special deals in the off-season, and it's a very strong marina.
    I'd guess the biggest danger in a hurricane would be other boats dragging into you. My boat has a shallow draft, so I'd be inclined to find the shallowest water I could tolerate, maybe the cove on NE side of "The Witches Tit". But boats would be pouring into the Lagoon from elsewhere just before a hurricane. Bottom in the Lagoon is a bit grassy, especially in shallower areas. There has been carnage in the Lagoon when hit by a hurricane or even an unexpectedly strong tropical storm.


Grand Case: one side of dock is for commercial boats; they get aggressive and hostile if you tie up dinghy there. Dock is very rough on dinghies; use a stern anchor. Town is mostly restaurants and cafes; a couple of small grocery stores, an internet cafe, a pharmacy. Snorkeling at Rocher Creole is pleasant, nothing great.


Facilities



Stores on Dutch side: Cost-U-Less; Le Grande Marche on roundabout on the way to Phillipsburg is largest supermarket; Sang's Super Center near Bobby's Marina in Phillipsburg.

Stores on French side: Match Supermarket in Howell Center in Marigot; U.S. Supermarche in Gran Case.

My experience 11/2009 - 1/2010:
  • Book-exchanges:
    At Lagoon Marina ("Lagoonies"; orange building), upstairs in marina office; big; open weekdays only.
    At Maintec, next to Lagoonies in the FKG yard. Go into waterfront-end of two-story building, up yellow interior stairs, into office.
    At Palapa Marina, in office; small.
    At Yacht Club, next to Dutch bridge ?
    At Simpson Bay Marina, in the Business Point store.
    At Red Cross ?
    At Bobby's marina/boatyard at the airport (on north side of runway), next to office; big but very dusty and old and lots of gnats.
    At Time Out boatyard, in office; very small.
    At Capitanerie office in Marina Port le Royale (Marigot); tiny.


  • Internet:
    • Wi-Fi at bar at Lagoonies. Buy a drink ($2) and ask for the Wi-Fi password. They charge an extra $1 if you plug into AC power.
    • Wi-Fi at bar "The Turtle Pier", in yellow building at small marina most of the way down to the airport terminal. Cruiser's gathering there every Wednesday evening; from 5-7, $1 beer, $3 hamburger, $3 fries.
    • Wi-Fi at Jimbo's restaurant at Simpson Bay marina. Staff doesn't start opening the place until 10, so you could be there for free from 8 to 9:30 or so.
    • Using own laptop at The Mailbox (at Palapa Marina and walk N, or dinghy ashore at Portofino Marina and walk S), five 2-hour chunks of time for $25. MTWRF 0800-2000, SS 0900-1700. Air-conditioned. Ethernet, not Wi-Fi.
    • At The Business Point (in Simpson Bay Marina). Using own laptop (Ethernet) $5/hour; using their PC is more. Air-conditioned.
    • Paid Wi-Fi services from the boat cost $90/month or more, and someone said they're not too reliable.
    • I'm told best on-boat system is Scarlet, available at shop between Palapa and Portofino marinas. Not cheap (even more than paid Wi-Fi), and requires AC power (or maybe could arrange something with 6 VDC). For a several-month stay it would cost: $5 setup fee, $150 refundable deposit, $120/month for lowest speed.


  • Libraries:
    • Marigot: on side of Palais du Justice building, across street from police station. Hours something odd like M 1400-1900 TW 0900-1900 RF 1100-1900 Sat 1100-1500. Almost all materials in French, but a few English-language newspapers.
    • Phillipsburg: ???.


  • Plane flights:
    Airport in Lagoon is Princess Juliana International Airport (symbol SXM).
    $30 departure tax for flying out; cash or traveler's check; might be included in your ticket price.
    Get someone to dinghy you ashore to Palapa or Portofino marina, and take Maho/Mullet bus which goes past airport. Or have someone dinghy you ashore to right across the street from the terminal, near the rental-car companies on the waterfront; costs $3/person to land.

  • Car rental:
    Do not leave anything valuable unattended in a rental car, even in the trunk, even if the car is locked, even briefly. It seems thieves specially target rental cars.

  • Propane refill:
    Drop off tank at 8 AM at Island Water World on Monday, and get filled tank back around 4. $20 for 20 pounds.
    Same at 9 AM at Budget Marine on Wednesday.
    As of 4/2010, they don't do butane, and they don't do new-style horizontal tanks (but you can get an adapter that will allow them to fill those horizontal tanks).

