Martinique - 26 February

Mon 27 Feb 2006 00:35
We left Rodney Bay around 7.00am this morning for a beam reach to Martinique.  It was a stark contrast to the previous journey we had done, from Mustique to Rodney Bay.  That had turned out to be a very rough beat and had taken around 17 hours - we eventually arrived in Rodney Bay around 11.30pm and the icing on the cake was having to anchor under sail in the pitch black.   We could not use the engine, as somehow we had wrapped our fishing lines around Keoma's propellor.  It was quite a tricky manoeuvre - we had to drop the sails at just the right moment, then drop our two anchors, as well as looking out for other anchored boats.  Somehow it had all worked OK, and the anchors held so in the end we had a very restful night, against all odds...but we were exhausted, having sailed hard all day.
In contrast, the sail to Martinique was a breeze.  The wind was slightly south of east, giving us a lovely angle on our destination, and we romped along at 8-9 knots, slipping through the water unimpeded by weed and barnacles stuck to our hull.  We looked over the stern and there were no bubbles at all in our wake (so the immense expenditure on antifouling paint had been worthwhile after all).  We arrived in St Pierre, on the northern part of the west coast of Martinique in time for a very nice French lunch, and then spent the afternoon walking. Even the customs clearance was simple - done by the proprietar of the bar/internet cafe, who has herself done several Atlantic crossings and lives on her boat (anchored next to ours but with a very weedy anchor chain).
St Pierre is a beautiful town - very French in language, architecture, currency (we had to get Euros from the cash point) and attitude.  It seemed strange hoisting the tricolour courtesy flag as we approached the island, but within 5 minutes of landing this seemed perfectly fitting.  We were, without question, in France. 
We walked for a couple of hours, up onto the hill above the town, and the view was spectacular.
View of St Pierre, with Mount Pelee volcano in the background
Our walk took us up the hill to a statue of the Virgin Mary and then back down through the butterfly garden at Anse Latouche.  We did not see a single butterfly in the garden, but there were some fantastic plants and musical instruments:
Sound Wheel; bamboo filled with pebbles - made an amazing noise when turned
When we walked back down into the town the carnival was in full flow - a thrilling spectacle.
One of the themes seemed to require the participants to wear leg-warmers.  It seemed surprising that anyone would do this willingly in more than 30 degrees of heat, but the locals seemed to be happily entering into the spirit of it.
Tomorrow we will head for Dominica, around 50 miles further north.  We have high hopes for a similar sail to the one we had today, as the course is identical.