Looking west from Martinique

Drone view St Anne to Marin Martinique

When we look back on the Caribbean, Martinique will feature among the best memories—and not just because of the pâté, brie, and baguettes. A stop to provision and facilitate a trip to Puerto Rico for Jamie stretched out and filled with beaches and swimming, exploring the history and charm of this lush island, Thanksgiving celebrations – all packaged in the company of friends.

So good

ProvisioningThe pâté, brie, and baguette factor can’t be ignored! I don’t know when we’ll be in French territory again, so enjoy the treats instead of watching calories. The team favorite for pastry from the Sainte Anne boulangerie: pain au chocolat et amandes (basically: a croissant, with chocolate AND almond paste, and a dusting of powdered sugar). Oh my. Beautiful baguettes, one euro (about $1.20) each – shame they don’t keep, we’ll get our last before departing for Bonaire today.

Everyday treats aside, provisioning here is excellent: a wide selection and great prices. I don’t often provision deeply, but make do with what’s available. People everywhere have to eat, so it only makes sense for a few reasons: to save money if ports ahead are particularly costly, of if the selection will be “aged” (thinking of the flour full of weevils in Tonga), or if it will simply be very remote and few or no stores are available (an uncommon situation).

Here, it’s the breadth and value. The affordability of everything from balsamic vinegar to risotto makes me wonder if France doesn’t subsidize food in Martinique. Staples on board Totem that should last months ahead: UHT milk, canned tomatoes, olive oil, cocoa, pasta and more.

There’s planning ahead, too. If we want an affordable glass of wine, this is our last chance for a very long time (wine at our budget in Mexico was undrinkable). There’s very nice wine here for about $5 bottle.

And then, well, FRENCH. There are specialties sold here that will add enjoyment to many meals ahead. I love French puy lentils. There’s saucisson sec: the dried sausages will keep for months in the refrigerator, and are a delicious treat. GOOD butter. Marinated anchovies. Dijon and whole grain mustard. Affordable luxuries for the cruiser’s diet!

Everyday shopping at local shops, but it's great to stock up at the big supermarket.

Everyday shopping at local shops, but it’s great to stock up at the big supermarket. Also: Le Snacking. hee!

Nautical hub

Martinique is a great place to get things done on a boat. While it’s not a great place to ship things in (that’s nearby St Lucia, kinder to yachts in transit), the chandleries are well supplied and there’s expert service available. One of those experts looked at Totem’s Yanmar (our 4JH3 turbo has been overheating) and declared that not only had the heat exchanger failed, but the engine showed signs of being late in life. That’s bad news but hopefully continued care (and a new heat exchanger) will see us through until repowering is necessary. Jamie got lots of boat yoga practice in the engine compartment to replace it.

Jamie practices boat yoga in the engine compartment to replace the heat exchanger

Look at that shiny new heat exchanger!

The finish line for the Mini Transat was in view from Totem’s cockpit, a solo trans-Atlantic race in VERY small boats. The excitement of seeing boats come in over several days, tracking them on the race website, spying them from hikes around the south end, and the spectacle of the fleet after all had finished. Notice how on the transport ship, the keels are painted in fluorescent colors… a safety measure I don’t want to have to think about.

Mini TransAt Martinique

Mini Transat boat sailing into the harbor after finishing

Boats loaded on deck: trying not to think of why all the keels are fluorescent colors

Loaded up for the next destination

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Exploring and fun

We rented a car to get around a few days: rentals are affordable until high season kicks in (as low as 23 euros/day!). Teaming up with the Utopia crew – more fun for everyone. In the north, the town of St Pierre has relics of Mt Pele’s eruption in 1902: all but a couple of residents were killed. One, the town troublemaker, was in the stone equivalent of a drunk tank – enough to protect him (that’s the second picture below).

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And just having fun, between the boats at anchor in Sainte Anne…and pizza night!

Sainte Anne sunset: kids on the SUP and kayak

Sainte Anne sunset: kids on the SUP and kayak

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These besties are making the most of our months together.

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Puerto Rico

The primary reason we spent more time in Martinique than expected was to accommodate Jamie’s trip to Puerto Rico, delayed in an online booking snafu. The dermatologist wasn’t happy with the biopsy of his excision in Puerto Rico. Time for another slice. His flights bounced through Guadeloupe and Sint Maarten, allowing a peek at hurricane damage. Birds-eye view of the Simpson Lagoon showed boats anchored outside.

