St. Martin and St. Barths
From 1986 - 1988, I lived off and on in St. Maarten helping create and produce the Island’s first Tourism Magazine, Discover St. Maarten, for the Department of Tourism. And, I began to dive seriously, since the ocean surrounded me.
My first PADI certification was with Leroy French in St. Maarten along Simpson Bay. He had a simple little dive shack at the time and on both my open water and advanced certifications, I was the only diver on the boat with him. It was a very laidback operation. I'd plunk myself down on a wooden deck with my feet up and write my exams. It was Leroy who taught me how to triangulate a position out in the ocean to re-locate a dive site.
The fact that I was working on the island helped make it easier to take my sweet time getting the certifications. A couple of the dives I took included;
French Reef. This is an excellent reef close to shore for both beginners and advanced divers. Depths range from 12 to 25 feet and all varieties of fish abound in large numbers. Just perfect for photographers interested in close-up work.
Little Sister is a reef formation lying in 70 to 90 feet in water, in the middle of a large sand patch. Beautiful sponges and seafans home a variety of tropical fish . Due to the depth, only fairly experienced divers will be allowed to dive there.
After being certified, I would drive around the island looking for people to dive with, anywhere. We (whoever I found) would drive to one of the local beaches, drag our gear to the Ocean's Edge and do entries. My favorite part was coming out of the water 45 minutes or so later to unsuspecting beach goers. There were great houses to photograph and most of the beaches were deserted much of the time. I spent hours walking along Cupecoy Beach taking photos. It was a good time in my life.
I also spent a lot of time traveling to other islands, directing photo shoots for the magazine and scuba diving. Some of the architecture around the islands astounded me as did living in a place surrounded by beaches. I took hundreds of photos of sunsets and beaches. Cupecoy Beach was my favorite, at right, and I loved Grand Case, below right, for local culture.
My first attempt to visit St. Barths on a 24 foot catamaran from the shores of St. Maarten with another friend ended fairly quickly as we turned the cat over and spent several hours getting the boat ashore. We decided to take the 64 foot catamaran ferry service.
Arriving in Gustavia in 1986 was a quite different introduction than you will have today. There were wooden boats at anchor in the harbour and we rented a Mini-Moke along the main street just behind the dock. I remember having to get a dive guide at their home to come out for the day as there was no real dive operations on the island at the time. Diving was pleasant, as it always is, but nothing to make me want to return to St. Barths for diving.
The beaches and the beach-goers caught my eye more frequently, and in all fairness, the island was stunning the four or five times I visited, but WAS already becoming too high-end for my budget.
There were few inhabitants, and traveling the island from end to end took the entire day. I'm glad I visited then rather than now. You can see from the photos in the gallery that in some places on the island, there was virtually nothing.
‘Come and work in the French Indies Steve... it’ll be fun and off I went a week later.
Spending a year working on and around St. Martin on a Tourism Magazine led me to St. Barths, Nevis, Anguilla and St. Kitts.
A fun year.
St. Martin and St. Barths