So, we went off exploring Martinique. First stop was Trois Ilets in the bay across from Fort de France. The town is very quaint, with many wood-frame tile-roofed buildings dating to the early 20th century. Other than that, the anchorage was muddy and dreary so we decided to move across the bay to Schoelcher so we could check out F d F. Bad idea. Getting around on foot proved complicated and difficult, so we decided to try using a taxi the following day but we were awakened at 0530 by fishermen yelling at us to get out of their fishing hole. Even though we were clearly in the anchorage, and they weren’t harassing the boats on either side of us (They were French flagged. Hmmm.) They kept yelling “Pecher, tout de suite” so we decided to unass (short for unassemble, maybe) the area and head farther south. Interestingly, as soon as we left the fishermen headed back to the beach and were still sitting there when we lost sight of them an hour later when we stopped at Anse d’Bout; a very nice spot with several pleasant restaurants and a good beach which was closed due to a recent red tide. Oh well, we don’t sit on the beach anyway.
We took a short hop down to Petit Anse d’Arlet and did some diving which was fun and had a really good pizza for dinner. It was the village’s blessing of the fishes festival so Saturday was a good party and Sunday the church was full of sinners.
Eventually we sailed down to Ste. Anne. I should say we motored into 18kt winds on the nose with wind against current, making it a slow but easy slog. Fortunately our 60′ waterline helped smooth things out, the two 45′ cattlemarans we passed were burying their bows every third wave. The pitching, yawing and rolling we saw certainly debunked the myth of the “stable” catamaran. In Ste. Anne we had access to several chandleries where we picked up some boat parts and Nancy got a new wetsuit!
A highlight of St. Anne was the arrival of the yacht transport ship. This is like a giant flatbed truck combined with a floating dry dock . The back of the ship opens, they flood the side tanks so the deck is under water, then they drive a dozen mega yachts onto cradles, refloat the ship, close the back and head off to the Med for the summer. In the fall they reverse the trip. It only costs about $200,000 for a 200′ yacht, but that is far less than the fuel and crew cost of driving it one’s self.
After a good provisioning we moved to Grand Anse where we spent an enjoyable week. The sail back past L’ Diamant or Diamond Rock was sweet. We had the wind behind us this time and we took advantage, 8-10kts broad reaching is always fun. Diamond Rock has an interesting history: During the 18th and 19th centuries as you know, France and England were always fighting over control of the Caribbean islands. Well, France controlled Martinique, but England controlled the islands around it. In order to control the passage around the west side of Martinique the British seized Diamond Rock. The diplomatic difficulty lay in claiming it as British territory; balance of power and all that. So, they commissioned the rock as a British warship, moved sailors, marines and cannons onto this spire of rock and added it to the Caribbean blockade fleet. They held the rock for many years. When you look at the photos you can imagine how difficult it must have been to haul heavy artillery to the top of the hill! There isn’t even a viable landing site!
Grand Anse was a particularly nice town where we actually hung out at a beach bar for a day and watched the birds climb into the ti’ punch glasses. We took the opportunity to test out Nancy’s new suit by doing some diving. All together we did six dives in Martinique and enjoyed them all. The coral life was pretty strong as well as the fishes. On the one dive I didn’t have my camera we saw octopi and giant crabs.
Eventually we headed north back to St. Pierre which we enjoyed immensely. As noted in the last post it suffered what the French call L’Apocalypse of the eruption of Mt. Pelee, but it also enjoys the notoriety of having had Gauguin stay for a while as he was perfecting his artistic style. There is a wonderful Gauguin interpretive center just a short walk from town in a series of geometric pavilions which immerse you in the joys and challenges of the life of this unique artist.
It was finally time to start working our way back to Antigua to prepare for the passage back to the U.S. We made a stop in Le Saintes for a couple days, just because we like it there. Enjoyed an interesting meal with fois gras and steak at a restaurant with the best decor ever! Then spent a quiet hour or three relaxing sampling rum at a delightful Rhum Bar. Ahh the trials and tribulations of cruising! We did a dive and headed up to pigeon island in Guadeloupe to do a night dive on the Franjack shipwreck.
We had dived this wreck in the daytime on a previous stop here and Nancy agreed it would be a fine opportunity for her first truly night dive, as there is a bouy line that runs down to the bow and it is easy to follow the shape of the hull. No possibility of getting disoriented etc. Boy were we excited by this dive! The first thing we saw at the base of the bow was a HUGE (no pursed lips please) Green Turtle resting. He was reluctant to move and just gave us the hairy eyeball! We saw dozens of spiny lobster from small to medium all over the boat!, a Green Moray swimming about and more resting turtles. It was like a turtle flop house down there. Big ones and medium ones. Sleeping Hog fish, and several species of nocturnal fishes filled out the program. Nancy was ecstatic and I couldn’t stop giggling at our good fortune. Once again, I didn’t have a camera!
We moved on up to Deshaies for a couple days to clear customs and sit out a morning gale. 35 40 kt gusts in the anchorage. And just like last year, several boats dragged anchor. Fortunately it was morning and all boats were occupied and awake. Then off to Falmouth Harbour Antigua. We had a fantastic reach the 40 miles from Deshaies making 8-10 kts with Hammie (our temperamental auto-pilot) driving. We’re in Falmouth now hanging out with local mates and finishing the installation of our new gennaker sail. Andrew at North Sails is wonderful to work with. So we’ll be around until the end of the month when we will point the bow toward Bermuda. Hopefully it will be nicer there this time.
Once again, Check out Book Nook, War and Peace is in there this week, and Studio for Nancy’s recent masterpieces. Also, subscribe and come join us for some fun. Cheers.