St Maarten/St Martin
5 February 2017 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was as predicted: rainy. There were several squalls that drifted over, making the beaches problematic. It appears that most Sapphire visitors went to the pool rather than the beach. They scrambled for the pool bar when the rains came pouring down. But they ended soon. The pano below was taken last Sunday evening. The week did have a bit more rain than I expected, but still the rain came and passed quickly. On the right is Thursday morning and Saba is in that photo, but lost in the marine haze. Below left is the Saturday afternoon view of Saba from our Caribbean balcony. There is marine haze but a fairly clear sky. The next photo shows the sunset from Marigot that evening with few clouds in the sky. It was a lovely day. Today, also looks lovely until you look east into the dark clouds being pushed by the tradewinds.

The next week looks bleak: four days with a chance of rain, two cloudy days, and only one clear day. The high temps range from 81 to 82F and the nighttime cool temps range from 75 to 76F, just like last week.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:09PM providing 11 hours and 26 minutes of sunshine. In 2017 the full moons will be 10 Feb (later this week!), 12 Mar, 11 Apr, 10 May, 9 Jun, 8 Jul, 7 Aug, 6 Sep, 5 Oct, 4 Nov, and 3 Dec.

cover Black Irish by Stephan Talty - $10 (Kindle) - From Booklist Detective Absalom Kearny of the Buffalo (NY) PD is caring for her aged, adoptive father, John, a legendary, former detective himself. Smart and driven, Abbie is seen by fellow cops as a rising star. But she may be too driven, and the savage torture-murder of Jimmy Ryan, a resident of the city's clannish Irish enclave, "the County," drives her toward obsession. More grisly murders occur, and even though Abbie grew up in the County, no one will talk with her, even though many know what is happening; the County avenges its own. Talty, author of several lauded nonfiction books (Agent Garbo, 2012), has produced a suspenseful debut novel with a circuitous plot. Abbie is a wonderfully complex and conflicted character, but it is the County, which may exist in Buffalo and certainly exists in other northeastern cities, that shines brightest. It's a place where a boy whose people came from Mayo isn't allowed to date a Kilkenny girl, and its residents share an "ancestral memory of being oppressed in a country they'd never been to." Economically ravaged Buffalo is portrayed in broader brush strokes, but the sense of place is palpably evocative. Black Irish is simply a riveting read.

As usual, Martha borrowed the book from our library via the internet and read it on her Kindle. The bad guy in the story is apprehended in Eden, where I grew up.

Sapphire Beach Club: On the right is the entertainer who sings at the Monday night party. It's a good time with free-flowing drinks featuring prosecco with strawberries. Below left is OKTO, anchored just off our Caribbean balcony. I was thinking of buying it, so they came around to Sapphire for a couple days. She's about 200 feet long and 33 feet wide. It's owned by Theodore Angelopoulos, a Greek shipping magnate, who down-sized from an even larger yacht. I was hoping they would give me a couple million for my 13 foot kayak as a trade-in and offer good terms on the balance, but alas she sailed out of my reach. In the center is Random Wind heading out on its morning cruise on Tuesday. If you look carefully you might be able to make out the island of Saba on the left side of the photo. It gives you an idea about the weather this week.

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: La Vista Beach on the water and La Vista across the road have the same meticulous owners. As La Vista is on higher ground, it still has views of the Caribbean. The motto here is "Timeshare done right" and I agree, they have done it very well. They also rent out units. A studio at La Vista is only $160 per night. A double on the water at La Vista Beach is only $330. Come with another couple and you can stay on the beach for a mere $165 per couple per night. La Vista has a lovely infinity pool blending in with the Caribbean and a nice restaurant, The Hideaway, surrounding the pool.
SXM-Activities: Passaat is on the left coming home from a sunset cruise. Passaat means tradewinds in English and she is a schooner built in 1911 and totally refurbished. On the right is Celine Too, a brand new 62 foot motor cat. She does the Lagoon Pub Crawl, a great evening blending sailing, food, booze, and fun. As this was taken from our Caribbean balcony in the morning, she is heading around the island for a Beach Getaway. In the center is Pineapple Pete, known for nighttime activities. They have live music and pool tables. This is another place where they do things right. Pineapple Pete, aka Pierre, has produced a responsive yet fun team. We were merely sitting at the bar on the far side of the dining room listening to the guitarist. Nesi, a lovely and impressive six foot woman, was at the far end of the next room over, being night manager. Before we finished one beer she had walked over to say hello. We have dined here and the service is friendly and fun.

