Re: Leaving to go down island
Congratulations on your sailing to the Caribbean. I remember the excitement I felt the first time I traversed the Eastern Caribbean islands. I sort of have a different take on St Martin than has been posed by others.
I have anchored in Marigot (French Side) probably 20 times over the last 13 years and have never had any trouble with theft, crime, or felt unsafe. Perhaps I was naive. We always lock the boat up tight when we go ashore, wherever we are in the Caribbean and we lock the companionway up at night as we sleep, leaving only hatches open as required. We lock the dinghy/fuel supply/motor to the boat at night with a lifeline diameter cable (approx 3/8 inch and probably easily cuttable with a bolt cutter). We don't raise the boat on a halyard as many do. Marigot anchorage can at times be a bit rolly, but it has never been untenable. We find the French side to be charming.
The Marigot customs/immigrations is in an office next to the ferry dock, there is good and secure dinghy dock area 300 feet away, the process is that you fly your Q flag, dinghy ashore, go to the office, knock on the door, enter, sit a French keyboard computer, enter your data, pay a very moderate fee and you are good to go. It takes about 15 minutes and is a lot cheaper than the Dutch side. On occasion customs and immigration isn't open and we have stayed 3 days over a weekend, were never able to check in or out, and then sailed on to the next island. The French are quite laid back about all this paper work stuff (unlike the Dutch) and we have enjoyed Marigot a lot. If you are going to be there for awhile, take the opportunity to rent a car and tour the island by land.
The anchorage on the Dutch side outside the lagoon isn't any picknick. It can be rough at times and there always seems to be boats zooming about in either side's anchorage that create wakes. I stayed at one of the marina's on the south end of the lagoon once, it was expensive, you had to med-moore with your anchor out, it took me two days to clean the slime and ooze off my anchor chain and boat after that experience. I wouldn't do that again unless the marina had a method that didn't require me to put my anchor out to stand off the dock.
I haven't taken the SM into the lagoon except by the Dutch side bridge but get some local knowledge and it might be possible to come in from the French side. I see little advantage to doing that. Both Island Water World and Budget Marine have chandleries on the south end of the lagoon (each has it's own pros & cons, you'll see).
An absolute must do is to anchor off Ile Tintemerre (northeast), spectacular beach and scenery, clear waters with turtles etc. Can get busy on weekends as it is a favorite with the locals, but I have been there there or four times when we were the only boat.
All the best, enjoy this exploration, there is nothing like arriving in a new island for the first time.
Amel SM #335