07/Mar/2010, Fort de France - Martinique
Anchor up and as we set course to depart Fort de France a yacht sails into the anchorage and straight towards us... normally a worrying sight but the frantic waving from around the billowing headsail soon had us waving back. "Bonaire", another Portsmouth boat, with Tim, Steph and their sons Finley and Sam aboard heading south. Last seen at Barbados in September they have been up to the Virgin Islands and are now working their way south to head through into the pacific in August. A brief chat hovering alongside as they anchored and then Spruce is off to S. Pierre.
The wind was a brisk South-Westerly breeze with a large onshore swell so we anchored and decided to leave shore visits until the morning when the wind and swell would be less ... the wind dropped overnight but that just turned us side on to the continuing swell. Probably the most uncomfortable night at anchor yet. It was very atmospheric being anchored off the modern shadow of the major town and its 30,000 inhabitants destroyed on the eruption of 1902 but come the morning it was still to uncomfortable to head ashore. We decided to get our anchor, before the new day's wind began to blow onshore. The photo shows today's Montagne Pelee in all her magnificence... we believe her to be dormant but not yet extinct.
Dominica lies ahead but the anchorages there are also exposed top a SW swell so tonight may also be an uncomfortable experience:-)
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04/Mar/2010, Fort de France - Martinique
Yesterday we came over from Trois Ilets to Fort de France and anchored in the shadow of the imposing Fort Louis. A bit of a rolly anchorage with wash from the numerous ferries, plying to and fro. Bringing folk from around the bay to work in the big town. Also, from the swell pushed around the southern end of the island by the south-easterly wind.
Up early and ashore for some exercise before half past six. A walk up to the church perched on the hill overlooking the town. It is so muggy and humid here, maybe exacerbated by the SE breeze. One doesn't want to do much physical exertion after nine o'clock in the morning. Its amazing how many folk are out and about early in lycra and trainers. As we breasted the summit we came upon a beautiful colonial house and garden adorned with sculptures and paintings. We were invited in for an impromptu tour... but more of that in a later blog entry.
Upon returning to the dinghy we spotted a new arrival anchored just outboard of Spruce. Heading out from the pier we spotted a familiar face approaching in an inflatable. "Phalarope" with Richard and Claire aboard (last seen in La Gomera - Canary Islands- in November) had just arrived from Barbados. They crossed the Atlantic from Cape Verde Islands just a week earlier having been delayed in the Canaries awaiting spare parts. En route they met Ian and Glenys (an ex colleague of Andy's) aboard "Sarah". It never ceases to amaze and delight us how cruising folk keep meeting in spite of such vast tracts of ocean.
The photo shows a view of the town from Spruce.
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01/Mar/2010, Trois Ilets - Martinique
Before the French revolution in 1792 the town across the bay was called Fort Royale, the Royale was subsequently dropped after the adoption of Liberty, Egality & Fraternity. Fort de France is the principal city of Martinique, this was not always the case. Until 1902 the settlement of Sainte Pierre, on the North West coast, was the main town. One fine day the brooding volcano dominating the northern part of the island erupted and a pyroclastic flow, with its landslide of debris, buoyed up by super-hot gases wiped out S. Pierre. Of the 30,000 inhabitants only three survived this catastrophe, one of them a prisoner incarcerated in the protective thick walled gaol. Many ships laying in the harbour, quietly at anchor, now lie wrecked on the sea bed, their positions marked on the nautical charts give a poignant reminder of how awesome nature can be.
Spruce is anchored in the little cove off the village of Trois Ilets, on the Southern side of the Baie de Fort de France. This is close to the birthplace of Josephine, former Empress of Napoleon's French Empire and many stand-up comic jokes. The photograph shows a typically French village ... but in the West Indies.
Our plans! Off to the anchorage at Fort de France to see the older parts of the town and then, depending upon the direction of the swell, we may anchor off the old town of S. Pierre and visit the museum and relics of the disaster. In the event of a North Westerly swell, making the exposed anchorage untenable, that may all change and we'll press on to the next island northwards. Dominica! A departure from Europe before getting back to France at Guadeloupe on to the north of Dominica.
