December 13-14, 2010... On Land...Days 3-4

On day 3, a little tired of the long distance driving, we decided to make use of the car for provisioning at the supermarkets in Marin. We haven't bought so much stuff in one fell swoop since we were in Costco in Delray Beach a year ago. The logistics of getting the goods onto the dock, into the dinghy, and back on the boat were still hard...but we did it. (Do you have any idea how heavy a six-pack of 1.5 liter bottles of Orangina is?)

Happy with our haul, we celebrated Patti's birthday a day early and headed to Cap Chevalier for a late lunch at Le Paradisio, a beautiful open air restaurant near the beach. What a fantastic meal. (Thanks Jacques in Bequia for the tip!) We entertained the staff as we danced to the background music. Once they saw us, they turned up the sound and asked us to continue with Mambo Italiano -- we even got our pictures taken by locals. Once again, we are those crazy Americans.

Day 4, our last day with the car, we headed back towards FdF to get the northbound road for Mount Pelee. First though, we stopped at a church in Balata that dominated the view as we traveled up the mountains. Looks just like Sacre Coeur in Paris.

We followed the road higher and higher through the rainforest and the vegetation got very dramatic. Patti's favorite, the giant fern tree, was suddenly everywhere. John masterfully kept us on the tiny road as Patti tried to take pictures out the window. Eventually we came to the town of Morne Rouge where we stopped to visit the volcano museum. They had a film (in English!) about the geology of the Caribbean volcanic arc and more specifically about Pelee, which erupted in 1902 and again in 1929-32. They also included some info about the Soufrieres in St. Vincent and Montserrat, which had more recent eruptions. Pelee had completely destroyed St. Pierre, on the coast. Less well known, it had also destroyed Morne Rouge, which sits just under Pelee. The church that stands there today is the only building that survived the devastation.

When we finished taking in the mountain and the views to both the Caribbean and the Atlantic, we drove to St. Pierre and took the west coast road past the fishing villages of Bellefontaine and Case Pilote to FdF and returned to Ste. Anne. Delivering the car back to the rental agency, we are now boat people again.

December 12, 2010... On Land...Day 2

Reading the newspaper we found out that in Le Francois, on the east coast, there was going to be a celebration of the traditional Martinique sailing yole, with demonstrations and a race. We drove up through the sugar cane and banana fields to Francois and found the place. These are very low, heavy wooden boats with large square sails mounted on bamboo masts. The boats have outriggers for the 'rail meat' to sit on, keeping the boats from capsizing. (Though we saw some go over.) All the boats keep bailers on board as they take on lots of water. They had corporate sponsors and the sails were very colorful. It was a beautiful day and people enjoyed being out there. We had fun watching and after John exhausted himself taking photos from every angle of every boat, we left to tour more of the coast by driving up to Le Robert, where we stopped for a late lunch at a local place on the harbor. Great fish, simply prepared. Back in the car; back to Ste. Anne (before dark!!)

December 11, 2010... On Land Escapade...Day 1

Martinique is large and there is so much to see, so we rented a car for 4 days -- the smallest (and cheapest) car we could find -- a Citroen C1 diesel. Cute!

The first day we drove the 45 km to Fort de France. We needed the Jerome Nouel cruising guide to travel the windward side of Martinique and nobody in Marin had it.

 We also wanted tickets to the evening performance of a Cuban dance troupe -- DanseAbierta -- at the Atrium. We got a French-English dictionary and some elementary school books on French. We walked the pedestrian streets and the market and took in the music. Because it is the Christmas shopping season, there were entertainers on the busiest streets, singing carols with a Caribbean beat, in addition to the normal set of street performers, drumming. Very cool.

The evening performance was good, mixing live dance with a video background that sometimes included the dancers -- the live dancers partnered with the video dancers. Sometimes the video was just scenery of Havana -- may be the closest we ever get to Cuba... We were challenged to find the highway out of town at night, but did make it back to Ste. Anne, found parking, the dinghy, and the boat. Late night for us!

December 3-10, 2010... Et voila, Martinique!

Friday morning we finally raised the anchor and headed out from Bequia. We had one of the best and fastest sails ever in Anhinga crossing the Bequia Channel. But once we were in the lee of St.Vincent we were becalmed. Motorsailing up the coast, we were again able to sail in the St. Vincent Channel to St. Lucia, but then a repeat...motorsailing up the coast. Saturday morning at daybreak we were in sight of Martinique and motored to Ste. Anne to anchor on the south coast a couple of miles from Le Marin.

Exploration begins; by kayak, dinghy, and on foot. So much to see (so much to eat!) The scenery here is wonderful and we could sit on the boat for hours gazing at the mountains and the beautiful water. But we try to counter our increased food intake (oh, the bread...) so we took a hike on the very well-maintained trail, the Trace des Caps to go to Salines beach. Gorgeous. We started the day in the wonderful town of Ste. Anne going up the switchback path of the shrine for more views over the bay. Ste. Anne is another of those picturesque French island towns with a dinghy dock, an esplanade and church that opens onto the town square. Restaurants and shops fan out from there to the market and fish market.

We challenged ourselves to long kayak trips, including one to the mangrove coves closer to Le Marin. There we were startled by a great blue heron -- first one we've seen in a long time. Every now and then we hear the distinctive call of the osprey and wonder if they are wintering here from the Chesapeake. Whenever we see or hear an osprey, we think of Annapolis.

It's hard to believe a week has already gone by. John starts each day with a dinghy trip to the bakery to pick up fresh croissants or pomme cannelles for breakfast, leaving Patti to sleep just a bit longer. It gives John a chance to practice some French, even though the baker responds in English! Returning with the daily France-Antilles newspaper as well, the day starts perfectly. We go through the days activities -- boat chores, provisioning, touring -- then watch the sunset. Does it get any better than this?

Ste. Anne, Martinique: 14d25.963'N 60d53.160'W