So the infamous Andy Grant has been in Sint Maarten for a while before we arrive and has already found a rather unusual leisure pursuit: aeroplane jet blasts.


There is a lovely beach on the west side of Simpson Bay lagoon which is just by the airport. The sand is bright white and the waters are beautifully clear. It’s actually rather an idyllic setting and would remain so were it not for the constant aeroplane traffic. It’s rather an awesome sight to see someone’s little private jet coming in low over your head only to land just behind you – it must be quite a sight from the plane too.


However, when a plane takes off, it’s a rather different story. Grinning widely, Andy leads us to the middle of the beach and points to the Air France 747 with jets on the back that is starting to taxi onto the runway. The three of us stand on the beach and between us and the plane is a road and a fence lined with signs warning of the dangers of being too close to the planes. There are plane spotters here too, clinging onto the fence to get a good look.


The jets warm up, the plane starts to move, its tail end and, most importantly, its jets are towards us as it begins its final taxi. The air gets warm, very warm, and the gust builds in strength. Remember that we are on a beach here… Suddenly, the hot blast hits us full force and we are sandblasted down towards the water. I half see James hurtling past me, to duck and cover nearer the water, Andy is giggling his head off in the foetal position to my left and I am flat on the sand, with more and more sand embedding itself into my flesh (or so it feels) as we encounter what I can only describe as how I imagine the beginnings of nuclear fallout to feel.


“Oh…my…god….” we gasp, and Andy laughs and asks what we had expected to happen. We stagger along the beach to the Sunset beach bar and fall upon some cold beers. Turns out, the position we were in is the worst for the effect; as if you’re up by the fence you don’t get the sand blast. It also becomes clear that watching people in the ‘death zone’ is the fun pastime of all the customers at the bar and we spent the next few flight departures in hysterics at all the reactions of the uninitiated beach walkers.