January 24-28, 2011... Le Robert and Ilet Petite Martinique

Time to provision again. So off the mooring and down the bay to another mooring off Pointe Fort -- about 1/4 mile from the town of Le Robert. Big time wind chop on this huge fetch. Landing the dinghy at the town dock was ok and after asking about 5 different people we figured out where the supermarket was. Walking down the highway to the store was doable. Walking back loaded with groceries in the mid-day heat; not so fun. Luckily for us, Laurent (a former cruiser) stopped his truck and gave us a ride back to the dock. You meet the nicest people when you look the most pitiful, right?

Then off the mooring to anchor in front of Ilet Petite Martinique -- a beautiful mangrove-lined island. We spent 4 nights there, waiting for the weather window to sail to Marie Galante. While waiting, we kayaked the rest of the north coast of Le Robert harbor, completing the 3+ miles from the Atlantic. We found a small creek in the mangroves off Le Robert where we paddled within FEET of the supermarket we shlepped to earlier in the week. If only we had known about this earlier -- we could have paddled for food instead of hoofing it. Lots of egrets and a great blue heron in the mangroves.

The tour boats all swing by Petite Martinique -- somebody rich and/or famous must live in the house on the end of the island -- we never found out who.
Today (Friday) we have repositioned ourselves back at Ilet Duchamp for an early departure to Marie Galante -- an 80-mile voyage. We have really enjoyed our 3 weeks on the east coast of Martinique, where very few cruisers stop. We met nice people, enjoyed the towns, and especially the scenery and the clean, clear water. A bientot, Martinique!
Pointe Fort: 14d40.655'N 60d55.625'W
Ilet Petite Martinique: 14d41.182'N 60d54.676'W

January 20-23, 2011... Ilets of Le Robert

Thursday we finally headed for Le Robert harbor. We knew the seas were up, but having been sheltered so long behind Ilet Long, we were surprised by the force of the 8-9 ft. seas outside the reef. That beautiful turquoise water was standing on end, crashing into the reefs and rocking us as we moved the short distance north. As if to say, its OK, you're almost there, a dolphin swam over to chaperone us into Le Robert.
There are 10 islets and many coves along the edges of 3-mile long Le Robert harbor, making for a lot of nice anchorages and lots of shoreline for kayak explorations. For our first anchorage in the bay, we chose the first one to starboard -- inside Ilet Chancel (also called Ramville) and Ilet Duchamp (aka la Grotte). (Don't know why these islets have at least two names...) This is a very deep anchorage, steep to the islets, and after two attempts at anchoring on the slopes, we discovered that the town of Robert installed moorings up at the north end. We gladly picked up one of those. We thought we'd stay a night or two -- we ended up here for 4.

The water here is very clear and there was some nice snorkeling off the boat on the reef separating us from the next cove. Not lots of fish, but some interesting coral, and the juvenile forms of some of the fish we'd seen elsewhere. So we decided this was the baby reef. Also, there's a lot of HUGE starfish everywhere.

This is where the locals spend their weekends. Small numbers of boats arrive on Friday, more Saturday, but most on Sunday. They cluster on the small sand spit off the north end of Duchamp and folks jump off their boats and set anchors by hand. Kids swim, adults gather. But, the ultimate is reached on Sunday when the boat with the barbeque arrives, sets it in the sand, and grills for the crowd while waist-high in water. Now that is living!

We met some people who said they rarely see cruising boats here in Robert, and that we are the first American boat they've seen! That's hard to believe; this is such a beautiful spot.
Ilet Duchamp, Le Robert Havre: 14d41.374'N 60d53.138'W

January 8-19, 2010... Ilet Long

Don't know where the time goes. Almost two weeks in a beautiful spot here. The first afternoon we arrived, so did Monsieur Le President Sarkozy who was on a 24-hour stop in Martinique. His helicopters zoomed overhead as he went to his hotel at Cap Est, a couple of miles from where we are. Maybe he saw our boat!
Can't say enough about this anchorage -- so well sheltered -- so private! In two weeks there was only one night when another cruising boat was here. However, coming back from a kayak expedition we saw a VERY unusual sight -- a megayacht turning into Cul-de-sac Fregate. Yikes! It parked right next to us. OK, so they blotted out the sun; we figured they would be gone the next day. Then, they started rolling out the jetskis, waterskis, two launches...we were bracing for the worst...noisy neighbors. We didn't have a clue. One of the launches went to town and came back with a photographer dressed all in cliche photog khaki, right down to the multipocketed vest. Then the jetskis started rehearsing a choreographed routine. And the bikinied model came out on deck. We found out that the boat owner was putting the boat into charter (for a mere $450,000/week) and wanted some great advertising material. Then, the helicopter came and made circles over the action for about 20 minutes while the jetskis did their figure 8s, the waterskier circled the yacht and the model did dive after dive off the stern. It was finally over before sunset. But, if that wasn't enough of a surprise, a SECOND megayacht arrived the next day. The ONLY good thing about these boats is that they rarely stay more than one night.

