Sailing overnight from Antigua was calm and uneventful- exactly the sail we needed to boost our night passage confidence again. Although it was more upwind than down (no matter which diction we head we always seem to be going upwind!) the wind speed remained at a manageable 15-20 knots and the swell was small. Stars shone brightly overhead and a waning moon cut brightly through the blackness of night. St. Barts looked small as we passed it's shiny lights in the small hours.
Sunrise saw us anchored at Marigot on the French side of St. Martin (the southern half of this small island is Dutch). Our guidebook highlights a quaint, though inaccurate, story of the border being decided by having a Frenchman with a bottle of wine walk from one side and a Dutchman with a flask of gin from the other. They cemented a border where they met and the French ended up with slightly more territory due to the strength of the Dutchman's gin.
The shoreline of Marigot is packed with shops, older hotels and resorts. Swarms of tourists sitting in sidewalk cafes and browsing the waterfront market for colourful beach clothing and souvenirs make it clear that this island has it's feet firmly planted in the tourist industry. There is also a small spice market nearby where fresh produce and homemade spices are sold by local ladies with colorful head scarves.
For a late breakfast ashore yesterday we visited Sarafina's, a bread and pastry shop/cafe that sells everything delicious from delectable pastries and baguettes to sorbet and breakfasts of sausage, eggs and hash browns. Following brunch we wandered through cafes and past stores of all kinds to the West Indies Mall, a small two-story mall with natural lighting and pristine stores. After not seeing anything remotely resembling a mall for months it felt strange and wonderful to be in one again.
We also huffed and puffed our way up to Fort St. Louis for a view of the blue bay of Marigot and Simpson Bay Lagoon to the south. The lagoon is a large enclosed body of water that extends into Dutch and French territory and forms a sheltered anchorage for boats of all sizes. Signs around the fort briefly explained the history of St. Martin and highlighted that it's population was long troubled by British privateers and pirates who would raid the islanders for coffee and other valuable crops.
The anchorage at Marigot is filled with dozens of boats but has plenty of room. Though rather swelly, it is shallow enough to almost see the sandy bottom through the crisp blue water. We will likely remain in St. Martin for about a week and plan to move to a bay called Grand Case, slightly north from Marigot. Jamie has his first post coming soon where he'll highlight his favorite places so far!
All the best,