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28/Feb/2010, Petit Anse Arlet - Martinique
On northwards up the Eastern coast of Martinique. Our route took us past the famous, or infamous from the French viewpoint, Diamond Rock. A small band of about twenty sailors hauled four cannon up the side of this monstrous rock and took shots at passing French ships approaching Fort de France. They resisted attempts to remove them for a period of seventeen months during the Napoleonic Wars in 1804. The Admiralty raised the status of the rock to HMS Diamond Rock in recognition of the valiant service performed by her crew.
Our anchorage for tonight is Petit Anse de Arlet, a bay on the West coast of Martinique with a nice area of coral to the southern end. We found a number of weekend motor cruisers anchored right on top of the coral, their anchors and chain causing mayhem on the seabed below. Martinique does not appear to have the quality of snorkeling depth coral we have seen elsewhere and maybe this is partly to blame.
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27/Feb/2010, Sainte Anne - Martinique
Departure from "English Bay" was preceded by washing off a very gloopy-muddy anchor and chain as we hauled it from the mire evidently coating the sea bed between the mangroves. Our slow exit was brought to a halt on two occasions as we gently slid onto the muddy shallows between us and the sea, maybe slightly too early on the modest tide, maybe too far off our inward track of yesterday. Once past the islets and reef the breeze freshened to 10 knots and we laid our course back towards the South coast. Destination, Sainte Anne near the famous ClubMed resort.
En route we were passed by a variety of gaily coloured yachts beating up the East coast into the moderate trade winds. The weekend of the round the island race. Crews sitting on the windward rail waving cheerily as they passed. One vessel of particular note was a Martinique Yole. These boats are about 30 feet long with no centreboard or rudder, just a steering oar at the stern and a series of long poles which the many handed crew climb out on to provide righting moment to combat the heeling of the enormous square sail. These boats have their own regatta in August, too late for us to stay. We were delighted to see one in action, an unexpected pleasure. How on earth they manage to sail these craft in the normal strength trade winds is a mystery.
A beautiful sunset this evening as we look towards Diamond Rock, vermilions and crimsons with a watery hint of a Turner painting. Maybe the colours are enhanced by recent eruptions of the volcano at Monseratt and ash in the atmosphere.
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26/Feb/2010, Cul de Sac de Anglaise - Martinique
A rare chance to visit one of the inlets on the windward coast of Martinique, not to be entered in winds above 15 knots! However, we have a couple of days with winds of less than 10 knots so "Spruce" and "Elmarleen" teamed up to venture to the "English bay" on the South East corner of Martinique. A shallow patch over the bar with only a couple of feet below the keel but well in the shelter of three islets guarding the entrance, one named Ilet Hardy giving a hint of historical conflicts in the region, perhaps the man of Trafalgar fame aboard Victory as Nelson breathed his last. A turn to Starboard around the end of Ilet Paletuviers, clothed in deep green mangroves, dipping their leaves and aerial roots into the gently lapping sea. A beautifully sheltered anchorage with mangroves all about assured to attenuate any swell that might creep in from the Atlantic ocean. A pair of Ospreys fishing the lagoon, a backdrop of hills with sparse arid vegetation providing a pleasant vista as far as the eye can see.
The afternoon was spent exploring the wider bay by dinghy, snorkeling on the leeward side of the reef was not particularly rewarding compared with earlier experiences but three large rays were spotted. One half buried in the sand, no doubt awaiting a meal to swim past. Another, a large specimen almost a metre across, its back spotted, cautiously swam ahead of us circling off towards deeper water.
Another superb day. As the sun dips below the horizon the birds within the mangroves keep up a songful chorus as if they must reach a crescendo as the sun sets.
The photograph shows one of the ospreys perched on a dead tree with mangroves in the foreground.
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