Martinique, St Pierre then Anse Mitan & Grand Anse Arlet
The next morning (Sunday), we were under way by 7.45 am for the passage across to Martinique. Again the winds were stronger than forecast and we had a fast and furious sail in a biggish swell between the islands. The view back to the southern coast of Dominica was particularly jagged and dramatic. The final hour of our approach to St Pierre on the north west coast of Martinique was windless, so we motored in and anchored off the town in the shadow of Mont Pelee volcano. It’s a fascinating approach to the beach as the depths suddenly shoot up from around 60 metres to 6 as you drop your hook on the shelf that extends a short way from shore. St Pierre today is just a small, 2 street fishing village and was especially sleepy on Sunday afternoon. The views behind it up to the volcano with its deceptively verdant and lush slopes are magnificent. Until 1902 this spot was actually a very important and vibrant city, known as the “Paris of the Caribbean” with 30,000 inhabitants and a sophisticated (some said decadent) lifestyle. Then the volcano erupted for the first time in over 400 years and wiped out the entire population in less than 10 minutes in an explosion of gas and heat that was larger than the Hiroshima bomb. We looked around the museum that shows poignant before and after photographs of the place and saw some of the ruins of the town’s theatre, prison and shoreside houses and warehouses. It was quite a moving experience.
The volcano responsible for so much destruction:
The ruins of the old prison (L) and today’s sea front with the rebuilt cathedral and bourse:
We motored from St Pierre south along the coast of Martinique the following morning and passed the island’s large capital city of Fort de France en route. By 10.15 am we were anchored again, this time in Anse Mitan, a bay opposite, which seemed to be popular with French holiday makers who aren’t too discerning. We thought it quite a “downmarket” spot and it didn’t help that its prettiest point is now the site of a completely derelict and very ugly hotel building. Lindsay had a much needed haircut whilst there and wasn’t too thrilled with that either!
So we moved on the next morning a mere 5 miles around the coast to the more appealing spot of Grande Anse D’Arlet where we are currently bobbing about on a mooring buoy in rolly seas and windy conditions. The water is a wonderful turquoise and there are several restaurants along the reasonably attractive beach front. The snorkelling is good here and we’ve swum alongside a couple of resident turtles in the bay.
One feature shared by all the places we’ve visited recently is the fact that they face west (obvious really, on the lee shore in the trade wind belt) and hence have fantastic views of the setting sun. Clouds on the horizon mean we don’t get to see it set every day, but we’ve certainly seen it loads of times and have been on the lookout for the famous “green flash”. For those of you not familiar with this, this is some semi-mythical event accompanying the setting Caribbean sun, never adequately described or explained. In fact we think we saw it weeks ago from the beach bar on Nevis; a momentary change in the last few seconds of the sun’s disc from orange to green as it slips below the horizon – not exactly a flash. We’ve not seen it since and have met people who say the effect is nonsense, but we both saw the sun turn green for a second, so there!