None other than Christopher Columbus discovered the island in 1493 on the day of Saint Martin, which is where the island gets its name. Visitors on a yacht charter in the Caribbean will find a piece of paradise here on this smallest island in the world to be divided between two nations.
Sea & Coast
This small tropical island in the Caribbean approximately 300 km east of Puerto Rico is one of the most beautiful in the region and also the smallest island in the world to be divided by two nations. The French call it Saint Martin while the Dutch call it Sint Maarten. The island is undoubtedly very beautiful and borrows a little bit of both European countries’ charm. It’s like a European resort for sailing holidays, except in a tropical setting.
The name comes from the day that Columbus discovered the island, St. Martin’s day on November 11th 1493. Not only administratively but also geographically, the island is split into two parts - the Grand Terre and the Terres Basses (Lowlands) separated by a salt water pond. The coastline is made up of 37 beaches with perfectly white sand and lots of villages aligned along the coast in small bays. A paradise for boat rental!
The vegetation is heavily linked to the weather, with the east coast being swept by warm trade winds that give way to mostly dry vegetation. But as soon as the winds cross the mountains, the condensation increases humidity and results in lush tropical forests.
Being part of the Lesser Antilles, the weather in St. Martin is tropical with lots of sunshine all year round. There is no rainy season like in other tropical islands but a hurricane season roughly between July and November, with September having the highest likelihood of occurrence. This means that ideally your yacht charter holiday should be planned outside that interval.
Culture & History
Though divided between two countries, don’t expect St. Martin to be full of border crossings and wire fences. The border is almost invisible and people cross freely from one side to the other. That doesn’t mean that there are no differences between the French side and the Dutch side, on the contrary.
After being discovered by Christopher Columbus, the French, English, Dutch, Danes and the Spanish all fought over control of the island. There is a legend among the locals that settling of the border was a peaceful event, stating that a runner from each side was chosen. They were said to have started from different corners of the island and where they met was going to be the border.
The Dutch side with its biggest town of Philipsburg is known for its nightlife, beaches, casinos and rum-based liquors. The French side with its main town of Marigot features good shopping and cuisine as well as chic cafes and terraces reminiscent of the Riviera. Yacht hire guests enjoy both the laidback atmosphere on the Dutch side and the fashionable style of the French.
Seamanship & Experience
Like in most of the Lesser Antilles islands the prevailing winds are the easterly trade winds. The wind speeds are a fairly regular 15 knots from November to April. During the summer season, skippers can feel stronger drafts caused by the thermal effects.