14:35.940N 61:04.177W Martinique

If Knot Y Knot
Patricia Day
Sun 21 Jan 2007 13:19

18 January 2007, Thursday


Up early, set off at 6.45.  It was so nice to have the motor running better, I just took all the ropes off and purred quietly out of there.  I have to say that I was not impressed with Rodney Bay.  I am sure it was a great idea when it evolved, but it needs updating.  They have the custom of the ARC going there and some improvements are needed.  With it being a lagoon the mosquitos could be quite a problem.  The boat got really dirty with the concrete pontoons and did not get cleaned as they made a minimum charge for up to 100 gallons, I only wanted a few buckets.  Anyway, I am glad I went into Barbados and sat there for a few weeks.


There was a huge motor cruiser coming into the bay.  Once out of the bay I put the genoa out full and the main to the spreaders, later I let it out to above the blue line which was a treat for it. I had to go as close to the wind as possible to get to Martinique.  I tacked a couple of times, but each time the wind moved, sometimes this means there is a nasty bit of weather coming, but nothing materialised.  The wind was a reasonable 10 – 15 knots all day, but the swell was against me and close hauled I only averaged 3 knots.  The wind gradually moved more east and I was on track for Fort de France.  4pm I had just put the main away and then put the engine on, this was a bit early but I wanted to head directly for the port and it was head to wind.  I put the genoa away and moved the dinghy which was over the anchor locker.  5pm and I had to make a decision, it was still a few miles to the port or the alternative anchorages in the bay, which is 3 miles wide, very busy and by the look of the chart scary with lots of rocks.  I headed for the bay just before the last point and anchored there.  I had no intention of arriving and clearing today, but I hoped to be anchored in the right area.  Tomorrow I would continue on, find somewhere to anchor and do the formalities. 


It was 32 miles to this bay, a few more to the main bay, it does not seem very far but it is too much for a day sail and arrive in daylight.  It was probably only the current that prevented me making faster time, but it would have been better to go overnight. 20:20 hindsight just can t be beaten.


19 January 2007, Friday


7.15 I put the engine on to run the watermaker for a few minutes, the water at Rodney Bay was bad as it is a lagoon and I did not know what quality Fort de France would be like.  7.30 I left the bay and started round to Fort de France.  Lots of lobster pots here, mostly marked with empty water bottles, if the sunlight doesn t catch them you could easily run over a few, certainly in the dark.  I decided to ignore the pilot comments about the seriously overcrowded anchorage and give it a go, if it was too much then I would have to go over the other side and catch the ferry.  By 9.30 I was at the main anchorage and it was fine, perhaps everybody else read the pilot books and did not try it.  The mud and my anchor did not seem to like each other and after 3 attempts in a really nice space I tried over a bit to the right, it was shallower and it held on the 2nd attempt.


I dropped the dinghy over and got ready to go and do the necessary.  I was very organised, even remembered the small can of petrol to top up the outboard.  I was being overkeen as I did not need the petrol for rowing.  If I do not use the engine then it is easy to launch and stow the dinghy, but more work to get ashore, but it did not look that far. 

I rowed against the wind to shore, tied up to a ring on the concrete jetty and set off for customs.  I went where it said in the book and passed a chandlers which I was going to look in on the way back.  I nearly went in and asked them where to go for clearance, but kept going.  Eventually I asked someone at a jetty and they sent me to the main port.  Back past the chandlers, the dinghy, behind the castle, up to the football stadium, in the port, out of the port, douane – customs.  My French was good enough to know I was in the wrong place.  He gave me a piece of paper with the name and address of where I needed to go – the chandlers I had passed an hour earlier.  I wouldn t mind if I had just winged it, but I had two sources of information, both as current as I could get and they were both wrong.


I could have dealt with any illegal persons, substances or goods long before customs had any knowledge of me, so I stopped at an internet café, checked my mail and had a quick MSN chat to Carl.   I checked the website and noticed that you can see the actual berth I was on in Rodney Bay, although I have to say the boat you see is probably not actually mine.  In Rodney Bay I had checked and I was still in Barbados, not Soufriere, St. Lucia, that was because I did not type the W in the position and it is set to default to E, so I had spent a couple of days in the Arabian Sea, just off Oman.


Then I set about trying to find something nice to eat, 2 branches of Delifrance and nothing enticing.  I settled for some flaked coconut from a street vendor and it turned out to be iced, that would give me a sugar rush.  I went to the chandler, filled in a form and that was that.  I did not get my passport stamped, but this is France.  I said I was leaving Sunday so do not have to go back to clear out.  I assume I can move to any anchorage, but it was 2pm by the time I got back and I will stay put now that the anchor seems to have stuck and I think I have passed all the beaches.  The dinghy had gone under the jetty and the oars got a bit scraped.  It was a reasonable row back to the boat.  Perhaps I am getting better otherwise the distance was short and with the wind and tide; I am getting a little better.