St martin anchorage

In Puerto Rico, recovery in progress from the ground:

Trees starting to leaf out again: the highway from San Juan to Ponce

Trees down, but many standing and starting to leaf out again: the highway from San Juan to Ponce

Just a little off kilter

Just a little off kilter

Jamie is a plastic surgeon’s dream. Here’s how he looked right after the surgery… and once I removed his stitches six days later. The biopsy is back: basal cell, but all clear margins. A clean bill of health. We just need to stay on top of regular checkups.

derm before after

Passage prep

This is first passage of more than one night at sea since sailing from Bermuda to Connecticut last year. It’s also our first downwind passage in a long while, and the full moon only just starting to wane. Comfortable reaching and nice moonlight, away from the small-boat traffic of islands…a very nice setup. It’s a somewhat awkward length: just long enough that we can’t quite squeak it into a two-night trip. So we’ll leave this afternoon, and point for Bonaire, and should arrive on Saturday morning. Follow along on our PredictWind tracker–is displays a snapshot of our speed along with position.

Much of this will be on port tack. Our galley is uphill if we’re heeling to starboard and cooking can be harder, so I’ve done a little extra prep. These are my first effort at homemade “condensed soup,” like Campbells but DIY from the beautiful leeks and potatoes in the market here (along with a white sauce for bolognese style lasagna).

Homemade condensed soup: easy heat-n-eat for the passage

Homemade condensed soup: easy heat-n-eat for the passage

I use whiteboard in the pantry. It’s usually the progressive shopping list. That’s on the right; on the left is a list of meals prepped for the passage. If my brain is foggy (adjusting to being at sea can do that) it’s easy to look at the list for a quick reminder. At the top are leftovers to use up. Only in a French island would that include duck fat!

passage prep meals

Bidding farewell to the beautiful anchorage in Sainte Anne.

Sainte Anne

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12 Responses to Looking west from Martinique

  1. Earl December 6, 2017 at 11:56 pm #

    Pleased that you and your family had a great time in my family’s home.

    • Behan December 13, 2017 at 6:10 am #

      thank you Earl, we really loved out time there!

  2. Jonathan Caldwell December 7, 2017 at 7:24 am #

    You will love the diving in Bonaire! Just curious, what did the mechanic say were the signs of “end of life.” All of us wonder about that as our engines reach into the thousands of hours. Declining compression? Do you do oil analysis?

  3. Keith & Nicki, s/v Sionna December 7, 2017 at 8:01 am #

    Behan, do you know about refreshing stale bread? Even works on stale baguettes!
    Heat the oven (400 if your will!) Wash the baguette (or any good bread) under cold water so the crust is just wet (don’t soak the loaf, you just want the outside wet), put in the hot oven about ten minutes, turning over half-way through. Works like a charm! We’ve kept mini-baguettes in the fridge for a week – unspoiled but dead stale – and brought them back to almost fresh with this technique. Chewy yummy goodness inside, crunchy delectability outside!

    • Behan December 13, 2017 at 5:58 am #

      This is brilliant! I confess I avoid turning on the oven in the tropics if possible. We usually turn stale loaves into croutons, for stuffing/dressing or salads, or make crostini for snacks.

  4. Anthony Gibb December 7, 2017 at 8:48 am #

    Aaargh-we’re only 22 miles apart and on our way over the channel but you won’t be there. Have a great trip and see you along the way somewhere again.

    • Behan December 13, 2017 at 5:57 am #

      I’m sorry we just missed you!!

  5. Giovanni Testa December 7, 2017 at 10:53 am #

    Hi Behan, it is always a pleausure to read about you ;-))
    May I know please how/where I can find Jamie. I have the same engine .
    I ll be at Marin next March, again sailing Caribbean waters after world tour .
    Giovanni & Marina TESTA
    sv EUTIKIA
    https://www.youtube.com/user/eutikia1

    • Behan December 13, 2017 at 5:57 am #

      Giovanni, will ask Jamie to email you. Congrats on the circumnavigation!

  6. Jonathan Caldwell December 7, 2017 at 3:13 pm #

    What was that little zig you did about 60 miles out of Martinique? Turn around for more brie? ;-))

    • Behan December 11, 2017 at 9:46 am #

      Well spotted! Broken bolt in the steering quadrant of our buddy boat – we went back to give them a hand. All’s well though. Fast trip, too!

      • Jonathan Caldwell December 11, 2017 at 11:42 am #

        Wow, you went from your boat to theirs while at sea? Well done. Or “just” standing by for moral support?

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