Martinique continues to enchant and frustrate in
fairly equal measures. The greater prosperity of the island means that more
people have their own motors, making public transport around the island
haphazard at best. Over the past couple of days we've spent hours slowly
roasting in the sun as we wait for collective taxis that have no fixed
timetables. The frustrating part is that the local people seem to know exactly
when a taxi is due, appearing on cue. Whether this is through some sixth sense
or because they see the minibus driving up the hill is unclear.
Despite great obstacles, we managed to travel 10kms
up the road to Vauclin on the Atlantic coast. The town is famed for its
watersports, and we were there to see a man about a secondhand windsurfer. When
we eventually caught up with him working out of a rusty shipping container in an
otherwise verdant field, he had a cunning look in his eye. The fellow proceeded
to show us an ancient board that must have vied with a Mulberry harbour for
buoyancy. The mast was five metres long and the sail ripped down the luff, where
it attaches to the mast.
"Ah could do you a deel for ze hole package," the
chap said in cunning French. He whipped out a calculator and came up with the
fantastical figure of â400. "Hmmm," I replied. "We'll be in touch."
We walked back to the beach to hire a real
windsurfer to see whether this was really a good idea. Clearly, designs have
changed since I was last on a board ten years ago. Much like skiing over the
past decade, the beginners' equipment has got fatter and fatter, so that it will
almost turn - or surf - by itself. Even so, I tried out the equivalent of the
fattest pair of fat boys. A board almost as wide as it was long, and untroubled
by even an Atlantic swell. I spent an hour on the water, and though I managed to
'go', it was hard work. My forearms feel is if they have been mercilessly
racked. Alex had a crack as well and managed to sail 100m directly sideways. The
effort of holding the sail up but not going anywhere was so much that she had to
go and lie down on the shore for 15 minutes to recover.
The promised return taxi didn't show up, so we
ended up hitching back from Vauclin to Marin, where Summer Song has been
anchored for four nights now. We got lucky and after a few helpless waves from
full cars, a sleek looking truck with a couple in pulled up. Unfortunately, they
stopped behind us on the road, and we didn't notice them for a minute or so.
Astonishingly, they waited for us nonetheless, and our journey home was
accomplished in air conditioned comfort.
Tomorrow, we'll raise the anchor and start our
anticlockwise trip about the island. We made a small sortie yesterday to the
mouth of the bay, but such is our good anchorage that we were unwilling to go in
Summer Song and risk losing our spot. Instead, we puttered two miles across in
the dinghy (christened Jemima, after the famous Puddleduck, by Alex) with its
newly refurbished engine to a beach belonging to Club Med - the Gallic
equivalent of Butlins. Cleverly landing unobserved in an out-of-the-way spot, we
managed to pass ourselves off as inmates and perched ourselves unchallenged on a
sun lounger to read and swim. So perfect was our grocklesome disguise that we
were even invited to join in a swimming-running-kayaking triathalon by the
animateurs. I was tempted, but we politely declined nonetheless. We sidled off
again before our dinghy was discovered and the alarm raised.
Meanwhile, the swell on the Atlantic side has
fallen a lot since our sploshy passage north, and the passes between the reefs
on the east should be safely navigable. We are looking forward to snorkelling in
turquoise waters again and fishing for our supper.