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When we’re not busy in the office trying to find you the very best deals, we’re hard at work checking out the destinations we have on offer. There’s nothing better than first-hand experience, so we try to go sailing as much as possible so we can offer you the best advice.
I recently chartered in St Martin, in the Caribbean, on a Catana 47 with my young family. Below is my sailing itinerary for the week and recommendations for a stress-free charter with children. It’s the perfect starting point to research exploring St Martin for yourself!
Day one – Paris to St Martin, Caribbean
Travelling from the UK to St Martin, you have to change at least once, so having looked at all the combinations the best price for my dates (by about half!) was to take the Eurostar to Paris, stay in an Airbnb for 1 night, then fly direct from Paris Orly to St Martin. This schedule meant we had a day exploring Paris. Orly airport was a good choice as it’s very easy to reach from central Paris. When you go through passport control there are a number of shops and cafés, but if you continue to the gate you will find a Playstation area, a nice café, fewer people and a shop. So my top tip is to head straight to the gate!
Day two – Port La Royale, St Martin
It only takes 10-15 mins to reach the Port La Royale Marina by taxi straight from landing at St Martin airport and costs around $35. What you might not know is that USD and Euros are often given equal conversion rates in shops, so make sure you get dollars.
In the marina, you’ll find plenty of restaurants and a supermarket which is 10 minutes walk away. Unless you are arriving very early or the day before, don’t expect to leave base until the next day. By the time you’ve done the handover and provisioned, you’ll probably miss the bridge’s last opening of the day.
We arrived mid-afternoon on the Saturday, got checked in and provisioned (it always takes more than one trip as you always forget something!). We got the crew and the kids (my 5 and 3 year olds) familiar with the catamaran. Part of having the kids with you means that while you can take them out to restaurants (it’s a holiday so the bedtime routine is completely elastic!), it is sometimes more relaxing to eat on the yacht. We opted to get a takeaway from a Vietnamese restaurant in the marina and eat on board with the kids in bed. That way we had the best of both worlds and it’s cheaper on the drinks!
Day three – Port La Royale to Sandy Ground, Anguilla
On a Sunday, the supermarket opens at 8am and the first bridge opening of the morning meant we were able to leave at 9am at the earliest. Keep in mind that the opening times depends on the bridge and time of year. You can have a shower in the marina, or just use the head on the yacht and top up the water before leaving.
We queued at the bridge where they let everyone out first and then let other yachts in. It takes about 5-10 mins, so there is only a small window of time. Once out, we set our course for the west end of Anguilla. We got the sails up, turned the motor off, set the autopilot and relaxed, catching the morning sun.
We went through the ‘new rules’ with the kids, such as lifejackets on if outside the saloon and walk with an adult to the front of the yacht. The kids were quite happy sitting on the trampoline and we read some books with them and lazed around so they got used to the yacht moving. Kids get tired quickly when sailing so the odd power nap in the day helped them, and us!
We arrived at Meads Bay and took the dinghy ashore for lunch and a swim. This is a picturesque spot with clear, blue waters. After relaxing, we headed to Sandy Ground for our anchorage for the night. We decided to get prepared for the next day’s trip to the national park and got a pass at the customs office for $56 dollars, that way we could set off as early as possible.
It was great to see the kids growing in confidence, jumping off the yacht and swimming about. They also read books, watched programmes on the phone and tablet and drew plenty of pictures.
You’ll find plenty of restaurants ashore, just ask in the customs office for the Skyviews guide to help you make your choice or visit their website . We BBQ’d on the yacht, as we already picked up steak and sausages. There was a band playing on the beach bar so the girls went ashore for dancing and we finished up some G&Ts and went to bed before they got back.
Day four – Sandy Ground and Prickly Pear Cay
We set out early to make the most of our national park pass and headed to Prickly Pear Cay. We arrived at the bay at 10.30am, about an hour before the tourist run of day trippers arrived. After the park, we quickly made our exit and sailed across to Dog Island which was deserted (one other yacht joined a little later). This was the best beach so far with crisp sands. I swam ashore & back with my five year old son and it was a proud dad moment.
We had lunch on board and headed back to Sandy Ground while the kids were enthralled by the dolphins leaping in and out of the sea. For dinner, we headed to an American tapas place on the beach which has good food, service and atmosphere. It’s probably not the cheapest, around €40 per head, but this is the danger with tapas as you continue to order more and more dishes! Plus we weren’t watching for the prices but just ordered what we liked the sound of.
Day five – Sandy Ground, Anguilla to Pinel Island, St Martin
We left early and spent the morning at Sandy Island where we found a lovely deserted beach where we could relax in total peace for 90 minutes. The kids loved the rock pools and went looking for hermit crabs and shells etc. After a swim we found some good flat stones for skimming too!
We headed across to Scrub Island (Scrub Bay) for lunch and a swim with great snorkelling. It was hard to get on the beach with the dingy because the waves were so strong, but it made for a fun time in the water. When the sea is choppy, it’s best to nominate someone to drop you off and then they can swim to join you, or you can all just swim in.
It was here we had our drama of the day as our anchor got stuck between two rocks. It took about an hour of trying different things to get it free, even with help from a skipper on another yacht. Finally free, we sailed down to Pinel Island (on St Martin) for the night. It’s a lovely spot for anchorage. We went ashore and walked along a dusty road up to a pizzeria. It was getting dark and the kids were hungry so we didn’t explore much and made for the restaurant. As it turns out, we’d found a nice local spot with the bonus of free Wi-Fi. With our bellies full, we went back to the yacht and crashed out in no time.
Day six – Pinel Island, St Martin, to Gustavia, St Barth’s
In the morning we headed Le Tintamarre, but it was pretty busy with yachts so we took a photo and headed onto Gustavia, St Barth’s. On the approach you can sense the luxury and affluence, which was confirmed when we passed Roman Abramovich’s yacht “Eclipse”, complete with armed security. We spent the afternoon and evening in the town, which reminded me of St Tropez with its fancy clothes shops, restaurants, mega yachts and swanky bars. We wandered the shops, went to a couple of bars and had sushi for dinner in a restaurant with a live band by the water. I could have happily spent a couple of days here, but the kids were soon bored of cafes and ready to go snorkelling again.
Day seven – Gustavia, St Barth’s, to Grand Colombier, St Barth’s
After a feast of croissants, we snorkelled close to the yacht before setting off for Anse du Gouvener beach where we played in the sands. For the evening we headed to Grand Colombier where we had good anchorage and a burnt orange sunset as the backdrop. We watched turtles swimming and eating food on the seabed. After a sumptuous fish BBQ, we snuggled into bed.
Day eight – Grand Colombier, St Barth’s, to Grand Case, St Martin
We set off again for La Tintamarre and found a spot this time for some lunch and snorkelling. We headed onwards to Grand Case to catch the most wonderful sunset. You’ll find some great, authentic Caribbean bars and restaurants here. We went back to the yacht to enjoy some ribs and chicken cooked on the grill.
Day nine – Grand Case, St Martin, to Port La Royale
Sad our trip was coming to an end, we made our way back to Port La Royale and timed the bridge opening successfully. We had a fairly painless re-fuelling and it cost us €75 for the week. We sailed a lot but did take full advantage of the generator and watermaker. We checked our bags in and headed back to Grand Case for some more spicy chicken wings, then onto the airport while the kids waved goodbye. A brilliant family charter!