WEEEEEELLLL, we decided not to overnight it to Bequia (pronounced BEK-way) from Dominica (pronounced dom-in-EE-ka) after all, instead taking the easier option of day sails through Martinique (mahr-tin-EEK) and St. Lucia (loo-SI-ah). I was about to write that the islands get harder to pronounce as you go South, but Philip reminded me of Saba (SAY-ba), St. Barths (san bahrt), St. Martin (san mar TAN), Antigua (an TEE ga) and Nevis (NEE vis).
Anyhoo, back to the story.
We’re planning to high-tail it down the island chain over the next week because a tropical WAVE is on its way and will cause squally conditions that aren’t ideal for sailing. Don’t ask me what a WAVE is. Or a TROF. The most I know is that they are tropical weather features that make things ugly for a while. I think that they might be associated with low pressure systems, but not enough to have a real Tropical LO, which is much nastier. If you do know, please educate me.
Anyhoo, back to the story.
We arrived at Martinique on Friday afternoon after a romp of a sail down from Roseau. As usual, the island effect gave us strong winds on the nose as we rounded the southern end of Dominica, but these settled out to 20-25 knots 60 degrees of the bow for most of the trip. Seas were moderate so we only got mildly soaked, and we were able to keep the heel to about 15-20 degrees by only using the mizzen and a reefed jib – but this killed our speed so the 35 mile trip took 7 hours, despite a fantastic last couple of hours approaching Martinique on a beam reach in moderated winds and seas when we were doing 5.5-6 knots. All in all, a fun if challenging sail. The best part was that Philip actually enjoyed it, which may be the first time he hasn’t HATED sailing since, oh, the first Picaroon.
It’s too bad that we have to push South so fast, however, because it would have been fun to explore the St. Pierre area a bit. We weren’t able to explore at all because the tourist office that handles clearing in (immigration/customs) has had no electricity, so we’re technically not supposed to be on shore. There’s an entire bay full of boats flying the yellow quarantine flag here. While our lack of clearance didn’t stop us from popping into the market to grab some vittles on the way back, we didn’t want to totally flaunt the law and go for a long, rambling hike up the volcano.
You see, this is the infamous town that was totally destroyed in 1902 by the eruption of Mt. Pele. It was considered the Paris of the Caribbean at the time, and 29,000 people died immediately when the side of the mountain blew off on May 8, 1902. There were two survivors: a man in jail for murder, and a cobbler who was in his cellar. Everyone else in the town was killed by the massive fireball or lava flow. The crazy thing is that there were copious warnings that the volcano was going to erupt, but the governor refused to evacuate because he was under pressure from plantation owners who didn’t want to lose money. There’s a museum and archaeological site I would have loved to visit – next time, I guess!
So our plan now is to head down to the capital, Fort de France, this afternoon, which should be a quick 15-mile sail, and clear in and out of Martinique tomorrow. We’ll take this last opportunity on a French island to stock up on the fantastic foods and wine you can’t get anywhere else then make our way, probably to St. Lucia on Tuesday. We might stay there a day or just anchor overnight without even clearing in and head to St. Vincent the next day so we can make it to Bequia by Friday. We’ll see. Nothing ever works as planned on a boat, but it’s after a year that I’m finally totally at peace with that.