The main contrast between sailing in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean is the climate. The landscape in the Med is littered with history amidst craggy rocks where the top soil has been long gone. Martinique is covered in greenery and the volcanic soil still seems to yield a good harvest. History, although more modern, is rich here too. As we are sailing towards Diamond Rock we recall the tale told of this place.
Nelson placed canons and a crew ‘on board’ the rock and used it as a ship – even named it. As it was near a major shipping lane leading to Fort De France, it frustrated the hell out of Napoleon. His fleet was under constant fire from the British. Looking at the rock, we wonder at the cheek of the British. It is so steep and rocky we wonder how they landed here let a lone hoist and mount canons upon it. They call it Diamond Rock but to me it looks like a gorilla head and as we come closer it looks more like a troll – a grumpy one at that.
The on and off faucet of rain since our arrival has cleansed our salty decks. Collecting fresh rain water to drink shouldn’t be a challenge. The trade winds bring in the heavy clouds and they spill their contents over the islands and then leave as quickly as they arrive. We are getting quick at closing the hatches over the beds although by the time we get there, the downpour is over. Anchoring in 30 knot winds would have scared the hell out of the Captain in the Med, but here it appears to be the norm. The wind generator is working well enough to load the batteries and we are able to keep the second fridge going.
We are having a pleasant sail in 25-30 knot Trade Winds heading north to St Pierre with only a reefed head sail on a close reach. We’re averaging 6.9 knots over the water. St. Pierre is a small village which once was known as ‘The Paris of the Caribbean’ and was the capital of the island. Mt Pelee, the volcano that shadows it changed all that in 1902 when the 29 000 inhabitants met their fate under a toxic burning cloud. Reluctant to evacuate the city due to pressure from the merchants and surrounding plantation owners, the mayor had relied on a committee headed by the local Science teacher to evaluate the volcano’s status. Despite rumblings, an ash cloud covering the city and the loss of several plantations already, the wise teacher, who wanted to keep his job, declared the mountain safe. The lesson learned here resulted in the beginning of vulcanology as a Science, unfortunately they didn’t learn that greed is the root of all evil. Mountain – 1 Humans – 0
We found out that the fishermen blocked the at Fort De France harbour to stop the merchant ships from entering last week and this is one reason why the supermarket shelves were so bare. No known reason to us as we aren’t in the know of the local politics. Speaking of politics though, I think Thomas needs to learn some political correctness. We were talking about getting some East Caribbean dollars before heading to Dominica because we would need to pay all the ‘helpers’ when you moor there. Thomas said, ‘As long as we have some American dollars to buy a buoy, (boy), we’ll be okay.’ I had to tell him they abolished that years ago. (I thought I was funny, he didn’t).
We have arrived and St Pierre is surrounded in beautiful rainforest. A cloud hides the summit of Mt Pelee. The holding ground isn’t the best on the anchorage and the anchor alarm has woken us up at 4am. We had dragged a fair way and needed to reset the anchor. Unable to return to sleep I have opted for typing this up and hopefully Thomas can rest peacefully for a few more hours. That was accomplished and we took ourselves on a guided tour around the ruins in town today. It is amazing how many people have used parts of the ruins as walls in their houses. They said the eruption had the force of a nuclear bomb. The museum showed photos depicting such devastation. Hope the volcano stays a sleep for at least a few weeks more.