We have been in Martinique since Wednesday although we haven't felt very connected because we couldn't get an internet plan set up until today! We spent the first 3 days going into the Digicel office each morning, having them say they would work on their system and call us at the end of the day.. no call, back in the next morning. We even made an attempt on Saturday by collectivo bus to go to the city of Fort de France like they advised and proceeded to circle the block and end up right back where we got on to sit there and wait till the bus was full because that's how it works. We sat for a half hour or so before saying the heck with this and getting back off. Sitting on the waterfront getting BBQ chicken and working on doing 2 weeks worth of laundry was more appealing. So we motored down instead, visiting a couple of coves and ended up anchored in Fort de France which is much nicer than the bus.
I checked Facebook today and see the smiling faces of our friends Virginia & Dennis when they were crossing the equator on my recent blog posts. That must have gotten some raised eyebrows. Apparently when you post to Sailblogs but don't have a photo to upload it just picks one out for you. I like that photo! Well then here is one of our equator crossing (we crossed the same year- 2012) because I was just looking through old pictures while we were on passage and saw it. We made frozen margaritas for the occasion.
When we arrived in Martinique last Wednesday morning there was a light breeze behind us so we couldn't smell the land until we rounded the western side. We dragged a line and caught a lot of seaweed but nothing else. But this island is as beautiful as we remembered it and very lush & green. We were well rested on this passage since the weather was great and the wind was amazing. The best kind of sailing- blasting along so smoothly you feel like you're just going downhill the whole time. I always look back and thank the stars I'm not trying to go the other way! It took us 14 days and 1 hour. It feels good to have that passage behind us because we were feeling like the boat had gone so many miles without a major refit and we dreaded something breaking. But nothing did except a bulb in the tricolor masthead light and the boat really had an easy time, hardly even getting wet! So we spent a lot of time twiddling our thumbs and looking at our feet. Not what we were expecting. I hope there no payback for this!!
It feels odd to be here. We were last here in 2003 on a previous trip and so these islands are familiar. So that in itself feels weird but also just not being in Europe anymore, all the English chatter on the VHF and good grief, the Caribbean rain showers that happen every five minutes. We're getting plenty of arm exercise lifting and pulling down the hatches all the time. And the boat is well rinsed at this point. And there are always rainbows in the sky. We've begun waxing the deck and polishing stainless in the evenings to get things spruced back up again. Soon the varnish can will have to come out too... My sister Ann crossed the Atlantic several years ago in her boat so we were following in her footsteps and when we were having all the squalls for that couple of days she told us that they were separating the dry African air from the much more humid air from this part of the Atlantic. Boy was she right! We hit a wall of humidity and are still trying to get used to it.
The northern part of Martinique where we pulled in is home to the town of St Pierre, which has a lovely crescent shaped anchorage and an interesting history. The volcano Mt Pelee towers over the area and on Ascension Day in May 1902, it erupted and a fireball of superheated gas blasted down on the city killing 30,000 people. There were only 2 survivors, a cobbler who was in his basement and a prisoner who was in his cell. All through the town there are ruins from the disaster. But Mt Pelee is quiet now and is a very green park. We did a long hike up one side of it and down the other on the best weather day we've had yet. It was nice to stretch our legs again and know that we didn't lose everything on the passage. Unlike the Canaries, the bus system isn't too good here so we had to hitchhike back to the boat once we got back to the main road. It was a long but fun day and we both thought the hike was great.
There are a lot of rum distilleries here and one is close to St Pierre- Depaz Distillery, so we walked up to it. The roads are lined with flowers and this island is loaded with huge, old trees. It was nice to walk around the factory and the grounds were really beautiful. The sugarcane is almost ready for harvesting next month. Of course we had rum in our drinks that night!
As I mentioned, the past couple of days we moved down the island to a couple of nice anchorages that had so-so snorkeling. It felt good to be on the reefs again and see some of the creatures that we haven't seen for several years now having been on the Pacific & Indian side. The water is so warm which is great since the Med was not. But it isn't nearly as clear either. And the snorkeling isn't that good. We're ready to start diving now and just have to find a good place to go. We enjoy taking hikes on Sunday mornings when everyone else is getting a slow start so things are quiet. We did one yesterday admiring all the rainforest foliage and flowers. The local people have been very friendly and I like the way they greet everyone when getting onto the bus or entering a room. And to my surprise, the veggie market is clean and well stocked! This morning we moved over to anchor in Fort de France to get the internet set up and so we toured the city with the cruise ship passengers. We had a yummy Creole lunch and walked around seeing the sights. I like how the anchorage is right in front of the fort. I can hear all the frogs calling from the hillside.
We're heading to Vermont for a week on the 18th to celebrate my mom's birthday. We've got our fingers crossed for a January thaw! Then we'll start working our way up the islands hoping to catch some fish and spend enough time in the water that we can maintain our reputation among some that we are The Gills!