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-- 18th February to 1st March 2012--
Back to France, both in the warm Martinique for Camille and her sister, and in chilly Bordeaux for Laure, for an unusual week.
More pictures on our page "Pictures".

44 milles sailed
7915 milles since the start
We stopped in : Le Marin (anchorage), Grande Anse d'Arlet(anchorage), Pointe du Bout (marina), Anse Mitan(anchorage), Saint-Pierre (anchorage)
19th to 22nd February : Le Marin
We drop the anchor in the huge bay of Le Marin, right in the middle of the carnival. Horns, carnival floats, parades, life is just stopped for 5 days. There is no way you can buy food, gas, or even withdraw some cash as everyone is focused on « Vaval », the carnival king who is cheerfully crowned on Saturday and burnt on Wednesday.
The Marin’s church, so French, and so close to the Caribbean colorful carnival

It’s like Far-West, but with sight of the sea !
Monday is the Big Day in the small town of Le Marin: all the villages at the south of the island converge to the center for the “great south parade”. Traffic will be a mess and we leave the harbor as early as we can with our rental car. We drive to the South-East part of the island, to the “petrified savanna”. Hiking there is just great, from desert landscapes to splendid beaches with white sand and turquoise sea. Actually we were missing that a bit since we had left the Grenadines ! In the mangrove, we see some unknown red crabs as well as huge nasty looking hermit crabs.
But on this Monday evening, we have an important appointment at the Fort-deFrande airport... First we go and have a quick look at the “marina” Cohe du Lamentin just nearby. A few boats stay there on half-destroyed pontoons, and the ground look very muddy, does not look so easy to bring your boat here...

It’s now time to do our crew swap: Camille’s sister, Aline, comes for a week holidays while Laure goes back to France to visit her family. We had to pull the North Sea equipment out of the cupboards for her to be properly dressed for chilly Europe !

Both sisters, one still white and the other already dark, having a tropical juice
Back in Le Marin, the road is dessert on our way an totally packed on the other side, people are driving back from the carnival... Aline discovers the navigation in the tender (wet!), climbing onboard (tricky :oS), living onboard (not so stable...) But after a nice smoked chicken and thanks to the 5 hours jet lag she manages to have a good sleep onboard.

Tuesday starts with an early breakfast on our terrace, then we drive to the Caravelle peninsula, at the North-East end of the island. Go to François, then Robert, don’t turn to “holly spirit” but keep going to Trinity and here you go ! The walk around the peninsula is superb and shows a nice sample of local landscapes: forests, cliffs, rocks, mangrove (always with its nice hermit crabs)... After a few hours we arrive on the splendid bay of Treasure. A few boats are anchored 2m away from the beach, water is flat and warm. This is the first tropical swim for Aline, and after the sunny lunch, France seems already really far away!

Aline watching the bay of Treasure

Treasure beach, quite nice !

Thanks to the tropical climate, the rum gets old much quicker than wine in Europe
On our way back we visit the “habitation Clément”. This old rum fabric has been transformed in the “interpretation center for rum”, something between a rum fabric and a eco-museum. The visit is very interesting: barrels with a delicious smell, ancient machines to crush the cane, original creole habitation and of course the rum tasting at the end. We taste some very old rum that we will never afford: some bottles dates back to 1952 and are sold 820 euros for 75 cl ! (well, after all it’s no more than the price of a new winch :oS)
We finish this busy day around a local meal at the harbour’s restaurant, the Mango Bay. Nice atmosphere and free high speed internet. Perfect to study the weather forecast for the next days. It looks pretty nasty, (too) much wind foreseen...

Second night onboard for Aline, the weather is still very quiet, just a regular thunderstorm at 2 am. Camille wakes up as usual but as the anchor has hold the load for many days now there should not be any problem. Just before getting back to bed, an unusual shadow in the front makes her double check. Holly sh..., there is a catamaran 3m ahead of us !!!! (it had to happen one day, actually I would have preferred another one :oS) First, wake up the little sister, and then the catamaran crew. When hearing me shouting “wake up, you are crabbing !”, the skipper rushes outside, completely naked and try to get out of us. Unfortunately he can’t avoid our buoy rope and we start crabbing also. Well, Aline you’ll have to learn quickly now ! And in the middle of the night we managed to pick up the anchor without hitting the boat behind us and drop it again. Funny as on the morning we will notice that our alignments are still valid, we put the anchor exactly at the same spot as before !

At the same time, in Gradignan, Laure sleeps the non-stop night of shore people who do not need to keep an eye on the mooring of their houses, under 2 thick blankets. When she wakes up she sends us a full weather forecast: the wind should not exceed 5b today, we can leave the boat – almost – serenely.

This time this plan is to explorer the North-West part os the island, close to the Pelée mountain. The volcano is entirely in the clouds, so we rather walk on the Jesuit track, a hiking path which goes deep into the rain forest. It’s wet, green, luxurious, full of fern trees, tropical flowers, lianas and many trees so high that it blocks both rain and sun light. Aline is very happy, her sun burns too !

