Saint Pierre, our first anchorage in Martinique, used to be the capital of this French Island. In 1902, a massive eruption of Mount Pelee to the north of the town, destroyed the town, killing the approximately 27,000 inhabitants and setting alight and sinking a number of large ships in the anchorage. Legend has it that one man, Cyparis, survived the extreme heat inside the thick walls of his prison cell, albeit with his skin, medium to well done.
Reconstruction has been slow and more than a hundred years later, St Pierre still has a down at heel look. We spent three days walking the length and breadth of the town to look at the remnants of buildings and visit the impressive museum, documenting the event.
The fresh fruit and veg market on the Saturday was excellent, so we stocked up before sailing south on Sunday the 8th March.
We anchored 2 nm south of the capital Fort de France, at a lovely bay, Anse Mitan in the Trois Ilets (three islets). It was here that Josephine, the wife of Napoleon was born in 1763 – the ruins of her family’s house and sugarcane farm can be visited ashore, if you are interested.
We had the young couple on the Hanse 44 next us for coffee, Cedric and Gloria from France and Colombia respectively, now living in Sydney. Interesting the number of people in their thirties, kicking up the ratrace, buying a boat and living the dream. Our Aussie flag facilitates contact with a lot of sailors.
After four days we did the quick two mile crossing to Fort de France to anchor next to the huge fort. We were impressed by this bustling big city with its modern buses, running in dedicated bus lanes – in fact, their traffic management overall, would be a good example for Sydney. We used the buses to shop at the massive Mr Bricolage (Bunnings plus), Decathlon, the giant French sportswear chain, Galleries de Lafayette and the Carrefour Hypermarket.
The Fort de France cathedral, destroyed five times by earthquakes, hurricanes and fires, was finally rebuilt in steel frames with concrete infill panels and has been standing since 1895. The interior is beautiful despite the industrial looking steelwork.
Since arriving in St Pierre, the early evening ambience has been disturbed by candidates in the upcoming elections exhorting the electorate to vote for them, via car mounted loudspeakers cranked up to max. Remembering the scenes described by a friend who was in Jamaica forty years ago at election time, when the machetes came out to settle scores with the opposing candidates, we reluctantly accepted the noise.
We departed Fort de France after four days as the cacophony of three candidates shouting within sight of one another, became too much. We sailed further south to Grande Anse, a small town where the candidates couldn’t expect many votes, resulting in quieter evenings.
We used this stop to do some walks in the bush along the shore to Petite Anse about 5 km further south, to get what Annie calls cardio vascular exercise and I call cardio vulgaris. After a beer on the beach, it was a long walk back to Grande Anse.
Reports from Australia informed us that supermarket shelves were stripped bare of toilet paper and other essentials as a result of the Coronavirus fear. It is not clear whether people are sh1tting themselves in fear of contracting the virus, or whether the virus causes diarrhoea. OK, I know the virus pandemic is real and can be lethal for older people or those with low immunity, but I cannot understand the logic of this panic buying of toilet paper. In the same vein, Michelle our daughter sent me the quip below, taking the Mickey out of Aldi stores, my favourite supermarket group in Australia.
Petite Anse looked good, so we motored around the headland to anchor there and enjoy the crystal clear water, snorkeling and beach walks.
COVID-19: The French Government issued a proclamation that as from 12:00, Tuesday the 17th March 2020, the French Islands in the Caribbean will be in lockdown for 14 days to try to prevent the disease from spreading, even though the number of cases are small, compared to the rest of the world. We were on the beach at Petite Anse, relaxing and reading, when at 12:00, the police requested all people to leave the beach in terms of the proclamation.
The following day we motored to Le Marin, quite a big city, 15 nm to the south east. Annie and I went to the two big supermarkets, Carrefour and Leader Price to stock up with a few essentials, as we were running low on some items.
There were short queues outside each store, as the proclamation limited the number of customers to 20 in a store at any time. We were allowed entry after a 5 minute wait, and were surprised to find the shelves fully stocked, with customers doing their weekly small shop and none wheeling out trolley loads of toilet paper – all very civilised.
The sheltered lagoon of Le Marin was choc a bloc with boats (We estimated about 300), but the water quality wasn’t suitable for our water maker. So, after stocking up, we motored 2 nm to the outer bay, to anchor at St. Anne. Guess what? – to anchor with 355 other boats (Annie counted them from the hill in town), caught here in Martinique.
We can’t sail further south to St Lucia, or St Vincent and the Grenadines, as these islands are also closed and require a 14 days quarantine for arriving boats. Of all places, beautiful Martinique is the best place to be isolated in for 14 days! We are having sundowners with some Aussies tonight and will update you once we are allowed to sail south. In the meantime, stay safe and wash your hands after opening this post. Cheers.