Back up North – Antigua to Sint Maartens, via St Barts:

Jolly Beach - Antigua
Jolly Beach – Antigua

 

 

I am currently sitting in Shrimpy’s (www.shrimpys-stmaarten.com) in Marigot Bay (St Maartens).  This is a great place for cruisers to meet, use the Internet and buy second hand goods.  They also offer water and information on where to get things done in and around St Maartens.  Mike and Sally who run the place will do laundry and also provide a radio net at 07:30 each morning for all cruisers.  Discussion ranges from Safety and Security, new arrivals/departures, general info and weather.  We managed to sell our lovely sat phone yesterday for half the price we brought it but at least it is not going to sit in a draw for the next 10 years loosing more of its value.

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Well, I would love to share more photos and say we have been up to a lot in the past week but this would not be true.  Firstly we have been stuck in Marigot Bay for 4 days whilst high winds blew through so due to this we will miss Anguilla this time round and head straight for Virgin Gorda tomorrow, which is in the BVI’s (British Virgin Islands), where we will meet a few friends and spend a month exploring the 54 islands that are there including Richard Branson’s.

 

I better start from the beginning of our trip instead of at the end.  We left Jolly two days after being launched.  We victualed, fuelled and prepared for a passage from Jolly Harbour to St Bart’s.  We departed at 04:00 in the morning and had to complete 80 miles to Gustavia.  With a clean bottom Troskala flew and averaged 6.6 knots.  We made Gustavia 12 hours after departing, which is a record for us.  We again anchored in the same place as we had before although the anchorage was packed as it was just coming to the end of their Richard Miller Regatta.

 

We walked around Gustavia and to Shell Beach the following day.  We decided not to check-in this time and instead move on the Anse De Columbia for the night and then depart and head to St Maartens to explore this island further.  We left Gustavia in the afternoon and all went well for the 2.7 miles until we reached the beach.  I had recently fitted a longer painter to the dinghy, which was made out of an old halyard – big mistake.  Carlotta was on the helm and as I dropped the anchor she engaged reverse.  Thank God the anchor held as a split second later the engine cut out – a first for our engine.  I did the stupid thing of re-starting it without finding the cause of the issue before but I guess that under stress we all do things we wish we could have not done.  Luckily for us the engine again cut out and I quickly established that the painter was caught around our prop.  For us we could not be in a better place, the water was clear and I was able to snorkel down to free the rope with the knife.  No damage caused but a good lesson.

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We spent one afternoon in Anse De Columbia before sailing the 12 miles to Philipsburg to pick up some duty-free alcohol and then onto Simpson Bay.  We still cannot understand the excitement people have with St Maartens.  The Dutch side is very developed and because that damaged.  In Simpson Bay there is not a lot on offer except a long busy road with various restaurants and a Mac Donald’s.  We spent our first day exploring with the dinghy the Lagoon but even this was not great and mainly consisted of chandleries and restaurants.  The beaches are nice but the water is not clear.

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We did not spent too long in Simpson Bay and instead decided to sail around the coast to the French side and anchor in Marigot Bay.  We knew the wind would pick up and as soon as we rounded the corner we were hit with 35 knots of wind and one hour bashing under motor to get to Marigot Bay and the security of the anchorage.

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Marigot Bay, along with the other bays: Grand Case and Anse Marcel are great spots.  The French have managed to keep these places cultural instead of ruining them with hotels and cheap bars.  Marigot itself is a lovely town with some good shopping but a local feel not forgetting Fort Louis, which is an old fort looking down onto the town and the bay.  The people are friendly and the Supermarkets are cheap. Marigot has a great Shopping Centre and the highlight of one of my days was to ride an elevator for the first time in 10 months – we need to move on.

 

The wind increased whilst we were in Marigot but it was not a bad place to get stuck as it is fairly sheltered and there is a lot to occupy yourself in town should you wish to explore.  The days lying at anchor gave me the opportunity to work on the engine and luckily I did.  I have been having some problems getting charge through to our batteries from the alternator and I put this down to the belt slipping.  I adjusted this and fixed the issue but to my horror, when adjusting the alternator I could actually move the engine.  This was not good news and further inspection showed that all but one of our engine mountings were loose with two bolts missing.  The engine is only a year old and I should have checked the mounts earlier but thank goodness it was checked now and all bolts are now tight and the engine is secure.