Rental Cars: That's Jimmy Fitzpatrick from at Leisure Car Rental in front of his office at the airport. It's just across from the Winair ticket office, next to Sixt Car Rental. It's a little hard to find so we took another shot showing the low-key entrance on the lagoon side of Airport Road between what used to be Lal's Indian Restaurant and what used to be Turtle Pier.

Gas: The Nettle Bay Cadisco was charging 0.88€ per liter and not doing 1 to 1. Delta Petroleum on the western side of the French bridge in Sandy Ground was charging 0.87 and taking dollars at 1 to 1. The Cadisco on the other side of the French Bridge was charging 0.88 and giving 1 to 1. Delta's station in La Savanne was charging 0.82 but not doing 1.1. The station near the Super U was charging 0.92. The Cadisco in Orient was charging 0.90 and doing 1 to 1. The winner seems to be the Delta station along the western side of the French canal, although if you use your credit card and get euros at 1.08 the ultimate price in La Savanne is almost the same.

Alcohol: We stopped in at Select Wine Cellar in Orange Grove to find this inexpensive red wine from Portugal. It's a 2014 Vila Regia from the Douro region. Sylvain is selling it for a mere $8 per bottle. I won't stop drinking Burgundies, but this goes well with composing newsletters.

Groceries: We have been shopping at both Carrefour, near Port de Plaisance at the eastern end of the causeway, and at Super U on the eastern side of Marigot. Carrefour is on the Dutch side , so they charge your credit card in dollars. Super U is in France, using euros, but offering 1$ = 1€, saving about 8% at this time (cash only). The French believe chocolate should be in all breakfast cereals. Consequently we buy most of my breakfast grains/granola on the Dutch side. Fresh milk is rarely found on the French side. The French (land of Liberty Fraternity and Equality) believe all peppers should be priced equally. Consequently, we buy red, yellow, and orange peppers on the French side and green peppers on the Dutch side.

On the left is a Salade Niçoise featuring frozen yellow fin tuna and and anchovies from Super U. The anchovies are only on the right side of the dish. The wine is a 2015 Château St Croix rosé from Select Wine Cellar ($10).

green logo Nature: On the right is an orchid spotted in Grand Case.

Our office is well over 100% solar-powered. In fact, in seven 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: The Tuesday Herald had an editorial related to a story the day before that mentioned that the Postal Services St Maarten (PSS), created when St Maarten became a country, was losing $44,000 per month, which the government as the owner of PSS was covering. Moreover, the main PSS building is uninsured and has not been transferred along with the land lease as was the stated intention when the PSS was created. Now the government wants to have the PSS pay rent to them. This, of course, will mean that the government will have to subsidize the PSS even more. Prime Minister William Marlin had a study that said staffing at the PSS could be cut from 32 people to six or seven.


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 19 February 2017
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

Future Contests:
19 February to 9 April 2017 | 9 April to 25 June 2017 | 25 June to 1 October 2017 | 1 October to 24 December 2017
same cast of characters as current contest


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.


On 29 January the Euro was at 1.070 and today it is at 1.079. That's up most of 1%. That's not good. It was 1.08 just prior to the election, dropped to 1.045 in mid-December and has climbed back up to almost 1.08 at this time.

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 is offering 1 to 1 for cash. 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.


Auberge Gourmande
We had a another great dinner at Auberge Gourmande in Grand Case last Sunday. As always, we were offered a flute of champagne as we were seated. We ordered the Gevrey-Chambertin Premier Cru. The wine list said 2012/2013. Much like last week, I asked for the older vintage: it's a better year and the bottle has another year of age. Again, it was well worth the effort. Our appetizer was salmon raviolis and salmon tartar (below left). It was very nice with the older burgundy. Martha had an appetizer as her main course: chicken livers in a puff pastry with a bit of salad (below center). I had a filet of beef with a morel sauce. You'll notice that I had five small vegetable creations with my dinner. Both dinners went well with our aged Burgundy. The food and service here are excellent. The wine list is even better.

