Christmas in Bequia and New Year in Martinique (as well as a chunk of January 2020) have been very lovely. On the day before we are due to sail south again to Saint Lucia I am fondly remembering our very chilled, festive time. Here are a few of our favourite things about the holiday season 2019-2020
What better time to chill out than at peak charter season and to watch the charter boats frenziedly zip in and out of the anchorages while taking life at a more relaxed pace. Simon even read his first novel since leaving the UK!
2. Christmas Winds
I love the Christmas winds, especially since Trinidad. Free air conditioning! We had two amazing sails up from Tobago; the sail from Charlotteville in Tobago to Union and the sail on Christmas Day from Bequia north to Sainte Anne in Martinique with a very unusual southerly wind. A gift to all sailors heading north, this sail meant a beautiful downwind sail which became a beam reach to finish as a stonking fine reach. We whizzed up the leeward coast of Saint Vincent at 8 knots with hardly any swell in the moonlight. And we had a mainsail that we could actually use. What a great Christmas gift!
3. Chaguaramas reunion
Bequia is a great place to spend Christmas and particularly with the opportunity to meet up with some friends from Chaguaramas. We finally got to catch up with Franz and Michi , Wendy and John and to share some good times together. Christmas Eve was our Christmas dinner on board the Princess and Christmas lunch was a huge pot luck dinner at the Fig Tree where 200 plus cruisers converged. Thank you to Wendy for the mince pies, Franz and Michi for the wonderful Bavarian roast dinner and to everyone for making our Christmas so special.
4. La bonne bouffe!
Well, if you can’t indulge yourself at Christmas, when can you? Our Christmas Eve spread was a triumph of yummy home cooked food (the ladies in the picture have to take the credit). And then, Martinique… what can I say? Cheese… wine… pastries delivered by boat. New Year’s Resolutions can wait until Saint Lucia…
5. Cruiser’s New Year.
In true Martinique tradition, the fireworks at Fort de France are a day early. This suited us fine as we got to have two New Year’s celebrations. After seeing the fireworks above Fort Saint Louis in a nice, family atmosphere at Fort de France we got to celebrate New Year’s with our friends Kasia and Marcin on board their friends’ catamaran in Sainte Anne and to make new friends, drink, eat, dance and wish everyone aboard a Happy New Year with a smaller firework display above Club Med in Sainte Anne in the background. Our journey home was a very convenient 2 minute dinghy drive. Many thanks again to the guys on Rybka for their wonderful hospitality!
6. Hiking in Sainte Anne
The hiking trail around the headland in Sainte Anne is a must; well signposted, shaded and flat with access to beautiful beaches, a water park for kids and a boardwalk across the lagoon. If you go far enough you get to La Savanne des Petrifications on the windward side of the island. An old volcanic plateau where you can find petrified wood, this walk is otherworldly with wide open vistas across barren plains and a thrilling view at Pointe d’Enfer. Flat, safe and hardly muddy at all, this is a walk for all levels of fitness.
7. Learning new skills
There is nothing like the cruising life for getting you into making things with your own hands. Apart from servicing the generator and scrubbing the hull we make our own bread, cut our own hair (well, I cut both my hair and Simon’s since he chopped off most of my hair the last time) and sew up our favourite, battered shorts. Simon has become proficient at splicing and can now produce a very decent splice in no time. I acquired a sewing machine and have dreams of making practical things such as dinghy chaps (although I’ll start with a fitted bedsheet). I haven’t sewn anything to my trousers yet so I count that as a promising beginning.
8. Le shopping
We recommend hiring a car for the day to drive to Decathlon, the mega sports gear store at Lamentin near Fort de France to stock up on essentials; shorts, flip flops and you can never have too many hats!
9. Beautiful butterflies
Winter seems to be the perfect time of year in Martinique for the handsome Battus Polydamus butterflies (according to my internet search) which are everywhere you look.
10. Spawning season
Winter is the time of year when you can see huge schools of young fish (silver side). We were lucky to swim through two large schools of Creole Wrasse and Atlantic Spadefish on our dive in Saine Anne bay. Watching the water behind the catamaran, Rybka on New Year’s Eve we enjoyed watching the squid in action, hunting the tiny creatures that were too small for our eyes to see. And of course, it wouldn’t be the Grenadines without the pretty honeycomb trunk fish. I was also lucky enough to see an octopus (yay) eating a flounder (eww). Well, nature isn’t always cuddly. Did you know that octopii have nine brains and three hearts? Watching them change colour as they move is a truly strange experience. Your brain has difficulty to interpret what is happening.
11. New anchor chain!
This was our main reason for coming to Martinique. We had heard that they have the cheapest anchor chain in the Caribbean here and were not disappointed. We highly recommend Le Clipper Ship chandlery for the best prices and by far the best service. Jean Emmanuel delivered the chain right to our boat while we were moored up at the fuel dock…. at lunch time! A French man who works during his lunch hour is a rare and beautiful thing. Not only did we get new, rust free, galvanised chain made in France with a 9000 kilo breaking strain but we also upgraded our anchor swivel to a Kong stainless steel swivel with the same spec. When you live on the hook the anchor gear is a good investment. We feel happier now that our old chain has gone to make a new reef.
12. Huge anchorages
Bequia is a large enough bay but in terms of sheer size, Sainte Anne in Martinique beats it. Sainte Anne must be one of the largest and most generous bays for anchoring anywhere in the Caribbean. Although certain charter boats sometimes like to anchor in a very cosy position and need to shooed away, there is space for all here! It is advisable to dive on your anchor to make sure that you are well dug in. Holding can be excellent in sand or dodgy in grass and rocks. However, if you get it wrong the first time, pani pwoblem (no worries). Just find a space to reanchor in. A community of cruisers this size has its upsides. Le Marin around the corner has a whole range of chandleries and services (if you can work out when they are open).
13. French rules
Where are you without rules?
14. Terrible couples selfies