Saint-Martin, Sint Maarten. Whatever you call it, it’s a best-ofboth- worlds island: half French, half Dutch, yet all chic. Circumnavigate the 37-square-mile island and you’ll find plenty of turquoise bays and marinas to nestle in for a stay. Visit casinos and dutyfree shops in Dutch Sint Maarten, on the southern half. Peruse the nightlife, nude beaches and beaucoup de bistros in French Saint-Martin, to the north. But don’t be confused by this bisected island: It’s all fun, fashionable and fabulous. Then, take a walk on the wild side. When the cruise ships pull in, escape the clamor of the crowds for untamed Île Fourchue.
Île Fourchue is an arid elbow of land rising 100 meters out of the Caribbean Sea, an exhilarating 8-nautical-mile reach southeast of Sunsail’s Oyster Pond charter base. Pick up a mooring, and breathe in the sweet smell of thirsty grasses covering the ridge that buffers the anchorage from the prevailing trades.
The island’s entire perimeter is part of the St. Barts Marine Park, established two decades ago to protect the marine environment. Kayak, paddleboard or swim the crystal-clear waters to the sandy beach. Float over coral reefs, just a splash away from the mooring. Your only neighbors might be the sea turtles, who now thrive thanks to restored sea-grass beds. Or perhaps a megayacht will saunter in for a few hours, burp out a cluster of guests and swim toys, then just as swiftly swallow them back up and hurry out.
Later, dash to St. Barts, where the beautiful people holiday, barely an hour’s sail away. Treat yourself to an exorbitant cocktail and glamorous people-watching before returning to Île Fourchue — because nothing’s as beautiful as your own beach, a starry sky and no sound but the gentle slap of the waves on the hull.
Editor’s note: Purchase your marine-park permit at the charter base before you go. When entering and exiting the French and Dutch ports of Sint Maarten/Saint-Martin, cruisers must clear in and out of customs and immigration. Time your passages accordingly.