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25 April 2012

Saint Pierre, and a great sail

We left Marin on Sunday morning, hit a squall almost immediately - wet, not terribly windy - then had a good sail most of the way up to Saint Pierre, on the northwest coast of Martinique.  We had information from an old guide that suggested that we might have been able to clear out from there on Sunday, but that was out of date, so we decided to stick around on Monday and visit the town.  Saint Pierre was wiped out in the last major eruption of Mont Pelee, on May 8, 1902.  It was a 200-year-old city of 30,000 people, known as the "Paris of the Caribbean" - gone in under two minutes, and the entire population (except one prisoner in his underground cell, and a cobbler in his cellar, and a few people on one boat in the harbor) with it.  This is a photo of the ruins of what was the 800-seat theater; the current town is full of bits and pieces of ruins like this, and some buildings are built on top of the rubble.  The volcano gave plenty of warning; it had been rumbling for weeks, and had already killed about 150 people a few days before the eruption. 
To the right is Mont Pelee today, in one of the moments when you can actually SEE the top - it is often covered with drifting clouds. We had a somewhat hot but interesting walk around, and crossed a small river to the Fort district, which was the site of the original town, founded about 200 years before the eruption.  Of all things, we encountered a feed and grain store, and so of course we had to snap a couple of photos:
We left Saint Pierre very early (around 0630) Tuesday morning, and had a truly fabulous sail (with dolphins) up to Dominica; we had originally planned to stop at Roseau, which is about 35 nautical miles or so from Saint Pierre, but we were making such good time that we came on to Prince Rupert Bay (Portsmouth).  Here's photographic evidence of the speed:

And the dolphins ("Talk to my agent"):

20 April 2012

Conjuring people up

When we were in Prickly Bay in January, I looked up from the boat in the late afternoon and thought I saw our friends on Cattiva anchored nearby (they had gone to St. Lucia a couple of weeks earlier).  When I looked closer I realized it was not them - and about 15 minutes later, I saw them sail around the point and into the bay!  I joked that I had conjured them up.  
Yesterday, we were at lunch and I saw a guy from a great distance who looked like our friend Gus from s/v Nino - we last saw him and his wife Terry when we left Grenada in early March, and corresponded with them before we headed for Europe, but not since.  On closer inspection, I realized it was NOT Gus.  An hour later, we made a dash into Caraibe Marine to look (unsatisfactorily, it turned out) for boat wash - and there was Terry.  They had just arrived in Martinique sometime in the last hour (and it definitely was not Gus on the dock).  Weird - and the more so because Terry cut my hair a couple of times, and I was just thinking it would be too long before I would be back in Grenada, and made an appointment with a local hairdresser.  
We also got lucky and go to see our friends Janice and Bob on s/v Tsamaya late last week; we had hoped to meet up with them in Antigua, but decided against going that far north.  They had told us that they were heading out to Guadeloupe from Martinique, so we didn't expect to see them.  JP wanted Susan to call the Capitainerie by VHF, to get them to take a final water reading before we left for Sainte Anne - but she decided to go to the office instead - and ran into Janice and Bob, clearing out.  So, we got to spend a few minutes with them - for the first time (I think) since either Bequia or Trinidad.  
It makes me realize that this cruising world is rather small, really; we do all more or less haunt the same few anchorages, marinas, chandlers, customs offices, bars, restaurants, and Internet cafes.  It's kind of nice.  We are getting together with Gus and Terry for drinks in a couple of hours.
We have decided to fix versus replace the generator, and the part is being ordered from Germany, so we will take a week and head north to Dominica, after doing some provisioning tomorrow with a rented car at the BIG Carrefour near the airport.  Maybe then I can stop whining about the difference between shopping in the "Metropole" (mainland France) and in the "outre-mer" (overseas France).

18 April 2012

Martinique, continued

We left the Marin for the anchorage at Sainte-Anne last Thursday, the 12th; it's a really pretty spot and JP and Susan felt moved to rig the dinghy for sailing (or rowing), so we never deployed the outboard while we were there. We were planning to head for Saint Pierre and then on to Dominica starting tomorrow, but when we ran the generator yesterday (because it was a cloudy day with off and on rain showers) we discovered major corrosion that was causing it to leak. Susan caught it by realizing that the bilge pump was running for no apparent reason. SO - this morning we headed back to Marin, this time into the anchorage (an interesting maneuver - I managed to run us aground, though we got off immediately), and a technician will come aboard tomorrow morning to diagnose the problem and give us the possible solution(s). JP assumes that it is rather serious, and will involve ordering a part or parts from Fischer-Panda. We may wind up heading for Dominica while the part(s) are on order and then coming back for the actual repair. Between the normally very reliable sun and the boat engine, we can manage our power needs in the meantime.
Here is proof of some of the strangeness of being in the Caribbean and in France simultaneously (version politique):

and version culinaire - Bouillabaisse edition:

11 April 2012

Matoutou de Crabes

We arrived back in Martinique at the marina on Thursday the 5th, and spent the day Friday getting re-acclimated - I was suffering worse jet lag coming this way, for some reason - and then we resumed work on the installation of the 110-220 transformer (Frederic of Tilikum does wonderful work), and rented a car so that we could re-provision, since we ditched everything when we left. Many cruisers are very enthusiastic about provisioning here, but I joked with Susan that it is hard to share that feeling when one has come from France and not the Grenadines. Spoiled, spoiled, spoiled we are.
On Sunday, which was Easter, we took a break and drove around the island, stopping first at this lovely beach and having our first swim since Bequia (heavenly), then making our way up the windward side of the island, stopping at a fishing village that appeared to yield no lunch options. It was interesting to see the huge investments that have been made there; we would guess that the fishing "shacks" - there were maybe 40 of them - have been built in the last five years, there is a giant ice tower (we saw them in several other places too), and it's hard to believe there could be more than 20 or 25 folks fishing from there, if that. The joys of being a French department.Of course, Martinique is also much bigger (over 400,000 people) than most of the other islands we have visited in the SE Caribbean, except Trinidad of course.

We were driving along the main road and saw a sign for "Matoutou de Crabes" and after a quick U-turn, found a newly opened (two weeks) restaurant and function space called La Brize Des Alizes ("Tradewinds" or "Tradewinds Breeze"). We learned that Matoutou de Crabes is a traditional Easter dish in the French Antilles, so of course we ordered it. It is an even messier version of crab than the Maryland blue crab that we love, as it is served with a sauce. Most delicious, though everyone needed a bath afterwards.

Today we are still at the marina, but hoping to head out to the Sainte Anne anchorage tomorrow; we have decided against making the push for Antigua, with some regrets for the Classic Yacht Regatta that starts next Thursday. We have a good weather window for the 200-mile push now until Saturday, then the seas kick up again. So, instead we will take it easy here, mosey to Dominica at some point, and then likely start making our way south again.