Day 15 – Back to Civilization

Practice for the Carnival, Martinique
Practice for the Carnival, Martinique

Up around sunrise, we pack our gear and salty, weathered clothes.

When Pierre comes by to check us out, we give him the list of things that should be fixed. Being a new boat, from what I can tell ours was the first longer (multi-week) charter she has been on. We tell him that Ginger was quite comfortable but the reefing was anything other than ‘automatic’ as they called it. It took three of us and much winching to properly reef.

We also talked about how she didn’t sail upwind so well. Pierre said in french they have a saying that Lagoons sail “upwind like the fog”. ┬áThis had us chuckling for a while.

The day we pulled out of Le Marin, we were still tied up getting ready and another cat rented from Regis came motoring up the fairway towards us at higher speed than normal. He reached the end of the fairway where we and another cat were tied off perpendicular to the fairway. He then did a quick somewhat spastic turn, hit the boat in front of us with a big crunch then motored back out the fairway without stopping.

We were a little stunned, then gave our contact info to the man whose boat was clobbered in case they needed a witness. We chuckled and noted to ourselves to beware this kind of skipper on our trip.

Given the rough sailing conditions, tricky harbors and reefs we had seen on this trip, I was curious and asked Pierre how often people crashed their boats. He said “every week”. He said in fact that the boat we saw perform the hit and run then promptly motored into Marin harbor and ran hard aground on one of the marked reef. Someone saw it and told Regis, however the skipper never did. He returned the boat and said everything was fine. It was bad enough they had to haul the boat and repair the hulls.

I’m very impressed with Regis Guillemot, both as a charter company and a person. The staff seem very competent, honest, hardworking and friendly. On both nights we were on the boat in Marin, Regis (the owner) was there working late, attending to details long after his staff had gone home.

As we are waiting to check out, we have some time to walk around and look at boats. there are more cats here than I’ve seen anywhere else. Tons of Lagoons and Fountaine Pajots. Some Catanas, Outremers, Nauticats, Privilege. I was expecting to see some of the newer Leopards, but didn’t see any. I reckon it’s because the Leopards are made in South Africa and we are surrounded mostly by french cats. Would like to try an Outremer or Catana next time. They are more performance oriented and have daggerboards which improve upwind sailing.

We (Kelley, Loren, Susan and I) take a taxi from Marin to Fort de France. Same nice driver (Max) who had taken us to Marin on the first night.

We find a hotel down by the waterfront, it’s a rather quaint and disorganized place. The first pair of rooms we get are already occupied. Since we don’t speak French, it was interesting to pantomime that concept to the puzzled clerk.

We set out in search of food, but it is Sunday and almost everything is closed. There is one restaurant but it’s totally full of people from a cruise ship that is in port. We wander the shuttered streets getting more and more hungry, cranky and hot. We round one corner and there is a huge, gleaming McDonalds which is open and appears to be quite busy.

None of us are McDonalds fans, and it seems so perverse to be in an exotic place like this and go to McDonalds. Then again, having eaten foreign foods for a couple of weeks, there is a tiny voice in my head saying how wonderful a burger & fries would taste, eaten in air conditioned comfort.

We resist temptation, then wander the streets getting more hungry, cranky and hot.

In a moment of weakness, we decide to go to McDonalds. It’s too much for Loren and he bolts. Once inside we see that it’s swarming with local folks and it will take 20-30 minutes to get served. Considering the wait time and the stigma, we decide to search some more.

We find a nice little food kiosk over by the cruise ship dock and have a very French-looking grilled ham sandwich.

Back at the room we enjoy the first gushing hot water showers (aka Hollywood showers) that we’ve had in a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people are starting to gather along the street below our hotel. We find out that it’s nearing Martiniques Carnival time and there will be a parade. We sit on Kelley & Loren’s deck directly above the festivities.

That's Kelley & Loren up on the balcony
That’s Kelley & Loren up on the balcony

It’s quite the spectacle. Groups of colorful dancers, musicians, drummers, and drag queens parade down the street to the cheers of the crowds. I’ve never been to Mardi Gras, but I imagine it to be similar. I’ll post some video.


We found out the next day from Max that what we saw was really the practice rounds for the real carnival. It’s hard to imagine any more energy or people in the streets than what we saw. The real Carnival starts in a couple of weeks.


It was a wonderful thing to accidentally stumble upon, though, almost like when we sailed into Ensenada, Mexico and stumbled upon the Baja 1000 race.

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