Martinique ~ 16th – 25th March
Martinique is an overseas region of France and consists of a single department! The island is one of the eighteen regions of France and is an integral part of the French Republic. It is therefore part of the European union and it’s currency is the Euro!
The official language is French. However, almost all Martinique people speak a Creole too which is like a patois and completely unintelligible!
Christopher Columbus and Martinique!
Our good friend Christopher Columbus pops up here again! In 1493 he charted the island and in 1502 he arrived on the island after a trade wind passage of 21 days, his fastest ocean voyage! He christened the island Martinica but with the neighbouring island of Dominica so close, Martinica morphed into Martinique!
Martinique changed hands several times between the British and the French but was traded back to France at the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. Martinique has remained in French possession ever since.
Sainte Anne ~ Martinique
Having very much enjoyed our visit to St Lucia we continued our travels north through the Caribbean leaving Rodney Bay for the French island of Martinique, the last of the Windward Islands setting our course for the south-west resort of Sainte Anne some 34 nautical miles away!
Diamond Island, south-west Martinique!
It was a lovely day again and so good to be back out at sea with Musetta. The passage crosses the St Lucia/Martinique channel which can produce big seas and strong winds in the acceleration zone. This of course is fine when these conditions are ‘with’ you, which they were so we had a lively sail but also very enjoyable!!
Our visit to Martinique was to turn out to be one of catching up with various friends we had met during our travels and all of them before we had crossed the Atlantic!!
Firstly we knew that our friends Élise and Fabien with Petit Goustan would be at anchor in the beautiful bay at Sainte Anne having called them up on the radio during our trip across! We had been told that the anchorage was enormous and so it was, but with the aid of binoculars we were able to pick them out!
We had dropped and stowed our sails and so motored in between all the boats and found a space right next to them to drop our anchor! Although we had been in touch with them since we last saw them in Lanzarote, we had both made Atlantic Crossings since then and there was much to catch up on! It was good to see them again and to enjoy swimming in the bay at Sainte Anne.
L’Église Notre-Dame de Sainte-Anne had an interesting roof!
We had a problem with our freezer now and so needed to go into the lagoon at Le Marin so that a technician could come and take a look!
Before setting off for the lagoon however, we thought we would take advantage of the water tank filling service!
It was a very slick operation and over fairly quickly as we really didn’t need much water!
This time we came across s/y “Fredis” and her owners Jim and Paula! We had last seen them in A Corunna!! Goodness that was back in August last year! Again we had much to catch up on and spent a very pleasant evening exchanging tales of our adventures!
We went ashore from our anchorage and arranged for a technician to come out to Musetta to hopefully fix the freezer! This done we then organised a car for the next day to have a trip round the island! We couldn’t believe it when the next day dawned and it was raining??? We had a wet trip round the island!!
We wanted to visit in particular, the rum distillery at Le Francois called Habitation Clément which was highly recommended! The masion, pictured above, has had some famous guests including President Francois Mitterrand and President George W Bush who convened there in March 1991 supposedly to discuss a way forward to peace in the Middle East! They apparently didn’t agree on much but the talks were congenial!!
Masses of rum stored in wooden casks!
Despite the rain the rum distillery was extremely interesting, including the tasting session at the end of the tour!! The botanic gardens surrounding the historic house are stunning and in a way quite unexpected! They are beautifully maintained and contain some exotic species of Palms and other trees which are a sight to behold!
The Traveller’s tree, the Blue Palm from Madagascar and The Indian Elata Palm
The Traveller’s tree, or thirst quenching tree isn’t actually a tree at all but a species of GRASS?!! It is named the Traveller’s tree as it accumulates water at the base of it’s fan of leaves to quench the thirst of a passing traveller!
On then to see the Mount Pelée Volcano! Well at least that was the plan but the weather had really closed in by this time and the Volacano had disappeared into the clouds so there was little point in continuing! We turned round and drove back to Le Marin via Fort de France the capital of Martinique!
I took this shot of the volcano as we were sailing to Saint-Pierre. It looks as though the volcano is smoking but it isn’t, it’s the cloud behind it!!
Despite the rain and the disappointment of not being able to climb the volcano we did have a good day out! We returned the hire car when we got back to Le Marin and I was lucky enough to get a photo of the marina and the myriad of yachts at anchor in the bay through the trees as the sun appeared at the end of the day!
It was now time to move on to an overnight anchorage we had picked out and so we left Le Marin and enjoyed a very pleasant sail round to Anse Noire!
Great sailing today! Diamond Rock ahead and this time we would be passing between it and the island!
The inlet into the anchorage is tiny and there is not much room for more than 6 or 7 yachts to be anchored at any one time. As we were approaching we could see that a British boat was anchored there too and to our surprise we turned in and found “Nebula” nestled into the bay!
We had met Greg and Jenny in Porto Santo, Madeira way back last November where they were waiting for a part for their wind generator! We last saw them in Lanzarote before we went to Fuerteventura and on to Gran Canaria at the beginning of December last year!
Again, we had a fun evening on Musetta catching up with their news of their crossing of the Atlantic and what they had been up to since!!
We swam and snorkelled in the morning and found a tame turtle who I could easily have touched it was so close! We went ashore and walked up to top of the wooded cliffs to look down at Musetta and Nebula swinging at anchor!
On our way the previous day we noted a pretty bay just before Anse Noire and so we decided to go ashore and walk across to the bay while we there mostly to take a look but also to buy some fresh bread if it was possible? The contrast in the two bays which are side by side on the coast was incredible! Anse Noire as it’s name would suggest is a black sand beach where as the bay right beside it, Anse Dufour is white sand?
Anse Noire side by side with Anse Dufour!!
Incredible that two beaches just 100 metres apart can be so different?! We managed to find some bread and so armed with one for us and one for Greg and Jenny, we made our way back to Musetta to get ready to leave for our final stopover on Martinique, Saint-Pierre! Just a short sail away across the bay of Fort de France, we were there in no time, dropping the anchor in another completely different environment!
We found that anchoring here was the trickiest we had encountered! The wind made all the boats swing hugely and the ‘bottom’ being very soft we dragged our anchor and had to reset it a couple of times before we were happy!!
Saint-Pierre used to be the capital of Martinique until the 8th May 1902 when Mount Pelée erupted and completely destroyed the town, killing 30,000 people!
It was a terrible disaster and the only person who survived in the town was a prisoner one Auguste Cyparis who was saved by the enormously thick walls of his prison cell!! Shortly after this catastrophic event the island’s capital was moved to Fort-de-France and remains so today!
The remains of the old Saint-Pierre!
We rather liked this stopover despite it’s run down feel and we could imagine that it had once been a thriving capital town. We went to the bar, ‘Alsace a Kay’ to ‘clear-out’ of Martinique and found the owner extremely friendly and helpful! He seemed very grateful that we had bought a beer while we were there and he didn’t charge us anything for the clearance!!! I don’t remember how much the beers were but perhaps we paid far too much for them?!! Ignorance is bliss they say but we were totally relaxed completing the formalities with such a friendly patron!
After two nights in this pretty little place we set off for the first of the Leeward Islands!…..