St Maarten/St Martin
31 March 2013 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Sunday was warm, muggy, and hazy, and although Saba could be seen, Statia was lost in the haze. On Monday Saba was barely visible and the temperature reached 84 with little breeze (right). Below left shows whitecaps on Tuesday, signifying about a 15 mph breeze. By Wednesday larger whitecaps indicated even stiffer breezes and rain squalls obscured all the islands (below center). We went to Simpson Bay at 6PM and found plenty of puddles, but it had hardly rained in Cupecoy. On Thursday Wendy K sent the panoramic photo of the lagoon and Porto Cupecoy seen below. It was rather calm. Friday was pretty calm with no whitecaps on the lagoon or the Caribbean. Saba was quite visible, though hazy, and capped with clouds (below center). As the photo of Heineken with Saba in the background (honest) Saturday was very hazy. It was also windy and only got to 79F (below right).

The box shows the current local conditions and here's the detailed forecast from Click for Juliana Airport, St. Martin Forecast Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:25 PM, a minute later than last week. In 2013 plan on full moons for 25 Apr, 25 May, 23 Jun, 22 Jul, 21 Aug, 19 Sep, 18 Oct, 16 Nov, and 17 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: Sunday was a calm day at Cupecoy and baby beach still has quite a bit of sand. On Monday the current was heading towards Shore Pointe, but there was still plenty of sand at baby beach. The drop-off has smoothed to a slope and the waves are calmer. Wednesday still found quite a bit of sand but the eastern end is getting quite steep. Later that day, the construction machinery moved boulders in to block the entrance to the beaches (above left). There is still parking for about 20 cars next to Ocean Club (above right) and a few spaces on the road. On Friday there was wet sand at the middle beach and lots of sand back at baby beach. The swells were much calmer and it was pretty swimmable. On Saturday there was sand at the middle beach and dry sand at baby beach with no swells. The boulders were still blocking the entrance as this went to the server.

We stopped in at Le Sand in Nettle Bay to see what was happening. The sign on the right has an interesting ending. There is no doubt that their beach heads to the east and there is no other public establishment near that corner of their property. I saw a thread on TTOL asking about a nude portion of this beach and it appears that Le Sand has responded. It also appears that there is a dock being built between the two restaurants here. It might get them some business, but this is a pretty exposed location. The tradewinds blow across 2000 miles of open water before pushing water into the eastern end of the Anguilla Channel. All that water and wind comes right past Marigot and Nettle Bay. After they put a marina in Marigot Harbor, they found they needed a lot more breakwater before anyone would actually stay there. The middle shot is Le Sand's beach and the panoramic shot is Le Sand's beach with the remains of La Belle Créole in the background.

Beach reading: Killing Time by Elise Title - (about $8 for the Kindle or $5 for the paperback version) - From Publishers Weekly: "Those who think women can't write tough prose should meet the star of this series debut, Natalie Price, superintendent of Horizon House, a prerelease facility for prison inmates in Boston, Mass. Title succeeds at "tough" read mean, ornery, brutal and brutalized with a dash of despair where many writers, including men, fail. The author, a former prison psychotherapist, knows what the system does to people, which is what this novel is really about. Nat's world falls apart when her good friend, Maggie Austin, is found dead, tied to her bed with her own pantyhose. The method instantly calls to mind a rape allegedly committed years before by Dean Thomas Walsh, a prisoner who was a student of Maggie's and of whose poetic talent she thought highly. Nat had recommended Walsh's release, believing his claim to be innocent of the crime. Nat is also inclined to believe he didn't murder Maggie, but things go from bad to worse for Walsh when he escapes from custody, and later, Alison Cole, the original rape victim whose testimony sent him to prison, is murdered. Aiding Nat in her personal investigation is Detective Leo Coscarelli, whose youthful good looks mask his mature abilities. Before long, their professional relationship takes an intimate turn. Though some may find the plot overly familiar, this is a work of fine intelligence and sensitivity that should appeal to readers of both sexes who like their mysteries raw."

ginger Sapphire Beach Club: We are in our condo at this time and it looks fine. The unit will be available again on April 2 when we return to the US. The rate ranges from $700 to $1000 per week over the low season. You'll get a 10% discount from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted agencies on the island, and many more coupons as well, including the use of our 2013 SXM Privilege Card that gets you discounts on many restaurants. Check the calendar on our website for available dates. A recent visitor said, "Erich, We had a wonderful time at your condo for the third year in a row. We appreciated the coupons. Hope to be able to do it again next year."

