Martinique, Passage to St. Lucia and Happy Birthday Mom!

Our stay in Martinique yielded several of the young voyage’s high points. Despite the lingua-francois, we were able to learn the streets of Fort de France, journey overland to the old capital at Sainte Pierre, and meet some Norwegians before a pleasant passage south to the island of St. Lucia.

Fort de France blends Caribbean and French influences in equal measure. A prodigious quantity of upscale boutiques, cafe bars, and Chinese restaurants[???] line the cozy streets, from the Rue Victor Hugo to the Place de Republique. La Savanne, the large city park was visible from our anchorage, and we enjoyed many baguette-and-cheese lunches in its breezy glades.

Perhaps our greatest taste of Martinique’s culture was the gamut of excellent meals. The simplest of these included pastries and a tiny cup of espresso, a small but very tasty breakfast. The most complex was surely our foray into a side-street Creole eatery. Cafe de Islets looked like a comfortable restaurant, filled with patrons of all colors and ages. Having scoured the city for nearly an hour looking for a lunch spot, we had no trouble settling on this one.

We sat down and the waitress came over, French bubbling from her mouth while we stared blankly and smiled. Aaron asked for two menus. We we were served with juice and salad, we began to realize that we had inadvertently ordered “the menu of the day.” We need not have been much concerned, for after the salad followed a delightful fish dish, the fillet topped with onions and fresh peppers in a spicy sauce. After eating these with relish, we turned our attention to another plate that had some odd white chunks that looked like peeled potato, next to which sat strangely orange banana flesh. Whether or not we were supposed to, we soaked these substances, which were largely tasteless, in the delicious sauce from the fish and finished everything. This was followed by the customary coffee, and we retired from the restaurant well-satisfied with our meal.

Since we failed to anchor outside Sainte Pierre as we had planned, we decided to take a bus from Fort de France to the old capital and site of a devastating volcanic eruption in 1902. We had an interesting walk around the city, though we mistook a “Musee Historique” for the “Musee Volcanologique” and blew about $6 in the former. The latter, however, was quite interesting, featuring various artifacts from the eruption such as a bunch of iron nails melted into a brick and a large bell that had been flattened like a chipati. We also managed to see the army practicing a beach landing, and had a good time positioning our own imaginary forces around the town so as to decimate the green armed force jogging hither and yon on the sand below.

Two nights before leaving, we befriended a trio of Norwegian police officers in the process of circumnavigating. Morten, Madeleine, and Tom Georg ( had come from Mauritania and arrived in Martinique just that morning after a 17-day transatlantic crossing. They were full of good stories, including one from Senegal where two opposing groups of Senegalese wanted so much to be friends with the Norwegians, that the argument devolved into a knife fight. The Norwegians were forced to flee down an alley when who should step out into their path but a man with a meat axe. Fortunately, they managed to get away, and treated Aaron and I to a few rounds of beer in Martinique. No wonder everyone wants to be friends with them!

We had them over for dinner the night before their departure. They informed us that Americans are famous for barbecuing, and we duly served up hamburgers from the grill, mashed potatoes, and a Greek salad. It was a fun night, and the best story was certainly the post-movie history of Free Willy. According to Morten and Tom Georg, Free Willy was brought to Iceland in order to be eased back into the wild. Since he had never hunted for his own fish, salmon were drugged so that he could catch them, but instead of eating them he merely batted them around. Afterwards, he swam east and soon died of pneumonia in a Norwegian fjord.

Our passage from Martinique to St. Lucia started in the rain, but soon the sun came out and the wind went away. Forced to sail slowly virtually the entire way, the wind picked up just in time to bring us into Rodney Bay, St. Lucia just before dark on 16 December. We took the dinghy into the town, passing several waterfront bars with dinghies bobbing all around them. The docks were packed with huge sailboats, and we strolled up and down marveling at the opulence and wondering just how these people got from the womb to a candlelit cockpit of a 100-foot sailboat in a tropical island with a fine bottle of Merlot on the table. The anchorage promises to be a good one, and we’ll keep the updates coming as we discover more.

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