We talked about the primary anchorages of Simpson Bay Lagoon and Marigot in St. Maarten/St. Martin Yacht Charter, so we won’t go into too much detail about our starting points. From either harbor it’s an easy trip up to Grand Case, a sleepy village with a decent anchorage and a dinghy dock for shoreside excursions. The anchorage can be rolly, but the holding is good. A little further up the coast is Anse Marcel, another good anchorage, which also offers a marina, Port Lonvilliers, which is extremely well protected and offers 130 dock spaces.
Around the corner is Ile Tintamarre, an uninhabited island with beautiful beaches and a renowned, perfect spot for a luncheon anchorage. Exploring the island you’ll see abandoned buildings and the remnants of an airstrip. Tintamarre is a popular spot for day charters out of SXM and the small anchorage can get crowded, but the snorkeling and the beach make the effort worthwhile.
Across from Tintamarre is Oriental Bay and its gorgeous beach. Anchoring there behind Ilet Pinel or Caye Verte is allowed, but can only be recommended if you’re familiar with the area or have a skipper onboard who’s been there before.
A short hop across Anguilla Channel will get you to the low, flat island of Anguilla, a British Overseas Territory that has recently become a destination spot for the wealthy and famous. There’s been a building boom here in the past few years, with many large resorts and houses slowly overtaking the island.
Rendezvous Bay on the south side of Anguilla is a decent anchorage. You can clear Customs and Immigration at the nearby town of Blowing Point or on the north shore at Road Bay, the island's two main ports of entry. If you’re looking for solitude, head for the waters off Prickly Pear Cays and Dog Island, which are just north of Anguilla; any anchorage there is daytime only, per regulations.
Sixteen miles from Simpson Bay is St. Barthelemy, known to most people simply as St. Barths. Although it can be a windy, wet passage, especially when the Christmas Winds are blowing, you’ll quickly forget that once you arrive at this wonderfully French Island. The main anchorage is Port Gustavia, where you’ll find the Customs and Immigration office and what seems like every megayacht in the Caribbean tied stern-to at the main docks. The inside anchorage is deep and well protected, but on occasion when the groundswell gets too big, the captain of the port will order every boat off the dock.
The outside anchorage is crowded and deep, but many will prefer that to the very crowded, sometimes noisy dock and inside anchorage. Ashore you’ll find some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean, most of which are very, very expensive. One exception is the world-famous Le Select, where the beer is cold, the burgers don’t cost an arm and a leg, and where you may even find Jimmy Buffet playing his guitar. It’s very much a local bar, and characters and cigarette smoke abound. St. Barth’s is a duty-free island, but you’ll be better off doing that kind of shopping in SXM, as most of the stores in St. Barth’s cater to high-end tourists who don’t mind dropping thousands of Euros to buy designer bags and clothing.
About 25 miles from SXM is Saba, a mountainous island with some of the best diving in the Caribbean (and despite what veterans of St. Barthelemy airport claim, possibly the scariest airport in the Caribbean). The island is steep, with the mountains running right down to the water, and there are few anchorages there.
St. Kitts and Nevis
If you’re up for some more adventurous cruising, St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis are about 40 miles away from Simpson Bay. St. Kitts and Nevis together form a federation (which makes them the smallest sovereign nation in the Americas) with a history of being governed by both the British and the French.
St. Kitts is visible from many miles away as it has a mountain, which is perpetually shrouded in clouds and has a rain forest on its peak. On the south side of St. Kitts is Basseterre. No moorings are available, but the harbor is protected in northerly and easterly winds. The best anchorage is to the west of the cruise ship dock, but some charterers opt to stay at the marina, which is well protected from southerly swell and breezes behind a seawall. Clearing in through customs and immigration is a no-drama situation, and both islands are very welcoming to cruisers.
The southern shore of St. Kitts has some lovely anchorages, including Ballast Bay, where the snorkeling is terrific. A new 300-acre megayacht marina is being built there in the Great Salt Pond, but as of December, 2011 it hasn’t opened.
While Nevis offers fewer anchorages, it is a less populated, sleepier island than St. Kitts, and well worth the short trip across the Narrows. You’ll find the most popular spot to be the anchorage off the ferry dock in Charlestown, the main town. But there’s also a decent anchorage off the Four Seasons hotel to the north. Look for other boats and you’ll find the few viable anchorages.
Remember that one of the tough things about heading south from SXM is that, eventually, you’ll have to sail back upwind against the prevailing northeasterlies to get back. Crewed charters that start in SXM and end in Antigua are, as a result, popular.