St Maarten – History
St. Maarten is the smallest Island in the world to be shared by two sovereign governments-namely the Dutch and French. The Dutch side, with Philipsburg as its capital occupies the southern 17 square miles of this 37-square-mile island; St. Martin, a French dependency, occupies the northern half. The dual nationality adds variety to this most unique of island gems in the Caribbean Sea. Both Dutch St. Maarten and French St. Martin have maintained a peaceful coexistence for over 350 years, the longest of any two bordering nations. The two territories have enjoyed harmonious relations through their history and have shared the prosperity of many years without dispute. The Treaty of Concordia executed on March 23rd 1648 established this coexistence and has the unique distinction of being the oldest Treaty still in force today.
As part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Dutch St. Maarten has been both politically and economically stable. The territory is not only a safe and pleasant place to do business, but also to establish roots and raise a family. The total population has grown from 13,156 in 1980 to nearly 39,000 in year 2000. It is estimated that the population of St. Maarten consists of 77 different nationalities. The native languages are English and Dutch. Infrastructure and utilities
St. Maarten has an excellent seaport and airport, which makes the island very attractive as a hub. Government is presently in the process of a major road enhancement project, which includes the construction of new roads, the re-paving of existing roads, the implementation of roundabouts and traffic lights.
St. Martin – HistoryBefore Columbus arrived here during his second voyage in 1493, the island had already been inhabited for some one thousand years. The first people to settle here were a tribe of Arawak Indians who left their homeland in the Orinoco basin of South America and kept migrating upwards along the chain of islands in the Caribbean. They gave it the name “Sualouiga” meaning “Land of Salt” for the salt-pans and the brackish water they found here in great abundance. The few fresh water springs around Paradise Peak, Mount William, Billy Folly, and in the Lowlands could only support a small population, and this is where they mainly tended to congregate. A number of artifacts from this period are to be found preserved in the St.Martin Museum: On the Trail of the Arawaks. The Arawaks were later supplanted by a more aggressive tribe of Indians, the Caribs, who came down from North America and for whom the entire Caribbean is named.
Columbus never actually set foot on the island, but rather claimed it for Spain as he was passing by. He sighted the island on November 11, 1493, the feast of St.Martin, thus giving the island its name. Aside from asserting title to the place, the Spanish never took much interest in St.Martin, so the Dutch, seeking an outpost halfway between their colonies in Brazil and Nieue Amsterdam (now New York), occupied the island in 1631. The Dutch West India Company installed Jan Claeszen van Campen as governor, erected their first fort on the site of Fort Amsterdam, and began to mine salt. Before long, however, the Spanish, who wished to maintain their state monopoly in this essential preservative, became aware of the incursion and in 1633 they recaptured the island, expelling all of the Dutch, who then moved on to occupy Curaзao.
Over the next fifteen years, a number of abortive attempts were made by the Dutch to reclaim their lost possession, notably an assault led by Peter Stuyvesant in 1644 in which the future governor of Nieue Amsterdam lost his leg. The Spanish Commander, who was regularly besieged during this period, asked permission after his last victory to abandon the island, and in 1647 this right was finally conceded to him by the King of Spain. Laborers were brought in from Puerto Rico to dismantle the fortress, and the Spanish set sail, leaving behind, according to legend, a small contingent of French and Dutch who hid on the island and then sent out to neighboring colonies for reinforcements.
How the Dutch and French finally partitioned the island makes for a great story. Supposedly, the two groups held a contest. Starting at Oysterpond on the east coast, they would walk westwards — the French along the northern edge, the Dutch along the southern — and where they met they would draw a dividing line across the island. The French set off, having fortified themselves with wine, the Dutch with gin. The ill effects of the gin, however, caused the Dutchmen to stop along the way to sleep off their drunk; consequently, the French were able to cover a much greater distance. In truth, though, the French had a large navy just off shore at the time the treaty was being negotiated, and they were able to win concessions by threat of force. The treaty was signed on top of Mount Concordia in 1648, but despite the reputation for peaceful cohabitation, the border was to change another 16 times until 1815 when the Treaty of Paris fixed the boundaries for good.
