Martinique - The first of the Windward Islands

Imagine Of Falmouth Online Log
Jon Constantine
Tue 2 Jun 2009 15:00
Tues 2nd June 09 to Weds 3rd June 09

It's a long hop from Dominica to Martinique so an early start - 6am!  The music from ashore had kept us awake for most of the night and could still be heard at about 4am!  Hence we were up so early as we were already awake!  Mike & Barbara on Astarté left even earlier.  We'd met them briefly the previous day.  They'd popped over in their dinghy to say hi and introduce themselves as they'd seen us in several previous anchorages over the last month or so. They were well fed up as there'd been very noisy parties ashore at Big Papas all weekend while they'd been here and the music is not quiet as we know from last year!!!   They were headed to St Pierre as well so we'll see them again later.  We motored with only the main up for several hours as we had no wind to speak of but finally got plenty as we left the lee of Dominica.  By the time we reached the top of Martinique we were getting gusts of 28 knots plus with big lumpy seas but then it died away again to nothing as we came into the lee of Martinique.  We put the headsail away and motored the last bit into St Pierre.  We logged 54.6 miles in 11 hours.

                 St Pierre at the foot of the Mt Pelée volcano                                                                               The church                                 

St Pierre has a bit of a sad history. In the late 19th, early 20th Century is was known as the Paris of the Caribbean and was the commercial, cultural and social centre of Martinique.  However, on Ascension Day, the 8th May, in 1902 the Mt Pelée volcano erupted and left the town in ruins.  An estimated 29,933 people burned to death, leaving only two survivors in the whole town: a cobbler who was in his cellar at the time and a murderer who was incarcerated in a stone cell.  The volcano gave plenty of warning as minor rumblings began as early as April and a couple of smaller eruptions had occurred over several days before the main one killing several people, animals and birds.  Apparently, the Governor was encouraged by the rich plantation owners and business leaders to ignore it as they would have suffered major financial losses if the town were evacuated plus there were elections coming up.  Some people did leave but the rest perished.

Anyway, we spotted Astarté and dropped our anchor nearby in the almost empty bay.  We'd spoken on the VHF a couple of times on the way and they'd told us where they were anchored and invited us over for sundowners once we'd settled.  We had a great evening with them swapping stories.  A really great, fun couple.  We are both headed for St Lucia with thoughts of stopping in Fort de France first so we said our goodbyes knowing we'll meet up again with them tomorrow.

We were up reasonably early this morning after a terrible nights sleep.  The swell was awful and really uncomfortable.  Astarté again had already left and we weren't long to follow.  We motor sailed pretty much the whole way to Fort de France only to find it even more rolly than St Pierre.  Didn't really like the look of the town either - very built up.  We anchored briefly and after a quick beer we were off again, this time across the bay to Anse Mitan.  Astarté have gone to Trois Islets so we probably won't see them now until St Lucia. 

                                                                                                  Fort de France

We stayed just the one night in Anse Mitan and didn't go ashore as we've not cleared in here.  We struggled to anchor on the north side of the bay due to the rocky seabed (the water was so clear you could easily see the rocks and sandy patches 5 metres down but it didn't help) so we went to the south side and dropped in sand, the anchor biting first time.  Fantastic.  No swell, very few other boats, blue sky, sunshine and sparkling clear water.  Perfect for an afternoon of snorkelling and chilling out.  We'd heard that Le Ponton, where we'd cleared in the last time we were here, had been swept away by Hurricane Omar back in October last year.  And sure enough, we could see the remnants.  It had been quite a substantial structure of wood and concrete too, with mooring slips for yachts and a restaurant on it.  You can never under-estimate the strength of these hurricanes and coincidentally, the official hurricane season has just started!