Martinique:  April 21-May 1, 2008

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

Dolphins and Seagulls

Notes taken on the cruise from Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, to St. Anne, Martinique:

"Largest pod of dolphins (bottle nose) ever seen joined us and played in the pressure wave of the bow.  Gradually, they each peeled off -- until only two remained.  When much later they too peeled off, I couldn't help but wonder if they ever caught up again with their pod.

Later, a gull with a fish in its beak is harassed by another gull.  The battle lasted for a long time.  "Top Gun" maneuvers for minute after minute.  Finally, too far away to see the reason, the pursuer pulled off.  Did he give up, or did the smaller pursued gull finally relinquish the sliver shimmering prize from its beak?"

New Friends

One of the fascinating and enjoyable aspects of cruising is the interesting folks we meet and spend time with.  While still at anchor in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, a young French couple approached Tusen Takk II and expressed to Barb their admiration and curiosity about her (the boat.)  I arrived back from a run just as Barb was inviting them aboard to have a look.  They came aboard -- they looked -- they ooo-ed and awww-ed, and they thanked us profusely for our hospitality.  They said they were leaving for Martinique the next day, as were we.  The next day it took us forever to get out of Rodney Bay -- Sparkle Laundry didn't return our stuff quite as early as they had promised -- and our new French acquaintances were already gone by the time we left.  We spent the first night anchored off of St. Ann, and there they were!  Severine and Antoine on the Lagoon catamaran Windy II.  The next day we moved just inside the huge Cul-de-Sac du Marin, and that night we invited Steve and Ann (Receta), Chris and Yani (Magus), Chris and Jeanette (Hummingbird), John (Durban Dancer) and Severine and Antoine (Windy II) over for drinks and nibblies.  Very pleasant.  Fun to get to know new folks.  Severine is gorgeous and spontaneous and friendly -- and a former firefighter -- the first of her sex to serve in St. Martin, and Antoine is a handsome, charming, warm chap who currently speaks little English but is working hard to change that.  Severine had always wanted to be a medical doctor, but faced with the prospect of 12 years of study, decided to settle for nursing instead.  So she went back to school and switched from sirens, heavy hoses and big axes to syringes, runny noses, and bare asses.  She just recently finished a 6-month nursing stint in Fort de France, and she and Antoine are on a holiday before she takes on another 6 months up in St. Martin.  Antoine is a handy-man who bought and fixed-up properties in France, and is now living off their income.  He is also a very well-built expert at Judo.  Really fun to get to know them.  They had us over for a special potato-cheese-ham dinner that is a specialty from northern France, where they are from.  And home-made chocolate mousse for desert.  Yum!  Antoine took me out in his dinghy to show me how he trolls for fish using ballyhoo for bait.  (We each caught a barracuda, which are safe to eat down here, and are really quite delicious.)  We carried on a credible conversation by using gestures and the dictionaries we had brought along.  The night before we left, we took them out for dinner.  Alas, they are headed south for the Grenadines and we are headed north toward Dominica.

La Favorite Rum Factory

Receta, Magus, and Durban Dancer all left Martinique before we did, but before Receta left we had a fantastic adventure with them.  They had rented a car in order to drive north to the awesome grocery stores, where French cheeses, French breads, and French wines were to be found in great abundance -- as well as just about anything else.  The grocery we visited was part of a huge mall that was every bit as classy as the most up-scale in Atlanta.  But what really made the trip was a digression into a rum factory:  La Favorite.  We had tried -- with Steve and Linda (Seaman's Elixir) -- to visit it last year, but we had the lousy luck to pick a holiday for our excursion, and it was closed.  This time, they were open, and  La Favorite gave us the run of the place, and it was truly fascinating.  Noisy steam engines and roaring fires and oily gears and an agile tricycle feeding the crusher and huge open vats bubbling with fermentation.  Casks of all sizes for aging.  In one corner, the stores for the special blend that receives the longest aging of any rum on the island: over thirty years!  (At well over 100 Euro a bottle, we declined to purchase any!  Speaking of which, one Euro is now worth one dollar and sixty cents!  Ouch!)

Cane crushing/squeezing machine

Three-wheeled vehicle used to feed cane to the crusher

Another view of the agile tricycle

The steam engine that powers the whole she-bang

Gears used to transfer power from the steam engine to the crusher

Another view of the oil-covered gears

Burning the crushed cane waste to create steam to power the crusher

When the blowers are turned on the fire rages!

