St Maarten/St Martin
14 February 2016 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Sunday was extremely hazy, with no islands visible and it was very difficult to determine the horizon as the sea and the air were about the same color. That evening we watched the sunset on the right thinking that we might get a green flash. About a minute later I took the photo below left showing that there was a a layer of marine haze at the horizon and there would be no green flash. Moreover, marine haze doesn't provide for dramatic sunsets. The middle photo features Mercedes, the square-rigger, lost in soup. On Tuesday we had several white-outs as squalls raced over Cupecoy. The waves built up considerably coming from the southwest. We awoke to the sound of more crashing and to the news that the road to Beacon Hill at the end of the runway was closed because of sand and water. The sunset pano below was taken on Wednesday evening. While the sunset is lost in the haze, you can see the rollers heading in our direction. There were still some good sized rollers on Friday as we drove past Mullet on our way to Le Galion. The last photo (below right) was the sunset last night. It's been mostly cloudy for most of the week, not much rain, but not much sun either.

The next ten days show three clear days and seven days with a chance of rain reaching 75% at times and totaling 1.3 inches over the ten days. The high temperature ranges from 81F to 83F, mostly 82F, and the overnight low will have a similar pattern, ranging from 73F to 75F, mostly 74F. Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:13 PM. That provides 11 hours and 27 minutes of sunshine. That's one minute more than last week. We are about halfway between the solstice and the equinox, heading for 33 more minutes of sunshine on the vernal equinox (20 March). The full moons for 2016 will be 22 Feb, 23 Mar, 22 Apr, 21 May, 20 Jun, 19 Jul, 18 Aug, 16 Sep, 16 Oct, 14 Nov, and 13 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: We interrupt this week's scheduled visit to Simpson Bay Beach to report that Patrick Turner's Tropical Wave on Galion Beach is under attack. It's the usual same old, same old with the French side trying to move Pat off the beach, but this time they seem a bit more determined. An article will appear in the Daily Herald soon, but in the meantime, if you have ever spent a pleasant day at Galion Beach and would like to do it again:

Help save Galion Beach! Please sign this petition.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled visit to Simpson Bay Beach. I visited the world headquarters of Triple A Car Rentals in Beacon Hill. You get there by threading your way through the throngs on Maho Beach, turning left at Alegria, and continuing past the airport's radar installation. If you continue past Triple A, there is limited beach access and limited parking, but El Zaphiro (Sapphire in English and no connection with Sapphire Beach Club) has a restaurant, bar, chairs and umbrellas for your use. They appear to be refurbishing the rooms. Previously, this was the White Sands and there were some pretty dismal reviews of the rooms and a lot of good ones. The beach is quite nice with a view of the 20 foot cliffs of Beacon Hill plunging into the water. Below right is a photo taken through their restaurant area to the beach.

The road ends a bit past here, so to reach the rest of the beach, one can walk along the beach or drive back out past Alegria and Maho Beach and head parallel to the runway. At the causeway roundabout take the first right and head to Simpson Bay. When the road bears left, keep right and head past Bada Bing. You will soon be staring down Roberts Road at the beach. This is where Azure Hotel is located. If you take a right you'll go past the Horny Toad, Mary's Boon, and find the road dead ends at Karakter. The center photo is a shot of people on the beach at Karakter. The photo on the left was taken from the eastern edge of Horny Toad looking to the west.

Beach Beach Zafiro
The Murderer's Daughter by Jonathan Kellerman - about $18 (Hardcover) or $8 to $22 (paperback) - Amazon.com says: From the creator of the acclaimed Alex Delaware series comes a tour de force standalone novel that illustrates perfectly why "Jonathan Kellerman has justly earned his reputation as a master of the psychological thriller" (People). A brilliant, deeply dedicated psychologist, Grace Blades has a gift for treating troubled souls and tormented psyches, perhaps because she bears her own invisible scars: Only five years old when she witnessed her parents' deaths in a bloody murder-suicide, Grace took refuge in her fierce intellect and found comfort in the loving couple who adopted her. But even as an adult with an accomplished professional life, Grace still has a dark, secret side. When her two worlds shockingly converge, Grace's harrowing past returns with a vengeance.

