Martinique travels

We are practically Martinique citizens now! Just kidding! We have actually been in the country 2 weeks!!

We arrived in St Pierre, one of the oldest french cities on the island on March 28th in the shadow of great Mount Pele.

As the story goes, the governor and a science teacher headed a committee who knew of the impending eruption of this great volcano. It had smoldered for days, giving off ash and gasses frequently. They failed to adequately warn the people fearing a mass exodus from the city and harm to the local income. On Ascension Day May 5th, 1902, the mountain let forth with an eruption that has been likened to an atomic bomb , covering the city and taking the lives of nearly 30,000 local inhabitants. The only survivors were a cobbler and a man in jail who survived because his cell faced the opposite direction of the lava flow. It is said he became a legend and finally joined the circus after his fame waned. Ships anchored in the bay were destroyed as well. People from far off cities climbed hills to see the incredible destruction.

We arrive at the dinghy dock and in typical French fashion as the St Pierre church bells are ringing 4 pm. We make our way past Rue de Victor Hugo on to the tourist office where we quickly check into customs on the computer. Our next stop is the ruins of a grand theater which is next to the ruins of a prison.

We can see throughout the city what has been left of the volcanic ruins that have not been rebuilt on.

The village was an elegant city in its day, one of the finest in the West Indies. It was a center of commerce for Rum, sugar, cocoa and spices. We see old structures that line the narrow cobblestone streets and imagine the beautifully dressed townspeople strolling to dinner or the theater.

The bougainvillea hangs from everywhere. The real voices of children calling in their native french language fill the air. For a brief moment we are transported back to French Martinique in the early 1900s.

Our stay here is 2 days because we want to have a meal at Tamaya restaurant, rated one of the best in Martinique! There are 6 tables at this small restaurant, all set with white table clothes. We are the first arrivals of the evening and it’s 7pm ( most French dining establishments don’t open until 6:30 or 7) We are greeted by one of the owners, Peggy, who thankfully speaks English. She takes our order for a bottle of wine. We peruse the menu and see her husband the chef peeking out from the kitchen .

He waves a ‘hello’. We are instructed on the specials and other menu items and she interjects her preferences. After she returns from the kitchen, we hear her story of starting the restaurant, the ups and downs of the business and sailing. She spent many a day in her life on a boat as well. Our dinner is delightful. I have dorade with vegetables and Mike has a delicious veal, all truly French… with Easter chocolate eggs from France as a kind gesture! We stroll through the lamp lit village back to the boat on a full moon night and decide to stay another day and hike.

We make our way in typical Mike and Nancy fashion ( late hot morning) to the statue of Virgin Mary. She overlooks the anchorage and the sailors coming and going. It is a nice street that takes up high above the water and has a great view of the city and Mt Pele

St Pierre, Mt Pele in background

The afternoon is spent making water and looking at the map for the next day’s short motor to Fort de France, the capital of this island.

Upon anchoring and with the engine off we can hear mass being said this Good Friday from the speakers of the Catholic Church that looms over the city. It is enchanting. The bells ring upon conclusion and we remember all the Good Friday masses we have attended, the soberness present in this beautiful bright Caribbean city anchorage.

We get reacquainted with a neighbor boat from Canada we met last year in Guadeloupe and enjoy an evening with them taking sailing and travels. We spend time along the waterfront watching the people and listening to the local music that afternoon.

Saturday morning we attempt to take a bus to the shopping center and get on the 421 instead of the 420 bus. We have been told of a great sports outlet store and enormous grocery here. When it is clear our bus isn’t going the way we intended we ask to get off and have a 3 km walk to our destination. Good thing for phones with GPS that we used to follow the bus route!!!

The shopping was magnificent. We found a real mall with clothing, jewelry and electronics stores. The Hyper U is one of the largest in the Caribbean. And being the day before Easter, it was packed with shoppers!! We like to check out the French wines… they are quiet grand and , well cheap!! The sports outlet store Decathalon we find great deals on some nice performance clothing. Coincidence, but we arrive at the bus stop to return to the boat and unbelievably the gal who spoke English and told us bus 420 was standing there, she laughed heartily when we told her of our mistake!

Easter Sunday

After being awakened by glorious church bells at sunrise we have coffee and decide to head for another anchorage along the western coast of Martinique. We check out anchorages of Anse Mitan and Anse Noir, and decide on Anse Dufour for an afternoon of snorkeling and hiking in the rain. We are amazed at all the locals on the beach for Pacques( Easter) swimming, barbecuing and dancing even in the rain!!

April 2

We chose to move anchor a few Mike’s to Anse Chaudrie. A grassy bay where we must find a spot of sand to successfully set the anchor. The snorkeling here is great, but in getting to the snorkel reef I feel I have observed to many sea snakes below for my liking. That afternoon we meet up again with fellow cruisers on the boat Tasman. They sail our sister ship a Caliber 40 as well. In fact, their boat spent the summer cuddled right next to Lost Loon in Clarkes Court Marina!!

We find some great seashore hikes here several hundred feet above the water with great views. We found another spot to snorkel this was for the hot afternoon.

That brings us to our current location at St Anne, Martinique. Currently the Mecca for hundreds of sailboats moving North and some moving South, as we are.

Will post this and get writing on that update !!

Merci d’arreter! !

C’est St. Barthelemy!

After a wonderful night in Governors Harbor on the south side of St Barthelemy, the following morning we woke to a crystal sunrise and the now common sound of distant roosters making themselves known to the world… it was just as gorgeous. With calm clear waters we both took time to have coffee and took turns on the paddleboard, exploring the shoreline. The wave crashed gently on the beautiful white sand beach, and we could hear the bray of goats on the mountainside. We spent a couple of early morning hours here before heading out to the city and port of Gustavia to check into Customs and Immigration.