Fern tree

A balisier
On the road to Fonds Saint-Denis, we do a short stop to the “saut-gendarme” water fall of little interest. Then we start walking to the start of the Beauregard canal. The walk down is nice, along a small road full of exotic trees, and we go on the path itself. It’s a real levada like in Madeira, with a tunnel, sliding edges and cliffs. We turn back after a few hundreds meter, having seen a nice glimpse of the landscape.
No it’s not Madeira but Martinique indeed ! Aaaaah Madeira... when the Atlantic was still on the lee...

Saint-Pierre,the sailing boats anchor between the wreck from the 1902 eruption.
Short drive in Saint-Pierre, but the city is packed because of carnival. We keep going to the next beach. The sand is black, water very clear, and we swim with a nice view of the Pelee volcano, life’s not too bad indeed ! Back in Le Marin, the boat is still there, yes ! We celebrate with grilled lambis on the beach’s restaurant
23rd February : Marin – Grande Anse d’Arlet (17 M)
The wind is blowing hard on that morning. The weather forecast on the VHF and via the station in Gradignan both say the same: it will get worse and worse to reach a near gale level during the week-end... If we want to sail we must leave now and quickly get sheltered on the lee side of the island.
We start the day with some shopping (yes, carnival finally ended the day before!) and pick up the anchor, much more calmly this time. Heading west with just a small bit of genoa, the navigation is fine in spite of the strong wind and the swell which gets quite high in the vicinity of the Diamant rock. It even turns around the cape and follows us until the Anses d’Arlet. So we have to anchor on the south part of the bigger bay to be sheltered.

The “Timjak” told us they would be here, but finally we find the “3 gouttes” that we had not seen since Cabo Verde. The day before we already met the guys from “Michelina” in Le Marin, looks like we are back in the travelling boat group now !

« No pwoblem´, everything is under control ! »

We don’t tell lies, Aline physically jumped in the water !
As soon as the anchor touches the ground, Aline jumps in the water to see the tropical fishes. Camille does the same 10 minutes later to check the anchor and organize something for the evening with our neighbors. On our way we find a nice big turtle...

On the evening, Manu Sophi and Leo join us onboard to exchange the latest news with us around a few drinks. The wind starts picking up and up, and probably reach more than 30 knots. We are a bit worried but the anchors hold amazingly well, when properly laid out on a good ground...
At the same time, in Gradignan, Laure is working on the article about the Grenadines while watching animated pictures on a big black box, television I think that stuff is called...
February 24th : Grande Anse d’Arlet – Pointe du Bout (10 M)
Early in the morning, Aline jumps back in the water while Camille prepare the boat for the tough navigation. The snorkeling is splendid, with starfishes, corals, turtles and a bright sun. Hard to get her out of the water even after over an hour !

Grande-Anse d’Arlet, a magnificient snorkeling site

Even with turtles like in the Tobago Cayes !!
Because of the strong winds planned for the week-end, we want to go in the marina, at Pointe du Bout, just south from Fort-de-France. The navigation under 2 reefs and the gib is quite wet. Close to the Salomon Cape, the wind is very variable, with very strong gusts. Once in the bay of Fort-de-France, the wind speeds up and reach about 25 kts, the swell is short and painful. But Saltimbanque sails well and after a few tackings we arrive in the marina.
At the phone, the girl from the harbour sounded very stressed: normally you have to come and see the spot by car to make sure it fits you, the marina is really small, there is no cat-way etc. So we enter cautiously, it’s small but way big enough for us ! We land at the end of a pontoon as no one answers the VHF.A few hours later we are asked to take another berth, also with a cat-way, too easy !

It’s so easy to disembark simply, without the tender no waterproof bag ! And to sleep well in spite of the strong gusts ! We have a good swim at the Anse Mitan to celebrate !

At the same time, in Gradignan, Laure is missing the windy blue waters of the Grenadines, and finally buy the kite surf of her dreams in France... We’ll have to arrange some space near the guitar !

Sunset on the Anse Mitan
25th to 27th February : Pointe du Bout

No it’s not Playmobil but real size houses !
The Pointe du Bout is mostly interesting because it’s so close to many interesting places. Because in itself we are not so fond of this touristic complex in neo-creole kitsch style. Anyway, our pontoon neighbor is the high speed boat to Fort-de-France, and 15 minutes later we arrive in the capital !
The city is a real city, not really nice, not really typical. A few buildings are conspicuous: the Schoelcher library, the cathedral, the new wharf called “malencon”. A few market places, including the tourists market where we find a few typical products. Unfortunately there are very few exotic fruits here. Where are gone all the mangos, papayas, corossols, starfruits ? Except bananas and melons, we can’t find anything, they say it’s not the season ! It’s quite a deception... which already started with the sea temperature, bloody cold !!!!
Schoelcher library, built in Paris for the universal exposition in 1889 and brought back here
In the neighborhood od the Pointe du Bout, lies the little town of 3 ilets, it’s just an hour walk from the marina. Here was born Josephine de Beauharnais, first wife of Napoleon. It seems like she has been buried here also in 1791 and would have sent here little sister in France to marry the emperor... one of the mystery of the past... After a nice cake eaten on the sea walk, we leave for the Anse à l’âne, again one hour walk. Nice beach where we hope we can have a good snorkeling time, but we are a bit disappointed by the rocks. Few corals or fish, except in the wreck 5m away from the beach. Back in Anse Mitan by the coastal path, hard to spot but a damn good shortcut !