On the right is a shot from our balcony showing one of the ferries flying past our balcony.

For those of you who wish to sell or rent their week or unit, we have opened up the Sapphire Beach Club website for that purpose. We charge $25 per year. If you wish to rent or sell your unit, send us some text (and $25 to esk@sxm-info.com via Paypal). If you wish to rent or buy a unit without high middleman fees, check out the website. At present, there are several sales and/or rentals available directly from owners. Given a 25 to 35% standard rental commission, there should be some bargains in eliminating the middleman and dealing direct.

SXM-Activities: Below left is Dread'i singing at the Blue Martini in Grand Case. If you have a great dinner in Grand Case on Friday night, you will generally hear Dread'i as you head back to the pay parking lot next to Blue Martini. If you are heading to the free lot from most of restaurant row, you have to walk past Blue Martini. Whichever way you go, you'll hear some reggae. Stop in, have a drink, and support some local guys. As the photos show, there is only a bass guitar. The lead guitar part is taken by one of the keyboards and the rhythm guitar is taken by the other keyboard. In the center is a guest singer and on the far right we have a guest drummer. I have found a couple songs on YouTube, Made up my mind and No woman, no cry.

Gas: On Thursday the Dutch side lowered the price of unleaded gas from NAf 2.825 per liter (about $6.10 per gallon) to NAf 2.700 per liter (about 5.85 per gallon, depending on what conversion you get for the dollar.). Cadisco on the lagoon in Sandy Ground charges $1.34 per liter. That's about 5.10 per gallon. It's 75¢ cheaper and nobody can make a mistake on the exchange rate. It's also quite close to the Simply Market where there is a better selection of French cheeses and patés.

Groceries: We stopped at Bernie's Local Rums & Spices to pick up some of our favorites. from left to right, Martha got some coconut oil for cooking, a good sized bottle of E's habanero-based hot sauce, some purée of red peppers from Ma Doudou, and some tamarind chutney. As always, Bernie could use some help caring for her menagerie.

Green logo Nature: On the right is nature slowly taking care of the ship that ran aground in the Bay of Potence on the northern edge of Marigot almost 18 years ago during Hurricane Luis.

Our office is well over 100% solar-powered and our hosting company servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Small Island story: There is no small island story because that is the small island story. It is Easter weekend and there is not much happening here. Everything on the Dutch side closes on Good Friday, most places close on Saturday, Sunday is Easter, and everybody spends Monday at the beach. There is no newspaper to let me know what nonsense is happening!


As you can request five prizes on one entry form, you could win a bargain on lodging, car rental, entertainment, dinner, and a gym to work it off! That would be five prizes to one person.

Current Contest:

now to 14 April 2013
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October)
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate
SXM-Privilege Discount Card - One free monthly card
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two
Escargot Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two

Read our rules, visit the websites of these sponsors, find their contest codes, and enter them on our entry form.

One of the rules is that you should enter each contest only once. You can enter five of the drawings on one entry. Thus, you could win a rather nice vacation at a considerable savings by combining accommodations with dinners and activities.

Here's some comments from a past winner:

We met with Sylvian at Select Wine Cellar, enjoyed the tasting, and opted for the Belin Champange for the free bottle. It was very good. I will try and find this at home to drink again. He was a very nice host. We also went to Peg Leg Pub for the steak dinner. We had the place to ourselves with two other couples. The $50 certificate kept the cost under $100 after wine, main course, and appetizers. I enjoyed entering the contest and look forward to future entries. Over 16 days we only had only one 4 minute rain shower; otherwise the weather was beautiful. We tried the Hideaway Restaurant at La Vista. It was very good as were the other places we dined.

Future Contests:
now to to 14 April 2013 | 14 April to 14 July 2013
14 July to 13 October 2013 | 13 October to 15 December 2013
same cast of characters as current contest



On 24 March the Euro was at 1.299 and today it is at 1.282, a rather large drop in a week.

