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Anthem Adrift
Au Revoir Grande Ville
06/13/2009, Anse Mitan, Martinique

Fort de France

June 13

It was noticeably sweltering in Fort de France this morning waiting for laundry. Nearby chandlery with AC was convenient refuge after patronizing next door pastisserie. Felt badly about abusing their hospitality, so found more stuff to buy without which life would be meaningless.

This place must have more pharmacies per capita than any other on earth, one per corner. Worse than Starbucks in PNW (Pacific Northwest). Profusion of medicine apparently ineffective as "Diary of Anne Frank" sirens are constantly blaring all over town. Saturday (Samedi) is apparently "go to town and create chaos" day in F de F. Biggest city in Lesser Antilles at 130k+. Bye, bye.

After finishing city bidness, motored around to other side of fort (called St. Louis, not France - go figure) for diesel and gas at horrendous prices (U.S. has dollar stores, here there is a 10 Euro store (about $14)), then close reach with yankee in 20+ wind at 4.5 kts. across to Anse Mitan for the night. Seven escapees boarded Beach House for sundowners and solving of critical world problems. Lack of progress in this endeavor became less significant as evening progressed.

Major effort at breakfast this morning (eggs, bacon, toast, jam, juice and coffee) will not be repeated tomorrow. There must be more pastry shops here than all of U.S. Buttery croissant and pain aux chocolat with high test coffee (cafe) have, no doubt, significantly attenuated lifespan. C'est la vie.

Jack

Achieving Stasis
06/12/2009, Fort de France, Martinique

Fort St. Louis, F de F

June 12

Tropical wave approaching from east is bringing humidity and rain this evening and tomorrow. Can't keep the hatches open for long between showers. Should be gone next week. Boat's clean and free of salt.

Had 5 kilos of laundry for Quick Pressing. Night Hawk had 20. Yowzers! And by the kilo, it ain't cheap. Pick-up tomorrow midday then probably motor around corner to Baie de Tourelles to download diesel, gas and possibly SCUBA tank air. May cross Baie de Fort de France (the big one) to Trois Ilets or Anse Mitan for tomorrow night. Other boats in southing flock are scattered all over bottom end of Martinique.

After dispensing with stinky clothes, two girls went shopping while three boys wandered around looking for an appropriate bar for breakfast beer. They were cold, we were hot. Situation improved greatly by third each. Met wives at a friendly little upstairs restaurant for three hour lunch and two more beers. Reacquired boat to nap through any urge toward productive activity for balance of day.

Jack

It's Dark in Here
06/11/2009, Fort de France, Martinique

Birthday Flowers

June 11

Have mastered ability in pidgeon French to ask, 'do you have something to clean toilets?'. Unable to understand answer, however, if not oui or some version of no. Je parle un peu Francaise. Je comprende tres peu Francaise. No toilets have been assaulted by by this product as it is used to clean rust from stainless or so I'm told.

Abandoned road trip after two hours to depart St. Pierre before other trippers for Fort de France. After anchoring, meandered around city gathering information for future activities (laundry, fueling, disposal of used oil, SCUBA tank refill, etc.), then read until late as initiative was abandoned, also.

Was reminded, using wifi enabled Skype, of humongous, stupendous faux pas (that's French, you know) of forgetting better half's birthday. "Jeepers Mr. Wizard, how'd you do that?" "It's easy, Timmy, once you get your cranium past that big old sphincter." Have promised equally humongous recovery attempt at a date to be announced.

Jack

High Aspirations
06/10/2009, St. Pierre, Martinique

Canal de Beauregard

June 10

Walking a narrow ledge above several hundred feet of drop at Canal de Beauregard initially caused a bit of angst, but, after a time, pancreas got fatalistic and discontinued adrenalin production, probably thinking "screw it, if he dies, he dies". The eight kilometer out and back was much easier returning as by then the rest of me didn't much care either.

Distillerie Depaz on the slopes by Mt. Pelee volcano is run by a steam engine that once powered the fountains at Chateau de Versailles. Works much better than the 6hp water wheel that ran the place before the 1902 eruption killed everyone and blackened all the old construction. Free tour cost bottles of rum and coconut punch.

Now here's the really stupid part. David, from Jackster, and I climbed to a peak en route to the caldera of Pelee, not much higher, but more than a hop and skip laterally. Hands and feet rock crawl into perpetual cloud around summit was easier than return. Fortunately second episode of dizzying height did not cause sufficient retreat of knackers (ask an Englishman) to effect breathing. Liberal administration of ibuprofen and rum now underway in hopes of avoiding bulbous, disgruntled knees. Second medicine, while ameliorative, is unaccountably not officially approved.

Car available all morning tomorrow, so expect additional exploration before decamping to Fort de France PM.

"If not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled." - P. G. Wodehouse

Jack

Sipping Rum Through a Straw
06/09/2009, St. Pierre, Martinique

Chateau Depaz

June 9

Another easy French entry using fill-in-the-blanks computer program that prints out and no one reads, a stamp and no charge. These guys are great. Spent rest of day strolling around town including obligatory fort. Visited museum and ruins from the 1902 Mt. Pelee eruption that killed all but two of 29000 residents including the Governor who had just convinced everyone to stay. I'm thinking it was his last term anyway. A group of us had, over the morning, coagulated into a swarm leaving our own path of devastation.

Again, very Gallic, almost no English, very nice residents. High school French slowly seeps back. Someone had a crazy idea to re-form for dinner. Fourteen takers descended on Tamaya, took the joint over and made life hell for the owners, who now, however, have the means to live well through hurricane season. Arrived back home at 2230. Having fun is grueling business.