Both Grace and her newest patient are stunned when they recognize each other from a recent encounter. Haunted by his bleak past, mild-mannered Andrew Toner is desperate for Grace's renowned therapeutic expertise and more than willing to ignore their connection. And while Grace is tempted to explore his case, which seems to eerily echo her grim early years, she refuses, a decision she regrets when a homicide detective appears on her doorstep.

An evil she thought she'd outrun has reared its head again, but Grace fears that a police inquiry will expose her double life. Launching her own personal investigation leads her to a murderously manipulative foe, one whose warped craving for power forces Grace back into the chaos and madness she'd long ago fled.

Martha, of course, has downloaded this from our town library back in NY while we are on the island.

Sapphire Beach Club: On the right the island in our pool is being spruced up. It has been years since I have seen anyone working on the island! I spoke to the Zumba girl and she did keep the volume down. I viewed a refurbished unit next to the front desk (ie ground floor, building three studio). It looked quite nice with a large three door stainless refrigerator/freezer, new glass four burner cooking top, and a more colorful interior treatment. We have a newer refrigerator and long ago tossed out the cook-top that Sapphire installed, but our interior is pretty much white on white. They have been running a pressure washer all week cleaning up all the outdoor areas. The TV now has a much clearer picture. That's the good news. The bad news that we have five channels explaining how to use a Dish Network set top box which we don't have. Two clear channels of Fox "News" are not twice as good as one. I can't complain too specifically because the channel lineup changes daily. Moreover, the bar thinks that 10PM is a reasonable time to listen to abysmal karaoke at 90 decibels.

Our unit will not be available in early April when we leave as we have signed a lease with our previous med school tenant. He will be here through the end of the year. Next door, studio unit 254, will be available for a couple weeks in mid-April. Check out the website and send Jim an email if you are interested.

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.

Shopping: I put some new bathing suits on Endless Summer's website. Martha doesn't own too many bathing suits, but she did get them at Endless Summer.

SXM-Activities: According to the Daily Herald La Bamba was bulldozed last Sunday and trucked to the dump. Apparently they had a permit to use land belonging to Tesi, NV. On Saturday they were given an eviction notice by Tesi. They moved to government land but were shut down at 10PM on Saturday night as they had no permission to use government land. On Sunday they were bulldozed and taken to the dump. On Monday I found several empty dump trucks in the area and one front end loader picking up the last pieces of La Bamba.

green logo Nature: On the right is a papaya tree along Union Road between Cole Bay and Marigot.

Our office is well over 100% solar-powered. In fact, in six years of operation our solar panels have produced over half the electrical needs for the house, my work shop, and a large animal barn. Our hosting company servers are about 130% wind-powered.

Small Island story: As reported last week, the Herald wrote that the Council of Ministers announced that the Inspectorate of Public Health was ordered to stop raids of businesses shortly after it closed Sonesta Maho's restaurant. I'm not the only one who found this strange as Tuesday's Herald had a smiley-faced Emil Lee (Health Minister) telling us the Herald was wrong. It was not just the Inspectorate of Public Health that was ordered to stop raids, it was the entire joint task force headed by the Justice Ministry and including the Health Inspectorate, Social and Health Insurances SZV, the Fire Department, Economic Affairs, VROMI, the Inspectorate's Labor arm and the Immigration Department.

If you have nothing to do, attempt to read the government gobbledegook that seeks clarity about what transpired. They should check a dictionary. Transpiration is the process where plants absorb water through the roots and then give off water vapor through pores in their leaves.

St Maarten, the Friendly Island: On Tuesday the Daily Herald reported that during the raid on Maho a plainclothes officer asked a 74-year-old man tourist at the pool to show his ID. When the tourist asked the plainclothes officer for his ID he was told "do not mess with me." Seems a bit strange, but my neighbor tells me that a maid was asked for her papers as she was heading home from work. She said they were at home. Rather than take her home to check the papers, they put her on a plane back to the DR. We were stopped at the entrance to La Samanna just over thge border from our home. It was about noon and French gendarmes were pulling over some cars, not all. Why they chose a rental car (it had R plates) loaded with four gray haired cooters averaging 70 years old is beyond me.


As you can request five prizes on one entry form, you could win a bargain on entertainment and dinner! That would be five prizes to one person.

Current Contest: now until 27 Mar
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two -
Ti Coin Créole - $30 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 dinners and activities. I really check and a while ago Sulay entered 33 times for one contest, 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 for that contest.

