Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Windjammer Ships and Pirate Adventures: St. Maarten

Days 1-3: St. Maarten/St. Martin -- February 16-18, 2007

What can you say about a month out of the cold? We’re good at being snowbirds? How about we went sailing on a big boat, err, ship in the French West Indies?

I think everyone has a little bit of a pirate spirit in them and sailing on a Windjammer ship is a good way to bring that out! One thing Windjammer employees will tell you is that “this ain’t no foo foo ship”...I am guessing it’s a jab at those huge floating cities we see invade tiny Caribbean islands...I’ve never been on a cruiseship....but being barefoot for a week on a beautiful antique ship is such a thrill. It’s also a good way to homeschool. You get culture,geography, history and even math and Science.

Just to start our adventure off early, we flew to St. Maarten 3 days prior to getting on the SV Polynesia. The last time I was in St. Maarten was almost 20 years ago and boy have things changed. The airport is no longer an open air shack on an airstrip (even going to St. Maarten they verify that you have your sun tan lotion squirreled away in 3.5 ounce bottles now).

St. Maarten in it’s heyday, was quite the hot spot, but those spots are gone now taken by hurricanes and better ideas, though some places remain. We stayed out at Cupecoy beach which is known for sandstone beaches and they still are quite beautiful, despite the obvious increase in tourism. There always was a charm to most spots in St. Maarten, the restaurants and inns and Hotels. The beaches still are great, and some are still clothing optional -- as always in places other than the US. The experience of a 14 year old boy and that of a “geezer” on one of these kinds of beaches is remarkably different as I found out. Enough on that topic The Kid says...

We rented a car in St. Maarten because The Kid just didn’t understand why I thought it was one of the more beautiful places I had been. Our plan for that day was to drive around the island and have lunch at Captain Oliver’s, and that’s what we did. With a map that we should have saved as a collectors item, we started out. “How can we get lost on and island?” The Kid wanted to know. “I don’t want to drive by the cool stuff, so pay attention to the map.” My attempt to get a map reading lesson in for the day.

St. Maarten is an island that is ruled by two different nations. One side is French and the other side is Dutch. Both sides are distinctively different and this was also part of the study. Marigot, on the French side is as bustling as ever, but far more cosmopolitan than we were looking for. We drove through Marigot and headed for Anse Marcel, a little off the beaten path and more like the St. Martin I remembered. We also headed to Orient Beach, the one all the cruise ships go to for the “beach au natural”, as the Kid read Our French lesson for the day. The beach was crowded, so we headed for Oyster Pond and Captain Oliver’s. This place was as good as ever and is still right out of a Buffett song.

Front Street in Philipsburg is quite different from 20 years ago. I think there are more diamonds and emeralds on this Island than anywhere else. It was also on Front Street three days later that we met up with sailing mates from our Mandalay trip Judy, Palmer, Nell, Claude, Shary & Chris...

Next Stop: St. Barts