Marigot after Irma

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Last December, we enjoyed a super-relaxing vacation in St. Martin. Today, I googled around for photos of the devastation from Irma last week. Yikes.

These two photos are from in front of the cemetery that we overlooked from our AirBnB apartment… the very same apartment we spent some time dreaming about investing in. The pictures in my post RIP are taken from inside the cemetery, and the masts in the background of my pics could easily enough be from the actual boats shown here. Again, yikes.

Today, it’s Florida’s turn, and we are hoping that the many people we know and know of down there are safe and sound.


Butterfly Farm

One of our last SXM activities was a visit to the butterfly farm. It was surprisingly nice, lots of butterflies, a little system of koi ponds, tranquil music. Most of their business comes from vanloads of cruise ship passengers.

They give you a little cup of fruit punch, with or without rum, and you can dip your fingers in it and the butterflies will land on your hand and drink the juice off your finger. Once they’ve settled in to a meal, they are quite willing to let you walk around with them… one man in the little tour group finally asked a staff member to get a butterfly off him, since didn’t want to touch the wings.

Obviously I took a lot of pictures…


It’s an inevitable part of visiting SXM to wow at the tycoon yachts. They are beautiful, but in the Trump era I can’t help thinking about the strength of the social compact. Mobs, pitchforks, guillotines, that sort of thing. Presumably these guys know what they’re doing, and the system is as fair as it needs to be. 

This one is mostly made of lingerie, and other women’s fashion:

This one is made of Macs and iPhones:

This one is spun as if by magic out of Egyptian phone calls:

And the biggest of all (second in the world actually, but damn big), what’s it made of? I don’t know exactly, but to quote my Croatian tour guide, “this guy is very close with Putin.”

Fort Louis 

Just at the edge of town lie the ruins of Ft. Louis. In the evenings this is all lit up with blue, white and red lights. 

According to the interpretive placards, hardy groups of French settlers spent more than 100 years arriving and settling, and then just when they got settled, the British would come in, steal what they could, and burn the rest. The cycle repeated with sad regularity. 

Finally a new French governor came in the 1770s and said “You know, if we put a couple of guns on that hill, nobody could land here without permission.” Many of the settlers said “Great idea” while a few old-timers said “THAT’S WHAT I’VE BEEN TRYING TO FUCKING TELL YOU FOR OVER 100 YEARS.”

It worked. And then peace broke out, and that was that. 

So now, we get to hike up there and ponder the lessons and the view. 

All creatures 

(On the Dutch side of the island, that would be “Aall creatures”)

I have some underwater shots that I’ll fiddle with later, but in the meantime, 

This heron was going through a complicated stealthy maneuver that reminded me of a kitty… sneak, sneak, sneak, then all of a sudden take a short bath. 

There are other cool tropical birds here, but I haven’t gotten close enough to get good shots. I especially like the frigate birds who glide around the harbor, looking prehistoric with their angular wings and split tails. 

Because they get a steady diet of watermelon and banana and sometimes rum-soaked pineapple garnish, these Pinel Island iguanas suffer our presence. But they dream of the return of the Mother of Dragons when things will be rebalanced, species-superiority-wise. 

And of course, when it’s warm and humid and you don’t have to hide underground all winter, you can evolve in comfort. This is certainly the biggest, healthiest snail I’ve ever seen. 


Our apartment is right next to the Marigot Cemetery. Although the municipal authorities have undertaken a campaign to clean it up and better catalog the deceased, it’s mostly in rough shape. 

All those zombie movies about people clawing their way out of their graves make a lot more sense with above-ground crypts, some open to the air, others flimsily covered with rotting plywood or corrugated tin. Presumably those ones are unoccupied… or are they?

Lick the pipe and let’s be irie 

St. Martin Christmas is necessarily different than Vermont Christmas. The weather doesn’t change, you’ve got all kinds of cultures and traditions bashed up against each other, and like two thirds of the people here today won’t actually be here in two weeks. 

Still and all , it’s Christmas for sure. The title of this post is a line from a song I heard on two different stations on a half-hour drive yesterday. Sing it to Deck the Halls, and if you don’t know what it means exactly, like me, I’ll venture a Freudian translation: sometimes a pipe is just a  way to commune with Jah in a way that is recently legal in several states, and then again sometimes it isn’t. 

On the boardwalk, there’s a giant ornament to take pictures in. 

The Harbormaster’s office is a study in tasteful restraint. 

And there are a few Griswolds among us…

Accidents waiting to happen 

Scuba diving is mostly about diving, but if you’re a certain kind of person, it’s also about merit badges. 

Today I completed the requirements for being certified as a Rescue Diver. An ounce of first aid, and a pound of preparation and prevention. 

As always in my underwater career, today’s dive went off without any serious problems. The dive center people, although probably underpaid, are exceptionally qualified. The equipment is reliable. The Caribbean is benign. 

But, getting ready to go out, I saw my fellow travelers in a new light. Will his wetsuit rip the rest of the way? In all the hustle and bustle, will somebody forget to buckle something, possibly resulting in Scenario 5 (Distressed Diver Underwater)? What if those bloodshot eyes are an early warning for Too Much Partying the Night Before?

Thanks no doubt to my added vigilance, all contretemps were avoided, the fish swam past obligingly, the little semi-tame moray eel flexed his jaws menacingly, and everybody made happy memories. Whew! Good thing I was there.  Now if I could only find a way to save these poor souls more than just one week each winter!

A room with a view

Here’s what we look at from the dining table. As advertised, we’re right on the main road, but the view over the marina is maybe better than expected. 

A lot of people wouldn’t want to be so close to traffic, or would say they prefer the open water view to looking out on the harbor. There’s definitely something to be said for the unspoiled natural beauty thing. For me, though, the convenience of walking to everything outweighs the sound of traffic, and the comings and goings of inflatable launches and ferries and so on are much more an interest than a disruption. So, yay, paradise found, right downtown!

Landing in St. Maaaarten

One of the most famous airport approaches in the world, and it really was pretty neat. 

I imagined the whole thing would last longer than it actually did (but isn’t that usually the case?). Shoulda thought to film in slo-mo, but didn’t. C’est la vie. It will be better when we see it from the beach. 

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