St Maarten/St Martin
3 April 2016 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: This week has been similar to last in that it has been rainy and cloudy with brilliant clear periods. Small craft and beach warning are posted. If we see whitecaps on the lagoon or Caribbean, we know the wind is over 13 mph. We have seen a lot of whitecaps. The photo on the right is the reason that the causeway was opening. This trimaran wanted to get out. We had a long wait, so I got out of the car and took these photos. Below left is is Mount Fortune, generally called the witch's teat. In the center is a view of the western reaches of Simpson Bay. On the right is a photo later in the afternoon taken from our Caribbean balcony. It's Tango coming back from her daysail under the watchful eye of the Dutch Coast Guard. The pano below was also taken on Tuesday from the causeway. It sums up the week. The shot is looking toward the Dutch bridge. On the left is Royal Palm and on the right is the Palapa Marina. The sky is at the top and the water is at the bottom, although it is hard to tell as they look pretty much the same.

The next ten days show seven clear days and three days with the chance of rain reaching only 35% for as max. The total rain is a mere 0.05 inches over the ten days. The high temperatures will be 83 or 84 except for a cold snap when the temperature will only reach 82F - tough it out with a long sleeved t-shirt. The overnight low will 76F except for two days at 77F. Sounds much better than last week. Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:26 PM. That provides 12 hours and 22 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 (7 extra minutes this week!). 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: Here is a telephoto shot of the bird cliffs at the far western end of Bay Rouge taken from the public access to Bay Rouge on the far eastern end of Bay Rouge. If you are ambitious you can walk all the way to these cliffs that separate Bay Rouge from Plum Bay on the westernmost portion of the island. The cruise ship in the execrable movie "Speed 2" was heading south into these cliffs. A few frames later the cruise ship was on the other side of the island heading north into the fuel oil storage for GEBE in Cay Bay. The next scene had it coming aground heading south into Marigot back on the French side.

Wendy K on Thursday said "Quite a bit of sand in the cove west of Ocean Club. Sand is mostly eroded at baby beach. Lots of sand along the whole stretch at Shore Pointe. Choppy water." On Saturday she added: "Fantastic beach day today, with lots of sand at Shore Pointe (all eroded at baby beach). The water was a bit choppy for swimming, but I got in and out 3 times. Hardly anyone there - maybe 10 people at any one time. Nice breeze. Perfect day!!!"

Beach reading: The Rogue Lawyer by John Grisham - (about $13 for the Kindle or $18 for the hardcover version) - From Amazon.com: "Sebastian Rudd is not your typical street lawyer. He works out of a customized bulletproof van, complete with Wi-Fi, a bar, a small fridge, fine leather chairs, a hidden gun compartment, and a heavily armed driver. He has no firm, no partners, no associates, and only one employee, his driver, who's also his bodyguard, law clerk, confidant, and golf caddy. He lives alone in a small but extremely safe penthouse apartment, and his primary piece of furniture is a vintage pool table. He drinks small-batch bourbon and carries a gun. Sebastian defends people other lawyers won't go near: a drug-addled, tattooed kid rumored to be in a satanic cult, who is accused of molesting and murdering two little girls; a vicious crime lord on death row; a homeowner arrested for shooting at a SWAT team that mistakenly invaded his house. Why these clients? Because he believes everyone is entitled to a fair trial, even if he, Sebastian, has to cheat to secure one. He hates injustice, doesn't like insurance companies, banks, or big corporations; he distrusts all levels of government and laughs at the justice system's notions of ethical behavior. Sebastian Rudd is one of John Grisham's most colorful, outrageous, and vividly drawn characters yet. Gritty, witty, and impossible to put down, Rogue Lawyer showcases the master of the legal thriller at his very best."

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

Sapphire Beach Club For the first time in 20 years I received a phone call from the front desk saying that the water would be cut off in a half hour for two hours. I filled a few containers and lived happily for four hours before it came back. My air conditioning started to leak water. As warm moist air flows past the chilled coils, water condenses and is drained away. Unfortunately the air has crud in it and the water drags some crud into the drainage line and it gets blocked up. The water overflows and drips from the ceiling to my floor. I called on the Saturday before Easter and two guys showed up and got it to stop. On Easter, another guy showed up to check that it was still working. On Thursday the valve on the toilet tank started to leak. It leaks into the tank and overflows into the bowl and out to I don't know where. There was no mess, the toilet would work fine, but a guy came up and changed the valve in a half hour.
One more thing, the hot tub has HOT, clean water. In case you are wondering where this is going, it seems that Jan Borsje has worked wonders in three months. On the right is Andrey Melnichenko's yacht called A sailing past our Caribbean balcony. Unfortunately, he did not stop in and buy the place.

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.

I wish I could say that the sunset pano below was taken from our unit, but that is a shot from the Marigot waterfront at the roundabout next to the cemetery.

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: On the left is Random Wind heading out for her paradise daysail that includes snorkeling, lunch, and some playing on the Tarzan swing. They only take 22 people out on their boat so it's not crowded.

On the right is a shot of the world headquarters for ReveMarine. They are located in Marigot's Marina Royale. For the more adventurous, they can supply any of several boats with or without a captain. There are some nearby islands (or rocks) to investigate and Anguilla and St Barts always beckon.

