Back home January is a slow and cold month and you just wait for it to pass. In the Caribbean, not so much. The most of the other Norwegian boats decided to sail to a less windy anchorage but we stayed as I was to get my test dive, the Xmas gift from the co-captain.
I have wanted to learn to dive for a long time, but as I tried a Padi training when I was 15( or thereabouts) and couldn’t equalize the pressure, so this test dive was a test if I could do it all. So, while Jill waited for met at the marina, off I went with a lot of other people. We were 3 people that should have the “discovery dive” as its called, among all the normal divers, and I was the first one out. It was a magnificent experience. The instructor was very good and attentive and equalizing the pressure was not a problem at all. We saw turtles, fish and a lot of nice corals in every colour and I came back to the co-captain with stars in my eyes, ready to explore this further. Since we were planning to go to Guadeloupe I asked the instructor for advice on diving schools there. He looked at me with a smile and said in the best French-English dialect “You zhudd du it widd mi bicauze I am the bezt, but at Guadeloupe PKK PLongee at Piddzeon Iland iz the bezt.” So that was what I did, but this is later in the story.
Our buddy boat Emelin needed to change their batteries and we both needed to do a motor service so we went to the only marina in Fort-de-France, the capital of Martinique, and as we docked there the feeling of the boat not moving or rolling was so nice so we decided to stay some days. There’s always some boat work to be done. During these days we did motor service on both boats, changed batteries on Emelin, enjoyed the local restaurants, cleaned the boat inside and outside, did some shopping and planned our way further. This was the first time I did the oil and filter replacement myself and I’m very thankful for the assistance and guidance form Eirik.
The Marina itself was not in the best area or had fantastic facilities, but very good service and reasonable rates made it a good experience. But it was time to move on and further explore Martinique before going to Guadeloupe.
We set sail and enjoyed a fantastic day of sailing towards St. Pierre. The nice thing about sailing on the westside of the Caribbean islands is that there is (mostly) nice winds, but no waves, a sailors dream. However, if you go to close to the islands you experience no wind, strong winds (fall-winds coming down the mountains) and that the wind change direction all of a sudden due to a vacuum created by the fall-winds on one side and the high mountain tops on the other.
Saint Pierre is the old main port of Martinique, not the old capital, as many says. The depths outside the town makes anchoring for both small and big vessels quite easy. But St. Pierre has a sad story. In 1902 the volcano just north of the city erupted and almost 30 000 people were killed, most of the population of St. Pierre. A few survived, among them a prisoner, waiting for his execution. He survived in his cell in the extreme heat and toxic fumes and was a free man afterwards, as they thought this agony was punishment enough. He worked the rest of his life in a circus showing off his burn wounds and telling his story!
We enjoyed St. Pierre and the somewhat strange atmosphere in this city. They had a fantastic museum, telling the story of the volcano eruption and black volcano sand on the beaches. Quite different from the rest of the Island. That it’s a small island as proven when we, after the museum tour, went to a very local restaurant for lunch. As we entered the restaurant there was the crew’s of Piano and Damasi, two of the other Norwegian boats! They had rented a car and decide to go on an Island drive, not knowing where we would be, and we ended up in the same restaurant! Amazing!
The next day we planned to sail to Guadeloupe so we made the boat ready and planned to go to bed early when all of a sudden we heard a lot of screaming and shouting in French. A couple had been ashore and clearly enjoyed too much of the local rhum. They struggled to find their way back to their boat. The motor didn’t work and the man jumped out of the boat for some reason ad tried to get on board with all the boats on the way. When he tried to enter Ticora I told him to get on the dingy again and he did, well for 5 minutes and then he jumped ship again and tried to board Emelin. He swam on and it was dark and the ding with his girlfriend was no longer to be seen. Emelin launched their dingy, I jumped on board and we started to search for him as he was in no condition to swim. In the end, we found him, got him to shore and told him to stay there. He was so tired that if we hadn’t helped him he would likely have drowned. Another boat that spoke French had called the police and they were on their way. At least they survived, but their discussion the next day was probably interesting…
In the morning we hoisted anchor, just as there was a streak of light and set course towards Ile de Saints, a group of islands just south of mainland Guadeloupe. The sail was great with low winds behind Dominica, but steady 18-24knots between the islands. As Dominica was closed we sailed passed them this time. The waves are also somewhat messy between the islands, but with two reefs in the main and headsail, we enjoyed 6-7,5knots the whole way and was very comfortable.
We arrived in Ile de Saints, got a mooring ball, and was ready for our next adventure!