Monday, April 25, 2016

Yoles, dancing and more

There were a few activities hosted by Cornell Sailing for the Atlantic Odyssey rally participants which I neglected to mention in previous posts.  When organizing photos I realized that these activities had skipped my mind when writing the blog almost 2 months ago.

Starting the process
Turing the yole upright
Some of the rally participants enjoyed an afternoon learning how to sail yoles.  A yole is a native craft of yesteryear particular to Martinique.  A yole is a sailing vessel, since obviously they did not have engines years past.  This craft has a keel of sorts, being a solid piece of wood running the length of the hull; but that keel provides merely inches of draft.  And there is no ballast.  So that keel is pretty much useless except for providing hull strength.  As there is no ballast, there are poles placed out to each side on which people sit as needed to balance the boat.  

Flip it over.
At the first arrival cocktail party a woman from the office of tourism asked me if we would like to participate in a yole race.  Having no idea what a yole was, I inquired as to the physical activity level required to sail on a yole.  A young guy standing nearby said that it requires good agility and is very physical.  In that case -- NO!  Neither Bill nor I would want to participate in that activity.  But sign our crew member, Andrew Blum, up.  He enjoys physical activity; sounded like something right up his alley.

Climb on and balance that puppy!

The following week many of the rally participants gathered on the beach where these yoles were located.  We had just enjoyed a bus trip to the old slave plantation camp and then relaxed in the shade of a nearby restaurant, imbibing beer or wine or rum punch along with grilled fish lunch, all compliments of the office of tourism.  Most everyone was well-prepped and ready to display their balance skills on these tipsy yoles.

Free lunch!  With drinks!  You know the cruisers
will welcome that!

2nd yole heading out

Two of the yoles were soon assembled and dragged down the beach to water's edge.  The rally participants divided into 2 groups and selected their chosen yole.  The local guys directed everyone to the best place for balance.  And off they sailed.

Found their balance!

This is 'racing'?
We watched for awhile.  Soon both yoles were out of sight, sailing between anchored and moored boats in the large bay.  Once the yoles were no longer visible we decided to walk on back to the marina, leaving Andrew's stuff with Virginia on S/V Libertad since she was stock there waiting for her crew members who were on the yoles.  No point in all of us having to wait there.  We heard later that only 1 of the yoles tipped over during this 'race' and it was soon upright.  The local guys know how to operate these vessels well.  Had it been left to us more modern-day sailors, both yoles likely would have been on their sides most of the afternoon.

This was a fun activity for most of the rally participants.  Made more fun because of the drinks consumed at lunch just prior to climbing out on those poles on the yoles.

Judy and instructor
Another rally activity that we enjoyed were dancing lessons. We mistakenly thought we were going to watch a local dancing exhibition.  It was not until we arrived at the assigned place that we learned that we were going to participate in learning a couple of local traditional dances.  Well...make that...learn a local traditional dance.  It took so long to teach our group 1 dance that time ran short and we never got to the second dance.

Bill and the professional dance partner
The instructor arrived late.  In fact, he was so late that Pascal and Pascale were about ready to cancel the activity altogether.  (Don't you just love those names!  Pascal and Pascale are husband and wife from France.  With the same names.  Great people; very nice.)

The steps and moves for the dance we learned were quite simple.  Soon everyone could do the basic steps.  And then the instructor sped up the beat!  And it all fell apart.  None of us could do this dance even half as fast as the instructor and his assistant.  But we all had lots of laughs trying.  That instructor did not have an ounce of fat on his body.  I danced with him several times and he felt like solid muscle.  Like the body of a ballet dancer.  

The professionals.  Their dance looked nothing
like that of our group.

This was a fun evening and I was drenched with sweat by the time we finished for the night.  
This is not a dance I will be trying again.  And I never understood the name of this dance. Like everything else said in French, I have no idea what the people were saying. 

Local people gathering for a small carnivale parade.

A few nights before the rally farewell party, there was a small carnivale parade presented just for the rally participants.  We were all docked on the same pontoon.  Some of the marina staff, along with employees of the local office of tourism, and along with a few local residents, presented a musical parade.  They beat drums and played various musical instruments as they wound through the marina grounds and then down our dock and back to the office area.  Cornell Sailing has encouraged all rally participants to dress in carnivale costumes and participate, but few of us did.  Bill and I stood on the stern of our boat and watched the parade pass both directions.

