We have been away from good internet for a while, and have lots of catching up to do.
Martinique is the last French island we will visit this season. We had never been there before, and had high expectations. The other French islands we have visited (St. Barts, Guadeloupe, Isle des Saintes, Marie Galante) were jewels.
Our first stop on Martinique was in the town of St. Pierre. We had intended to clear customs there. However, on the day we arrived, about 3:30 in the afternoon, we discovered that the customs office had reduced hours in March, for some reason, and they were already closed. No worries, there is always tomorrow.
We had an extremely uncomfortable night, because there were quite large waves in the anchorage. We weren't quite thrown out of bed, but almost. So, we thought, we can clear customs here, and then move on. No luck. There had been a power outage in the night, and the customs office was still without electricity. The clearance system on the French islands is completely computerized, and without power, no computers. No possibility of an paper forms, either.
So, we went to the capital of Martinique, Fort de France, and cleared customs there. It is very informal. The computer is located in the hallway of a marine equipment store, and the store cashier stamps and signs the forms once printed out. As long as you didn't change crew, you could clear in and out at the same visit.
Fort de France is an interesting town. They are trying to drum up cruise ship business, but it is still very much dominated by local residents. There is a wonderful open-air market, open every day. We had a surprise in the market, but more about that later.
Unfortunately, every place we tried to visit was closed! There is a library, designed by Mr. Eiffel himself, that was constructed out of steel in Paris in the 1800's, then dismantled and shipped to Martinique. Very unique architecture. But closed for renovations, so we could only see the outside. Fort de France also has what is supposed to be an excellent pre-Columbian museum. Also closed for renovations. Well, let's just stop somewhere for lunch. We had a few recommendations from the guide book. The first, we could not find no matter how we looked. The second we found, but it had been long since closed. The address of the third restaurant in the local tourist guide was wrong -- wrong street, wrong address -- but we stumbled on it anyway. But unexpectedly closed for the entire week!
That night, there was another power outage that left the whole waterfront dark. This didn't feel very safe to us for an evening visit to town. So we decided to move on the next day.
Our surprise in the market contributed to the decision. Gretchen had been finishing up a transaction to buy a colorful basket to store shoes on the boat, when she looked up and saw a friend from Lucerne! Brigitte organizes many nature walks for the International Women's Club of Lucerne. She had come to Martinique by an interesting route: she booked a room as a passenger on a container cargo ship. This ship had left France, stopped briefly in Guadeloupe, and finished in Martinique. The voyage took 12 days, and sounds both interesting and inexpensive.
We invited Brigitte to join us for the short cruise to Trois Islets, across the bay from Fort de France. She was very curious about our boat and our cruising lifestyle, and eagerly agreed to join us. So we met her in Fort de France in the morning in our dinghy. We took the long way around, in order to give her some experience of sailing, and arrived in Trois Islets a couple of hours later. We walked through the town (much more charming than Fort de France), and invited her to lunch. After a pleasant meal, she took the ferry back to Fort de France.
After a couple of nights in Trois Islets, we moved to the village of St. Anne in preparation for our journey to St. Lucia. We saw a quite fantastic little islet along the way, Diamond Rock:
St. Anne was a lovely little town, and we enjoyed the couple of days we spent there.