Past item - now posted: Anchored at St Pierre, the base of Mount Pelee...where 30,000 died May 8, 1902

Sea Mist > Sold to New Owners July 2016
John and Cheryl Ellsworth
Fri 9 Jan 2009 02:10

14 4461 11 W

(Note: It seems that this Blog entry did not make it to the Blog site on January 3 when it was written…so posting now….perhaps a repeat??)


After a pleasant sail up the coast from Fort de France, Sea Mist is now anchored close inshore at St Pierre. Remarkable history…even tangibly noticeable as I was approaching the town and when I look at my charts,  the charts show many shipwrecks on the sea bed here. Not only did everyone 30,000 people die…save 2 survivors – Leon Leandre, a cobbler who was in his cellar, and the famous Cyparis, imprisoned for murder in a stone cell. 12 ships in the bay were destroyed at anchor; one ship limped away with a few survivors in the crew.

We have been in for a cool down swim…27 C water temp and broken cloud/sun overhead; expect the overnite temp to cool down to mid 20’s C as has been the case most nights.  A lot better from our perspective than shoveling snow and huddling up to a fire which would be the case if we were in the US Northeast or Canada at this time in January….particularly this year.

We and a family of Aussies who we have been crossing paths with regularly over this past month or two, were really caught off-guard when it came to New Year’s celebrations in Fort de France. We were very cocky about the prime real estate in which we were anchored on December 30th. When we went ashore to do the official check-in to the country and handle that paperwork, we casually enjoyed the warming up of a big band and vocalists in this “just constructed” band shell; our only worry was that the music was definitely going to blow the portholes out of our boats when the New Year’s countdown would begin the following night.


Along about 7:30 in the evening, the anchorage started to become more and more crowded…by 8:45 it was WALL TO WALL boats everywhere in the bay….and then we caught the drift that something was up as a fireworks extravaganza kicked off at 9 pm and kept going intensely for about 25 minutes. Rain started simultaneously and stopped simultaneously which minimized our concern for a fire on deck from all the fireworks residue that was drifting into the bay from the launch site inside the fort walls.


No sooner did the fireworks finish, than the MUSIC & SINGING started booming!!!...WOW…we and the Aussies…. who were anchored within shouting/earshot distance…. were very impressed as we screamed at each other a few times.   After an hour or so, our banter changed to: “ do you think we have the wrong date…our our calendars mixed up by a day? Could this actually be New Year’s eve?....although that scenario could easily happen in this nomadic sailing life….I KNEW ABSOLUTELY that it was December 30….not December 31……so, my comments were around this being quite a warm up act for the real thing the following night!! The party continued into the wee hours on shore with hundreds/thousands of people and in the bay with hundreds of boats.


The next day, we went into town to do a bit of shopping as we understood that stores would close on New Year’s eve early….about 4 pm. In the first conversations with our feeble attempts at speaking French…we soon discovered that on Martinique, the tradition is to “publicly” celebrate New Year’s on the eve of Dec 30th so that everyone can “privately” celebrate on the 31st. …….and so the 31st progresses for us and the Aussies…now well informed that we had underappreciated the real New Year’s celebration that had already happened the previous evening/night.


As the day progressed, we (9 of us in total) all agreed to go out to dinner together to bring in the New Year and that we would meet on the dinghy dock at 6:30 pm so that we would have a relaxed time looking around for a restaurant that we liked and then enjoy the rest of the evening as the clocks progressed towards the bewitching hour of midnight ….and 2009!!  All went well until our wanderings in this substantial town/city of Fort de France revealed that WE were the ONLY ones in the city…where had everyone gone??  We found a couple of shopowners who had not yet closed and, in our attempts to translate in broken French/English, it became more and more clear that finding a restaurant in Fort de France on New Year’s eve might not be easy. The best possibility sounded like “Little Havana”…and one of the staff in one store led us there in a 10 minute walk as it was too difficult to give directions that could be followed. I thanked him on the steps of “Little Havana” and climbed the stairs to the 2nd floor to find every table all decked out for a New Year’s extravaganza dinner/etc.  BUT….the owner made it clear to me that there were no seats left….SOLD OUT!!......but a new suggestion….and we walked to 2 more restaurants and found the same situation....ALL DECKED OUT….big time….but not seats….SOLD OUT!!


It was now getting towards 8 pm and we gradually had been concerned that we might well go hungry ….forget about a restaurant. We had seen a McDonalds and a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in our wanderings and as we started to fret, we saw McDonalds was beginning to close its doors with a big cue left inside awaiting big Macs…and when I ran to KFC, I got the guy to slow down on lowering the doors there until the rest of the gang could join me. Sooooooo…..we had a most delightful evening on board the Aussies catamaran (Bella Vita) and plowed through 100 spicy chicken wings, loads of fries, and a bit of coleslaw…and should I need to add…the appropriate New Years’ quantities of beverage to fit the occasion,


Now that’s a New Year’s eve that we will all remember forever!!....Really a great time….despite the miss on expectations going into the evening….. great company…lots of food to satisfy everyone’s appetite…and a collage of noise making all over the bay at the stroke of midnight…HAPPPY NEW YEAR>>>2009!!


No miles to go!!...we are on vacation…right?? …We’ll move whenever…..and expect it to be back to the south….to the Grenadines….one of these “rushed” days….....cheers!!