Bienvenue en Martinique!
Updated: May 29
”“That’s the top of a mast!” he said. Sure enough he was right, as we looked more carefully we could see the tops of the shrouds and halyard poking out of the water attached to the pole. So had we in fact dropped our anchor on top of a wreck? ”
We are in France. Martinique is actually part of the French Republic and the European Union and the currency here is the Euro. Martinique sends political representatives to the French Parliament, both the National Assembly and Senate. Our sail from Barbados to Martinique was a really nice one. Coming from the East we were able to benefit from the Trade Winds and were making a constant 6-7 knots despite the moderate wind speed. This meant we were travelling much faster than we had predicted. To avoid arriving in the middle of the night, we brought in the genoa and sailed just under the mainsail, which slowed us down enough for an arrival at first light. We were very glad that we did this. We arrived in the southeast corner of Martinique and headed past Sainte-Anne on the coast, crowded with hundreds of yachts and then into cul-de-sac de Marin, a large inlet that has excellent chandleries and yachting services which we wanted to make use of to fix our broken steering wheel lock amongst other things. We had never seen so many boats in one place; it is hugely crowded and quite the contrast with Barbados which only had a few boats in the anchorage. Despite the crowds, it is still stunningly beautiful, very different from the relatively flat, white beach-lined Barbados. Gentle volcanic hills surround the bay covered with fertile tropical green foliage.
We made our way down the channel looking for a place to anchor on either side, which was carpeted with boats anchored closely together. Then we saw a gap. We headed towards it and saw a metal pole sticking out of the water with a withered faded flag on the top. It wasn’t marked on the chart and there was a boat anchored just in front of it. So we dropped our anchor just behind and to the left of it, tired after staying up on nightwatch and knowing we had to go onshore to do all the clearing in formalities. We put the boat in reverse, the chain rose up glistening out of the water, showing the anchor was holding and we were pleased. We went ashore to clear in. Very easy, we had had to send an email with a form and evidence of our vaccinations and tests. We did our own tests using the antigen ones we got free from the UK before we left and took a photo, not really expecting they would be accepted and cleared in using the computers. They just wanted to see our stamped clearing out form from our previous port of Barbados and that was it. Despite the fact it was a Wednesday, everything was closed, even the supermarket because it was a bank holiday due to Carnival. We went back to the boat and had a nap. We woke up and checked that the pin we had put in the anchoring app was still where we were. Everything seemed fine. Luciano went up to look around and took a long hard look at the metal pole with the rag on top. “That’s the top of a mast!” he said. Sure enough he was right, as we looked more carefully we could see the tops of the shrouds and halyard poking out of the water attached to the pole. So had we in fact dropped our anchor on top of a wreck? Was it now caught in all the lines leading down from the mast? Suddenly concerned, we took the dinghy and snorkel and rowed over there to see. Unlike Barbados where the water is crystal clear, the water here was murky and we couldn’t see anything. We went back to the boat and tried to calculate using the number of metres of chain out and the possible length of the sunken boat whether we could perhaps have dropped anchor on top of it. By my calculation we may have dropped anchor only 20 metres away from it. We won’t find out for sure until we try and leave! That evening from the boat we listened to the sounds of music from the carnival but were too tired to leave the boat to go and see if there was a parade or something. Instead we enjoyed just listening to the music, drinking a home-made rum punch (Barbados style with grated nutmeg on top) and watching the sky turn from golden to pink to mauve and the hills go from grass green to pine to charcoal. The lights from dwellings appeared on the hills and the whole scene looked like a giant overturned misshapen Christmas tree.
The next day the shops were open and we went onshore to do the tasks that take so long and are so expensive when you live on a boat - getting a new SIM card for internet - always from a specialist phone shop that is a long walk away, doing the laundry, shopping and buying things we needed for the boat. Once again the watermaker is not working and the butyl tape is not fixing it, but at least here we could buy proper sealant. When we arrived back the cockpit tent was entirely ripped down the middle, so we will have to find someone with a sewing machine to repair it. We don’t have any other shade in the cockpit so this is a must. At least we have a good view now of all the other boats around us and here you really see the full gamut of the boating community. From giant three storey gleaming metallic blue catamarans to the hoarder boats. We think these boat owners have taken the ‘carry spares’ mantra a little to the extreme, there are a few here that are covered from bow to stern in spare parts, empty plastic bottles, jerry cans, sad sun-burnished deflated dinghies and bedraggled tarpaulins. It’s amazing they are still afloat under all that weight. The dinghies are something to watch too. Everyone here seems to have super powerful outboard engines. Every morning and every evening a couple come speeding past on their dinghy with a large alsatian dog, head laid on the bow, one paw each side, leaning as far over the top as it can, loving the exhilarating ride and presumably champing at the bit to get onshore.
On Friday we went on a short hike up to a viewpoint called Morne Gommier. It was a steep walk up past gorgeous colourful tropical flowers with yellow butterflies flitting through and red dragonflies hovering buzzily as we passed. As we walked higher, it grew more overgrown with rubbish strewn down the banks and barking territorial dogs yanking at their mercifully short-enough chains as we walked past the backs of isolated houses. The view when we got there was worth it though. We could see over the whole bay, every islet and sandbank clear as day and all the way over to the Atlantic Coast on the other side. We walked along a bit and came to a mobile fruit vendor. Fruit is something we really missed in Barbados as the prices are so high there. We bought loads - starfruits, mandarins, purple seeded grapes and bananas and consumed nearly the lot for lunch at a little sheltered bus stop.
We’re very excited to explore more of Martinique, birthplace of Joséphine Bonaparte, Frantz Fanon and Aimé Cesaire. We’ll stay here in Le Marin to make use of the chandleries to get stuff fixed and then head westwards round the coast to the capital, Fort-de-France and then northwards to St Pierre, formerly the ‘Paris of the Caribbean.’ After that we’re hoping to head southwards down the Windward islands chain to arrive in southern Grenada or Trinidad by the time hurricane season starts on 1 June.
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