Monday, February 23, 2015

Random Thoughts From Martinique

In no particular order

Le Marin
- French women are fabulous at any age.  AND skinny.
- What the hell do French people do with all the baquettes they buy?  Seriously?  They buy no less than 2 and more often than not 4-6 at a time each and every freaking day.  What the hell do they do with all that bread?  It turns stale uber fast.  And see the above about skinny French women.  
- French are shy / afraid of trying to speak American.  Americans often misunderstand and think "French know American but just won't speak it."  Americans are shy/ afraid to try to speak French.  The French often misunderstand and think  "Most Americans don't want to try to speak French."
-  Unless they are really busy, most French people appreciate and enjoy you trying to speak French.  Kathy Parson's book "French for Cruisers" is a MUST!!! 
- French cheeses, wines, and chocolates are SO good and cheap in the French islands.  Yumo!!!!!
- You would think waking up in the middle of the night to no wind and a glassy anchorage would be good.  However with 1000+ boats in Le Marin, it is preferable to have a little wind to keep everyone from swinging every which way but loose.
- In the spirit of if a tree falls in the woods but no one is there to hear it......if you anchor too close to a boat (however safely) BUT it's in an anchorage on a French island, is it really too close?
- Is our French neighbor really concerned we are too close or just shocked Americans would anchor so near?  Bahahahaha
- As cruisers we often say "we are collecting memories and not stuff" as we cruise along.  However, with three of the best ships chandleries we have ever seen, cash will be spent here.  Bling bling for the boat if you will.
- Le Marin is truly a sailors candy store (see above). Way better than Annapolis, Newport or Ft Lauderdale in our opinion.  But then again, sailing is not only a recreation and hobby in France but sailboat racing is a real sport in France that the entire country follows.  There is media coverage including tv.  Imagine that turning on tv to see sailboat racing vs!   I don't care what anyone is NOT a sport and does not belong on sporting tv - EVER!
- The largest sail loft in the Caribbean is located here with 6000 sq ft and 10 machines.  Omg!  
- They can and did repair on a dodger zipper in our windshield in one morning - walk in service AND on the Monday of carnival.  Unbelievable and awesome!  Merci, merci, merci!
-  1/ 1/2 years since we had our cockpit enclosure made and the first zipper blew up.  I have been very careful to rise with fresh water as much as possible and treat the zippers on a regular basis with zip lube.   
- A sailor chick's true bling is stainless steel for her/their boat!
- Is it wrong that I am thrilled to get 6 small stainless steel hinges for our overhead hatches?  Nay....see the above
- The French don't really seem to believe in the use of any sort of dinghy lights at all

St Anne 
- Lovely little beach town 
- For some reason, the best souvenir shopping in the Caribbean (for us).  We bought several things here last year and again this year.  Who doesn't love a good slide whistle!  
- So many Kewl little foreign cars (to Americans):  Peugeot's seem to rule, Citron, Opel, Twingo, Nissan's, and Kia, Audi and BMW but models we don't have in the USA.  Car lovers we know would go crazy for all these Kewl cars 
- We saw the biggest hawksbill turtle we've ever seen.  Near the size of a small leatherback....meaning a small kitchen table.   Omg!  Right in the anchorage.  So kewl.  
- This is the land of small inflatable dinghies with tiny outboards.  It almost seems to be a contest to see who can have a smaller while many other cruising nationalities think bigger it better and faster.  
-  Seriously....what the hell do French people do with all the banquettes they buy?  They buy no less than 2 and more often than not 4-6 at a time each freaking day.  What the hell do they do with all that bread?  It turns stale uber fast.  And see the above about skinny French women.  

Sail from Le Marin to Fort de France 
- Weirdest sail ever......I think it's called broad reach and the other is downwind run.  I am not 100% sure as we have never done it in s/v Honey Ryder.  Never!  As you well know dear readers, the wind is usually what.....come know this.....on the nose.  So broad reaching and running was truly an odd sensation for us but delightful. 
- The sail across the bay to Fort de France did not disappoint.  We learned last year that the wind can scream across here so we reefed ahead of time.  Zoom zoom on a nice beam to close reach.  Lovely.
-  Martinique must be trying to set the record for most fish traps of an island in the Eastern Caribbean.    Sheesh!  
-  In terms of visibility, one quart and one 16 oz CLEAR pop bottles are not the best choice for fishing floats.  They in fact are the worst choice from a visibility choice. And the most common.  Argh!  

