Friday, June 13, 2014

Le Dame Blanche

Fair warning, this will most likely be the most boring blog we’ve written, with the exception of the story of Le Dame Blanche, which I will save for the end.

Still recovering from our encounter with Hippo Cup 2014, we were as bleary-eyed and sleep deprived as the Hippo Cuppers. Unfortunately for us, it was for lack of sleep, not for the ecstasy of partying all night long with 500 of our closest friends.

Since it’s now June 9th and Hurricane Season 2014 has officially begun, we’re on a tight schedule to get the boat below the magical latitude of 12 degrees, 30 seconds, essentially the northern tip of Grenada, which is considered the “hurricane safe zone.” But leaving the magical Iles des Saints and our friends Mark and Sue on Macushla was difficult. After not having seen them since the British Virgin Islands, it was great to get together and share sundowners and stories. They are highly experienced sailors, having lived on the boat for over eight years, and I always try to pick Mark’s brain for sailing tips. Sue is a great source of eclectic books from British authors I’ve never heard of.  They have a cautious approach to cruising wherein they patiently wait for the right weather so they don’t have to bash into the six- to eight-foot seas we’re intimately familiar with.  They also have that European approach to life with long walks, pre-lunch espressos, and longer lunches that lead into sun dowers and late dinners. The French, by the way, have perfected this lifestyle to it’s apogee.

Getting ready for our long walk into Terre de Haut with Mark and Sue.
This incredible hotel was completely empty the next day.
That's Flying Cloud out in the bay.
One day we walked two miles into town with Mark and Sue, browsed some French clothing stores, rested and had an expresso, then wandered around some more until we had a long lunch followed by a relaxing walk back to the boat. Sundowners and dinner and viola, the day was done. Our only variation to this day is a stop at the wonderful Glaces Pays (glaces is one of the first French words I learned) for the incredible French ice cream made by Paradis.

The key to happiness:  two French baguettes and an ice cream cone.
We realized that before we totally succumbed to the lifestyle, we had to skedaddle south as July was quickly approaching. We left Terre de Haut on June 11th and stayed high, exiting the island so we had a close reach for the all the way to Roseau on Dominique. The waves were only two to three feet in the lee of Dominique so we enjoyed a relaxing sail all the way down the leeward coast. I think I mentioned to Meryl “this is the way it’s supposed to be.”

Anchored just offshore at Roseau.
We were a little leery of staying in Roseau due to an incident a few months back so we hoisted the yellow quarantine flag (stated we hadn’t officially cleared into the country) and left very early the next morning for St. Pierre on Martinique. The waves were a little larger on this leg and the phenomena of the easterly winds curving around the points of the islands creating southerly winds put the wind right on our our nose — again.

I loved the colors of the buildings in St. Pierre.
I don't have a clue what this says but I thought it was beautiful.
It was great to be at another French Island, Martinique in this case, but it rudely reminded us of the Gallic disregard for schedules. Here’s the way it works on French islands:  Businesses are usually open from 9:00  am until 12:30 pm, and then (maybe) open from 3:30 to 5:30 pm.  Since some businesses are open on Saturday, it means that most businesses are closed on Monday.  I really want to emphasize the word “maybe” when referring to French business hours. Even though we arrived at the Customs Clearance office at 3:00 pm on a Thursday, it had closed at 1:00 pm for some unknown (to Ango Saxons) reason. That meant we couldn’t clear into the country. To hell with that we said and did some grocery shopping and roamed around the small town.

St. Pierre, nestled under the brooding clouds of Mt. Pele.
 St. Pierre, nestled under the brooding, cloud-veiled peak of active volcano Mt. Pele, was voted the number one picturesque port in the Caribbean.  We’d have to agree; there’s something about how the late afternoon sun hits the verdant green hills flowing down from the volcano that is enchanting.

