When the first cases of coronavirus appeared in the Caribbean (I believe the very first ones were registered in the Dominican Republic), we started to talk about how the pandemic might affect the sailing community.
Our biggest fear was that islands would no longer allow boats in and we wouldn’t know where to go.
It didn’t take long for such fear to become a reality.
We were in St. Barts enjoying pricy meals and drinks on the island of the super-rich-and -famous, when the first poster appeared on the customs office’s door saying that only 2 persons at a time would be allowed in to clear customs, due to the spread of the Coronavirus.
We followed the new rules and queued outside waiting for our turn to get in. Armed with hand sanitizers and germs killing wipes, we dared touch the keyboard and checked out of the country: next stop Saint Martin, where we would stock up on food and prepare for the worse.
Saint Martin (or Sint Marteen in Dutch) is renowned for its good provisioning with a variety of supermarkets on both the French and Dutch sides. Yes…for some weird reason this small island belongs to two countries! Apparently, the relationship between the two was so friendly that the border was amicably set one day by a Dutch guy drinking gin and a French guy drinking wine. They started walking towards each other and drew a line where they met. Rumor has it the Dutch guy got drunk sooner than the French and that’s why the French side is bigger :)!!
Twenty four hours after our arrival in Simpson Bay, on the Dutch side, we were told that the other islands around us were already in the process of closing their borders. Things had started to change rapidly.
We had to hurry up and make a decision. Where should we go and spend the next x number of months? The BVIs and Antigua seemed two good options with their beautifully clear waters and many anchorages, but what about their health care system?
After pondering the pros and cons of a list of islands, we decided the wise choice would be to stay in Saint Martin. Here the main reasons why;
- It’s a European island, with one side being French and the other Dutch and as Europeans, we thought we might have a bigger chance of meaning something to them :);
- Good internet connection! Who can face a lockdown without Netflix!?
- Good provisioning, actually the best in the Caribbean so far in terms of quality/price ratio; with Carrefour, Super U, and many other markets and boulangeries available;
- There is a big sailing community with a VHF radio broadcast happening every day Monday to Saturday at 7.30 am on channel 10 – anyone can chip in and listen to general announcements, people selling and buying things, sharing knowledge and helping each other with bits and bobs. Quite reassuring in difficult times!;
- We thought the health care might be decent either on one side or the other – due to the close connection with Europe;
- We (erroneously) thought we could find shelter inside the lagoon should the weather take a bad turn. I say erroneously because we soon found out that the bridge that grants you access to the lagoon on the French side is not working due to maintenance…!
We had just about enough time to make an informed decision and check in on the French side – which is cheaper than the Dutch side – when the lockdown started, with people allowed to leave their homes (or boats in our case) only to go food shopping or buy essential goods such as medicines, and to exercise within 1 km from their houses.
After almost a week in Marigot bay, we decided to move to Grand Case. This is a much nicer bay with clear waters and a sandy beach dotted with bars and restaurants…all shut at the moment.
It’s also a great spot for snorkeling with friendly fish getting really close to you and many turtles feeding on seagrass.
Life is very slow these days and we’re trying to get into a routine. From Monday to Friday we do some work on our business and then exercise on the beach.
Weekends are dedicated to cleaning and cooking with Gc baking Easter cakes (in preparation for next week!) and me specializing in pizza dough and perfecting my bread making skills. We’re fine and lucky to be in such a beautiful place (even if in lockdown). We have some friends around us and that definitely helps during these hard times. Stay safe out there!