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 MARTINIQUE, CARIBBEAN

Another trip to Castries to retrieve our passports held for a King's ransom for being over on 42 days. $800 EC poorer, now our plan was to head out into the bay and spend a couple of days scrubbing the barnacles and green growth off the bottom of the boat so we could actually move through the water. New weather systems continued to form and march by us and we could only hope that we got a weather window to check out of St. Lucia, sail the 5 hour sail to Martinique,  check-in, quick tour, check-out, sail back to St. Lucia, check back in.

September 22

D-day. We awoke to howling wind and pouring rain. As luck would have it the bay had been too rough to do any bottom scrubbing and we remained rooted to the bottom of the marina. Surely we could nicely asked the gentlemen in customs to let us stay another day until the weather improved.

Not to be. Rules are rules. We had the option of going back to Castries, paying another month's fine (each partial day of a month is charged for the full month). Of course, they would once again keep our passports for a week so we wouldn't be able to go anywhere. We had until the end of the day to leave!

We bit the bullet and hired a local with a dive tank to clean our hull right in the marina. No way were we getting in that cesspool so $100EC seemed like a bargain. The local needed the money and jumped right in (wetsuit on, of course). When he was done, we untied the dock lines and set off. We had to continue to pay for our slip while gone so we would have a spot to come back to.

We set out amidst the rain and black sikes. A strong serge and huge rollers were coming through the channel as we motored out into the bay. We ploughed through the breakers, hoping that conditions would improved once we rounded the corner and started heading north.

But it got worse. The further we sailed from the bay into the unprotected ocean, the bigger the waves and stronger the wind...25 knots right in our face. We were getting tossed and battered around, waves coming over the dodger. And then our navigation program quit working. We had just replaced our computer with a Windows 7 model, unaware that our trustworthy maxsea program would not be compatible. We were making do with another nav program that didn't feel like talking to the GPS any more. It didn't take long before we made an immediate unanimous decision to head back.

We tucked ourselves in behind Pigeon Point in front of the resort and regrouped. Hiding out as illegal aliens was far better than being out it that washing machine. We resurrected our old backup computer to run maxsea, had a nice dry dinner and went to bed.

September 23

Beat to Martinique

The weather had improved somewhat so we headed out to sea. We were hard on the wind but since Ascension can point high, we made our course. There was about 20 knots of breeze and 3 meter seas left over from a hurricane that had missed us, but sunk boats in St. Martin only a few days before.

Five hours later, we could see the tropical mountainous island of Martinique, the largest of the windward islands. We skirted the steep-to shoreline and headed toward Marin Bay, but wait... our nav program showed the channel marked with green buoys on starboard. We checked our paper charts. Same. What happened to red right returning? With confusion abound, we slowly approached the reef laden entrance to the bay. We were happy to see that in real life the red marks were in fact to starboard! Good thing we did not enter at night relying on charts.

Le Marin Bay

We could not believe the herd of boats in Marin Bay, Martinique. About five charter fleets, and hundreds of boats tied to hurricane moorings, abandoned and just left to chance. We managed to find a hole to anchor near the town. The customs office was only open mornings so we did not have to check in until the following day.

Once anchored, it was too late to check in as customs is only open mornings in Martinique.


September 24

At 7:30 am, we headed to shore  to check-in as we had a car reserved to go touring. We walked into the customs office and were directed (in French) to a computer terminal. Once we filled out the form and printed it, the custom's officer reluctantly put down his newspaper and stamped our form without a word. "Merci boucoup" and we were on our way. Quickest easiest check-in ever!! Not even a look at our passports. No charge and we could stay 18 months if we wanted! Wow. Seemed too easy and it was. The following day we happened to look at our papers and we had been stamped  OUT not IN! However, when we pointed out the mistake, it was no big deal -- the officer just scribbled something on the papers and gave them back to us.

The rental car was one of the best deals we have ever had. A nice little 4-door for 26 Euros per day. Armed with 3 roadmaps and some sketchy directions we set off to visit Fort de France.

Just outside of Marin, a cemetery overlooking the ocean prompted a pullover for some photos. The tombs were laden with flowers and the area seems so serene.  

Fort de France, capital

We could have been in Europe. Busy narrow streets with overhanging balconies--so Mediterranean France. We wandered around  shopping for a few souvenirs. Although bustling with traffic, everything was clean and a true breath of civilization.... v-e-r-y French.

Mitan

We stopped for lunch in Mitan town, near Mitan Beach, were a few boats bobbed at anchor and the locals splashed in the water. I loved the town with its colorful architecture and Frenchness. Outdoor bistros, brie and red wine. There was a little marina there but not deep enough to accommodate our boat.

