I awoke Thursday morning, yet still feeling as if I had been run over by a locomotive. But we all felt well enough to set sail to the next island in the Lesser Antilles, Martinique. We released the mooring and got underway around 6:15 a.m. The winds were in the 10-13 knot range, so the sea conditions were slightly more benign. We motorsailed south-southeasterly for 48.3 nautical miles and pulled into the anchorage which is just out in front of the town of Fort de France, the largest city in the Windward Islands. At 2:30 p.m., we found a small spot to drop our hook in 11 feet of water in between the many other sailing vessels in the already-crowded anchorage. Not long after anchoring, we dinghied into the very nice dinghy dock to walk over to customs and clear in (you can usually tell something about how welcoming a place is to cruisers by the condition and size of their dinghy dock). As in the other French islands that we’ve visited — St. Barts and Guadeloupe — clearing in was as simple as typing in our information in a computer. In none of these three islands did they actually ask to see our passports or boat documentation. Trusting souls! After clearing in, we did a little souvenir shopping along the waterfront before sitting down for dinner and using the wifi at McDonalds! Yes, there was one right on the waterfront! Neither of us were feeling especially well that evening, so we retired early. Unfortunately, a mosquito or two decided to have me for a midnight snack. I was itching so badly I had to take two Benadryl, which either stopped the itching or knocked me out.
One of Martinique’s most famous claims to fame is as the childhood home of the Empress Josephine (Napoleon’s first wife), who was born and grew up on a 200-acre, 150-slave estate not far from Fort de France. It is also famous, or infamous, for the 1902, Ascension Day tragedy when 30,000 people were burned to death in the northwestern village of St. Pierre. The entire town was destroyed as Mt. Pelée, a 4800’ tall volcano in the northern portion of the island, released a giant fireball of superheated gas that flowed down over the city, releasing more energy than an atomic bomb. Two people out of the 30,000 inhabitants survived, a cobbler and the famous Cyparis, a murderer imprisoned in a stone cell. We would have loved to stop in St. Pierre, but time was running out for us and we had to continue our progress southward.
On Friday, we cleared customs, did more souvenir shopping and enjoyed the bigger city atmosphere of Fort de France (Quite the contrast with the rugged nature of Dominica). We found a very nice supermarket called Carrefour which is situated in a nice modern mall. No Diet Pepsi, but at least they had Diet Coke (or Coca-cola Light, as it is known in the islands). We stocked up on that and few other items and continued shopping our way back to Beatitude. We had pulled our wagon behind us all day in anticipation of striking the mother lode of soda at Carrefour, which was about a half-mile away. It was full on the return trip.
We decided to weigh anchor and make our way to the DCML fuel dock and fill up our diesel tanks. We likely had enough fuel for about 100 miles of motoring. They wouldn’t answer the VHF, so we shouted from the bow that we wanted fuel. Of course, they spoke little English, so it was somewhat of a challenge to figure out where they wanted us to go and to get them to help with the lines. Somehow, it all worked out fine, and we were soon motoring off to our new anchorage a few miles away. We made our way another seven or eight miles southward to a beautiful little anchorage off the town of Petite Anse D’Arlet which has a few lovely old houses and a picturesque church right in the middle of town. We arrived just before sunset and settled in for a rather rolly night at anchor.
On Saturday morning, we did a few boat chores before heading into town for lunch at Le Littoral, a Creole restaurant overlooking the bay. From our table, we watched the local children compete in kayak relay races just below us. We were dodging intermittent showers all morning. We were hoping to find some wifi, but were unsuccessful, so we soon returned to our yacht.
Around 1:30 in the afternoon, we released our moorings for an overnight sail to the island of Bequia, an isle in the Grenadines. More on that… next time.