St.Maarten, life after hurricane Irma
This is well known Caribbean island divided into two parts : Dutch and French with separate clearing posts in Philipsburg and Simpson Bay on the Dutch side and in Marigot on the French side (and as known when you come to a new island you have to check in with the port
authority and immigration on arrival and departure).
Generally tourists are attracted by tax free shopping in the St.Maarten and numbers of fun activities offered here like numerous bars and restaurants, nightclubs and casinos to beaches, watersports, movies and music. For boaters it’s a good place to do repairs, get parts for the boat and make maintenance. They have high qualified professionals here – shipwrights, mechanics, sailmakers, riggers, electricians, technicians and so on.
So we were just in need for some parts to fix several little problems at first place and everyone on our way advised to go to St.Maarten.
Unlike other islands on our way we had to decide which part we enter and wait for the bridge opening and let us in the Simpson Bay. The bridge opened four times a day. As we just missed the opening window we took a ride on a dinghy to see around. What stroke our eyes were numbers of damaged after the hurricane Irma buildings, dockes at the marinas, boats… so, so many of them. The island is still recovering…
Then we had been searching for the marina and specialists to fixing the problems occurred on our boat. So we returned
to Mana Kai exhausted and decided to stay anchored outside the Bay. We still didn’t decide what to do next as it turned that there were holidays and for next 4 days noone worked… so maybe it would be better to see the island first and go to French side then return to Dutch one for repairs.
OK. We started our next day with visiting the customs for clearance and suddenly got stroked by unpleasant new that we couldn’t allowed get in without title of registration the boat which is still in the progress… there weren’t any problems with this point so far in another islands, even that fancy French St.Barths… WTF?! We even didn’t find anything attractive there so far! If we didn’t have to fix things we’d better go further, find more attractive and hospitable destination …
We spent couple hours trying to explain the situation, kids got tired, a baby felt asleep, finally they called the coastal guards to search the boat and then gave us permission to stay. So frustrating!
We missed the time when opening the bridge and waited for the next scheduled time, which 11:30, trying to have a rest and concentrate, because we have never entered such a narrow space yet. We tied some fenders both sides, weighed the anchor out of water and called to the bridge operator to confirm our intention. Everything looked good except unfamiliarity of the Simpson Bay inside. But we could manage and dropped the anchor next to some badly damaged by hurricane boats. At the moment when Victor and older kids gone away on dinghy there came the guy from the Lagoon Marina across (we had a little talk the other day) and said that he had found the good spot on the dock for us and ready to give a helping hand with lines. Oh, so stressful morning! But we did it! And there were a good place to stay. First, because the guy and his wife who run this Marina are really great! They’re active, knowledgeable, helpful and friendly. And all the services we were interested in were around nearby. We found technicians very soon.
And also were amazed by the selection of marine parts and supplies in stores like Budget Marina and Island Water World. The collection of books about marine life for kids and travel guides were great too! So we grabbed some as well:)
Actually we didn’t have a chance to sightseeing a lot as we were busy on getting our boat repaired (in exotic location;)) Every day someone came and went a to make
repairs. What he could Victor did by himself.
In the evening we took our kids to their favorite Carousel to treat with ice cream or the nearby French bakery where there were very fast internet connection.
Once we went for a walk to Port de Plaisance that used to be a gorgeous Marina forhosting mega yachts. This days destroyed by Irma it looked abandoned and the feeling came to life as you find yourself in the middle of the movie about invasion zombies or the deadly epidemic that wipe humanity out of Earth… weird feeling! You could clearly and lively imagine how gorgeous and prosperous this place was before and now that gone… the life have been divided into before and after for a little bit then couple hours of the element raged.
Another day we decided to find out what French side looked like. And it was easy to dinghy there that took a 15 min ride across the bridge.
The same feeling of regret were while numbers of sunk boats of all types from luxury yacht to small monohulls were met on the way. And we were glad to see some sights of life ashore among destroyed buildings like couple cafes with people inside having their lunches.
We left our dinghy tight to the dock and started making our way along narrow streets of Marigot – the capital of French St.Martin – which was dramatically different from what we saw in Dutch side. It had the feeling of a fashionable and attractive but now emptied Riviera seaport. And the next visit we definitely would prefer to anchor out on French side!
But now we were wondering around, sightseeing and walking from Marigot’s waterfront with a long dock and ferry terminal, and fancy West Indies Mall up to Fort Louis for marvelous picturesque view upon the Marina Fort St.Louis, the bay and Simpson Bay Lagoon land seeing an attractive old ruin with a few cannons.
The day was ended in small French cafe with fabulous cuisine. Wish they recover and