Friday, March 4, 2016

6 Weeks in Martinique

 4 March 2016

Marin Marina in Martinique is quite the bargain.  Jimmy Cornell had advised rally members that this is the least expensive marina in the Caribbean, and we believe he is correct.  Rally participants received 1 week free berthing upon arrival, including free electricity and water.  We inquired by email while still at sea and were informed that the rate for one month for our 16-meter boat would be 595 Euro, including electricity, plus metered water at 9 Euro per ton (1,000 liters).  What a deal!  Sign us up for a month, please.

Thus, we spent 5 weeks berthed in the marina, thoroughly enjoying sleeping in cold air-conditioning at night.  There are numerous restaurants within short walking distance and a supermarket right across the street from the marina, plus many well-stocked chandleries. This is a nice place to hang out and relax.  I was mentally ‘tired’ and needed to reset internal batteries for Caribbean vibes and put the Med countries and Atlantic crossing into memory.

The only disappointment in this marina is the Wi-Fi.  It is agonizingly slow!  We paid for Wi-Fi on the boat and were berthed fairly close to the access point for this dock, but service was painfully slow.  I attempted to log into Facebook once and it took a full 15 minutes for the home page to load.  There are several restaurants with free Wi-Fi for customers, but I quickly tired of paying $20 to $35 for us to split a lunch just to be able to access internet.  Everything else about this marina and small town is quite nice except for the inadequate Wi-Fi.  We checked with Digicel about purchasing a sim and prepaid data service, but they sell data only in 1 GB quantities and that would not last any time at all.  Plus, they informed us that there are several different Digicel companies servicing the Eastern Caribbean islands, and this particular Digicel would work ONLY in the French islands.  With that knowledge, we opted not to buy Digicel 3G service for this season because we plan to head south from Martinique this time.

Cornell Sailing arranged several activities for the Atlantic Odyssey participants upon arrival in Martinique.  There was a full week of what seemed like whirlwind social activities; then most of the rally boats departed the marina to begin their Caribbean island explorations.  About a half-dozen of us opted to remain in the marina for several weeks or a month.  Almost everyone was gone by 1 March.  We will depart the marina on 5 March and finally move to an anchorage, probably St. Anne’s.  Our elder son, daughter-in-law and 15-yr-old grandson are flying to St. Lucia and we will meet them in Rodney Bay Marina on 12 March for Spring Break.  Who knows, maybe we will sail back up to Martinique with them.  We like Martinique much better than St. Lucia.

Rather elaborate rum tasting at Clement Distillery

Rally participants were treated to a couple of welcome cocktail parties hosted by the Le Marin Martinique Office of Tourism.  We also enjoyed a day outing on a large bus to the Clement Estate and rum distillery.  The grounds of this estate are impressive.  There are many sculptures and art displays on the grounds.  The home is restored and well maintained.  And the rum distilled here far surpasses any of the rum we have tasted at other distilleries throughout the Caribbean.  And it is priced accordingly!  

The better rums are always the dark ones.

The Clement top-of-the-line is a rum aged 15 years and it costs 90 Euro per liter at the distillery, 115 at other locations around the island.  We purchased a liter bottle of the 10-year-old rum for 37 Euro, priced 42 at locations other than the distillery.  Andrew (crew member for Atlantic crossing) also purchased a bottle of the 10-year-old rum for BeBe.  It was tasty and did not last long.

A typical slave home.  Our guide lady is wearing a typical slave
straw hat of those days.

Next trip for rally participants was a visit to the slave plantation near Trois Ilets.  Bill and I had anchored off Trois Ilets in 2007 but had not visited this re-creation of a slave plantation.  One thing I liked was that our tour guide at the site always referred to the slaves of yesteryear as “the people.”  If this were in the USA, she probably would have used the nouns “we” and “us” rather than “the people.”  

Our guide explaining how an old manual sugar cane
press operated.  She was very pretty.

By the way, Martinique has a very long history of mixed race peoples and the results are that the natives of this island are very, very attractive – both males and females.  I think the most beautiful women of the entire Caribbean live on Martinique.  And mostly they are gracious and friendly, even with those of us who do not speak French. 