The people in Martinique really look different from the St. Lucians and the island is definitely much wealthier. It was Sunday and the stores were closed but the boutique shopping center had European clothing displaying the latest fashions adorning their windows.

We drove up the rugged Atlantic side, with the huge seas violently smashing the shoreline, then over to the tranquil Caribbean side where boats lazed at anchor in almost every nook and cranny along the coastline.

Grande Anse Beach

Miles of sand and palm trees. What more can I say!

And then another next beach... and another...Martinique has some gorgeous ones.

Windmill and old wagon at Three Rivers Rum Factory

<< Les Trois Ilets a charming town with a waterfront walkway bordered by fishing boats.

Atlantic Coast >>>

Atlantic Coast

On the Atlantic, west side, of Martinique, we drove out onto the peninsula  to Anse Etang, a well known surfing beach. We watched the huge rollers, surfers gliding down their backsides.

We stopped in the little town of Tartane in search of lunch. There were several restaurants but some tables set amidst a garden of potted plants in the middle of displays of artwork and jewellery attacked us. There was only 2 tables so we sat and a girl was soon offering us her specialty lunch. It was some kind of coated shrimp sandwich brimming with salad and HUGE. Not expensive and a unique treat. The girl was charming. Her business was making jewellery from stones, which she sold in her shop where she once lived in Paris. She had interesting stories to tell and it wasn't long before she brought out her guitar and Gord was playing some tunes. We could of continued to enjoy her company all afternoon, but it was time to do some more exploring before the veil of darkness ascended at 6 pm.

We drove back towards the mainland and stopped briefly in Le Trinite where some ramshackle homes on the waterfront beckoned a photo. >>>>>>>>

We drove back to the anchorage through the tropical rain forest of interior Martinique, both agreeing it was the most beautiful island in the Caribbean. We attempted to drive to the summit of Mt. Pelee but it was mostly shrouded in clouds and didn't afford much of a view. Although we had the typical on and off drizzle throughout the day, there was still lots to see.

We returned to Le Marin quite late and decided to hire the car again for the following day so we could provision at the large supermarkets.


September 25

Grande Anse des Salines

The weather was holding its own, no potential risks headed our way, so we drove to what is considered the most beautiful beach in Martinique.

Postcard picture-perfect, Grande Anse des Salines was a gorgeous strip of sand lined with palm trees.

Mangroves Etang des Salines

A boardwalk at Grande Anse des Salines led us through the mangroves past some information centers and bird watching hides. The walkway was shelter for thousands of one-clawed crabs.


After a huge shopping spree to provision the boat with items that we couldn't get in St. Lucia, we packed a dinghy-full of food back to Ascension, then returned the car. The following day we checked out of Martinique, as easy to check-out as in.

Our sail back to St. Lucia was a delight; on the beam and speedy. We were even treated with a gift from the sea...our favorite fish, a wahoo, and just the right size!


Return to MARTINIQUE   

December 19, 2010
We finally broke away from St. Lucia after a successful early morning  checkout.

Accompanied by Djarkka, Ascension's shiny hull and freshly painted bottom assured us of a fast sail to Martinique. We had a new pet onboard....our lucky charm gecko, we called "Komodo". He was very brave and provided us with hours of entertainment as he chased the lights on the computer screen. He was just a baby, and we feared he was too tiny and scrawny to survive.

 

 

 

 

Le Marin

We anchored in the same bay as our last visit -- Le Marin, which was close to the supermarket and chandlery and a spot where check-in was super-easy. We spent several days provisioning and waiting for weather so we could move on.

December 26

An impending threat of a weather system with strong winds made it prudent that we seek shelter in the protected bay of Trois Ilets, near Fort du France. It was on this sail that we discovered that our depth sounder no longer worked. Probably just died of old age, we assumed. In any event, it was disconcerting to venture into the reef strewn anchorage without knowing exact depths, especially with our 8 foot "bombie finder." We breathed a sigh of relief when Djarkka joined us and could "sound" the area for us.

Trois Ilets was an uninteresting spot, murky waters set in the mangroves. So when the weather looked settled, we ventured around the corner to Anse Mitan.

Fort de France

A Ferry took us on a day outing from Anse Mitan to Fort de France. We walked around the town, did some window shopping and had lunch.

An interesting stop was our visit to the Bibliotheque Schoechler Library, which was built in 1889 in Paris, then dismantled and moved to Fort de France.

 
Inside the library, there was an exhibit of hand-made dolls. The level above held thousands of antique books.

December 25

Christmas 2010 was a quiet one, anchored in Fort de France. Not the traditional turkey dinner, our feast consisted of cold BBQ chicken, steamed papaya, potato salad, and squash. We enjoyed the company of Sarah and GB on Djarrka.

The following day, we sailed to Dominica.