St Maarten/St Martin
13 October 2013 Newsletter

Other newsletters
Contests | Restaurants | Bargains and Happenings


Cupecoy sunset

Weather: It's early autumn. The daily high is in the upper 80s. Night time drops back to the upper 70s or lower 80s. 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 taken from the Horny Toad Guesthouse on Simpson Bay looking westward toward Beacon Hill in late March

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 5:51 PM. We have just passed the autumnal equinox (22 Sep) so there is a bit under 12 hours of sunshine, heading for a December minimum of about 11 hours. In 2013 plan on full moons on 18 Oct (soon), 16 Nov, and 17 Dec.

Hurricanes: It's been seven weeks since the last newsletter and two minor hurricanes appeared in mid to late September. Humberto arrived on 9/11 heading east from Africa, turned north, and then east again. Over the course of eight days it fell apart, regenerated, and petered out after moistening the Cape Verde Islands, about 2600 miles away from SXM. On 10 Sep the National Hurricane Center began tracking a storm about 1500 miles to the west of SXM, heading westward toward the Yucatan. On 14 Sep an eye appeared in the disheveled storm, causing them to call it Hurricane Ingrid. By 16 September, it made landfall at La Pesca, Mexico with winds at a mere 65 mph, below hurricane strength. 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. About three months 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 three quarters of the way through the season and nowhere near the estimates. This is the latest date for the first hurricane in over a decade and we are way past September, typically the worst month. As I said before, the forecasts look a bit overblown to me.

SXM-Beaches: We have heard from Elisa at Bikini Beach. She and Phillipe (Kontiki) were evicted from their restaurants on Orient Beach, but the Collectivité subsequently issued a statement that subletting a business on an AOT (essentially an Authorization to run a business on government property) is illegal and the operator risks losing their AOT and could be refused a renewal of the AOT. As Luftman had sublet his AOT to Elisa/Bikini Beach, that effectively proves that her lease was illegal. Now it is up to the courts to confirm and award damages. Elisa has lost her livelihood and awaits a further court decision. You can buy Bikini Beach tee shirts ($20), caps ($20), and bandanas ($3), proceeds go to her legal fund. There are pictures on her Bikini Beach SXM Facebook page. Shipping for two shirts shirts is $15.00. Just email your request to her at bikinibeach@orange.fr. She will send you a bill via Paypal.

Beach reading: Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson ($14 paperback) - New York Times Book Review: "Bee Wilson's supple, sometimes playful style in Consider the Fork, a history of the tools and techniques humans have invented to feed themselves, cleverly disguises her erudition in fields from archaeology and anthropology to food science. Wilson's insouciant scholarship and companionable voice convince you she would be great fun to spend time with in the kitchen. Wilson is a congenial kitchen oracle."

The New Yorker: "Full of intriguing scholarship. Wilson remains engaging, and nowhere as deeply or as smoothly as in Consider the Fork, where the information she has to juggle is at once gastronomic, cultural, economic, and scientific. Everything in Bee Wilson's pithy book brings you back to the kitchen: her histories of weights and measures and pots and pans; her observations on the domestication of fire and ice; her homey riffs on small, exasperating "technologies" like egg timers, cake molds, tongs, and toasters. Socially astute and funny."

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: Court cases have added a bit of background to the ad offering the sale of Caravanserai Resort that appeared in the Daily Herald about two months ago. Kildare Properties owned the Caravanserai Resort and sold one piece of the property to IFPS and another piece to NHKK Enterprises. The judge said that Kildare had no permission from the country St. Maarten to split the land it holds in long lease. I guessed that the mortgage holders were behind the ad and the court case allows Scotiabank (the main mortgage holder) to auction the entire property to satisfy its mortgage. In theory, timeshare owners do indeed own a portion of the property or at least the right to use a portion of the property at a given time of the year. Any buyer of the property would have to recognize these encumbrances on the property. Then again, if the maintenance fee rose to $3000 per week, the timeshare owner would be smarter rent elsewhere and walk away from Caravanserai.

In other property news, the Donald bought Chateau des Palmiers (Castle of Palm trees) on the water in the French lowlands.

SXM-Activities: Carla at Coconut Reef said they were are doing a deal for October for $49 for a two hour kayak tour instead of $69! They have been seeing cuttle fish (squid) and tarpon recently. Tell her you saw the deal in the SXM-Info newsletter.

