We left Rodney Bay for the short hop to Martinique in blue skies and light wind. Half-way across, dark clouds brought 25 kts and torrential rain but we kept full sail up and creamed along at a constant 8 kts. Chris enjoyed helming as Toots ate up the 24 miles to Le Marin. As we approached, the wind eased and the sun came back out which made identifying the reefs on the approach to Le Marin easy.
After nearly an hour of looking for a space to anchor, we found a perfect spot away from the main channel to Le Marin. We liked Martinique from the moment we arrived, although initially it did feel strange to be speaking French and using euros again.
We particularly liked how easy it was to do bulk provisioning: one hypermarket has its own dinghy dock and trolley park within 50 metres of its front door. This may seem something rather naff to be excited about but when you've spent the past 6 months walking miles to shop, using a trolley instead of your back is close to heaven on earth.
Le Marin is a huge, well protected, anchorage but it is crammed full of yachts, many of which appeared to be abandoned or in need of a little tlc.
After a few days, we met a young Belgium couple, Michael and Sandrine, who were 'boat-sitting' for a friend, of a friend. They had a hire car and invited us to join them in a walk in the rain forest in the north of Martinique.
An 0530 start from the boat, saw us driving north over the hills for nearly 3 hours in heavy rain. A wrong turn, took us to the top of Mt Pele which wasn't a problem, just a pity the visibility was only about 50 metres. On reaching Grand Riviere, the weather was still bad; starting a walk would have been foolish, if not dangerous. We opted for coffee in the only place that was open: a fisherman's bar cum cafe.
We sat like drowned rats in the cafe but our mood soon lifted when the coffee arrived and we met Andreas from Estonia. Andreas was enjoying life to the full, telling us how he loved living in the rain forest working on his rasta friend's organic farm, when he wasn't lobster fishing in Norway. The fact that it was only 0900 and he was on his third beer by the time we left was clearly perfectly normal; apparently you can't work on the farm when it's raining in the rain forest. Thank you Andreas for making us laugh so much.
With the rain easing, we left the cafe and within 30 minutes we were well off road and winding our away along a footpath that seemed to be always uphill, even on the way back. The colours and smell of the forest were amazing; having lived on the boat for so long we really appreciated the vegetation and sounds of the wildlife. Five hours later we returned to the car, tired but feeling good. The cafe had closed and there was no sign of Andreas.
Back in Le Marin we decided to explore the surrounding mangroves by kayak. Paddling up an old overgrown canal was eery and scenes from the film 'Deliverance' came to mind.
We are now starting to head slowly south again as the hurricane season starts in June.
One final thing before I finish this update. Back to Andreas of Estonia. Andreas told us about the red bananas he grew on the farm in the rain forest and how amazing they were to eat. None of us had ever heard of or seen red bananas in our lives and we just put Andreas's enthusiasm about them down to perhaps being on a different planet to most of us........most of the time.
A few days later we were astonished to find red bananas in the market at Le Marin. They are, indeed, absolutely delicous!
Andreas, we will come and look for you in the cafe next time we are in Martinique. Hopefully it will be raining!