Martinique: Final post.

Since our last post of 10th June, we spent more time in Martinique, while waiting for islands to the south of us, to open their borders. A large number of yachts departed to Grenada, where conditional entry with two weeks quarantine and Covid-19 testing on completion, was put in place.

On the 14th June we sailed north to Martinique’s capital, Fort de France, with “Nimrod” and “Purrr” for a change of scenery. We used the FdF anchorage as a base and rented a car to reach some trails on the island.

Sailing to Fort de France.

Passing Rocher du Diamant.

Our first 10 km hike was the Canal de Beauregard near St Pierre in the north. This 5km long irrigation canal, fed from the upper reaches of the Carbet river, was built by slaves in the 18th century. The canal clings to the side of the mountain and in sections near the end, has a sheer drop of hundreds of metres down into the valley of the Carbet river – absolutely breathtaking.

Start of the canal walk.

Far down below, the river and some farms.

Walking along.

Deceptive: the drop on the left is about 200m

Tall bamboo’s along the way.

A beer and lunch after the hike: Dirk and Chris.

The next hike was high up in the central mountains, to reach the Didier falls. This walk takes you through a 150m long tunnel. Afterwards, we visited the beautiful “Jardin de Belata”, a few km’s further up the valley. These gardens were established in 1982, by the horticulturist Jean-Philippe Thoze.

Start of the Didier Falls trail: Annie, Sue and Chris.

Lights on!

In the tunnel.

Reaching the weir where the water supply pipes for Fort de France start.

The first falls.

A swim to cool off, after the first leg.

The view from the top of the falls.

The entrance to the Belata gardens: Annie and Sue.

Majestic 40 year old palms.

View down the valley.

The tree top walk.

The girls on the rickety walkway.

A view from the tree top walk.

One of the amazing flowers.

Our last hike this week, was along the “Trace de Jesuits” a trail established by Jesuit priests along the Lorrain river. This walk is in the rainforests and lived up to its name – we walked back in the rain, on the way back to the car. 

Start of the Trace de Jesuits.

Following in the footsteps of the Jesuit priests.

Rain forest.

Back in Fort de France, we visited the Schoelcher library. This library was shipped from France after a Paris exhibition in the 19th century and rebuilt here piece by piece.

The Schoelcher library – much of the facade is made of cast iron elements.

We woke up on the 18th of June, to a dust storm blowing in from the Sahara, over thousands of miles of Atlantic Ocean. We thought we had seen the last dust storms in Egypt and Cyprus. The dust blanketed out the sun for three days. With the following rain, our boats looked like they had a mud bath.

A surprise awaited us when we tried to start the engine to sail to Anse Mitan at the three islands, to join a group of friends for lunch on Saturday the 21st. The 5-year old engine battery died suddenly, as they sometimes do. We motored back to Fort de France on the Monday and bought and installed a new 70A/h starter battery, before sailing to Petite Anse d’Arlets in the south.

Lunchtime with beautiful ladies: Sue, Annie, Annie and Suzanne.

And their beau’s: Charlie, Marc and Chris.

In Petite Anse d’Arlets, we joined Chris and Sue Jones on “Nimrod” for their 20th wedding anniversary dinner and party, with these yachties – a jolly evening and a late night affair, with lots of dancing. 

Chris and Sue Jones, celebrating 20 years of marriage.

These Frenchie’s can dance: Annie and Marc.

Pole dancing at 2 am!

Word reached us that St Vincent and the Grenadine islands to the south, will accept yachts from the end of June, subject to an application submission and a Covid-19 test on arrival, which if negative, will allow the crew to enter after 24 hours. We immediately submitted our application online and got approval on the 25th of June. We sailed back to our previous anchorage at St Anne to do our laundry and check out of Martinique on Monday the 29th June 2020. So, here we go at last, after an unplanned four months in lovely Martinique, to travel south to St Lucia and on to St Vincent and the Grenadines. We’ll keep you posted – until then, Cheerio!

Martinique: Take 5.

A walk with Matt and Kristina was planned for Wednesday the 20th May, but Annie woke up with a sore knee, so we had to cancel it – just as well, because it rained just about the whole day. Thursday and Friday were the Abolition of Slavery public holidays in Martinique, so we managed to do some walks. The Saturday evening we had another music evening with Helmut on SV Kepasa.

Dirk, Kristina and Matt.