DSC00805.jpg

St Barths has been fought over by the British, French and Spanish through the years. It was even held by the Swedes in exchange for port rights in the 1800’s. They sold the land back to the French in 1878 , and it has remained in their hold since.

SONY DSC
SONY DSC

The entrance showed us the headlands of the bay which were dotted with multitudes of red roofed homes and buildings. ( we joked the entire time here about whether this was code or if it was just the trend) . The bougainvillea was draped from every overhang in a multitude of hues…..reds, violets and whites. The Yacht mooring and anchorage was full of sailboats and mega-yachts from all over the world, lined up along the docks in Med-mooring fashion. (this is different to the traditional bow-in mooring, the sterns are moored to the dock and there is usually an anchor or mooring ball from the bow forward ). We made our way to check in with customs and immigration and found that the French have THE best system for this. (however they dont use a QWERTY keyboard and the M and A are severly displaced for us used to an English keyboard, this makes for a few typos in the process) It is a sort of do-it –yourself check –in. With our cruising papers, boat documentation and passport numbers we enter all our information then print it out for the immigration staff to review. Viola! We’re in!

SONY DSC
Gustavia

We made our way through this very chic town with its Cartier, Dior, Ralph Lauren, etc high-end retailers to a few smaller shops and grocery. It was here we found fresh, hot and crunchy French baguettes, delicious croissants, cheap French wines of excellent quality, pate, and the best Brie cheese! (it became our staple for the weeks we were in these French islands)

Back on Scooters!

SONY DSC
On the road again..

We had not ventured out on the many rental offerings for scooters at several islands since the crazy ride in Luperon, but St Barthelemy looked like the perfect location. We had made plans with our sailing friends on Desderata to tour the island the day before. With numerous beaches, few trucks and cars, and excellent highway system we decided to make a day of it.

We left Gustavia on a 125 cc scooter after the early morning rain showers had moved off to the west. It was now sunny and hot. We had plans to see each of the beautiful beaches of the island. Our first stop would be the lovely Baie de St Jean (not “saint jeen” but “sah jah”)and the little town of l’Orient (loree-ahn)  with its quaint shops in severe contrast to those in Gustavia. This was on the north part of the island and from a perch we could walk to about 100 ft overlooking the beach we could see the light blue waters and coral structure below. It was 10 AM and the beach goers were on the move. There is a very expensive resort here, where we watched assistants preparing beach beds (seriously a full size mattress with an adjustable back!) for their patrons, serving champagne and water in ice buckets! We moved on further heading south with beautiful seaside stops along the way. We made our lunch stop at a small beach place where the burgers were great and the “mahi” tartare awesome. Accompanied by a great glass of white wine and a cool walk in the sand and we were in heaven.

SONY DSC
beachwalk to lunch

 

SONY DSC
perfect lunch spot

We still had a few miles to put on before sunset and were off for the South side of the island. Here we got to see Governors Harbor from a different perspective…it was just as amazing. More from the perspective of sailing down the winding road to the beach with spectacular overlooks to the waters below. We did swim to cool off and enjoy a walk on the soft sand beach.

SONY DSC
St Barth’s beach in L’Orient

We had a few more beaches to “run “ by and continued back to Gustavia and then to the north to Colombier, a small secluded inlet on the North side. We watched some experienced pilots make a landing at one of the shortest runways in mountainous areas we had seen. It was a great day of seeing some spectacular landscape.

SONY DSC

We returned the scooters and made a hike to one of the overlooks in Gustavia that was once an ancient military instillation. We watched the sunset from here, above the city and imagined many hundreds of years ago, the government (French, British….whoever was in charge at the time) taking watch for pirates or other invaders, ready to fire the cannons at will.

We had to continue making headway sailing south, as we had friends arriving in Guadeloupe within the next week. Our plans were to head off past St Kitts and Nevis to Guadeloupe the next day. We woke to clear skies and a light breeze that promised to fill in by later in the day. Our next leg would now be over 50 miles which would require another overnight passage. Since we were quite used to this by now, we actually looked forward to open ocean sailing. It is generally easier than sailing between islands amongst the fishing pots, fishermen, and charter yachts.

We said our “goodbyes” for the last time to friends on Desderata (who were headed north back to the Virgins to meet with family) realizing that we had spent the most part of the last 2 months with them “on the go”. We would hope to see them back in the states when they returned in the summer at some point. With our exit papers in hand, most of the water tanks filled, and plenty of brie, sausassion, and baguette, Lost Loon headed out by mid afternoon for Guadeloupe.

DSC00908.jpg

The evening was gorgeous as we watched the island of St Barthelemy fade into the sunset and the shadow of St Kitts and Nevis take form in the foreground. We took our typical 3-4 hours passage shifts and watched the ships passing in the night (literally). To keep awake this night I was able to listen to local Monserrat radio where they were having the Lesser Antilles high school debate finals. They debated the importance of continued tourism and international commerce (as we sail right by), as well as the importance of maintaining literacy amongst the population. The night passed quickly as we did make a few sail plan changes due to weather along the islands. By morning light, as usual, we were comforted to see the distant shores of Guadeloupe. A contrast from the arid island of St Barts and the flatlands of St Maarten , this was green, lush and mountainous.

DSC00912.jpg

Next up we are a month in Guadeloupe and loving this French island and all that it has to offer!

DSC00944.jpg