St Maarten/St Martin
14 April 2013 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: We departed rather swiftly (see Travel below) but as we packed on Sunday (Mar 31) and departed on Monday we noticed that the weather was warm and calm. Later that week the wind picked up, as did the marine haze. Win some, lose some. The breeze dropped the heat index a bit but the haze obscured the view of any islands. It stayed that way until Thursday (11 Apr) when Saba was visible again, but she was gone on this morning. The photo on the right was taken from Airport Road. That is the top of the airport terminal with beautiful sunlit clouds above. The sunset panorama below was taken from the balcony of our condo.

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 6:28 PM, three minutes later than the previous newsletter. 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 (31 Mar) was an OK day at Cupecoy although the swells were getting bigger. Monday showed lots of dry sand at baby beach, wet sand at the middle beach, and no sand at Shore Pointe. By Tuesday the whitecaps showed that there was a good breeze and middle beach was gone while baby beach was eroding. The marine haze precluded views of any of the islands. Wednesday was calmer but baby beach was smaller. Thursday was a beautiful day, still hot with good breeze and a nearly clear sky. The seas have calmed down and sand is beginning to fill in the pools at Shore Pointe, as it diminishes on baby beach. Still room for plenty of chairs at baby beach. There was more sand in front of Shore Pointe on Friday, along the cliffs next to middle beach, and sand at baby beach and calm waves. Saturday had calm water with the current heading toward Shore Pointe, along with the sand. Baby beach held 10-20 chairs, but there was a very steep incline to the water on the eastern end (photo right). Sunday morning showed another boulder added to the blockade such that even Dany is parked in the lot. That's the way it was back in the 90s, so it doesn't seem so bad to me.
On Monday, there was a lot of sand back at Short Pointe, some at baby beach, and the water is calmer than it was. There was lots of sand at Shore Pointe and only room for a dozen chairs at baby beach. The boulders are still in place, but Dany's pass-through spot is open. By Thursday there was calm water, lapping waves, lots of sand at Shore Pointe and not so much at baby beach. Same on Friday and more of same on Saturday. Cupecoy appears to be moving into its summer phase with little sand in most locations and quite a bit at ShorePointe. On the left is Lassie playing on the cliffs and on the right is a sunset photo shot through the leaves of the agave cactus growing on the cliffs in 2005.

Beach reading: The Prisoner by Ed Arre - (not on Kindle or $16 for the paperback version) - Former navy explosive expert Peter Carew thought he had put his troubled past behind him and found anonymity and peace on the Caribbean island of St. Gregory. As partner in a successful marine repair operation his life is uncomplicated and trouble-free until the mysterious Albatross slips into the harbor in need of repair. The bellicose Frank Sharp is secretive in the extreme yet has enough money and nerve to get what he wants and he wants his ship back in operation now. While Peter and his crusty partner Mitch Danks pull out all the stops to complete the complicated repairs, a group of modern day pirates have other ideas for the ship and what looks to be valuable cargo. The pirates get more than they bargain for and Peter Carew is pulled into a dangerous game of international intrigue as he tries to rescue his friend from the murderous Sharp only to find he holds yet another man's life in his hands.

Ed Arre is the pen name for Ed Regenye,a native New Jersian, currently resides on the Caribbean island of St. Maarten with his wife Judith. A former newspaperman, public relations and marketing consultant, Ed worked in New York and London before retiring to St. Maarten where he writes fiction fulltime. Ed has authored four novels - The Prisoner, Deadline and Rapacious, all set in the fictional island of St. Gregory, and Terror which is set in London.

In his recent novels Ed has increasingly incorporated familiar people and places in his work to make the novels more appealing to those who are familiar with St. Maarten. In his latest book, Rapacious, a supporting character role was auctioned for charity and Ed successfully wove the life of this real person into the fabric of the story. He is currently updating The Prisoner in light of significant international developments to make this 'What If?' novel even more thought-provoking. The new edition will be out in early 2013.