The cultivation of sugar cane introduced slavery onto the island, and hundreds of African men, women, and children were imported for this purpose. The French finally abolished slavery on July 12, 1848 — a date now celebrated as Schoelcher Day. The Dutch slaves were emancipated 15 years later. Following the end of slavery, the island entered a serious depression that lasted until 1939, when the island was declared a duty-free port. The Dutch began developing a tourist industry in the 1950′s, but the French didn’t take advantage of this opportunity until the 1970′s. St.Martin continued its large-scale construction projects throughout the 1980′s, but now most of the development has been completed, and great care has been taken to preserve the island’s natural resources.
Today, St.Martin belongs to the prefecture of Guadeloupe and is considered to be just another part of France. Islanders are entitled to vote in French elections.
Sailing Area’s in St. Martin / St. Maarten
A 13-mile cruise north of our base brings you to Anguilla, a British dependency surrounded by unspoilt coral reefs and miles of spectacular white sand beaches. Nearby Sandy Island is a popular offshore stop, and further north, some of the best snorkelling and diving can be enjoyed at Prickly Pear Cays.
On the west coast, Gustavia, St. Barts’ main town, is reminiscent of provincial France and a great place for dining ashore. Ile Fourche is a perfect lunchtime stop on your way to St. Barts and the snorkelling and diving here is excellent. The secluded Baie Columbier is also regarded by many as one of the best anchorages in the Eastern Caribbean
Known as Statia, this is a peaceful island with a quiet charm. Visit the spectacular walk-in volcano, which rises in a perfect cone to 2000 feet. The clear waters sport some exceptional reefs and hundreds of fish, perfect for diving and snorkelling opportunities.
St. Kitts and Nevis
A 50-mile reach from St. Barts, the charming island of St. Kitts boasts beautiful beaches and lush scenery. You can also explore the dense rainforest on Nevis or see the wild greenback monkeys at Golden Rock Estate.
Complete listing of our Crewed Charter Yachts in the St.Martin / St. Maarten:
Visiting St. Martin / St. Maarten
The offshore waters offer a wide and challenging variety of gamefish including marlin, tuna, dolphinfish, barracuda, and kingfish. The Marlin Cup occurs in the month of May and the Saint-Martin Billfish Tournament takes place here every year in the month of June. Boats can be chartered at reasonable rates all year long, although some of the fish are only in season in these waters from December through March. Charters typically include bait, tackle, and some form of refreshment.
Diving & Snorkeling
Visibility in the waters around the island typically extends for about 100 feet and sometimes can even reach up to 200 feet. The coral reefs offer a wide variety of sea life, and just off the coast of St. Maarten in the Great Bay lies the wreck of an English battleship dating back to 1801. Dive operators may be found at many of the major resorts and hotels as well as at a number of independent shops around the island. Instruction from beginning to advanced is readily available, and certified divers should remember to bring their licenses as well as their diving logs. Equipment may be rented easily, and snorkeling is especially inexpensive.
Small boats, like Sunfish and Sailfish,may be rented out at many of the hotels, and larger craft can also be chartered from a number of different operators around the island for longer trips to more isolated spots like the Ilet Pinel. Sailing instruction is also included if desired. For racing enthusiasts, a number of regattas are held here every year usually at the end of March.
Windsurfing, water-skiing, parasailing, and jet-skiing are activities that are regularly offered at the more popular beaches and in the inland lagoons. Rental and instruction tend to be fairly inexpensive.
For those who want to experience the natural beauty of the island on foot, there are 25 miles of clearly defined footpaths running through the mountains and along the shore, revealing some truly spectacular panoramas.
The Coralita Beach Resort operates a small stable and rents out horses for romantic rides along the beach.
