12 May 2022

20 April Car tour day 1 - Canal des Esclaves

We picked up our hire car at the airport (a 30 minute bus ride from town) late yesterday afternoon. Research done, Martinique downloaded on the phone and we are ready for an early start. The plan is a clockwise circle starting with the 'most scenic road in Martinique', a twisting, switchback ride through the forested foothills of the second highest mountain on the island, Pitons du Carbet. It is a glorious road no speed bumps, but there are deep ditches on the side. I'm happy David is driving. He's happy that I'm navigating. We reach 900m which is high for sea level dwellers.

We stop to look at a gorge and a short walk through the forest.

Back in the car and heading north towards Morne Rouge we see a sign for Canal de Beauregard, also known as Canal des Esclaves; a narrow irrigation channel built on the the side of Morne des Cadets by slaves in the late 17th century to feed water to the coastal sugar fields and rum distilleries. There's a 3.5km walk along the top of the wall. We did this walk back in 2009 and had such good memories we were keen to do it again.

It is still narrow and high, in places just 30-40cms wide with a drop of 20 metres to the forest floor below.

At the moment it's being repaired and reinforced with the wall becoming the submerged top of a waterfall in places. In fact after we'd visited I learned the walk was officially closed while the work was being done, but we didn't see a notice to this effect until we reached the bottom.

The route is linear meaning you park at one end, for us the top, walk downhill admiring the view over the valley and out to the Caribbean sea, take a photo of the end point, and then turn around and walk the gentle uphill slope back to your car. Back at the car feeling hot and thirsty we agreed this is one of those things when the second time is better than the first time.

from Mt Pelee looking south

It was mid afternoon before we were back in the car and heading north to the slopes of Mount Pelee. There is a road up to a cafe and then a walking track that rises 400m to the top. Estimated time for the round trip is four hours so sadly, so very sadly after our three hour walk along the canal, not enough daylight hours to do it. Such a shame! It was park, shoot some photos, back in the car and onwards to the east coast road and home.

It was a long day. However we did manage to fit in a quick, obligatory, visit to a rum distillery with museum and tasting. The museum was well laid out and informative. The rum too paint stripper for my palette. Now if they had a gin distillery....

14 April Jardin de Balata

It's another outing on a bus day. This time we are headed inland and upland to the foothills of the Pitons of Carbet to visit a botanical garden thirty minutes ride north of Fort de France.

Jardin de Balata is 500m above sea level and pleasantly cool. It's the work of one man who grew up here and inherited his grandparents house and land forty years ago and then developed it into a landscaped garden with pools, flowers and a treetop walk.


13 April On the buses in Fort de France

Fort Louis, FdF

A week on from Petite Anse D'Arlet and we're anchored in the lee of Port Louis in Fort de France, the capital of Martinique. The anchorage is larger than it appeared on the chart with room for all, with the exception of captains who believe less than one boat length from your neighbour is OK, and good holding. There is an excellent dinghy dock and an awful bottom slap from the incoming and outgoing ferries. Nothing may be perfect, but we are happy enough with the balance of positives and negatives to stay.

fresh market in FdF

While here in FdF our plans are to max out on retail therapy, visit the Yamaha outboard dealer to buy spare impellers and hire a car for a couple of days. For the car we have to wait until after the busy Easter weekend which starts tomorrow.

The Martinique bus service is nothing like the rest of the Caribbean; bendy buses with AC, a reliable schedule and an honesty system for purchasing tickets. Buy your ticket before boarding at a machine, swipe in on entry. Martinique has motorways with traffic jams too! Bus A runs between the esplanade and the airport and passes all the big hypermarkets, Decathlon and the Yamaha dealership.

super size me - 400 hp outboard

First stop for us was Yamaha to buy a couple of spare impellers. Then Decathlon. David has a shortage of shorts...I might need an extra pair too. Like the porridge for Goldilocks nothing in store was just right for David, but perfect for me. Three pairs and new neoprene socks to wear with my snorkelling fins (small feet need extra padding) for me worked a treat.

Last stop of the day was a big, European style mall complete with hypermarket attached. Why is this mundane chore exciting? Because the variety and range of items you can buy is a rare treat for us. Not only can you find, say, basmati rice, but there are five different brands to choose from. Over the years of our sailing we have visited places where the local supermarket may have full shelves, but each shelf is stacked the same brand of sugar, the same rice, the same packet of biscuits. Now I am that child in a sweet shop not knowing what to choose...for two minutes and then I revert to type and fill the basket.


24 April 2022

6 April Morne Champagne


Who wouldn't want a small mountain of champagne? This morne is a headland with a coastal path linking the Grand and Petite Anses D'Arlet. A couple of strenuous miles clambering uphill and slithering downhill from little to big with a flat one mile road to return by.   

