Sint Maarten: Covid19 Field Report

In the space of a week, these cruisers have gone from cruising about the Caribbean to lockdown in Sint Maarten, confined on board their boat.

Published 3 years ago

Simpson Bay Lagoon

We checked into Dutch Sint Maarten on the afternoon of March 17th. Nothing was said at Customs/Immigration/Port Control about closing for yachts. I asked how long we were allowed to stay and they said 3 months or possibly more. We had heard that French Islands were going to close which swayed the decision, also the wind was more from the north last week so the Dutch side was more sheltered.

On the 18th, we went to Port office for Sint Maarten to pay our dues for the bridge. They were still checking in some boats but she said they were Dutch Nationals or locals. They also closed the office 90 mins early.

The situation here is complicated due to there being slightly different restrictions on the Dutch and French sides of the island. It is also difficult to find accurate information as the phone and mobile internet system is struggling and there is a lot of rumour, censure and speculation being posted. We are grateful to Mike from Shrimpys radio net (07.30 Channel 10) for the voice of reason.

The Dutch side is now definitely closed to all, and Customs have shut their office. The French side may be open for people with EU passports to check in, but I wouldn’t try sailing here without checking with the authorities.

The “lock down” is more severe on the French side as it is the same as France, you can only leave your abode for 1 hour and travel 1 km per day, only for essentials such as grocery shopping or getting medical supplies and you have to carry a special form correctly filled out and your ID. And the Gendarmes are checking. There is food in the shops, even toilet roll, and you can get cooking gas fuel and water.

Since we arrived a week ago there has been very little vessel movement in or out of the lagoon. It’s mostly been huge Super yachts that have gone in or out plus a few local yachts. Of course going in or out of the lagoon does not necessarily mean arriving to or leaving the country. The Dutch Bridge is operating, I saw it open this morning, but the French bridge is out of service (broken) anyway. The Customs boat goes about the anchorage occasionally, presumably checking up who is where, and they were stopping anyone who is not checked in on the Dutch side from entering the lagoon.

There has been a shooting and robbery at Simpson Bay and another armed robbery at Philipsburg (by the same person or persons), no yacht people were involved. Unfortunately, some robberies from yachts, including unattended charter yachts, on the French side in Marigot Bay have also been reported.

We have been “social distancing”, limiting ourselves to short trips ashore for supplies and complying with instructions. We have a bottle of hand-washing stuff in the dinghy.

A government press release entitled “Prime Minister discontinues vessel bunkering and provisioning in Simpson Bay lagoon due to infringements” was issued yesterday and includes (far down in the document) an item of immediate concern: Crews of vessels in marinas and at anchor are requested to remain on board their vessels for the duration of the travel restrictions. “Shore leave” is prohibited. I hope we may get some clarification soon, but it seems we are to be confined to our boats.

So, we are staying where we are for now. Almost all the Caribbean islands are now closed. Flights from Europe and US were theoretically suspended before we arrived here. Just hoping we can move before the start of the hurricane season.


Please share your current experience with COVID-19 restrictions and how it has affected your cruising plans. Contact Sue at [email protected] with your field report.


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of or World Cruising Club.

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  1. April 16, 2020 at 1:43 PM
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    sue-richards says:

    Update April 16th:
    The total lockdown/24 hour curfew that started Sunday 5th April continues. Please note this is for everyone on the island not just people who live on boats. Apart from designated emergency workers nobody is allowed to leave their home (or boat). All food shops and supermarkets are closed. All other shops are closed. To move anywhere on land or sea you would need a special letter from the police giving permission and the system for applying for these was overwhelmed. A system allowing food shops and supermarkets to do orders and deliveries via WhatsApp was set up, but doesn’t seem to be working very well, they are not used operating in this way and with everyone wanting food they were probably overwhelmed. For people on boats there is also the question of where the delivery will be made.

    This week they announced a slight relaxation, the banks were open this morning (Wednesday) for people to get money, and they say the supermarkets will be open Thursday and Friday, but the arrangements have not been clarified yet except to say that you can only shop in your local area. I presume there will be some system to divide everyone up by name or age for different shopping times.

    Island Water World got permission to open their fuel dock 0800 to 1200 last Wednesday and today for diesel, petrol, water and also rubbish disposal. There are only supposed to be 3 dinghies alongside at once to maintain social distancing and people to stay in their dinghies not stepping on the dock, but they got permission for dinghies to go to and from without needing the special police letter. The coastguard boat was out observing the process. Island Water World also arranged one propane fill for both the Dutch side and the French side. We are very grateful to IWW.

    They have said that the lockdown is likely to continue for another two weeks (after Sunday), but there will be some food shopping days.

    Sint Maarten is still closed to new arrivals. It is possible to leave, but the process is complicated. The Simpson Bay offices are closed so you have to go to Phillipsburg to check out, to go there you have to get permission from the coastguard and contact the bridge operator to get the bridge opened and none of these authorities answer their phone at this time.