Sailing Blog SeaBiscuit Sea Biscuit Martinique Fort de France (51 of 1)

Anchored alongside the wall of Fort Louis in Fort de France, Martinique

An uneventful overnight sail from Les Saintes brought us into the bay at Fort de France, Martinique, the biggest city in the Windward Islands. Many cruisers warned us that we wouldn’t like it – “the city is dirty, the people are unfriendly, you’ll feel trapped on your boat!” – we heard over and over again. I’ve noticed that we’re often at odds with the cruiser consensus when it comes to cities in the Caribbean.

In the shadow of the massive Fort St. Louis seawall, the anchorage and dinghy dock is adjacent to an immaculate park that surrounds some of the city’s coolest historical landmarks. It’s a pleasant place to stroll and stop for a drink or a meal at one of the food vendor kiosks. We made it a point to pass through it as much as we could during our stay; en route to the Schoelcher Library, the farmer’s market, various grocery stores including a Hyper/Super U (my favorite), and the bustling downtown shopping district. We really enjoyed Fort de France.

With our boat fridge once again bursting with a selection of local tropical fruits, vegetables, and great French imports (a cheese selection almost as good as the one we found in St. Martin), we decided to check out some of the small, seaside towns further down the coast in Martinique. Our first stop was Anse Mitan, where we were pleased to find calm waters and a decent beach. We relaxed at anchor and slept like babies in the calm waters of the bay.

The next morning, we woke up and discovered that our dinghy engine had been stolen. This incident immediately changed our perception of these innocent-looking seaside towns of Martinique. After spending a day filing the police report, we sailed Nightingale Tune down the coast to Grande Anse D’Arlet, a slightly more active tourist destination, where we anchored for the remainder of the week. We were eager to move on to St. Lucia, but nasty squalls held us hostage longer than we wished to stay. We were glad to have clear water for swimming and repeatedly made use of the hiking trail across the mountain to the neighboring beach town of Les Anses D’ Arlet. With no other Americans around to help us celebrate, we had ourselves a tiny little Forth of July party with California sparkling wine and burgers for dinner.

It’s been six weeks since we left our friends in the Virgin Islands to start making our way south for hurricane season. We’ve seen too few English-speaking cruising boats in the anchorages since we left St. Martin and no sailors hanging out in the local watering holes. Save for one night of fun with friends in St. Barts, it’s been Brian and me, together, 24-7. We’re social by nature and we keep saying that we’d probably be enjoying these places more if we had friends to explore them with us. Hopefully we’ll start to see more off-season cruisers like us in English-speaking St. Lucia and the Grenadines.

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The marine store, where we cleared customs, had a lovely boutique that carries my favorite French clothing brand. Now off limits while I’m unemployed, and basically dress like a bum every day.

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The bustling streets of downtown Fort de France. There’s a touch of Americanization here – there’s American fast food – but for the most part businesses are local.

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Farmer’s market selling all local products

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This stand had pineapples, mangoes, papaya, passion fruit, bananas, peppers, and all kinds of citrus, grown on island.

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These were the biggest, oiliest vanilla beans I’ve ever seen. We picked up a few to fortify the bottle of homemade vanilla extract we carry aboard.

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piles of dragonfruit

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spices and spice blends

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Mango season continues! 6 little ones for 2 Euro.

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A variety of flavored rums, syrups, and condiments made with local fruits and spices

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I’m a big fan of the Super U grocery store chain in the French islands, so we walked 40 minutes uphill to visit the Hyper  U (a Super U on steroids), which was totally worth it. I think that the cart locking systems we’ve seen on all of the islands is pretty genius.  You deposit a 1 Euro coin into the slot to unlock the cart. When you finish shopping, lock your cart back in to reclaim your cash.

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Interesting contrast here

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Similar to the Statue of Liberty, the entire Schoelcher Library was first built in France back in 1889 and shipped piece by piece to the island Martinique as a monument to Victor Schoelcher, the French abolitionist writer from the early 19th century.

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Ti Punch, the local drink. Shot of rum+slice of lime+packet of sugar. Squeeze, sprinkle, stir.

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Passion fruit grown on Martinique

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local starfruit for breakfast

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Grande Anse D’Arlet

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Trailhead for the hiking trail over the mountain to the neighboring town, Les Anses D’Arlet. We hiked the trail a couple of times for fun and exercise, and to clear out, since Grand Anse does not have a customs service.

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Spooky abandoned stone house with a tree growing on top

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Grande Anse is a pretty little town with a big church right in the center

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Making badly needed repairs to our flag on the Fourth of July

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No burgers on baguettes for the Fourth of July! I opted to bake my own buns from scratch.