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To some up St Maarten’s I would have to say that there are nicer islands in the Caribbean.  If you have work to carry out on your yacht, then this is the place to do it.  You can miss the Dutch side unless you like noise, cheap bars and need and Mac Donalds.  If you like you can take a trip to Maho Bay and sit on a beach close to the runway and watch air craft land only a few meters above your head.  We decided we did not want to be sand blasted and past on that option although in the guidebooks this is the only ‘must-see’ place, so that just sums up the Dutch half.

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If you want quality, head to the North or North East coast.  There are some great parties and great towns not top forget, culture, walks and great scenery.  Grand Case is the gastronomic capital of the island and you will not be disappointed.

 

Anyway, we need to press on and we will be heading to the British Virgin Islands tomorrow morning at 01:00AM.  We have a lot to investigate and hope to spend a month there.  We look forward to new islands and meeting up with some old friends, so watch this space.

 

Goodbye for now.

 

Troskala on the Hard – 04th to 09th April 2013

DSC00747Okay, enough Superyacht stories.  We made it back safely to Troskala but unfortunately she was not in the state we had left her.  She had now grown a lovely green beard and a nice black oil stain on the waterline from the dirty marina we had left her in.  It was also noticed that three impacts had been made to port side and bow side, but only faint scratches, but nothing too serious but still annoying nonetheless.

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We were quick to leave and take her up to Jolly Harbour ready for checking out.  On the way we found her sluggish and less than responsive due to growth.  At 2,500 revs I was only making 4.0 knots over ground whereas I would normally achieve 5.5 knots.  As we were walking around Jolly Marina Carlotta suggested that we could have her hauled out now instead of in America; I could not agree more.  We visited the yard on the night we arrived and were booked for 10:00 the following morning.

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Jolly Harbour was a great choice as the yard staff were all kind and extremely knowledgeable.  We were ready the next morning by the crane and at 10:30 she was being lifted out after 6,700 sea miles and 9 months on the water.   It was true; she was very fouled with all sorts of marine growth clinging to her belly.  We had also noticed a strange vibration on the propeller shaft, which we had put down to the rope cutter.  This was the case as two of the supporting washers that keep the blade in-line had completely deteriorated; it was time to completely remove the rope cutter and instead fix another anode on the shaft as we had already lost the end shaft anode and I could already sea electrolysis occurring on the end of the propeller; thank God we took her out now instead of later.

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After a spray down she was settled into her stands and the work progressed, first to clean up the prop and the second to sand her down.  I hate antifouling but the worst part of it has to be the sanding.  As we had used a European Antifoul that could not be brought over here I had to strip her paint right back to primer.  Here is the most useful piece of information I can give here.  If you want to Antifoul your boat buy the antifoul in St Martins or America.  We paid for a gallon of Seahawk (heavy stuff) 10,71 EC, which works out to be £300 per tin, we needed two so already the antifoul was double the cost of the haul out, which was very cheap.

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We did the necessary work and I even painted the Hydrovane rudder, which manages to get fouled every two weeks.  The total cost came to £900, which includes the yard fees and paint, a little more than I expected, but she looks good and will hopefully sail much faster than before.  The good thing about taking your yacht out in Jolly is that you have a great Supermarket 5 minuets away and the best beach in Antigua 10 minutes away so when the heat of the day was too much we would just head to the beach to cool down before continuing work on Troskala.

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Again, I cannot sing the praises of the staff any more.  Everyday a gentleman would come over to gave advise and help for free, it made the cost just about bearable.  After 5 days on the hard Troskala was launched looking like new and with no vibrations coming from the shaft.

The finished article
The finished article

Superyacht Week

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Tuesday 19th March  – The first day working on a Superyacht.

Going back to work has come early, but we have been given a great opportunity to Day Work on a Superyacht and Paulo (The Captain) had kindly offered me a couple of days day work before Carlotta and I join him and his crew on the delivery trip to the Bahamas.

Although I am not as unfit as I used to be I am certainly not the fittest guy around and after spending years behind a desk the physical labor was bound to hurt.

My first job was to help Dan (Chief Engineer) clean some of the bilges in the engine room and degrease parts of the engine.  I have to say that this was not the most fun part of my first half-day, hot, sweaty and very painful; Paulo had coined it the house of pain, and he was not wrong.  The heat and noise in the engine room are far from comfortable but it was good to be on board working and learning from the very knowledgeable Dan.

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After that job there was deck work to be carried out.  I found that you do get used to doing things a certain way on your own boat compared to other peoples; and a Superyacht is no different.  Paulo keeps a very strict ship. Everything on board has an order and everything has a certain way to be done.   Also, everything is far heavier, larger and more dangerous than on Troskala. Paulo and Greg (first mate) have shown a lot of patience in my learning to do things a certain way and I am happy to say that I can now coil a hose clockwise.

