Caribbean calling

Ahoy mateys!

After eighteen nights offshore, it took me a few days to get back into a ‘normal’ sleep pattern. I kept nodding off at sunset and laying wide awake during the night. Now that sleep is back to normal, it’s time to go offshore again and establish our three-hourly offshore watches.

Le Marin, Martinique, seems the same as it was on our original visit, six years ago. The marina office is now upstairs, overlooking the marina, and the check-in computers with French keyboards demand the same information as before; and still 5€ to check-in. The two busy women at the desk are flat-out greeting sailors from around the world – mostly, it seems, from France – while the marina staff tear about on dinghies, directing inbound vessels to awaiting berths. It’s very busy here at this time of year, despite the pandemic. We complete the online check-in and present boat paperwork to the receptionist, and we are done. Time for a croissant!

Fortunately at this busy time of year, we managed to secure a berth for one week, on the same dock as many of the charter vessels. Wayne backed the boat into the berth, using a boat hook to pick up the ‘slime lines’ to secure the bow while mooring lines attach the stern to the dock. We setup a narrow plank – a fender board – to cross to the dock like a drawbridge. From our cockpit, we watched hoards of tourists dragging suitcases to their designated boat, while charter company staff busied themselves cleaning boats, fixing engines and restocking lockers with goodies for new visitors. The nights are cooler and quiet with the odd downpour of rain.

Our jobs during our stay were the same as usual – replenish our fresh food, clean the boat, do some laundry and establish internet for ongoing planning and catching up with news. Caraibe Marine chandlery is well stocked with all sorts of useful boat bling. I bought an additional 12V fan to help cool the boat down. The recently imposed curfew has the restaurants closing early, with limited menus, but we managed to catch up with the crew of Voila for a meal and drinks. Word had filtered through to me that COVID booster shots were being offered at the hospital, and only for those who had been fully vaccinated more than five months before. So, we went along, waited in line, and got our third jabs. Having this additional shot should help expedite border crossings.

When I first visited the Auchen supermarket close to the marina, I was somewhat alarmed – there was literally no fresh food! All that was available in the veggie section was some lettuce, zucchinis and cucumber. No spuds, carrots, or even cabbages. No cheeses, meats or anything in the fridge section. I’m not sure why this was the case; whether it was a symptom of the recent civil unrest and subsequent curfew due to COVID rules; or just a result of ongoing supply chain problems over the past couple of years, also due to COVID. I’m thinking the latter.

Fortunately, the Marché Couvert opposite the hospital has locally grown produce – pineapples, bananas, guava, spuds, carrots, fresh eggs, mandarins, avocado, and all sorts of local fruits and veggies. The Leader Price supermarket – 20 minutes from the marina – is, I think, the best supermarket within walking distance. It has a good variety of goods, fresh and frozen meat, and the prices are okay too. But the good news is that after a week, Auchen’s shelves were bulging with fresh produce including capsicums, broccoli, cabbage and a good variety of fresh food. I think a ship of goodies must’ve come in.

The marina’s wifi is okay – enough bandwidth to plan the next leg of our trip west. I attempted to buy a SIM card from the Digicel store near McDonald’s but his system shut down and he couldn’t issue me a SIM. Apparently the same SIM card can also be used in the ABC islands, but I’ll just wait until we get there to sort this out. It’s a little frustrating not to be able to research the next stage of our trip – everything nowadays is online.

After one week, we had to leave our berth at the marina as it was booked by a returning charter boat. The marina berthing rates are acceptable, considering it’s high season and close to Christmas. Electricity and water is additional, and considering a couple of people tapped into our designated tap to wash their boats and fill their water tanks, it didn’t cause too much of an impact to the overall cost.

Off we went to the dodgy-holding at Sainte-Anne anchorage where we hung out for some days, using the IridiumGo as our primary method of communication. Onshore, the small supermarkets are well stocked, the beachside cafes have good wifi, and there are plenty of souvenir shops and a patisserie with tasty treats. Also at Sainte-Anne is a pharmacy where we managed to book Antigen tests prior to departure; a requirement for entering Bonaire. At the Snack BouBou cafe, there is a clearance computer – once again navigating my fingers around the French keyboard to clear out of Martinique and make our way west – 3€ to clear out. A short and sweet stay in Martinique, swimming in the 28degC+ waters off St Anne, now it’s time to continue our voyage.

Our passage to the ABC islands is 500nm – should take us four days. We are hoping to enter Bonaire and spend Christmas diving among fish, nudibranch and coral, but as it’s the high season, they may not have a mooring for us, so we may have to head to Curacao. So, I guess we’ll end up where we end up! Once again we’ll have the Moon along for this trip, lighting the night sky.

Until then…

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As we are offshore, we can’t respond to any comments, but will be sure to reply once we are back in the world of internet.
Follow our progress here – https://forecast.predictwind.com/tracking/display/SV_BlueHeeler

About blueheelerhr39

Sailing the world aboard Blue Heeler
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