The sail to Martinique was easy – they have all gotten easier, now that we are no longer sailing right into the wind. We did have some rain, but just little squalls and moderate wind. We used the jib and the motors, since our mainsail clew was still giving us problems and either breaking a line or slipping free of its ties. And, I caught a fish! Okay, it was Andy who rigged the line and set the lure, but he was busy when the reel started spinning, so I took the rod out and started hauling her in. Once he was free to help, I was having fun. Andy showed me how to play the line, to tire the fish out, and this time we were lucky – it was a decent-sized Mahi! We were so happy that we’d broken the streak of lure-stealing barracuda and blue runners. Andy cleaned it, I skinned it, and we put the filets in the fridge, dreaming of a nice dinner.
Martinique didn’t wow us. I think one reason was that we stayed in a marina, hoping to have shore power and a little easy Internet. No such luck! The marina was pretty nice, but the WiFi didn’t reach all the way to our dock, and the electrical hookups were all 220V (Euro style). And they didn’t have a converter. (This was Marin Marina, in the south of Martinique – for all who come behind us, DON’T BELIEVE THE GUIDEBOOK when it tells you they can loan you a transformer. They don’t have one.)
Another Euro-style thing they have in this marina is Mediterranean mooring. We had read about it but never done it. You tie fenders (those big air-buoy things) on both sides of your boat and back it into a space between two other boats. You have to steer with precision, because there are two big mooring balls in front of the docking space that you must motor over, so you aim to get them between the hulls and away from the propellers. Once you’re close to the dock, with the mooring balls now floating in front of you, the dockhands tie your stern to the dock. Then they get into a dinghy and come to your bow. You toss them lines which they run through the moorings, then you pull them tight. You are now tied up at the bow and the stern, forward and aft. With maybe 6 inches between your boat and your neighbor’s. (Well, one of our neighbors was actually a few feet away – but the other was close enough to reach out and knock on.)
That kind of proximity does not make for good neighbors, it seems. One unpleasant thing that happened was on that first night. We were cooking our Mahi on the boat, and it was raining, which meant I couldn’t keep the front door open – with the breeze came the rain. So I closed the doors, fired up the generator, and turned on the A/C. Only to have the French couple on the sailboat next to us come over and insist that we turn it off. (Not asking, or starting a conversation about how we might coexist. No, they were demanding.) “The fumes!” (We’ve NEVER smelled any fumes, and we’re right here with the thing!) “The noise!” (It does have a low rumble, but it’s not obnoxious. It’s not any louder than hearing your neighbor’s air conditioner next door at home.) We tried explaining that we had no other way to charge our batteries and create electricity, but they were adamant and, frankly, rude. Finally, they claimed that the marina rules FORBID generators. And, maybe they had a point? We didn’t know, so we gave up and turned it off. We did not want to escalate the tension. But wow, did that put me in a foul mood. Hot, sticky, humid air… and the cooking making the cabin even hotter… UGH.
By the time I went to bed that night, in the oven that was our cabin, I was really battling ugly thoughts. I couldn’t open any hatches because of the rain, and I could not sleep, so I just stewed. But, as many spiritual mentors have noted, times like this are actually an opportunity to examine your own heart. It’s easy to think that, deep down, you are nice person, a considerate person, kind and unselfish and able to put others’ needs before your own. Until… you don’t get something you really, really want. (Like A/C on a tropical night.) I kept praying, and reminding myself that part of this whole adventure is a variety of tests. It’s not just tests of skill and creative problem-solving; it’s also tests of character. And, of course, remembering how many people around the world do just fine without electricity. It wouldn’t kill me to go a night without it. So I decided to make peace with my own sweat.
I did finally get some light sleep, and by the morning I had decided that I was not going to let our neighbors’ ugliness goad me into my worst self or ruin our time in Martinique. Andy was a huge help in that way; he had already decided on a good strategy for our next steps. First, of course, was to check with the marina about whether generators were permitted for boats who could not use the electrical hookups. Turned out, yes they are! But then Andy’s strategy called for making peace, as much as we could. He decided to go to our neighbors and say, “Hey, we’ve checked with the marina and we have permission to use our generator as needed, and we are going to run it. But we don’t want to be bad neighbors. Let’s work this out.” And see if perhaps there were better times of day than others, or maybe a period when they were ashore where our running it would not affect them.
In the end, they clearly felt uncomfortable. They interrupted him (again) and said, “No, no, it’s okay now – we’re leaving in an hour. No problem.” Hmph. I confess I was not sorry to see them leave, but I was proud of Andy for choosing the higher road, and helping me stay on it with him. And we ran the generator whenever we wanted for the next three nights and no one else cared or said a peep. And, if we happen to cross paths with that couple again, as our journey continues, we have no bad behavior to regret.
Otherwise, Martinique was kinda nice. French, like Guadeloupe, with Euros and nice restaurants and good wine and cheese, and many marine stores. There are several resorts on the island, which I think might be worth a visit if we come back here at a more leisurely pace. It’s not my favorite island ever, but I would stop here again. We never got to see Fort de France, which is the capital and also a proper city, with skyscrapers and everything. And we only stopped briefly in St. Pierre, the former capital which was destroyed by the Mt. Pelée volcano. They’ve rebuilt a charming little town over the ruins, but it’s over hundreds of buildings and thousands of people who were buried or killed when the volcano erupted in 1902. Very sad. There are a dozen shipwrecks in the bay, in a no-anchoring zone, that were sunk that day as well. I’d like to go back and see the museum and hear more of the story.