Since setting sail from the U.K in 2016 I have had four Christmas Day’s away from home. The first was celebrated with my Atlantic crossing buddies in St Lucia, for 2017 I was in New Zealand, 2018 with my Indian Ocean sailor family in South Africa and now for 2019 with this salty gang in Martinique. Each one has been memorable and i’ve been lucky to have had such a nice variety.
On Christmas eve I took Fathom from the anchorage at Le Marin to St Anne’s, just around the corner, and anchored alongside Dustin on ‘Tiama’, Jeff and Cheri on ‘Grasshopper’ and Miki and Karl on ‘Fai Tira’. We had a nice afternoon on the beach drinking rum punches before ending up on Tiama for a bit of party. Christmas Day lunch was spent on ‘Grasshopper’ and we all cooked a dish and brought it along for a festive feast. We were joined by Liz, an old friend of Dustin’s from Hawaii, who had flown in for a few weeks holiday. Dustin then decided a second female crewmember would be a good idea so Alice, a French couchsurfer, joined ship. Alice had an interesting sounding tin pan instrument with her which inspired the rest of us into an impromptu jam session, me on guitar, Karl on his 3 string twanger and everyone else drumming along and singing made up lyrics. We thought we sounded great anyway.
Over the next week we sailed up the coast of Martinique as a flotilla but sadly had to bid farewell to Jeff and Cheri who were heading off to Colombia. It was great to buddy boat with the others and we always made a race of it between anchorages. Fathom, the smallest ship as always, just about managing to keep up. We made a stop at Anse Noire, a pretty but crowded bay and enjoyed some good snorkelling off the headland. Then past Fort de France where we anchored off ‘Dog Beach’, named after we encountered several playful dogs when taking a stroll that evening. More great snorkelling and Miki cooked us all dinner.
On the afternoon of the 30th we had reached Saint Pierre, a charming and pretty little town on the NW of Martinique which is overlooked by the domineering Mount Pelee. The volcano erupted in 1902, destroying the town and killing 30,000 people in the space of a few minutes. The only survivor was a prisoner who was locked up in a small dungeon like jail cell and somehow managed to escape with only a few burns. Imagine his reaction when he realised everyone else was dead. The anchorage at Saint Pierre is very narrow and there is not much space to drop the hook before the depth shelves deeply to 20m+. With plenty of other yachts around it was a battle to find a suitable spot but we all squeezed in eventually. One catamaran had dropped their anchor too close to the edge of the shelf and we watched after dark that evening as it dragged out to sea in the strong wind. It took a good half an hour before the frantic sweep of torch lights on the bow indicated the Owners had realised they were no longer located off the beach but a mile or so out to sea! No harm done and they got back in safely.
On the 31st an American couple in the anchorage offered to host us all onboard their boat for an early evening dinner party and we were joined by Finns – Anna, Tuamos and Sirkka, old friends of Liz. It was a fun night and later we ended up seeing in the New Near on Tiama while drinking Dustin’s pirate strength rum punches. As you are probably realising from reading this, the rum always flows in the Caribbean. I can confidently report that we all started 2020 nursing sore heads but quickly rallied and were back on Tiama that afternoon for some card games and sundowners on deck to watch the first sunset of the New Year. We thought it would be a good idea to raid Dustin’s fancy dress collection as you can see from the photo.
We stayed a few more days and one morning Liz, Alice, Karl and I decided to hike up to the summit of the volcano. To reach the start of the trail we chose to save some energy and hitchike rather than walk for three hours to get there. As we started walking up the trail thick cloud closed in reducing visibility before we got soaked in torrential rain. Thankfully as we approached the rim of the crater the clouds cleared allowing us a fantastic panoramic view across Martinique and down over Saint Pierre to our boats, tiny dots in the distance. The hike had been well worth it and also provided some much needed exercise.
The days ticked by and I was keen to get back to Le Marin to reprovision and give my liver a rest. Dustin and Liz planned to sail up to Dominica for a week so I offered to give Alice a lift back south towards the airport so she could catch her flight to Guadeloupe. It was another race along the coast, this time a head to head between Fathom and Fai Tira, a clear win for Fathom this time! Once back at Le Marin, Alice caught her flight out and I enjoyed some lazy days writing and catching up on boat jobs before picking up a bug that had been doing the rounds and feeling pretty rough for a while. It was great to have Miki and Karl closeby and to see Max and Tania again for a few days when they sailed ‘Alalila’ up from Bequia.
I still didn’t have a plan in place for the next months, the option of sailing towards Cuba and the Bahamas before an Atlantic crossing in May was an exciting thought but the route would be a challenging undertaking sailing solo. Another consideration was my cruising funds which were getting dangerously low and going that way wouldn’t be cheap. In any case there were more islands to explore nearby so no rush to make a decision. I was rather enjoying the lazy day sailing anyway.