leg 18: Martinique
The passage from Bequia to Martinique was a rollercoaster ride of screaming currents, swell and wind crossing the channels between islands, and then light shifty winds in the wind shadow of first St Vincent and then St Lucia. After the third channel crossing we were ecstatic to drop anchor off St Anne on the southern end of Martinique. By far the busiest anchorage we’d seen so far, we tried to squeeze ourselves a spot without bumping anyone else, but with the poor holding it took us two tries to get secured. By this time a decent bottle of French wine was screaming my name from the distant shoreline and we launched the pillager to see what we could find. We’d been told Martinique was a good place to stock groceries but we didn’t expect it to be THIS good. The first supermarket we walked into had us leaving groaning under the weight of all the cheese, ham, baguette and wine we could carry and incredulous at how little it had cost us. Our wonder at the cheapness of France was shortlived however when we stopped in for an expensive beer and glass of wine in order to access some wifi and sadly we were anchored too far out to keep access to the wifi!
The St Anne anchorage was really too busy for us and by all accounts it would get even crazier the closer we moved up to Marin, where all the big supermarkets are, so we decided to move around to Fort Du France instead and take our chances in the rolly anchorage underneath the fort. We did an epic food stock at Fort Du France in two supermarket trips but Irene was now loaded with French treats and we were still amazed at how little it had cost us. If we weren’t already moving to Australia I may be tempted to move to France!
The wind prediction wouldn’t let us stay any longer than two days on Martinique and so we set sail intending to make our next stop Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. Around the northern tip of Martinique Neptune had other plans for us though and the wind suddenly dropped and turned against us! The current was against us too and morale was very low. Selling the boat for pennies to the first interested taker was an idea considered. Common sense prevailed though and we turned around and headed back to Martinique to the deep anchorage at St Pierre. A late afternoon dive in crystal clear water showed us an interesting volcanic sand bottom with soft corals, huge sponges and cute little garden eels poking their bodies up out of the sand and swaying in the current. Followed by French food and wine out on deck watching the sun set over the Caribbean Sea and suddenly yacht life didn’t seem so bad anymore!
Exploring ashore we found an impressive cathedral where apparently pirates donated some of their booty and so it’s called ‘the pirates cathedral’. Although it was Monday most of the town seemed to be closed but we did manage to find some bread and cheese to continue our journey of feeling French. The following day we decided to attempt to sail to Tortola again. This time we did make it across the channel and whilst motoring pleasantly along in the wind shadow of Dominique we had an experience that really did restore our faith in our sailing adventure. Sperm whales! The first time either Denzell or I had seen these magnificent creatures and they swam so close to Irene I was actually a little nervous. We stopped the engines and drifted along in a mirror like ocean with two adolescent sperm whales checking us out. Denzell jumped in to have a swim with them and they were completely unconcerned by us. An unforgettable experience.