Vive La France!

Lady Corinne
iain and gaynor macalister
Thu 25 Mar 2010 21:58
Only 25 miles separate us from Rodent Bay in St. Lucia but it feels as if we've traveled about four thousand miles to the French Riviera. We set out on Friday morning and had a very lumpy sail across to Martinique, which is decidedly French, arriving around 1300 hrs to HMS Diamond Rock at the Southern end of the island. Apparently it is the only rock to have ever been given the status of a naval ship after the English occupied it during the Anglo French wars and fired cannons relentlessly at the French ships going into Fort de France.  We anchored in a very pretty little bay called Petite anse de Arlet and went ashore to find, firstly no rubbish to be seen anywhere and secondly that they don't use the EC$ but only accept Euros.  It was strange to be back in what at first appeared to be civilisation and I couldn't help but find myself wishing we'd stayed a little longer in the more remote islands of the Grenadines. However I'm sure that this is just a blip and that when we arrive at our next destination, Dominica, the Caribbean will have returned to it's quaint, slightly grubby self and although I do sometimes wish that they'd just sweep up a little bit, it's quite nice that way.  We waited for some bad weather to blow through and it rained a lot you'll all be pleased to know.  While we were there we investigated a vibration that we'd heard from the propeller area and found that the rope cutter (A pair of blades, one fixed and the other rotating that are attached to the propshaft and the sleeve it runs out through, designed to cut any ropes that get tangled around the propeller) was loose on the shaft.  We'd got a rope round it in Grenada and as it was a fairly hefty mooring warp I think it was a bit more than it could handle. I dived down and checked it out and then had a chat with a very nice man called Charles from Harold Hayles in Yarmouth (Skype is so good) who are the agents.  Returning to the boat Gaynor and I went down to dismantle it and while I undid all the fastenings she held a bucket underneath to catch all the components in as if I'd have dropped any they would have been "Gone for ever". Once we had it aboard I was able to inspect it and I think it's an ex-rope cutter. We will have to be very vigilant as there are hundreds of lobster pots strewn around here and without a cutter there could be lots of opportunities for impromptu snorkelling.   We left Petite anse this afternoon and when we came out of the bay and turned North we saw Fort de France, what a shock - It is huge with great blocks of skyscrapers and big industrial areas. I know it sounds silly but we haven't really seen anything like that since we left England.  We had a wonderful sail up to Saint Pierre and were doing 7 knots under reefed genoa with the wind coming around 80 degrees off the Starboard bow as we headed North in brilliant sunshine under a blue, blue sky.  Saint Pierre used to be the cultural, commercial and social centre of Martinique and was known as the Paris of the Caribbean until on the 8th of May 1902 the nearby Volcano of Mount Pelee erupted and killed all but 2 of the population of 30,0000 souls.  It had been threatening to explode since early April but the Governor couldn't cope with evacuating the area and hoped the problem would "just go away"   It is close to where the European settlers wiped out the last of the Caribs in 1658 and it is said that as the last ones died they uttered terrible curses invoking the mountain to exact revenge   It now has a population of around 6,000 and is mostly geared around fishing. We are going to stay here for 1 day to have a look around but the main reason for coming is that it is the furthest North you can anchor before heading off to Dominica which is our next Port of call.  We have heard that it is very unspoiled and has been little affected by tourism.  It is a place we are hoping to be able to go off and leave the boat for a few days while we explore the interior.
Hasta la Brie
Lady C and her Cutterless crew