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Old 03-10-2013, 21:49   #1
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St. maarten itinerary question

Hello, I've lurked here a long time while preparing for our dream of purchasing a cat in a few years and casting lines for good. I am chartering a Lipari 41 next week in St. Martin from Dream Yachts as a sort of "try before you buy". I have some friends joining me the last two nights and i've been plotting and strategizing with the cruising guide for what I can do to show these newbies a great few days. In case you are wondering about experience, the wife and I will be crossing over our 100th day chartering from the Bvi to croatia and greece but this is our first multihull. We'll have a few days on our own, just the two of us to get squared away before the guests arrive.
My thoughts are guest pickup from the dinghy dock in Phillipsburg near Barry's Marina. They arrive at SXM airport at 3pm, and I figure I have enough daylight to sail (probably motor since it looks like we'll be beating the whole way) the approx 9nm to Ile Fourchue. Overnight there, then sail to Gustavia. Cost and space permitting med moor in the harbor (I have read the bad stuff about that, but hope off season its empty), explore town for the day, then leave with enough time to make the last bridge into Simpson Lagoon. Stay in Marina Port La Royale the last night and off the boat the next day.

My questions are:
1). Too aggressive? By charter rules i have to be anchored or moored by nightfall and I may not leave Phillipsburg until 430 or 5pm. Nautical twilight is at 630.
2). Will I have to clear my newly arrived guests out of Phillipsburg? The office closes at 4pm according to Doyles Cruising Guide
3). Is Ile Fourchue a reasonable overnight anchorage in the prevailing southeasterly winds?
4). Do charter boats based in simpson lagoon have to pay Dutch side bridge fees like everyone else?
5). Most importantly of all....could you recommend a better two day itinerary to showcase what the cruising life that I aspire too is like for my friends? Oh and of course have a great time
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Old 04-10-2013, 16:40   #2
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Re: St. maarten itinerary question

There really isn't anything to do at Ile Fourchue. It's ok for a day stop and swimming but I'd skip it. Since you will be there a few days in advance, I'd suggest going to Anse Marcel. There are restaurants ashore and it's a beautiful view over to Anguilla. What you can do is have your friends get a cab to the Radisson and pick them up there. The next day sail to St. Bart's. It won't be a problem with mooring there as it's off season. Probably no one will be there. If you leave from Anse Marcel you can clear out at the marina. It's super easy. In general, don't worry too much about clear in/out because no one else will. In two years of sailing around this area no one ever asked or cared, unless you go to Anguilla.
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Old 04-10-2013, 20:11   #3
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Thanks Pallaran...that's a great idea. According to the Radisson marina website, it looks like the channel to the Radisson is only 28 feet wide at its narrowest....and the Lipari has a 22 foot beam! That could get a little interesting! Would you recommend anchoring outside in the bay?

The day trip to st. Barts if the winds and seas permit seems ideal. With any luck we may be on a beam reach from the northern tip of st. Martin to st.barts, and on a broad reach returning to Simpson lagoon. That would be perfect....which usually means it won't happen
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Old 04-10-2013, 21:00   #4
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Re: St. maarten itinerary question

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.

2). Will I have to clear my newly arrived guests out of Phillipsburg? The office closes at 4pm according to Doyles Cruising Guide
3). Is Ile Fourchue a reasonable overnight anchorage in the prevailing southeasterly winds?
5). Most importantly of all....could you recommend a better two day itinerary to showcase what the cruising life that I aspire too is like for my friends? Oh and of course have a great time
The guests can clear in and out at the same time when they land in SXM.
You can pick them up from the dinghy dock at the airport and dinghy them to your boat in Simposon bay and sail out directly from there. That will save you time getting to phillipsberg.

Charter boats dont really clear in or out of anywhere.. I think its all on the quiet.
Forchue is LOVELY! and free moorings and is great for a few days.
Gustavia is great too, med moored is fun there.

Other thoughts is on the first pick up day sail to Grande Case and fang down in the resturants and sail to Gustavia over the top of SXM the next day.

Mark
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Old 04-10-2013, 21:06   #5
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Re: St. maarten itinerary question

You can make it through but I wouldn't want to anyway. You want to be anchored out !!!It's good sand and very well protected. Use your dingy to go to Creole Rock, it's right around the corner and very good snorkeling.