Rancho Del Sol
On Thursday we had another lunch at Rancho Del Sol. They are located high on a hill overlooking Tintamarre, Green Cay, all of Orient Bay, and even St Barts. The pano down below is Green Cay with two kite surfers. Rancho has free wifi, a $10-12 plate of the day, and delivers in the Orient Bay area. Martha ordered the beef tartar salad (below left). Below center is our La Cour des Dames Pinot Noir and fizzy water. The wine was pretty good at 21 per bottle. On the right is my pizza Rodeo (same as two weeks ago) with pepperoni and olives (9.5). We spent all of 52 for lunch, making this a great bargain, especially given the view and free wifi. They close on Saturday and make something a bit more extravagant on Sunday (Couscous Royal, Moules in Cream, Paella, and Fricasee of Conch for this month) priced at 17.50. If you are staying out here, you should take advantage of this service and if not, you should find out what is on offer (Fax-info sometimes has the monthly plan as does this site) and plan an excursion. They are doing 1 to 1 on the dollar for cash. I ate the whole pizza this time.

Champagne Bistro
On Friday we stopped at Select Wine Cellar to see Sylvain and Marina, his former partner at Select. She had invited two other couples who were staying in guest guest house in Indigo Bay. Martha had an old favorite, the duck confit (left), and I had a rabbit (right). All good. The total bill for eight of us was $159, or under $20 each. We did have some spectacular wines that one of the couples brought and Sylvain donated a few to the cause. From left to right we had 2013 Daou from Paso Robles, a very pleasant white Rhone blend ($32); 2011 Nuits-Saint-Georges premier cru ($99), a lovely red Burgundy from a good, but not great, vintage; 1995 Ch Duhart-Milon ($56 to $110, auction prices), as noted, it is owned by the owners of Lafite-Rothschild, the vintage is also good, not great; 2007 Cabernet Franc, a fine wine made from what is usally a minor part of a Bordeaux blend; 2005 Meursault, past its peak at 16 years old; and 2004 Grande Maison Monbazillac ($35) a lovely sweet wine from SW France that we had with dessert.

Le Tastevin
On Saturday we headed over to Grand Case for a dinner on the water at Le Tastevin. We had made reservations and arrived a bit early for our waterfront table. On the right is a view of the sea grapes in the foreground and a bit of gentle wave action in the background. If we looked up we saw sailboats in Grand Case harbor and Anguilla's lights in the distance. We started with sparkling water and looked over the menu and winelist. We finally chose fish as the theme of the dinner, but as Martha really likes red wines, we compromised on a less powerful Burgundy: a 2012 Beaune Premier Cru Les Chouacheux from Jérôme Sordet (about $70, which is a reasonable price as the retail for this producer is about half that). Sylvain at Select Wine has three vintages from Chantal Lescure around $55.

Our ap was some apple aspic topped with celeriac topped with bits of king crab (below left, about $18). Interesting tastes and textures. Martha had an island bouillabaisse with fish (mahi, snapper, tuna, mussels, scallops, and shrimp) accompanied by a very tasty rouille (below center, about $33). The proper way to eat this is to spread the rouille on the bread, float a piece bread in the broth, as you find a bit of fish and broth to put on the bread, spoon that up and top with emmenthal. I had the tuna tataki, sushi quality tuna coated with sesame seeds, seared ever so lightly (below right, about $32) It came with stir-fried veg slices and a bowl of rice. Martha's dinner went from crunchy toast to flaky fish with tender tuna and toothsome scallops and shrimp in the middle. I had the tenderest of tuna with crunchy veg. The bill came to about $160, with the wine. The dining room is lovely, the view spectacular, the service impeccable, the wine list is very good, and the food is top quality and well-prepared.

We look forward to this visit as we feel this is one of the most pleasant dining experiences on this island. To enhance your experience, go a few days before or after the full moon as it lights up the bay. They are open every day for lunch and dinner in high season. I said this last year. I feel it is just as valid today.

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!

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.

Endless Summer Beachwear
Kakao Beach
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."  

Erich S. Kranz
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