Calvin 'The Sea Urchin Man' Flanders is a fixture on St. Martin.
Everyday he can found at the Galion lookout on the eastside of this island paradise knee deep in the crystal clear water of the Caribbean Sea.
In keeping with his nickname he's a master at spotting and extracting black and white spiky sea urchins from the Caribbean Sea.
He'll stray from his nickname and also pluck sand dollars, starfish and the beautifully curved-shelled conch from the turquoise sandy shallows.
He's made a business of what he calls 'sealife pickin'' by showing the creatures to tourists and offering them up for the foreigners to hold and get their picture taken.
“Here, just let me place this in your palm so you don't get stabbed,” says Flanders as he hands over a black sea urchin for my photo op.
To balance things out I hold an orange-tinged starfish in the other hand and mug for the camera.
I hand the spiky ball and five-pointer back and Flanders does his own best poses for the camera.
He turns to an older American couple and asks them if they want to handle the critters and have their photos taken.
“Um, definitely not,” says the woman.
“But I'll take take your picture.”
She does and Flanders then tosses the sea urchin and starfish back in the water nearby—handy for plucking for the next wave of tourists.
As we wave our goodbyes we each drop a couple of euros in the plastic container Flanders has set out on a little table on the beach along with an assortment of shells.
There's no pressure to leave any money, but everyone seems to.
The currency of choice in Flanders' tip container is euros because St. Martin is a little piece of France plunked down in the Caribbean.
(Not to be confused with St. Maarten, the other side of this tiny West Indies island that's Dutch where Netherland Antilles guilders are the official currency).
In keeping with the France-Caribbean connection, St. Martin is franco-sophisticated with a well-earned beach culture.
Our tour group experiences both by dining on island gourmet dishes and sipping French wines under both beach palapas and in fine restaurants.
We stay at La Samanna, a hotel with European high style; make our own scents at a perfumery; take a landscape painting class; drop in on a Mardi Gras-style street party; frequent beach bars last night; take a scuba lesson; snorkel; loll on the beach; and hang out poolside.
Tijon's Parfumerie has been ranked by TripAdvisor.com as the No. 1 non-water activity in St. Martin for its unique opportunities to create your own fragrance.
Artist and St. Martin treasure Miss Ruby Bute teaches painting to school kids, prisoners and now tourists.
There were also the more traditional island pursues of introductory scuba with Aquatic Adventure Diving at Crowl Rock and eco-snorkelling at small offshore Pinel Island in the St. Martin National Reserve.
Share and discuss this story with your friends
Steve MacNaullSteve MacNaull is a business reporter at the Kelowna Daily Courier, but loves to travel and write about that too.
Located: Kelowna Canada
Likes: sun destinations, Europe, exotic, adventure, wine and food