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A Unique Week in Martinique


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Our early morning departure from Terre-de-haut on June 26th brought great sailing conditions as we slipped between the small islands and into the Guadeloupe Passage. Thirteen miles distant lay the impressive mountains of Dominica, cloaked in clouds and barely visible. With the wind on our beam, we made an impressive 6.5kts for the next two hours, until the lee of Dominica stole our breeze. We had now left the Leeward islands, and what lay ahead were the Windward islands of the Eastern Caribbean. Hopefully, this would also mean that we were done beating to windward, as we had nearly reached our easternmost point in our journey south! Motoring in the lee of Dominica, and constantly treading thick sargassum patches, we watched the mountains move by in the bright midday sun. As the southern point of the island appeared, so too did the wind, and soon we were sailing briskly again across the Dominica channel. Ahead lay the French department of Martinique, and in a few short hours of brisk sailing we reached the northern tip of the island, where we were greeted by a massive pod of pilot whales! We then continued to motor in the calm lee of towering Mount Pelee, which had last erupted in 1902, wiping out the town of Sainte-Pierre. We anchored as the sun set, in front of a beautiful beach along the charming St. Pierre coastline.

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In the morning, we dinghied to the large dock in front of town, and walked about in search of the customs office. A small corner cafe with a computer is all that was needed to check into the country, and after paying three whole Euros, we were all set! What an incredible difference to check into a very relaxed place like this, compared to some of the bureaucratic administrations that exist. We immediately felt very welcomed, and made our way next to the farmers market near the dock. We bought plenty of produce, and were even gifted some woven palms by one of the kind vendors who spoke some English. It was also a treat to find some delicious barbecued spareribs, which we brought back to the boat and ate glutinously. After our lunch, we headed back into town to hike inland in search of rum. On the way, we stopped by the museum of the 1902 catastrophe, which had fascinating artifacts of melted items recovered from the lava stricken city. Some of the stone buildings were still present and dozens of shipwrecks occupy the harbor, having sunk quickly when fire began to rain down upon them. We had an enjoyable half hour hike past sugar cane fields and mango trees, stopping of course to sample some of the delicious ripe fruit. Nestled in the foothills of Mount Pelee amongst fields of sugarcane, we came to the beautiful Depaz Estate, home to some of the oldest and finest rum in the Caribbean. We thoroughly enjoyed walking about the distillery, seeing the mansion and some of the old equipment. They too had many mangoes raining down from the trees, and we couldn't help putting a handful in our bag for later. We sampled a bit of their finest old agricole rhums, and selected a few to carry home. The "rhum" is made from fresh squeezed sugar cane juice, rather than the easily exported product from renderer juice - molasses - which most other rums come from. This gives the rhum a much more floral and earthy flavor, one that we later decided was not an enhancement, and better off once aged in oak. The 3L box of white rhum soon became banished to the bilge "reserve/last resort storage", as we just couldn't mask the unique flavor profile through anything we mixed it with. Fortunately, their aged rhum was far more palatable, and earned a place in our premium bottle storage.

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With our adventures in St. Pierre concluded, we motorsailed through gusty conditions towards the capital city Fort-de-France. We continued through a rain shower and further into the long bay until we were completely alone beside a small island, and near the mangroves at the head of the bay. This was where we intended to stay put as a tropical disturbance made its way toward the Caribbean - a very early arriving system to begin the hurricane season. Fortunately, the system remained south near Grenada, and never reached hurricane strength. We saw some gusting into the 30's, but nothing to be concerned about. After a few isolated days, we then hauled anchor and enjoyed a lovely downwind sail to reach Anse d'Artlet. This idyllic little fishing town is one of the most scenic we had yet laid eyes on. We spent two nights anchored there, and took the dinghy to all three of the nearby bays to explore the scenery. With more stormy weather on the way, we decided to head around the SW corner of the island to Le Marin on July 1st. With isolated showers around, we knew it might be a grueling motor to the east, but we were unprepared for what awaited. As we neared the corner of the island, we watched a squall approach and obscure the view ahead. All sails were down, and hatches were secured; we were ready to get wet. Suddenly the wind hit us at 40kts, driving the rain like pins into our faces, almost completely erasing the shoreline on our port side. Waves climbed quickly to 5 feet, and it took a lot of engine power just to keep us moving forward into the gale. Thinking that 5 minutes is usually all a squall will last, we pushed on instead of turning back. For over an hour, the torrent continued, holding us to a snail's pace while staring at the chartplotter to ensure we stayed off the rocks. Just as the waves began to reach an uncomfortable height, the winds started to abate, and eventually so did the rain. Thoroughly soaked and shivering, we changed clothes and continued the remaining two hours to reach Le Marin. After one additional rain shower, we weaved our way between the forest of masts in this large, overcrowded harbor to find a place to anchor. We dropped the hook and dried off for the day, feeling like we had finally gotten an overdue ass-kicking, as though mother nature was keeping score of our recent history of pleasant sailing.

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The following day in Le Marin was spent perusing the numerous marine shops, market, and grocery store. We then quickly departed to the cleaner and more spacious anchorage in front of Sainte Anne. There we were able to run the watermaker and then explore the sprawling beaches the following day. On the 4th of July, we checked out of the country at another small cafe, and enjoyed a delicious dish called Le Bou Bou; a sort of hamburger - wrap hybrid. Lastly, we bought a couple of outstanding pastries, wine, and of course baguettes to use the last of our Euros before heading back to Blue Moon. We made the boat ready and caught a few hours of sleep before weighing anchor at 23:00, and pointing the bow south towards St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A single firecracker was the extent of our Independence Day celebration, but as always, Old Glory flew proudly from our stern as we sailed in the dazzling starlight.

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Posted by BlueMoonSailing 18:32 Archived in Martinique

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Comments

Kendra love following your adventures!! So informative!!! Miss your sparkly personality!!! Enjoy yourself!!!!

by Kathy Endries

I love reading about your adventures and looking at your beautiful pictures! So many amazing experiences for you two. You are so fortunate to be able to travel the world! Prayers for continued safe travels😎😊

by Laurie Shavlik

The pilot whales, volcano artifacts, and rhum/rum experience all sound wonderful! Quite a difference of a single firecracker vs the fireworks shows you put on in your younger years for the 4th of July celebration!

by Lisa Straw

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