Green logo Nature: On the right is a ringneck dove in a shoddy nest built on a palm frond beneath our Caribbean balcony. A better nature story concerns some residents who guided hawksbill turtle hatchlings away from the bright lights of Pburg to the safety of Great Bay. Read about it and check out the wonderful photo from the Daily Herald.

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 the Dutch side got a lecture from the Dutch on integrity, or the lack thereof. This, of course, caused the islanders to complain righteously, threatening to declare independence from Holland. I don't know who they think will step forward to bankroll their profligacy. At about the same time, a parliamentarian from of the UP party (founded by Theo Heyliger and still its leader) has resigned her seat so that Theo can replace her and have some position of authority.


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) - Diane Fitzback
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Hector Hernandez
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Hector Hernandez
Marci's Mega Gym - Two for One week with a shake - Ali Caracuzzi
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Ali Caracuzzi
SXM-Privilege Discount Card - One free monthly card - Hector Hernandez
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - DeLinda Goodman
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - DeLinda Goodman
Escargot Restaurant - $50 off a dinner for two - Diane Fitzback
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two - Diane Fitzback

Current Contest: now to 15 December 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 a Sulay entered 33 times, instead of increasing her chance of winning, she decreased it to zero as I deleted all of them. She did account for about a third of the entries.

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



Seven weeks ago the Euro was at 1.338 and today it is at 1.355, up over almost two percent.

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.

Mario's Bistro

On the Ides of March we went to Mario's Bistro for dinner with two other couples. Reservations for waterfront tables are at 7PM. There are no six-tops along the water so we had an interior table for which they seat people at 7:30 or 8:00. There is a small parking lot in front and now that restaurants have opened on both sides of Mario's, there is little parking on the side street. The good news is that the total rearrangement of RN (Route Nationale) 7 in Sandy Ground has added several convenient parking spots along the main road.

We really like the Morgon from Lapierre (so much so that we have a case of the 2009 in our cellar in NY). It's a Beaujolais, which includes nouvou Beaujolais, regular Beaujolais, Beaujolais-Village (several villages in the northern half of the region), and the cru Beaujolais. The last use their village name and include Morgon, Moulin a Vent, and Brouilly. Though recognized as better than the average Beaujolais, they still use the gamay grape and most producers go for fruity wine that can be drunk at an early age. Lapierre takes a different approach producing a powerful wine the justifies more ageing. His wine may sell for more than the other cru Beaujolais, but at its peak, it rivals its Burgundian neighbors to the north at a lesser price.

Martha and I split a shrimp and crab remoulade taco (below left). This is Mario having fun with the specials, putting fantasic ingredients into finger food that provides a satisfying crunch. For her main course, Martha had the Chilean sea bass (no photo) which sounds so much tastier than its real name, the Patagonian toothfish. NOAA says it is not endangered but that illegal fishing may land twice as much as legal fishing. Whatever you call it, the creature can live up to 50 years and weigh over 200 pounds, making its mildly flavored, firm white meat perfect for filets topped with a wonderful sauce. Mario put it on a bed of spinach, added tapanade, grilled artichokes, and tomatoes, bathing it all in a lovely sauce. I had the what they call a baby chicken (below center), although it is a Cornish-Plymouth Rock cross harvested at about four weeks old, yielding what we call a Cornish game hen, which is certainly not game nor necessarily a hen. This is the breed we raise back on the farm, so it's always nice to try another. It's especially nice to have one prepared by Mario with a great sauce, some cooked greens, and a clove of roasted garlic accompanied by garlic mashed potatoes. The other couples split a pair of desserts (below right is one of them) but we demurred, ending with espresso and old rum. We eventually had two bottles of Morgon and several bottles of water. The bill came to about $140 per couple, pretty good for food and service of this quality with a water view.

French Restaurant School

On 10 April WendyK visited: "Today was our first day back at the school after their two week vacation for the Easter hoilday. We began with a margarita with fresh-squeezed lime juice. While tequila and I are not the best of friends (since 1 Oct 1974), it was delicious (right). The first course was a "Scandinavian" plate of smoked fish: sturgeon, salmon, and herring, served with a pancake and dilled creme fraiche, and a chilled shot of vodka (not aquavit, below left). The second course was very fresh red snapper fillets with julienned leeks and carrots with a curry cream sauce and rice in a zucchini mold (below center). Dessert consisted of sliced pears in a creme anglaise sauce with a tuille (cookie, below right). We drank a bottle of San Pellegrino and a bottle of Bouchard 2011 Chardonnay. The bill was 43€."


We hear that Nettuno in Grand Case has been sold. It is being remodeled and will continue with Italian cuisine.

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."