La Villa, L'Escapade Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and Rainbow Café in Grand Case are offering 1 to 1 for cash. Paradise View Restaurant above Orient Beach is offering 1.2 to 1. Nearby Ti Bouchon offers 1 to 1 also. Auberge Gourmande and Palm Beach Restaurant are doing 1.25 to 1. Almost all other restaurants on the French side that we have visited have offered us a better rate than we would get from our credit card or a bank. There is no doubt that they want your business.

Charging your credit card in dollars used to save the 3% currency transaction charge that most cards are now charging for foreign currency transactions. About a year ago my Citibank card said they would charge me 3% just for doing business overseas - even if it was in dollars! I now use a Capital One card and get an excellent exchange rate. The frequent flier benefits can be used on any airline and there are no blackouts. Note that you won't get frequent flier tickets quite as fast. It may be best to use the Cap 1 card out of the country and take the rewards in merchandise. We picked up an 18 bottle wine refrigerator with half of our points from a previous year, but we couldn't even fly one of us to SXM. Recently, they essentially gave us 1% cash back, but it could only be applied to travel expenses charged on the card. However, spending several thousand dollars at restaurants in Burgundy and Paris did not qualify as traveling expenses.

Chase has come out with a Sapphire Card that is similar to Cap One, although the no foreign transaction fee only comes with the $95 per year preferred version. You'd have to spend about $3000 overseas to make the fee worthwhile, but there are other benefits, including a signup bonus if you spend over $3000 in your first three months. Read these discussions on Credit card Forum and Daily Markets and decide if they work for you.

On Monday night we went to Le Ti Coin Créole at the far end of Grand Case. It's possible to walk from the central parking lot, but there is a bit of parking next to the restaurant and a bit more on the street. We got a spot in just outside the door and walked in to a window table. We ordered the Jean Luc Columbo's Cotes du Rhone (22€). Créole food is not necessarily hot, but Carl does offer some wonderful home made hot sauce. If you use it, a sturdy syrah from Rhone works well.
Martha started with a accras (above right, 7€). She always has stewed Créole conch as her main course which I want. As I always try to have two different main courses, I have the conch salad as an ap (below left, 6.50€) so I can have some conch also. It's amazingly tender conch in a tasty and slightly hot dressing. Martha's stewed conch is in the center (13.50€) and I had the seafood pasta, one of Carl's signature dishes (below right, 19€). We were both very happy. Martha's conch was tender and tasty. My seafood (moules, shrimp, scallops, and fish) was cooked to perfection atop some al dente pasta and surrounded by local veg. We skipped dessert, but you can check out the Sweet Potato Pudding photo and recipe from a previous article we wrote. The total cost for our dinner was under $100, not bad for real Créole food from a real Créole chef, cooking in the Créole cottage he grew up in.

Belle Epoque
On Wednesday evening we headed over to Marigot's Marina Royale for dinner at Belle Epoque. For 23 years, Belle Epoque has been on the marina, serving good food at reasonable prices. Some of the most reasonable prices can be found on the specials board, from which Martha choose beef tongue with pasta and a somewhat spicy red sauce (below left, 14€) and I had mussels with cream and curry (although there were several other options, below right, 16€). Both dishes were superb, although I suspect tongue and even mussels may be an acquired taste. The cost was 30€, less than $40 at the current exchange rate and more than enough food for us. It's easy to add a glass or two or an inexpensive bottle of wine and have a tasty and filling dinner for $50 to $60.

La Gondola
Daniel (of Daniel's by the Sea) and Tina invited us to a six course dinner at La Gondola on Friday evening. We hadn't been there since David Foini left with one of his chefs to set up camp at Izi in Simpson Bay. He did leave behind chef Matteo Puccini who has been producing splendid Italian cuisine. Jackielyn Jabien took over in the dining room and, if possible, has even improved the wait staff. Unfortunately, Matteo was producing a farewell dinner for us as he is leaving on Tuesday for a new job in Vancouver.

As usual, Daniel brought a few bottles from his cellar. We started with a 2007 Echezeaux from Mongeard-Mugneret. The vintage was a poor one, but the taste let us know that a good wine-maker can make a fine wine, especially if he starts with a great vineyard. We had this with a chickpea soup with a bit of eel floating in it.