Up at the rim of a fermentation vat

Barb, Steve, and Ann up on the catwalk near the top of the fermentation vats

Scrubbing a fermentation vat in preparation for the next batch

Control panel between the two massive distillation towers

Distilled product is captured here and continuously tested for alcohol content by using a hydrometer

Rum aging in oak barrels


Mount Pelee

On May 1 Barb and I set out to rent a car and drive to Mr. Pelee.  We had been there before with Steve and Linda (Seaman's Elixir), and knew we could park the car at the base and then hike up to the top.  We decided to stop by the local internet cafe to ask for advice about car renting, since we knew the proprietress could speak English.  Got there a few minutes after 9 am, the opening time, and found people standing around the closed door.  One of the men, in a heavy French accent, told us that the cafe would not open until 10 that day, because of the holiday.  Holiday?  Oh yes:  May Day, the worker's day.  Oh oh.  We asked the man if he thought the car rentals would be open, and we got the first of many typically French shrugs.  Then he spoke in French to another man standing with him, and turned back to us and offered to take us in his pickup up to the car rental.  The friend drove.  The car rental was closed, as was the other one in town.  He then said that he had an old car that wasn't pretty but that was sound, and that he would be willing to rent it to us for a day, for -- maybe 30 Euro?  We said sure, and off we were to his house to pick up the car.  It was indeed somewhat of a rattle trap, but seemed to work just fine.  Our new friend asked for some "assurance", and I gave him 40 Euros.  He repeated his request for "assurance", and I realized he wanted something that would insure that we would come back with his car.  I gave him a credit card, and that seemed to be exactly what he was looking for.  We chatted with the two of them for a bit, learning that our benefactor was originally from France, but had lived in Martinique for 26 years.  Barb asked him what he did for a living, and he indicated that he had a pest control business, pointing to the large tank on a trailer parked in his lot.  His friend was a white local, and the grandson of a former plantation owner.  Our benefactor indicated that there was no problem with our taking the vehicle.  First, he had another newer car, and second, he was not permitted to drive at the moment.  Hmmm.  Oh well.  They offered to drive down the road for a bit and show us the turn toward the mountain, and we were off.

We were to call him when we were ready to return the vehicle, since he did not expect to be at home.  We had his cell number, and when we got down from the mountain I called him from the parking lot at the base of the mountain, telling him we expected to be back at his house in about half an hour.  There was a lot of background noise when I talked to him, and it took him a long time to realize who I was.  I got the feeling he was at a bar or a party, and that he was feeling no pain.  So that was why he couldn't drive!  He had lost his drivers license due to a DUI.  We arrived at his home, and sat first on the beach, and later on his porch, for about an hour.  Barb finally called him again, and he expressed surprise that we were already there, and promised to be at the house in five minutes.  Fifteen minutes later a different pickup arrives with a different driver, who hangs around for a bit and then abruptly leaves.  Meanwhile, our benefactor is so drunk he can hardly walk, and he is having trouble remembering where he put our credit card.  Skinny fellow, unsteadily prancing around, raising his elbows as he walks, muttering and shrugging and vaguely apologizing.  He finds the card.  Barb asks if the friend -- who had already left -- wasn't going to give us a ride back to St. Pierre.  Our benefactor shrugs and professes to be upset that we have been left without a ride, and attempts to call other friends to get us a ride.  No answers.  Much shrugging and muttering.  We announce that we are perfectly happy to walk back to St. Pierre, and beat a hasty retreat, thanking him for his generosity in renting us his auto.

One of the fascinating and enjoyable aspects of cruising is the interesting folks we meet and spend time with.

Sea-side home of our drunken transportation benefactor -- the blue roof; seen as we depart and head north to Dominica

Junker in parking lot at end of road -- start of path up Mt. Pelee

Look at the dash and side panel on door

Up the first steep ascent

...across a saddle ...

... and then up the second steep ascent

Struggling up the last few meters of the first peak

View of crater and St. Pierre in background

Cross on a side peak -- lovely weather to this point ...

...and then the clouds starting moving in

... but we continued on

...where we found this seismic station ...

... and this building ...

... which looked like this when a cloud swept through

We stopped climbing and followed a level path for a bit ...

... along this rim

Note people on edge of rim

Looking back toward the cross

The path continues up this massive slope -- so large you cannot see the people that are on the path

Interesting flower along the path

Sign at the beginning of the ascent -- we saw lots of people on the "interdits" locations