St Maarten/St Martin
27 March 2016 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: The previous Sunday started out nicely, but clouded up and produced a whiteout while I was finishing the newsletter. On the right is a shot from Sunday afternoon. There are few clouds but significant marine haze, almost obscuring Saba. On Monday we headed to Orient Beach for lunch driving through a significant rainstorm, but it had cleared by the time we reached Kakao. That evening we saw Andrey Melnichenko's yacht A, heading west and behind it, the square masted Mercedes heading south, still in considerable haze (below left). Below center is a fairly clear shot of Statia with two sailboats. The one on the right looks like Lambada. Finally, the photo below right summarizes the previous week. Even the rainbow wasn't very good, despite a bit of rain nearly every day. The pano below shows the coast guard boat on the left with Passaat Schooner in front of a barely visible Saba heading out for her daysail on Tuesday.

The next ten days show six clear days, one partly cloudy day, and three days with the chance of rain reaching only 50% for a short time but mostly staying at a low 30% chance. The total rain is a mere 0.15 inches over the ten days. The high temperatures will be 83 except for a cold snap associated with the day having the 50% chance of rain. That day the temperature will only reach 82F - break out the sweaters. The overnight low will 76F over the entire ten days. Sounds better than last week which was better than the week before. Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:25 PM. That provides 12 hours and 15 minutes of sunshine. We are just past the vernal equinox (20 March). at the point of inflection where sunlight is increasing the most per day. The full moons for 2016 will be 22 Apr, 21 May, 20 Jun, 19 Jul, 18 Aug, 16 Sep, 16 Oct, 14 Nov, and 13 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: We got some photos of Nettle Bay taken from Mezza Luna essentially in the center of the strip that starts with Layla's, runs past Mezza Luna, and ends with Le Sand. Above left is a look toward Marigot and above center is a telephoto shot of the ruins of La Belle Créole. The pano below shows all of Belle Créole past Le Sand and what looks like an island on the right. As far as I can tell from Google maps (above right), it is not - but it's very close. I don't doubt that hurricane force waves wash right over the narrow causeway.

Wendy K on Thursday said "Some sand movement this week at Cupecoy, some sand erosion at baby beach and there is sand back at Shore Pointe beach for the first time in weeks." On Saturday she added: "The sand continues to erode from baby beach, but is coming back at Shore Pointe. The various coves along the stretch from Ocean Club to the Cliff are filling in again, as well."

Beach reading: Straight by Dick Francis - (about $9 Kindle or paperback) - From Publishers Weekly: By now, regular readers of Francis's novels know exactly what to expect: a carefully plotted mystery woven through the world of horseracing, with a few twists and a hero who can be depended upon to do the right thing. On those counts, his 28th novel neither surprises nor disappoints. When Derek Franklin, a steeplechase jockey nursing a shattered ankle from a bad spill, learns of the death of his older, long-estranged brother Greville, he's stunned to find himself named as both executor of the will and sole heir. But in rapid succession, Derek is mugged, his brother's gemology firm is robbed, and Derek himself is assaulted in another robbery attempt; understandably, he comes to suspect that Greville's death may not have been an accident. The complications that follow involve diamond trading, a horse named Dozen Roses and secret computer passwords that are discovered with such consistent good luck that credibility suffers. So does Derek--by story's end, he has rebroken his ankle and been involved in two shootings and a car wreck. Thanks to a clever finale, however, he emerges as intact as the author's reputation. Reader's Digest Condensed Books selection; Mysterious Book Club main selection; BOMC featured dividend selection.

Martha is reading this on her Kindle downloaded from our library in Salem, NY.

Sapphire Beach Club: The big news is that Sapphire is now on RCI. Jan Borsje told me that on Monday and I found it on the map on the RCI site (left). Admittedly, the red pointer is in the wrong country. But it's close to the actual location as indicated by the blue dot. It's a much better guess at the location than Summit resort got! On the right is the square masted Mercedes and another strange boat sailing past our Caribbean balcony.

Our unit will not be available in early April when we leave as we have signed a lease for the remainder of the year with our previous med school tenant.

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: In the pano above, Random Wind is heading west out of the frame on her daily sail featuring snorkeling, swimming, and a fine lunch. Unlike the motor cats, Random Wind uses her sails and there is nothing like moving along swiftly when the only sound is the wind in the sails.

On the left is Passaat heading out for a daysail and returning later that day. She does day sails with lunch, sunset sails, and dinner sails. She's rather elderly but has had some work done and is in great shape. She's about 90 feet long and a bigger boat should ride the waves better. If you are worried about being on the high seas, this may be the boat for you.

Groceries: We've done some more shopping at Super U and found about three pounds, four slices, of beef shin for $20. It used to be much cheaper as it is a tough cut that requires long cooking, but as the world learned how tasty osso buco was, the price has risen. The long cooking brings out the taste of the bone and the marrow and takes time which equals money, so osso buco isn't cheap in a restaurant. Do it at home and the time is gratis. Martha also did all four, but one each made a dinner, so we had $10 worth of protein in a very tasty preparation that included risotto. And we have another dinner in the fridge. We, of course, spent all our savings on a great wine: Saint Joseph, a Rhone from Galliard ($32 at Select Wine Cellar).

SXM-Activities: On the left is Audrey who was singing In Orient village when we were there on Wednesday. She's easy on the eyes and even easier on the ears as she sounds much like Nora Jones.

Accesories/Jewelry: On the right is Emma at the Wednesday (and Friday) party at Orient Village. She sells jewelry but she also had lovely silk scarves that she sells for a mere $25. Martha liked them so much she bought two.

Below is the full moon rising above the village.

