Friday, July 10, 2015

Alas, Farewell to Dominica

Finally, a lovely break in the windy weather and a forecast almost perfect enough to weep over - for almost an entire week!

So, move on we must after a final evening in Roseau where we saw it as a good omen to be blessed with such a beautiful sign from the weather gods, as the sun finally burst through the clouds above.

Next morning we pointed our bows southward and waved good-bye to yet another colourful village nestled under the verdant, green hills.

The channel between Dominica and Martinique, our next destination, is about 20 nautical miles.  We saw lots of boats on the move taking advantage of the good forecast and we would then loose sight of them in the frequent squalls that passed right on through.  Guess a little deck wash to keep the salt at bay was okay.  As we made our way along we could see another catamaran coming up behind us, both visually and on our AIS.  They were gaining on us, being a bigger boat and finally about half-way across the passage passed us.  They came on close behind and were definitely seeking the photo-op as we busily snapped pictures of each other and then with contact on the radio agreed to send each other copies.  Hopefully they got some good ones of us!

With our departure of Dominica, we have now traversed the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean, the idea that we now turn the corner and are in the Windward Islands.  Truth be told, we won't be at our most eastern point until St. Lucia, but none-the-less we cracked open the new cruiser's guide to check out the details for our next landfall.

There was no 'official' guide for the south shore of Dominican Republic so we downloaded as much info as we could off the web, after that we had guides to help us along the way.

At the northern end of Martinique lies Ste. Pierre, now a sleepy little tourist town.  At the beginning of the 20th century it was a bustling port of 30,000 souls who had little inkling and abysmally inept leadership that led to their demise with the eruption of Mt. Pelee.  Can you imagine, 30,000 people died because even though there were warning rumbles, no one would make the difficult decision to evacuate the isolated town and get them out of harm's way.  All but two people died - one a cobbler hanging out in his cellar and the other (famously or infamously) a convicted murderer serving time in a small stone-walled jail cell.  The town now consists of narrow little streets with new (and some older buildings) built up on the burnt remnants of the old town, since everything burned (people and buildings) on that fateful day in 1902.

Ste. Pierre was our destination to check into Martinique but with the favourable forecast we decided to move on down the coast to the capital city of Fort de France.  So much in contrast to the quiet northern town, FF (as it's usually abbreviated) is a busy metropolis of approx. 100,000.  We haven't seen skyscrapers like this in a long time (barring our visit to Canada.)

We dropped anchor right in the city harbour under the walls of the old French fort and in the evening enjoyed the lights of the waterfront. 

Funny thing, when we checked in with the usual French efficiency of their wonderful computer kiosk system, we asked how much and the lady at the desk said she really didn't know and we could pay "prochain fois".  Sweet - free check-in.  For all that though, the security forces were out early in the morning checking the anchorage; each and every boat got a thorough review by helicopter flying just a few meters above - quite a bit of excitement for sure!

Our goal in Martinique was to do a quick exploration and a bit of shopping and although we would love to stay and see much, much more we feel we should be moving on.  Hate to think of the season we are in, but we definitely don't want to be caught too far north in the islands now.

We headed into town to find a chandlery for a few boat supplies, a grocery store and definitely some good lunch.  The only thing we really couldn't find was good wifi - oh why do the French do everything else so well???

The Riviere Madame flows through town with lovely bridges joining the two sides.

There's a pedestrian street joining a multitude of busy commercial cross-streets.

Wandering through the park I found this feather (sorry for the focus) and would have loved to see the bird it came from.

The old French fort that dominates the harbour.

Couldn't resist cracking a few jokes about the 'short bus'.
The architecture of FF is an interesting mix of colonial to modern, many of the buildings being government related.

The grandiose Town Hall.

I loved the red shutters / shade providers on the modern Appeals Court.

And right across the park was this much older, classic Arts / Culture Centre.

Once again, old and new juxtaposed, with the reflection of the cathedral mirrored in this modern edifice.
 Finally, as our legs were tiring we headed out of town on a Mozaik bus to La Galleria - a huge mall with many French and American stores and a mega supermarket.  In St. Martin we had ooh'd and aah'd over the wonderful selection in the Super U grocery store.  This one had to impress since it was a notch up, called the Hyper U!

Catching the bus in FF.  The one thing I remember from when I briefly lived in France is that the concept of a line-up is completely foreign.  Here, in this little departement, the tradition continues as everyone clusters around the bus before the door is opened.  Relax folks - there's room for everyone!
Yes, those are escalators, in a mall no less!
Shopping done, garbage dropped off, lunch and dinner enjoyed, it is now time to continue our track south - next stop St. Lucia and Rodney Bay.  Martinique beckons for a much more extensive visit on our next time through.