On Friday, March 30, 2018, we left Dominica at 7:45 a.m. and sailed south towards Martinique. Our plan was to stop in the first port of clearance, St. Pierre, a neat little town that went down in history in 1902 when the nearby Soufrière volcano erupted, killing every single inhabitant save for one man who was in a stone-walled drunk tank that day.
Our Dominica–Martinique track
On the map above you can see that we started heading into the Rade de Saint-Pierre, but as soon as we got close enough to see how badly the boats were rocking and rolling in the anchorage, we decided to carry on to Fort de France, which was much better protected from the unseasonable northerly swell. We had made excellent time on our crossing, averaging 5.8 knots, and it was not even 2 p.m., so we still had lots of time to make it the extra 15 nautical miles to Fort de France in time for sundowners.
David at the helm
Double head sails up on a downwind run in Martinique
Anchorage at Fort de France
Full moon rising over the fort
After sundowners and dinner, we dinghied ashore to explore the town. Fort de France is an interesting capital city, with a neat mix of Creole and French, and traditional and modern architecture. However, it is clearly a port town where business is dictated entirely by the cruise ship schedule. If there are no cruise ships at the dock, absolutely nothing is open. That first night walking around, it felt like we had the whole town to ourselves. But it was a bit odd on other days when you couldn’t find a single bar or restaurant open at 5 p.m., giving the impression of being in a ghost town. The next morning we went into town again and were happy to find it a bit livelier.
The main market in Fort de France
FDF street view
The Canadian baguette – with maple and sesame chicken. Didn’t try it, but it sure sounds good!
Why don’t they make government buildings like this in Ottawa??
The municipal library, designed by Eiffel
Nerding out with a library panorama (note the names of famous French authors)
Since it was Saturday night, we felt we should make an effort to be social, so we invited the crew of S/V Calicoba over for sundowners. We had seen this Australian boat several times over the past few months, first in Antigua, then in Guadeloupe and again in Dominica. We still hadn’t met the crew, so we figured it was time to introduce ourselves. Michael, Maya, Keith and Riley from Melbourne came over for sundowners, which turned into a whole night of eating, drinking, exchanging sailing stories and laughing. We finally turned in around 1:30 a.m., feeling like total rockstars, though admittedly not a lot got done the next day (we’ll blame it on the rain).
Monday morning, Patrick and Nathalie, Mel’s newly arrived dad and stepmom, were at the dock bright and early for Day 1 of touring the island by car. We visited the most beautiful beaches on the south side of the island, including Anse Figuier and Grande Anse des Salines, and had lunch on the beach in Ste. Anne. On the way back, we saw Diamond Rock, an island that the British outfitted with cannons and troops to protect Martinique from French invasion in the early 1800s.
Rear view at Anse Figuier
Family selfie across the bay from Ste. Anne
Awkward family photos
Silliness at Diamond Rock
On Day 2 of touring the island, we visited the Depaz Distillery where we got a tour of the estate, did a rum tasting and had lunch. We then spent the afternoon lazing on a beach on the northwest side of the island.
Lovely Depaz estate
View from the house
In a hurry to go rum tasting
Rum barrel aging
Post rum tasting artsy shot
Not a bad spot for lunch
Delicious tuna lunch at the distillery
On our last day of intense tourism, we hiked along the Caravelle peninsula on the Atlantic coast of the island.
Panorama from the Caravelle lighthouse
Dorky lighthouse portrait
Dorky Atlantic shot
Cute bird gets up close and personal
Family portrait on the easternmost point of the island in the blazing hot sun
We finished our day by getting everyone out to the boat for sundowners. This was a huge deal because Patrick is not a fan of being on or in the water, so we were very proud of him for facing his fears, getting in the dinghy and coming aboard for a drink.
Ar Sgrail sundowners crew
Another beautiful Fort de France sunset
After a week in Fort de France, we were looking for a change of scenery so headed across the bay to Anse Mitan. This part of the island is a bit touristy, but it meant there were lots of restaurants and shops. We spent a week on a quest to find our favourite bakery and ice cream shop. We also did some bar hopping with the Calicoba crew. One Sunday we took Patrick and Nathalie for a day of sailing and snorkelling in Anse Dufour before they got on a cruise ship that would cross the Atlantic back to France.
Dinghy shuttle to the boat
Patrick and Mel at the helm
The Calicoba boys share a 2L sex on the beach
Another week went by and we weren’t quite ready to leave Martinique, so we headed around the corner to Grande Anse d’Arlet, a sheltered anchorage with many French boats. On Sunday evenings the whole town gathers at the local creperie for open mic night, and with 5-euro crepes and 2-euro glasses of wine or beer, it was the perfect end to the week. A few days later we finally got the perfect weather window for our crossing, so we cleared out, put the dinghy on deck and weighed anchor.
Grande Anse d’Arlet
Sunset rum punch on the beach
Where the wind takes us next: Lush St. Lucia!