Sailing the French West Indies

February 27, 2014  •  Caribbean, North America, Travel

12 st martin orient bay mooringsWhen it’s 10 below 0 in Denver, there is nothing better than an escape to the Caribbean for 2 weeks of sailing aboard a 46 foot catamaran with friends, which is just what I did earlier this month. Instead of giving you the full itinerary and low down on everything we saw and ate, let me just highlight a few things to keep in mind if you’re ever taking a trip like this yourself.1 st maarten mooringsWe picked up our sailboat from Moorings on the Dutch side of St. Maarten with a plan to bounce around with short sails between St. Martin, St. Barth’s and Anguilla – compared to the longer sails we did two years ago in the Windward Islands.6 st martin chevre chaud saladWe spent several nights in both Grand Case and Marigot Bay, on the French side of St. Martin – and since it’s French, I was thrilled to find Salad Chèvre Chaud on just about every menu.5 st martin sunsetEvery bay was filled with boats at anchor – from small sailboats to large yachts – and there wasn’t a single sunset we didn’t watch in awe.5 st barths yachts in harborSt. Barth’s is the most affluent island I’ve ever seen – these are some of the “small” yachts in the marina.2 st barths sunset3 st barths sunset

Lovely, right?
5 st barths marina from hill3 st barths boats anchoredYou can do a 2-hour ATV tour of St. Barth’s which takes you all over the island and gives you these incredible views from the hills.4 st barths shell beachIf you’re in Gustavia, the main marina in St. Barth’s, visit Do Brazil for lunch and then hang out on Shell Beach, which is literally covered completely in pretty shells.5 st barths mayas chickenThere is a famous restaurant on St. Barth’s called Maya’s – if you’re coming from a boat you need to make a beach landing with your dingy, which is tricky after happy hour! But the food is fabulous, including this tiny local roast chicken in a balsamic glaze.5 st barths sailboat at dusk
Lovely, right?
1 st martin chocolate croissantBack over to St. Martin, it’s really great to see incredible coffee and chocolate croissants for breakfast, after a week of mediocre coffee made about your sailboat.5 st barths lobster fettucineGrand Case, on the French side of St. Martin, is the restaurant capital of the island. In one tiny strip of street on the beach, there are many great spots including Ocean 82, Le Testavin, Il Nettuno, and more. You’ll see lobster on the menu here, but I prefer the pasta dishes with lobster.9 anguilla sunsetAnd in that bay of Grand Case, you’ll see some of the most spectacular sunsets around. Lovely, right?13 st martin orient beachOrient Beach on St. Martin is famous, perhaps mostly because it’s a nude beach. But actually there is one end that’s clothed, the middle is topless, and another end is fully nude. Pick which end you want to be on, pay for a beach chair, and enjoy the party that seems to be going on every day there.13 st martin orient bay pizzaWe had pizza in a beach restaurant here – and surprisingly, there is pizza throughout much of the Caribbean and it’s outstanding.9 anguilla fishing boatA short sail from St. Martin is Anguilla, part of the British holdings around the world. And in Crocus Bay sits a world class resort with a restaurant and spa called Da Vida.9 anguilla tuna saladI had what might have been the best meal of my trip here – a gorgeous seared tuna salad…9 anguilla imari banks…while listening to Omari Banks (former world-class cricket player turned musician) sing. What a fabulously relaxing way to spend a Sunday afternoon!6 anguilla da vida chickenDid I mention the chickens just run wild under your feet while you eat?10 sandy islandBetween Road Bay and Crocus Bay on Anguilla is the tiny mostly deserted island called Sandy Island. You have to be smart about how to get to this island on a dingy, avoiding the coral reef and crashing waves.6 sandy islandBut once you get there you stare out at the gorgeous water while enjoying a swim plus a beer and snack on the beach from the enterprising locals who have set up shop here.9 anguilla sunriseI always seem to wake up earliest on the boat, but I’m rewarded with the morning views of the sun rising and the moon setting. What a great time of day to sit quietly with a cup of coffee.10 st maarten sailing in stormAs we made our way back to our final stop, we got caught in our only storm of the week. It happened while I was at the helm, with 30+ knots of wind, full sails up, and 10 foot swells. I was terrified, but also knew my dad was looking down and helping me sail!10 st martin sunset sailboat
Lovely, right?
11 st maarten airport sunset beachOne last thing you can’t miss if you visit St. Maarten – Sunset Beach Bar & Grill at the airport. People with more guts that I have line the beach to watch planes land right overhead and take off right in front of them (the ones taking off put out so much force that they literally blow people into the ocean and pelt them with sand). It’s fun to grab a table for lunch here while waiting for your flight and watch the insanity before heading home to reality!

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