St. Maarten/St. Martin:
News for Cruisers
by Carol Bareuther
Megayachts are an economic catch that the dual-island nation of St. Maarten/St. Martin is hoping to lure through widening of the Simpson Bay Lagoon bridge and new marina development, but this investment in the marine scene means improved telecommunications, parts and repair, and other services for smaller private and bareboat cruisers.
The Yacht Club Business Centre, which opened at the Simpson Bay Yacht Club Marina/Plaza Del Lago complex in May, is a sailor's cyber café. Services include six dedicated international telephone circuits serving the kiosks and coffee-table telephones, and five computers and three laptop-docking stations with high-speed Internet service. "We receive mail for cruisers for free, as well as send and receive faxes and e-mail," explains managing director, Dan Horn, who lives aboard his 45-foot Morgan sloop, S/V Reality.
As for other telecommunication services, there are four cellular telephone companies on the island and all standard cellular phones roam on both Dutch and French sides. Anguilla Community Broadcasting, based on the British island of Anguilla six miles to the north, operates TV Channel 9 which airs sitcoms in the daytime, CNN in the early evening, HBO all night, and the Weather Channel during hurricane season. TV Channel 9 free and available for cruisers to pick up from all St. Martin anchorages and most of Simpson Bay Lagoon. Island Radio FM 91.9 goes on the air November 1st with programming totally aimed at the visiting cruising community, including custom marine weather and news. On VHF 14, Rev. Steve Parish hosts the "St. Martin Radio Net" which from Monday through Saturday beginning at 7:30AM provides a weather forecast, update on security problems, welcomes and farewells to new arrivals and departures, and finishes with a listing of items for sale or swap.
St. Maarten/St. Martin's freeport status, combined with the fact that some 300 to 400 liveaboard sailors make this destination their home from December to May, has led to the rapid growth of marine stores such as Island Water World and Budget Marine, which opened its new St. Maarten headquarters on Simpson Bay Lagoon a year ago.
Passage in the late 1980s of a French tax law known as defiscalization resulted in bareboat companies like The Moorings, Sunsail, Sunyacht and Nautor Swan opening bases in St. Martin, with a combined fleet of some 200 yachts. "Instead of investing in a deepwater port, we decided to build in a new marina complex," says cruise commissioner, Roger Petit. Due to be operational by November 1st, the 160-slip octagonal configuration will include 62 slips for small sailing vessels and motoryachts inside the hub, with megayachts on the outside. While the marina is within a 5-minute walk to the French side capitol of Marigot, a popular destination on a week-long bareboat charters, the complex will also include marine services like chandleries and provisioning.
Lastly, on the drawing board for 2003 is a new marina complex for the Dutch capitol of Philipsburg. "The project calls for 45 to 50 slips for boats from 55 feet up to 300 feet. Primarily the idea is to attract megayachts, but also to help put some life back into town. The harbor anchorage is rolly due to boat traffic, so most people don't stay overnight," says Jeff Howell, general manager at Bobby's Marina, which will be synthesized with the adjacent Great Bay Marina to form the new marina.
"The megayachts are certainly a big draw," says Kevin Gavin, president of the 32-member strong Marine Trades Association and owner of FKG Rigging, "but we've always tried to cater to the cruising market and don't plan to lose sight of that."
Copyright© 2001 Compass Publishing