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The Invasion of Martinique

Though we have only been in Martinique for one week, it feels like we have packed a lot into our time here so far. That’s because we have. On Friday, January 7, we sailed from Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, to Martinique. Arriving about 1 p.m., we found a good spot to anchor and we dropped the hook. I swam out to check the anchor holding, and then we prepared to go ashore and check in. We were giddy with the prospect of French food and drink.

Just then we heard the buzz of an approaching dinghy. “Ahoy! Camino!” came the call, and we scrambled on deck to find Larry from the sailing vessel Cabernet hailing us. We had been leap-frogging Cabernet since Woburn Bay last summer, and on our way to Martinique we both stayed overnight in Chateaubelair, St. Vincent. Now Larry was over to say hello and see just who these two idiot sailors on Camino were. He was also there to encourage us to make a quick run over to Leader Price, a big grocery in Le Marin, the neighboring bay and boating center of the French West Indies Universe. There were rumors of an impending lockdown.

We made haste into Sainte Anne and checked in, a process performed at a local restaurant called Snack BouBou (I shit you not), and costing 3 euros. Once cleared in, we hustled back out to the dinghy dock, pointed the boat at Le Marin, and endured one of the ugliest rides, into the teeth of the breeze, out into the main channel, until we found the Leader Price dinghy dock.

Chastened by the ride and craving cheese, saucisson, and drinkable wine, we launched into Leader Price, filling our cart with all three of the delicacies, plus Belgian beer in 500 ml cans, and rum in 2 liter boxes. While Leader Price was not the grocery of our dreams, it had enough French food provisioning to satisfy our immediate needs. Dinner that night was, predicably, an assiette de charcuterie et fromage, washed down with beer and wine and rhum agricole. We dozed into a happy stupor, wondering what we would find next.

The next day, Saturday, was market day in a French village, and that meant a busy, vibrant, busting village. We also bumped into a big funeral upon arriving in the village that morning: a New Orleans-style band led a procession to the church, which is at the center of the village. We explored all the markets, including the covered market, and got to know the village. We also got to know the idea that La Poste was closed on two Saturdays each month—the sign didn’t specify which ones—so we could not recuperate our SIM card, which we had ordered from Wizzee, a cell service provider. That evening, Larry and Georgie from Cabernet invited us over for sundowners on their boat and we had a lovely time trading sailing stories.

We thought it would be a good idea to go on a longish hike on Sunday, but it turned out to be a bit longer than we planned. The hike to the Piton Creve Coeur was along the Departmental road, and it was much busier than we anticipated for a Sunday. It also lacked sidewalks, making the walking dangerous as well. But the view from the top of the piton was astounding, a 360-degree panorama of the southern end of Martinique.

On Monday morning we returned to La Poste, and there was a huge line. There is always a huge line at French post offices. This line was courtesy of Covid, and the post office was only letting in one customer at a time. While waiting, several French women tried to cut the line, but they were robustly rebuffed by a couple of locals ahead of us: “Moi aussi, madame, je n’ai qu’une petite chose a faire. Voila le fin de la queue.” When it was finally our turn, we told the postal lady that we had a general delivery letter. She looked peeved, but she dutifully went to the cabinet will all the general delivery letters. But she returned empty handed. “When did you order the letter?” she asked. January 2, we told her. It was now the 10th. “Oh, I haven’t sorted that mail yet,” she said. Good grief.

The next morning we were back at La Poste, like lover trapped in a bad romance. We waited for 30 minutes, and were the next in line to be admitted, when the clerk appeared and told us she was taking her 30-minute break. She pointed to a hand-written sign and closed the door in our faces. Stunned and dejected but determined to remain efficient, we headed to the pharmacy where we were able to obtain our passe sanitaire after more waiting. At the last moment, Chantal had to fly the bitch-wings and fend off a French woman who tried to cut in front of us. After returning to the La Poste, we finally succeeded in recovering our SIM card. Scrawled across the envelope was this: “Livre le 7 janvier.” It was now the the 12th. Plus it cost 1e30 for the service. Later that day we invited Larry and Georgie from Cabernet over for dinner and had a lovely time, especially with the galette des rois, with Chantal finding the shepherd inside and winning the crown as queen.

We had a fairly busy day planned over at Le Marin on Wednesday as we tried to initiate the process of getting our windlass fixed. After another harrowing dinghy ride, we found the gas and water dock and filled up a 5-gallon jug with potable water, and then discovered that we forgot the dry bag with the money in it. We were still able to get to the place where the windlass was originally purchased and begin that process, thanks to a helpful employee there. We decided to spend the rest of our time there exploring the area, checking out all the stores and services available, because we would surely need them in the future.

On Thursday, we set out to explore some of the neighborhoods around Ste. Anne as a way of checking out possible spots for our friends Laura and Wilson to rent when they visit. We found a Stations of the Cross walk that led up behind the church with beautiful vistas on the bay. Then we decided to walk to the municipal beach. The place had a real locals vibe to it, with a long, sandy beach and a couple of cool little beach communities behind it. There were also plenty of restaurants and bars to keep beach-goers happy.

On Friday we planned a long walk to the outer beaches with Larry and Georgie, but we first tried to see a doctor in the village. There was, of course, a line, and we waited for an hour, but it became evident that we would not have time to squeeze in a visit. We would call and book an appointment later in the week. We met Larry and Georgie and took the lovely and well-marked hiking trail that led around the southern tip of the island to three beautiful beaches, one of which was designated an official nude beach, where I am happy to report that the ratio of old, flabby men to gorgeous women is still 100 to 1 on nude beaches. I remained clothed as a concession to the better part of valor. At the last and most beautiful beach, Anse des Salines, we stopped at a miraculous beach bar for a beer, then made our way back to the boat in the afternoon. Later, we welcomed Mike and Jenn from Sanitas for a dinner to celebrate their arrival in Martinique.

If that sounds like a week packed with activities, it was. But there was a lot of excitement around our arrival here, and we wanted to take in as much as we could. With the plan of staying here for at least a couple of months, we will probably be a bit more relaxed with our pace. And, of course, we will diligently avoid La Poste at all costs.

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