Martinique – First Whale Sighting and Carnival!

We sailed from Portsmouth at the northern end of Dominica toward Martinique with our friends on Shining Time, who were about 5-10 miles ahead of us. We’d been sailing about an hour when they called us on the VHF to alert us that they had spotted a pod of whales of the coast of Dominica and that we ought to keep a close watch. We did just that and shortly thereafter we were rewarded with our first (and hopefully not last) whale sighting of this trip.

At first, we saw just the one whale in the distance – about a quarter mile away off our starboard bow. It really wasn’t doing anything exciting; it seemed to be just lying on the surface relaxing, looking very much like a massive floating 40 foot tree in the water. Then, as we got closer it swam away, allowing us to view him (gender remains uncertain – thankfully) surfacing and diving a few times before finally diving deep out of our view.

We then saw a few other, smaller whales do the same thing a couple of hundred yards away. While we were watching them, a similar one surfaced about 20 feet in front of Bojangles causing the admiral – once she calmed down – to seriously rebuke the captain concerning his cavalier attitude regarding what constitutes a ‘safe’ distance from these great mammals (As if I knew the bugger was going to come up right in front of the boat)

After a short while, we all calmed down and the whales proceeded on their northward path while we continued south to Martinique.

In Martinique, we first anchored in the resort community of Anse Mitan across the bay from the capital Fort de France – which, at about 100,000 people, is also the largest city we’ve seen since we were in DC back in October. Feeling a bit out of place amongst the pasty Parisian holidaymakers crowding the beach, we moved to a quieter anchorage nearby called Trois Ilets where we were joined by Shining Time.

Trois Ilets is in a little bay within the larger Fort de France Bay and is situated in such a way that you feel like you’re in a small lake, rather than the Caribbean Sea. So, we proceeded to pretend we were at the cottage back home and broke out all the water toys for tubing, Opti sailing, and general playing around in the water.

We also used Trois Ilets as our base for participating in Martinique’s pre-Lenten Carnival. For several days, we attended the parades, concerts, and exhibitions that make up Carnival. We were also coerced to join in one of the parades, dancing along with countless others behind a float that was blasting loud dance music. We also took in a performance by Le Ballet Pomme Cannelle de Martinique – which cannot be adequately described by my words, but suffice to say it was very entertaining and both Kathleen and I acquitted ourselves quite well in the ‘audience participation’ portion where we were each paired off with a member of the troupe. (And since none of you were there, you can’t dispute this)

We did the Carnival thing for three days then decided that we’d exit Martinique before the crazy Mardi Gras festivities. The three preceding days had provided a huge sensory overload – and as each day became increasingly bawdy, we felt that we should get out of there before the Mardi Gras parade put us in an awkward position as parents answering questions that we ourselves don’t know the answer to. (“No darling, I don’t know why that man is dressed like that. Perhaps he’s allergic to all clothing but fishnets, high heels, and G-strings.”)

So, on Mardi Gras we checked out of customs (well we would have had it not been closed for Mardi Gras) and set sail for Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.

One sad note regarding our stay in Martinique was that we had to say goodbye to our friends the Van Alstines on Stolen Hour. We had traveled with them since the Chesapeake and our families had become great friends. However, their plans were taking them north and west to the Bahamas while ours were taking us further south to the Grenadines and Grenada. We had a fun last night out with them, and then had an emotional departure from the harbour as they saluted Bojangles by blowing the conch as we sailed away. We’ll miss them, but look forward to re-connecting in the future.


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