Saturday, 1 August 2015

Martinique – ten days, two destinations.

Martinique – ten days, two destinations.

We had delayed our departure until Saturday 20th June as less wind and swell was predicted.  We set off at 0745 into swells about 3m, some breaking over the bimini, and 25 knot ESE winds. Once again, totally wrong forecast, but at least we were doing about 6kts most of the day. After a very long 7 ½ hour passage we were safely anchored in St Pierre and were able to enjoy a well earned gin and tonic and the interesting sea front.

St Pierre sea front

We had a quiet few days here, mostly shopping for all the French delicacies, red wine, cheeses, pates and fresh baguettes! We filled our water tanks from the tap at the market – no one seems to mind, it is a bit of a job lugging the jerry cans but we just take our three 10l ones each time we go ashore and quite soon we are full. We know it is not easy to get water further south in Martinique.

One morning a flying fish about 6”long had committed suicide by leaping into the dinghy overnight. Richard threw it overboard, just as I was going to suggest cutting it up for the birds. A male frigate bird immediately swooped down and snatched it up. With a minor adjustment it was swallowed in seconds! I am sure the fish was about the same length as the bird’s body, don’t know how it managed.

We had Wild Blue, a South African boat over for sundowners, did lots of laundry as there is a self service one here, and managed to start scrubbing the hull a bit which is currently looking more like a reef than a hull, and then decided it was time to head south.

We set off on Thursday 26th June with no wind but within an hour we were sailing under reefed main and genoa in very choppy seas. Big splashes caught our eye a little way off – a pod of dolphins leaping right out the water and crashing through the waves. A sudden wind change hove us to, so we motored the last hour into the wind. We went straight to Anse Chaudiere in Petit Anse d’Arlet as it is usually calm there. We have found the buoys nearer town to be rolly.

There were a few boats in the anchorage but by dark it was just us and a catamaran. We snorkelled to check the anchor and just below Galene was a pair of Sand Tile Fish. We watched as they swam around their burrow, picking up bits of rubble and building up the entrance or taking them inside. I would love to see inside the burrow. 

Sand Tile fish
On Friday we got a bus time table at the Mairie and went to Anse Mitan to the north, just opposite Fort de France. All tickets are €1.40 per trip, one stop or a round trip! 

As seen on the wall of a ruined hotel in Anse Mitan - Brilliant!

Anse Mitan is an anchorage we have never been to so we thought we could see what it was like and maybe go there in the future. The town is very touristy with many hotels, shops and cafes, all very nice and very French. The anchorage looks fine too, but many boats and it did not look as though there would be much snorkelling, all white sandy beaches. Definitely prefer where we are.

Anse Mitan
There was a huge rain squall just as we got off the bus back in Petit Anse, but there are shelters just off the dingy dock, so we waited there for it to pass. At least Galene was getting all the salt washed off! That evening we were the only boat in the anchorage.

Anse Chaudiere is a lovely anchorage. Nestled close to the rugged shoreline with a cliff and small caves,  pelicans crash in their ungainly but deadly dives after fish, turtles pop up, occasional herons fly by and Laughing gulls chuckle all day. The forested hills are sprinkled red, yellow and white with Flamboyant, Cassias and Frangipani in flower. There are fishermen to watch, some netting ballyhoo, some line fishing and others conch diving. Travelling in the dinghy we always scare schools of Ballyhoo who leap out of the way, some scuttling hilariously along on their tails for quite a way.  The village is close with adequate provisioning, even good reasonably priced wine. The only down side is that we have not found water here yet.
Saturday there was a farmers market, but mainly fish with one man selling farmed freshwater crayfish, about 3” long, more like prawns really. We bought some lovely fruit and veg from the usual market and then a baguette and cakes at the boulangerie one street back. It is tiny but has beautiful tarts and patisseries that compare to any in the big towns or even in France!

The snorkelling here is good. We always seem to see something new – this time a little crab, possibly a banded clinging crab and the fish in the picture – possibly a Hairy Blenny. It was about as long as my hand and posed for the picture, then retreated into the hole behind, not completely concealed, but I expect it thought it was! We also saw 3 little queen trigger fish, comet starfish, an electric ray, squid, a sleeping turtle and all the usual reef creatures including many sea fans and Flamingo Tongues.
We had our cakes with tea, and a lovely French supper too, quiche and salad.

A Red Spotted Hawkfish

Sunday we bought another baguette, the boulangerie is open until 12 noon, as all of them are! Then we walked to the end of the beach for a great lunch at Snack Bar Morne Champagne. We ate ribs and octopus under palm trees with our toes in the sea sand, while watching fishermen, spearfishermen and holidaymakers in and out the water.

On the way back I nicked a couple of Pawpaw leaves from the post office garden to make some tea. We have had it twice now and it really seems to help the chikengunya symptoms. The pains in my hands are no longer constant and we both feel much better the day after drinking it. I have read you can’t take it every day as it is also a blood thinner so I make it now and then, when I can get the leaves.

'HMS Diamond Rock'
Monday we went ashore again for another bus adventure, this time to Diamant in the south. We bumped into Remedy who are anchored in Grande Anse and had time for a quick catch up before our bus arrived.
Diamant also seems to be quite a holiday town, but many shops and cafes closed, maybe because it is low season. The town takes its name from Diamond Rock, 570 feet high to the south west.  In 1804 the English commandeered the rock as HMS Diamond Rock. They raised cannon and supplies and water for a full crew and for 18 months they wreaked havoc on French shipping. The legend goes that after many unsuccessful attempts to retake the rock, the French finally floated barrels of rum onto the rock and defeated the English while they were drunk!

View from the shell museam

We had a baguette for lunch (what else?) and set off up the hill to the Shell Museum at Hotel L’ecrin Bleu. Quite a walk, but there is a steep short cut from near the church. There was a good view of the southern shore and HMS Diamond Rock from the top. The museum is privately owned and very interesting with over 2000 different species in the collection. All have the date and place where they were first described and many from Martinique. 

Biggest shell we have ever seen

Back down the hill, a bit of shopping at Huit a 8, mainly soft drinks are there was not much in Grande Anse, and back on the bus. The buses run a big circle round the peninsula, so we decided to take the long way back and see some more of the island. Passing through forest and farmland we discovered that the bus stops just outside a large Carrefour and Leader Price at Riviere Salee. This means nice easy provisioning if we wanted to stay a while.

It had been quite rainy all the time we were here, but still had to run the engine now and then for power and some days had been a little rolly. So no more hull scrubbing, but Richard put on the scuba gear to change the fridge anodes which had practically dissolved.

With a good forecast for Thursday – 18kts NE 1.9m swells –it was time to say goodbye to fresh baguettes and red wine and head for St Lucia.

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