March 29-April 11, 2007
Sint Maarten (Saint Martin) was discovered in 1943 by Columbus, and occupied by the Spanish until 1644, when Dutch and French forces conquered the Island. Four years later the Island was divided in a Northern French side (60%) and a Southern Dutch side (40% of the island surface). The Southern side of the Island, however, had the salt ponds which were of great economic importance at the time.
Sint Maarten is part of the Dutch Windward Islands (Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius), and are along with the Dutch Leeward Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) north of the coast of Venezuela, Dutch Territories. Together the islands form the Dutch Antilles Federation. Plans are underway, however, for Sint Maarten to become more independent from The Netherlands at the end of 2007.
The economy is now primarily based on tourism, as the sugar cane and salt industry of previous centuries has collapsed. The duty free and tax free status of Sint Maarten has earned it the nickname "Little Hong Kong" of the Antilles. The currency is primarily the US Dollar, and the Guilder has become an icon of the years gone past. The language of every day life is English, and fewer and fewer people speak Dutch. It is interesting to note, however, that most names of places and streets are still in Dutch.
The greatest thing we have found on Sint Maarten, is that it became a place for reunion with our sailing friends. It was great to see Ed and Julie from Cinnabar, as well as to finally meet Jay and Carol from Gandalf with whom we crossed the Atlantic. We were in contact with Cinnabar and Gandalf twice daily on the short wave radio during the crossing from Cape Verdes to Barbados, but because Gandalf continued on to Martinique and we to Barbados, we never had a chance to meet.
Ed, Julie, and Marco Jay and Carol from Gandalf
Eric, Marieke, Mirre and Sannah on Lahaina Edo and Marieke on Klef
It was also great to see our Dutch friends again, whom we had not seen since the crossing. Lahaina had also made an unplanned stop in the Cape Verdes, for repairs to his rudder. Klef had some problems with their auto pilot forcing Edo and Marieke into an endurance event to hand-steer from a few days out of the Cape Verdes all the way to Suriname. Midway during their ordeal Edo did propose to Marieke, and despite the worst of conditions, she accepted. Wow!!!
A happy reunion of the Dalliance and the Klef, and a nice opportunity to swap sea stories.
The airport on Sint Maarten is a busy hub that serves a large portion of the Caribbean Islands. Space being limited on a small island, the runway is barely long enough for the larger planes. The Sunday departure of a Boeing 747, therefore, makes for great entertainment. There are two bars on each side of the beach where you can watch the spectacle unfold...
Julie, Ed and Marco waiting for the planes to take off!!
In order for the large planes to take off, they have to back up against the fence, and rev their engines while keeping their brakes applied. The developing thrust creates an amazing wind storm along the fence and the beach, and the adventurous try to hold onto the fence getting sand blasted, with the jet fuel smell heavy in the air.
The tradition in the lagoon was for the sailors to head for the yacht club by the bridge to watch the boats come through the lift bridge. We arrived just in time for happy hour and to watch for Klef to come through.
Sannah and Marieke watching the boat come through at the yacht club waiting anxiously for the Klef to come through!!
We were all very excited to see Edo and Marieke again. Here the crew from Lahaina and Dalliance waited until Klef came under the bridge to give them a BIG HELLO!!!
Finally the gang is all back together. When Edo and Marieke left Holland for the trip they both decided not to cut their hair for the whole year. They both look fantastic with their new dews.
Marieke, Edo, Me and Marieke again hanging out at happy hour at the yacht club.
This is 5 o'clock happy hour at the bridge which allows access to the inner lagoon. The bridge openings are a great way to see the various boats coming and going. The very large yachts often can barely squeeze through, and use fenders in case of close calls.
This is the Sherakhan out of Rotterdam, Holland.
This is where the captain earns his paycheck. It takes a steady hand on the helm...
Shrimpy's is the local hangout for the yachties. It has free wi-fi internet access, shower and laundry facilities, dinghy repairs, rummage sales, they run a morning VHF net, and sell beer! On Sundays there is a Yachtie Sale where other yachties sell items they longer need, exchange stories and Shrimpy's supplies a keg from 11:00 am on, until the beer is gone for free. They also have an Italian hair stylist come in and cut hair for $15 US dollars. Holly decided it was time to cut the locks and cool down a little.
ABN-AMRO-One, the winner of the most recent Volvo (previously known as Whitbread) Race around the world, also stopped by the Sint Maarten Regattas to kick some more butt.
Eric and Marco "resting up" on the beach after a long night out with the boys.
Holly is entertaining Sannah from Lahaina.
Not all of long distance sailing is glamorous. The stop over on Sint Maarten was also a good opportunity to make the necessary repairs on Dalliance, as there were several excellent chandleries. We were lucky to find a replacement pump for the forward head, as well as new deep cycle batteries. We also finally had a chance to install a Link 20 battery monitoring system that we just never had a chance to wire up prior to our departure. After an oil change for our trusty Perkins 4-108 diesel, and the topping off of our diesel and water tanks, we were ready to cruise again.
After saying our goodbyes we were off to the British Virgin Islands where we planned to see the Lahaina again. It looks like we will also have a nice reunion at the wedding of Edo and Marieke in Holland sometime next spring.