St Lucia to Martinique

Sat 16 Mar 2013 03:02
14:28.155N 60:52.01W
Come Tuesday 12 March we were ready to move on so once again we had to check out of one country (St Lucia) so that after a 20+ mile sail we can check into another (Martinique).  We are not hugely fond of the EEC but over the years we have appreciated how easy it is to sail between the various countries through the Med and as far as the Canary Islands with very little officialdom and able to use euros all the way, except in Gibraltar!
By mid day we were well on our way across the St Lucia Channel.  The Trade Wind had done its normal trick for us and freshened up and hauled around to the North just to give us a bit of a challenge.  Anyway Petronella likes a challenge even if we are a bit dubious, so with reefed main and yankee and full staysail and hard on the wind she was charging along giving us a great sail.  Suddenly it got even better as a large pod of dolphins came chasing after us and escorted us towards Martinique.  There must have been over 40 of them and they were very playful, doing big show-off leaps out of the water and the normal playing under the bow.  Absolutely fantastic!
          Dolphins approaching with St Lucia in background                                     Dolphin playtime!
                               Showing-off again!                                                           Where did he come from?
By mid afternoon we were anchored in St Anne's Bay along with many others.  It is a lovely spot and reminded us of a West Country shoreline except that the sun was shining and the breeze was warm.  After a quiet night we motored on into the not very pleasantly but aptly named Cul-de-Sac Du Marin and after a great deal of confusion were lucky to get a berth in the busy Marina.
On Thursday we did some exploring around the Marina area and sussed out the nearest supermarkets.  Martinique has a very different feel to the other Caribbean islands we have visited so far as it is not an independent country but a French Overseas Department i.e. part of France.  French is the official language, the euro is the currency and all things French are in abundance eg Carrefour, Mr Bricolage, French 'toilette' cubicles, Rue Victor Hugo, wine and we even saw a classic French cycling race!!  It is just like being in France but we really enjoyed the Franco Caribbean mix.  Also the marina and anchorage is full of French and French-Canadian yachts, so our red duster stood out quite distinctly.
                           Anyone need the loo!                                                   One of the many Rue Victor Hugos
We hired a car on Friday and saw some of the island.  We stopped at St Pierre on the west coast which used to be the capital until it was wiped out by a volcanic eruption in 1902 when the entire population of 30,000 bar one was killed.  Mont Pelee looks very green and benign today but it must have been horrific 111 years ago.
                      Ruins of the theatre at St Pierrre                                               Mont Pelee (and Martin!)
On a brighter note we then swung inland and drove across the very beautiful mountainous interior to the spectacular West coast and visited the Saint James Plantation where they grow sugar cane and make a very fine rum.  Tina and I discovered Rhum St James in 1975 when we first bought it duty free in Monsieur Guerin's Emporium by the lock in Cherbourg after an adventurous Channel crossing in Irene our little 26ft boat.  We have enjoyed it ever since and it was great fun to visit the place where it is made . They also served us with an excellent 3-course lunch (16 euros) and the opportunity to sample their different sorts of rum (foc).  Needless to say this rounded off a very enjoyable day out and Petronella now has a replenished rum stock!!!  Certainly must be time to move on before we get too comfortable here.
        Church at Le Morne-Rouge en route to St James                                   St James Plantation House
Nothing quite like the real thing!!!