5 April Petite Anse D'Arlet

Petite Anse D'Arlet church

the beach

Petite Anse D'Arlet is a pretty village with lovely old houses and a postcard pretty church a couple of hours' sail north from Sainte Anne. We would have picked up a mooring ball if one had been available but with them all occupied we took the alterntive and anchored to the south of the town in Anse Chaudiere. Since we visited anchoring is now forbidden to preserve the seabed ecosystem. Before we left I snorkelled from the boat and was horrified to see our chain lying near a barrel sponge. Closer to the cliffs I saw more damage to the sea grass caused by chains dragging back and forth. It's shameful when you realise the damage you can inflict in ignorance. We stayed one night and only because it was too late to leave.

1 April Dinghy ride to Le Marin

Ste Anne bay

We are anchored in Ste Anne, but much closer to the dinghy dock than our initial spot. There is a regular pattern of departures and arrivals in this big, big bay; there are possibly 400 or 500 boats here on a sandy plateau of around 6m. Between 8am and 10am boats leave. At midday the large charter catamarans arrive and go straight to the front in impossibly small spaces, disgorge their guests for lunch, stay the night and leave early next day. Regular boats come in from mid afternoon and find their spot. Those who are already anchored move further forward between the early leavers and midday. That's what we did.

The Digicel coverage is good, not brilliant, but fast enough to watch the live UK broadcast of the first Formula 1 Grand Prix of the season. Our monthly date package is a generous 70 Go (I didn't know this before but French use GigaOctets rather than Gigabytes) and unlimited phone calls to Europe and the Caribbean.

The wind has calmed down and we were able to take the dinghy into Le Marin and not arrive looking like we swam there. On the list today are more parts that aren't in stock and a visit to the supermarket with it's own dinghy dock – so handy for provisioning.

Going home is a breeze when the wind is on your back.

26 March Bus to Le Marin

Saturday today and a day to explore the chandlers of Le Marin at the head of the bay. There are a couple of options to travel there from the anchorage in Ste Anne. We could go by dinghy, but it's almost three miles into strong headwinds, or we could catch the bus. We opt for the dry bus.

First task in Le Marin is to find the main Digicel office and buy a local SIM card and monthly plan. There isn't an agent in Ste Anne.

Second is to explore the many chandlers around the large marina. Le Marin is the centre for yacht charters and has a busy waterfront. We excited to discover the 'European' chandlers expecting them to have different products to Budget Marine and Island Waterworld in Grenada. There is more stuff but no propeller for a Tohatsu 9.8hp outboard. They are on order and should be in in a month's time. Guess we're staying with the Yamaha for a while. How about a spare impeller for the Yam? Not in Le Marin. There's one Yamaha agent in Martinique and they are near the airport in Fort de France. It is the Caribbean! You have to work hard to get your spare parts.

sunny in Le Marin

25 March French Customs and Immigration

I think the French territories mat be the only countries who trust yachtie visitors to complete their own formalities. In selected towns there will be a designated shop or cafe with an internet terminal where you input your details, print the single page and then take it to the counter to be validated by the owner. It took less than 5 minutes and cost €3; loving this lack of bureaucracy and paperwork.

The wind has been blowing a steady 18 to 20 knots making it a long and wet ride into the dinghy dock. Our Tohatsu outboard has been having issues too – fuel related, cutting out, not what you need. David followed the procedures through the engine, checked the carburettor and changed the spark plug but the problem was still there. Then he checked the fuel tank and discovered we had water in the tank. The pick up point for fuel is the base so we'd been trying to run the engine on water. We think the gauge on the top is no longer waterproof and rain has filtered in. Once David had replaced the petrol and sealed the gauge we were good to go.

let's try the Yamaha

However on the ride back to the boat the propeller clunked and then cavitation at full revs, OK when we were going slow, no propulsion when you try to increase the revs. The rubber bushing which transfers engine power to turning the blades has broken. We need to research buying a new propeller. Fortunately we have a second outboard, a Yamaha 15HP, not used for two years but it starts first pull. Saved by the back up!

23 March Sainte Anne

the church at Ste Anne

Today is Wednesday and the internet cafe where one does self check in is closed. No-one is going to shout at us if we come back tomorrow and do the formalities so instead we lok around the small town and enjoy a long lunch at Rendezvous on the beach. Simple food, but so good, so French.

We buy our first baguette on the way back to the boat

22 March Bonjour Martinique

We arrived at the anchorage at Ste Anne an hour after sunset in the dark. Typical us. We knew it was a big anchorage, sand bottom and recent reports suggested there were 400 to 500 boats anchored here. In the dark and with the background land lights I, standing on the front, couldn't pick out 400 anchor lights, assuming everyone had one. For first night for safety we dropped the hook at the back of the pack. In the daylight tomorrow we can reposition closer to the shore.