Diamond Rock on the way to Sainte Anne.
Not ones to linger with hurricane season nipping at our heels, we continued south along the Martinique coast. Sailing by the dominating Diamond Rock, we then got blasted by another southerly which meant motor sailing the rest of the way to Sainte Anne.

If Iles des Saints is our favorite Caribbean port, Sainte Anne is second. A beautiful little French-styled village just outside the large bay of Le Marin, Sainte Anne has a quiet style all its own.  We had great aspirations of long hikes and longer dinners, etc. but quickly realized we were getting tired from all the early morning departures and 80-mile sails.

Again, we tried to clear into Martinique at Sainte Anne, only to find the business that housed the French government computer onto which you enter your clearance info, was closed for the next two weeks. Oh those pesky French and their frequent vacations.  This meant trying to find a way to get to Le Marin, about 10 miles away via dingy or bus.  Since it was super windy we opted for the bus.

Another particularity with the French is their persnickety attitude towards their language, which granted, is the most beautiful spoken language on earth.  Well, they’d like to keep it that way. I kept asking the few shopkeepers open on Saturday morning about “le bus” into Le Marin.  They all looked at me with a look usually reserved for people recently released from mental institutions. Finally I drew a picture of a bus. Roars went up in the shop, both the owner and customers, as the owner pronounced the word and his pronunciation had a slight inflection of more “boo-se” than “bus.” Now everyone knew what I was talking about.

So we waited and waited (remember that French lack of attention to schedules) for a “boo-se.”  We finally gave up and started hitchhiking when a “boo-se” went by. Eureka. The driver was nice and dropped us off in town so we could go to the marina and officially check in on their French government computer.

It’s interesting to note that only the French islands have this system where you type your boat and passport info into a computer and it prints out a paper that says “OK, you’re in.”  Every other island has elaborate bureaucracies (and commensurate charges) after filling out umpteen million forms in carbon triplicate and an examination of your passport like you’re Al Qaeda and trying to infiltrate the country.  Again, gotta love the French.

Naturally after checking in and having a nice lunch we discovered the “boo-se” doesn’t run after 1:00 pm on Saturdays, so we ended spending a small fortune for a cab driver (hard to find since the World Cup games had just begun) to drive us back to Sainte Anne.

Le Dame Blanche
OK, so now for the good part.  I wanted to watch some of the World Cup games and found a small bistro in Sainte Anne with a great large screen TV showing the Netherlands/Italy game.  Getting hungry I perused the (obviously French) menu and discovered my long lost dream:  Le Dame Blanche, “the white lady.”  Ignoring Meryl’s glare, I salivated as they placed a old style parfait cup filled with (in order from bottom to top) rich chocolate sauce, a scoop of incredible chocolate ice cream, followed by two scoops of French vanilla ice cream, all covered with rich whipping cream and topped with a little round cookie called “le cigarette.”  (I feel like John Travolta in Pulp Fiction describing a Royal.)

I know my wife and daughter think I eat these things every other day, but in truth this was the first in about two years. When you’re on a boat you dream about these types of foods. I slowly pushed the long-handled spoon deep into the depths of the parfait glass to search out the hot chocolate at the bottom, slowing retracting it with pieces of chocolate and French vanilla ice cream clinging to the spoon and a touch of whipped cream hanging by the sides. I have to say I died and went to heaven as I tasted that first bite. Unfortunately, when you are in the tropics and it’s 92 degrees inside, you can’t linger with a Le Dame Blanche. It got ugly as I raced the slowly softening ice cream and the inevitable intermingling of the chocolate and vanilla. Occasionally looking up at the TV as a cheer went up in the room, I savored each spoonful knowing it would be another two years until my next encounter with “the white lady.”

Oh, and I guess Italy decimated the Netherlands in the World Cup.


  1. My milkshake brings Walter to the yard! Love it!

  2. Hey, you know what would make that even better? A little Grand Marnier! ;-) Stay out of the big winds, you two. -- Heather