St Maarten/St Martin
19 March 2017 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: Last Sunday was a pretty good day, culminating in a mediocre sunset that lit up the sails on Passaat for us as she turned to go home (right). Monday morning found the haze clearing as a cruise ship came in past Saba. Tuesday was hazy on the horizon but Saba is visible behind Mercedes (middle) and on the right is a squall coming at us from the east with the aid of a very strong trade wind push on Saturday morning. The weather pano below was also taken on Saturday morning looking to the SW from Caribbean balcony.

Today has scattered clouds but there is a chance of rain, the next two days will be partly cloudy, followed by two clear days, then three days with a chance of rain. Sounds mediocre except that the total rain is only a half inch. The temperatures are pretty solid: 81-82 for the high and 75-76 for the low for the next eight days.

Here's the detailed forecast from Weather Underground and here's one from the Weather Channel. Sunset tonight will be at 6:23 PM providing 12 hours and 6 minutes of sunshine. In 2017 the full moons will be 11 Apr, 10 May, 9 Jun, 8 Jul, 7 Aug, 6 Sep, 5 Oct, 4 Nov, and 3 Dec.

SXM-Beaches: WendyK says sand is beginning to return to the beach in front of Shore Pointe, but it's nowhere near a "beach" yet. Baby beach is still good, and the water is fine for swimming. She is now back on Cape Cod after a rather reduced visit to SXM. I went down on Saturday and found some sand (most of it moist) at baby beach (left). The monolith is not growing back (right) and the pano below is a pretty sad excuse for a beach. The pools are nice and it appears that you can get into the water safely, but that is about it - hardly any sand at all.

cover Running Blind by Lee Child - ($10 Kindle, $32 Hardcover) - Amazon.com Review: Jack Reacher is back, dragged into what looks like a series of grisly serial murders by a team of FBI profilers who aren't totally sure he's not the killer they're looking for, but believe that even if he isn't, he's smart enough to help them find the real killer. And what they've got on the ex-MP, who's starred in three previous Lee Child thrillers, is enough to ensure his grudging cooperation: phony charges stemming from Reacher's inadvertent involvement in a protection shakedown and the threat of harm to the woman he loves. The killer's victims have only one thing in common--all of them brought sexual harassment charges against their military superiors and all resigned from the army after winning their cases. The manner, if not the cause, of their deaths is gruesomely the same: they died in their own bathtubs, covered in gallons of camouflage paint, but they didn't drown and they weren't shot, strangled, poisoned, or attacked. Even the FBI forensic specialists can't figure out why they seem to have gone willingly to their mysterious deaths. Reacher isn't sure whether the killings are an elaborate cover-up for corruption involving stolen military hardware or the work of a maniac who's smart enough to leave absolutely no clues behind. This compelling, iconic antihero dead-ends in a lot of alleys before he finally figures it out, but every one is worth exploring and the suspense doesn't let up for a second. The ending will come as a complete surprise to even the most careful reader, and as Reacher strides off into the sunset, you'll wonder what's in store for him in his next adventure.

As usual, Martha borrowed the book from our library via the internet and is listening to the audio book.

Sapphire Beach Club: Recently, Cheri Martel wrote: "We have now been at Sapphire for our first week. Things are definitely progressing but still need a lot of work. The pool and bar area look nice and the resort seems to be almost full. Lots of people and activity. Our two rooms have been completely renovated. We have had daily maid service. AC is working fine but can tell the new chillers haven't been installed yet. Staff has been great and it is great to see a lot of the same workers that have been here for years (that says a lot to me). We own 5 weeks and have paid all the assessments and maintenance fees as we feel that's the only way things will continue to get done. We've been asked repeatedly if things are okay in our rooms, they want to know every detail so it can be documented. This week the island has been packed with tourists for the regatta. Traffic is an issue if you don't know how to navigate. Hopefully this will encourage some of you to stick with your investment to give things a chance."

On the right are a pair of dive boats checking out the remains of the Gregory in about 50 feet of water. Below left is Random Wind heading our for her daysail. Below center is our "beach" on the left side of our stairs and the photo on the right is the view to the right. There is sand, you can get in the water, but don't count on the sand being dry.

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 Azure Hotel on Simpson Bay will be closing on 15 May for renovations. They will reopen in November of 2018. Mike says maybe they have a room for you, but hurry! On the right is a photo showing they are on the beach. No photo-shopping. No alternative facts. They are about in the middle of one of the longest beaches on the Dutch side. Moreover, there is little public access.

SXM-Activities: Richard Santaga went out on boats from Aquamania Adventures to view the Heineken Regatta up close for these photos. In the Ocean Racing Class, SFS II won the around the island race in record time shaving 2 minutes and 5 seconds off last year's mark.

El Ocaso (left) won CSA 3 (Caribbean Sailing Association) by winning 3 of 4 races during their three days of racing. Scarlet Oyster (right) won the overall cup for Most Worthy Performance; they took 3 firsts and 2 seconds.

SXM-Activities: On Tuesday night we went to Karakter on the beach in Simpson Bay. Ronny Santana has put together a soul and blues group called Soul Dressing with Norbert on keyboards, Ayan on vocals, James on drums, and Bill on bass. They cover all the soul hits of the 60s and 70s. It wasn't my favorite music then, but it sure can get geezers out of their chairs and galloping about the dance floor. The evening ended with Procul Harem's Whiter Shade of Pale.
Rental Cars: This week's gas report is brought to you by Jimmy Fitzpatrick at Leisure Car Rental. His office is just across from the Winair ticket office, next to Sixt Car Rental.

