Nigel North
Tue 10 Apr 2012 15:27

Position:  14:44.52N 61:10.69W  Martinique


Saturday, 7 April 2012 ST LUCIA TO FORT DE FRANCE

Yesterday I just let my big brother Stu - a naturalised Canadian - settle in a bit having just arrived from Canada for some time on the boat. We spent the day preparing the boat for the trip to Martinique, and I emailed people. We hauled the dinghy out but it was covered in sea ants so had to spray and brush it clean. By then it was getting on and we ate out in the small restaurant in the marina. Nice!

Today we finally got off at 0915 after a big search for Stus glasses. But it was a long long day considering it wasnt that far. We found them …eventually.

It took a lot longer to get the 36nm to Fort de France, Martinique, drop anchor and then get the dinghy down and motor round the corner from the anchorage to the fuel dock where there was supposed to be a Customs computer to clear in on. But the bloke on the fuel dock told us it was shut - well told Stu in French. Stu is in his element and speaks not just good French but Creole too - and engages every passing local in it! So we repaired to PW and had a meal.

8 April 2012 Easter Sunday FORT DE FRANCE to ANSE MITAN

Went ashore in Perky - theres a great dinghy dock along the kids playground - and wandered around Fort de France which was shut it being Easter. First impressions were of a run down 3rd world place, with just odd groups hanging around. We found a dingy small supermarket but for all that well stocked, and got some butter and more water as it was hot and we had both been drinking a fair bit - much more than I would ever drink normally! The shutters were down everywhere, so I thought that we were not seeing FdeF in its best light, maybe. But then we found a bit of life in a local - and typically French looking - market and bought melon, and two kinds of banana - one for cooking. These proved a great success subsequently for when fried in oil come out like potato chips and similar taste too. Then we found a kerbside café and spent a pleasant couple of hours there chatting and watching the world go by. The world that went by consisted of at least two characters clearly out of their brains on some substance - one of them a scrawny creature in her 40s who arrived with her jeans around her knees displaying her less than pleasant nethers. She was shood away and veered off into the near empty roads passing on some unpleasantries over her shoulder as she went. The other person was just rather loud, drunk, but thankfully less uninhibited.

Later on we set sail again across the quite shallow Baie de Fort de France to the south side and an anchorage at Anse Metan, dodging two shoals on the way, on genoa and just mizzen and kept the mainsail in its bag. Stu helmed beautifully close to the wind all the way. Quite crowded although supposedly not that popular, we found a spot next to a lot of moorings but by the time wed cleared up etc there wasnt time and so we didnt go ashore.

Our meal of tuna and rice with the bananas was deemed a success, but was cooked in succession. Stu, as Chef de Banane, cooked the bananas first, then the Skipper did the rest and added Stus masterpieces in the final moments. Such is life with two gas rings..

9 April 2012 Easter ANSE METAN to St PIERRE (under Mt Pelee)

After breakfast and a leisurely start we set off on a broad reach across the Bay again and headed NNW up the west coast of Martinique in the lee of the dark mountains. Several catamarans overtook us along the coast, and one at least shared the same destination. Halfway up the 15nm run the winds became very fluky and several times we were becalmed for short periods. Then, interestingly, as St Pierre started to come into sight, the wind went right round to west! We tacked, and it took us all the way into St Pierre - the original and thriving capitol of Martinique until Mont Pelee erupted in 1902 killing everyone in the town. The anchorage is a line along the seafront around a short pier, but it took an hour to find enough room to drop the hook and that was in a massive 20m of water with steep shelving out from the shore. The place was busy with yachts and catamarans and really was full. The trouble was, this left what looked like a decent sized hole ahead of us for those arriving after us to anchor in, as due to the depth I had a lot of chain out - at least 60m. But my anchor was sitting right underneath the three boats that all arrived to take advantage of this ‘slot’, so I spent my time gesticulating on the bow my displeasure at having them sitting on my anchor. However, after our pleasant stroll round St Pierre looking at remains, and more importantly the numerous lush fruits and trees that abound - which Stu knew intimately as ex forestry administrator in Haiti - it was to found - as predicted - a boat sitting on top of my anchor. After our walk we stopped in a scruffy kerbside café facing the anchorage - the only one open - and had a drink. Beggars abounded. One strange local, near naked, hovered all around us, flitting to and fro and then sitting behind, before Madame came out and shoo’d him away. Strangely, he removed one shoe and left it on the pavement before disappearing. I would not have liked to have been on the wrong side of Madame. Another fully fit local bummed a cigarette off the cruisers in front of us.

Then we retired to the boat, meeting on the way half a dozen Norwegian ladies from the catamaran I had originally shood off my anchor! I got to practise some Norwegian again and tried to calm down afterwards as this all female crew disappeared for some sustenance, before rowing back to PW for some more fried bananas and caballa this time. Yes, they were topless most of the time on board, not that we ever looked.

We went for a swim before going ashore, for some snorkelling. The anchor chain just disappeared into the depths, and the bottom was out of sight.

Next instalment - Back to St Lucia, a nephew, a visitor, Marigot Bay and the Pitons....!