Which brings us to this announcement by Roland Richardson: The long-awaited edition has arrived on on the island with a brilliantly conceived new ending! Meet the Author, Ed Arre, have your copy personalized, and share in a toast to his success! Come to the Roland Richardson Gallery Museum at #6 rue de la Republique in Marigot on Friday, 19 April from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. RSVP appreciated, phone: 0590-87-32-24.

ginger Sapphire Beach Club: We just left our condo at this time and it looks fine. The unit is available until when we return in early January. 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 Saba on a clear day in March.

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: Just before we departed, we caught Ronnie and Peter at Buccaneer Beach Bar. They play from 6:30 until 9:30 on Wednesdays and Saturdays. As the sun was setting around 6:20 it was lighting up the sky in the background

Traffic: A large sailboat got its mast caught in the Sandy Ground bridge at the afternoon opening on 4 April stopping traffic for four hours while the mast was cut off. Didier from Mario's Bistro was stuck in traffic in Nettle Bay for so long that he never made it to work. Neither did many customers as their 60 reservations turned into 25 by the end of the night.

Travel: Some days it pays to listen to Jeff Berger. I note that Jeff and the airport have now adopted SXM as part of their website name. Thank you both. However, this compliment is because he mentioned that many airline flights were being canceled (and consolidated to increase load factors). In our case United claimed to have notified me before we even left that there was a time change on some of our itinerary. Apparently, shifting a departure time by 24 hours is a time change, even though the flight we booked was canceled. It didn't seem very important to United, as they didn't shift the connecting flight bringing us from Newark to Albany, so we were scheduled to have a bonus vacation day in Newark. Second prize, two vacation days in Newark.

I certainly don't remember any email and couldn't find one even though I tend to save them. My first hint of trouble was the email on Sunday containing our boarding passes. As they arrive 24 hours before departure and I expected to depart on Tuesday, I was surprised. Surprise turned to horror as I realized that the flight left on Monday, giving us about 20 hours to pack up the condo. I then had the good sense to check the connecting flight and found that they hadn't rescheduled it. I called and got that done (including the cat) and we started packing. We managed to finish packing, have a final dinner at Skipjack's, get a few hours of sleep, and board our plane. As usual, the connecting flight was delayed and we got home in the early morning on Tuesday.

Green logo Nature: On the right is a pair of red-winged blackbirds. Not exactly SXM material, but it does indicate that spring is coming to the farm. It has been so cold that the daffodils are just emerging from the ground.

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

Small Island story: Further to the use of SXM in domain names, I have purchased SXM-Medical.com. Currently it has the names, locations, and phones for various medical facilities on the island. It was purchased in anticipation of a boom in interest in medical facilities when the new hospital goes in across from Skipjack's. The project, like almost all others on the island, is moving slowly after the Theo/BadBing/Illidge bribery incident.


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.

Winners of the contest starting 14 April 2013
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - Alexis Guarrasi
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Wayne Burton
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Rick Weaver
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake - no entries
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Wayne Burton
SXM-Privilege Discount Card - One free monthly card - Rick Weaver
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Wayne Burton
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Wayne Burton
Escargot Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two - Alexis Guarrasi

Current Contest:

now to 14 April 2013

The BIG news is that Pizza Galley, home of the best pizza on the island is now a contest sponsor!

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
Pizza Galley - $25 off on 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. I really check and while DiscoGolfGoddess entered 11 times, instead of increasing her chance of winning eleven-fold, she decreased it to zero as I deleted all of them. She did account for about half of the entries that were discarded.

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 14 July 2013
14 July to 13 October 2013 | 13 October to 15 December 2013
same cast of characters as current contest



On 31 March the Euro was at 1.282 and today it is at 1.311, a rather large increase in a two weeks, more than compensating for drop in the week prior to that.

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.