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The best thing about working on this yacht is the Emilie’s cooking.  We have been treated to some amazing meals whilst working on board and have enjoyed every single one.  You live for the lunches and dinners on board I think due to the nature of the work and the physical demands you face; I was so hungry.

My first half-day work was tiring and my muscles hurt.  I was on again the next day as we preparing to leave Antigua.  Troskala has been moved to a marina and Carlotta has been spending time cleaning her up before we leave her.

Wednesday 20th March  – Second Day on a Superyacht

I now had a full day of labor ahead of me.  We started off with some rope work, tying the sheets to the genoa and staysail.  We were hopefully departing the next day so most of the work carried out was in preparation for us leaving.  We spent the rest of the day cleaning and sorting out and tying large objects incase they move during the trip.

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I managed at lunch to pop back and see Carlotta for a short time but I was soon back working way with Greg and Dan.

We finished around 17:00 and after fetching our luggage and moving into our 5 star cabin we joined the Captain of Two Ladies who again entertained us with drinks and a brilliant BBQ.  Tomorrow we would be leaving to the Bahamas, a 6-day sail and our first passage on a Superyacht.

Thursday 21st March – 28th March  – Our First Superyacht Passage:

We both started work on Thursday morning.  There were fire drills to be completed and Paulo needed to go through the safety procedures before we set off.  I was great to have a night in an air-conditioned cabin but we did miss Troskala and worried about her safety whilst we were away.

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After running through the safety brief with Paulo and trying to start the water pump with Daniel we were ready to conduct the final preparations before setting off.  More physical work was called upon as we departed the dock on our voyage to the Bahamas.  We stowed the warps, fenders and secured the anchors.

It was a fantastic experience leaving Antigua on this yacht; the motion was steady, the sun shining and the company great.  We all had watch-keeping responsibilities and it worked that we each had four hours on and eight hours off, which worked well and for me I working 16:00 – 20:00 and then 04:00 – 08:00, which meant that I experienced the sunrise and sunset, which did not once disappoint.  I would start my shift with Daniel and finish with Paulo, we had great chats, whilst drinking tea under a full moon.  Our other responsibilities involved completing the Deck Log every hour and an Engine Room Log every hour; this was completed without fail.

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The days on board worked well.  Once you get into a routine life becomes easier.  We have found time to relax whilst off shift and time to sleep, although as the days go on I have found myself more tired, which is probably a result of the strange hours we are awake.

We were not faced with any issues.  The wind was mostly calm with only one day where we made good way under sail.  We managed to raise the Main Sail at one point and also run under Genoa and Staysail, which looked fantastic.  We averaged around 9.5 knots throughout the journey but at times we were achieving 11.5.

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In the evening we were greeted by other shipping and a great lighting display for two nights running. Fours hours go very fast when you are on watch.  Carlotta and I did not spend much time together but I believe she enjoyed the experience, especially sitting on the seat at the bow of 109 feet Superyacht.

We made land fall on Tuesday 26th March after completing … miles and 6 days at sea.  We approached New Providence in the Bahamas and moored in Lyford Cay, or as Pailo put it, ‘lifeless Cay’, which is a private gated community where Botoxed people were prevalent.  The yacht would be victualed here before we carry on to Freeport.

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We spent 2 days in Lifeless Cay preparing the yacht for the owners.  Again the work was hard but it never felt better to end a day with a beer and lovely meal at a restaurant care of Paulo.  We managed to gate crash a private, what appeared to be a Millionaires party but even with Paulo’s charm we still got rumbled and had to pay for our drinks; it was a sickly sight and we did not hang around.

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On the Thursday evening we set sail for another 100-mile passage to Grand Bahamas and Freeport Marina.  The passage went well although after a few engine alarms sounding we had to change course further out to safer water whilst Dan sorted the issues out. We arrived at Freeport around 09:00 and Paulo allowed us to sleep until lunchtime.  After lunch we continued to clean, prepare and tidy the yacht.  In the evening we went to the center of Freeport.  Driving through you could still see the damage to houses and forests from Hurricane Sandy.  The center of Freeport is nothing much but a fake village with shops, bars and restaurants; very American, but it was pleasant nonetheless and we were in great company.  Carlotta and I tasted our first Miami Vice Cocktail and strongly recommend you try one if you have not done so already.

