Tag Archives: St. Martin

Marigot Bay, St. Martin (Left, March 2015 and Right, March 2018)

ST. MARTIN – SIX MONTHS AFTER HURRICANE IRMA – by Theresa

The cruisers’ forums have been reporting that in the six months since  St. Martin took a direct hit from Category 5 Hurricane Irma, recovery efforts have been, not surprisingly, slow and arduous. Countless wrecks had to be removed from the navigatable waters and docks needed to be repaired and/or replaced. Repairs to the marine infrastructure were secondary to repairs to individuals’ homes, businesses and land infrastructure. With all of that in mind, we approached the island trepidatiously and with an eye towards assisting in the recovery efforts.

We had heard through the coconut telegraph that Fort Louis Marina, in Marigot Bay, had partially reopened. We had enjoyed our stays there previously in 2015 and 2016 [see St. Martin (2015) and St. Martin (2016)], so we were glad to learn that they had survived the storm. We contacted the marina in advance of our arrival to determine what marine services were available. They informed us that fuel, water, electric and floating docs were all available. We spent the first night in St. Martin on the hook in Marigot Bay, astonishinly, one of only a few boats in the entire bay.

Pilots' Discretion Position Report (March 2018)

Pilots’ Discretion Position Report (March 2018)

We picked up fuel in the marina first thing the next morning and then tied up to a floating dock. The dock staff were fantastic, setting up brand new / movable cleats exactly where we needed them to hold the boat.

Pilots' Discretion in her slip (floating docks), Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Pilots’ Discretion in her slip (floating docks, Moorings sailboat pulling in port side, astern), Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

After securing the boat, we headed towards the office to clear immigration  & customs, and to check in to the marina. It was then that we got our first glimpses of the devastation that Irma had bestowed upon the island. Six months after the hurricane had past, one might justly have concluded that it had just blown through the day before. As boaters, it was hard for us to look upon vessels, sunken in their slips.

Ryan looking over the sunken vessels, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Ryan looking over a sunken vessel (snapped of mast lying on the dock), Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Ryan looking over the sunken vessels, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Ryan looking over a sunken vessels, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Sunken vessels, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Sunken vessels, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Sunken vessle, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Sunken vessel, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Half of the marina was closed as the docks and water and electric pedestals were in complete disrepair.

Damaged docks, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Damaged docks, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Damaged docks, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Damaged docks, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

It was both evident and comforting to see that efforts were being made to repair the docks, including rewiring the electric.

Damaged docks, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Damaged docks, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Looking past more sunken boats and mangled docks, we saw hotels that were still without roofs and windows.

Damaged docks, sunken vessel, missing roofs, Fort Louis Marina / Marigot Bay St. Martin (March 2018)

Damaged docks, sunken vessel, missing roofs, Fort Louis Marina / Marigot Bay St. Martin (March 2018)

The old Fort Louis Marina office, had not yet reopened, because it, too, suffered the wrath of Irma. We were told the windows blew out and the wind and water destroyed everything in side.

Old marina office, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2108)

Old marina office, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2108)

Old office, Fort Louis Marina, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Old office, Fort Louis Marina, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

The new office and the immigration & customs clearing-in computer have been relocated to the building directly accross the street from the marina.

Once outside, we saw more remnants of Irma. Streetlights and signs were bent over and concrete sidewalks were torn up. There was hardly a car in the parking lot that did not show some sign of hurricane damage.

St. Martin (March 2018)

St. Martin (March 2018)

Random boat debris and road or sidewalk hazards were roped off with caution tape. A disconnected center console hardtop (with seats and rear fridge) on the sidewalk was an unusual sight. However, the backdrop of the beautiful yachts in the water, directly behind the still visible signs of Irma’s destructive powers, showed clear signs that the marine community is recovering.

St. Martin (March 2018)

St. Martin (March 2018)

Many of the European candelabra style streetlights just outside the marina were damaged. LED floodlights atop the poles provided adequate interim lighting.

LED floodlight - temporary light fixture fix, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

LED floodlight – temporary light fixture fix, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

LED floodlight - temporary light fixture fix, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

LED floodlight – temporary light fixture fix, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

After clearing in, we strolled around the area. The Saint Martin Yacht Club, just outside and to the left of the marina, was open. While it suffered some damage to its glass balcony, it is a great waterfront spot for a waterside sundowner or a meal.

Marigot Bay Yacht Club, St. Martin (March 2018)

Marigot Bay Yacht Club, St. Martin (March 2018)

While walking along the waterfront, we saw more than the usual amount of Iguanas. Perhaps there homes, too, were disrupted by the storms.

Iguana, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Iguana, Fort Louis Marina, St. Martin (March 2018)

Iguanas, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Iguanas, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

A short walk outside, and to the right, of the marina, we found the West Indies Shopping Mall open for business.

West Indies Shopping Mall, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

West Indies Shopping Mall, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Down by the ferry docks, people were taking pictures in front of the infamaous “I love SXM” sign. The ferries to Anguilla and St. Bart were running on schedule and most of the restaurants in the square by the ferry docs were open.

