Trois Islets and Fort de France

Wed 16 Apr 2008 03:33
14.32N 61.02W
Thu 27 March
We're at Trois Islets, a lovely really quiet village in Martinique.  We're hanging about in Martinique, not only because of the French wine, bread, cheese, cyclist-friendly drivers etc., but also to be near internet/fax cafes in case Syd's signature is needed for his house sale which should be completing this week, (later note ... but it wasn't!) very well managed by his sister, thanks Ros!
Well  we had a really brisk sail up here ... tacking up the main channel with genoa only in 20 knots of wind... Then round the trois islets in about 9 or ten foot of water (Gaviota draws 6 foot) .. 1 st try with the anchor just broght a lot of thin sticky mud on board 2 nd try we nudged up onto a reef and dropped the anchor in 6 foot of water and fell back ... once the weight was on we could have held a tanker.. Anyway the squalls intensified .. rain and wind .. but usually only 10 to 15 minutes duration /.. just like what we had crossing the Atlantic including 30 knots of wind ... but the reef stopped all the bigger waves getting to us.  ... Well we came to here to bike ride .. and we are not dissappointed.. A lovely little village inlet  no waves made it a doddle to get the bikes onto the beach and straight up onto the paved front ... Then we set off into the National Park (all the headland between here and Marin)  ...
Started off (usual time ie midday) easy peasy past farms stables and then the museum where Empress Josephine was born and lived (before marrying Napolean) .. then up left on a wet clay track .. well churned up by the horses ... eventually came to a grinding halt with bursting lungs wheelspin and the final insult not enough energy to scrape the mud off the back wheel when it jammed up onto the frame! Anyway soon met concrete track before off again .. higher ... drier track more pebbles with the clay ... mostly rideable ..  until breathless rounded another corner only to ride into a vertical cliff (water washed away below it)  Syd climbed up A lifted the bikes .. then up by the bars ... any higher and would not have made it! So  on .. A local landowner had fenced off the track ... so round the hillside on a "path" made by people scambling round the next 1/2 mile .. which we duly did dragging /lifting the bikes ... after that all was normal until we had climbed back up (approx 1000 feet) both climbs ... when suddenly the track stopped and we were in rain forest on what at best could be descibed as a sheep track (except no sheep here .. so dont know what made it!) .. snag was the foliage was so dense you couldn't see what the wheels were going to hit next!! made for "interesting" riding, a fair bit of scrambling and suddenly out onto another concrete road dropping almost vertically down to the village ... There was Gaviota in the bay below ... so far below we couldnt even see that the hull was blue! ... Then down ... down .. down .. well over 35 mph (can tell by the helmit lift) a few hairpins and wait for 10 minutes whilst Annabel descends! ... and home.
Spent a couple of days here doing very little due to heavy rain squalls, but Annabel got her kayak out for the first time since Las Palmas and had a paddle round the islands.
Tue 1 April we left Trois Islets to go to Fort de France or nearby for some serious shopping.  As we were preparing to leave Annabel noticed that the large tanker that was anchored about a mile out from where we were had pulling up our anchor we caught it in a chain that was lying across the bottom - so that's why we didn't move ! After getting ourselves free, we motored out of the bay to find the tanker on the other side, apparantly having dragged its anchor !!   We motored across to Cohe du Lamentin, where we picked up a buoy in thick muddy water(registering 5.5ft against our draft of 6) in front of a rather deserted marina.  We thought this would give us good access to a shopping mall and large supermarket, but we couldn't see a landing spot when we dinghy'd over to the most direct route and when we walked out of the marina on a road through the mangrove swamps it ended in an industrial estate beside a motorway.  Felt very strange being in such industrial areas!  Luckily someone going to the jogging track behind the marina gave us a lift back down that road, because it absolutely tipped it down again. So we decided to go to the same anchorage at Fort de France town that we'd used at New Year, and get a bus to the shopping centre.
On Wed 2 April we had an interesting trip over there - put out a bit of Genoa and a squall blew up with 40kt wind and low visibility which Syd said he enjoyed - Annabel as usual had just nipped down to look at the chart when it started...Shopping was duly done; shorts and shirt for Syd, food in a Hypermarket - the large air conditioned mall and hypermarket felt really European and strange and must have  gone to our heads because we bought a few expensive food items (like mushrooms) that we hadn't seen for months. Between more heavy rain squalls over the next couple of days we went into Fort de France itself; the only useful thing we can remember doing is getting Annabel's front bike wheel straightened !