Monday, January 6, 2014

Wifi challenged in Martinique

Hello from wifi challenged Martinique! The French do many things well.... wifi is not one of them. Even when there's a cheery "Bonne connection!" with a little emoticon smiley face and a really long unguessable password, there's still no connection.

Nevertheless - here we are in Martinique, with hordes of other boats. The high winds we've had almost since arriving in November are still in force with only a break here and there. We're really only island hopping at this point so the brisk conditions haven't been too much for the short sails we're doing. 

Arriving in Dominica... the Cabrits.
We were in Dominica over Christmas and celebrated with new and old friends there. Outnumbered by Brits, we were encouraged to adopt some classic Brit-speak by our friends Iain and Fiona on s/v Ruffian and we're practicing for the next time we see them. Rob and Sarah on s/v Serafina and Simon and Hilda on s/v Brisa rounded out the British side of things. When Americans Craig and Karene on s/v Il Sogno showed up in time for Christmas eve the American to Brit ratio settled out a bit. 

Aboard Serafina (L to R) Iain, Craig and Rob on the left.... Iain tries out the bubbles he got for Christmas.
(L to R) Sarah, Fiona and Karene.... entertained (as usual) by Iain
Christmas dinner on Il Sogno (L to R)... Craig & Karene, Iain & Fiona, Sarah (hiding) me, Skip. (Rob behind the camera)
Part of the holiday feast
The Saturday market in Portsmouth changes with the season, but there always seems to be plenty of everything. Avocados are in season now and I couldn't be happier. We eat them every day. Sometimes more than once a day. Sometimes all day long. You get the picture.

Skip shells the local beans we picked up at the market.
It rained much of the time we were here and we knew we'd only be here a short time, so we didn't gorge on hiking the way we did last time. We got back to the hot pool though (which Rob from Serafina shamelessly mocked as the warm puddle) and hiked a section of one of the trails that we missed out on last time.

Skip chills in the cold pool
Karene and I cool off too (photo thanks to Craig)
We caught up with our friend Johnson and he told us it had been too wet to do much on his farm lately. Mostly he's just waiting for things to dry out a little. 

Catching up with Johnson
Portsmouth anchorage
On our last visit here we heard people say that no one goes hungry in Dominica because food just falls from the trees. We found an abundance of edible things growing everywhere last time, and hiking in the rain this time we found grapefruits and cacao pods fighting for space in the trees along the trail.

Food falling from the trees
Cacao and grapefruit trees - full of fruit
I love the different colors of the cacao pods in different phases of ripeness and had a hard time editing the shots so I just decided to stick a bunch of my favorites in here.

This was the part of the trail we missed last time
Looks the same from the far end....
It was hard to leave Dominica (again) but we'll plan on another longer stay here when we go north some day. We had a good opportunity to sail south though so off we went to wifi free Martinique...

Saralane anchored in St. Pierre, at the foot of Mt Pelee
St Pierre, previously known as the Paris of the Caribbean was all but wiped out when Mt Pelee erupted in 1902, leaving only two survivors. The town was pretty sleepy when we were here, but it was just before New Year's so the normally erratic French island schedules were even more erratic. 

Quiet streets of St Pierre
We tried to clear in here (did I mention the erratic schedules?) but failed. Moving on to Grande Anse d'Arlet, we tried to clear in there (I should probably mention those erratic schedules again) but no luck here either. By now, we were getting used to flying our yellow flag, so we just enjoyed the snorkeling in Anse Chaudier and figured we'd keep trying to clear in and at some point we'd be officially "in Martinique".

Lone squid on patrol
Flamingo tongue on sea fan
We finally cleared in in Anse Mitan and after a futile search for wifi here (we're not really addicted to wifi, but just needed a hit of email) we moved on to the big city of Fort de France. It's the largest city in the eastern Caribbean and we got in a bit of shopping for boat stuff and basic provisions. 

There were huge fireworks over the fort the night before new year's eve and we thought it would be great to be there on new year's eve for fireworks too. What we didn't know was that the new year's eve fireworks were going to be over the anchorage we were leaving. Live and learn. 

Fort de France....New Year's day festival, with tents blown over into the water from the high winds.
New Year's eve day was busy in the city
New Year's Day.... not a soul in sight
With the city deserted, it was easier to see the creatively colored facades and doorways.

Having had enough of city life (two days in our case) we headed south to St Anne which was chock full of boats. The Saturday market there was small but good and I filled some empty spots on my spice shelf from a happy vendor. 

Lots of people come ashore in St Anne's for the Saturday market
We connected with our old friends Jackie and Dan on s/v Chill in Fort de France and together we hiked to the beaches along the coast from the anchorage. The hike took us past quiet mangroves and quiet beaches and on to the busy lovely palm lined beach at Grande Anse des Salines.

Grande Anse des Salines
The winds are forecast to be up for another week or so we're thinking we'll hang out here for another few days and then head a few miles in to Le Marin, where we can stock up on all things French to eat and drink. We've found a good laundry and a reliable (though I shouldn't speak too soon) wifi source, we're content to wander around the little town of St Anne's and enjoy all the things the French do well.

I know I promised a centerboard blog (this obviously isn't it) but since we're so diligent about pulling up the board right after we anchor, I haven't gotten a shot of it deployed underwater yet. We're diligent about pulling up the board so that the anchor chain doesn't get dragged across it when the wind shifts and we swing on the anchor. (Hint hint re: the upcoming centerboard blog....)


Cindy Barnard said...

Oh, that was a good one, Maddie. The shots of Fort de France were beautiful. Love the colors and architecture. Definitely not in Kansas anymore. Maybe that's where all the people have gone? Man...quiet down there that day. May the winds not be at your backs or your fronts but somewhere ELSE for the rest of the week. xo

Penelope said...

Oh, this is so cruel ! I am enjoying these fabulous photos while we are at below zero, the wind is howling, and everything is covered in snow. I am so jealous......

Leslie said...

The photo of the spices remind me of the outdoor shuk in Jerusalem. I like the doors and architecture photos too.

Some questions (as always):

- What does the inside of the cacao fruit look like and what do you do with it? How do you eat it?

- What does it mean to be sailing around under a yellow flag?

- When you do the centerboard post, can you explain what it does again? As a non-sailor, I'm not sure I remember its purpose.


Bob & Janice said...

great photos as always - as we sit here in the cold in London we are envious of you in the Caribbean!

Madeline said...

Hi all.... thanks for the comments! We're still wifi challenged in St Lucia but hoping for better connections soon.

I'll try to do a cacao post coming up and show more about them, but check back on the Dominica posts to see the inside of the pods. You don't eat the beans, but you can suck the slimy exterior off (yum yum!) and it tastes a little lemony. The beans need to be roasted, dried, crushed etc to start the process of becoming edible.

The yellow flag is the "Q" flag (for Quarantine) showing that you've just arrived and are requesting entry into the country.

The centerboard? Oy.... that post is coming soon, I promise!