Thu 16 Jan 2014 19:55
Le Marin, Martinique
750mm of Milano Salami
160 cans of beer
110 pages of personal diaries
90 bottles of water
68 night watches
6.8 knots average speed
4.5kg of flour for breadmaking
3kg of pasta
1 lifechanging, memorable and simply fantastic journey
Around 05:30 local time this morning we spotted the first lights on
Martinique. The excitement was short-lived, though, as the moon disappeared
and the sun came up we could no longer see the lights, but not yet make out
a coastline. The previous 12 hours had been slow and we knew that even
though we switched on our mobiles in anticipation of getting a signal during
the night, we were likely to make landfall only in the morning and hoped to
be in port around lunchtime.
As we all started congregating in the cockpit around 8AM, the south eastern
coastline of Martinique was quite visible, even though we were still about
20nm off. The reaction of the crew, our emotions were numerous. Some took to
the foredeck in quiet contemplation. Papi and I hugged. And, yes, there were
a few tears. We all placed the first phonecalls to our wives and mothers to
hear their voices again.
We continued to nudge our way towards the coastline, at about 5.5 knots.
Mid-morning and we had the southern tip of our starboard quarter. Being
largely familiar with the brochure-style Caribbean images - wide sandy
beaches ringed by palm trees - I was a little surprised to be greeted by
large mountains, covered in lush vegetation - undisturbed rainforests on
some islands according to our pilotage books. But, round a small rocky
outcrop, creep into the leeward side of the island and you suddenly discover the stuff of brochures: nestling at the foot of the wooded mountains are long, isolated, sandy beeches. Palm-fringed. The colour of the water directly lifted from a Sandals advertisement. Magical!
We found our way into our chosen port - basically one with customs provisions, a launderette and showers - Le Marin. Bizarrely, the navigation system is opposed to anywhere else in the world, with red on starboard and green to port. Martinique is a French dependency, but essentially it is treated like just another 'departement' with internal telephone numbers and domestic flights to Paris! Nonetheless, our yellow flag is raised (signalling our requirement to clear customs), the genoa furled one final time on this part of the cruise and we nudge our way into a harbour, or a bay of harbours, to find hundreds upon hundreds of other yachts. Queue call to the harbourmaster: do you have a berth for us for one or two nights. No. Call back at 4PM, I might have a space then...
So, the showers and launderette have to wait (along with our friends at customs and immigration). Instead, we found an undersized mooring, made fast, popped a can of San Miguel and reheated last nights pasta.
Our arrival in the Caribbean hasn't quite sunk in yet. At the moment we are blaming our lack of being able to step ashore. One way or another, though, we will put our feet on solid ground today. If nothing else, we have run out of water and Christian's wife is literally waiting for us on the quay. We have had an amazing crossing. We have been lucky to do this journey in just 17 days (16 days if you consider that most people leave from further south in the Canary Islands). The weather gods have been kind to us throughout. The atmosphere amongst the crew has been fantastic throughout - no mean feat when sharing a very small space with people you don't know that well, where there is little opportunity for privacy and sleep might be plentiful, but never more than 5 hours in one stint.
We consider ourselves lucky to have been able to realise this dream of ours.
We now have to work our way up to Antigua. We will either set sail again tomorrow evening and sail through the night past Dominica or first thing Saturday morning. Dominica is not a place any of our books recommend we stop at, but that's another story...
PS. At the time of writing we appear to be in a queue... many other boats are communicating with the harbourmaster about a space for the night. Our plea that this is our first port of call after an Atlantic Cross is currently being met with a Gallic shrug...