Les Anse D’Artlet and Grande Anse D’Artlet
We had itchy feet and were keen to get off exploring again. But first we had to get those dreaded Hep A/B booster jabs that we’ve been avoiding. After a two-hour wait at the doctors and a quick ‘ouch’ we packed up and shipped out.
Off again! It was nice to get sailing, now with three fully functional sails to choose from! Felt good. Simon’s done an awesome job on the boat so now she’s functioning well with a lot less vibration, squeaks and bangs.
We were headed for Les Anses D’Artlet, but on arriving there we found we were too late for the mooring buoys, they were all full and the depth to anchor put us off, so we headed around to the next bay with our fingers crossed.
Grande Anse D’Artlet is it’s big brother with many more mooring buoys. The buoys on the protected South end were all taken or reserved, while the boats on the South side were rolling around, and the middle was chock’a’block full of anchored cats. Unfortunately with no other choice we ended up on the rolly side rocking around with the best of them. But we can’t complain, these moorings are well-kept and free! (Yes you heard that right.)
It’s also an awesome place, and the instant we saw it we agreed we had to stay another day. So scenic, and full of turtles!
As the sun was getting low, we packed the sails away and headed in for some sunset drinks. Usually in the bar we people watch but here you could turtle spot. They popped up here, there, and everywhere. Doesn’t get much better! 🙂
Dinner was a little harder to locate so after a few cold ones we headed back to Interlude for our old faithful – cheese and crackers. On our romantic walk back to the dinghy I tripped over something and turned to see a crab the size of a house brick shaking his claws at me! The wildlife is really super-sized here.
The next day we were rolled out of bed early by the swell and settled on deck for ‘boat watch’. Armed with the binoculars we were waiting for the first boat to leave a mooring on the calm side of the bay so we could sneak in and grab it. After about an hour of this we realised that most of the boats looked either unoccupied, live-a-boards, or simply settled in for the day. There were a couple of empty buoys near the beach so we motored over anyway to see if they were deep enough for us, only to find they had reserved cones on them too. In the end we found a space in the middle of the bay with the cats, where it was much calmer, so we anchored. Another free night!
We took advantage of the slightly cooler morning air and took the scenic trail around to Les Anses D’Artlet. The trail is a bit up and down through the trees so we were pleased for our trainers, but it was great to stretch our legs and there were some great views.
The trail came out on the beach which is strewn with little cafes. A picturesque village complete with church …and crane.
The beach was also quite crowded. We don’t know if there’s a large hotel nearby or if a tour boat had dropped them off. Either way, this bay feels much more commercial than Grande Anse, so after a quick juice (they wouldn’t serve me a cafe au lait?!) we headed back to our favourite, Grande Anse. We walked back by the road, an easy five-minute walk, which felt a bit like cheating after our one hour slog the other way.
Back on the boat we were ready for a snorkel. I know we always say this, but this was the best snorkelling yet. You couldn’t move for turtles, some of them were massive! First off we found one scratching his back on an anchor chain. We waited for him to go to the surface for breath, and then turned around to find him back there again.
Then Simon shouted “Look behind you”, and another one was chasing me down and swam right up underneath me. We swam right across to the beach and back again finding more and more turtles.
Then it was time for dinner – we were optimistic this time as, a) it was Friday and, b) we’d read the guide book and knew the best place to go, ‘le petite bateau’. It was empty as we walked down the bay so we kept going and had a beer at the other end. It was still pretty empty when we walked back up the bay. We’ve had too many bad experiences with empty restaurants so we decided to save our Euros this time.
In the morning we headed up the coast and popped into one of the ‘day anchorages’ on the way. Anse Defour was a small bay and we were surprised to see a couple of other boats in there as we were pretty early. We dragged on weed at the first anchor spot, but then Simon manned up and we found a better spot in shallower water close to shore where the anchor dug in a treat. We grabbed our waterproof bag and swam ashore in search of a baguette. We didn’t find one but we did come across an awesome cafe selling ‘sandwich au jambon et fromage’ and although it was early we couldn’t resist.
Then we swam back to the beach before heading out for a snorkel – and all before midday! Once again amazing snorkelling, turtles, sea snakes as well as colourful fishies. We’ve also seen a lot of lobster pots just lately – those things that we’re constantly trying to avoid at sea. It’s amazing to see the lobsters close up, although I do feel a bit sad for them. We’ve also seen some abandoned ones that have now become artificial reefs attracting hundreds of fish. Its good to see the wildlife adapting.
There were also some weird transparent jellyfish things, pretty much like jellyfish without the tentacles. I’ll let you know when we work out what they are and try and find a picture.
