St Maarten/St Martin
18 February 2018 Newsletter

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Cupecoy sunset

Weather: The previous ten days were mostly sunny with high winds. The high temperatures were 80 to 81F and the lows were 74 to 75F. The winds were often over 20mph vs normal trade winds of 13-15mph.

The next ten days will have a low of 73 to 75F, a high of 79 to 81F. five mostly sunny days, and a five partly cloudy days. Monday through Thursday will be very windy (up to 25mph). The photo on the right is a partly cloudy day with a mostly weird pair of sea-going vessels coming by WendyK's place on the lagoon in Cupecoy.

Travel: Someone suggested leaving for SXM via Montreal. The Transat nonstop to SXM appears to be out of business at this time. The regular airlines require three flights and an overnight someplace. I would need to rent a car here in the US at 6AM, return the at the Montreal airport and catch AA4510 to Philly. After a two hour layover, we would take AA1529 to SanJuan for the night, arriving at 2243. The next morning we take Seaborne 4542 to SXM. Obviously, we could rent a car here and drive to NY (JFK) and get a direct or non-stop flight to SXM. Basically, if we rent a car, we should use it to get 200 miles closer to SXM, not 200 miles further away, unless there are non-stop flights from Montreal to SXM. Unfortunately the Transat website says there are no flights to SXM for the foreseeable future.

That leaves us with the same story: Jet Blue has some nonstops from JFK to SXM, leaving at 8:30 in the morning. United is not flying from Newark to SXM. I cannot find any flights from Albany (an hour and a half drive from our house) to JFK. This leads to at least three legs and usually four legs to get to SXM from ALB. Most journeys require an overnight someplace. The expense and logistics get even worse when you add a cat. At present we have no reservations and I doubt we will until United resurrects their EWR-SXM nonstop.

Newsletter: WendyK has been sending me some info, especially info about the lowlands where she lives. I'll try to put together an abbreviated newsletter every other week.

Good news: An article in the NYTimes was certainly upbeat and IMHO a bit optimistic. For instance, "Kate Richardson, general manager of St. Martin's tourism office, said that the beaches are as she remembers them as a child. They are back to their magnificent state, and the roads are litter free. She also said that 300 hotel rooms are currently available to book on the French side. Before Irma, that number was 1,700. At least 10 more hotels are scheduled to reopen before the end of the year. On the Dutch side of the island, around 80 percent of the restaurants are open, and 1,600 hotel rooms are available to book now, compared to 4,115 rooms pre-Irma. Frederic Morel, GM at Bleu Emeraud, said that the hotel reopened on 15 Dec and now more than half of our rooms are booked.

Not so Good News: Mr Morel sounds upbeat, but he has about 10 rooms and he has only 50% occupancy with a mere 290 other rooms available. Moreover, he has a beautiful place on the beach in Grand Case. As for the beaches being in a magnificent state, I can't think of one that is better than it was 25 years ago when I first visited. It seems to me that we have more seaweed and less sand.

SXM-Beaches: For instance, on the left are the Lemon Drops on Cupecoy Beach. They usually circle up at the end of the day on the beach and share a few shots as the sun goes down. As there is no sand in front of Shore Pointe, they are celebrating on the rocks leading to Shore Pointe section of Cupecoy Beach. It was also a pretty ugly day as the photo on the right shows. But it's warmer than it is back in the US.

Bill Sahlman posted a photo of Orient Beach. It's not a pretty sight. Only the Perch is open, so without cleaning by adjacent businesses, the beach is slowly filling with seaweed.

Bad news: Imagine my surprise when I scanned my inbox only to find an email from Contessa with a subject that said St Maarten gives up:

When I clicked on the message, I got the entire story. It turns out that the subject was "St Maarten gives update on the condition of the island". This was unfortunately truncated to "St Maarten gives up". Cornelius de Weever, interim minister of tourism and justice, said that Oyster Bay Beach Resort will reopen with a limited number of rooms in April; Sonesta Maho Beach Resort and Sonesta Ocean Point hope to reopen late this year or the first quarter of 2019, and Great Bay Beach Resort, formerly a Sonesta and now a Sunwing property, will reopen in 2019.

Hotels: The Daily Herald reports that 46% of insurance claims have been paid and that premiums will increase by 25 to 30%. NAGICO Insurances, Ennia, and Guardian Group, who make up 85 per cent of the insured market in St Maarten, have paid about 110 million dollars to 4764 clients at this time.

The Caribbean Journal reported that the Grand Case Beach Club will reopen on 1 October. Its 71 rooms make it one of the largest hotels on the French side.

Mike at Azure Hotel says they are open and looking spiffy! We are offering 20% off on low season rates and 10% off last minute high season rates. The latter is for stays in less than 2 weeks. He sounds pretty upbeat and gave us a list of restaurants that are open (see below). He says the Heineken Regatta and the SXM Music Festival is going forward.

Here's an old photo of the Horny Toad Guesthouse Charlie Webb took this and many Toad photos which I'll publish while they rebuild.

