St Maarten/St Martin
5 March 2017 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was a pleasant day but Passaat's sunset cruise (right) ran into some pretty hazy weather. Monday was fine, but we got a few drops of rain as we were driving into a stiff breeze heading for Anse Marcel on Tuesday. We changed plans and had lunch under cover at Select Wine Cellar. The breeze was still blowing on Wednesday. The whitecaps on the lagoon (below left) say over 10 knots (12 mph). The center photo shows two cruise ships heading into the rising sun (and Pburg) on Thursday morning. It was partly cloudy with a pretty good breeze on Thursday for the Commodore's Cup. Friday featured very strong winds on a hazy, partly cloudy day for the round the island race. On Saturday morning the winds were under 10 mph. The two sailboats on the right were sailing back in the afternoon. The sunset pano below was taken from the Blue Mall looking over the Cupecoy cliffs to the setting sun on Wednesday.

Today, the final day of the Regatta with the big UB40 show on Kim Sha Beach, will be clear (!!) followed by two rainy days with a half inch of rain, two cloudy days, a clear day, and another partly cloudy day. The temperatures are fairy stable: 79-81 for the high and 72-74 for the low.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:19PM providing 11 hours and 51 minutes of sunshine. In 2017 the full moons will be 12 Mar, 11 Apr, 10 May, 9 Jun, 8 Jul, 7 Aug, 6 Sep, 5 Oct, 4 Nov, and 3 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: Nettle Bay Beach is largely blocked off by hotels or residences, but Le Sand, Dreams, and Ma Ti Beach Bar on the west and Mezza Luna and Layla's on the east provide food, drink, and access. These are all good restaurants on a beach. There are no jet ski, para-gliding, etc establishments here and the beach is facing the tradewinds, bringing wind and seaweed. There are no beach bars serving bargain burgers and brews. Then again, there isn't much beach either. Le Sand and Dreams are next to each other on a large lot that has been cleared giving them plenty of parking and a decent sized beach with many chairs and umbrellas. Ma Ti Beach has essentially no beach and Mezza Luna has very little. Layla's has more beach and it is little used. All of them have a view of the ruins of Belle Créole destroyed in 1995 by Hurricane Luis. Le Sand has a sign proclaiming "Nudist Beach" at the far western end of their beach, toward the uninhabited ruins. Le Sand gets pretty pricey, but I've heard the food is good. Lots of people rave about Dreams. Below left and center are from Le Sand, as is the pano of their beach with Belle Créole in the distance. On the right is a shot from Ma Ti Beach looking west across Dreams and Le Sand.
Nettle Bay Beaches Nettle Bay Beaches Nettle Bay Beaches

Nettle Bay Beaches

I have only been to Ma Ti Beach a couple times a long time ago, but Wendy K was there four times about 5-6 years ago. The food was quite good and the pricing wasn't bad. When Layla was at her eponymous establishment we went often, but after she and Pierre split up we only went over a couple more times and that was long ago.

Nettle Bay Beaches Nettle Bay Beaches Nettle Bay Beaches
We went to Mezza Luna last year and again this week. It's a fairly good sized restaurant with another 50 seats out on the beach. The wind was pretty bad so we got a seat in the restaurant overlooking the beach and watched the salad greens blow off plates being delivered to tables on the beach. The middle photo below is the view looking west across Ma Ti Beach, Dreams, and Le Sand. The photo on the right the eastward view from Mezza Luna toward Marigot.
Nettle Bay Beaches Nettle Bay Beaches Nettle Bay Beaches
The pano below shows the ruins of La Belle Créole, destroyed in 1995 by Hurricane Luis.

Nettle Bay Beaches
Beach Reading: Moonglow - (about $17 hardcover, $15 Kindle, $11 paperback) - Amazon.com Review, An Amazon Best Book of November 2016: In the days following the publication of Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon traveled to California to sit by his dying grandfather, a typically taciturn and reserved man. But Dilaudid had loosened his tongue, and out came a torrent of remarkable stories of full of secrets, love, pain, sex, and regret. Chabon's remarkable new "autobiographical novel" Moonglow is mined from, but not limited by, those conversations; as he states in his author's note at the head of the book: "In preparing this memoir, I have stuck to facts except when facts refused to conform with memory, narrating purpose, or the truth as I prefer to understand it. Wherever liberties have been taken … the reader is assured that they have been taken with due abandon." The result is a sprawling, yet intensely personal, paean to his grandparents, their lives together and as individuals. World War II and its atrocities cast long shadows, as does the Space Race and the titular moon, which hangs over the story as a bright dream of escape and a dark reminder of failed aspiration. Like The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Wonder Boys, and especially The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, this is classic Chabon: an intensely personal story uplifted by the shifting tectonic plates of truth and memory, floating atop his inimitably crafted, sometimes audacious, always original prose. Martha downloaded the book from our library in NY while here in SXM.
Sapphire Beach Club: On the right is Tanya and friends performing at the Monday party in the lobby. She's now doing the Friday party by herself and the Monday party with a backing band. We had a great time. They serve decent wine and bring in Domino's pizzas. They also try to sell some timeshares and various tourist activities try to get you on board. They talk to individuals rather than assult everyone with a microphone. the manager, does give a give short progress report and is the MC for the raffles. On Friday he said that a container from GE is moving in our direction. Here from Rich and Carole Welch is a series of photos showing their refurbished room. I liked the look of the refrigerator so much that I am buying one from Philippe. As a whole owner, I pay for my own furnishings.

