Thursday, February 2, 2012

Arriving at St. Martin/Sint Maarten

Entering Simpson Bay with the blue drawbridge ahead

It was a short trip from Road Bay, Anguilla to Simpson Bay, St. Martin. You can easily see from one island to the other. The passage between the two islands can’t be more than 8 miles across, but it is about 12 miles from Road Bay harbor around to Simpson Bay on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten. After rounding the western tip of Anguilla, you can see the beautiful Shoal Bay on its southwest side. Then just across the passage you can see Marigot Bay, St. Martin – the French side of the island

We had been advised to enter Simpson Bay Lagoon from the Simpson Bay bridge due to our 7’draft. Since the bridge only opens three times a day, we anchored in Simpson Bay and spent the afternoon reading while waiting for the 1730 (5:30 PM) inbound opening. They allow the outbound traffic to go one hour earlier; then they drop the bridge for vehicle traffic until the inbound scheduled opening.

Super Yachts on the Dutch side
It was interesting watching all of us jockey for position and try to maintain proper distance from one another. I certainly did not want to be first through the opening since I had never done it before and had absolutely no clue where to go after we made it through the bridge. Of course, we looked at the charts which are very confusing with the super yachts solidly packed into the marinas on the starboard side and the end of the airport runway on the port side.

You have to follow along the edge of the marina docks and through a dredged canal to get into the middle area of Simpson Bay. It is extremely shallow and the sun was setting. That made it hard to see the small unlit buoys in the shadows – especially the green ones in the dark water. We were following several other boats – hoping they knew what they were doing. Truly the blind leading the blind!

The rest of us on the French side!
Our goal was to get over to the French side of the bay. That is where all of the smaller (as in under 75 – 200+ feet sailboats go. At 48.5 feet we look like a super yachts toy! Fortunately with the darkness setting in we managed to set the anchor on the first try. But we found ourselves in the main thoroughfare for every dingy and tender in the bay running between the French side and the Dutch side. We would move the next day!

It was equal distance to the French and Dutch area of commerce once we settled into a good anchorage so we spent a lot of time running back and forth in the dinghy.

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