Martinique will always feel like a home base on this journey. We spent a lot of time there, a great deal of it albeit was at the dock in Le Marin & due heavily to medical issues, but during our time there, we got to know some amazing people. Many lived there, but there were fellow cruisers like Pam & Kim from Canada that we met on Kemana & the other Canadians on a Cat called eSKape, that we hope to cross paths with again on our travels.
As much as we were all chewing at the bit to leave the dock & were throughly frustrated that it took so long to do so, I do miss some of the familiarity that we had whilst we were there.
Le Marin ended up becoming quite comfortable to find things. We got to know all the marine stores (even knowing which ones to go to for what & which ones to avoid if you needed helpful advice, due to indifference from the staff 😜 – for the record it’s the one attached to the boatyard near Carrefour).
Most of our errands in Le Marin were to places accessible by foot or bike, until the week before we left, when we finally managed to get the dinghy sorted (we were jammed in next to boats on both sides, so we left getting the dinghy sorted until the last minute, as we didn’t technically have space in the water near us & were a little paranoid it might go missing). Pretty sure the dinghy saved us a few flat tires once we started to use it too. Geoff & I had issues with tires bursting, from what we assume was a little too much weight on them, after some supply shopping & our weight to boot. Who knew riding a bike could give you a complex? 😜
After the dinghy was sorted, Leader Price then became one of our favourite places to go to, as they have a dock for the cruisers to use to tie up to & load up from. For reference (mostly ours later) I generally found Thursdays were the best, around mid morning to get things, because they seemed pretty well stocked up, ready for the shelves to be depleted by Friday.😂 Early morning, every day, was best to go the markets to get fresh produce & fish, as I assume it is most places.
We left Le Marin on the 1st of January, a wonderful way to start 2024. We had paid for our space at the dock until the end of December & it was also the date that Geoff was able to take off his air-cast & switch to a smaller lace up brace – whoop whoop, we didn’t get everything sorted that we had hoped to, before we left, but it was enough.
Our first couple of nights were rather memorable, when we picked a rather rolly anchorage off Saline Beach. We could have anchored off Sainte Anne, but we decided to pick Saline Beach as it had a little less traffic & we wanted to test out the anchor without many people around. There was a good reason not many were there, it felt a little like how I would imagine it would be if someone tossed you in a washing machine. Poor Geoff was not feeling good at all for those 2 nights & was glad to have the dinghy to go to shore for a break. We lasted 2 nights, accepting that after the 2nd night it was really not going to improve & we would have to move to Sainte Anne with all the other boats. 😬
Sainte Anne was much calmer (we initially made our way as close to shore as we could) but you were very much aware of how close everyone was to each other. We had issues getting a good hold (which isn’t an uncommon issue & is documented in sailing books) & ended up anchoring in 3 different places off Sainte Anne beach. The first two times we had to move because the anchor dragged. The 2nd time it dragged though we had an added surprise. When we pulled up the anchor we found ourselves having to remove a decent size rock/ coral off the anchor, which it must have collected as it dragged (see the reel linked here from IG, when we were ditching the rock after removing it from the anchor).
The 3rd time, we anchored at the back of the pack, at the south side (closest to Saline beach) & managed to get a good hold, it was a little rolly again, but still better than Saline had been & honestly we were just happy to have a good hold. The issues that we had with anchoring there in general though, made us use a trip into Le Marin by dinghy to get other supplies, to also buy a Rocna anchor (which was not cheap, but we were glad to have it). We knew when we bought the boat that we wanted to get a different anchor than what was on it, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected. Paying $1500 on an anchor though, still hurt a bit. Peace of mind definitely has a price.
Sainte Anne, despite it’s issues with anchoring, was quite lovely overall. Not an overly impressive anchorage, but comfortable. It was also where we found our first Conch (alive, not an empty shell) and some starfish. The GoPro finally got some use too, although some of our video was a bit dodgy as we tried to figure out how to use it in the water properly.
From Sainte Anne we went to Grande Anse d’ Arlet to see the turtles, where we spent about a week anchored off shore. The snorkelling there was lovely, you were guaranteed to see turtles every day, some more sociable than others & there were lots of other marine life, including some octopus and trumpet fish.
Whilst at Grande Anse, we took a day to walk over to Les Anses d’Arlet, hiking around the headlands in the rain. It was quite a nice walk, although a little muddy, but we definitely appreciate the moments when the temperature drops slightly and the sun is not scorching you as intensely. Produce is very hard to get in Grande Anse, so whilst we were in Les Anses d’Arlet, we stocked up on fruit & veg from a market vendor who although he was packing up by the time we found him, so graciously allowed me to shop.
By the time we left Grande Anse, the novelty of swimming with turtles every day had started to wane & we desperately needed to empty the holding tanks & offload a bit of compost (which you do out at sea at least 3 miles out). We had no real need to go to FDF (Fort de France) and had already spent a great deal of time at Martinique so we took a run to Saint Pierre, getting out the mainsail for the first time, although we ended up deciding to just stick with the headsail, as it was enough. It was nice to see large amount of flying fish that we did on the way. They are amazing little creatures, sometimes as small as hummingbirds, flying ever so low to the water as they go & often for 5-10 metres or more at a time.
Saint Pierre was a lovely place to explore for a couple of days. It was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1902, killing tens of thousands when it happened. They have tried to preserve parts of the town that give an idea of the destruction that occurred there and if you ask at the info bureau (which is also where you check in & out from), they can give you a map which shows the walking tour that you can do on your own. There is even a small museum that you can visit part way through the walk which we found interesting. The museum was lovely and air conditioned, but of note, you will not find a bathroom in it that you can use.
Saint Pierre was a major trading port at the time of the eruption, so there are a number of wrecks about the place, that were in port at the time & sank. The wrecks are something to be considered when you anchor out there, most wrecks are deep, but not all. Oh, we found out that if you see a large cruise ship off shore, then the dinghy dock is off limits to cruisers, so you need to pay attention to notices posted on the dock as to dates that a cruise ship is in port.
One of the highlights of our visit to St Pierre was a trip to the gardens & zoo that they have there, which we just happened to anchor just off shore of. It’s set in an old plantation & distillery that was destroyed when Mt Pelee erupted. Absolutely amazing place to visit, not so much for the zoo aspect, but the old buildings & the scenery. We spent hours there, we loved it so much. It was a great way finish off our stay in Martinique, before moving on to Dominica.
Of note: Checking out from Martinique was super easy, you can do it online for 5euros (uploading all your documents direct – passports & boat registration paperwork), or you can go into the office & log your paperwork on their computer there for 3euros. The website address to use is: https://clearance.marina-martinique.fr I have left the URL as is, as the site is a little glitchy & clicking on the link often results in errors, but if you type it in, it seems to work. You need to use a chrome browser to access it. We were able to check out in advance, giving a date & then all we had to do was leave on that day, which we found super easy.