Don't worry about the sail, it will be great. It always was for us. When you get to St. Bart's, go to Shell Beach. It's an easy walk and just an excellent (though expensive) spot. If you really need details on St. Bart's, send a private message to Zanshin (a member here). He knows it very well. If you need specific info on Anse Marcel, contact callistov42, he keeps his boat in the Radisson marina. Have a fun sail and welcome to the CF.

Edit: And you can ask Mark!! I don't personally like Grande Case compared to Anse Marcel as it is less protected.
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Old 05-10-2013, 06:19   #6
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Re: St. maarten itinerary question

Lots of good advice so far on this thread, here are a couple of recommendations from my point of view which haven't been made yet in this thread:

- Clear into the French side and stay on it. When heading to St. Barths you don't need to clear out of the French side but do need to clear in on St. Barths (and clear out for France again). Clearing into and out of the Dutch side is a hassle. You guests will be be asked on which side they are going to when arriving at the airport, they should state the Port Royal Marina on the French side.
- When the seas aren't from the north I like to stay the night at Ile Tintamarra and Ile Fourchue because of the lack of shoreside facilities.
- I only spent one night, or part of it, anchored outside of Anse Marcel. The swell was uncomfortable and I felt that my anchor wasn't holding, so I relocated to Grand Case, where I do like to stay. Another location to anchor and go ashore is Marigot.

Here's a link to a recent blog entry for Grand Case/Ile Tintamarre/Ile Fourchue (go to "next day" for Ile Fourchue)


p.s. the sunken tugboat pictures are from a dive site just 200 meters from the Ile Tintamarre mooring field.
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Old 05-10-2013, 11:44   #7
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Zanshin, Mark and Pallaran...thanks so much for the feedback and ideas! I think i have a plan now. Pick the guests up from Anse Marcel, sail the short distance to Isle Tintamarre and anchor for the night. Sunset, Beach fire and solitude that evening with good friends. Time permitting...try and snorkel over that tugboat that Zanshin posted about. Next day, daysail to St. Barts and med moor in the harbor (thank goodness i have several weeks of croatia and greece charter experience to lean on). Try and not look foolish in front of the guests. Expensive lunch, people watching and Shell beach. Head back to St. martin in time for the last bridge opening. Last night exploring Marigot or Grand Case. Weather permitting, this is going to be great!

One last question...Zanshin mentioned staying on the french side to avoid clearance procedures. Would that apply to the lagoon bridge as well? To save sailing time I was intending on returning to Port La Royale through the dutch side bridge. Should I plan on on going around and entering the French side to save on potential complications and bridge fees? I may be overthinking this, but that's how i roll . I probably spend way to much time plotting and scheming in cruising guides before a trip....there is something to be said for winging it....

Thanks again!!
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Old 05-10-2013, 12:21   #8
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Re: St. maarten itinerary question

No worries going through the Dutch bridge and transiting to the French side - the demarkation line is easy to spot: few boats one side, crowded the other. I don't know if the new causeway makes any difference, the central arch didn't look high enough for sailboats to pass underneath but I gather it is going to be a rotating bridge once finished.
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Old 05-10-2013, 13:53   #9
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Re: St. maarten itinerary question

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Originally Posted by Zanshin View Post
No worries going through the Dutch bridge and transiting to the French side - the demarkation line is easy to spot: few boats one side, crowded the other. I don't know if the new causeway makes any difference, the central arch didn't look high enough for sailboats to pass underneath but I gather it is going to be a rotating bridge once finished.
In theory you are supposed to go into the office and pay a toll to go through the Dutch bridge. I believe they've been keeping track of who does it, I'm not sure though because we did. I think it was about $40 US for our 53' boat.

Since you are supposed to radio in on 13 to let them know you are planning to transit and you sit there lined up waiting while the bridge gendarmes patrol around it may be a good idea to dot the I's and cross the T's and give the Dutch their pound of flesh. But I think a lot of people don't.