SXM-Activities: On Friday night we went over to the Perola Bar at the Blue Mall to hear Category 5. Their main gig, La Bomba, was picked up by a front end loader and trucked to the dump earlier this season, so we haven't seen them all season. King Bob sent out a Facebook blast saying they would be at the Perola Bar in the Blue Mall at 8PM Caribbean Standard Time. We passed by at 8PM and continued on the Porto Cupecoy to see Elisa at Shanghai Brasserie and Mario at his eponymous bistrot and enjoy a vinuous libation while we listed to the Latin based band playing in the courtyard. If my Spanish is any good, their name was Yerba Buena, meaning good herbs, probably not parsley. Nobody eats that. They did several Latin songs and an amazing cover of Eleanor Rigby.
We left at about 9:30PM and as we returned, we could hear a band at Perola. We squeezed into a marginally legal parking spot and bellied up to the bar getting two IPAs at $8 each. Not cheap, but good. OSHA noise standards were being violated in the bar, but several tables were set up outside. Unfortunately they were pretty full. Fortunately, I noticed some friends that we haven't seen much of this season at a table. Viola, good company, good beer, and great rock and roll.

Massage: Paula used to work at Divi and Port de Plaisance, but is now freelancing outcalls. We've both had massages from her at our condo. If you like deep tissue massage, she's got the strength to deliver.

Groceries: We went to Carrefour because they were having a great sale on good beef before Easter. I found about three pounds of cote du bouef (prime rib) for about $20. Again, we changed 48 ounces of protein into four 12oz servings getting two dinners with leftovers for two lunches.

We, of course, spent all our savings on a great wine: 2010 Chambolle-Musigny premier cru Les Plantes, a great Burgundy from Amiot Servelle ($115 at Select Wine Cellar).

green logo Nature: On the right is Martha's amazing cactus. The pods burst into this beautiful and fetid flower that uses its odor to attract flies for its pollination.

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: On 1 April The Daily Herald had an article that detailed the joint French-Dutch sewage treatment plant to be sited at the Harold Jack lookout on the road from Simpson Bay to Pburg. The effluent from the plant will fertilize crops to be grown in terraced gardens above the Indigo Bay development. It seems to be a win-win situation for everyone except the cabbies who regularly used this spot for their island tours.


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 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 27 March the Euro was at 1.117 and today it is at 1.140, up 2%. Not helpful, but making anybody doing 1 to 1 a bigger bargain.

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.


Piazza Pascal
On a Monday evening we went to dinner at Piazza Pascal. We had 7:00 reservations and parked in the pay lot, which was about pretty full. The stroll down the street showed most places to be busy, but not packed. La Villa was closed. Donna had saved us a corner table in the upstairs dining area. Pascal said that business has been down and the upstairs dining area was pretty empty when we sat down but was essentially full by the time we finished dinner. Donna recommended a 2014 Fiulot Barbera d'Asti ($36,right). It was very good considering it probably hasn't been in the bottle more than a year.

We had been to Sapphire's Manager's party which always includes meatballs, chicken wings, and pizza, so we skipped an appetizer. Martha chose a lighter than air gnocchi with sausage in a red sauce (below left, $22). I had the Linguini Di Napoli (below right, $25), shrimp, calamari, scallops, mussels, and assorted seafood in fresh basil tomato sauce over linguini pasta.

I was offered spicy sauce, which I accepted without question. We ended with a flute of champagne for Martha and an old rum for me. Total cost, about $93 as they are still doing 1 to 1 for cash purchases. Since that isn't as great as it used to be, they are now comping the parking! There is no water view, but this is one of the best deals in Grand Case, good food, nice wines, with friendly service from beautiful ladies in a nice spot.

On Tuesday we headed over to Marigot's Marina Royale for a dinner on the water at Chanteclair. Twice in a row we have had the good fortune to find a parking spot along the road next to the Crossontiere Restaurant. No such luck this time so we continued around the marina to the other parking lot on the north side of the marina, away from the Anguilla Channel. We found a convenient spot in that parking lot. There are security guards on patrol and that has cleaned up the marina significantly. On the right is our view across the Marina to Tropicana.
We ordered water and a 2011 Chateau de Beaune Premier Cru from Bouchard (left, 58€). Wonderful vineyards and winemaker, but one of the worst years in the last decade. In the end, the skill of the winemaker allows him to produce a pretty good wine, even in a bad year. We both had a salmon tempura appetizer with a teriyaki foam (below left, 13€). It was a very clean, light and tasty start to the dinner. Martha moved on to a mahi with thin slices of chorizo topped with a Caprese salad in a crispy roll. There were hints of vanilla and an arugula pesto (below center, 22€). I had Beef Bourgignon with mashed potatoes. The beef was long-cooked to a tasty tenderness (below right, 18€). We were offered after dinner drinks. Martha had a champagne and I had some Angostura 1919, the same one we have at home! The total bill was a bit over 100€ and our drinking was about two-thirds of the bill. There is a 10% off coupon on the website.

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 April. They have a special plate every day of the week for $12. On Wednesday they serve a steak at that price, and yes, they are doing 1 to 1 on the dollar. On Sundays they rotate Couscous Royale, Mussels, Paella, and Conch Fricassee for $17.50.

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.

Chanteclair Bistro
Escargot Restaurant
Endless Summer Beachwear
Kakao Beach
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."