Martinique is the first of the Windward Islands. Like Guadeloupe, it is part of France, although it seems more cosmopolitan than its sister to the north. We landed in St. Pierre and cleared customs online in a seaside bar while drinking a couple of large bières françaises. Remember what I said in my previous post about French customs/immigration being laid-back and efficient – this is just another excellent example.
Our Scandinavian friends, Thomas and Catharina Glanzmann were scheduled to fly into Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique, in a couple of days and we had yet to figure out where we would pick them up. Our plan was to head to the south end of the island where there is a large marina at Le Marin. We anticipated getting a spot on the dock which would make it easy to provision and welcome our guests on board. The Glanzmanns always travel “first cabin” and, of course, bring a full range of suitable attire - so easy access is a priority. Unfortunately, the marina was full, as many boats had already arrived for the hurricane season. Luckily, outside of Le Marin is a lovely little village named Sainte Anne where we could anchor and dinghy back and forth to the harbour (albeit it’s a bit of a long, and sometimes bumpy/wet, ride). We let the Glanzmanns know about our change in plans and Thomas suggested we rendezvous for dinner at Zanzibar, one of the better local restaurants along the beach. We ended up making two dinghy trips, one for the luggage before dinner and one for the four of us after an evening of wine, seafood and steak frites. The second trip was much easier on the back!
We had a couple of days together on Panache which included an afternoon sail in blustery conditions. As we were screaming along at over 8 knots, the outer casing of our genoa sheet snapped. It sounded like a gunshot and startled us all. Benny suggested taking up the strain with the off-side genoa sheet so we could get things under control. It was a good idea and we were able to get the sail safely stowed without too much fuss.
T&C invited us to join them for a couple of nights at Cap Est, a lovely resort on the island’s windward coast. Cap Est has a kind of Polynesian feel to it, with open-air lobbies, reception and restaurants. Our rooms were large and airy, with canopy beds, sitting rooms, an outdoor shower and private plunge pools. The air-conditioning was awesome! We immediately headed to the infinity pool to luxuriate in the cool, fresh water. Meals were delicious and Thomas, as always, kept the wine flowing. All-in-all we had a very relaxing “vacation” with plenty of time to catch up, retell old stories and add some new ones. It was just a treat to be with our good friends in such lovely surroundings. Thomas and Catharina, thank you both for a really wonderful time!
Back on Panache, Benny and I installed a new genoa sheet and got things ready for a crossing to St. Lucia. There we would welcome our next group of friends, Steve and Peri McHale aboard Panache for a 3-week sail from St. Lucia, through St. Vincent and the Grenadines, to Grenada.
In September 1635, Pierre Belain d'Esnambuc, landed in the harbor of St. Pierre with 150 French settlers after being driven off St. Kitts by the English. He claimed Martinique for the French King Louis XIII. Many of the earliest French settlers were Huguenots, French Protestants (Note: Benny’s family, on her mother’s side, were Huguenots from the Channel Islands). The French crown used Martinique as a dumping ground for mainland Huguenots who refused to reconvert to Catholicism. Over 1,000 Huguenots were transported to Martinique, usually under miserable and crowded ship conditions, and many of them died en route. Those who survived the trip were distributed amongst the island planters as indentured servants, under the system of serf peonage that prevailed in the French Antilles at the time.
Click on the photos below for a larger view.