We moved on to a stunning scallop and shrimp combo (below left). Both scallops had their roe. The first had a confit tomato and the center one had an avocado sauce. The shrimp were in a honey marmalade. The next dish featured seafood in a broth flavored with lemon grass. At some point we opened a Montes Alpha, a cab from Chile that is aged for at least a year in French oak, mostly for Tina as Daniel didn't think she would like the Défi de Fontenil that we were going to drink. Chateau Fontenil is in Fronsac, east of Bordeaux and about four miles west of Chateau Petrus. Petrus is usually 100% merlot and the Défi is also. It acquired the name Défi (defiance) as it lost the right to use the AOC Fronsac. The arbiters of the AOC did not like that Fontenil covered the ground with plastic sheeting to shed heavy rains in the final month before harvest in 2000, 2001, and 2004. Having done so, the grapes were more concentrated than they would have been leading to a much better wine. Nonetheless, they had to be marketed as regular table wine or plonk. Hence the label and it sells for about $65 a bottle. On the right is a palate cleanser of celery juice and Campari sorbet.
This was followed by a risotto made with squid and squid ink and another risotto with turnip tops (above left). Our first meat course featured a duck breast cooked over oak from old Jack Daniel's barrels. It was finished and carved at the table (above center). Our next meat course was an updated version of beef Wellington (below left) which brought us to a millefeuille for dessert (below center). It was an amazing evening.


SXM Privilege Card Coupons: Below are links to the SXM-Info clients who have coupons on their websites. Another approach is the SXM Privilege Card which seems to be a pretty good deal. It will get you various discounts and/or perks at about 50 restaurants. They also cover hotels (mostly spa treatments at hotels), activities, and more. Most of the restaurant perks are a 10% discount. Use it twice in a month and it pays for itself. Victoria Cantin, the force behind the Privilege Card, has come out with Island Video Guide and Web TV. SXM Island Video Guide and Web TV

Bikini Beach
Kakao Beach
Marci's Mega Gym
Endless Summer Beachwear
Oizeau Rare
Pizza Galley
Tai Chi
Select Wine Cellar
Tropical Wave

  Our condo: The condo is available for rent $1000 per week or less for the summer. The rental includes about $500 in coupons from several of our website clients including one for 10% off a weekly car rental from Unity Car Rental, one of the longest running and most trusted car rental agencies on the island. Other notable coupons are $50 from Skipjack's restaurant, a tasting and a bottle of wine from Select Wine Cellar, a two for one ride on Celine's famous Lagoon Pub Crawl, $50 off a daysail on Random Wind, $50 from Piazza Pascal. The Christmas and New Year's holiday weeks will be available at $2000 per week and the balance of the high season is available at $1500 per week. As always any days within the next month are available for $100 each. Check the calendar on our website for available dates.

  SXM-Info has chosen SkyMed and MedjetAssist to arrange medical transportation services. We hope you never need it, but when air evacuation flights cost $30,000 or more, it's good to have. Check out both and see which one offers the best prices your timeframe and traveling group.   Click here to Enroll Now

Kindle: We now have one, so I'm really convinced that the Kindle e-book from Amazon is the best thing to take to a beach. It only weighs a half pound and is one-third of an inch thin. Even better, the price has dropped to $79. Newsletter subscriber Contessa says: "I loaded it up with more books than I needed and it was a very convenient way to read without lugging books to the beach." Paul M wrote: "My wife and I spent a lovely week at La Samanna in late March and I loaded my Kindle with several books and read them on the beach. The Kindle was fabulous. I had a case and was careful not to get in contact with sand, but the device was excellent to use for beach or poolside reading." Wendy K reports that her friend Jerri is quite happy with hers and now Wendy reports she bought her own. If you've already got one, you can get books here. They are cheaper than any other version of the book (except used!)  
Even though Martha has a Kindle and is quite happy with it, she still downloads audio books from our local library to her Zune or Sansa player (iPod knockoffs) and that has been working rather well. Obviously, these are audio books and it's not the same as "reading" the text, but it works quite well and keeps us amused as we drive. I just got a newsletter from a reader who reports that "Regarding downloading - several of my friends have the Nook and they can download books on it from their library in the states...but they do expire after 2 weeks."