Champagne Bistro
On a Tuesday in late March we went to Select Wine Cellar to see Sylvain, pick up some wine great wine to bring back to the US, and have a lunch imported from Champagne Bistro. We started with Didier Dagueneau's Buisson Renard from Pouilly-Fumé in the eastern end of the Loire Valley (right, I believe we had an older vintage but the 2010 is selling at $99). It was undoubtedly the best Pouilly-Fumé I have ever had. While we were having this as an aperitif, chef Johann from The Stone Restaurant and his girlfriend stopped into the shop and we all joined in a toast to his 29th birthday.
We moved on to a 2008 Nuits St George Les Vallerots from Chantal Lescure ($87), a rather spectacular Burgundy. Martha had a Salade Niçoise (below left, $11.50). Sylvain and I had a special of the day, entrecote (steak) with girolles mushrooms and potatoes (below center, $21). After lunch Sylvain broke out a white cheese from St Aubin, a small appellation in southern Burgundy known for its chardonnay. We had a 1996 Mas de Daumas Gaussac, a maker of spectacular wine in the Languedoc, a region not known for spectacular wine. This was a bit over the hill, but hints of its previous power remained. All in all, it was a wonderful lunch.

From WendyK: We've been meaning to try this restaurant, across from the Marigot Yacht Club, for a while now, as the tables have been full every time I pass by when parking out that way. In early March, we sat in the small area in back, which was quite a bit cooler than down below. It is all open air, but there are ceiling fans. Today was pretty hot and muggy, but once we'd cooled off from our short walk after parking, we were comfortable (photo below left). I believe we were the only English-speaking patrons. Everyone appeared to be French nationals living/working on the island who all knew one another and were regulars at the restaurant. A good sign. The wine "list" was actually a very large bottle (a jereboam possibly) of wine, with the various wines offered on the label (right). We chose the least expensive red, the Bordeaux maison, which was a Chateau d'As Graves '09, and very good at 21€, with a slight chill. The menu was fairly extensive, with nothing I noticed over 20€. But what really caught our eye were the specials which were listed on a mirror across from our table. We both wanted the "onglet grille a l'echalotte'' with frites and salad for 17€, so we could compare to our former favorite spot for onglet/frites, Le Bellevue (photo below center). We would say it was equally as good, albeit a few euros more expensive. The shallot sauce was delicious. The onglet came in one piece, as opposed to thinly-sliced, but was cooked rare, as ordered, and was good and tender when sliced on the diagonal. The frites were home made, and it would be a tough call to choose which were the best. The simple salad of mixed greens was perfectly dressed with a light vinagrette. Out total bill was 57.20 euros, which included a 2.20€.

Mario's Bistro

From WendyK: We began with a bottle of flat water (5€) and choose a Cote du Rhone (33€) to accompany our dinners. This being our final meal for the season at our favorite restaurant, we chose our favorite dishes from the menu. Tony had the Thai crab cake appetizer (17€), and I had beef carpaccio, topped with arugula and shaved Parmesan cheese, and served with melted St Marcellin cheese balls (right 17€). Tony had the Chilean Sea Bass with crab mashed potatoes, serrano ham, and spinach (below rignt, 33€) - my favorite, as well, so I ordered the smaller of the two Rib Eye steaks (below center, 30€) offered. It came with choice of potato, and one reason I love it is that it goes so well with Mario's au gratin potatoes. The steak is covered with crispy fried scallions, and served with a Bearnaise sauce on the side (below left). What's even better is we brought half of the steak and potatoes home for Monday night's dinner. We finished the meal off with our usual snifters of Grand Marnier and Calvados.


Annual vacations

Summer is here. I have written to several restaurants about the 2013 season and have several answers so far.
Look below for last year. It probably will be similar.

2013 Restaurant Annual Vacations Dates
Daniel's by the Sea We do not close ever
Open Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner year round
L'Escapade Restaurant No closing, open every night
Paradise View 19 May - 13 June
Open in September!
Piazza Pascal 10 August - 3 October
Pizza Galley Aug & Sep, re-opening mid Oct
Mr Busby's Beach Bar We do not close ever
Open Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner year round
Ti Bouchon Mid July until first week of Oct
La Villa No closing

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.

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."