Cruising St Martin.               Please send any comments to me.

This page updated: April 2015
      




Overview section
Legalities section
Places section
Facilities section




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 (on Amazon).
"Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands" by Stephen Pavlidis (on Amazon).

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:

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:

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 stmartinisland.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.






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