Bill listening attentively to our guide explain the various
punishments for slaves who repeatedly escaped and
were re-captured.

Our guide was informative and we finally learned why some people consider the fleur-de-lis to be a symbol of slavery.  Apparently in the French islands this symbol commonly was used to brand slaves who had attempted to escape.  

The first time a slave escaped and was captured, his ears were cut off and his back shoulders were branded with the fleur-de-lis. The second time he escaped and was re-captured, his leg was cut off just below the knee. The third time he escaped and was re-captured, his head was cut off.  And then placed on a post within the slave camp to deter future escapes by others. There was a small museum on the grounds of the slave camp with several statues and carvings which depicted slaves suffering these various punishments for having escaped.

Rally members at farewell dinner at The Mango.  In dark
blue shirt center, is our crew member, Andrew Blum.
At the farewell dinner party for rally participants each boat was awarded a small plaque and presented with a bottle of rum from the Maison La Mauny rum distillery here on Martinique.  Some folks got white rum and some received dark rum.  Thankfully, our gift bag contained a bottle of the dark rum.  It is not as good as the 10-year-old Clement rum, but it is pretty good.  We do not care for white rums so were thankful that our gift bag just happened to contain the dark one.

Bill, Andrew and Judy receiving a gift of rum
from Pascal, one of the rally organizers.
Bill and I were surprised when one of the rally organizers announced to the group that the arrival of S/V BeBe in Martinique completed our 10-year circumnavigation.  We did not expect any special recognition by the rally for this 'accomplishment.'  By the way, I had mentioned to Jimmy Cornell that some folks think Bill and I should not use the term 'circumnavigation' because we shipped BeBe through the Red Sea because of the bad piracy situation the year we were in that area.  His response to my comment -- "Psshww! Nonsense!"

BeBe dressed in the courtesy flags of all the countries
visited as we went around.  It is a tradition to dress
the boat in this manner when circle is complete.
Once again I would like to state that we thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Atlantic Odyssey.  This was our first rally and we were a bit apprehensive about participating in a group activity such as this because we usually do not like being committed to group activities and schedules.  But we think Jimmy Cornell has organized these rallies well and the price certainly cannot be beat.  You receive much more than should be expected for the minimal participation fees.  The fees for these Odyssey rallies are only about one-fourth of the fees for the ARC.  And, Jimmy is keeping these rallies limited to 40 boats per event.  It was fun participating with only 18 boats, and 40 boats would have been fine; but 280 to 300 boats like in the ARC is pure crazy in our opinions.

Andrew (our crew member for the Atlantic crossing) left BeBe on 16 February and joined another American rally boat named Wings which was sailing to St. Lucia.  We received an email from Andrew a few days ago and they were already in Bequia and planned to continue southward to Grenada.   Andrew was great as crew.  He chipped in and helped with both interior and exterior cleaning of the boat after arrival here.  He even kitted up and dived here in the nasty marina water and cleaned the water-line of the boat and scraped off all the goose-neck barnacles that accumulated under the sloped stern.  Those goose-neck barnacles always grow on the bottom of the stern on ocean passages.  They are easily scraped off if done immediately after arrival; but wait for just a couple of days and those things become hard as rocks and are very difficult to remove.  Many thanks to Andrew for doing this work for us.

Le Marin is the location of the Amel Authorized Service Center for the Caribbean.  This means that a lot of Amels visit this marina.  Bill has been very active in the Amel Owners’ Group online for 10 years and has developed somewhat of a reputation among fellow Amel owners.  Owners of a half-dozen Super Maramu yachts have arrived and dropped by to say hello.  It has been lots of fun sipping wine and sharing dinners with some of these folks.   Looking forward to meeting up with each of them again somewhere, sometime.


  1. it sounds like you are well rested and eager to finally "get going" in the caribbean. goodonya!

  2. glad Andrew got a ride with one of the other rally boats - I'm sure Nadim appreciates his help. Dennis had his dr. consult earlier this week and has a plan that includes about 8 weeks of Physical Therapy before the surgery in order to gain back some range of motion. Looks like one knee at a time, but we should have enough least he has a plan. enjoying time with family and friends. Hope your time with family on St. lucia and beyond is enjoyable.


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