Friday, December 31, 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE

We were planning to watch the fireworks last night over Fort de France but the big swells rolling in from the North chased us back round to Trois Islets.


We had tried to get ashore but it was just too dangerous with the swells slamming the dinghy landing pontoon up against the rocks and it looking like it might break free at any moment with about 15 dinghies tied to it.

Looks like the swells will be around till early next week so we might just stay tucked up here till then.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas, Trois Ilets and Empress Josephine

SORRY ABOUT THE RANDOM ORDER OF THE PICS BUT THE FRENCH CONNECTION IS BLAH!
It was Christmas Day in the workhouse and when Oliver asked for more; he didn't get any!

Unlike John and Gisela who found an all you can eat/drink buffet for our Christmas dinner and had unlimited visits and wine refills at the beach front restaurant Ti Sable.

It had been a wet and windy night and morning so we were wary of another downpour but it kept fair as we walked to Ti Sable and for most of the afternoon as we were seated in a little cabin for four people with open walls although we had a roof. We enjoyed the casual ambiance with some younger diners around us popping out for a swim between courses and anything went as far as dress was concerned, it was definitely a case of ' No shirt – No shoes – Dribbly bottom - No Problem'.

We were extra careful getting back into the dink and making our way back to Elephants Child as we had had several refills on the excellent rosé.


























SORRY ABOUT THE RANDOM ORDER OF THE PICS BUT THE FRENCH CONNECTION IS BLAH!
It was Christmas Day in the workhouse and when Oliver asked for more; he didn't get any!



We were in one of my favorite anchorages , Grand Anse D'Arlet on the south east corner of Martinique. We sailed around from Marin passing Diamond Rock on the North side for a change and marveling again at the feats of engineering and logistics accomplished by the British sailors in establishing and maintaining a battery of cannons on the summit of this steep sided rock a couple of miles off the enemy coast. I bet some had sheltered in these caves in the side of the rock at times.

We were a little horrified to see a cruise ship at anchor in Grand Anse D'Arlet when we arrived but they moved on to another island that evening and they were a sailing cruise ship anyway.

We spent a few days here and even walked over to the next bay where we found the church to be packed with people even standing outside in their Sunday best but taking in the service and the beautiful singing from the choir.

We moved to Trois Islets beating up the Baie de Fort de France and could have sailed right to the anchorage but I wimped out and motored in cautiously which is just as well as I found the bottom on one attempt to anchor.

Our anchorage allows us to watch the players on the best golf course in the whole of Windward and Leeward islands. Gisela was almost persuaded to play a round there but decided to wait till she had her own clubs at her beck and call again.

We visited the birthplace of Marie Rose Tascher de Pagerie AKA Josephine Bonaparte and learned the story of the island girl who had grown up in a couple of rooms in this sugar factory after a hurricane had destroyed the family house and her father had destroyed the family fortune through gambling.

Her older sister was to go to France to marry into the aristocracy by arrangement. However she died and Marie Rose was sent in her stead. The rest, as they say, is history.

I had dropped history at school and our guide around the estate lead us through the soap opera of her life, having two children with her first husband but never being presented at court because he considered her not sufficiently cultured for royal circles. Then when he lost his head to the guillotine and she was imprisoned awaiting possible execution as an aristocrat she slept her way out of prison and into the dreams of Napoleon Bonaparte. Finally marrying him and being crowned empress of France. Her children from her first marriage and their descendants going on to be part of the royalty of Europe.

Funny that isn't it I had thought the whole purpose of the French revolution was to rid themselves of royalty?

Napoleon did divorce her when it was clear that she was not going to bear him a child but not before they had had many arguments over her extravagant spending. He was so incensed by this he passed a law which was part of the French legal system into the 20th century that said that a woman could only buy something with her husbands express permission.

ONE FOR PETRA

Spotted this Vespa on the promenade.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

MERRY CHRISTMAS ALL

Monday, December 20, 2010

COLD ! Club Med and St. Anne

We have been suffering from the cold out here in the Caribbean, Gisela is wearing a shirt in the evenings and we are thinking about using the solar shower rather than water straight from the tanks. I mean the temperatures are in the low 70s Fahrenheit at night and barely crawl into the 80s in the day! Baby it is cold outside!

CLUB MED
Where o where have they gone? Club Mediterranae in Martinique used to be populated by lots of pretty ladies doing all sorts of things including volleyball wearing the tiniest of monokinis.

It is the third time Elephants Child has sailed past Club Med and again it looked deserted, however on closer inspection there were a couple of occupied sun loungers. But nothing like the bouncy action packed beach scene that I remembered from the days I anchored off the beach here in the 90s.
In the evening we heard the live show start up and the repertoire seemed to consist of jingle bells, in French, and some other songs that belonged in a German bierkeller. We were glad that it was not a repetition of the amplified boom boom and steel band music that had blasted out from Sandals in St Lucia but it was not very inspiring and certainly seemed to lack any Gallic flair..

Sandals seemed to be doing OK with lots of custom and Club Med seemed to be about empty. Out of idle curiosity I checked the price for a week starting on Dec 25th and found out that the accommodation only price for 7 days was over $8,000 {US} ouch! I guess that is why it is so quiet here.






ST ANNE

The anchorage at St. Anne was much fuller than I remembered and it will be interesting to see if it thins out tomorrow as today is Sunday and quite a lot of the boats are flying French flags. A trip ashore found only a few shops open and most amenities INCLUDING THE TOILETS firmly closed.