Here's some comments from a past winner:

We met with Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar, enjoyed the tasting, and opted for the Belin Champagne 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. ... 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:
27 Mar to 22 May
22 May to 21 August | 21 August to 20 November

same cast of characters as current contest



On 7 February the Euro was at 1.116 and today it is at 1.126. That's a bit less than a 1% change in a week. I wonder how long the French supermarkets will continue with 1 to 1 for cash!

With the Euro being so weak against the dollar it behooves those of us with dollars to check the exchange rate offered by restaurants again. For several years French side restaurants have been offering better than market exchange rates, especially for cash. If a French side restaurant offers a bad exchange rate, ask for your credit card to be charged in Euros. Assuming you followed my advice below and got a card that has no charge for foreign transactions you will get the wholesale rate on the exchange.

L'Escapade Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and La Villa, in Grand Case are offering 1 to 1 for cash. Nearby Ti Bouchon and Rancho del Sol are offering 1 to 1. Simply and Super U are also offering 1 to 1. Note this is generally only for cash payments using US greenbacks. This is no longer much of a bargain.

You should not be paying a currency transaction charge as there are many credit cards that don't have this onerous charge. My United Mileage Plus Explorer/Chase card no longer charges it and gets my first bag checked free for all United tickets purchased on the card.

We had a Capital One Signature Visa Venture card. It's true that frequent flier benefits could be used on any airline and there are no blackouts, but that is because you accumulate 1 cent worth of ticket for every dollar you spend on the card. Then you use that to buy a ticket. To buy our round trip from Albany to SXM costs about $700 meaning we would have to spend $70,000 in order to get the ticket. Frequently we can get flights on United for 37,500 frequent flyer miles, ie the frequent flyer miles on United are worth about 2 cents, about twice as much. In the Spring of 2014, Martha was offered a Capital One Quicksilver Visa Signature Card that gives us 1.5% cash back - no fooling around with miles. They do not charge an exchange fee on foreign transactions and they do provide rental car insurance. This has been our primary card as airline miles are not as valuable or as easy to use as they used to be. Consequently, we canceled the Capital One Venture card with a $30,000 credit limit. The newer Quicksilver card only had $18,000 limit. I asked if they could bump up the credit limit on the Quicksilver card. Seems logical, they were on the hook for $48,000 before I canceled, why not keep the total the same. They said it doesn't work that way. My reply was that when the Quicksilver card runs out of credit limit, I'll use my United card. Your loss.

We always notify our card companies of our travel. Chase and Quicksilver actually accept this info on-line, making it much easier than working through the hell of telephone answering systems.

There are discussions on Credit card Forum and Daily Markets that may help you decide what card is best for you. The first one has a review of the new Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. It gives you 2 points for travel related purchases and then allows you to take 20% off when purchasing your rewards through their Ultimate Rewards portal. It's tempting.


Daniel's by the Sea
On Monday we headed to Oyster Pond for drinks and snacks with SXM Norm and company at the Iguana Bar at Captain Oliver's. We arrived at 6:30, despite leaving at 5:00. I thought this wasn't so bad for a meet and greet, drinks and snacks affair, at least until the waiter told me it started at 4:00 and was over at 6:00. Norm told me the snacks were gone by 4:30! So, if you were waiting to berate for something I may have said in the past, just send along an email. Put the word trash in the subject so I can sort it properly.

Anyway, we found ourselves on the far side of the island with no dinner plans. We drove over to Oyster Pond's eating expressway passing by Big Fish, Canoa, and the Pizza joint to get the penultimate parking place at Daniel's by the Sea. It seemed to be a sign. We ordered a bottle of fizzy and a Ripasso from 2012 ($48, left) and got that plus a great basket of garlic bread. A consultation with the chef got us some manicotti (center) and seafood linguine (right). The mellow ripasso was great with the tomato sauce in the dinners. With an added 15% tip we got out for under $150. We were nowhere near the waterfront, so if that is important to you, make a reservation. Great food, a very good wine list, and good service led to a great evening.

L'Escapade Restaurant
We had a wonderful dinner at Escapade on Wednesday. We had reservations and were rewarded with a 7:00 corner waterfront table. We were offered a before-dinner drink and received two flutes of Laurent-Perrier champagne to accompany our tapanade lagniappe as we looked over the menu. The menu is brand new as the previous chef has moved on after eight years. We started with a lobster ravioli with a lobster bisque sauce. Gerald is quite proud of this and it was quite good. No doubt the lobster tank allows them to use the freshest of lobsters. Champagne and lobster is a great way to start a meal.

