I am at a loss for the correct spelling of St. Marrten. I have seen Sint Maarten, Sint Marrten, Sint Martin and St. Martin. So if you see that my spelling is all over the place, it's not entirely my fault. I suppose I should use the appropriate spelling depending on which side I am referring to. But that is just too complicated, so bare with me. I might make up my own.
The island of St. Marrten is split into two different countries, French (Sint Martin) and Dutch (Sint Marrten). I learned it is one of the smallest sea islands divided between two nations, a division dating back to 1648. Legend has it that a dutch citizen and a french citizen were placed back to back on one side of the island and had to walk (not run) along the sea shore in opposite directions. When they met on the other side, that's where the territory line was drawn. The french ended up with 54 sq. km and the dutch had only 32 sq. km. It was noted that the french gentleman drank wine before his walk and the dutch gentleman drank gin. The french claimed the difference between these beverages was to blame. While the dutch blamed the french walker for running!
Legend or not, we entered Simpson Bay Lagoon through the dutch draw bridge and enjoyed both the french and dutch sides equally. The dutch side had all the marine chandleries and grocery stores while the french side had the local outdoor market, yummy bakery, cool wine shop and apparently a nudist beach. Yep, leave it to the frenchies to have a nudist beach. They are always naked. Whenever we anchor near a french boat, they are always naked! Some just shower naked on the back of their boat in broad daylight while others are naked all day long. And they don't seem to care if you are glancing or staring. Anyway.... Although I can not say I witnessed the nudist beach personally, I did hear some really great stories. During our 2 week stay in St. Marrten, we anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon (dutch side), had a short stay at Palapa Marina (dutch side), anchored in Marigot Bay (outside the lagoon on the french side), and anchored again in Simpson Bay Lagoon (french side). Oh, and we left St. Marrten through the french bridge. So we just about covered it all. No favoritism here.
The day that we had the rental car, after we were done provisioning, we spent the last 4 hours driving around the small 87 sq km island. We left Simpson Bay Lagoon on the dutch side and drove counterclockwise. This is the view from the hilltop leaving the Simpson Bay area looking south.
Simpson Bay Lagoon. The dutch side in the forefront and the french side at the top, past the bridge.
Phillipsburg, one of the major cities of the dutch side about 30 minutes from Simpson Bay Lagoon.
Entering the french side. We noticed there was no sign when we re-entered the dutch side on the other side of the island. Hmmmm...
Oyster Pond is the first town after crossing over to the french side
Oyster Bay Harbor
We stopped at the marina to look around and grab a cold drink
Moving up the north east coast of the island. This is a very popular place for kite boarding and surfing.
Marigot Bay is the largest city on the french side, located on the western side of the island.
Just when we were warming up to the french, we had a rather confusing altercation going through the french draw bridge. As we left Marigot Bay back into Simpson Bay Lagoon, we were first in line of many boats ready to go through. The outbound vessels have right of way and then the inbound vessels get their turn. No problem. We heard the bell sound, saw the bridge go up and no one on the other side. We proceeded under a green light. The width of the bridge, mind you is about 30 feet wide with a channel as wide leading to and from. We are 21 feet wide! There was not a lot of extra room. As we made it into the narrow channel, I saw a boat coming and then saw the green light turn red! We were confused wondering if our eyes were playing tricks on us. We slowed down but were still in a forward motion. The bridge operator came out to see if the light was working and raised his arms in a big X for our benefit. Oh $%it! Now what? We pulled back the throttle and Craig made an aggressive 180 degree turn, which would have been impossible if we weren't in a catamaran with 2 engines that can spin on a dime. The boats behind us all started to peel off in all directions as quickly as they could to get out of the way. Who does that....turns the light red when a boat is committed to going through a narrow channel. Geez. Then to top it off, we finally got the green light, and just as we approached the mouth of the narrow channel leading to the bridge, another, smaller power boat, came through. Clearly he had a RED light! We had to slow down and wait. Craig and I looked at each other and shook our heads thinking "what the f___ man." Clearly this bridge operator failed boat traffic in bridge school. I was so close to calling the bridge operator and asking what the protocol was because it seemed to change with each attempt! We felt lucky to have escaped without running aground or into the bridge or another boat. In the end we just laughed it off as another crazy french experience.
Yummy bread at the french bakery
It was really hard not to buy one of everything!
But we managed to enjoy a few goodies