Anse à l’âne, life’s hard...
At the same time, in Gradignan, Laure packs her bag to come back onboard...

The anse Dufour is beautiful both under and above the water !
Monday 227th, last day of holidays for Aline :o( We rent a car again and visit the “savane of slaves”, at the 3 ilets. The tour is very instructive, but apparently in French only. We learn about the local plants and their medicinal use. After the plants, let’s see some fishes! The snorkeling at Anse Dufour is superb, corals are great and shallow, many tropical fishes and also tropical jelly fishes... The sand is blond, the water crystal clear, it’s the perfect concentrate from Caraïbes ! Just nearby, the Anse Noire is surprisingly covered by black sand. There are less fishes, but a pelican turns above our heads during several minutes, last god surprise for Aline who sadly flies back to Europe. A few minutes later, Laure arrives, wearing a pull-over, but still very tanned and proudly carrying her kite surf!
28th February : Pointe du Bout – Anse Mitan (1 M, not too hard for a re-start !)
The weather is still crappy: strong wind, rain, storms, chilly sea brrrr... We realize that we are really North... A quick morning walk leads us to the kite surf spot at the Carayou hotel. But Laure won’t manage to test her brand new board : there is no beach and you have to start from a pontoon, it’s a bit technical for a beginner discovering a new kite...

We do not stay longer in the marina, the berth is not too expensive (14 euros / day for us), but the staff is very stressed as they are not use to receiving visitors. We leave with a small bit a main sail to help Nestor in the channel where the wind blows very hard. 6b wind and quite high waves, we go directly to the closest anchorage at the Anse Mitan powered by Nestor. Not so elegant but it’s good for him to work a bit as we did some maintenance recently (changing the air filter, tightening the propeller joint, adding some diesel etc.) We drop the anchor in the south of the bay, 3.5m depth, on a sand and grass ground.
29th February and 1st March : Anse Mitan – Saint Pierre (16M)
Today we won’t take off too early (we’re on holidays, don’t forget!). Our destination is 16M to the North: Saint Pierre, the “little Paris”, what used to be the economical capital of Martinique and all the Eastern Caribbean – until it was swept away by a violent eruption of the Mount Pelée (= “Bald mountain”) in 1902. The sailing is easier than expected. Of course we’re on the leeside of the island, which means no wind or sudden gusts. But at least it doesn’t rain too much (yet...) and we reach the bay in the early afternoon. Not a breeze is felt in the harbor, well sheltered indeed by the huge green cliffs towering over the city – now we understand how boats from all around the world could come and anchor here for centuries.
Arriving to Saint Pierre. Lost in the clouds, we don’t (and won’t ever) see the Mount Pelée

Believe it if you want: a big ferry ship comes and moors to the little jetty every other day...
Both our friends and our charts agree: this shore is steep and depth reaches quickly 20m and beyond. We’re looking for 15m or less (we have only 30m chain and as much rope). We try our luck close to the jetty, very close to the beach... 5m deep! Good! A nice little spot for a nice little Saltimbanque – perfect! And this is good holding sand... where’s the catch? (In fact it will come the next day when we’re ashore, under the form of a big ferry boat mooring at the jetty – not sure still how they manage to get there without touching us! We won’t try playing again and will leave before them). In the night violent gusts are blowing – as usual – but we’re holding well.
At night and on the next day we visit the city. For once, we even take... the little touristic train riding along the streets with its kitsch decoration and a guide saying in 5 languages “look on your right, take a picture on your left”... except that this specific guide is very good (and speaks only French). Through words he makes us see and experience the last moments of this modern city, where electricity and phone were already in use in the 1890’s! It’s hard to comprehend how this rich city, the wealthiest, most advanced, most literate city of the Antilles at the time, has been simply swept out in 69 seconds! 30000 victims, the 3rd or 4th deadliest eruption of all times (depending on how many people you count in Pompei)... (mode wikipedia off) ... Since then a town has been rebuilt after a few decades, but never caught up on the Southern part of the island, way more developed now
Ruins in Saint Pierre
The rain will not stop falling... that’s a perfect weather... for a good lunch in a typical restaurant upstairs in the market place, followed by a laundry afternoon (wash – and dry!). Tomorrow they say the trade winds will calm down a bit. After a week of full blast, this sounds like the perfect timing to hop to the next island: see you in Dominica!
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Your messages:

la mamou - 05/03/2012 10:12:36
toujours aussi chouette !!!
nous préparons les valises avec enthousiasme !!!

Kariine - 04/03/2012 23:30:46
Aaaah, on sait recevoir sur Saltimbanque: ce n'est pas Aline qui a dû remonter les 30m de chaine en plein sommeil...
mais bon ça soufflait un peu fort et Camille aurait pu commander du beau temps au lieu de s'empiffrer des glaces ;o)

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