Tennis & Squash
Tennis remains one of the favorite pastimes in St. Martin, and there are more than 70 courts over the whole island. Many of these are to be found in the hotels, and squash is available at a number of sports clubs and fitness centers. Tennis pros are on hand in several of these places to give instruction for a modest fee. It should be kept in mind that appropriate attire, although not necessarily tennis whites, is required on nearly all of the courts.
The one 18-hole golf course on the island is located on the Dutch side of St. Maarten nearby at Mullet Bay. The course is open to all visitors; call ahead to reserve a slot.
Dining & Dancing
St. Martin is perhaps most famous for its restaurants and the elegance of its cuisine. From the most sumptuous of French delicacies to the tangy blends of Creole cooking to more exotic tastes like Chinese and East Indian, the island provides a wide variety of restaurants, bistros, brassieres, and barbecue shacks called lolos that delight even the most sophisticated of gourmets. The St. Martinois take a deserved pride in their cooking, which approaches something of an art form here. For dinner at most of the more fashionable dining spots, reservations are definitely recommended, although usually they are not necessary at lunch time. Many places also provide music for dancing, as do the many nightclubs around the island. Bands play a variety of zouk, calypso, reggae, jazz, and pop.
St.Maarten expresses its culinary soul not by creating a single cuisine, but by giving voice to cooking styles from the far-flung corners of the globe. Diners can select from more than 300 restaurants offering French, Dutch, Caribbean, Italian, Chinese, Indonesian, Creole and more.
One of the great attractions of the island has been the duty-free shopping available on both sides of the island. Luxury items from all over the world, French and Italian clothing fashions, Dutch and Japanese electronics, Indonesian batiks and Chinese embroidery, jewelry, leather, crystal, liquors, and fine porcelain, free of all taxes and customs, are regularly offered at bargain prices. The French side also provides a more leisurely shopping experience since the crowds from the cruise ships tend to be attracted more to the Dutch side.
French St. Martin does not have any casinos; however, just a short ride away, are 12 casinos on the Dutch side.These casinos offer gaming in the European mode. Most hotels provide round-trip transportation to the casinos.
General info – St. Martin / St. Maarten
The island is in the Caribbean Sea, 18.02 latitude and 63.07 longitude, 150 miles southeast of Puerto Rico. it covers 37 square miles, with Dutch St. Maarten on the South spanning 16 square miles and French Saint Martin on the North covering 21. The island is the smallest landmass to be shared by two separate governments. Capitals – Philipsburg on Great Bay is the capital of St. Maarten. Marigot is the capital of Saint Martin.
As a part of the Netherlands Antilles and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, St. Maarten boasts 77 different nationalities. Saint Martin is a commune of Guadeloupe, an overseas territory of France.
English is spoken everywhere, but Dutch is the official language of St.Maarten, and French the official language of Saint Martin. On the Dutch side, you can also hear Spanish, Papiamentu, Italian, Hindi, Chinese, and other languages. On the French side, Creole Patois is also spoken
41,000 people live on St.Maarten and 36,000 on Saint Martin.
Sunny and warm year-round, with some cooling from trade winds. Average temperature during the winter season is 80F (27C) and a few degrees warmer anymore humid in the summer. Occasional showers in late summer and early fall, with average annual rainfall of 45 inches.
Air service from the U.S. to Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten is provided by: American Airlines direct from New York, Miami and San Juan with connecting flights to numerous cities throughout the U.S. Plus seasonally by: TWA from New York with connections to other U.S. cities; by Continental from Newark, N.J., with connecting flights throughout the U.S.; Northwest from Detroit and Minneapolis, with connections to other U.S. cities; and by USAir from Charlotte and Philadelphia with connections to other U.S. cities. In addition, numerous charter flights are available from throughout the continental U.S. Other airlines serving the island include: ALM Antillean Airlines from Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire; LIAT from Antigua, Anguilla, St. Croix, St. Kitts, St. Thomas and Tortola; and Windward Islands Airways (WINAIR) from St. Thomas, St. Kitts/Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, Anguilla, St. Barts, Dominica and Tortola.