A few days later all the rally participants got together and chartered a bus to the big carnivale in Fort du France.  I think Bill and I were the only people who opted not to attend.  We have seen carnivale on several of the Caribbean islands.  Fun the first and maybe second time, but not really our scene anymore.  Our crew member, Andrew, however, did join the bus group.  He and a crew member off another American boat did not return to the marina that night.  No worries; they probably were just having a grand old time at carnivale. Then, they did not return the second night.  Okay; they probably were just still having a good time.  But after 48 hours past when they had originally been expected to return, both Bill and I and the owner of the other boat began to get slightly worried.  The other guy wanted to contact the police but Bill discouraged that.  Good thing he did not get the police involved, because both guys returned to the marina that night.  As we all had expected, they had just been having a grand old time at carnivale.  No problems.  Glad they got to experience a true carnivale.
Unusual musical instruments used in parade for carnivale.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A day trip around Martinique with friends

One of many flowers at mountaintop botanical gardens
Recently friends invited us to accompany them on a day trip driving around the island of Martinique.  They had rented a car and it was barely large enough to accommodate the 3 of them plus the 2 of us.  Cramped quarters but manageable.  We joined Hassan, Zeyrha and Fatma of boat Kandiba for a day of land sight-seeing.  Bill and I had rented a car here years ago and had already seen the entire island, but that was so long ago that this day was a new adventure.  Plus, Hassan did all the driving; thus providing Bill an opportunity to actually see the island rather than just watching the road and other vehicles.

Bill strolling in front of the old church at top of a mountain.  
First stop was a very old church at the top of a mountain.  There was no literature available onsite which could have provided information about this church and I have not had sufficient internet access to research it.  But it appeared to be quite Caribbean island churches go.  Views down the mountainside were pretty even on such a gray and dreary day.  The skies drizzled off an on all day long.  The name of this church was Misericordieux Comme Le Pierre.
The Virgin Mary and Jesus are black.  Why not.

Not too far down the road we stopped for a nice creole lunch at a restaurant called the Bamboo.  Hassan refused to allow us to pay for a thing all day, as he insisted we were his guests.  This attitude likely is a Turkish custom.  We felt a little guilty about that as it is customary among cruisers to share expenses on these type outings and we felt a little like we were not pulling our own weight.   Lunch was good, but the creole cooking here on Martinique does not remotely resemble creole cooking found in Louisiana.  The Louisiana version is much spicier; and, frankly, much more to our tastes.  The creole foods here on Martinique are quite bland in our opinions.  I find this a little odd because they also cook with Scotch bonnet peppers and these are very hot.  Guess we just have not ordered the right foods to taste the spiciness. 

Stream at gardens
Our 'guide'.  Beautiful girl.
After lunch and a bit farther down that upper mountain road we came to some large botanical gardens.   We walked the grounds until rain began again and then we ducked into one of the informational buildings, sort of like a museum.  In one area there were a few video presentations.  These were all in French except one which was narrated in English and had French subtitles.  A little local girl stood with us and 'explained' many of the things discussed in the video.  She was adorable.  Loved her self-confidence and attitude.

Anchorage at St. Pierre.  Note the black sand beach.
The rain stopped and we moved on, farther down that upper mountain road and then twisting and turning down to the seaside at St. Pierre, where we found those famous black sand beaches.  The sand is black, even after more than a century, because of the ash blown down during the 1902 eruption of Mt. Pelee.  I blogged about Mt. Pelee back in 2006 or 2007, so will not write about that again.  Readers can research that volcanic eruption if further interested.

Canon atop the wall of the old French fort appear to aim at
the cruising sailboats in the anchorage at St. Pierre.
This is a nice anchorage on the northwestern side of Martinique.  In 2007 when sailing from Dominica to Martinique our prop became fouled with an old fishing net section which must have been floating submerged.  When we got into the lee of Martinique the winds died and we turned on the engine and discovered that the blades of our auto-prop could not spin.  We again put out full sail and it appeared that we were making slow forward progress.  But our electronic chart showed that in reality we were being forced toward the rocky shore faster than we were making forward progress.  We put the dinghy in the water and tied it just behind the beam on the port side and used the outboard motor to propel BeBe.  Actually got the big boat up to over 3.5 knots speed over ground!  Once at St. Pierre, Bill kitted up and dove to check the prop and discovered a huge ball of netting wrapped around it.  He cut it away and problem was solved.  That day is when we decided that we would never have an outboard engine so small that it could not be used to propel BeBe during an emergency.  That also was the last time we had visited St. Pierre until the day of this road trip.
Our new 3D dinghy and new 10 HP Honda outboard engine.
Photo taken at Rodney Bay Marina last month.