Young bikers on the trail.

Annie and mangrove roots.

On the Sunday, after 10 weeks at anchor, Esprit’s hull looked like a veritable vegetable garden. I worked away in the swell to clean the starboard side of the hull, in the process getting covered by dislodged water lice, resulting in bites similar to blue bottle stings. Copious applications of “Stingose” and anti histamine tablets got the burning under control after 3 hours.

Boredom was getting the better of us, so on Monday the 25th May we rented a car for three days to travel the island and get some retail therapy. The first day we visited Decathlon, the amazing sports goods store near Fort de France, followed by Mr Bricolage (like an Australian Bunnings, Plus) hardware store opposite, and finished with the Hyper U store nearby, for provisions.

Enroute – here comes the rain. (beehives in the foreground)

The next day was the sight see and exercise day. We did an eight km hike in the Caravelle nature reserve halfway up the East coast and got thoroughly drenched in a heavy 30 minute downpour. We then drove up to Mt Pelee in the North (see our first post on St Pierre in Martinique). This is the volcano that destroyed the town of St Pierre in 1902.

Mt Pelee before it clouded over.

The view to the south.

When we  reached the start of the 2 km track up to the caldera of the volcano, the sky was clear, but 5 minutes later, the clouds came in, making the hike a non starter. Matt quickly launched his drone to give us a view of the caldera, but the clouds were too fast as the drone disappeared out of view, before returning to base. We got back to St  Anne well after dark.

A: Come on – let’s walk up to the top! D: Are you talking to me?

Cut it-out! –  and smile for the camera.

On day 3 we did more shopping in Le Marin, at the Leader Price supermarket for food and wine, as we were told that wine is expensive further south. After returning the car to the hire company, I cleaned the port side of Esprit’s hull, with Matt helping me clean the sail drive leg, keel and rudder. (Being 30 years younger, he can free dive for up to 4 minutes)

On Thursday we moved Esprit about a km south to Caritan beach, where the water was calmer, so we managed to do some maintenance and scrubbing the green waterline clean on the Friday. Saturday was laundry day and in the evening, Helmut had 35 dinghies tied up to Kepasa for his concert. We were pleasantly surprised when first, Michelle and later Karen, called us on WhatsApp, for the first time in weeks! (all good on their side).

Chris and Sue Jones from London, on their catamaran Nimrod, joined us for drinks on Esprit on the Sunday evening. Interestingly, there are not many English speaking boats anchored here, with the majority of the boats from France and Europe. Also, it is encouraging to see how many of these boats are sailed by young couples or families in their 30’s and 40’s, making us old farts almost unique in this part of the world.

Kasia, Marcin and their son Vincent from White Dog.

Monday the 1st of June has arrived and so far only Grenada to the north of Trinidad has opened it’s harbours to yachts that have reservations at their marinas, subject to a 14 day on board quarantine period and testing afterwards. A lot of yachts have left Martinique to take up that option.

June 1st – the sunset has moved north from the small island on the left, in the time we have been here.

We are still waiting for news from the other islands to the south of us, as we only have to be in Trinidad by the end of July – weather permitting. No sign of potential hurricanes forming in the eastern Atlantic at this stage, but we are ready to move south at short notice. In the meantime we carry on walking.

Walking group having a rest.

Chris and Sue – serious hikers.

The easing of restrictions now allows us unlimited walking (also on the beaches) and socialising in groups of up to 10 people. Sailing between Martinique and Guadeloupe to the north (both French islands) is also permitted. We already have spent some time on Guadeloupe on the way here, so won’t do that.

Picnic with French, UK, Canadian and US sailors.

Sunset view from our picnic.

By the 9th of June we have been anchored her in St Anne for 12 weeks, but with the exception of Grenada to the south (see the map) none of the of the islands have opened up. We have heard that the anchorage in Grenada is overflowing with boats allowed to enter, as a result of bookings in marinas.

Windward islands.

Expats from Cape Town – John, Annie and Dirk.

Beautiful flowering tree.

Passing the stations up to the church on the hill.

View from the church.

Drinks with French Annie, Dirk, Chris and Charlie.

We will carry on walking, travelling and socialising on this beautiful island, as we have made many new friends here. An approaching hurricane, or islands opening up will see us moving south, but until then we leave you with photos of our lives here on the island. Until then, cheers and stay safe!

That’s us.

Another beautiful sunset.