Sunday, December 22, 2013

Via la Le Marin

When the wind and waves come all the way across the Atlantic and go between two islands what do they like to do?  Get stronger and higher.
Waking up and seeing Rodney Bay in the early morning light, we marveled at the sheer size of the bay. Around 300 yachts had come into Rodney Bay the week before as part of the ARC, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, which goes from Europe to the Caribbean each fall. Most of these yachts were in the inner harbor docks but we did see the occasional ARC yacht (distinguished by their ARC number plates on the side of the boat) around the anchorage.

The huge open roadstead of Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.
With no rest for the weary, we departed Rodney Bay about 9:00 am and followed a huge catamaran out of the anchorage, around the aft end of the huge Club Med II sailing vessel, and out into the Martinique / St. Lucia channel. Again, we wanted to stay high and with the promise of more settled weather today we pointed as high as we could to avoid the west setting current. And as usual, the wind piped up to 20+ with even larger ocean waves that the day before, but with a little longer period which made life a little easier (that’s a relative term when sailing).  As a monohull we were the highest (eastward) of the boats crossing over to Martinique, but we still got set down a considerable amount as we sailed close-hauled across the channel. Luckily the distance today was only about 28 miles and the weather was beautiful. We were so battle hardened by now we just sat back and enjoyed the ride.

Soon we began to see the mountain peaks of Martinique and held on as long as we could while being set down and away from our destination, then finally throwing in the towel and motor sailing upwind the last two hours into Le Marin.

Le Marin has a huge inner bay that is protected by some nasty reefs, but luckily the channel is very well marked and maintained by the French. We passed St. Anne’s on the right and entered the inner harbor, marveling at the literally thousands of boats (Le Marin is the major charter boat center for the French in the Caribbean) both at anchor and in two massive marinas. I’ve never seen so many catamarans in my life.

We motored up to the fuel dock, which was amazingly easy (usually is a life- and marriage-threatening experience) and filled up on the most expensive diesel and water on earth. While Le Marin has almost everything you’d want, you are paying European prices for it all.

The French like to get "up close and personal" when anchoring.
We then started to head over to where our friends Jack and Marce on Escape Velocity had anchored, but immediately saw an open area near the marina that looked perfect. Knowing that Internet was going to be an issue, we wanted to stay as close in as possible. It was not until the next day that we discovered that the reason the area was so open is it was a No Anchor Zone marked by large yellow buoys. Looking at more and more French boats starting to anchor near us, we thought of the French indifference to authority and decided we’d “be French” and just wait until we got kicked out. We ended up staying there for over 11 days.

We did have to dingy in to check in with Customs, but in true French fashion you just walked into the Captainerre’s office, sat at a computer terminal with it’s weird French keyboard and backward date structure and entered your boat data. No talking to anyone, no forms, no passports. Just pay your 5 Euros to the secretary and she handed you your clearance papers. Love the French for this practical approach to clearing in yachts.

Given the tough two days sailing we had, we just decided to veg out in the boat and relax for the rest of the day. We’re starting to get into the French mode of sailing and I have to say we like it a lot!

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