Monday night we enjoyed our final Roseau sunset before having an early night. Oh yes, it was also our friend Jack’s birthday…. You may recall that Jack donated our new crew member, Gervaise. So as a surprise, we sent him a birthday card featuring Gervaise enjoying life and rum in the Caribbean. He much prefers sailing here than on the River Crouch!
Tuesday morning we were up pretty early and set off on our passage to Martinique. We really enjoyed our final views of Dominica as we sailed towards the end of the island and into the passage.
This passage is known for big seas so we were cautious in our sail plan with reefs in both the main and the genoa. The seas weren’t too bad, the wind was 18-20 knots, and we were flying along about seven knots really enjoying ourselves. On Channel 16 we heard this very English voice announcing that his vessel was about to start helicopter operations and would, therefore, be restricted in its ability to manoeuvre. He was north of us up the coast of Dominica so shouldn’t cause us any trouble….. we just carried on, speculating on what this was all about. Hoping that it wasn’t a medical emergency…. Well – Budgie the private little helicopter flew past us going north. So we figured this maybe belonged to the yacht – some of these massive vessels do actually have helicopter pads on them. Oh well… excitement over… still looking out for dolphins. Then we heard the rotors again and realised that Budgie was heading back towards Martinique…. And, guess what, yep – we got buzzed again!!! He came pretty low and close to get a look at us…. Not sure what the fascination is…. surely they have seen a yacht before?
After a really good sail we reached Martinique and the wind died…. Oh well, we are only four miles from our destination of St Pierre so we put the engine on, dropped the sails, and realised that this meant hot water showers later! Hurrah… Arriving in St Pierre we noticed that since our visit last year, the French authorities have put in a yellow-buoyed no-anchorage zone and the shelf here is deep and very narrow…. so it is now even more restricted than before. We looked around and really could not find a spot that we would be comfortable in – especially if we wanted to sleep at night.
It was 3.30pm in the afternoon by now so we decided to carry on motoring down the coast to anchor in Anse Mitan which is opposite the capital of Fort de France. This area is huge and reminds us of the Solent in the UK – even to the extent that there was dinghy racing going on and these guys were out in their lasers in 23 knots and big seas! Some future French Olympiads???
We got a good set of our anchor and raised our yellow quarantine flag as we would not be going to clear customs / immigration tonight. It was almost 6pm by the time we were set – having travelled 52 miles – so we had a quiet night on board and enjoyed our first Martinique sunset.
Wednesday and we were up early to get the outboard of the rail and reinstalled back on dink. Oh dear…. the key won’t go in the padlock. Completely seized… After about 30 minutes of WD40, Salt Away and various other products, not to mention a little brute strength and bad language, Richard finally managed to get it open. Another dead padlock then????!!! Going ashore into Trois Ilets we cleared customs / immigration: here you just fill in a form on a computer, you sign, they sign, and good to go. Love the French system… We then headed into the local patisserie for our breakfast of great coffee and pastries. Yum….. and then wandered around town. This is a pretty sleepy little place with loads of French tourists spilling over onto the narrow beaches that surround the peninsula – against the backdrop of the large apartment blocks and office buildings across the way in the city. Feels very European and not Caribbean at all……
We then settled into a bistro to get access to the internet and enjoyed a really good bottle of French wine, raising a glass to our friend Bob who was celebrating his birthday in Brighton at the same time…. We also decided that we would move on in the morning. So back on board in the middle of the afternoon with some real necessities like baguettes, cheese and pate purchased and had a quiet afternoon / early evening sitting on the back of Morphie with our feet dangling into the blue water. Then we spotted this big fish hanging around our swim ladder. Not sure what he was…. but we put the camera into the water to get a picture of him. I got a bit hot so decided to go in for a swim – thinking he would move away when I entered the water – but, oh no, he came right up to me and touched me. Not sure if he was trying to kiss me or bite me LOL so left him to it!
Thursday and we were up early again and back out to sea…. This was a downwind sail to start with and was lovely. As we neared the bottom of the island, however, we had to turn into the east to run along the south coast. We had to decide to either stay offshore so that we could get an OKish sailing angle, or whether to douse the sails and run against wind and tide under motor. The seas had been building and the conditions were deteriorating… so we decided upon the latter option. Passing between the bottom of Martinique and Diamond Rock it was like being in a washing machine…. spray everywhere and we had a very wet and salty ride into Saint Anne. Diamond Rock continues to look majestic and I still can’t believe that the British climbed this steep, barren, snake-infested pinnacle and equipped it with cannons and enough supplies and water for a full crew of men. HMS Diamond Rock was an unpleasant surprise for unsuspecting ships sailing into Martinique which incensed Napolean, of course!
After anchoring and washing off the salt that Morphie had accumulated we went ashore to get some Euros and wandered around the sleepy little town. Back on board we sat on the stern platform again with feet in the beautiful blue sea and enjoyed a couple of cold ones. We had a chilled evening watching boats. This including saying “cheers” to the Customs guys every time they passed in their rib.
Friday we went into Marin via dink. This is a huge marina complex and loads of anchored boats everywhere…. but not nice water. It was a bit of a wet run as the sea is still quiet lumpy and I don’t care about wet shorts until I bump into those elegantly dressed French tourists!!!
We managed to buy some new stainless steel padlocks, had a look around some tacky tourist shops, and then headed into Leader Price which is a large supermarket that has its own dinghy dock. Got some great stuff and headed back to Morphie. Put everything away and then went ashore for happy hour at a very French bar…. Been a bit stormy and rainy today and the sunset showed it. Back on board and we really enjoyed the steak that we had purchased earlier…. been a while since we have had decent steak!
Saturday we sat out the rain and then headed to the beach for the afternoon. Had a lovely langoustine lunch and just generally chilled in the water. Whilst we were there another helicopter came over and landed in the sports field behind the beach…. not sure what that was about, but looked like an emergency situation this time.
Our friends Lorna and Brian – from Peace and Plenty – came and joined us and we introduced them to the world of bobbing. After a nice afternoon we strolled back across the hill to the town and thought that the cemetery had the best outlook of any we had seen. Wasn’t sure about the purple Jesus though?!? Nice view of the anchorage too….
Back into town and there was a wedding…. with everyone in their finery. We weren’t sure that the tourists in the photo were invited guests or were welcome. People really should be more respectful and keep their distance….. in my humble opinion!
Today – Sunday – we have been into Marin to check out of Martinique at the Capitanarie for our trip south to St Lucia tomorrow. Now we are in an internet café catching up….. We may go to the beach later or into town for the carnival parade…. Not sure yet…. all will be revealed at a later date!
Bye for now