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 is no longer in the running. Dutch side prices have been higher for almost all of the 26 years I have been on the island.

Traffic: We got stopped by the causeway bridge at 3PM on Friday. It gave me plenty of time to take these shots. On the left are the boats at Port de Plaisance and on the right is the view across the bulk of the lagoon to the French side. The island center/left is Discover Island. The two breast-shaped hills in the distance are the mamelles in the French lowlands. Last I knew, Stew Leonard owned the mansion on top of the hill on the left.

Travel: It appears that the airlines have overestimated the demand for flights to Cuba. Two of them, Silver and Frontier, have decided to pull out of the market. Almost 300,000 Americans visited Cuba last year, up 76% from 2015 and January of this year was up 125%, so the market is large and growing, but not as fast as the airline schedulers thought. What is this doing in a newsletter about SXM? As someone who has about a third of a million invested on this rock, I am quite interested in the competition. Even if you don't have so much as a timeshare, you should still worry about the changes in all of the Caribbean as 11 million people on 110,000 square miles expand their tourist industry by adding US citizens.

We went shopping in the Marigot market last week and stopped in at The Garnet to see what's new in the Garnet business. Owner Joel Husson has a large collection of rings, bracelets, earrings, and pendants. Martha and I both like the color, so she has taken quite a few home over the years and quite a few more for relatively inexpensive gifts. recent designs
Alcohol: That's a bottle of Jean-Jacques Girard's 2014 Savigny-Les-Beaune from Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar ($26). It's great with cheese and charcuterie.

Groceries: These cheeses and meats came from Super U. The first cheese was on sale strapped to another cheese. We even looked in our copy of the Cheese Primer by Steven Jenkins and found nothing. Next is Morbier with the blue strip in the center ($8/lb), a creamy, dreamy Reblochon ($8.60), a Chaumes with the garish orange wrapper ($10.50). The meats are a garlicky, smoky sausage ($4.30/lb) and some country paté ($5.25).

green logo Nature: On the right is a mango tree in flower. It's a pretty impressive show.

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: There was an attempted robbery at Carrefour last Sunday. Two thugs stormed in after closing hours and forced a security guard into the restroom. Store employees called 911 and police were there quickly and arrested two men, one armed with a pistol.


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.

Credit Cards and Exchange Rate

On 12 Mar the Euro was at 1.067 and today it is at 1.075. That's bad, and getting worse. It's up almost 2% in March and we are barely halfway through.

With the Euro getting a bit stronger against the dollar, restaurants doing 1 to 1 become more interesting. It behooves those of us with dollars to check the exchange rate offered by restaurants. For several years French side restaurants have been offering better than market exchange rates, especially for cash. However, 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 an 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.


On Tuesday night we stopped in at Karakter, just past Mary's Boon in Simpson Bay, to hear Soul Dressing, Ronny Santana's new soul and blues group. We ordered a bottle of Meiomi ($55) and waited for our friends to arrive. The Meiomi is not cheap but it is pretty good. We were about 10 minutes early for our reservations and the place filled up rapidly. Word is getting out that Ronny and his new band are rocking the house on Tuesdays starting at 7PM. Our friends arrived on time and there were few open tables. They had the Concannon Chardonnay ($32). We've had a goodly amount of Concannon Pinot Noir at Skipjack's, so we weren't surprised to find that the Chardonnay was a good deal at $32. Our friends asked if we needed appetizers and, thinking back to our last two visits, the portions were quite hearty, so we demurred. We had some tuna (center, $22), pork tenderloin (right, $20), and chicken satay (MIA, $22). So now you know that the portions are generous, the prices are low, and there is a great band. What more do you need to know? All right, it's a beach bar so don't expect an ornate affair with servers in livery. In fact, it started in the old bus which now serves as the bar. The wait staff works hard as it is a bit of a walk from the kitchen to the tables. I find some of them extremely easy on the eyes and they are all friendly and helpful. The food is good, not exquisite, but well worth the price.

On Thursday night, we went with WendyK to Grand Case for dinner at La Villa. We parked in the pay lot and had a short walk to our dinner. As we had reservations, a corner table on the window was waiting for us.
We were offered a glass of champagne to start and it lasted through an amuse bouche, a chilled soup featuring sweet potato and carrot, and on into the seafood based appetizers. We did order a bottle of 2014 Chassagne-Monrachet from Bouchard ($79) to go with our main courses. Florence wisely decanted it and let it breathe a bit as we enjoyed the appetizers that we shared: a special creamy soup featuring tiny bay scallops (below right) and a crabcake with a side of salad ($15, below left).
Martha had the red snapper with mussels and a saffron creamy sauce accompanied by broccoli and mashed potatoes ($28, below left). The snapper was more than enough for Martha and quite an addition to our Friday lunch. Wendy ordered the magret ($28, below center) with a five pepper sauce and sweet potato mousse. That's a lot of duck breast and we took home about half of it for our Friday lunch. I had the Angus beef fillet with foie gras sauce, potatoes au gratin, and assorted vegetables ($30, below left). We added a 2013 Crozes-Hermitage ($44) to finish off these full flavored main courses. Martha actually prefers red wine, even with seafood. With the two wines our bill came to about $100 each. The food by itself came to about $55 each. It was a wonderful dinner: generous portions; relatively inexpensive (especially if you take advantage of the $49 prix fixe and use dollars at par); knowledgeable and attentive staff (above center); and a lovely setting.

Dinghy Dock
On Friday (St Paddy's Day) we were driving through Simpson Bay and spotted this sign along the road by the Dinghy Dock. It was after noon, traditionally my starting time, but I abstained.

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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