St Maarten/St Martin
2 October 2016 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: In the week before today the forecast was for three clear days, three days with a chance of rain, and one partly cloudy day. Total rain was less than a half inch. The daily high temperature was 86 or 87F dropping to only 81F overnight. But then, along came Matthew, a tropical storm, soon to become hurricane. The early part of last week actually had plenty of rain and overcast skies. The photo on the right is a still from Vikkie Whitley's Facebook video of Grand Case on 28 Sep.. Tropical Storm Matthew was about 300 miles south of SXM, heading west, bringing lots of wind and rain. It gained in strength as it churned a further 600 miles westward, becoming a hurricane as it turned to the north yesterday. It is now (Sunday morning), heading for Jamaica and on to Guantanamo Bay. Here's Wunderground's tracking shot.

By now, other than lingering rain, the storm/hurricane is is no longer affecting SXM, so today, like nine of the ten approaching days, is listed as having a chance of rain. The total rain for the ten days will only be a bit more than an inch. It will be warm as the high temperatures are predicted to be eight days at 86F with one day up a degree and one day down a degree. The overnight low temperatures will be 80 or 81F.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:39 PM. That provides 12 hours and 45 minutes of sunshine, less than the last newsletter and it's all downhill until late December. The remaining full moons for 2016 will be 16 Oct, 14 Nov, and 13 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: On the right is a photo from happier days on Cupecoy Beach. Ten years ago, we used to be on the beach from 2PM until sunset almost every day. We also stayed longer into the season returning in late April or even May. This photo shows lots of sand even though it was taken after Luis (1995) and Lenny (1999). Luis was a standard Hurricane, starting as a small disturbance near Africa and coming west into the Antilles before turning to the north. It was a Cat 5 storm with winds reaching 145 mph and it lingered over the island for about 36 hours scouring all beaches. Lenny was only a Cat 4 storm, but having formed in the Caribbean near Mexico it headed east, slamming into the western side of the island, damaging Cupecoy greatly. These two storms reduced Cupecoy to about 20% of what it once was. Look carefully at the sand on the right hand side of the photo and you will see that the footsteps disappear. The wave action has erased them, indicating that there is not much more sand than you can see in the foreground. I was probably standing in the water when I took the photo.

cover The Black Widow by Daniel Silva - $12 (Kindle) - From Amazon: "Bestselling author Daniel Silva delivers another spellbinding international thriller, one that finds the legendary Gabriel Allon grappling with an ISIS mastermind. Gabriel Allon, the art restorer, spy, and assassin described as the most compelling fictional creation since Ian Fleming put down his martini and invented James Bond. (Rocky Mountain News), is poised to become the chief of Israel's secret intelligence service. But on the eve of his promotion, events conspire to lure him into the field for one final operation. ISIS has detonated a massive bomb in the Marais district of Paris, and a desperate French government wants Gabriel to eliminate the man responsible before he can strike again." Silva started writing this before the attacks in Paris, put it aside for a while, but eventually decided to finish the book. We listened to an audio version downloaded from our library. As I write this, the news of a bombing in NYC are are coming across my screen.
Sapphire Beach Club: If you are an owner at Sapphire, you can follow some of what is happening at the timeshare owners group on Facebook. I say some because this group has no legal standing, so they are not part of any court decision and moreover, the Verdiers don't say much to anyone and even if they do, there is the truthiness problem. We were promised accounting after the last special assessment and never got it. I was allowed a look at the books a few years ago and found that GEBE (utilities: electrical and water) and insurance each amounted to about a third of expenses. I asked to see receipts for these expenses. I was given a folder in which I could find only a proposal for insurance that didn't match the figure used in the accounting. The electrical bills did not add up to the amount in the accounting and price per kilowatt was about 10% less than what I had to pay Sapphire for my private meter, ie they were making a profit on my electric bill. This is the Verdier's ace in the hole. Without accounting Sitbon won't be able to get financing for his purchase and nobody does lack of accounting like the Verdiers.
On the right is a shot off our balcony taken during the Heineken Regatta. The pano below shows Passaat passing by our balcony with Saba in the background.

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 Jordan Village Agency, which is developing several buildings on Jordan Road near the Canadian School and med school, has put out a flyer (left) for Aqua, a residence tower. It said that the project was on Cupecoy Beach complete with a photo-shopped image showing the building next to Shore Point. The link to the flyer is on Facebook and has Lara (from Spiga) and Jeff Berger claiming the project is in the vacant lot across the street from Sapphire. I wrote to Jordan Agency and the reply said that the project would be "facing the sea between La Samana and Shore Pointe" next to the recent supplemental parking that Porto Cupecoy put in to accommodate Mario Bistrot. That's not exactly on the beach and it's certainly not across the street from Sapphire. Their photo on the right shows the building behind Shore Pointe I'd be willing to bet that it won't be in either place as this project like many others will not go forward.
They seem to be selling tiny studios (about 500 sq ft) for $159,150, one of the most exact prices I have ever seen on real estate. It's a low price for a small amount of space and it appears to have parking, but the market in Cupecoy has a large overhang from Rainbow, The Cliff, Porto Cupecoy, Shore Pointe, and the Blue Mall, not to mention the fall out from Sapphire.