The wine list is one of the better ones on the island and we found one of our favorites, a 2010 Premier Cru Savigny-Les-Beaune. The wine was quite nice with Martha's shrimp and mussels as they were in a very flavorful garlic and parsley sauce. It was even better with my grilled filet mignon with a mushroom sauce and smoked mashed potatoes. We finished with a bit of mango rum.

Here is a time lapse pano of Grand Case Bay at night. The restaurants on the shore usually light up the beach, the boats anchored in the harbor are supposed to have mast lights, and Anguilla has electricity. In 1975 only people within 500 feet of the power station in The Valley had electricity and it was not until 1989 that most of the island had power.

Golden Apple
On Thursday we had a very tasty lunch, with enough left over for dinner, at Golden Apple in SXM Simpson Bay. Martha had a soft tofu dish with some beef and veg (left). I tried Singapore noodles again. This time I got more veg, more sauce, and less protein. They had a bottle of Matouk's on the table, so I I was pretty happy. A couple Heinekens filled out a lunch that came to $31. Not bad at all!

Tropical Wave
On Thursday we went to Tropical Wave for a lovely lunch on Galion Beach. There are three nice rosés on the wine list and Pat recommended the Carte Noire (right). Julie (right) showed up quickly with an ice bucket and some pretty good wine. They usually have a fish special and today they had three. Martha had the mahi with a mango salsa (below left). Pat and I had the tuna, lightly seared topped with sesame seeds and accompanied by ginger, wakame, and wasabi. Pat chose the baked potato and I went with French fries. All lunches come with a bit of salad and some starch: rice, baked potato, or fries. We even had some tiramisu for dessert. The full menu is on the website and there are a couple coupons there to save you some money on lunch and watersports. As usual, we sat down and chatted with Pat until the staff closed the restaurant around us. The Colectivité says they will start tearing down the ruins of the hotel and Pat will have to close for two months because there is asbestos in the buildings? Seems fishy to me. Help save Galion Beach! Please sign this petition.

Izi Ristorante

On Thursday evening we met Daniel and Tina at Izi Ristorante. There was a bit of confusion in that Daniel had made the reservations and mentioned that we would be joining. David noticed that there was another reservation from Kranz for six. It turns out there was another, albeit a Krantz, no relation. My camera battery expired so I didn't get a full set of photos, but we had some wonderful aps including a flatbread with salmon. Fresh fish was arriving so you see a lobster and scallop dish and a Chilean sea bass. I had a very tasty seafood linguini. Daniel had brought three bottles of wine and David joined us bringing two more bottles as we solved all the world's problems by midnight. Great food, great service.

News and Changes: We frequently post some dining photos to Facebook. Less frequently we post activities and other things related to SXM or food. If you're interested, I trust you know what to do.
If you are looking to purchase gift certificates for island restaurants, check out Antoine Restaurant, L'Escargot Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and La Villa. Treat your friends at your favorite restaurant!

Here is the current list of the ARCHA members contributing to the security and clean-up of Grand Case. They would appreciate your continued support of their efforts. The sticker is displayed at businesses that participating in this much-needed endeavor.

Hotels and Residences:
Grand Case Beach Club
Le Petit Hotel
Bleu Emeraude
Auberge Gourmande
Bistrot Caraïbes
Piazza Pascal
Le Pressoir
Le Tastevin
La Villa
Ocean 82
Calmos Cafe
Blue Martini
Le Soleil
Le Cottage
Tijon Perfumery
La boutique D'Anaise
La Boutique D'anaise
Cotton Club SXM
La Boheme
Sexy Fruits
Simple Elegance


The Gill Commodore's Cup takes place on 3 March, followed by the St Maarten Heineken Regatta. It opens on 3 March with a party at Port de Plaisance. A round the island race starts on Friday morning with shorter races on Saturday and Sunday.

Coupons: Below are links to the SXM-Info clients who have coupons on their websites.

Kakao Beach
Marci's Mega Gym
Endless Summer Beachwear
Lucia's Taxi Service
Pizza Galley
Select Wine Cellar
Table d'Antoine
Tropical Wave

SXM-Info has chosen SkyMed 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 for your timeframe and traveling group.

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 Amazon. 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 or work in the kitchen. 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."