Fort de France and Carnival
*  This truly deserves it's own blog posting but we will see if that happens.  In the mean time thoughts below.
- The French don't really seem to believe in boat nav lights for their boats or at least they don't seem to use them.  Many powerboats leaving carnival zoomed through the anchorage on their way across the bay with no lights.  There was the one fancy powerboat with blue mood lighting and a red light for additional decoration but in no way did it constitute any sort of regulation nav light.  Much to the contrary, it would totally confuse any other boater.  It would me had they not passed right by us in the anchorage.  However, this is not true of the ferry boats.  They all had Offical nav lights and used them.  So it only seems to be recreational boats and yachts.    
- Carnival crowds dress up as much as the parade people.
- The people watching is 10x better due to the above.
- Burlesque and cross dressing day seems to have been extended from day two to day three.
- At least 50% of all the men (crowd and parade) were in skirts and frocks (dresses) including men of all ages, orientation, single, married, families.
- A good parade Marshall would be a nice addition....not to sound like an impatient American but it was sometimes 30 mins between parade groups.  30 mins!
- It takes a really confident man to be in a parade in his red underwear and fishnet hose playing the bass drum.  We saw loads of them in each parade group.  Drummer Tom took special notice.
- French parade street food isn't really like our parade street food.  We sat down at a little table under a tent and eventually got our food - pork with rice, fish and rice.  The table next to us was enjoying a nice, cheap bottle of wine.  So civilized.
- Plastic air horns are everywhere during carnival and hooting constantly......And I do mean constantly!
- Plastic air horns are WAY cheaper than their marine counterparts.  We bought two.  One for the dinghy and one for s/v Honey Rdyer to replace our official "marine" air horns that are badly rusted. 
- Did I mention the carnival air horns are way cheaper than the marine air horns found in any ships chandlery? 
- As expected the smallish anchorage at Fort de France was crowded for carnival.  We dropped anchor safely but close between two cats.  Of course they swing different than monohulls.  One Fench cat captain said "You are too near."  It was ironic since it is universally known amongst cruisers that the French invented anchoring too close.  We moved.  He will probably regret it as more boats pour into the anchorage.  We would have been close but ok there.  At least we care.  He will probably get some chart boat next to him that doesn't care or another French boat that will anchor even closer.  C'est la vie.  Urgent update....the above Captin was not French but Swedish.  His flag was not out yesterday but it was out today.  No wonder he thought we were too close.  He is not French.  
- OMG leg warmers are back in least for carnival....big time.  I do mean big time.  Everyone had on leg warmers from little kids to Kewl hip hop wannabes, teenage girls, to everyday schmoos like Tom to grandpas.  Different colored ones on each leg and often layered.  Let me say it again....leg warmers are in style again at least for carnival.  It still sounds weird to write that out loud. You get that it's not cold here, right?  And while chipping is the offical Carnival dance, I really don't know that it requires leg warmers.  It's really just a shuffling/stomping of your feet while moving your hips and bum. Never the less, apparently leg warmers are back in style.  
- The other carnival standard seems to be the tutu.  I don't know if it's because we are in a French island but the tutu is the costume of choice for every preteen and teenage girl as well as many teenage boys, tiny tots and the occasional gray dreadlocked grandfather.  We saw entire families decked out in tutu's - mom, dad, teenage girl, 8 year old boy and little 3 year old girl....all accompanied by tutu wearing grandparents.  
- And fishnets.  OMG.......everyone had on fishnet hose/tights.  Everyone!   We were the only ones not wearing fishnets.  Seriously!  
- Pimp my hunk of junk Renault is alive and well here in Martinique.  Many, many were on display and in the parade.  The graphics were colorful and at
- There were several of the above cars that were set up to backfire and did on command, frequently and loudly.  It took the place of fireworks and went on all night.  We first encountered them in St Anne.  Then we heard them in Anse a l'Ane.  And finally they were in the parade here in a Fort de France each day.  We took to calling them the Backfire Boyz when we heard them.  It was so loud.  
- Day four after the parade was ruled by motorcycles and scooters of every make, model, and size.  Hundreds line the streets.  Some were parked, showing off their ride, while others were riding around the streets, showing them off.  A few were doing tricks on them.  
- We saw 2 different groups of people gathered singling traditional songs/chants in patois language (island language) and drumming as various fighters entered the circle of people and were half wrestling/fighting and half dancing.  It sort of looked like the fight scene from "Westside Story".  I was worried the wrestling/fighting would escalate but each ended with smiles and handshake or hug.  There were elders there to be sure it was all in good fun.  One serious woman even took on a guy.  She seemed to be a bit angry overall but not nesseccarily at him, perhaps all men in general.  
- s/v Honey Ryder hosted a pre-parade party on day four.  Three German boats, and a Canadian boat for a total of 10.  Fun time.
- The day after Carnival and only a few feathers from colored boas can be seen.  I woke up pre-dawn and heard the street cleaners busy at work.  Impressive clean up.  

Saint Pierre
- Customs office (in the tourist office) closes at 15:00 and does not reopen until 9:00.
-  Many shops close for lunch 12:30 to 14:00.
-  Many restaurants close between 15:00 and reopen at 17:00.
-  The above restaurants are the ones with wifi or wefee as the French pronounce it.
-  Laid back town...see the above.
-  Kewl little town that deserves more time.
-  Story of the sole survivor of the 1900 volcano eruption that buried Saint Pierre and killed everyone else has more than likely been exaggerated.  The historical plaque said strong evidence suggests others besides the prisoner survived.  However the thick prison walls did save this one prisoner who went on to live in enfamy as the solo survivor.  

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