Mike and Liz Downing
Thu 26 Feb 2009 02:35
The winds were still relatively strong, but were forecast to decrease during the day, so we set off at 08.00 with 2 reefs in the main and the working genoa rolled to its second reefing point (so well rolled). As we rounded Pigeon Island we were in open sea to cross the inter-Island gap to the French island of Martinique. We were beam on to the swell with the wind just ahead of the beam and she went really well - 7.5 to 8.5kts (without too much heel) for the 4 hours it took to cross and get into the lee of Martinique. It was a great sail. Once in the lee the wind reduced and the sea went down, but we kept good enough wind to sail up the coast, passing the capital Fort de France, and on to St Pierre, in the North West corner, where we anchored off the town at around 4pm. There were quite a few other boats already there and we only just had space on the shelf that exists there to anchor in 40ft. Go just a mile off and the depth plummets to 4,000m (compare that to the English Channel that's generally a 100m or less all the way across).
As all the French Islands are on a general strike, and have been for 6 weeks or more, we were only planning to stay one night and be on our way at first light next day. We had a swim off the boat, but didn't go ashore. We hope to visit the Island again on the way south later in the spring when we hope the strikes will be well in the past.
As it gets dark St Pierre is an eerie place with the volcano Mount Pelee towering above, its peak covered in cloud. St Pierre used to be the capital of Martinique until 1902 when the volcano erupted and wiped out the entire population of the town except for 2 people who survived in cellars (one in a prison cell!). All was quiet for us. The wind dropped out and the lights from the town reflected across the water to the boat as we were gently rocked to sleep (hoping that the volcano was not going to wake up for a while longer!).

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