Car rented tomorrow for various sites too distant for walking e.g. distillerie at Chateau Depaz, Canal de Beauregard, Mt. Pelee... um, distillerie. Short straw is designated driver. Not me.

Jack

Well Ferme Ma Bouche
06/08/2009, St. Pierre, Martinique

David of Jackster at Mt. Pelee

June 8

Quite a romp between Dominica and Martinique close reaching in 20-25 apparent. Carried a tad too much canvas for the puffs, but really hauled donkey.

Customs resides in L'Escapade Brasserie near town dock. Sign says open until 1500, then from 1800 to 2100. How convenient. Beer, dinner and customs in one easy stop. And what's this? Ferme Les Lundis. Let's see, ferme means closed and Lundi is Monday. Um, what day is it? Oh... Nine of us had evening victuals at Chinese eat-in, take-out.

First business tomorrow is quest for the elusive croissant before clearing in at 0930, then? Choices include a distillerie, Mt. Pelee, ruins from its last eruption in 1902, waterfalls, Canal de Beauregard, two museums, numerous hikes and more. Did I mention the distillerie - with samples.

Gentle swell seemed so benign until the anchor was down. Mountain induced swirling wind has boats all akimbo producing the occasional gunwale to gunwale wallow as orientation shifts. Fortunately Anthem crew can sleep arms akimbo insuring stability while asnooze (should be a real word, but isn't).

Fort de France is a trifling distance south, perhaps for Wednesday. No distillerie.

Jack

Laying Waste
06/07/2009, Portsmouth, Dominica

Ruins of Ft. Shirley

June 7

One can just never see enough forts. Fortunately, the Eastern Caribbean is lousy with them. In Dominica the only action Ft. Shirley saw was a slave revolt that led to large scale emancipations. Note irony of fact that fort was constructed by slaves.

Several souls braved the hour trek to the top of 1500 foot West Cabrits to view an impressively large cannon, but mostly to justify impressively large number of beers to be consumed later (In fairness local Kubuli lager bottles are quite small requiring 2 to equal 1 regular beer... probably. This perceived ratio can exceed 5 to 1 as the evening progresses.) A shorter trail led to un-renovated ruins that must have been a set for Indiana Jones. Way cool! It should be noted that the Brits had their gunports facing properly, ref. June 3 dispatch.

The fleet has dwindled to four all departing tomorrow for Martinique to be rejoined with much of the advance guard, who left yesterday and today, to attack and pillage St. Pierre. I love the French, but hey!, one must lay waste where one can.

Jack

Down Wind is Good Wind
06/06/2009, Portsmouth, Dominica

North Shore of Dominica

June 6

It would be hard to imagine a more verdant land than Dominica. Fruits, vegetables, spices grow here in amazing profusion. Even the nearly vertical sides of mountains are covered in lush vegetation. Every tropical fruit you can think of and some you can't blanket the roadsides and hillsides to be picked from tree/plant/vine or off the ground. Some land is private, some government and much is just open. An all-day tour also took our group of eight to a "cold soufriere" of bubbling sulfur water pools in the crater of the most northerly of eight volcanos. Next time you're in the neighborhood ignore the reports of a couple being tied up, beaten and robbed two weeks ago at the south end of our Prince Rupert Bay and stop by.

Rather at sixes and sevens for activity tomorrow. Would like a river tour, but haven't heard of anyone going. Attempting to go without a guide, thus circumventing their primary means of livelihood, is said to be met with active opprobrium. May also, or alternatively, visit nearby Cabrits National Park and Fort Shirley.

Preceding implications should not cause unwarranted inferences concerning visiting Dominica (not to be confused with Dominica (Doe-MIN-i-ka)). This is a wonderful place and has been a most positive experience, to this very moment. Also, if you're short of cash for beer, stand downwind of several places or individuals as have been encountered for a little second-hand cheer.

Had considered layover in capitol, Roseau, on the SW end, but now plan early Monday departure for St. Pierre, Martinique (about 53 miles). A day or two there then 13 NM to Fort de France.

Jack

Island Time
06/05/2009, Portsmouth, Dominica

Staghorn Coral

June 5

Snorkeling in the morning, goofing off in the afternoon, get-together at Blue Bay with 15 or 20 others at Blue Bay Bar and Restaurant, early bed.

OK, think I'm getting the hang of island time. Oh wait! Watched Danny, a boat boy, clean the bottom of ecology encrusted dinghy on the beach below late afternoon bacchanal and dinner. Walking over to check on him was very tiring!

Jack

Friends, an Insidious Influence
06/04/2009, Portsmouth, Dominica

Portsmouth Anchorage

June 4

Slightly choppy close reach using wind vane steering from Les Saintes to Portsmouth, Dominica (Doe-min-E-ka) this morning had anchor buried by 1130. Computer based pre-clearance actually worked, making process at customs a dollar eighty piece of cake.

However and dang! Caught up with numerous cruising friends. Planned to mellow out today for possible excursions beginning tomorrow, but became entrapped in the sticky web of social interaction, lubricated with something called a yellow bird produced, apparently in the gallons, by Melanie on Spectra (big trawler that towed Annie II from Luperon to Boqueron as you may recall). Future plans include movie night of "Captain Ron" (a classic) on same party barge for nine, soon to be ten, boats currently in residence.

Option tomorrow of local bus trip to Roseau (the capitol south end of island) at 0800 or snorkling at 0930. Choice made easier by stinko drunk Kiwis on S/V Cant (really) screaming Maori war chants during intended rejuvenating nap this afternoon and also to previously mentioned refreshment extending to cruiser's midnight.

Jack

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