Ryan, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Ryan, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

On previous visits, we had hiked to Fort Louis, at the top of the mountain just outside the marina. See St. Martin (2015) and St. Martin (2016)

Fort Louis, St. Martin

Fort Louis, St. Martin

The fort always provided stunning views of the marina and Marigot Bay below. The views were still stunning, however, the cautionary tape at the eroded precipice was yet another sign of the damage Irma left behind.

Fort Louis, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Fort Louis, Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Looking out from the fort, we saw many blue tarps providing shelter to those structures still without roofs.

Marigot, St. Martin (March 2018)

Marigot, St. Martin (March 2018)

Marigot, St. Martin (March 2018)

Marigot, St. Martin (March 2018)

The most stunning view was that of Marigot bay. The lack of vessels in the bay below was a stark juxtaposition to our previous visits to Marigot Bay and a strong signal that the level of marine tourism in St. Martin has declined precipitously.

Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2015)

Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2015)

Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Marigot Bay, St. Martin (March 2018)

Marigot Bay and Simpson’s Lagoon, St. Martin, (March 2015)

Marigot Bay and Simpson’s Lagoon, St. Martin, (March 2015)

Marigot Bay and Simpson’s Lagoon, St. Martin, (March 2018)

Marigot Bay and Simpson’s Lagoon, St. Martin, (March 2018)

We did not travel outside of Marigot Bay, as we have on previous visits [see St. Martin (2015) and St. Martin (2016)], so we cannot report on how the rest of the island is faring. What we can say is, what we saw in Marigot Bay was the strength and resolve of the people to rebuild their beautiful island. Everyone we met was warm, friendly and inviting. In sum, St. Martin is still a beautiful cruising destination.

Our next port of call, The British Virgin Islands (BVIs), also took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma. More on what we encountered in the BVIs in our next post.

Hurricane Irma (photo from Marine Weather Center's post)

HURRICANE IRMA – 2017 – by Theresa

First, thank you, to everyone, for reaching out to see how Pilots’ Discretion, and her crew, fared as Hurricane Irma tracked through the Caribbean. In preparation for the storm and in accordance with our hurricane plan, we spider tied Pilots’ Discretion, with doubled lines, in a double slip, on a floating dock, alone with no other boats, in St. Lucia. Irma was set to track north of St. Lucia, however, to be on the safe side, we left the boat in St. Lucia and flew to Florida to stay out of harms way!

As predicted, Hurricane Irma passed north of St. Lucia. We were incredibly grateful to learn that our pre-hurricane preparations were sufficient, and that St. Lucia was spared from the ferocity of the storm. The island received some rain and wind from the outer bands of the storm, but on the whole, the island and our boat, weathered the storm and are fine.

Having flown to Florida, we then holed up with family in Spring Hill, just north of Tampa, on the west coast of Florida. Having just gone through the hurricane preparations drill in St. Lucia our crew was ready and able to  assist with preparations for the “high impact” potential hit headed for our relatives in Spring Hill.

We listened to reports, and observed, painfully, the pictures of the devastation from the direct hits on Barbuda, St. Barthélemy (St. Bart), St. Maarten/St. Martin, Anguilla, Antigua, the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. We have travelled to all of these islands in previous cruising seasons, and our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by the storm.

Paraquita Bay, British Virgin Islands (Before and After)

Nanny Cay Marina, British Virgin Islands, post hurricane Irma, 2017

Isleta Marina, Fajardo, Puerto Rico, post hurricane Irma, Sept. 2017

Foxy’s before (2016) and after (2017)

Forecasted Track for Hurricane Irma, Sept. 7, 2017

Forecasted Track for Hurricane Irma originally had her skirting up the east coast of Florida, Sept. 7, 2017

In Florida, the original forecasts had the storm tracking up the east coast. Slowly, the storm edged west with the later predictions indicating she would run up the middle of the Florida peninsula. Finally, within the last day prior to Florida landfall, the forecast consensus had Irma tracking up the west coast of Florida. We weathered the storm just north of Tampa. The eye passed just to our east during the middle of the night. We were extremely fortunate that a slight variation in the actual track of the storm placed us on the weak side of the circulation at the same time the storm was beginning to fall apart. We had a few hours of heavy rains accompanied by gusty winds mostly in the 40 knot range. Like most, we lost power and had a few downed trees to deal with but for the most part we came through the storm wiser for the experience but without taking any direct hits. We are all very aware of the potential devastation that just barely sidestepped us.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all those affected by the storm. Florida, the islands, and those living and cruising in Florida and the Caribbean islands, are a resilient bunch. Communities have already banded together to address immediate needs and start the lengthy rebuilding process. Click here for additional photos, and to see several prominent business owners (including the infamous Soggy Dollar, Foxy’s, Corsairs, Willie T’s) who have already vowed to rebuild!

