Cheshire Cat in Martinique

Monday, July 16, 2007

Martinique; The island of flowers

Fishing boats in Grande Anse

We sailed to Martinique in company with Sue and John on Saltscar, and anchored off the shore together with several other boats near the town of St Pierre.
This was a lovely little fishing village and a very popular anchorage. When we explored on shore we heard the story of the volcano on Mt Pelee that erupted and the only two people to survive were a prisoner in the goal and a cobbler in his cellar. The population had been about 30,000 The port used to be known as the Paris of the Caribbean and was the cultural, commercial and social center of Martinique. Ships here would take on rum, sugar, coffee and cocoa, from the enormously rich plantations on the island.

Near the ferry dock there was a super little open market with really fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as a fish market and a meat market. Sue and I wandered around the market feeling that here at last we were truly in the Caribbean.
The ladies wore colourful dresses and headgear and encouraged us to stop and chat at their stalls while they told us about the exotic fruits and vegetables they were selling.

We heard Itza Purla calling on the radio and discovered they were only a few miles away so sailed to meet them at Grande Anse, joined later by Saltscar.
St Anne was the next stopover for all three boats and we anchored in a lovely bay with a great many other boats.

The little town is very attractive – as are most of the French Islands. Lots of little shops, small restaurants – a remarkable village square surrounded by trees and some great walks to be had.
St Anne was very nice – Mike especially enjoyed the walks we took. Being a French Island there are beaches that allow nude bathing. We found a deserted one – pure bliss – that entire golden sand beach all to ourselves! A little further on there was a gay beach – wow- that was a sight for sore eyes! I noticed that the men folk in our walking party didn’t stroll along the beach – they stayed on the path in the trees. But no such timidity on the next beach – where beautiful firm female flesh was displayed! Good thing everyone had dark glasses to keep the eyeballs in their place!

The bay itself is huge and very shallow for some considerable distance, so there were lots of boats parked all over the place. This seems to be a locality where some full time cruisers stay for several months, also is the place that part time cruisers call in at before they set off back to the north. So it’s a sort of cross roads. Very social – there is a small local net which informs the cruisers about daily on shore activities such as games of Boules, meetings for pot luck dinners, happy hour snacks on the beach or invitations to join in water aerobics. Being French, the shopping was excellent with the usual selection of good inexpensive French wines, pate and cheeses and terrific freshly baked baguettes and pastries. There were a couple of decent supermarkets nearby which was nice as nice shops were becoming more of novelty as we went further south.

We learned that the Empress Josephine grew up in Martinique. Apparently Napoleon became very angry at the time when he learned that Nelson and the British had commissioned the strategically placed Diamond Rock island, located just off the south coast of the island, as a ship. Napoleon ordered his fleet to attack the British, but the Brits under Nelson's command sloped off to Trinidad and left the rock to be liberated by the French Admiral Villeneuve. Villeneuve and Nelson later fought against each other in the battle of Trafalgar

Streets are narrow and the main transport is by scooter

Most people on the French islands seem to have scooters or motorcycles. We were quite surprised to see whole families riding around, little ones perched in front of the drivers or sandwiched between two adults. There seemed to be plenty of bicycles with electric motors as well, but those were mainly for hire for the tourists.

Next island – St Lucia. We listen to the Safety and Security Net for cruisers and haven’t heard a lot of nice things about St Lucia. Our friends from Pearl 1 were boarded, tied up and horribly frightened in Rodney Bay and there many other tales of dinghies being stolen and people being ripped off generally. In addition there are lots of “boat boys,” guys who come out to meet the yachts in small dinghies, demanding to provide various services, sell fruit or vegetables and local crafts, arrange trips and generally make nuisances of themselves. Apparently they can be quite aggressive and one can only wonder what the payment might be if one doesn’t take up the various offers.

We sailed from Martinique in company with Tundra but anchored a little further on from them in a tiny harbour betweens the tall rocks called the Pitons. This pretty bay is so called because of the two towering rocks, one on each side of the bay, making a spectacular entrance. Our boat boy took us to a mooring as it’s too deep to anchor between the big rocks and charged us 10 EC for the privilege. (As though we can’t pick up a mooring on our own!) But….. not to accept the service could be asking for more aggravation, even the possibility of cut anchor lines. It’s intimidation of course, but we yachties are pretty well at their mercy when we stop at those places. Cut ropes, and stolen dinghies are just a few of the inconveniences that can be encountered on a regular basis.
Cheshire Cat sailing past Diamond Rock

We had a great sail past St Vincent the following day – didn’t stop there either, but arrived in Bequia before dark and anchored in another bay that seemed to be teeming with boats of all shapes and sizes.