Sapphire is a good place for watching the Regatta. Our unit is one of the best: five flights up with balconies overlooking the spinnaker run along Cupecoy Beach and a lagoon balcony looking across Marigot Harbor all the way to Créole Rock in Grand Case. The boat on the left was not part of the race but they do seem to be having a good time. The tag line for the Regatta is "serious fun". The middle photo shows a boat that was definitely more on the serious, less on the fun. The third photo is one of the few with Saba appearing 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 Horny Toad is a deliberately small and distinctive guesthouse known for its congenial and unpretentious atmosphere. The original building is a former governor's house tastefully renovated into spacious, fully-equipped apartments. Each of the eight apartments is delightfully different, displaying a personality of its own. They all have Wifi and all face the beach. The lower level units walk out onto the beach.

Betty, the owner, is always having parties for the Superbowl, Valentine's Day, St Paddies Day, and even one for the Regatta as every race starts, ends, or passes by Simpson Bay.

SXM-Activities: It's Heineken Regatta week here in SXM, just the Dutch side as the French side wouldn't put up any money. Thus, the races do more competition on the Dutch side and all the parties are on the Dutch side. The Commodore's Cup has been subsumed by the Regatta and that race takes place on Thursday (top pano below) followed by opening night celebrations at Port de Plaisance. The round the island race takes place on Friday followed by a party on the Boardwalk in Pburg. Saturday and Sunday have shorter races and both end with parties in Simpson Bay. The final party has UB40 as headliners. Below are panoramas for each of the four days of racing. They were all taken from our Caribbean balcony and Saba is in the shot, although it is only visible in the last shot. The weather actually was pretty good overall, but very hazy most of the time. On the right is Random Wind. If you like sailing, this is the way to watch the race.

Commodore's Cup action ^

Friday's Round the island race action ^

Saturday's race action ^

Sunday's race action ^

Rental Cars: Michael from Unity Car Rental is another guy I have known for about 20 years. He has a wide selection of cars available very close to the airport. We always ask for an older car that has been pre-dented. We get a good price and no worries about minor scratches when we return it.

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 is at 0.89€ and taking dollars at 1 to 1. The Cadisco on the other side of the French Bridge is still charging 0.88 and giving 1 to 1. Delta's station in La Savanne was charging 0.92 and not doing 1.1. The Artsen station near the Super U was charging 1.02€. The Cadisco in Orient was charging 0.90€ and doing 1 to 1. The Blue station near Marigot's beach at Galis Bay was charging 1.01€ and not doing 1 to 1. The Artsen station near the Super U was at 1.02€. The winner seems to be the Cadisco station along the eastern side of the French canal. The Delta station in La Savanne has gone from first to worst in terms of price??? This may be a special for the Heineken Regatta. I don't often mention Dutch side prices as they have consistently been higher and subject to currency exchange shenanigans. The worst is when they tell you that the pumps are priced in dollars. The grocery stores give you 1.8 NAFl to the dollar, but the gas stations only do 1.75 (at best, because using an incorrect exchage rate is another one of the shenanigans). Today I mention the Dutch side as the government has cut the price of unleaded from 1.963 to 1.894 NAFl per liter. Converting those to dollars gets $1.12/liter dropping to $1.08/liter. That's still 10 cents per liter more than the Cadisco near the French Bridge. Even my tiny Getz has a 45 liter gas tank so getting gas there saves me aover $4 just for stopping at the third gas station I pass as I head to Grand Case. In case you are wondering, the Dutch prices in $/gallon are 4.25 dropping to 4.10.

