Because of its central location and huge array of services, St. Maarten/St. Martin is on many sailors’ list as a destination or stop-over. People leaving for Europe depart from this small but convenient island and for a big group it is also the first Caribbean port after a long Atlantic crossing. Cruisers going up and down the island chain are bound to stop in St. Maarten/St. Martin for a few days and most end up staying for weeks. Even though there are quite a few nice and pretty anchorages spread around the island, the western side is where you’ll find hundreds of sailboats every season.
Many sailboats anchor in the lagoon, right at the border of St. Maarten and St. Martin © Liesbet Collaert
Sailing catamarans and monohulls visiting St. Maarten/St. Martin congregate in Simpson Bay on the Dutch side, Marigot Bay on the French side and the protected area in between, called Simpson Bay Lagoon. To enter this big and relatively flat body of water, the captain has to bring his/her boat inside through the “Dutch bridge” (Simpson Bay Bridge, VHF #12) on the south side of the lagoon, or through the much narrower “French bridge” (Sandy Ground Bridge) and shallower channel on its north side. Entering the lagoon and anchoring inside on French property is free; to use the bridge and the anchorage on the Dutch side, there is a fee. When looking at the anchored sailboats in the lagoon, one can immediately draw the unmarked border between the two countries. Most cruisers want to use the free anchorage on the French side and pay the cheaper prices in stores on the Dutch side, so they anchor as close to the border as possible.