St Maarten/St Martin
25 August 2013 Newsletter

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Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: It's summer. The daily high is in the upper 80s or lower 90s. Night time drops back to the mid to upper 70s. The humidity is in the 70s, rarely lower or higher. There is almost always a chance of precipitation, usually a thunderstorm. Just remember that unless a major storm hits, the rain and clouds come and go and not all areas get rain. Below is a panoramic shot of a very hazy afternoon typical of summer. If you look closely, the island of Saba is barely visible behind the lead cruise ship.

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 6:31 PM. We have passed the summer solstice so the days will be getting shorter. Over the last six weeks we lost about a half hour, dropping to 12 hours and 35 minutes of sunlight on our way to about 11 hours in late December. In 2013 plan on full moons on 19 Sep, 18 Oct, 16 Nov, and 17 Dec.

Hurricanes: It's been six weeks since the last newsletter and two more tropical storms have appeared, bringing the total to five. Just about everybody in the prediction business was saying this will be an active season for hurricanes. Normally the area has 12 storms, about six and a half hurricanes and almost three major hurricanes per season. A couple weeks ago, NOAA issued their mid-season outlook for the this year, predicting 13 to 19 named storms, 6 to 9 hurricanes, and 3 to 5 major hurricanes, essentially starting at the average and ranging upward. These numbers were down slightly from their original outlook. We are almost halfway through the season and have five named storms and no hurricanes so the forecasts still look a bit overblown to me.

SXM-Beaches: It's summer and many places close for a while, but one place that is always busy is Orient Beach. There are many choices ranging from small shacks serving limited fare to rather fine dining, considering that your feet are in the sand. We like Palm Beach Restaurant in the full service, fine French food tradition. It's to the north where the reef ends, so there may be more wave action. Closer to the center of the beach is Bikini Beach with an Asian/Thai menu. Please go to the original Bikini Beach (left). Nearby is Kakao Beach, another full service establishment that makes some fine French dishes in a lush setting (right). For burgers or lighter fare try Orange Fever (good pizza) or Pedro's (BBQ), both quite close to Club Orient and its attractions.

Beach reading: Sanibel Flats by Randy Wayne White - (Hardcover 86??, Paperback $27??, MP3CD $22, Mass Market paperback $7, or our library audio download $0) - Randy Wayne White is a columnist for Outside Magazine, the host of "On the Water," a PBS television series, and a veteran Sanibel Island fishing guide. He has written 16 Doc Ford novels. We listened to this as read by Dick Hill. Audiofile said: "Dick Hill breathes new life into White's first Doc Ford adventure, which takes place around 1990. Ford, an ex-CIA agent, is now a marine biologist. He's on a mission to retrieve his friend's son, who's been kidnapped by a Central American general. Add a mixture of gunrunners, stolen artifacts, and a special emerald, and you have the makings of a nonstop thriller. Dick Hill is fully believable as he delivers the numerous Latin accents, and he really puts out the character of Ford's confidant. The story may be 20 years old, but it's definitely worth listening to--even for a second time." We agree. He also reads Lee Child's Reacher novels.

ginger Sapphire Beach Club: We are in the US at this time. Our condo is available until our 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 just another shot from our balcony showing a hazy Saba with a plane coming in to PJIA, a sailboat heading out, and Random Wind heading back to Simpson Bay after another tough day or sailing, sunning, swimming, snorkeling, snacking, eating, and drinking.

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-Hotels: The Daily Herald reports that timeshare and hotel occupancy for the first half of 2013 was greater than for the previous year. Timeshare occupancy, as expected was greater than hotel occupancy, from 5 to 10 percent higher in high season and as much as 20% higher in June, proving the obvious: If you own a unit, you will come back next year.

Other hotel news is not as rosy. The Erato family's Aquarius project was declared bankrupt. Construction started in 2007, but only 75 sales were recorded for the 280 planned units, as the world financial system collapsed in September of 2008. It appears that both Sabra, the landowner, and Aquarius, the developer, were both owned by the Eratos and both were declared bankrupt. There is quite likely no money left for any of the 75 buyers as the land has already been auctioned off by the bank holding the defaulted mortgage and various assets have been stripped from the two corporations.

Moving on, an ad offering the sale of Caravanserai Resort (below) appeared in the Daily Herald and was duly discussed on TTOL. Nobody seemed to know who was behind the ad but I'd bet on the mortgage holders. I imagine that like Aquarius, the value of the property is not as great as the mortgage. Parts of Caravanserai are in operation so there is some money coming into the coffers, but the lack of maintenance suggests that there is not enough.

SXM-Activities: Diane from Random Wind says,"After years of great ratings, we have earned a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor - the go to travel site." She has started a sunset cruise on Wednesday in conjunction with the Caravanserai Beach Resort. It's only $30and includes snacks and drinks. Several new features have been added recently, including:

- new 14 foot inflatable AB dinghy with a fiberglass hull
- an organic stain-free mud bath at no extra charge
- free use of our stand up paddle board

Green logo Nature: On the right is a spotted trunk fish, not often seen, but interesting. Photo from Leland Harms.

