Friday, April 20, 2007

H. M. S. Diamond Rock

April 15, 2007    Sunday
St. Pierre, Martinique

Walked around town a bit but mostly spent the day on the boat.  It was sort of dreary, drizzly for most of the morning and we stayed on the boat.  Then the sun came out and it was hot, so we walked around town just for a change of scenery.  Literally everything is closed on Sundays except a few restaurants.  We did find the CyberCafe where we were able to clear into Martinique.  This time the agent did at least look at our passports.  Didn’t stamp them, but did look at them.  In Pointe ‘a Pitre and Ile des Saintes the agents did not even open our passports.

A few words about our mishap with the fouled prop yesterday.  We have an AutoProp, which is a feathering prop; and we also have a line cutter on the prop shaft.  The line cutter did its job yesterday and kept the fishing net from becoming entangled on the prop shaft.  But the fishing net formed a tight bundle around the feathered blades of the prop and the blades could not open.  When the engine is not engaged in forward gear, the three prop blades feather in the direction of the water flow; this is to reduce drag while sailing.  The prop blades move in a different direction when the transmission is in reverse.  Since we had been sailing, the blades were in the feathered position.  The net become ensnared around the prop blades while they were feathered.  When I started the engine and put it into forward gear then the fishing net spun around with the blades and the net kept the blades feathered which must have looked like a three-bladed paddle wheel.  The line cutter did cut all the fishing net that was touching the prop shaft; but the net was all around the blades like a big basketball, so the blades could not move in the proper position to allow forward propulsion.

Also, if this had happened to any of our European fellow cruisers then they would have faced a bigger problem.  Large dinghies and large outboard motors seem to be an American thing.  All the European sailors that we have met have very tiny dinghies and very small outboard engines.  Really do not think one of those tiny 3 HP or 5 HP outboards and itty-bitty 2-person dinghies would have been capable of propelling a 53-foot, 27 ton boat; and we have seen many boats just like ours with those tiny tenders.  We had considered replacing our 15 HP Mercury with a smaller outboard when it finally dies, but have now reconsidered that idea.  When this one dies we will definitely buy one of equal horsepower.

April 16, 2007    Monday
Fort du France, Martinique
14.35.949N; 061.04.134W                       Sailed 19 NM

The day started out with nice sailing conditions.  That did not last long.  This is the second time that we have tried to sail southbound along the western coast of Martinique.  Neither time has been pleasurable.  Today we did one tack westward and then tacked back towards Martinique.  That 6 ½ mile tack put us a whopping .18 mile closer towards our destination!  We could have tacked all day long and not made any significant progress.  So we furled in the sails and motored on down to Fort du France.

Fort du France is a huge city by Caribbean standards.  I have no idea of the population numbers, but it is a very large city.  Last time we were here was about 1985, and our impression of this place then was that it is a Caribbean version of Hong Kong.  Very crowded and congested and tight quarters.  Bill and I are both city creatures, but this is definitely not our favorite city.

We anchored right next to the city of Fort du France.  This small anchorage is between the ferry channel and Fort Louis and is right in front of the park area where the old market was located when we were last here.  That market has since moved to another location and the park area is fenced off and appears to be readying for some type of construction.  This anchorage is very rolly and the water is very, very dirty.

We went into town to see the sights, whatever they might be.  Neither of us wanted to shop for anything.  The prices here are pretty high so I will save my clothes and shoe shopping for another island.  But we did want to try to find some replacement vacuum cleaner bags for the French vacuum cleaner that we bought in St. Martin.  (I know; sounds really exciting, doesn’t it?)  We figured out how to catch a bus and get to a large store that was like a mixture of Home Depot, Ikea, and Bed Bath & Beyond.  We found that store, bought the vacuum cleaner bags and a couple of small 220v-50hz power tools, and caught a bus back to the heart of the city.  Not bad for two people who have not once ridden a bus in Houston.  Consider the fact that we don’t speak the language and don’t know the city and I think we did pretty well.

When we returned to the boat it was rolling so badly that we knew it would be a miserable night if we stayed there.  But it was almost sunset and we were reluctant to head off for another anchorage so close to dark.  But we did anyway.  We high-tailed it 4 miles over to Trois Ilets with the engine revved up to 3600 rpm.  We reached that anchorage with about 10 minutes to spare before darkness settled in. 

Trois Ilets is a very picturesque old town.  This is where Empress Josephine was born – you know, Napoleon and Josephine.  She lived here until the age of 16 and then she moved to France.  Navigation into the anchorage is pretty tricky and should never be attempted at night.  It is such a calm anchorage that we began to think that our keel must be sunk into mud – the boat was not moving at all.  So very glad we decided to move instead of being miserable all night over at Fort du France.