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The next day brought more work with it and the final tidy.  Carlotta and I would depart the yacht and our friends on the evening.  Paulo had kindly arranged a hotel and flights for us to return to Antigua.  We finished our tasks around 16:00 and Carlotta, Paulo, Greg and I went for a drive and some beers before we hit the town and checked into our resort hotel.

The next day was pretty uneventful; we woke up at 05:00, caught a taxi to the airport, flew to Miami, had breakfast and then flew onto Antigua for dinner and to be reunited with Troskala.  In essence we had breakfast in the Bahamas, Lunch in America (Miami) and dinner in the Caribbean. J

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We had a great time and what an amazing experience and introduction into the Superyacht industry.  We look forward to meeting up with our friends in Florida or New York over the coming months.  Thank you all for looking after us and we wish you a safe voyage onwards.

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Sunday BBQ on Pigeon Beach – 17th March 2013

We had not intended a BBQ and it was a perfect way to end a day.  We had spent the past few hours and all of Saturday preparing our Superyacht CV, answering emails and talking to family.   We met with Paulo and had breakfast before heading to Pigeon Beach, which is a great Beach located at the entrance of Falmouth Harbour.

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Whilst we were at the beach Tim (The Captain) and his crew from Motor Yacht Two Ladies were set up with an amazing BBQ.  The crew of another Explorer Yacht also joined them.  We were invited over and shared glasses of Rose and the best cooked pork and steak and have ever eaten, all whilst bathing in the warm waters of Antigua.  It was surely a day to remember and a big thank you goes to Tim and his crew for inviting us.

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STCW 95 WEEK – 11th March – 15th March

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My Dad and Nita left on the 06th and it was time to get on with some work. STCW stands for Standards of training and Certificate of Watch keepers.    The STCW covers: Elementary First Aid, Fire Prevention and Fire Fighting and Personal Survival Techniques.  We needed the STCW 95 if we were to join a Superyacht the following week from Antigua to the Bahamas.

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We had signed up a couple of days earlier with On Deck Sailing school and had paid a total of $2,200 for the week’s course for the two of us.  We were looking forward to a change of scene but did not quite realize how difficult elements of this course are.

Monday 11th March – First Aid.  This course was similar to what you learnt in Scouts, except you can to use a dummy difribulator whilst you are giving Anne (the rubber dolly) CPR.  This was a classroom day with 15 of us sat on uncomfortable stools, but at least we had air conditioning.  We had a gentleman called Jonathan for the day who was the local Emergency Doctor. The only problem was that he would need to take a call every half hour, which was a little distracting.

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The evening was much better.  We had again met with Rafiki and the lovely family on board.  Readers will remember that we first met Rafiki in Dartmouth (UK) and had followed them down to Lisbon, Madeira, Las Palmas and St Lucia.  We were eager to catch up and spend time in their company.  Rob and Cally invited us to a wonderful dinner on board Rafiki and we all had a lovely evening catching up on their adventures so far. Emily and James entertained us all night – we are so lucky to have such wonderful friends.

Tuesday 12th March – Professional, Personal and Social Responsibility

Another classroom day but this time less gory than yesterdays.  We had a great instructor called Logan who is so laid back he is almost horizontal.  After watching many shorts movies mainly set in the UK in the 1980’s we had passed this stage.  The next 3 stages were to be more practical, which was a relief – or so we thought.

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We had offered to babysit Emily and James in the evening so that Rob and Cally could go out for dinner.  James and Emily came over to Troskala where home pizzas were prepared and cooked before we settled down to watch a film.

Wednesday 13th March – Fire Fighting and Prevention

It was to be our first practical day of the STCW 95.  As much as we were looking forward to day outside the classroom we were not expecting the heat.  We were driven to an army base on the North East side of the Island where we were greeted by a concrete platform with a few containers and a canopy as the classroom.  It was quite a different experience to be looking from our classroom to the turquoise sea below.

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We were each given our uniforms to try on, these comprised of a heat-proof jacket, fireman’s pants, thick socks and some boots.  It is difficult to imagine being in 32 degree heat and then wrapped up in a fireman’s uniform but believe me it is hot.  As soon as you donned the pants and jacket you were sweating, and with the balaclava and hat on you almost felt faint.  We realized it would have been possibly better to do the STCW in Cowes (UK) as at least you would be cooler than in Antigua.