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

Small Island story: Summer is usually a slow news time, but as the last newsletter was going it was reported that 800 tons of milled asphalt had disappeared from the airport. Eventually William Marlin said he had authorized the removal. Special for this newsletter, we are being treated to a sand removal fiasco. And on Saba, a water delivery man was caught shopping at a grocery store whilst unencumbered by a shirt. An off-duty policeman who was behind the shirtless gentleman informed him that he was in violation of Article 470 of the Criminal Code and Article 31 of the Island Ordinance promoting public order and community protection. It went downhill from there. Read about it here


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 that ended today:
Caribbean View Condo - half price summer rental (May-October) - Donna Turnbaugh
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Robert Ross
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Robert Ross
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake - no entries
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Nancy Nowakowski
SXM-Privilege Discount Card - One free monthly card - Randy Jenkins
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Randy Jenkins
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Robert Ross
Escargot Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two - Donna Turnbaugh
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two - Yvonne Robert

Current Contest: now to 13 October 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
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:
13 October to 15 December 2013
same cast of characters as current contest



On Bastille Day (14 July) the Euro was at 1.307 and today it is at 1.338, up over two percent the last six weeks.

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. A few years ago my Citibank card said they would charge me 3% just for doing business overseas - even if it was in dollars! I switched to a Capital One card and I get a good exchange rate with no fee. 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 and neither did the gite rental in Beaune nor the apartment rental in Paris.

My United Mileage card is from Chase and every year when I leave for SXM, I notify both Cap One and Chase that I am going to the Caribbean for three months. I always mention to Chase that they won't see many charges because of their 3% foreign exchange fee. Recently they wrote to tell me that the fee has been eliminated. As I really need United Airlines to get to SXM from Albany in one day, I am grateful for the extra miles.

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.

Mai Restaurant

In the week before we left the island Deepti, previously found at DK Gems during the day and various restaurants at night, came to the island. She has since married and is living near Hong Kong. We caught up with her and her brother Kamal at Mai in downtown Marigot. Madame Mai used to have a second-floor restaurant on Rue de Hollande on the back side of Marigot and after a few moves has opened on Rue de La Republique. That is the one way road that meets the road from Sandy Ground at Rue de Kennedy.

We had reservations and as the restaurant is quite small (7 tables, about 24 covers), it was a good idea. We started with some crisp and tasty nems (below left), added salad (below center), and a shrimp appetizer (below right).

We moved on to some vegetables (below left)and more shrimp as a main course (below center). We had an inexpensive Bordeaux throughout. Service was attentive, but the kitchen can get bogged down when the restaurant is full, as it was on this evening. That was hardly a problem as we hadn't seen Deepti in about a year. The menu is inexpensive and everything we had was quite good.

From Wendy K: We had a very nice lunch at Skipjacks - left Cupecoy around 1:00, and they were still pretty busy when we arrived. I pointed out "Limitless" to Tony, which was docked just across from where we were sitting, and within a half hour she was heading out for a special bridge opening! I've never seen her anything but docked in the lagoon, so it was quite a thrill!

We spotted some fresh calamari in the front fish case as we came in, so decided to try the "crispy calamari" $10.95, which was a generous portion of lightly breaded calamari, served with a tasty warm marinara sauce. Tony chose his favorite "Asian Plate" ($18, below center). Pan-seared sliced tuna, three shrimp, an Asian style calamari salad, served with seaweed salad, wasabi, and pickled ginger. The fish of the day was fresh-caught Wahoo ($15, below center) which was a generous portion of the quite substantial fish, pan sautéed. It comes with a salad and choice of rice or fries. I asked for salad only, and got an enormous portion of crispy romaine, with tomatoes, peppers, onion, and grated carrots. We drank at bottle of Domaine de Peyrat Merlot ($23) and two glasses of tap water with lemon. The total bill was $66.85, before they added a 15% service charge. Skipjacks is our favorite restaurant on the Dutch side, and it's always a pleasure to see Althea.


We hear that Tahoma on Simpson Bay Beach has closed. It's a pity as it was close and had an interesting menu in a somewhat secluded spot on the beach.

Annual vacations

Summer is here. I have written to several restaurants about the 2013 season and have several answers so far.

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 now have two Kindle devices, as Martha just bought a Kindle Fire, She paid about $200 for the device without the 3G option. It connects to WiFi which we have here in NY and at the condo in SXM, and nowadays, at almost all restaurants, hotels, etc. The Fire is essentially a tablet computer with Kindle capabilities and a camera. If you add Amazon Prime to the package you get free 2 day shipping on Amazon, access to a lending library of Kindle books with no expiration, and access to over 40,000 movies via Netflix. The Kindle Paperwhite e-book from Amazon is a great thing to take on a beach vacation. It is glare-free, weighs less than a half pound, and is one-third of an inch thin. It's only $119. 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."

Erich S. Kranz
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