Recently the Daily Herald reported on the Pearl of China development on a site in Little Bay near the Belair hotel. It will be 12 stories high with a 326-room hotel and 450 apartments. Construction is to start in January and finish in 20 months. The developer is Trey Cui of New Lifetown Limited Beijing. The article is essentially a press release from the developer describing a very large pie in the sky appended to another press release from the usual no-new-projects gang. This huge (or is that yuge?) new project appeared out of nowhere as a finished proposal. They even held a ground breaking with several Chinese people in suits with hard hats and shovels.

SXM-Activities: Above left is Capn Neil Roebert's Celine Too. She goes on a Lagoon Pub Crawl several nights per week. Get a snack and a drink at three different lagoon-front restaurants and more drinks on board. It's a great way to learn about some restaurants and meet people. She also does sunset cruises and much more.

For a boatload of possibilities, try Billy Bones Boatcharters (pano below). Capn Balazs stands ready to provide you with a great day on the water. As he is located in Pburg, he is particularly attentive to cruise ship passengers.

Alcohol: My uncle Peter introduced me to Musigny, one of the best Burgundies. It should be aged for several years, so the 2009 vintage should be saved for a while, but it costs over $600 per bottle. I thanked uncle Peter but have not reached his price level in wines. Musigny was grown in the town of Chambolle and to get the magic of Musigny in every bottle grown in the town, they changed the name of the town to Chambolle-Musigny. I have a few bottles of a 2011 Chambolle-Musigny from Les Plantes, a vineyard about a half mile from the grand cru Musigny vineyards. We got them from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar and brought them home as excess baggage. It will be in our cellar for a few more years before it accompanies a fine meal.
Rental Cars: Michael at Unity Car Rental has an offer for my readers: Rent an economy car during the summer and he will upgrade you to compact car at no extra charge. Just reserve online and mention the SXM-Info upgrade from economy to compact in the comments section.

green logo Nature:On the right are three frigate birds. Their legs have atrophied such they cannot run or paddle fast enough to take off from water or land. If they stop gliding to rest, it must be on a high perch so that they can drop and glide to become airborne. We see them rising hundreds of feet on thermals off our Caribbean balcony.

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: Jamaica has been in the news lately. The Herald had a story about the recent attempt to place a tariff on incoming coffee. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee is widely recognized to be the best in the world, causing it to be very expensive ($65 per pound on Amazon). Why the world's best coffee need protection is beyond me. Possibly the this idea was developed by those who are pushing for cannabis-infused tourism.


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.

The winners of the contest that just ended are:
Lagoon Pub Crawl - two for one ticket - Lee Massee
Skipjack's - $50 off a dinner for two - Lee Massee
DK Gems - $150 off a $500 purchase - Karen Held
Random Wind - $40 gift certificate - Karen Held
Select Wine Cellar - Wine tasting and a bottle of wine - Lee Massee
Piazza Pascal - $50 off dinner for two - Lee Massee
Pizza Galley - $25 off on a dinner for two - Karen Held
Ti Coin Créole - $30 off on a dinner for two - Lee Massee

Current Contest: now until 18 December
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:
18 December to 12 February

same cast of characters as current contest



On 14 August the Euro was at 1.116 and today it is at 1.124. That is pretty steady.

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. Super U switched to $1.05 to 1€. Note this is generally only for cash payments using US greenbacks and are subject to change.

There was a recent article in the NY Times about credit cards and travel benefits. Check it out here.

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.


Champagne Bistro
One Friday in mid-March last season, we stopped in at Select Wine Cellar and ordered lunch from Champagne Bistro. On Fridays they have a special of small French mussels in white wine, shallots, and leeks ($20, right). Martha had tuna tartare (left, $18). The mussels are very tasty and well prepared. Martha enjoyed her tuna (as did I). Sylvain started with a 2010 (best year in the last decade) Pommard. It was village wine, not a Premier cru. Nonetheless, it was quite good, as a Pommard should be. For comparison, we bought a Chantal Lescure 2010 Pommard Premier Cru Les Bertins ($95). It was a step up, probably a better negotiant/winemaker and certainly a better vineyard, hence the Premier Cru designation.

The Herald reports that the Conservatoire du Littoral cut the power cables to Tropical Wave on 10 Sep. This appears to be the end for Pat Turner and his crew.
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 L'Escargot Restaurant, Piazza Pascal, and La Villa. Treat your friends at your favorite restaurant!

Below is the list of annual closings for several restaurants.

2016 Restaurant
Annual Vacations
Auberge Gourmande 12 September until 15 October
Daniel's by the Sea We do not close ever
Open Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner year round
L'Escapade Restaurant Closed month of August only. Opening 1 Sep
L'Escargot Restaurant early July through September
Hideaway Restaurant 20 August to 1 October
Mario Bistrot closed in September and opening the second week of October
Mr Busby's Beach Bar We do not close ever
Open Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner year round
Palm Beach Restaurant
Paradise View
Piazza Pascal closing August 21 until the first week of October
Pizza Galley We are not closing at all this year!
7 days a week non stop from 5pm.
The Dock Waterfront Bar will also be open every day
from 4 pm for The Happiest Hours.
Le Pressoir 1-15 October
Rancho del Sol
Skipjack's closed 3 to 25 Sep
Le Tastevin
Temptation Restaurant
Ti Bouchon
La Villa No annual closing, but closed on Wednesdays

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. A blue oval sticker is displayed at businesses that participate 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


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

Chanteclair Bistro
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."