Going through the French bridge in a cat shouldn't be too tough - heading back to the lagoon though it does get shallow on the way but I think it's 4' or so at the worst spot.
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Old 05-10-2013, 15:00   #10
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A couple of things. 1 try tack the cat upwind instead if motoring. If the wind is over 8knots it will probably be faster and more comfortable than motoring anyway
2 med mooring a cat
Prepare 3 fenders each side and 2 10m dock lines bow lined to the stern cleats
Have the boat hook handy
Reverse to the dock slowly using both engines
Tell the guy passing you the mooring line to pass you the other one first ( he will be trying to give you the leeward one instead if the windward )
Have the crew throw him the windward stern line and make it off as long as possible back to the cleat (about 4m from the dock) then take the mooring line forward and make it off under good tension on the bow
Repeat on the leeward side
Cut engines and use the stern lines to Tension as far back as possible I hopefully end up 1.5 m from the dock
This method is much easier And safer for the boat than tying off the stern then busting a foofer valve trying to tension the bowlines. And no worries sleeping when the wind comes up from the bow and you worry about stretching back to the dock and trying to get more tension on the bowlines later is a pita.
Ps keep an eye on the guy with the mooring lines and get ready to throw the engine in neutral as he tries to wrap the mooring line around your prop. They're tricky like that.
Oh and also try have your guests stay in the saloon while you med moor or they will always be standing exactly in between you and where you want to be.
Have fun let us know how it goes !
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Old 05-10-2013, 20:01   #11
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Zanshin, evenstar and monte...thanks for the advice! I need to get to Marina port royale right next to the french side bridge anyways, so time permitting i'll probably go through there. Even if I don't make it through on time, I can think of worse things than anchoring off Grand Case or Marigot and going in the next morning. Provided the petty theft i've read about here on CF stays away...

I'll post a followup when i return....very happily headed to the islands tonight! Weather so far looks great...easterly winds averaging 10-15 knots and seas seem fine. Time for this monohull sailor to get his "catamaran" on
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Old 05-10-2013, 20:04   #12
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Re: St. maarten itinerary question

Monte, you have to use your anchor in Gustavia.
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Old 05-10-2013, 20:18   #13
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Re: St. maarten itinerary question

Most charter companies do not want you in the inner harbor in Gustavia. It's nice to anchor our there anyway.
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Old 24-10-2013, 17:50   #14
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Re: St. maarten itinerary question

Thanks again for all of suggestions. Here's how it turned out...
After spending 4 days exploring Saba (rolly, as predicted- thank goodness for the cat) and St. Barts (expensive and mostly closed because it was still off season), we grabbed a mooring ball off of Ile Pinel at the charter company suggestion. Lovely spot. I dinghied to the water taxi dock near sunset to pick up our friends. One of whom wasn't overly thrilled at the prospect of a long-ish dinghy ride as her introduction to sailing!

We all enjoyed the snorkeling and hiked the island the next morning, then cast lines for the short jaunt to Tintamarre. We were immediately greeted by turtles galore, much to the delight of everyone. We lounged around, swam and snorkeled the day away very contentedly then set off on a wonderful broad reach in 20 knot winds and relatively calm seas down the leeward side of St. Martin to Marigot. That is clearly the cat's favorite point of sail - she sped along like she was on rails!

Since it was our last evening, we were headed back to the marina. We had arranged for the charter company captain to pilot us through 5:30 pm opening of the french bridge at Sandy Ground. Since it is quite a bit narrower than the Dutch side, they require it. Have to say I was glad the charter company captain was onboard - we shot the narrow gap perfect, with little room to spare on either side. I'm guessing we probably disappointed the onlookers that were waiting for the bridge to reopen...

Dinner that night was in Grand Case at a local "Lolo" style beach restaurant. Lobsters all around. Very tasty and a fun setting. An after dinner stroll along the beachfront overlooking the charter boats anchored had me very much wishing we were still "out there".
All in all, our guests had a great, if short, trip. Two of the four are signing up for lessons so that says a lot!

Oh...and after months of cumulative charter time on monohulls under our belts, after just one week on a cat I have to say we are hooked....I guess the saying is true - "Once you go cat, you don't go back"!
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Old 25-10-2013, 02:05   #15
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Re: St. maarten itinerary question

Congratulations on the trip, sounds like like you did a lot and had fun. I love those LoLo's ("L"ocally "owned", "L"ocally "o"perated) in Grand Case - particularly the $1 beers and the spicy meals, plus they are right next to the dinghy dock.

Recently there was an incident at the French bridge where a catamaran didn't make it through, caused by a nervous skipper and some (idiot) ignoring the lights and radio and going the wrong way during the opening.
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