After a few days messing around in the bays we are headed next for some of Martinique’s towns, Fort de France and St Pierre coming up!
Fort de France
Fort de France is the capital of Martinique so we were expecting great things. It’s reported to have the biggest dinghy dock as well as lots of restaurants and bars.
We arrived in the anchorage which was pretty busy unless you wanted to be bounced by the ferry wakes. We were circling around and a nice man called us over as he was ready to leave so we got a great place close to shore.
Simon rowed us over and we popped into town. After wandering the streets a short while we realised the mistake we’d made. It was Saturday afternoon so everything was just closing. It was scorching hot too so although we didn’t need anything we headed to the Mall. It was only small, about 10 shops, so we quickly exhausted that before mooching around in search of some refreshment. We found KFC and McDonalds but not much else open and the only people around seemed to be the ‘down and outs’. We eventually found a bar for a quick beer before heading back to the boat a little disheartened.
We figured it was all in our timing and that the place would come alive later on so we gave it another chance and headed out just before sunset. Simon had read about a cool Jazz bar so we headed there, down some dodgy back streets and found it closed. Then we wandered the streets again before coming across a very westernised hotel, not really the cultural experience we were looking for but they sold cold beer (slowly and without a smile). We popped in hoping to get some tips.
No luck there so we continued to pound the streets again. We passed a restaurant with good reviews but that too was closed. We were too early for the casino, too late for the fish market.
The church was packed to the rafters so we figured maybe after church we’d find a bit more life. So we whiled away a couple more hours at the bar near McDonalds again.
We decided to give the restaurant one last go and hurrah it was open, pretty busy and serving some amazing French dishes.
After that we headed back to the dinghy and passed a local dance. The local folks were all dressed in traditional dress and dancing away. The guy on the mike would call something out like… “debadebado” and the dancers would change partners or do some special dance. The guys courting the girls with their fancy footwork and tipping their hats, while the ladies teased the men with their swaying hips and skirt swishing. Looked like lots of fun and now we know where the good folks go after church.
So all’s well that ends well in Fort de France. Not quite enough to get us to stay another day though.
Next day we snuck in a lunch stop at Le Carbet. We parked Interlude up on a long stretch of beach. We were the only yacht there which is always a bit scary but we followed the instructions in the guide and it worked out great. In fact we were so close to sure we decided to swim.
We arrived a little early, but we weren’t the only ones waiting. And then we grabbed the last ‘walk-in’ spot available and then watched guiltily as others were turned away. Sorry!
It was well worth the wait. Not only were the BBQ ribs and chicken yummy but the sprinkler system was awesome, turning the restaurant into a mini-rainforest on the beach and dropping the temperature by a cool 10 degrees or so. Amazing.
It was a hard swim back to the boat though.
We arrived in St Pierre in the early afternoon. It’s a pretty hard anchorage spot as the coast line drops off quickly from shallow water to very deep. Anchoring is also restricted in many areas due to the many wrecks there which were created when the volcano erupted destroying 12 ships in the bay. Doesn’t fill us with too much confidence! Maybe we should have got a bigger engine.
Anyway the anchorage was bursting at the seams and there was no wind so the boats we swinging around a lot and all in different directions. The first spot we found was ok for about 30 seconds and then the boats all swung around again making us a little too close. So we upped anchor and circled around and around getting more and more annoyed.
Finally we found a great spot near to the beach and we dropped anchor again. Simon swam on the anchor and we were well dug in but the guy behind us wasn’t happy. We watched many other boats try and fail to anchor so we were loathe to move again. In the end we figured out the guy behind us didn’t have much chain out due to the fishing pots behind him so we split the difference and took in some more chain to give him some more space. Hopefully he was happy with that – we didn’t ask.
Then we jumped in the dinghy. On the way to town we saw our friends ’99 Bottles’ and they invited us onboard for a ‘sundowner’. It was great to see them and finally have some drinks and catch up. Later on ‘Take off’ arrived too. We had such a good time we never made it into town that afternoon.
The next day we headed into town to check out and pick up some provisions.
We got the opening time wrong which meant we had time to explore a little and get some brekky at a local bakery. A local man gave me a couple of incense sticks which was nice but random, and the cafe owner was also concerned that he was about to burn the place down, but in the end the harmless man left us with the smell of pot pouri.
The town is a mix of new buildings alongside the old burned out buildings and ruins. It’s a interesting place, bustling with people and quite friendly too. Once the tourist information office opened for check out there was a bit of a queue but the payment here is voluntary which is quite unusual. We eventually cleared out and quick-marched it back to the boat for the race to Dominica.