Bill, Hassan, Zehrya and Fatma at St. Pierre

After St.Pierre we drove down the western coast of the island to the main city of Fort du France, where we found a large shopping mall so Hassan and family could shop for a few items.  Bill lucked out and found a sportswear store and was able to buy several of those ultra-thin shirts that wick moisture and are so cool.  He also found some shorts in this material.  He now is all set for the hot weather of summer.

From Fort du France we headed east to return to Le Marin.  We stopped at a local roadside produce vendor and purchased a few things just as it was getting dark.  For what it is worth, the fruits and vegetables here are about 5 times the cost of similar items in Turkey.  And the selection here is very limited and usually poor quality.  Recently we started to buy a cantaloupe in a local supermarket.  We weighed it and printed out the price label.  11.16 euro for a single cantaloupe!!!  That is $12.68 USD for a single normal sized cantaloupe!  We put it back in the melon bin; refused to pay that absurd price for a simple cantaloupe.  The only bargain on these French islands are the daily baguettes.  Everything else is priced high, just like on all the other islands.  People planning to cruise down here need to be aware of how expensive things cost.  The popular idea promoted on sailing forums that one can cruise on $500 or $1,000 per month is totally unrealistic.  Food alone will cost more than $500 per month for only 2 people.

A little of this, a little of that

 A few people have asked why we have not updated blog postings, so here is one .... although we have not done much lately.  

Colorful bloom on a palm tree in Le Marin

BeBe is still sitting at the dock in Marina du Marin; we will leave here Saturday and move to an anchorage somewhere.  Maybe we can find a spot among the reefs to anchor closer to Le Marin rather than out at St. Anne's.  It is too far to take the dinghy into Le Marin from St. Anne's, but closer anchoring options are limited.  We prefer the shopping options of Le Marin over the quiet village of St. Anne's, plus we are enjoying the social scene here.  We are not in a hurry to head southward just yet and will wait for weather to cooperate.

We did make a 2-day trip down to St. Lucia a few weeks ago, anchoring in Rodney Bay and dinghy-ing in to shop at the nice supermarket with all those American brand products.  I needed to stock up on jalapeno peppers and flour tortillas and Pepper Jack cheese and real honest-to-goodness sour cream instead of that nasty creme fraiche sold here.  I wanted to stock up on things that are not to be found in Le Marin markets.  And BeBe needed some boat cleaning supplies that were available at Island Water World but not available in Martinique.  When we returned to Marina du Marin the captainerie put us right back in the same berthing spot on the Amel service pontoon #4.  Right back in the midst of our new friends.  This is beginning to feel like home.  Too bad this is too far north to stay for hurricane season.
When at a French island, be sure and fly a Dutch courtesy flag.
Seen at St. Anne's anchorage for 2 days before someone pointed
out to the boat owner that he was flying the wrong country flag.

Just when you think you have seen every
way imaginable to stow a dinghy, you
come across this.

Last evening Rick and Linda on a Super Maramu 2000 named Rascal hosted 8 of us fellow Amel owners for drinks and snacks.  Ten people in the cockpit and we all were comfortable; I think the most we have had aboard BeBe is 8; now we know that cockpit can accommodate 10.  The guests included Fred and Patrick on Django-something; Steve and Liz on Aloha; Gary and Robin on Adagio; and Bill and me; plus our hosts.  Foods were delicious and conversation was very enjoyable.  This is what we have missed during those years in the Med -- the cruiser camaraderie.  It is so very, very nice to find it again!  We enjoyed the evening a lot.

Our Turkish friends, Hassan and Zehrya and their niece Fatma on the Amel 55 Kandiba, have returned after exploring the islands all the way up to Anguilla.  Kandiba needs a bit of service and then they will be heading south for hurricane season.  We will get together for dinner on Friday night and catch up.  It will be interesting to hear their opinions of all the Caribbean islands they have visited thus far.  It will be fun to 'see' the islands for the first time through their eyes.
Our granddaughter made decorated this nail bag (with help from her mom) when she was 4-yrs old.  It was a
Christmas gift to us just before we left to begin cruising.  Over the years most of the decorations and some of
the glitter glue have fallen off and it now is developing holes.  I use this at least once weekly.  Maybe she can
make a new one for me as this year's Christmas gift. Sometimes it is the small things that are most appreciated.

By the way,we are docked next to a newer Amel 64.  That boat makes 13-year-old BeBe look like a neglected step-child.  Bill likes the retractable hard bimini on the 64.  I like the deck cleats.  The Amel service center offered to give us a tour of this boat but I declined.  No point in looking at something that we cannot afford.
I have deck cleat and chock envy.  Aren't these gorgeous!  On the Amel 64 docked next to BeBe.