Martinique

26 November 2018  Rodney Bay to St Anne, Martinique
Overnight, a big, rolling 2 foot swell started coming into the anchorage and (err) started us rolling.  The weather forecast looked okay, so I cleared out and we upped anchor at 09:30.  After the battering that we took on the way up from St Vincent, we were little apprehensive, but it was okay.  

We were hard on the wind and not able to lay the Rhumb line but we only had ½ hour of upwind motor sailing at the end of the passage.  We arrived in St Anne at 13:30 and anchored at 14°26.02N 060°53.23W in 6 metres on good holding sand and weed.  It’s a huge, well protected anchorage and there must be 150 boats at anchor here.

View from the Shrine Path

After tidying up after the bouncy passage, we dinghied ashore, tying up to the excellent dinghy dock opposite the church.  We walked to the Snack Boubou café where they have a computer linked to the customs system.  The clearing in process was a doddle - fill in the online form, print out a copy, give it to the café owner who stamps the form and then pay 3 euros.

We had a walk around the tiny town centre, which consists of about ten streets.  There’s a little supermarket and a boulangerie, where we bought a bottle of wine, a baguette, some brie and some olives - essential French food.

It didn’t take long to explore the town, so we wandered further afield and walked Went for a walk along the beach towards the large Club Med holiday resort.  It’s a nice beach, with plenty of bars and small restaurants, but not much to interest us. (I was more interested in the cemetery that we passed on the way with its stunning white washed crypts.)

To complete our tour of the area, we walked up the path behind the church which winds its way up the steep hill.  At every turn in the path, there is a small shrine depicting a scene from the crucifixion of Christ.  It’s an interesting little walk with some nice views of the town and anchorage.

27 November 2018  St Anne, Martinique
We took a long dinghy ride to Marin which is 2.5 miles from where we are anchored.  The route we took was to pass close to the end of the pier at the Club Med resort and then head for a red buoy on the other side of the reef.   We followed a sand patch over the shallows, but I think that there’s enough depth as long as you don’t stray too far from the beach.  Once around the headland there was a tough up wind mile, bashing into 2 foot wind waves.

Crowded Marin

Our plan is to stay in Martinique for a couple of weeks and to spend a few days inland, hiking and having a look at the island.  We went to the marina to book five nights, but they were unwilling to commit themselves and told us to ring them tomorrow to confirm a place from Thursday 29th - very strange.  We wanted to confirm the booking, so that we can book some accommodation on shore, but we’ll have to wait until tomorrow.

We visited a couple of car hire places, who told us that there was no problem with the availability of small cars, so we’ll book one tomorrow when we’ve confirmed the marina space.  With our holiday arrangements done as much as possible, we wandered around the chandlers and fishing tackle shops, buying a few things.  I found out that the only people who can service dive gear are a company called Nautica, but they are near the Airport about 20 kilometres away.

I called in at North Sails and had a chat with Gavin, the owner of the loft.  He says that he’s happy to come to have a look at our main sail when we come into the marina.  Unfortunately, he can’t make Thursday, but Friday should be okay.

After lunch in a small boulangerie, we went to the Leader Price supermarket and stocked up on a dinghy load of provisions.  The supermarket has a dinghy dock, where you unload your trolley directly into the dinghy.  It’s very convenient, but we’re not impressed by the range of goods on the shelves.

28 November 2018  St Anne, Martinique
After breakfast, we rang the marina, but they will still not guarantee us a mooring or a berth for tomorrow.  They are telling us that we should ring at 10:00 tomorrow morning and they will allocate something to us.  When asked if they will guarantee a place they just say it’s very likely that they’ll have a space.  It’s weird - we can’t book a hire car or accommodation until we know we have a marina space.

Checking Dive Gear

After some debate, we’ve decided to forget about the marina and we’ll just do day trips in a car.  It’s only a couple of hours drive to get the north of the island, so we’ll be able to see most of the island and do some hiking.  There’s a car hire place in St Anne, so we walked over and booked a car for three days from Friday 30th.

In the afternoon, I did some work on our dive gear.  I took the octopus regulators apart, cleaned the needle valves with some fresh water and adjusted the valve seats to make them harder to purge.  I then put the regulators on a tank and went for a little dive under the boat.  All three now seem to work fine, so I don’t have to have them serviced now.  

29 November 2018  St Anne, Martinique
Glenys pulled out her sewing machine and did a few repairs - mostly reinforcing stitching on the sprayhood and bimini side panels. I spent most of the day investigating what anchorages to visit in the Bahamas and doing a rough itinerary for the next few months.  

Kevin & Bev from “Kailani” came for a few beers -it was nice to talk to a couple of Brits again.


