Posted by: Gary Guertin | November 2, 2011

3. Atlantic/N. Africa/W. Med. Cruise – Port #2 Philipsburg, St. Maarten

Hi All,

Yesterday we sailed away from our second port, Philipsburg, St. Maarten and we are well on our way to a seven day crossing of the Atlantic.

Let’s first look at the history of St. or Sint Maarten. In 1493 Columbus sighted the island on Nov. 11, the holy day of St. Martin of Tours, naming it St. Martin and claiming it for Spain.  It wasn’t until the 1600’s, however, before it was settled by some Dutch merchants who took salt, which was plentiful, to use to preserve meats, etc. since refrigeration did not exist. The salt industry made this a very important island for many years until refrigeration was discovered and spelled the end of that major source of income.  Today only tourism is the major industry, since the island has no other natural resource and must import everything to subsist.  Getting back to the history, in the early 17th century France and the Netherlands joined forces to rid Spain from the island and in 1648 signed the Treaty of Concordia which divided the island into two parts.

This island is known as the smallest land mass (37 sq. miles) to be governed by two nations.  It is a typical Caribbean paradise, with pristine white sandy beaches and rolling green mountains, but two distinct ways of life within a few miles.  The Dutch side is where we docked, in Philipsburg.  The Dutch have 16 sq. miles of the island with the Dutch Guilder as currency (although the dollar is accepted on both sides of the island), 14 Casino’s, expensive gas ($6.00 a gallon),  and the typical Dutch holiday calendar.  The French have 21 sq. miles of the island with the Euro as currency, no Casino’s, less expensive gas ($5.00 a gallon), and the typical French holiday calendar (for example, we were there Nov. 1st, All Saints Day, so everything was closed on the French side of the island and everything open on the Dutch side). I have to stop here and tell you a short story of how, although there is no passport control or customs between the two halves of the island, the two countries have gone to lengths to maintain their independence.  There are two different telephone companies (for both cell and land) on the island.  If you want to call a neighboring island like St. Bart’s, it cost a little more than a local call, but if you want to call from the Dutch side to the French side (or vice-versa) it’s an international call with international rates applied.  For that reason, the residents of St. Maarten either carry two cell phones (one for each side of the island) or simply drive across to the other side to contact people, because it’s cheaper.

Enough of history and stories, let’s look at the Philipsburg port where we docked:

IMG_2909 Stitch 

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OK, let’s go touring (Yes, we actually took a tour today).  In order to see the French side of the island we took a bus tour to Marigot, the capital of the French side of the island. 

Susy shows you our port sign:

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We climbed on the bus and started off across the island.  On the way I want to show you some of the unique sights we saw, just a few to give you a feel for the mood of the island:

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You like the colors?  On the highest mountain in St. Maarten, Mick Jagger (The Rolling Stones) build a mansion sitting all by itself on an estate that prevents anyone else from building at the top of the same mountain (must be nice to have money).  Most of the celebrities, however, build in St. Bart’s.

We arrived in Marigot after a short drive and even though the French side was on a holiday, there is no holiday for some people:

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Yes, there’s no rest for the wicked (I didn’t say that), our favorite hard at work:

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Next to this central market was a beautiful harbor with a Fort, one of many on the island, built to protect the bay:

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IMG_2832 Stitch

I will end our tour of Marigot and it’s central market by showing you my fate:

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You got it again, following Susy around markets the world over.  Can’t wait for the next one!!!!!

We returned to Philipsburg on a different route and stopped for this magnificent view across one part of the island:

 IMG_2864 Stitch

That’s it for St. Maarten. 

We are now on our cruise across the Atlantic and our next port is Santa Cruiz (Tenerife), Spain, next Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, the first of three in the Canary Islands. I can’t tell you when I’ll be able to post the next blog because, as I said, when we hit the European side of the Atlantic we visit groups of 3 to 5 ports in a row, with only one sea day (which is when I have time to write these blogs) in between.  For those of you that have signed up to receive an email when I post it won’t be a problem, but for the rest of you, you’ll just have to check about once a week after Nov. 8th.

We’ve settled down for our long rest and wish you all our best;

Love You All,

Gary (alias Gagu)


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