Martinique July 2017
Up at 0530! It is a long way from Portsmouth to St Pierre so we need to get an early start.
As usual we are motoring down the side of the island. We have a few rain showers but nothing too drastic, optimistically we try to sail but are thwarted by the wind bending around the south of the island and heading us! Eventually the log reads; ‘engine off, double reefed genoa and main wind E F5 seas Mod/Rough’ Here we go again! We had coffee and sandwiches while we were still in the lee of the island not realising how fortuitous it was.
Four Caribbean Martins fluttered around us for quite a while. We wondered whether they were trying to land on the boat. Eventually they flew off towards to bottom of Dominica. We also saw 5 Tropic birds, so pretty to watch.
The log does not give an accurate account of how uncomfortable the trip was. With the wind and waves on the beam every large wave crashed against the hull and if we were unlucky broke over us! Resting down below is interrupted every few minutes by the crashing of waves on the hull. It was not much better in the cockpit as we are constantly being thrown around.
We also have to contend with shipping, the two yachts coming towards us present no problems, however, a forty five metre container ship coming towards us and passing 0.5 miles to our starboard needs careful attention. Still we cannot relax as a RFA tanker passes us and then turns across our bows! Fortunately he is three miles ahead so no problem.
The wind dies as we get in the lee of Martinique so Mr. Volvo is pressed into service. Anchoring close to the pier in St Pierre we discover that the anchor windlass is not working properly. It is screaming in pain! The wind is very fluky and boats are swinging all ways. We don’t have enough swinging room so we move. This time we have to raise the anchor without the windlass. By the time we are settled it is 1730. It has been a long day, we have sailed 66 miles in 11 hours. A cold beer is very welcome! The night is rolly and rainy, so not much sleep even after our hard day.
|Double rainbow over St Pierre|
Saturday 1st July. No WiFI so we have to check the weather on the kindle. It is very slow but at least we are reassured that there are no hurricanes. The weather for the next few days doesn’t look promising with rain, southerly winds and big swells until Thursday. We check our transits and discover that we have dragged in the night. So we reset our anchor again by hand without the aid of the windlass. It appears that there is a problem with the motor as the gearbox seems to be fine.
We went ashore to check in at the Alsace café but it was shut! The other option is the tourist office but that is closed at the weekend.
|If we only knew what it was all about?|
Another rolly night! In the morning we are entertained by a festival and parade around the town ending on the pier. The bishop(?) and other officials cast a wreath on the water so we think it must be remembering all those lost at sea. We feel sorry for the participants as it is very wet. The rest of the proceedings take place under a tarpaulin, keeping the dignitaries dry while everyone else gets soaked!
|Off to lay the wreath|
Caribbean Martins keep visiting us again, landing on the genoa and the mizzen and chirping happily. Can they be the ones we saw in Dominica?
|Three little birds! (There's a song there I think!)|
We keep checking if the Alsace café is open as we can see from the boat. Finally it opens in the evening but it is raining heavily again so we will try to check in on Monday.
Monday is a calmer day but there is a storm brewing off the Cape Verde Islands so we need to get south. We manage to check in at the tourist office, get some shopping , do the laundry, have a nice snorkel. There is an amazing amount of life under the boat. Tile fish, Garden eels and an electric ray on the sand, many fish amongst the rocks at the shore including Chain morays. A big Barracuda swam by so we decided it was time to get out and finish off the day with a braai.
|Balloonfish under the boat|
Tuesday, 4th of July so we celebrated US independence with hot dogs for supper. Proper sausages of course, solidarity only goes so far!
The next day as we were taking of the covers and getting ready to sail we had the Martins round the boat again, a male with his beautiful blue plumage calling at the end of the mizzen. A female arrived with some straw in her beak and was stuffing it in the back of the mizzen! In 3 days they had cased the joint and had decided to move in! Sadly, we had to throw their half made nest out amidst the poor birds franticly flying and calling at us.(Good job we don't speak Martinian! The air would have been quite blue!)
We were only going as far as Anse d’Arlet about 20 miles and all in the lee of the island. We thought we might have a pleasant uneventful sail for a change.
We sailed for a while, but it was pretty rough especially around Fort de France. Suddenly we had 3 navy patrol boats on a collision course, moving fast. We quickly took down the bimini in case we had to tack. (Our traveller is in the cockpit so our bimini is in two halves so we can have one half up when we are sailing. If we need to tack we have to get it out of the way.)
Of course, it was now raining.
By now we could see they were flying French courtesy flags, so they weren’t after us, but getting too close. Almost at the last minute they turned 90 degrees and went behind us. We couldn’t see their ensigns so don’t know who they belonged to.
|Jolly boating weather!|
Approaching the Anse we were hit with 30kt winds and heavy rain, so we could not see any of the many pot markers we know are all over the place here. We missed them all and were anchored off Anse Chaudiere by 13:20, nice and calm in lovely sunshine! Martins flying around again, so we did our best to shoo them off. They can’t have followed us surely?
Unfortunately we had to anchor twice more as the anchor did not bite in all the seagrass. Poor Richard had to do it all by hand. He has decided we are going to St Lucia as soon as possible and not leaving until the windlass is sorted or replaced. Fair enough!
I could not resist a quick snorkel – this is one of my favourite spots – and then another braai- a flattie this time (South African style spatch cocked chicken).
|Damselfish in an Anemone|
Tomorrow, St Lucia.