a different New Year too...

Sat 5 Jan 2008 01:13
14.28N 60.52W
We're currently anchored in the Marin bay/estuary area at the southern end of Martinique, but to backtrack a few days.....
We spent a couple of days in Rodney Bay again, getting the generator fixed (the engineer has shorted round the starter switch which was causing a problem) and visiting the 'Jump-up' (=street party) in Gros Islet on Friday with some folks from neighbouring boats (Syd and the guy who suggested it(same age) got wobbly, very quickly, on the 'spiced rum' - small shots from a demijohn of ruby liquid and 'herbs' - the seller was seen pouring in the local 70%+ hooch....). We were going to sail down to Barbados from there, but as we wanted to test the generator within reach of engineers we knew and potential spares, we decided on a few miles north to Martinique instead. 
So on Sunday 30 Dec 07 we had a good sail close hauled then close reached up to Fort de France (the capital) of Martinique at 14.36N 61.04W.  We decided the capital would be the most likely site for New Years' Eve celebrations and could anchor right up near the town centre.  We were pleased to see 'Principessa' there, and joined Alec(Syd had helped fix his watermaker in Gibraltar and who had won the ARC prize for the fastest Oyster) and Mary for a drinkies later that evening. We were a bit concerned when we left our boat to dinghy across to theirs that a few fishermen and motor launches seemed to be anchoring together around us in anticipation of something...when we returned later there we even more, some rafted together, all looking up at the old fort....then the fireworks started ! Not New Years' Eve, but obviously for that reason, and a long dramatic display in the french Son et Lumiere tradition with music from the quay.
The next day, 31 Dec, we went into town to register ourselves with customs as having arrived in Martinique, which was very easy in a chandlery, so we treated ourselves to some proper sailing gloves, the cheap cycling ones having worn out.  We met Alec and Mary for lunch and tried to find out what was going on that night, but were told that the previous night's fireworks were the sum total of the town's celebrations and people would be with their families that night.  Oh well, back to our respective boats for a simple supper and early night....  We would be glad to leave the next day, as the anchorage was quite rolly due to passing ferries.
On Tuesday 1 January 2008 we sailed round, again in a good wind with only the genoa up, to Grand Ansle de Arlet 14.30N 61.05W, which was a lovely wide bay and we anchored quite close to one side, and enjoyed some lovely swims in the clear water, although the anchorage was also quite rolly in the wind.  The next (rainy) day we swam to the beach and walked down the beach and up into the village and down the road to the next village, Petit Anse de Arlet, where we had pizza for lunch, whilst watching small crabs come up from the beach and nip at the heels of a stall holder on the promenade.
On Thursday 3 Jan we had another good sail into 20+kts head wind but more comfortable due to Syd's latest modification to tighten the backstays. We were aiming for Marin which has a large marina and lots of good chandleries and Yacht technicians where we would buy some spares and get some more small things fixed, hopefully more cheaply and easily than in Barbados. We decided to stop at St Anne at the mouth of the Marin bay(really more estuary shaped) for a swim and lunch and stayed for the night to save on marina fees(I wonder why....?!?) We got up as early as we could on Friday morning and motored down to the marina, but we couldn't really understand what they were saying in French or English, so eventually went into a berth anyway and walked to the office, to be told that the marina was full for the weekend and we would need to anchor in the bay.  We managed to empty our rubbish and fill up with water and went off and anchored further up the channel. There are probably a few hundred boats anchored here, mostly cruisers, but some old ones, some wrecks on the reefs (yes, we were very careful), all nationalities - we have to keep looking at Annabel's little atlas for the flag when we see a new one, or to be sure which way up Germany and Belgium and France and Holland have their respective same colours ( yes, the brains are getting well addled in the sun...).  By the time we got settled, there was only time to take the washing to the launderette and do the supermarket shopping; by dinghy up a little water way in the mangrove swamps to a dinghy dock with high walls but beautiful stainless steel ladders leading into a retail park.
Tomorrow we hope to do our chandlery shopping and stock up on wine, as this is a French departement and Barbados is reportedly expensive.  Then we hope to leave for Barbados on Sunday, having checked the winds and weather, we should have the wind on our beam mostly so the 20+hour sail should be reasonably good. We'll leave in the afternoon, sail through the night on our usual watch pattern and hopefully arrive before midday.  We're looking forward to some proper sailing and passage-making after so much pottering over the last few weeks.