Shopping We went to visit Royal Caribbean Jewelers in their 86B Front Street location in Pburg. They have an outpost at Divi Resort on Little Bay and another at Flamingo Resort on Pelican Key. Martha and I were both born in September, so our birthstone is a sapphire. Those get costly rather quickly. If you wish to keep in the color range but at a lower price, they have a great selection of larimar. Martha has some earrings of larimar that look quite nice. They also have a variety of bracelets, chains, pendants, and rings that would make a perfect souvenir of your vacation.

Alcohol: Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar served us some 2012 Bourgogne from the Hautes Cotes de Nuits. AOC Burgundy is found on the east facing slopes of an escarpment running north/south from Dijon through Beaune and on to the south. The eastern plains are too fertile to make good wine, but the slopes of the escarpment make the best pinot noir on the planet. The plains on the top of the escarpment are a vast ocean of pretty good, but not great wine. With careful cultivation and vinification, these Hautes Cotes can produce wine that rivals the middle heights on the slopes. Roumier's 2013 Hautes Cotes de Nuits ($35) is one of those wines.

green logo Nature: On the right is an adolescent pelican (the white head gives him away) about to dive in into Cupecoy Bay for lunch.

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 Herald wrote an editorial excoriating the government for instituting new admittance rules for yacht and cruise ship crew members on the eve of the Heineken Regatta when more boats than ever will be seeking admittance. They also point out that the EU rules (ie the rules that the French side follows) are not as onerous. Given the uncontrolled border between the French and Dutch sides, the Herald also questioned the effectiveness of these new rules.

The dump is either still burning or burning again, I can't keep track.


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 9 April 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:
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 26 February the Euro was at 1.056 and today it is at 1.062. That's bad, but on Friday it was 1.050. I'm wondering if Super U will go back to 1 to 1 pricing after the Regatta crowd sails into the sunset.

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 1.05 for cash. Note this is generally only for cash payments using US greenbacks and is 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 now use the 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.

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
On Tuesday we headed to Anse Marcel but hit a sprinkle and Mardi Gras congestion. We turned around and headed for Select Wine Cellar. We all ordered the blanquette de veau (veal stew, right, $18) from Champagne Bistro. Sylvain chose a Burgundy from the Hautes Cotes de Nuit from Roumier. It was very food friendly, especially with our delicate meat. I chose a premier cru Chassange-Montrachet for dessert.

Bistrot Caraïbes
On Wednesday evening we headed over to Bistrot Caraïbes for dinner. We parked in the pay parking lot and took a very short walk. The restaurant comps the parking, if you show your receipt. When we arrived at 7:00 they were not very busy, but the restaurant was full by 7:30, so reservations are a good idea. We ordered two flutes of Champagne, water, and a bottle of 2014 Aloxe-Corton (68€), thinking how the crisp, sparkling wine would cut the oiliness of the wonderful smoked salmon (below left, 16€) that I would order as my appetizer. This is the finest smoked salmon I have had on the island. I have seen fancier, but this is the simplest of ingredients: good, house-smoked salmon; crisp, tart onions; capers, toast points, and bit of creme fraiche with chives. Martha's main course was another of my favorites: grilled whole French sea bass. This is a smaller fish than the Patagonian toothfish which claims to be a Chilean seabass (center, 31€). Martha normally drinks red wine with fish, so even though I choose the Aloxe-Corton to go with my filet of beef with a slice of foie gras (right, 38€) she was quite happy. We ended with snifters of Armangac as we contemplated our wonderful meal and great service from a knowledgeable and friendly staff.

On Thursday we met Sylvain at Escape, a hundred yards from our condo at Sapphire. They do small plates and large plates and have a very good wine list. We started three small plates: crabcakes, tuna tartare, and shrimp. We only ordered two main plates: risotto with chicken and the lovely tuna on the right. We had a bucket of home-made fries for dessert. Sylvain choose the wines: Bourgogne de Villaine 2012 (white) and Ferran 2011 Pessac Leognan (red). Everything was good as were the prices. The kitchen was very slow.

Mezza Luna
On Friday, we stopped in at Mezza Luna in Nettle Bay for a lunch with our feet in the sand. It's the same owners as last year and, like last year, it was pretty good. Ruth, the waitress, was also the same: happy, helpful, and easy on the eyes. We both ordered off the menu, Martha getting a mixed fish appetizer (center, 16€) while I tried one of the two veal tagliatelle dishes (Varetti, right, 24€). We had a bottle of Gabbiano Chianti (25€) and a bottle of San Pellegrino. Both lunches were quite good. We ended with a couple glasses of complimentary lemoncello. Our total bill was 70€, about $74, and I added an extra $10 for good 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 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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