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The first day was mainly focused on getting used to the uniform.  We were led into the containers later where we were blind followed and had to find our way out using a rope and something called the ‘BA’ shuffle.  We were to go into the containers a second time but this time on our hands and knees as the room was filled with fake smoke.  The third time was more serious and a real fire was faced. We had to crouch down and find a way out of the container.  You could feel the heat radiate from the floor and through your pants and gloves.  It has been a long time since I have felt so uncomfortable, but we all made it.

In the evening we were invited to a beach party hosted by some newly acquainted Spanish friends and went over with Paulo. After a short time there we headed back to Falmouth for some pizza before heading to bed absolutely knackered.

Thursday 14th March – Fire Fighting and Prevention

Another day in the searing heat.  We arrived at the army base at 09:30 and set up the area.  Today we would be facing a real fire within the containers.  The exercise at the end of the day would be to flaming container and find you way out collecting a fake body on the way.

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Before we could complete this task we needed to get used to our BA Kit, or Breather Apparatus.  Again, in unbelievable heat we now had to also stick a large container on our back and a mask.

After having lunch and playing with the hoses we were ready for the main exercise.  This exercise was basically to go into the containers with the fire, put it out with a large hose, find the body and take it up a ladder and outside.  This was not easy and made all my previous hotel fire-training look like a joke.  The heat was unbearable with temperatures reaching 400 degrees and the top of the container glowing red with heat.  I worried about Carlotta undertaking such a task but she made and came out with a smile and an air of satisfaction.  Not everyone passes the STCW 95 at this stage and at least 2 people will have to be taken out before completing the task.  Our group all made and after a short experience with expanding foam we had finished our fire training, which is said to be 3 months fire training squashed into 2 days.  We felt exhausted and battered but we had completed and were happy with that.

We had early night.

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Friday 15th March  – Sea Survival

This was probably the easiest of our weeks training, mainly because we were again outside but in a swimming pool.

We started our morning with Logan learning about sea survival, what to carry on a yacht and the different types of life raft.

We completed several exercises in the pool: Swimming in line, Getting into a life raft, going under and up-turned life raft, and righting a capsized life-raft.

After lunch we had some more theory and then departed early.  In the evening we were joined by Paulo and Tim (Captain of another yacht who we had met in St Lucia).  We had a lovely local dish before going out for a few drinks and catching up. It was a splendid night if not a little drunken.

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Anse De Colombier to Philipsburg (St Maarten) – 24th February

 

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We left Anse De Colombier reasonably early to commence we our 12-mile sail to Philipsburg, the capital of St Maarten.  The sail went well and as long as you miss some of the rocks between the two islands the passage is a simple one.

We reached Philipsburg just after midday and anchored in the bay outside Bobby’s Marina.  The first thing that strikes you when you arrive is the amount of cruise ships and yes, Phillipsburg is just a bigger Port Zante.

To check in you have to walk over half a mile to a container port where customs and immigration is located.  Once you are in the office you are greeted by probably the most depressed workers and after spending 3 quarters of an hour filling in more paper work you are free to walk back whilst being bombarded by constant lorry traffic from the port.

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Once we were sorted we decided to explore the town, which was another let down.  Again you are treated like a cruise ship passenger and as you walk through the fake retail area you are constantly approached to buy the following: Hair Braides, T-Shirts, Parasialing, Segway riding, bike riding, Plastic Turtles, Plastic bracelets, plastic statues, plastic sex toys, plastic hair-bands and a myriad of other plastic crap.

If you walked further into town it improved slightly and you get more of a feel for what the old town used to be like before cruise ships destroyed it but really there is not much to the place that would interest a long staying tourist.

It is unfortunate but our days were numbered at Philipsburg.  The weather was changing to offer light winds from a southerly direction; it was time to move on.  We spent an extra day in the town as our starter battery for the engine had decided to fail.  $150 later we had our new battery.  Forget what they say about St Maartens being cheap, everything to do with boats is pretty much the same cost as in the UK if not more expensive.

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My Dad helped with the fitting of the new battery but it was not easy fitting it to the small space it lived so a bit of trimming with a knife and an injured Dad made it possible.  My Dad has now shed more blood on Troskala (literally).

Nita and my Dad treated us to a fabulous meal at Chesterfields restaurant, which is located just behind Bobby’s Marina (http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g147347-d1407881-Reviews-Chesterfield_s-Philipsburg_Sint_Maarten_St_Martin_St_Maarten.html).  The food and service here are fantastic although the WIFI is iffy.  This was to be our final night in Philipsburg and after enjoying such a lovely meal it was time to complete a night passage back to Antigua.

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