Martinique and Dominica
Robin and Sue carter
Sun 15 Jan 2012 20:41
In the last 2-3 weeks we have sailed further north to Martinique and then on to Dominica where we are currently at anchor in Prince Rupert Bay in the north west of the island.
After leaving St Lucia we had a cracking sail to south west Martinique meeting up with ‘Longbow’, another ARC participant, in Grand Anse d’Arlet which was a quiet fishing village with good snorkelling. The under water scenes here make me feel as if we are in the tropical fish tank my parents had when I was young. After a few days there we dragged ourselves away to stock up in Fort de France, the capital of Martinique, anchoring beneath the fort, still in use as a military establishment. We were there on a Sunday and apart from the out of town hypermarkets everywhere was shut but the RC cathedral was bursting at the seams with its doors open allow the cooling breeze to blow through. All pews were taken by families dressed in their Sabbath finery and there were crowds standing at the back straining to hear the epiphany service. Even the children were attentive. A little different from what we are used to!We then sailed north to St Pierre and the scenery became more mountainous with capricious winds blowing down the valleys and no wind between them. St Pierre was the capital of Martinique until 1902. On Ascension Day that year Mount Pelee the volcano towering behind the town erupted with such force that the poisonous gas and lava wiped out the whole town of 30,000 people apart from one convicted murderer who was imprisoned in a cell which protected him from the devastation. (he went on to tour with Barnham’s circus sporting his burn scars.) Fort de France then became the capital and St Pierre now has a population of only 5,000 and there are a few partial remains of the town before 1902. Even the cathedral bell (probably about 10 cwt) was squashed flat. Mount Pelee has since behaved itself.
We had a really good sail north to Dominica doing about 7 knots for all of the 25 miles between the islands but then came to a halt when we were in the lee of this very high island and motored along the west coast past the capital Rousso and on another 20 miles to anchor here in Prince Rupert’s Bay. Dominica was formed from volcanic activity but now has no active volcanoes. Because of it’s history all it’s beaches have black sand and it’s mountains create lots of rain (warm, short lived!) and so it is not sought after by the sun loving tourist. It’s mountains and scenery however attract the more energetic traveller who hike through the island, enjoy the wildlife and scuba diving. It belonged to the British until the 1970’s and is now part of the Commonwealth and so english is its official language. As a sailing area it used to be thought rather unsafe. There are only 2 safe anchorages and theft from yachts was common. The local guides who row tourists up the through the rainforest on the Indian River realised their livelihood was at risk unless they could attract yachties here and so formed PAYS, a local organisation of boat owners who have 6m open wooden boats with powerful outboards and patrol the area 24 hrs a day, greet new arrivals and generally help with anything we require. They are great guys with a nice dry sense of humour. Because of their efforts many more boats come here and business in the town has also benefitted. We took a tour of the island with one of them yesterday, travelling down the rugged Atlantic west cast, through rainforets and treked to a waterfall where some of the more intrepid swam in a pool. We visited a Carib reservation where a few thousand of the original South American settlers from a 1,000 years ago now live, they certainly look as if they come from there rather than Africa. Most of the Caribs were slaughtered by the invading Europeans and some islands have very few left. They specialise in high quality basket work and carving.
On the social side we usually enjoy a sundowner at about 6pm and watch exactly that. Because most bays face west it is great to sit and watch the sunset with a rum punch in one’s hand. Usually it is a time to be invited to fellow yachts and meet new people and old friends from the ARC. As the sun goes down there is apparently often a green flash momentarily that one is encouraged to look for the sighting of which seems to directly correlate to the strength of the rum punch!
We are heading north to french Guadeloupe tomorrow calling at the little island called ‘the Saints’ on the way.
I attach a couple of photos, the one of the roadside verge shows lemongrass growing abundantly – Simon eat your heart out! The other is the west coast on Dominca.
All the best
Sue and Robin