However we were drawn into a local boulangery and chocolatier by the blissful smells emanating and left with a couple of portions of chocolate cake for desert this evening.

Friday, December 17, 2010

MARTINIQUE MARIN and MAHI MAHI


We had a good sail up to Martinique, I had worried that the wind might have veered too far for us to lay the course but in the end we just about made it falling a mile downwind after 25 miles.

We are in Cul de Sac du Marin [ The one in Martinique – Guadeloupe has one too! ] which is the yachting centre for Martinique and the charter boat centre for the French in the West Indies.

Gisela's comment was “This is the most boats I have seen so far in one spot.” It is certainly busy and the anchorage is much more crowded than it was in July when I stopped here on my way down to Grenada.

We finished up anchoring behind Lala [ AGAIN! It must be the umpteenth time I have found space behind them – wonder what that means? ] They are settled here for a while as their kids are going to school in Martinique for a while.

We will stock up here as the French supermarkets are much less expensive than those in the English speaking islands and then we will probably work our way around to Grand Anse D'Arlet for Christmas day.





But we had no problem working out what to have for dinner tonight, it was Mahi Mahi fresh caught on the way up.

It was the first Dorado I have caught from Elephants Child but we had the suggested three lines out one long one medium and a short one with the squid skipping on the surface as a teaser.

Both of us had a pang as they are so spectacular as they come aboard with a brilliant blue turning bright green then silver just before they snuff it.

I said to Gisela “ It is more than just a pretty fish – it is dinner! “ and very good it was too.

I suspect I will be prompted to get all three lines going again on our next sail.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Atlantic Rally for Cruisers




The ARC boats have been coming in thick and fast over the last few days which is just as well as the organisers shut up shop take down the finish line and go home. There will still be some boats out in the Atlantic left to arrive with no greeting, steel band etc.

The parties are in full swing the queue of dirty washing at the laundry is growing and the rum is coming in by the lorry load!

We visited gros Islet yesterday to see if the couple of Rastas I met in the 90s were still in business at the Worlds End Rasta Shack. We had heard that there had been a fight and someone had been "chopped" a but it was a shock to find it was a relative of the brothers and that he had been killed outside the shack.

We paid our respects and moved on to a little bar built on stilts and had a beer. The owner was a German woman who had come on holiday 13 years ago and is still there.

We are off to Martinique tomorrow weather permitting. We are softy cruisers so if we don't like, there is always a better day.





We finished off our stay in Rodney Bay with a dinner out in the Jambe Du Bois which was splendid and very atmospheric, even if I did feel the need to test each chair very carefully before leaning back.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A GREEN FLASH, FORT RODNEY, THE ARC and SOUFRIERE





Well I had talked about it often, we had waited with anticipation as the last sliver of the sun slid below the horizon but until tonight we had watched in vain. However this evening we had a great bright emerald green flash as the sun set. Gisela has seen one at last, a real “wow” moment.

PIGEON ISLAND

We visited Pigeon Island a few days ago.

The island is now joined to the mainland because they dumped the spoil from dredging operations in the Rodney Bay Marina and formed a causeway but we dinghied over anyway. It has been quietly conserved without being covered in plastic and keep off signs.

We enjoyed the explanation of the history of Pigeon Island and found out that the freed slaves who feared re-enslavement by the British had, like the Vietcong, built networks of tunnels to hide in and fight from during the “Brigands” rebellion of 1795 and had even captured and held Pigeon island for a while.

But, as before, the British recaptured the island because the location allowed the British sailors to keep an eye on the French fleet in Martinique and provided a very protected anchorage in Rodney Bay with cannon in Fort Rodney atop the left peak.

The location also allowed them to sally forth and attack the French whenever they saw an opportunity.

The climb up to the Fort gave us amazing views and we saw Venomous, the second boat in the race across the Atlantic called the ARC, to finish, come round the corner with the chute flying, drop the chute then beat up to the finish line with most of the crew dangling their legs over the side as if it was a round the cans beer race on a weekend.

We had heard the first boat finish the day before with cannons and steel bands but this seemed much lower key. However maybe the band was on the quayside waiting for them.

Since then there has been a steady stream crossing the line, tyeing up in the marina and having to find their land legs again. But they quickly find them and the way to some cold ones so the bars are full of sunburnt sailors telling “ There I was “ stories.





On the way down from the fort we were lucky to see a fleeting glimpse of a mongoose.

These alien intruders have had a devastating effect on some of the native species especially the snake populations. No bad thing accoding to some, but the loss of a species can never be good.




SOUFRIERE

We took the local bus down to Soufriere. It is quite a contrast to Castries which has many new glass and concrete buildings which would not be out of place in the centre of London. Instead there were old wooden buildings some of which had not been painted for many years. There were of course a few stone or cement block buildings but most were timber and tin roofs.





The Catholic church had a beautiful wooden roof.

The trip down was through some really spectacular scenery with steep sided jungle covered hills and precipitous drops down to unseen rivers.





There were also great scars where the rains from Hurricane Tomas had caused landslides cutting Soufriere off from water, electricity and road connections to the outside world.

We visited an old plantation with extensive gardens and some beautiful flowers.











It also had a stream flowing through it from the local volcanic vents area. The water is heavily mineralised and the content varies as the different vents erupt or subside.

We managed to delay our visit to late afternoon and by then the myriad cruise ship visitors were on their way back to their “all you can eat” buffets aboard ship so we were pretty much the only ones in the gardens.

We met some friendly and fearless locals who begged hard for crumbs.

At the top of the walk we saw the Diamond Falls and further evidence of landslides.