31/01/2016 – Vive la France in the Caribbean!

Firstly, an explanation; we are not time-travellers however I wrote this blog on my old iPad then tried to post it when we found wi-fi. Unfortunately the mail wouldn't work without the password. I tried but failed, then asked for a new password to be sent to John's e-mail account but that didn't happen either. McDonalds in Fort de France limits you to 30 minutes and it's not good to start with!. Long story short, I'm now about to copy the text on John's old iPad. We eventually tore ourselves away from the Tobago Cays and returned to Bequia for two important tasks, to file our tax returns and clear out. We were successful on both counts and pulled up our anchor early on Thursday morning. Darkness falls suddenly in the tropics, soon after 6:00 p.m. at the moment, and it it is more difficult to anchor in the dark, hence the early start. We made water most of the way and arrived in Anse Cochon on St Lucia at about 1730 with a full bottom tank. The next leg to Sainte Anne on the southern end Martinique is a shorter trip so we left a little later, just on 0800. Again, the wind was a bit too close to our heading so we motorsailed, arriving early afternoon. Martinique has the clearance procedure sorted! We dinghied ashore, found 'Boubou Snack Bar', entered the details on the computer, handed the printout, the passports and the boats registration document to Monsieur, paid €3 and received our clearance document back duly stamped. We can recommend the wonderful, locally produced icecream that we bought at the same time. From Ste Anne the yachting mecca of Le Marin is about 2.5 miles. We zoomed up there in the dinghy, had a look in the chandlery but they didn't have the right masthead light fitting, had a beer in Mango Cafe then dinghied around to Zone Artimer, which has the closest dinghy dock to Carrefour Market. We were in need of some essentials, especially wine! The trip back to the boat was a little challenging as it was becoming quite dark and we hadn't left an anchor light on so it was a tad difficult to find Starblazer. Sunday in Martinique, as in France, is dead. Some of the shops are open for a few hours in the morning, but not many, so we stayed onboard and did a number of jobs. Monday morning we went shopping. John had a list of items, including a replacement alternator, plus the name of a chandlery that stocks Aquasignal lights. He was successful up to a point. He even found the correct alternator but, at €545, he decided we would go to Plan B. Our backstop position is to leave the dead alternator in place because it drives a water pump but rely on the generator or the engine battery alternator to charge the domestic batteries. He found a suitable alternator in the US, $120, free shipping to the UK. However shipping to the Caribbean added $100+, local taxes and handling charges could easily be in the same order so we dropped that idea. We walked around to the new part of the marina to find lunch and were just leaving when we spotted Annelise and Manfred getting out of a car. Deja vu! Exactly the same thing happened back in April. They had left Tulasi in Rodney Bay, St Lucia for the hurricane season and got back in November to discover they had had a severe lightning strike. To compound the damage the automatic bilge pumps had failed and water ingress had damaged their hydraulics as well. Le Marin has an AMEL repair facility which is doing the work. We left Sainte Anne on Thursday en route to Fort de France, capital of la Martinique. We picked up a mooring in Petit Anse d'Arlet, also known as Les Anses d'Arlet, just off a lovely golden beach. The village is a holiday town without any resorts or big hotels, in fact there are few shops and we only found one restaurant. There are, however, lots of little, informal cafes and bars on the edge of the beach. Over the next two days we spent some time on the beach and snorkelled out to some rocks and reef development just off the beach. This was possibly the best snorkelling area we have found in the Caribbean, for both variety and number of fish. It doesn't compare with the fantastic Tuamotu Islands in French Polynesia but it comes close! Sunday we made the short trip to Fort de France. We went for a wander but everywhere was shut though we did stop in McDonalds. While we were in Anse d'Arlet we noticed a lot of people with full face masks and a snorkel sticking up top dead centre. John spoke to a chap who said he bought it in Decathlon, a sports shop. Later he offered me a trial, it was so comfortable and allowed me to breathe normally instead of through my mouth. Monday's task was to find a bus to go to Decathlon which was, conveniently, alongside a huge MrBricolage and across the road from La Galleria, allegedly the biggest shopping mall in the Caribbean with a SuperU Hypermarket. Everything is available in Martinique, it just costs a lot of money! I even found a shop which sells embroidery threads. I bought a couple of colours I needed at €1.50 each. Thankfully, I only paid $0.33 in Walmart in the States otherwise my big project might never have been started. I have yet to discover the price of threads at home, I expect it will be closer to the French price rather than the 50p equivalent I paid in Hong Kong for the same brand. Our plan is to head north, making a 48 hour non stop trip to St Martin where we'll clear in on the French side. There are no internal borders so we'll hire a car to drive to Philipsburg to meet Chrys and Roger when their cruise ship docks a few days later. It's a plan, we just have to carry it out. By the way, the plan worked. See the next post in a day or two. Joyce Starblazer

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