Some say this part of Martinique is the REAL Martinique. We've met some people here whose families go back 400 years on the island. They were involved in sugar cane and rum production through the centuries. There is still lots of cane planted here and a distillery close by. The landscapes are beautiful -- the homes gorgeous.

The beke, or descendants of the original white settlers, used to meet at Josephine's Bathtub on Sundays to relax and drink rum. This is an unusual place just across the bay from us. The white sand bottom is very shallow, and close to the Atlantic reefs, so it affords a protected place to stand or swim. Now, it is mostly tourists who go there with day charters. We kayaked over to see what it was all about. John poses for us there with mask and snorkel.
Ilet Long is just one of 8 somewhat secluded islands off the town of Le Francois. People relax here on weekends with all kinds of water sports -- small sailboats, kayaks, kite boards. There is always something new to see from the deck of our boat. Why leave?
P.S. We don't have internet access here...we'll post pictures as soon as we can!

January 7, 2011... Martinique -- East Coast Transit

Up early Friday morning to start from Ste. Anne for the east coast. Weather good, winds great -- out of the east. We tacked our way around the southeast coast and found a good sailing angle to go north. Centerboard down, Anhinga cut through the Atlantic swells, throwing spray in our faces. We sailed all the way up the coast to the red buoys marking the Vauclin passage through the reefs. From there we motorsailed the rest of the way between the reefs and turned into Cul-de-Sac Fregate. Finding the anchorage north of Ilet Long, we set the anchor and relaxed. We made it!
Ilet Long, Cul-de-Sac Fregate: 14d36.673'N 60d51.553'W

December 15, 2010 - January 5, 2011... Hanging Out in Ste. Anne

Its been absolutely wonderful spending the last few weeks in Ste Anne, having gotten into even more of a rhythm of life here. The town decorated the streets with neon lights depicting images of traditional life in Martinique. We stayed through the holiday season as the tourism office planned so many activities, starting with the "Chante Nwel" or the French Caribbean version of Christmas Carols. We didn't recognize any of the music, but all the local people gathered in the town square certainly did, and the dancing and singing were terrific. (We joined in the dancing part.) A live creche had been planned, but two days of rainstorms cancelled that. When the rains finally stopped the festival continued with folkloric dance troupes almost every night. The pictures accompanying this blog entry are of Tche Kreyol, a group of 50 dancers and musicians, so pleased to present themselves to the crowd, as you may be able to tell from the expressions on their faces. We also saw Kakadou from Riviere Pilote and Afro Karaib from St. Pierre -- all fabulous dancers -- and all bringing their own musicians.

We've enjoyed this little town; all the people have been so nice to us and gotten used to our attempts at fractured French. We tried the bus to Marin, but got stranded there once the bus driver went off duty at around 3pm. Luckily we were able to hitch a ride with Ste. Anne's town doctor and were delivered back to the dock. (We met him again professionally when John's sore throat wouldn't go away and we needed prescription drugs to clear him up. Doctor's visits here are price fixed so we didn't have to shell out a fortune!)
This has been a great place for kayak explorations, long lazy afternoons of reading, and toasting the sunset while looking for the green flash (not found.) We have become fixtures at Paille Coco, a restaurant with free wifi, that also offered some great nights of music. It has been nice to spend time with Heidi and Bill from Act III who have been here almost as long as we have, as well as the crew of Crusader (the Perry family) from Annapolis who love this place so much they alternate between here and St. Lucia all season long. We were always surprised when an American boat turned up in the anchorage -- of some 100 boats at any one time, the number of American boats was never more than 5 -- and usually only 2 or 3.
But alas the weather window is opening and we are planning to leave on Friday the 7th to visit the east coast of Martinique. The anchorages there are supposed to be very attractive and less visited -- an unspoiled cruising ground. But still, we are sad to leave yet another beautiful place and would love to return in the future.