Marvellous Martinique

Our three countries in one day drew to a close as we approached Martinique in a dying breeze looking forward to another French Island. Typical stunning Caribbean scenery even if a zephyr of a breeze is unusual in the trade wind belt.

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Motoring into Saint Pierre after the wind died completely we were greeted by a beautiful pod of dolphins! Awesome, we love dolphin encounters!

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The water was the definition of the clichés glassy calm and glassy clear so we could easily follow their underwater antics. They are amazingly graceful in their underwater ballet twisting around each other. These guys seemed pretty interested in us as well as they often rolled onto their sides to look up at us wahooing and waving over the forebeam at them. Here you can see two of them doing it. As the pod left us one dolphin lingered and wiggled his body side to side to mimic our waving just before he departed. We had never seen that before. Awesome!

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Saint Pierre is famous for being wiped out by the volcano overlooking the town. Legend has it that as the Europeans were busy killing off the last of the previous inhabitants of the islands in 1658 the Carib’s invoked horrible curses on them. But the island seems to run on Caribbean time and took until 1902 to avenge them. The volcano gave some warning but the new governor and plantation owners were not keen on moving out and of the 30,000 townspeople the only survivor was a prisoner deep in the cells so somewhat sheltered. The prisoner went on to become a circus freak with his scars and the town never fully recovered. Even today it has only a population of about 6,000. I can think of several parallels and lessons in the folly of ignoring our environment and lusting after money above all else that we would be well served to remember. If that’s a bit deep, Hey look the view is nice and you can buy lots of tourist nicknacks in the usual expensive tourist trap shops.

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Exploring the town on a scorching hot day. Just around the corner was the eruption museum. I didn’t mind paying the high entry price as it was air conditioned. I had successfully steered the kids away from the photos including the charred corpses until Shannon not realising called them back to see a cool exhibit of petrified food next to them. Que meaningful head nod and quiet whisper and shepherd them past again.

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Several areas of the town are preserved as memorials. Here is the theatre which must have been amazingly grand in it’s day.

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Part of the days plan was one of our occasional treat meals out. The guide books recommendation of good food and wifi had their cost rating inverted as it was way upscale and the menu pricing had us searching elsewhere. We ended up in a colourful local workingman’s café. Yum. On my return visit the next day for blog posts and Dad time I was befriended by slightly drunk locals but no blogs were harmed in the research of local beverages.

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Early next morning the mission we chose to accept was to climb to the statue of the Virgin Mary overlooking the bay.

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Some lovely views out over the town. The rainbow is forming in the mist coming off the jungle in the morning sunlight.

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Mission accomplished. Now we just need to get back… Note the big stick leaning on the notice board. On the way up the hill a pack of dogs behind a gate were letting us know that was their territory. Kids, never tease dogs as you don’t know when they may come at you. Sure enough the property was not dog escape proof and they followed us off up the road making Shannon and Boston quite nervous. Amelia just wanted to pat them and take them home as usual. I grabbed a big stick and let them know not to bother us. But walking away from them was easy. The trip home we had to walk up to them and past their gate. Hmmm. My suggestion to all get big sticks and walk calmly past them was not approved by Shannon. Hoping to flag down a lift we were rescued by the local postie who thankfully spoke good English. While we couldn’t all fit in his little car he knew the dogs as noisy not dangerous and kindly parked outside their gate until we got past.

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Haircut time for Boston and I. How do you explain what style you want with no common language…? Hope for the best and it will grow back anyway. Old school gracious gentleman did a lovely job.

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A little further down the coast and we pulled into the capital Fort De France looking for a supermarket to stock up in. Here were are in the covered market that is a centrepiece of each town.

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Man, this touristing is hard work in the heat. I did find a bargain set of flippers at EUR 5 of old stock in a Chinese junk shop. Amelia was well pleased with her bow after her Mk6.5 home made one gave up. The French sure do like their clothes judging by their dress sense and the overabundance of clothes shops. I wondered at the Chinese guy who popped in several times and finally bought a sandwich at this little café we stopped at. The owner had a good laugh with us when he explained he was floored as that it was the first time ever in three years that the family had bought anything from him.

