Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Escape from Rodney Bay 2 (Martinique again!)

Escape from Rodney Bay 2 (Martinique again!)

OK, so Wales beat England to win the 6 nations and we went to the IGY BBQ. So on the Sunday we have no excuses not to sail to Martinique. The swells have subsided from the north and the wind has a bit more east than NE.  Grand Anse d’Arlet here we come!

At 10.00 we have the anchor up and we are sailing out of the bay. As we clear the end of St Lucia the wind freshens to 20+ Kts, we already have a reef in so no problems, with the wind just forward of the beam and some 2-3m swells we storm along, spray flying everywhere, thank goodness for the spray hood. Even so we still managed a few splashes over us. The most dramatic was while I was putting up the French courtesy flag and our yellow Q flag, out of nowhere a wave leaped up and broke across the coach roof soaking me right through while I was at the mast.
'HMS Diamond' - The Brits put cannons on it to attack the French fleet off Martinique!
By 14.30 we are on a buoy in Grand Anse d’Arlet. Anchoring is no longer allowed in order to protect the coral. There is no charge for the buoys and the water is crystal clear, snorkelling around the boat in 10m we can see basket sponges, tube sponges, schools of grunts, many other juvenile species and 3 lion fish! Now lion fish are not supposed to be here! They have been introduced and are considered vermin, many islands have a bounty for catching them, as the slogan here says “Eat a Lion fish and save the reef”. We will look out for them on the menu.

Grand Anse d'Arlet

We go ashore the following day to clear customs (via a computer terminal in the local cafĂ©), a quick walk around, there is not a lot here, 2 small “supermarkets”, a few beach bars and a beachwear shop.

Just look at the size of these caterpillars!

The beach is beautiful, the water clear and the snorkelling excellent. We take advantage of the water tap on the jetty to fill our jerry cans with water. Had we known that there was no water readily available at the capital Fort de France or in St. Pierre, we would have got more.
Beach at Fort de France

By Wednesday we are ready to move on to the capital of Martinique, Fort de France. We wake to cloud; mist coming over the hills and drizzle, looking at the scenery we could be in Scotland although it is much warmer! We motored in the mist the 8 miles to F de F. The town didn’t look too appealing as we approached but the town anchorage is pretty although crowded, (anchored under the fort, a small palm fringed beach and large dinghy dock). As we anchor up there is a turtle swimming next to the boat! Sitting in the cockpit having lunch we can see 2 brown Pelicans on the cruise ship jetty. We used our water catcher and got about 5 litres from one shower before the rain cleared up. It is prettier here than we expected.
Typical street Fort de France
The town is busy (a city really), we do the tourist bit and mooch around, Cathedral, tourist info, Library, Produce market and of course the supermarche for French cheese and wine. Town is a bit scruffy in parts but has some interesting restored buildings. Saint Louis Cathedral designed by Pierre-Henri Pique has a cast iron  skeleton  and filled in with wood and stone. It was originally built in Paris, then disassembled and re-erected here! The Schoelscher Library is also one of his designs, a beautiful building. The outside has had some restoration but it all still needs more. It was started by  Victor Schoelscher, who finally persuaded the government to abolish slavery in the Colonies in 1848, and donated his book collection in 1883.
Yes it really is a Grapefruit!
 We swam off the boat,  the water not as clear as Grand Anse but we can see our anchor is completely dug in (always good to know). The town almost shuts down completely once the shops shut at about 17.30. On Friday we went to a lovely Art Deco hotel for drinks with ‘Impressionist’ and then onto dinner at a Tex Mex, a nice evening but the town feels very ‘French’ as are the prices!
Post Office


We have finally managed to arrange to meet Larus in St Pierre on Saturday so we set off mid-morning for the 2 hour sail. The anchorage is fairly deep and the anchor did not set first time, finally settled in near Larus. A swim and then sun downers on Larus, a lot of catching up to do as we last saw them in Grand Canaria.
St Pierre from the anchorage
St Pierre used to be the capital until a volcanic eruption of Mont Pelee completely destroyed the town in 1902, killing 30,000 people pretty much instantly. The photos taken after the eruption look like those from Hiroshima after the atomic bomb, total devastation. Depending on whose account you read there were either 1, 2 or 3 survivors. The fireball blast also sunk several ships in the bay as well.

Walking around the town was interesting, there are several ruin sites and a volcano centre (unfortunately closed at the weekend). At all of the sites there are information boards in French and English together with an idea of how things were before the eruption.
All that remains of the grand theatre
The most famous survivor is Cyparis. He was in a stone prison cell at the time of the explosion and his cell is still there to see. He was given his freedom and apparently joined Barnum’s Circus in America!
Survivors cell
An interesting, if somewhat sobering sightseeing tour. The town is a shadow of its former self but is now mainly rebuilt. Unfortunately, the riches that come with being the capital have gone to Fort de France.

Arriving back at the boat we discovered that we had been invited for sun downers on ‘Capisce’ a Moody 44 also CA members. So with the 3 CA boats together I suppose it could be called a mini CA rally. Having already invited ‘Larus’ to supper we extended the invitation to ‘Capisce’ and had a bit of a ‘Pot Luck’ aboard Galene. As usual at these events the wine and conversation flows and our early night went awry.
A mini CA Rally!
We still needed to be up early for our sail to Dominica on Monday, the forecast is for a F4/5 from the East, we have been warned that the wind increases in the channel between the islands in the afternoon so we will have an early start for the 40 or so miles from St Pierre to Roseau.

We have planned to be in company with ‘Impressionist’ and will do an island tour of Dominica together to share the cost. We have read that Dominica has the best rainforest in the Caribbean, it certainly has some high mountains several over 1400m.

We left St Pierre at 0715, not bad considering our late night. Breakfast of bacon sarnies on the way, we had very little wind until we reached the top of Martinique then we felt the full force of the trades whistling through the gap, F5/6 with some even higher gusts at times, 2m+ swells with plenty of ‘whitecaps’, we sensibly put 2 reefs in the main and had rolled away some of the genoa (just as well). With speeds regularly over 7 kts we had an exhilarating sail and soon closed Dominica, only to lose the wind in the shadow off the island. We had been advised that Dominica Yacht Centre had good moorings close to Roseau town centre, calling them on Ch16 produced Marcus in his orange rib, a very helpful guy who helped us moor up.
Impressionist arrives
 Our ‘door to door’ journey of 41 miles had taken 6 ¼ hours, an average speed of 6.8kts!

Our mooring at Roseau

1 comment:

  1. Hi R & R, Sorry about the NO CONTENT Email. I was just messing about with the new "Hard to use" OUTLOOK. SMsally to The Folly . Great w/e not quite as warm as Martinique. I crewed with Brian on "Whistling Rufus" UFO. Best wishes & lol. Keep up the very excellent BLOG. VIC (OldGit)