The formalities seem rather a waste of time and they should get a system that you register once when you come to the Caribbean and clear before you leave, but are then free to come and go between the islands.   I shall just get relaxed over these formalities when I arrive somewhere that takes it all very seriously. 

Now that I can move on without having to come back and check out I have passed all the beaches.  I don t think I can be bothered to go back down.


I did go into a shop that seemed to sell everything and a supermarket, but there is nothing I really need.  I have very few needs and am very well set up on the boat, I could just do with some company now and then; just enough to get me fed up and realise how peaceful it is on my own.


There is a huge motor yacht, and I mean huge, which came behind me and he had to have a bit of playing with his anchors, the holding is a bit soft.  He then flipped up a door on one side and out comes his little dayboat and his jet ski.  Very much a case of how the other 1% live.


The Martinique guide book warns to be careful in daytime of mosquitos with dengue fever and at night not to walk in town, I am sure that does wonders for the restaurant trade.  The history of all these islands is quite fascinating, basically all the original inhabitants got eliminated, the Europeans fought for control, brought in slave workers, set up plantations and businesses, abolished slavery and here they are.  Now they are British, French, Dutch or independent, but still with the inheirited traits of their forefathers.


I looked at the charts for my onward plans, I did not realise that they gave all sorts of useful information. 

Do not enter strange harbours at night – that gives me total justification for anchoring anywhere if I cannot get where I should be in daylight. 

Check the bit on electronic navigation, mine is based on WGS 84, but some charts you need to adjust the positions.  The one I used to here could not even be adjusted, it just said WGS84 positions could not be plotted on this chart. You are supposed to use sights to the island ahead and if you cannot see it then sights from the island behind.

The information on currents and tides seems extremely complicated, but it does explain why I ended up so far west.  I was as close to the wind as I could get all the way, but next time perhaps it would be be better to have motored up to the top of St Lucia which should have been easier than fighting wind and tide at the other end.  They even give you detailed information on going from the different islands, I never had this kind of info on Admiralty charts, these are Imray.  More reading is required before setting off for Dominica.  I don t think I have much option this time other than to follow the coast up Martinique, then hop across the water and follow coast up Dominica..

Evidently still as true today as it was in 1817 – when passing to leeward of the high islands stay within two pistol shots distance or seven leagues off.  Seven leagues is 21 miles, but how far is a pistol shot?


20 January 2007, Saturday


Did not get up early, I was awake at 6, but did not want to get up until 8.  It had rained a little and the man on the motor boat next to me was washing his boat using water and a pressure hose.  I don t have enough of the first to spare and don t have the second, so I wiped my boat over with a rag. 

I checked the oil, which was fine, the service can wait a bit longer. 

I put a new shackle on the genoa, a small one fitted, which means the genoa has dropped.  I did let it down a little and there is a kink near the bottom, so I will have to pull it back up a bit.  I used a shackle with a hole in the pin and moused it, so I will have to cut that off when I mend the genoa. 

Everything non-essential can wait until I have stopped for a longer time.  It is really hot here, too hot to do much, so I didn t, finished the book I started yesterday and had a snooze.


I took my flag of St lucia down early because it was coming unstitched.  Some of these flags are a bit complicated.  I did not bother at all in Martiique.  You would think that as my boat was born in France it would have come with a French flag, but it didn t and I didn t go there, so I have not bothered; although the French flag would have been about the easiest of the lot.


21 January 2007, Sunday


I was going to set off at dusk, but moved it forward to noon, now I will go as soon as I am ready.  I have to go 20 miles up Martinique, then it should be a good 26 mile reach across to the bottom of Dominica.  I hope to go 20 miles to the top and check in there tomorrow in daylight, but it will depend on the timing.  


I have some bread in the oven and am going to have it with bacon (it is months since I had bacon) before I go, because I cannot spend long chunks of time inside cooking when island hopping.  This is where crossing oceans is so much easier when alone, so much space around you to get on with things.  I have to get the dinghy on board, I can do this quite easily now.  Me swinging on one end of the rope and the dinghy up in the air on the other end, not exactly an art form, but it works.  It rained a few times in the night and it started again.  I abandoned the dinghy, on deck, but not tied down.  The loaf is cooked so I will attend to the bacon.  Bacon has that knack of being not cooked, nearly, very nearly and moves on to burnt just before you get back to it, in estate agent terms that translates to well done.


As I was taking breakfast on the terrace a boat was coming in to the anchorage.  He put out fenders and was sorting ropes, not usual for anchoring.  It was a French boat and he was either loco or local as he kept going all the way to where we leave the dinghies.  Catamarrans can do that, which is quite clever, none of the others thought of trying it.  Then it started to rain again and I decided another cup of tea would be a good idea, I don t know the last time when I had two in a morning.  This rain keeps starting and stopping, I will set off and if it is really horrid then I will stop again, even if it means going back to a bay.