  • Cruiser hangouts:
    Bar at Lagoonies.
    Bar at "The Turtle Pier", in yellow building at small marina most of the way down to the airport terminal. Cruiser's gathering there every Wednesday evening; from 5-7, $1 beer, $3 hamburger, $3 fries.
    Soggy Dollar bar at Palapa Marina ?
    Simpson Bay Yacht Club bar (at south end of Dutch bridge, inside; 1630 and 1730 bridge openings are popular times).

  • Garbage disposal:
    Dumpster at Lagoonies.
    Dumpster shed out by street at Palapa Marina. Dumpster at Portofino Marina, at end of dock farthest from dinghy dock.

  • Used-oil disposal:
    Budget Marine; across parking lot from front door; no charge.

  • Battery disposal:
    Budget Marine; somewhere on street-side of the building; no charge.
    Small alkaline batteries: leave next to oil-disposal tank.

  • Security:
    I think there's no problem during daylight, but after dark is another story. I would lock the dinghy and walk only in cruiser/tourist areas after dark. Dinghies have been stolen from docks and boats.

  • Stores:
    Island Water World opens at 0800. Closed Sundays. Sign up for an account: you get discounts and avoid sales tax (3%).
    Budget Marine MTWRFS 8-5; closed Sundays.
    Ace Hardware Megacenter: walk inland on road halfway between IWW and Lagoonies. Longish walk up busy side-street with no sidewalks, to main road.
    NAPA Auto: walk inland from Budget Marine: turn left outside Budget Marine gate, up side road, turn right and then immediate left, big side road curves to right and heads toward main road. NAPA is halfway up.
    Ayman Mattress Factory: On side street between Cash and Carry and Harley Davidson shop. Start at Budget Marine, walk up to NAPA Auto, keep going.
    Hardware/lumber store: up road south of Daily Extra supermarket.
    Home'n Tool: dinghy ashore at Port De La Marina (far NE end of Lagoon) and walk along waterfront street on S side of water, following road as it turns left. Shopping center with a dozen or more stores, including Madco marine store. Home'n Tool is across street inland, on roundabout.
    Bus to Phillipsburg goes past plenty of stores near Phillipsburg: Cost-U-Less, big home-improvement/lumber store (Kooyman), another Grand Marche supermarket, a NAPA Auto, etc. If you get off the bus at Kooyman's Lumber, you can hit Kooyman, Ace, Grand Marche and Cost-U-Less in one half-mile walk downhill.

  • Fuel and water:
    Fuel generally cheaper on the French side, and a couple of stations will take US$ at the same rate (1 to 1) as the € prices quoted if you pay cash.
    Fuel dock at Island Water World has gas, diesel, water.
    Shell station next to Portofino Marina; dock is a little exposed/rough; gasoline cheaper than at IWW. Water 20 cents/gallon 1/2010.
    Fuel dock at Simpson Bay Marina. Easiest dock for big boats; call ahead on VHF 79A. Water 14 cents/gallon 2/2010.
    Cadisco gas station on French side near bridge: water 10 cents/gallon 2/2010, but it's cistern water, not town water, so is suspect.
    Small gas station on French side closest to bridge: water depth only 3.5 feet.
    Gas station on French side in canal just outside bridge ? Fuel but no water ?
    Capitainerie in Marina Port La Royal on French side sells water.
    Consensus seems to be: Cadisco and gas station in canal are best for fuel (pay cash).

    Megayachting newspaper shows diesel prices are lower in St Thomas and Antigua than in St Martin, consistently.

  • Food:
    • Grand Marche supermarket on French side, just NE of bridge. Land dinghy at supermarket sign in cove and walk out and across street.
    • Bigger Grand Marche supermarket on Dutch side. Use dinghy-dock at Port De Plaisance marina. Walk out to main road, through guarded entrance, turn right, and it's right there. If units are not specified, prices are in NAFs.
    • Gourmet Marche supermarket in Portofino Marina. Open until 3 on Sunday.
    • Market Garden (I think) supermarket about halfway between Dutch bridge and Simpson Bay Marina.
    • Grand Marche supermarket and Cost-U-Less across street from each other, outside Phillipsburg. Busses go down the road between them. If buying a lot, stop at desk before shopping to arrange delivery to somewhere convenient, such as Portofino Marina. Taxi back from Cost-U-Less to Portofino Marina costs about $15. Cost-U-Less opens at 9 every day, I think; closes at 3 on Sunday; closes at 9 most other days.
    • Cheaper: Daily Extra supermarket near Budget Marine. Turn right outside Budget Marine gate, to busy road, make a left then a right.
    • Warehouse store: Prime Cash and Carry, inland from NAPA Auto (which is inland from Budget Marine). Bring your own bags. Very limited produce, dairy, and meat. In general, not as good as Cost-U-Less.


