By the beginning of February, most of our friends were
asking us the same question: “Why aren’t you going to St. Maarten for the
regatta?” We began to wonder … Why weren’t we going to the regatta? After some
discussion and a mad scramble to make last-minute travel arrangements, we were
in! We would stay from Thursday morning through Monday evening. We didn’t want
to miss a thing.
THURSDAY. Our LIAT flight landed in St. Maarten around 10:00
a.m. We dropped our bags at our St. Martin hotel and walked into the marina
district of Marigot. After some shopping, we had a wonderful lunch at a French
restaurant on the boardwalk.
While wandering through town, our friends had pointed out
their favorite wine shop. The proprietor invited us to the wine tasting that he
was hosting that afternoon. Never ones to turn down free premium wine, we
assured him that we would love to attend. The wine was delicious enough to buy.
Tired from all of our shopping and exploring – and maybe the
wine – we went back to our hotel for a dip in the pool and a nap before dinner.
We needed to rest up for the evening’s regatta festivities – partying was
turning out to be more exhausting that we realized!
At 10:00 p.m., our group was ready to rock. Once in the car,
we realized that although we knew that the party was at Port de Plaisance, we
had no idea where that was. Undaunted by our lack of information, we set out.
Fortunately, it was close by. We parked in their spacious lot, took sight
bearings on a five-spreader yacht to starboard and a large white van ahead, and
plunged into the celebration.
Point de Plaisance was a wonderful venue for the regatta
party. The resort has a huge paved open area – complete with fountain,
restaurant, casino and palm trees to dance under. The whole place was jumping
to the music of Elf in Hell. Beer tents were everywhere, and the Heineken girls
were handing out party favors as fast as they could.
It was a great night – everywhere we looked people were
dancing, eating and catching up with friends they had not seen for a while. At
midnight, when we turned into pumpkins and headed for the car, more revelers
were arriving and the band Iguana Soup was entertaining the crowd.
FRIDAY. The day was bright and clear, but almost no wind was
blowing. While our racing friends had scrambled out of bed very early, we had
enjoyed a leisurely breakfast by the pool. By noon, we were flaked out on a
beach, where we watched the race fleet coast by.
Having wisely conserved our energy all day, we decided to
drive straight to the second night’s regatta bash. Once again, we had no idea
where we were going. The guard at the commercial and cargo entrance to the
marina told us we had made only one wrong turn. We followed his directions to
Lined with shops, restaurants and small hotels, the
boardwalk at Philipsburg is perfect for a huge gathering. The stores and
restaurants were open and ready to welcome patrons. We strolled along the
boardwalk, watching everyone set up, greeting friends and enjoying the sunset.
Racers and partiers arrived early – by the time the parade started, we could
barely see it!
By 7:30 p.m., the boardwalk was packed and rocking! We
decided to head back to our hotel, clean up and have a quiet supper in Marigot
with our cruising friends who had come up from Bonaire. All that lounging on
the beach – and shopping – had just worn us out.
Thank you note: Friends lost their camera on the boardwalk
that night. Just before press time, they called to say it was found at the
Greenhouse and that the camera would be mailed to them.
SATURDAY. Once again, racers left early. We slept late, and
then explored the open-air market in Marigot, where we ran into more friends
from St. Thomas. The whole group decided to hit the beach at Grand Case after
we had finished shopping.
Once at Grand Case, we settled at a great beach
bar/restaurant. We whiled away the afternoon eating, drinking, sunning,
swimming and hunting for beach glass. Our most energetic activities were
playing a rousing game of dominoes (I won) and expressing sympathy for the
racing fleet as we watched them ghost by – they had another day of very little
After an early picnic supper at our hotel, we walked into
Marigot for the third big bash of the weekend. That morning’s open-air market
had been transformed into party central, complete with bandstand, beer booths
and official Heineken Regatta-gear sellers. Most of the restaurants were open,
though some had been turned into heavily screened VIP-only rooms.
We collected Heineken hats, flags and key chains from the
Heineken girls. Those of us in full party mode worked our way toward the
bandstand. We managed to get all the way up to the barricades, where we danced
and sang with Youth Wave until they finished their set around 11:30 p.m.
Hundreds of people – a mix of young, old, racers, locals, visitors, everyone –
had arrived while we had been dancing! We enjoyed a late supper and then danced
our way back to our hotel well after midnight.
SUNDAY. Our group began Sunday with crepes for breakfast –
delicious! Recovery from Saturday’s party was at Friar’s Beach. Because we
intended to dance well into the night at the grand finale in Simpson Bay, we
conserved our energy well into the afternoon. Our decision was to have dinner
with friends and then head to the festivities rather late. That was a mistake.
We set out for Kim Sha Beach (no, we didn’t know where that
was, either) around 10:00 p.m. We weren’t concerned about getting lost – all we
had to do was follow everyone else on the island. After spending 30 minutes in
barely moving traffic – and realizing that we had another 45 minutes to go – we
turned and went back to our hotel. We missed it all, including Jimmy Cliff and
Despite missing the last party of the regatta, we had a
wonderful time all weekend. As partiers instead of racers, we experienced the
best of the weekend – beach bumming and shopping by day … merrymaking by night.
Heineken and the people of St. Maarten/St. Martin know how to throw a great
party. Next year we won’t miss a thing!