Depending on your interests and cruising style, St. Maarten/St. Martin's anchorages and marinas offer something for everyone. The trade winds are well established at 20 knots from the NE, E and SE, and six foot seas are the norm. As I recently sailed around the island, my goal was to enjoy a few rare gems, special spots too distinctive to not mention:
Shared by both the French and Dutch side, Oyster Pond is an attractive shelter amidst the chaos of the waves during winter months. Of all of the places I sampled, it captured a piece of my heart. Perhaps this is a result of purchasing my new Benetau 393 here or maybe that the Dinghy Dock Bar has the best happy hour on the island! Whatever the reason, Oyster Pond is definitely not to be missed.
Although boats align the dock and float on moorings, the marina is relatively quiet and relaxed. Houses, hotels, restaurants and bars are nestled into the cliffside or sit subtly alongside the water, transforming the entire area into a quaint and comfortable village. There are facilities to load up on gas and water, a few French bakeries and mini-markets, and heaps of friendly faces.
The entrance is the main drawback as it can be challenging to maneuver through. Once inside, there is no place to anchor so be sure to call ahead to arrange for a berth, or ask for Pasqual the diver who manages the moorings that are available for rent.
When you close your eyes and visualize the perfect "picture postcard" beach, you could very easily be daydreaming about Baie Longue. Located on the French side, this day anchorage is one that I visit quite often. Backing onto an exclusive resort, the white sand beach seems endless, perfect for taking a morning stroll or a late afternoon walk to watch the sun set. The water is crystal clear and the snorkeling is excellent. It's an ideal place for spotting schools of bright colored fish as they play by the keel or swim along the rocks of the headland on the east end.
The beach is sheltered and the sandy bottom makes anchoring in 20 feet of depth straightforward and uncomplicated. The wind is so light and consistent it would be easy to anchor for the night if it was permitted.
Kim Sha Beach
Compared to the tranquility of Baie Longue, Kim Sha is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Cornering Simpson Pay and Pelican Key, it is bursting with locals and tourists and promises life and activity throughout the day and long into the night. There are a number of dinghy docks nearby offering easy access to many restaurants, bars, casinos, water sports, and shops.
This leeward location is adjacent to the Dutch side bridge making it a top spot to admire the parade of mega yachts as they enter or exit the lagoon. Although the anchorage is a sheltered spot, when the wind blows from the north, it can be a bit too "rolly" for some. Another drawback may be the minimum cost of $20 to anchor for the night or week.
With hundreds of moorings, plenty of marinas, and countless spots to anchor in, the choices are numerous and amazingly diverse for such a small island. In addition to those that I mentioned above, you won't want to miss the anchorages off of Tintamarre, Grand Case, Pinel, Great Bay, Friar's Bay, and Happy Bay. As for the marinas, be sure to check out Marina Royale and Fort Louis in Marigot as well as Palapa Marina, Isle del Sol, St. Maarten Yacht Club and Port de Plaisance along the edges of the Simpson Bay Lagoon.
No matter what anchorage or marina becomes your own "rare gem," the beauty and diversity of St. Maarten and its blue seas will beckon you to return.
Amy Lassiter is a freelance journalist who lives on a Beneteau 393 and writes for the Daily Herald newspaper in St. Maarten about boating and island life.