Amaury and Thibault from Bistrot Caraïbes say that their studios on Orient Beach are in operation.

Activities: Passaat sank in the lagoon and could not be resurrected. Mirian and Pieter have a new boat, a trimaran called NO1SXM, formerly called Virgin Fire. Watch their website for up to the minute updates, but here is a sneak peek at the new boat.

Random Wind also went down in Irma. Diane's story written about a month after the storm is worth a read. At this point, she has a new boat and is putting her business back together. Help her name her new boat and/or book a daysail here.

Billy Bones Boat Charters is still in operation.

Pack Light Rentals is ready to take your orders for chairs, umbrellas, snorkel gear, phones and most anything you need.

The Tuesday night party in Grand Case has started for the season. They have a Mardis de Grand Case (Tuesday in GC) website here. It appears that they didn't bother with an English translation. Here are some Facebook photos from Bill Sahlman.

Rental Cars: Michael at Unity Car Rental is in operation and has cars for you.

Moti at Soualiga Car Rental and his family are OK, but all his cars are damaged.

Diane at Leisure Car Rental tells me that they are up and running hard to get your business.

Next Level Cars said that they have closed for the month of January 2018 because things are so slow. They will reopen on Feb 1. The rates offered will not be high season rates. We will continue the same low season rates all year for 2018. We still offer the return and senior driver discounts.

Shanyra at Starlite Car Rental says they are open but business is horrible and they lost a lot of vehicles.

Alcohol: Sylvain at Select Wine Cellar plenty of fine wine, especially Burgundies. He hosts fantastic tastings at your home or at his table in the rare wine room. Moulin Fou is open seven days per week and Sylvain is the wine steward on weekends.

Deb at Alpha Healthcare Services was back to full operation on 1 February. See her for Oxygen Concentrators, Scooters and Wheelchairs (even beach wheelchairs). She's got lots more, just click the link to see it all.

Here are three photos taken by WendyK as she drove from the airport to the causeway. These were all taken near the causeway. There were several large boats there when she first arrived about three weeks ago, but they have been salvaged. It doesn't look as bad as it did after Luis in 1995.
green logo Nature: On the right are two doves enjoying a stay at the Horny Toad Guesthouse. This is one of many photos that Charlie Webb took over many years at the Toad.

Small Island story: The dump was burning brighter than ever in early February. The photo in this Herald article says it all, but was overshadowed by the fireworks in Statia as the Dutch are about to take over the government.

Member of Parliament (and head of the United St Maarten Party) Frans Richardson was arrested by the anti-corruption team on Wednesday morning. This is the result of an investigation into fraud and corruption at Port St Maarten. Richardson is suspected of accepting bribes and tax fraud.


I haven't awarded contest prizes since late June. I know four of these prizes are gone with the wind (or waves) and will not be there to give you a prize.
Until this is all sorted out, new prizes will not be awarded.

Current Contest: None is currently scheduled
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

Credit Cards and Exchange Rate

On 4 Feb the Euro was at 1.249. That is the highest in over two years. Today it's at 1.241. That's down 0.6% over the last two weeks.

With the Euro still high 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.



WendyK and other ladies who lunch went to Tropicana in Marigot's Port Royale. The view has been enhances because several buildings on the pier leading to the Captain's office have been blown away, notably, Café de Paris. It's a nice menu and you'll note they are being gentle with the faltering dollar.

Below center left is chicken in a sauce suprême with crunchy sweetbreads (26€). Below center is a tartare of beef (17.5€).
On the right is a trilogy of foie gras, foie gras three ways, pressed, in a velvet-textured soup, and in a canneloni (21.50€). On the left is the dessert.

Mario Bistrot

Wendy K says: I went went to dinner at Mario Bistrot in Cupecoy. It is beautiful and the food is great. I had a combo tuna tartare and shrimp tempura.

Mike at Azure Hotel said that Lottery Farm, Topper's Restaurant, Karakter Beach Bar/Restaurant, Beirut Restaurant, Sal and Pepe Restaurant, and Vesna Taverna are open.

Bill Sahlman put up some photos of Orient Beach on Facebook. that link should take you to one of new buildings (mostly restaurants, but a few shops) put up by the French side government. They moved a bit further from the water, brought in fill, and put up a seawall. It took them well over a year to build several of these rather nice structures. It took Irma a few hours to damage this one beyond repair.

Bill Sahlman gets around a lot. Here's a great sunset shot taken from Driftwood on Maho Beach. It appears that Driftwood is in operation. It leans more toward the beach bar scene than a bastion of French cuisine. The physical plant is rather simplified, but it's a great place to watch the sun set and the planes land.

Contessa has a lovely photo of a very tasty plate of spaghetti con vongole (clams) from Al Dente. The restaurant is on the north side of the main highway from Grand Case to Orient. Just after the rotary to Cul de Sac and Anse Marcel is Peninsule and right after that is Al Dente.

The restaurant at the western end of Restaurant Row was closed because of numerous fiscal, licensing, and hygienic infractions, according to the Daily Herald. These things happen after hurricanes.

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.


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.


Erich S. Kranz
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