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.

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