U.S. and Canadian visitors are only required to bring proof of citizenship (an original birth certificate) plus a standard photo ID (such as a driver’s license). Otherwise, a valid passport or an expired passport no more than five years old will suffice. Tourists are granted admission (upon arrival) as tourists for 14 days (maximum 3 months, upon request). A $20 tax is imposed upon departure from the Juliana Airport. Those arriving on the French side may stay up to three months, but a visa is required for longer stays. A 3 euros departure tax is included in the price of airfare for those leaving from Esperance Airport.
St. Maarten is the only completely duty-free port in the Caribbean. No vaccination certificates are required unless arriving from an area experiencing an epidemic.
St. Marteen has a modern and up-to-par telecommunication system. 3 companies offer telephone services and cellular phone services. St. Maarten also has several Internet providers and a cable TV company that offers over 50 different channels. Electricity and water is produced and distributed at the island by Government controlled companies. When dialing the Dutch side from the U.S., dial the international access code 011, the country code 599 and the local number. Special codes are required from one side to the other, though only a local number is required when calling the same side.
St. Maarten is on Atlantic Standard Time year-round. During the fall and winter, noon in New York equals 1 p.m. on the island. During daylight savings time in the U.S., the hour is the same on the Eastern Seaboard as it is on the island.
Most hotels in St. Maarten are wired as in the U.S.: 110 volts, 60 cycles. On the French side, all run on 220 volts, 60 cycles so a converter and adaptor plugs are needed for travel appliances.
Radio and Television
Most hotels on both sides of the island have radio and television broadcasts in English – There is cable TV with over 50 channels – all major US networks and some European channels are available. Most hotels have their own video entertainment and direct TV systems. Satellite television reception is also available for private homes. Including DirecTV, DISH Networks.
In addition to several local newspapers, visitors can pick up one or more of the publications directed toward them. These include St. Maarten Nature Magazine, St. Maarten Events, Discover St. Maarten, St. Maarten Nights, Ti Gourmet and Vacation St. Maarten.
St. Maarten Medical Center in Cay Hill and L’hospital General de Gaulle St. Martin in Marigot offer medical services. Airlift is available to Puerto Rico and the continental U.S. in case of extreme medical emergency.
Island accommodations range from large, comprehensive resort facilities and condominiums to small, intimate guest houses, timeshares and apartments. With over 2,000 rooms on the island, there is a property to suit every taste.
In St. Martin, Euro is the legal currency currency, and in St. Maarten it is the Antillean florin or guilder, but U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere. Banks are open Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 1:00 pm, with an additional hour on the French side Monday to Thursday 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm and on the Dutch side, Friday 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm.
Hotels on the French side typically add 5% occupancy tax per person, but a small gratuity is greatly appreciated for exceptionally good service. Restaurants also add a service charge to the bill. For taxi drivers it is customary to tip between 50 cents and a dollar, while porters at the airport usually get $1 per bag.
Animals are admitted temporarily to the island with the following papers: a health certificate dated no more than 10 days before visit and a record of inoculations, including a rabies shot administered no more than 30 days prior to the visit.
A 127-year-old residency law has been changed allowing non-residents to marry on St. Maarten.
Choice of clothing should be casual and comfortable but neat. Swimming attire is not appreciated in hotel lobbies or for walking around town. At night dress remains somewhat informal, but jackets and shawls are recommended since casinos and restaurants can get a little chilly.
For getting around from place to place a car is virtually indispensable although most hotels offer shuttle service to the casinos on the Dutch side of the island. Rental agencies are located at both airports and at the major hotels. Driving is on the right side of the road, and most of the roads are in fairly good repair. Motorcycles and mopeds are also available for hire.
The Manchionneel tree is extremely poisonous, and it grows all over the island but mainly along the beaches. It can be recognized by its deep green leaves and attractive green fruit that look like little apples. Both the sap and the fruit are caustic and will burn the skin. In case of contact or ingestion, contact a physician or a pharmacist immediately.