Patton enjoying touring the fort, Gustavia, St. Bart

St. MARTIN & ST. BART – by Theresa

ST. MARTIN

Ronan, Theresa, and Ryan, Marigot Bay, St. Martin

Ronan, Theresa, and Ryan, Marigot Bay, St. Martin

After resolving the boys passport issues in PuertoRico, we flew back to St. Martin to rejoin Randy, Patton and the boat at Fort Louis Marina. Fort Louis Marina is a secure and sheltered Marina located in the shadows of the ruins of Fort Louis. A short hike to the fort is rewarded with breathtaking views of Marigot Bay and the surrounding area. There are dozens of shops and restaurants, as well as a modern mall, all within walking distance to the Marina. You can also dinghy into the lagoon and cross over to the Dutch side of the island to access a sizeable Budget Marine.

Spot the Pilots Discretion, Marigot Bay, St. Martin

Spot the Pilots Discretion, Marigot Bay, St. Martin

ST. BART

Randy with Patton in his jet pack, ready to go hiking in St. Bart

Randy with Patton in his jet pack, ready to go hiking in St. Bart

After departing St. Martin, we cruised to Columbier Bay, St. Barthelemy (St. Bart), where we enjoyed hiking to the various forts in Gustavia. At 14 years old, Patton is, not surprisingly, less enthusiastic about long hikes than he once was. With that said, in deference to his namesake, Patton would not want to miss touring the forts with his family. As such, we gave him a lift in his “Snoozer” dog backpack carrier. Patton seemed to enjoy the elevated view from what Ryan and Ronan refer to as his “jet pack,” and the views were indeed stunning.

 

Patton hiking the hill with Randy on his back ;-)

Patton hiking the hill with Randy on his back 😉

 

Gustavia, St. Bart

Gustavia, St. Bart

Patton enjoying touring the fort, Gustavia, St. Bart

Patton enjoying touring the fort, Gustavia, St. Bart

Gustavia hike, St. Bart

Gustavia hike, St. Bart

Randy, Ronan & Ryan, St. Bart

Randy, Ronan & Ryan, St. Bart

Our next intended stops are St. Kitts & Nevis, and Antigua. We will post additional updates from there as time and internet allows.

On to St. Martin/St. Maarten and the Leeward Islands – by Theresa

R&R, Biras Creek, BVI

R&R, Biras Creek, Gorda Sound, BVI

After spending over a month enjoying the British Virgin Islands, it was finally time for us to move on. We staged for our 80 + nautical mile trip to St. Martin by spending our last night in the BVI in Gorda Sound on Virgin Gorda. At first light on April 25th, we were underway for St. Martin. Our first waypoint put us just offshore of Richard Branson’s private Necker Island.

Marina Fort-Louis, St. Martin

Marina Fort-Louis, St. Martin

From there we had very mild seas and sunny skies all the way into Marigot Bay, St. Martin. By the time we were securely anchored with Pilot’s Discretion’s tired crew ready to go ashore, customs and immigration had closed for the evening. As a result, we hoisted the quarantine flag and settled in for an evening aboard. I would go ashore first thing the next morning and deal with the immigration formalities.

Hoisting the French courtesy flag in St. Martin

Hoisting the French courtesy flag in St. Martin

On April 26th we cleared in at the Marina Fort Louis. The clear in procedure could not have gone more smoothly. Once the formalities had been taken care of we set out to explore by dinghy. The island is divided French from Dutch by a waterway and bay. If you transit by dinghy, there is no requirement to clear from the French (St. Martin) side into the Dutch (St. Maarten) side. There are rows and rows of waterfront restaraunts, all with dinghy docks and all very pet friendly.

Marigot, St. Martin

Marigot, St. Martin

The entire island has much to offer, so much so that we will not have as much time as we would like to explore, given our insurance induced requirement to be in Grenada by the end of this month. With that said, we are making the most of our time here. In addition to our dinghy exploration, we rented a car and drove around the island, scoping out the various beaches, bays and marinas.

Maho Beach, St. Martin

Maho Beach, St. Martin

Maho Beach, St. Martin

Maho Beach, St. Martin

First, we stopped in Maho Bay, on the Dutch side of the island, where the runway is only steps from the bay. The boys watched, in awe, the planes  landing just over the beach, a route that Randy has flown many times previously.

After lunch on the Dutch side of the island in Oyster Pond, we walked around
“the pond.”  Oyster Pond is actually a well protected inlet and home to Sunsail and Moorings charter companies. There are many mooring balls available in the pond.

Returning to the French side of the island, we visited the famous Orient, Anse Marcel, and Grand Case beaches.

imageAfter daylong beach hopping, and indulging in French and Dutch culinary cuisine, we hiked up to Fort Louis, overlooking Marigot Bay. The boys enjoyed running around exploring the fort, as we all enjoyed another glorious sunset and spectacular views of boats in the harbor below.

We will very definitely spend more time here when we return north up the Caribbean chain of islands after the next hurricane season passes.

For now, we are spending most of our time on the French side of the island. This weekend, we will cast off our lines once again. Our next stops will be St. Barts and Statia, until then, au revoir.