Volcanos, Churches and Monsoons...
08 May 2009 | Martinique, Island of Frenchies and Love!
Becca, first mate, only mate...
Our first stop in Martinique was St. Pierre. An anthropologist's dream to join us along our journey from the first Bahamian Island thru these Windwards. From our first step on the pier at St. Pierre, being hugged by farm vendors in the outdoor market at the end of the dock, to the Frenchie, Valerie, at the Escapades Cyber Cafe who warmed up by the second day of us squatting at her place for wifi. I think it was our feeble attempts at French that won her over. The tiny thrills of exploring the way on shore to find the customs and immigration services in all these teeny island countries has been mandatory yet marvelously exciting. From the usually athletic efforts with ladders and docks of varying degree of repair to struggling with a foreign language to get directions is truly an experience we will treasure always. Laughter always follows the pantomime with a very few words thrown in. The French are a very proud people and they only want to speak French... go figure, crazy Americans we are.
St. Pierre is impressive! This idyllic seaside port town was everything it was written up to be. Not just another quaint French town complete with red roofs, narrow streets, great bread being baked on every corner and did I mention great wine too? In 1902 Mt. Pelee, the volcanic mountain, was active, ripe and it erupted with such great force it destroyed the entire town of St. Pierre along with it's 30,000 residents! When we walked thru this historic town we found it had been rebuilt on top of the residue and rubble left by that tragic event. So many new buildings share at least one wall with the past.
We soaked up the waterfront and St. Pierre had me uncontrollably snapping shots of all the historical sights, the architechture and the melding of the old with the modern. We finally figured out what that special something is when we arrive at these wee island countries. It's the individuality each island makes of it's heritage. They've embraced all the hardships or blessings of their respective cultures and molded their version into the landscape of the island. We are wide eyed with joy. That's what's endearing.
Then....the NIKON died! OHHHHHH NOOOOOO!!!!!! OH YES...SHEISA!!!!
I contacted Nikon and their suggestions were two-fold. One, take batteries out for 24 hours and try again...or two, send it to Nikon for repair! We're in the Caribbean for crying out loud! The shipping, duty and agent's fees would be more than the camera is worth and then we'd have to figure out where to ship it back to us. Another challenge before us. We HAVE to have a camera for a journey of this magnitude. YEIKS!!!!
One last open air market visit, a goodbye to our new French friend Vallerie, and we left St. Pierre and took off for Le Marin to find our dear, long time friends Olga and Don. We are always looking for the best angle to sail, only this is one waypoint where you just drop those big canvas 'propellers' and motor. We did enjoy a relaxing 20 mile sail until we reached Diamond Rock. That's where we made a 90 degree to the east and where the wind on the nose met us. I got my last shot with the Nikonof that huge rock, and it's called HMS Diamond Rock for this amusing reason. During one of the many battles between the French and English, the English climbed this huge boulder and equipped it as they did a war ship with men and cannons for a big boom surprise when the French arrived. Very cool. We had the pleasure of meeting a Brit in Antigua, Jol Byerley, owner of Lord Jim's Locker, well known yacht racer, humorist and author. What a character! Dudley sat with him one morning and Jol told him is own story of Diamond Rock. He was a mountain climber in his younger days and climbed to the top of Diamond Rock where he placed the Union Jack. This 'rock' is in French Territory, Martinique, so needless to say the frenchman got in an uproar when they found out. Jol is rollicking in his success, still telling that story at 80+ years old! Not one frenchman could scale that enormous 'rock' to remove it so they had to send to France for a professional mountain climber to get get that darned British flag off the top of Diamond Rock.
Le Marin's big open bay welcomed us and so did Richard Cory. We had such a good time with our Miami friends at last. Olga and Don were our very own quintessential tour guides. Olga was the loving translator being fluent in French, they both love good food and they loved sharing their knowledge of these islands with us! Olga is a gourmet chef and they are always on the lookout for that culinary star whereever they go. When they were not with us for the car rental part of the island tour with Lynn and Lew, they even provided us with lists of their favorite gastronomic hot spots or their favorite rum distillery and cannot forget the p'ce de resistance of architecture... the copy of the Sacracour! This cathedral was spectacular and we can't wait to see the original in Paris. We will forever remember their favorite patisseries and boulangeries and I have the pottbelly to prove it. Thanks to you both, "we love Richard Cory"! Thanks for donating your spare camera to the documentary cause. We are forever grateful.
Good friends for life are worth living for! What would our lives be without each and every one of you!
Everybody left us! The rain only stopped for a couple of days, long enough for everybody who was invested in the St. Lucia Jazz Festival to take advantage of this weather window! We were only going to the last day of the festival on May 10th so we decided to take our chances and stick around Martinique, TO COLLECT MORE WATER! This really was the most rain we had seen and for such a long stretch of time at that. We managed to keep our water tanks full and we WILL be replacing the pot and pan water catchment system with RC's water catching system very soon on Altair. We had this kind of rain last May 1st after we crossed the Mona Passage and arrived in Puerto Rico. The custom's guy said "if it rains the first of May you will have a year of good luck" and indeed we have.
Dudley and I rented another car to get the Nikon fixed or find a new camera. We thought we'd get some big provisioning done with a car also. It turned out that our biggest delight that day was not exploring Martinique's historical districts, which we did too, but the Galleria Mall...you heard it! A shopping Mall was celebrating their 25th anniversary. They had ballroom dancers that were obviously professionals. The entertainers wore sexy costumes reminding us of the "Dancing with the Stars" program and the familiarity and the verve they've clearly practiced all their lives was enjoyed too. This was no hokey performance. The live music to complement them was as entertaining as the dance performers themselves. At the end of day when we came back to this mall to shop, there was a full blown production of the musical and theatrical history of Martinique. The performers were excellent, the music electric and we had all we could do to squeeze thru the crowds to find a good vantage point. Wish I had brought the camera that Don and Olga donated to Altair, but I came to buy a new camera...not be entertained, SURPRISE. The costumes were fantastic. How they could dance with such fervor and choreographic perfection in those elaborate get-ups was pure talent! The hour we stood mezmerized they must've had 6 or more acts all with full costume changes. Who knew mallratting could be so fun?
Just before we left Martinique for St. Lucia, we got a going away present. A neurotic french new boat owner, Paul, kept trying to describe his concern that we were anchored too close to his week-old brand new sloop when we first arrived in Le Marin. We happily invited him onboard Altair to settle this over a cup of tea and he proceeded to sketch out a new anchor plan for us with his 'drawings' (no English) to convince us to move further away from his new boat. In the name of peace we moved! Not to happily for sure (remember we still don't have a working windlass).
Our going away present was the largest papaya we've ever seen and it was from his yard. He was very happy with himself, but it was the size of a large watermelon! He informed us it would take a couple of weeks for this to ripen, but where will we put that enormous bequest on our little sloop Altair?
Goodbye Martinique... the journey continues!
Love Dudley and Bec,