SXM-Activities: On our way back from a dinner at Ti Coin Créole we heard music as we passed Blue Martini. We immediately turned left into the Grand Case parking lot. It was free as Joe and company had abandoned their post. We walked around the building and into the garden/dining area where Remo (right) and the Barbwire Band were playing reggae. They play here on most Friday nights. We saw Emily (left) and ordered a couple Heinekens on draft. We saw Joe from the parking lot with his wife Karen and spent the rest of the night catching up with them.

Gas: The cheapest gas we have found is still at the Delta Petroleum station (left) near La Santal on the west side of the French canal. Gas prices are up so they are offering 0.85€ now, but still doing 1 to 1, as the sign shows. That's now $3.22/gallon and it comes with a helpful attendant. Cadisco, across the French Bridge, on the lagoon, has raised their price to 0.89€ per liter and doing 1 to 1. That's about a $2 difference on a fill up. The Dutch side raised their price by 18 guilder cents, essentially 10 US cents per liter or almost 40 cents per gallon.

green logo Nature: On the right is Martha's amazing cactus. These pods are about to burst into a beautiful and fetid flower.

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:
Don Sharman

We were notified on Monday that Don Sharman from AMA Jewelers died suddenly while sailing last Sunday. We heard the news at the Monday Manager's Party at Sapphire. Don supplied the bus for the Wednesday free trip to Pburg and came to the weekly party to plug his trip. You did go to his jewelry store, but it had Heineken on tap and clean restrooms. The ride featured Don's latest jokes. Island 92 dedicated several hours to Don, kicking it off with Led Zep's "Stairway to Heaven." He will be missed.


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.

Winners of the contest that ended on 27 Mar
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Chic Frosch
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - DeLinda Goodman
DK Gems - $150 off a $500 purchase - Darinka Radic
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Darinka Radic
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Chic Frosch
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Chic Frosch
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two - Chic Frosch
Ti Coin Créole - $30 off on a dinner for two - Chic Frosch

Current Contest: now until 22 May
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two
DK Gems - $150 off a $500 purchase
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:
22 May to 21 August | 21 August to 20 November

same cast of characters as current contest



On 20 March the Euro was at 1.127 and today it is at 1.117, down almost 1%. That's good news.

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.

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.


Thai Savanh'
We headed over to Porto Cupecoy to make reservations at Mario Bistrot and have another high-end Chinese meal at Shanghai Brasserie. Unfortunately they were closed, despite what the minimal website says. We headed over to nearby Starz Casino and went to Thai Savanh'. They had the usual Thai menu where you pick a protein and then pick a preparation. We started with steamed dumplings that were flavorful, although Martha was not thrilled with the wrapper (below left, $6). Martha chose pork with a sweet and sour preparation (below center, $15). I also had pork in the Pad Ka Pow preparation (below left, also $15). It was advertised as hot, but I had no trouble with it. We both had rice and a beer ($3 each). The total came to $48, plus a tip. No credit cards were accepted. It was close and good, but we liked Pan Laan better when we visited last year. Pan Laan cost considerably more, but the food was much more interesting.

Champagne Bistro
On Thursday we stopped at Select Wine Cellar to see Sylvain, his former partner, Marina, and six others. We ordered five servings of mussels from Champagne Bistro (below right, $19). Martha ordered a very tasty tuna tataki (below left, $19). We started with the Crozes Hermitage on the right. It's a rare white Rhone that made an excellent apertif as we stretched the capabilities of the small kitchen. Lunch arrived and we moved on to a 2010 Ch Fonroque from St Emilion. It was 85% merlot and 15% cabernet franc, no cabernet sauvignon. It was drinking quite well. We finished another red from the south of France with the main course and sipped the sweet Monbazillac with dessert. Sylvain livened things up with his wonderful Duetz Brut Classic Champagne and we finished with some prune based eau-de-vie. It's a nice way to work into the weekend. The weekend started a day early on the Dutch side as Good Friday is a mandatory holiday for almost every business.

Le Ti Coin Créole
On Friday we met friends for dinner at Ti Coin Créole in 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 their small lot and walked in to find our friends at a window table in the corner.
We ordered a Chablis (35€) and a Cotes du Rhone (25€). Créole food is not necessarily hot, but Carl does offer some hot sauces for the adventurous: If you use them, a sturdy syrah from the Rhone works well. We shared several appetizers, conch salad (below left, 6.5€), accras (fish fritters) (below center, 7€), and stuffed crab (6.5€.
One of our friends had a lobster (above right, market priced at $25). His wife went with the lamb (below left, 13.5€, seriously inexpensive.) Martha always has stewed Créole conch as her main course. It's amazingly tender conch in a tasty sauce (right, 13.5€) and I had the seafood pasta, as usual. It's one of Carl's signature dishes (below center, 19€). My seafood was cooked to perfection atop some al dente pasta with plantains and broccoli. Everybody seemed very happy. Carl served Key Lime Pie for dessert (below right, 6€) with some passion fruit flavored rum. The total cost was about $100 per couple after a lower than market exchange rate was applied. We added a 10% tip. Carl's brother Kenneth waits on tables, but he also is a fine carpenter, making intricate bits of art with exotic woods. Our friends bought some.

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.

Rancho del Sol has just sent me their specials for the month of March. I guarantee that their food delivery service around Orient Beach is faster than that.

If you are looking to purchase gift certificates for island restaurants, check out Antoine Restaurant, Chanteclair Bistro, L'Escargot Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and La Villa. Treat your friends at your favorite restaurant!

There is a Thursday night party at Marina Royale in Marigot. The theme changes weekly. There is a Tuesday night party in Grand Case. There are Wednesday and Friday night parties in Orient Village.

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


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

Kakao Beach
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 their offerings.

Kindle: We now have have two Kindle devices, as Martha 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." 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."