  • Machine-shop:
    In Lagoonies. Peter Durkan, 599-527-3812, e_msc07 at yahoo.com
    Another next to Island Water World.

  • Shipping mail/packages in:
    • Business Point in Simpson Bay Marina will receive mail for free for cruisers.
      Send to:
      yourname
      c/o The Business Point
      POB 4545 Plaza Del Lago
      Simpson Bay Marina
      Airport Road - St Maarten DWI

      Business Point also has a USA address; you can order something sent to that address, and it will be forwarded to the office in St Martin. Shipping is by boat, so it takes a week or two, and hazardous items can be shipped. There are shipping charges, by weight and maybe volume; I don't know how they are calculated, and how you can determine them in advance.
      Send to:
      Hyacinth Joseph
      Attn: yourname
      Four Star Cargo Inc
      7640 NW 63rd Street
      Miami FL 33166
      305-831-4380
    • To use The Mailbox ($2.75 to receive a package), FedEx or UPS to:
      yourname
      c/o The Mailbox
      Palapa Center
      Bldg 30-A
      Airport Blvd
      St. Maarten, N.A.
      599-545-3890
    • Post Office: next to The Mailbox (between Palapa and Portofino marinas). $1.65 to $2.60 (price seems to vary) to mail letter to USA. Letters seem to take about 2 weeks to get there.
    • Four Star Cargo
    • Tropical Shipping
    • Amerijet


  • Medical:
    Dannaway Center: across street from Portofino Marina; weekdays 8-1 and 4-6.
    Two-doctor clinic in Simpson Bay Marina near Business Point.

  • Rigging:
    FKG next to Lagoonies: open weekdays, and Saturday until noon.
    Peter in Geminga boatyard on French side, boatyard closest to Marigot.
    If you buy wire and fittings at Budget Marine, for a fee they will do cutting and swaging/assembly for you ?

  • Hauling out:
    • If you plan to do work yourself, using your power-tools, check that the AC power is compatible with your tools.
    • Some yards use cranes, not lifts, which may require removing rigging and/or mast.
    • Geminga: Last yard on the French side before you get to the basin at Marina Royale / Capitanerie / Marigot end.
      Heard they lift using some kind of hydraulic arm (but it looks like a crane to me), so maybe you don't have to take down rigging.
    • JMC Marina and Boatyard: on French side, between Geminga and Time Out.
    • Time Out boatyard (on the French canal):
      timeoutboat at hotmail.com; VHF 16
      12/2009 quote: 460€ to haul 40-45 foot monohull; have to find a contractor to get prices for painting. Not sure if there is a yard-day charge.
    • Bobby's at the airport (north side of runway):
      Quote for my 44-foot boat 12/2009: $1300 for haul, pressure-wash, bottom-sanding, bottom-painting. Materials and paint not included; I can buy the paint elsewhere if I wish. No charge for lay-days or yard-days.
      I'm told this yard has a history of boats falling off stands: at least three fallen in the last couple of years.
      Bobby's Marina
    • Island Water World:
      Not a very big yard, it looks like.
      Uses a crane, not a lift.
      I'm told they allow DIY, at least for bottom-painting.


  • AC power on French side is 250 V 50 Hz, while the Dutch side is 110/120 V 60 Hz.
  • Hydraulic hoses: NAPA Auto.
  • Computer batteries and rechargeable batteries: two stores in shopping center inland from NAPA Auto and Prime Cash and Carry and Budget Marine.

Perkins/Borg-Warner dealer/repair: Diesel Outfitters, St Maarten, 599-544-2320.

Carnival:
Last week or two in April. At least in 2010, very hard to find times and locations of events. Try st-martin.org. The "Carnival special" insert in the Daily Herald newspaper gives all of the details. All parades are in downtown Phillipsburg. Many stores close for the final Thursday-to-Sunday of Carnival.