April 17, 2007   Tuesday
Grand Anse D’Arlet
14.30.288N; 061.05.267W           Sailed 9 NM

We walked around the little town of Trois Ilets this morning.  I was fascinated by the different roofs on the structures there.  They use “fish scale tiles” on many of the roofs in this little town.  These fish scale roofing tiles are supposedly used here and in St. Georges, Grenada; they are not seen elsewhere in the Caribbean.  Apparently this type of roofing tile has been popular here for centuries.  There are some very old tiny buildings here that look like the roofs might be 200 years old.  The local church was built in 1757 so it is the one that Josephine would have attended during her childhood.

Bill bought his daily “un bagette” at a local patisserie; and then we sailed/motored to Grand Anse D’Arlet.  This is the bay where Bill rescued a charter boat that was drifting out to sea early one morning during our trip south last year.

April 18, 2007  Wednesday
Ste. Anne, Martinique
14.26.201N; 060.53.122W           Motored 14.5 NM

Wind and current were again on our nose as we motored over to the southeastern tip of Martinique.  The anchorage of Sainte Anne is beautiful with clear, shallow water in every imaginable shade of blue.   It is filled with cruising boats but not too crowded.  The interior of Marin bay right next to Ste. Anne’s appears to be far more crowded, so we plan to remain in Ste. Anne’s until it is time to clear out and leave for St. Lucia on Monday morning.  Only bad thing is that there is no internet out here, and there are several things that we need to research online.  Oh well, guess we will have to live with just email via SSB or sat phone for a few days.

Here is a little history lesson, courtesy of our sailing guide:  The Carib Indians called Martinique “Madinina” --- Island of Flowers.  Martinique is the largest of the Windward Islands of the West Indies.  Apart from a few short spells under the British, Martinique has been French since it was colonized; and it feels very much part of France.  Almost no one speaks English.  As mentioned earlier the Empress Josephine was born here and grew up on a 200-acre, 150-slave estate near Trois Ilets.  The main house burned down when she was 3 years old.

In 1804 Napoleon was master of Europe but the British still had naval supremacy and largely controlled Caribbean waters.  However, ships were scarce and someone noticed that Diamond Rock on the southwestern tip of Martinique was just about where the British would station another ship if they had one.  So they commissioned the rock as a ship.  It was quite a feat to climb this steep, barren, snake-infested rock and to equip it with cannons and supplies for a full crew of men.  But the British succeeded and for about 18 months the H.M.S. Diamond Rock was a highly unpleasant surprise for unsuspecting ships sailing into Martinique.  Napoleon was furious.  After all, this was the birthplace of his beloved Josephine.  He ordered Admiral Villeneuve to free the rock and to also destroy Admiral Horatio Nelson while they were in the vicinity.  Villeneuve slipped out under the British blockade in France and headed straight for Martinique.  Nelson followed in hot pursuit; however, poor information led him to Trinidad.  So Villeneuve was able to liberate the rock.  He wisely returned to France, keeping well clear of Nelson.

Napoleon was not pleased with Villeneuve because the British fleet was left in control of the high seas, so he ordered Villeneuve to report in disgrace.  Villeneuve preferred death to dishonor, so he put his ill-prepared fleet to sea to fight Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.  Ironically, Villeneuve survived the battle (even though he wished to die at this point), and Nelson died.

We sailed by Diamond Rock this morning.  Those poor British sailors have our sympathy.  That must have been a horrendous job to get cannons up to the top of that rock, and to be stationed there for 18 months before getting killed or captured by the French.  This is one of the things that we would like to research online if we had internet access.  The British Admiralty were such sticklers for rigid rules and tradition that I would like to know who came up with this idea of commissioning a rock as a ship,  And, how did he get the Admiralty to go along with this most unusual idea.  By the time we do get internet access, we will probably have long since forgotten H.M.S. Diamond Rock.

April 20, 2007  Friday
Marin, Martinique

Thursday is our usual Make and Mend Day.  Those who have read any of the historical novels about the Royal British Navy of the 1700s and 1800s will recognize that terminology.  Funny that we ended up choosing Thursday as our day for these chores since that is the weekday assigned to these tasks by the old British Navy.  After making water to fill our storage tank and washing 3 loads of laundry, then we moved a couple of miles into the bay at Marin.

Marin is huge!  There must be at least 300 boats at anchor in here and another several hundred in the marinas.  We visited a few of the stores and also found a bar/restaurant called Mango Bay that has WiFi.  After we clean the boat today then we will try to bring the laptop in and update this website.  There is a nasty slime all around the boot stripe of our boat that we think must have come from the commercial bay at Fort du France.  Tomorrow might be another car rental day to explore Martinique.

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