New Years Eve........What New Years Eve?

Trip Start Apr 04, 2008
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Trip End Jul 03, 2009


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Flag of Martinique  ,
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

After a windblown passage across from St Lucia (it always blows here! I was under the impression that the Caribbean Islands were the ideal cruising grounds, gentle breezes, idyllic anchorages, but so far the wind hasn't dropped below 20knots, much of it over 30knots. I suppose this is normal, after all we are in the trade wind belt.) We found a protected little anchorage on the Southern end of Martinique. The boys were straight into the water, keen to get their new inflatable toy 'Silent Chaos' out for a zoom behind the dinghy. (We now realise why they call it silent chaos.....because you can't hear Shaz screaming as she tries to hold on over the noise of a 2 stroke, 15hp outboard at full throttle!) The boys were very entertained by mum on the silent chaos. Sorry there's no photos, Shaz does the photos and they were deleted before anyone could see them.

Well, after a restful night and lazy morning we sailed on up to the capital so we could complete our customs formalities, which we have to do every time we move on to another island. This can be extremely time consuming after I fill in numerous forms (all identical) as move from the customs to immigration to health desks, all right next to each other in a small cramped room. They don't seem to possess a photocopy machine and there's not enough carbon paper to go through the 20 or so copies they require for their bureaucracy. 

Our plan was to come to Fort De France on Martinique for New Years Eve celebrations for a couple of reasons, firstly we thought "Yeah the French know how to party" and secondly being the capital city that should be where all the action is. So we made our way into the main harbour and dropped anchor right in the heart of the city, just 200 metres from the shore. After a short walk through town asking a few locals where customs is we made our way back to the boat to see if we could find any info in our cruising guide about the secret location of customs in Forte de France. Just then our friends from Seamist dropped anchor right next to us and John had a different book to us explaining there was a customs agent in a boat chandlery shop in town. So off we went again and to our delight it was the simplest system, all computerised, just type in your details and print the form....all done. And no cost ....even better.

Once cleared in we were all allowed ashore and began to explore the town. As we walked along the shore front they were setting up food stalls and a large stage with musicians doing sound checks preparations for what we assumed would be the New Years Eve party. This was fantastic and Matt was especially keen to experience a New Years in another culture! We were anchored only 200 metres away and although we would probably be deaf in the morning because of the volume coming out of these enormous speakers, it was going to be big! But hey, at least the noise would keep Shaz awake until midnight.

As we settled in to a couple of beers with our friends and enjoyed a quiet dinner afterwards we started to notice the noise on shore and figured it was just some pre new years eve entertainment or something, by 7.30 quite a few boats started arriving and cramming into our cosy little anchorage, even small motor boats, which we didn't think would stay overnight. A little surprised by the mass influx of boats we just assumed there must be celebrations over 2 nights.

To our surprise fireworks started going off at 9 o'clock in which we had to get Shaz out of bed for, we thought maybe they were a test run but after half an hour of really amazing fireworks we started to question ourselves as to whether we had the dates mixed up. Maybe this was New Years Eve????. With cruising you can sometimes lose track of time and days and so equally confused were our Canadian friends on Seamist. After a brief consultation by yelling across the water to each other, we agreed we did have the date right but had no idea what was going on.............

The next day we walked through town and asked some people what was going on, celebrating New Years Eve the night before? They looked at us as if we were strange and simply said that they do it the night before so that everyone can have their parties with friends and family on New Years Eve at home.

Well that's a first! - Looks like we missed the New Years Eve celebrations. The funny part is, we thought we would go out for dinner with the Seamister's the next night to celebrate. However after a few hours of traipsing around the city there were only 3 restaurants open and we're talking the capital, which is a good size town with freeways and large buildings and each one was booked out for a private party.

Sadly the only place we could get food was KFC. When we approached the store it was closing for the night at 9pm and we just slipped under the door to place an order. All they had on the menu was hot wings, so we ordered 100 hot wings (I think their week's supply) and retreated to the yacht for a few beers and some wine and KFC. Sorry Matt!

 A couple of days after our New Years Eve fiasco we were able to restore our faith in the French Island as we restocked the boat at one of the large supermarkets on the island. Shaz loves the French ones because the selection is huge and the fresh food is great, much better than the dodgy food available in supermarkets on the British Islands.

After leaving Forte de France we headed North to a small historic village called St. Pierre. At first glance this village looked a little run down and not terribly inviting. The coastline at this end of the island is much different from the light sandy beaches of the south, with steep hills and dark volcanic rock and sand lining the shores. However once ashore it was actually a charming little fishing village that had been destroyed by a volcano some 20 years ago. The old church was rebuilt and parts of the village, but most was just stuck back together in a ramshackle way. Fortunately we were there on a Saturday morning and were very impressed by their fresh food market along the shore front one of the best we've seen.
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