30 November 2018  St Anne, Martinique
The alarm went off at 06:45 - no time for a lie-in when you’re on holiday.  By 08:00, we’d picked up our hire car and were on our way up the east side of the island.  The roads are incredibly narrow and winding, so it was a bit tense for the first hour as I drove on the right-hand side of the road with lunatic French drivers whizzing around the bends in the middle of the road and others tailgating me.  Having said that, the scenery is fabulous with many large banana and sugar cane plantations.

Caravelle Peninsula

After a couple of hours, we made it safely to the Caravelle Peninsula and parked when the road turned into a dirt track.  Most people were driving up the dirt track for a kilometre to another car park, but the road looked very rough for our little hire car.  We walked up to the car park, where we joined the well-marked trail which goes around the end of the peninsula.

We took the route in a clockwise direction and started off on a single track concrete road, which leads to a meteorological station.  On the way, we missed a path that led to a lighthouse on the top of the hill, oh well…   The meteorological station is closed to the public, but that didn’t matter because the path continued along the rocky coast over varied volcanic rocks with dramatic scenery.

The route took us over a few hills with some great viewpoints and then dropped down into a Mangrove swamp, so we saw many different terrains on the 2½ hour hike.  The walk ended at the ruins of the Chateau Dubuc, which had a sugar cane processing mill, a distillery and a coffee mill.  It only cost €5 each to gain access and was moderately interesting, but our tired legs soon made us give up wandering around the ruins.    

On the way back we stopped off at a couple of supermarkets, but we weren’t very impressed by the selection of items on offer.  However, we filled four large bags with provisions as well as three cases of beer and a few boxes of wine.

It was a bit of a logistical challenge when we arrived back in St Anne, because there is no parking near to the dinghy dock.  Eventually we parked in the town square; walked to the dinghy dock; dinghied over to the fishing dock; Glenys stayed in the dinghy while I got the car; loaded up the dinghy; I parked the car; and we then went out to the boat…

Mont Pelee in cloud

1 December 2018  St Anne, Martinique
It was another early start to go to the north end of the island to Mont Peleé.   It took us a while to go through Fort de France and then negotiate the treacherous winding road through the middle of Martinique.  So we didn’t get to Mont Peleé until 09:30, by which time the cloud had built up on the top of the 4,500ft volcano.  

We made our way up to the car park at the start of the Aileron trail, where we could see groups of intrepid hikers slogging up the steep muddy path and disappearing into the cloud after 300 metres.  It’s about a mile to the first crater rim, so it seemed to be pointless to slog up a hill to see nothing but mist.  We headed back up south, driving past the majestic Pitons de Carbet and passing through some impressive “cloud” forest with lush vegetation, including tree ferns and bamboo.

Our next stop was at the Botanical Gardens.  It was very pleasantly laid out, but crowded with tourists and very expensive at €14 per person.  The highlight was the dozens of Purple-throated Carib hummingbirds darting around some artificial feeders.

We called in at the Sacré Coeur de Balata Cathedral, which is just another church.  After a quick stop at another couple of supermarkets, we retired back to the boat. 

2 December 2018  St Anne, Martinique
There’s no peace for the wicked - we were our way early again, this time we drove to the south-west peninsula of Martinique.  After travelling through the small seaside town of the Trois Ilets, we dropped down a steep road to Anse Dufour.   It’s a popular little fishing village, so the car park was cram-packed, but we managed to park on the side of the approach road without any problems.

Lunch overlooking Grand Anse

Our purpose for being here was to do a hike called Cap Solomon, which goes over a steep hill and down to Grand Anse D’Arlet.  As usual, the hardest part was finding the start of the route.  We walked into the small village and eventually spotted a sign for the route next to a small restaurant.  We turned left along a concrete path, which ended at a house with a very small dirt path leading down the side of the house.

The path remained narrow, turning from dirt to rocky boulders and steeply rose up the hill.  After 30 minutes, the path levelled out and we came across a small pond covered in lilies.  The next 15 minutes was fairly level and then we descended towards Grand Anse D’Arlet.  After a further 20 minutes, we came across a small sign showing another route along the side of the hill, promising some viewpoints so we turned right.  

The viewpoints were almost none existent, but we managed to get some glimpses of the Grand Anse bay and the dozens of yachts anchored there.  After stopping for lunch of our usual baguette and tinned mackerel in mustard sauce, we retraced our steps back to Anse Dufour.  The whole hike took just over 3 hours and was enjoyable, but a tad tough.

We drove back along the winding coast road, stopping to look at Diamond Rock and the statues at Le Diamant, which are a tribute to the slaves.  In the evening, we were invited over to “Relax” for sundowners - Ralph and Carmen are also heading up to Florida, so it’s very likely that we’ll bump into them on the way.