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That night there was a street battle concert between the local steel bands. It was loud out in the anchorage so must have been impressive in town.

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A few days later and another early start to see if we can sneak around the corner before the trade winds notice us.

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The reason for the early start as a solid squall comes through. Hidden in the squall is one of the rare patrol boats and they had a good look at us on their way past. Usually my cue to get the kids on deck and wave so I don’t look so disreputable. For some reason the kids were not so keen this time in the stinging rain being hustled along at 36kn… The 10Nm beat from Pte Du Diamant up to Sainte Anne is known as one of the harder slogs in the Caribbean.

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We tucked up into Le Marin. This place is completely enclosed and a very popular anchorage with a couple of large marinas. And good laundromat and even better Large Supermarket with own Dinghy Dock!

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One of the reasons for getting here so quickly was our good friends on Slice of Life arriving here from their Atlantic crossing and the kids were super keen to catch up on the morning after their 3am arrival.

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A little DIY tidying up an aft cabin…

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It was fascinating paddling through the large harbour looking at the huge range of boats from the shiny fancy pants ones through to the rough and ready fringe boat people. I was going to say cruisers, but as they don’t sail anywhere that term doesn’t really apply. As is so often the case with tropical harbours the back waters are littered with broken dreams and wrecked boats. While it was sad to see the abandoned hulks lurking against the mangroves I enjoyed scouting out and comparing cats for the next trip…

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Topping off the tanks before we had out of the completely enclosed and very full Le Marin to the open bay of Sainte Anne.

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Sainte Anne is also a very popular anchorage with a crowded dinghy dock.

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It was great to catch up with our friends and hear the tales of their crossing.

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Boys blowing off steam. Excellent.

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Results of the shore run, ravenous kids. Time to put the camera down before I miss my share of the tub of ice cream…

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Awesome fun with water games and friends!

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The Blue Zulu crew noticed kids playing and swam over to say hello. Resulting in more great friends being made and a lovely long afternoon.

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As is the cruising lifestyle we had to say another sad goodbye for now as our tracks diverged again. We are on our way south to St Lucia to meet our friends flying out from New Zealand. On the passage between the islands we were accompanied by several beautiful birds circling close around Drakkar and chasing the flying fish we were scaring up. So hard to get a decent shot of them and their acrobatics. Here is a mediocre one enlightened with Rodney Bay in the background.

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Finding the airport is at the other end of the island and two bus rides away persuaded us to move from our entry port of Rodney Bay down to the capital town and cruise ship port of Castries to cut out one bus ride for our friends. Arriving in the port the guide book clearly explained the anchorage and town. But no one was anchored there. Strange. We decided rather than sit right in front of downtown we would tuck out of the way in a cove with some charter boats and the marine police station. Headed into town to check it out was an experience! Being Sunday afternoon by now almost everything was closed. We asked some very helpful local police where the supermarket was and it turned out to be just there around the corner. We headed off for a wander in town and oh dear. The police followed along behind us when they realised what we were doing. Then politely suggested we don’t go left, or into the park just ahead… Ah let’s just round the block and get back to the boat I think as we are attracting some attention. Ah, lets get out of here in once piece as the police shadowed us. Somewhat of an eye opener for us sheltered Kiwi’s. We really don’t know how lucky we are at home!

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The dinghy ride back to the boat. The people who approached us were lovely. One guy was keen to talk about cricket and knew more NZ players than I do. Not that that is particularly hard as he was talking to the wrong person. The guy minding the empty market where we left our dinghy was good. But we were uncomfortable with the obvious poverty and how much we stood out. Not a place to visit at night.

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Ah, back in the happy place on board! Now feeling very happy with our choice of spot not in front of downtown but tucked next to a police station… Looking forward to friends on board tomorrow!

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