Every seasoned sea salt seemingly ends up on St. Maarten at some point, if only to compete in the many renowned regattas. Needless to say, the island offers everything from booze cruises to eco-kayaking on all manner of pleasure craft from banana boats to catamarans to dinghies.
Longtime resident Stéphane Mazurier commandeers the sleek 23m (75-ft.) catamaran ScoobiToo (tel. 590/52-02-53; www.scoobidoo.com), which sails from the Anse Marcel marina and Grand Case to Tintamarre, Anguilla, Prickly Pear, and St. Barts and on sunset cruises, dinner cruises, or some combination of the above; inquire about private charters and mini cruises. Scoobifree is an 18m (60-ft.) catamaran that specializes in luxury charters and mini cruises. ScoobiCat, launched in late 2008, is a 12m (36-ft.) catamaran that can zip passengers (18 max) to neighboring islands and coves for snorkeling trips or on shopping expeditions to Marigot or even Gustavia, St. Barts. Most outings ($55-$145) include snorkeling equipment, lunch, and an open bar. The crew spins arguably the best mix of the charter boats.
Eagle Tours at Bobby's Marina in Philipsburg (tel. 599/543-0068 or 599/542-3323; www.sailingsxm.com) offers lagoon sightseeing tours aboard the flatboat Explorer, stopping in Marigot for shopping before heading home; mimosas and rum punches flow copiously. But their pride and joy is the 23m (76-ft.), custom-designed Golden Eagle catamaran. Originally built for the prestigious Whitbread Around the World Race, it features a 24m-tall (80-ft.) main mast and a 7.2m (24-ft.) sail that took two men 3 weeks to paint by hand. It cruises to various deserted strands and cays for snorkeling and soaking up both tropical ambience and drinks (the pampering service includes a floating bar). The Friday jaunt ($99 per person) sails to Tintamarre and Creole Rock, puts in at Grand Case for lunch, then stops by Baie Longue for a final cooling dip. Transportation to and from your hotel is included.
Aqua Mania Adventures offers active trips out of Pelican Marina, Simpson Bay (tel. 599/544-2640; www.stmaarten-activities.com). In addition to a parasail outfit, a PADI dive shop, high-speed-ferry service to Saba and St. Barts, and a boutique abounding in beach toys and resort wear, its three party-hearty boats patrol the waters several times daily. Two catamarans, Lambada and Tango, cruise to Anguilla and Prickly Pear for snorkeling and beach barbecues ($85 adults, $40 children 4-12). Or simply opt for sunset sails ($25 including open bar). Sand Dollar clings closer to St. Martin with a half-day snorkeling excursion to Creole Rock ($45 adults, $25 children 4-12). Kids can take turns piloting the Calypso in Simpson Bay's serene lagoon waters ($20), then bombard a small wreck with water balloons. Prizes and bobbing blow-up animals keep things happy. Or the family can frolic just offshore on Playstation ($20 per child; 9:30am-4:30pm), a converted colorful "swing, slide, and splash" catamaran that resembles an avant-garde art installation. The platform includes Tarzan swings, slides, and plenty of room to clamber. Dinner cruises (some aboard, others stopping at restaurants in Marigot's Marina Royale) are generally genial affairs; the return voyage toward St. Maarten's blazing skyline is memorable indeed.
The 12m (40-ft.) catamaran Celine departs Skipjack's dock at Simpson Bay (tel. 599/545-3961; www.sailstmaarten.com) for a mellow sunset cruise ($25; with dinner $65). But South African skipper Neil Roebert, who built Celine by hand, is most (in)famous for leading a Lagoon Pub Crawl around Simpson Bay, with sons Graham and Johann as occasional accomplices. Neil calls himself the "ultimate designated driver," steering guests toward some of the better local bars. In addition to an open bar aboard, the first drink is free at each stop, along with a signature bite (from filet mignon cubes to mahimahi kabobs). Departures are at 7pm Wednesdays and Thursdays, with Mondays added in high season. The 3-hour bender costs a mere $75. Neil also charters Celine for full-day trips to Pinel, Tintamarre, Baie Longue, Friar's Bay, and more; the cost is $1,150 (up to 10 people; $115 each additional person).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.