Yachting in St Martin and St Maarten: A captain and crew guide
Written by Sarah Rowland
Last updated: 03/08/2016
Making up just one of the Caribbean Leeward Islands, and with two very different cultures, private or charter yacht, both St Martin and St Maarten offer guests and crew a great yachting destination.
Yachting Pages has created a handy captain and crew guide to yachting in St Martin and St Maarten, with information for those visiting aboard a superyacht.
Visiting St Martin and St Maarten aboard a superyacht
Totaling just 37 square miles, the island is one of two halves, offering visitors the unique experience of visiting two very different colonies and cultures in one destination stopover.
In the north, French St Martin is less developed; known for offering a much more genteel and secluded break with a continental flair. It has many small and elegant resorts, impressive continental cuisine and a harbour that’s reminiscent of a Mediterranean fishing village, with its brightly coloured boats and cliff-side houses.
In the south, Dutch St Maarten is much more developed; well known for its excellent shopping, restaurants, casinos and a buzzing nightlife - the perfect place to rub shoulders with the rich and famous. It’ is also home to most of the major marinas and a large array of shore side yacht support businesses.
Simpson Bay Lagoon on the west side of the island straddles the border between the two nations, and houses the majority of the island’s yachting facilities and amenities. If supplies are not readily available locally, the island is also an easy stop by air or water from the US, so services and supplies are easy to source, typically taking just a few days to deliver by air or sea.
When to visit: Climate and attractions
The traditional peak yachting season in the Caribbean typically runs from November/December to April/May, and is largely popular with American’s and Canadian’s looking to escape the winter cold snap.
Average temperatures remain high and the weather sunny throughout the year, peaking between 26̊C to 31̊C throughout June, July and August. The hurricane or cyclone season spans July to October, but there’ is no specific ‘rainy’ season here. The average water temperature around the island ranges from 28̊C (82̊F) to 30̊C (84̊F) throughout the peak season.
Both St Martin and St Maarten offer visitors outstanding duty-free shopping; St Martin is known largely for its luxury and French fashion and luxury brands, whereas St Maarten is known for perfume. Both sides of the island are known collectively for their history and watersports.
Marigot, the capital of French St Martin, has a pretty man-made promenade along its waterfront, stretching from the Fort Louis Marina to the cemetery via the Marigot open-air market; a Caribbean melting-pot of colours, smells and cultures, where locals sell fruit, provisions and crafts in huts along the waterfront. Opposite there are plenty of traditional restaurants and close by the West Indies Shopping Mall with international brands.
Visitors should walk the winding streets of central Marigot, lined with old Creole houses that are restored in traditional St Martinoise style and a range of luxury boutiques. Rue de la Republique, is well known for its traditional 19th century architecture, with its street facades decorated with finely tooled ballustrades and friezes, known as gingerbreads. Other St Martin sites of interest include the St Martin museum, the Durat Bridge and the tomb of Francoise-Auguste Perrinon.
Philipsburg is the capital of Dutch St Maarten, with many shops and boutiques lining its two main streets – Front Street and Back Street. The Courthouse and St Maarten Museum on Front Street are of the island’s most famous historic monuments, allowing visitors to learn about the island’s history, including its division. Other popular sites include the Sucker Garden salt factory, Fort Amsterdam and Fort Willem I, which offers spectacular views out over Philipsburg Bay.
Superyacht berthing in St Martin and St Maarten
Located near to the Marigot's sights and sounds, Marina Fort-Louis offers berthing for superyachts and megayachts in St Martin, catering to vessels up to 80m (260ft) and offering metered water, fuel and electricity. St Martin's Anse Marcel Marina also has 150 quayside and alongside berths for vessels up to 37m (120ft), with views out to Anguilla.
In Dutch St Maarten, MDL’s Simpson Bay Marina has accommodation for superyachts up to 55m (180ft), along with marine support services and amenities, including fuel, provisioning and technical services. It’s near to the shops, restaurants, beaches and watersports of the island.
MDL’s St Maarten Yacht Club at Isle De Sol, St Maarten is a dedicated superyacht marina near the Simpson Bay Bridge. Offering berthing for 45 superyachts and megayachts of up to 109m (360ft), the facility is favoured due to its more secluded location, which creates a private environment for its guests. The marina is home to the Yacht Club at Isle de Sol, and provisioning and marine services are available here.
St Maarten's Princess Port de Plaisance is a full-service mixed-use marina, again located at Simpson Bay Lagoon. Equipped to cater to visiting superyachts up to 76m (250ft) LOA, the marina has in-slip services and on-site amenities.
Yacht fuel bunkering
The majority of marinas and yacht agents can arrange for fuel bunkering across the island, and should be able to put you in touch with local fuel suppliers finding you the best daily deals. Fuel bunkering can also be searched on Yachtingpages.com.
Yacht clearances, customs and cruising regulations
With French and Dutch nationalities living amicably side-by-side for hundreds of years, there are no border patrols or customs between the two islands and many visiting nationalities do not require a visa. It is however recommended that you check with your local yacht agent or tourist board before travelling. When required, a visa valid for St Martin is also valid in St Maarten.
At St Martin, the Border Police carry out immigration checks on vessels entering French waters. Skippers should report to the Port Authority before letting passengers off. Find out more about St Martin clearance formalities.
At St Maarten, arriving and departing boats must clear in and out with the immigration department at Great Bay or Simpson Bay. A Waiver of Liability form must be completed at the Clearance Office before yachts can pass the Simpson Bay Bridge. Find out more about St Maarten formalities.
It’s best practice to ensure that all on board hold a valid passport with at least six months validity, and a return or onward ticket is sometimes also required for those arriving by air to meet their superyacht.
Further details for cruising St Martin and St Maarten can be obtained from your local yacht agent.