Cruising the Caribbean at Last!
Firstly, we never did make it out of Rodney Bay with Nick’s parents. You know how it goes. Bad weather, then someone doesn’t feel too good because they ate a dodgy prawn (or possibly overindulged in the local rum), or there’s a kite surfing lesson (we’re now standing up on the boards!) … there was always something. So instead we spent the next week chilling out at Marie’s fish shack on Reduit Beach, going to the Friday night “jump up” street party, and catching up with our mates on Belafonte who actually left on the World ARC last Saturday. We sat on the beach drinking beer and waved the fleet of about 40 boats off. The sun was shining and there was 10 knots of wind with almost no swell. Far, far more benign conditions than the beginning of our Atlantic passage!
After a fortnight of eating, drinking and sunbathing, we said goodbye to Nick’s parents, and spent the following 24 hours madly trying to wash all the linen and towels and clean the boat from top to bottom in order to make ready for the arrival of our next guest: one Kate Berry, a mate of mine from London who had wisely decided to escape the cold of another UK winter and hang out with us for 10 days.
We celebrated her arrival in typical Caribbean fashion: by dragging her out, feeding her chicken wings and plying her with passion fruit and thyme cocktails- fabulous combination by the way. The next day we got up early and finally, after a month- yes, a month!- dropped our mooring lines. We were Martinique-bound!
Three hours later, after a beautiful sail in brisk but sunny conditions, we dropped our anchor in Sainte Anne, a pretty seaside town on the southern coast of Martinique. We went ashore, cleared in, then came back to the boat and watched the spectacular sunset with a bottle of newly purchased rosé. Just as we were admiring the serenity and congratulating ourselves on a job well done, four charter boats rocked up and anchored literally right next to us. They were all together and soon congregated on the boat nearest to us, where they proceeded to play loud music, whoop loudly (for no particular reason that I could see) and generally be a bloody nuisance. I woke early the next morning, and, as I was enjoying the sunrise and thinking, “Surely those charterers will sleep in today and give me some peace,” they emerged into the cockpit, flicked the sound system on and started dancing. I mean, you have to admire their stamina. Trying to get more than a couple of monosyllabic grunts from me before my first coffee is almost impossible, let alone dancing and socialising.
Needless to say, we moved soon after breakfast.
The next few days were spent bay-hopping up the Martinique coast. It was lovely, with some spectacular anchorages. We left Sainte-Anne after a couple of days, and moved to Grand Anse d’Arlet, a stunning bay with good snorkeling, some very cool beach bars painted in all the colours of the rainbow, palm trees and soft, white sand.
Feeling the need for some exercise and adventure, we also decided to hike to the bay next door, Les Anses d’Arlet. Okay, so I bullied Kate and Nick into doing the hike with me and what started off as a gently sloping trail turned into clambering up and down steep rocky paths surrounded by jungle and gasping for water. We passed many others using the trail and, almost without exception, they glanced at our flip flops and sweaty brows, smiled sympathetically, then continued with their hiking boots and poles. Some even had those water tube things that attach to a backpack. I mean, these French tourists take their hiking seriously.
But the views were well worth it, and Les Anses was even prettier than Grande Anse, so the grumbling didn’t last too long, although Kate was complaining of sore thighs for some days to follow, bless her cotton socks. Fragile thing, isn’t she?
Unfortunately, we were quickly running out of food. So we made a mad dash to Fort de France, the capital, and Nick and I caught the bus out to the hypermarkets for a big shop. Kate, sensible girl, stayed on board and read her book in the sunshine, while Nick and I slogged way out to Hyper U. Our energy levels were temporarily revived by the sight of all the french wine, but then we saw the prices and realised that although we’re talking french produce, we’re still looking at Caribbean prices. We trekked up and down the aisles, piling up the trolley with food and slowly losing the will to live. We gave up around the dairy produce section, headed to the till and then into a cab. From there we lugged the bags into the dinghy and finally arrived back at the boat shortly before collapsing. Stocked up, we later enjoyed an easy and satisfying dinner of roasted chicken and salad with buttered baguette washed down with a glass of wine, musing that the ordeal was very nearly worth it.
Martinique’s Underwater World
The following day we woke to rain and cloud. Nooooo! We stared at the sky, willing the clouds to break up and saying things like, “It looks a little brighter over there…” or “I think the rain’s lighter than it was an hour ago…” while knowing it was anything but. However, it did eventually clear for long enough for us to motor across the bay to a tiny cove called Anse Dufour that was described in our cruising guide as having superb snorkelling. We anchored and jumped off the boat into the crystal water, and were not disappointed. When the sun came out, it turned the world underwater into a magical place, full of shifting light and colours. Afterwards we ate homemade banana bread (there’s a lot of bananas in this part of the world…) and made the final journey of the day back to Les Anse d’Arlet.
That evening we went ashore for a sunset drink and selected one of the many beachside bars with plastic chairs and tables and a great view of the bay. The eccentric and genial owner rushed over and took our order. When I hesitated, he simply asked me, “Alcohol or no alcohol?” The answer was obvious. “Planteur!” he declared. I agreed, perfectly happy to have the choice taken out of my hands and it turned out to be a delicious rum punch, Martinique style! We watched with some amusement as he literally ran from table to bar, slightly hunched over with a tie died t-shirt and a bandanna, his grey hair in a little pony tail, chatting all the while to passers by and his customers. When we paid the bill, he all but ordered us to come back tomorrow for lunch, booking us a table pretty much before we’d even nodded our heads. We were instructed to return at 10am to place our order, then we will eat at 12pm sharp. Bemused, we agreed.
The meal the next day was superb and I urge anyone staying at this anchorage to visit Chez Fab et Claude and don’t leave without trying the coconut ice-cream! Full of fish and rum punches, we had (another) lazy afternoon snoozing and reading.
Back to Saint Lucia
Monday we headed back to Saint Lucia- another brisk and not altogether comfortable sail!- and anchored in Rodney Bay. Tuesday we moved into the marina and then Kate and I decided to head to Pigeon Island. “How far’s the walk?” she asked casually.
“Oh, about an hour, then a steep climb to the top,” I replied.
“What!? How am I going to manage that?”
“You’ll have to use those skinny white things sticking out of your shorts,” Nick said.
“Terysa, Nick’s being mean to me…”
We had yet another boozy lunch (sensing a theme?) at the national park, in a restaurant called Jambe de Bois. Kate almost attacked the waitress who came to clear her glass before she’d finished the last, warm mouthful of her pina colada. The waitress returned a minute later to give Kate her passionfruit daiquiri, and even poured the leftovers from the blender into a small plastic cup, obviously sensing Kate’s need for every last drop of that cocktail!
So today Kate left, and it’s been such a fun week and a half with her. She’s the ideal boat-guest: cleans up, sits and quietly reads her book when we feel lazy, goes to bed early and sleeps in, is obsessive in water conservation, eats anything and loves her rum-based cocktails! We’re already planning her next trip out to see us.
The next few days will be spent in Rodney Bay sorting out the boat and then we will see where life takes us next!