After a very bouncy 18-hour passage from Bequia (ask our friend and passenger Kacia just how bouncy – poor thing, she learned the hard way that she actually does get sea sick) we anchored in the pre-dawn darkness at the back of the anchorage in Martinique.
As an aside, we have to learn a whole new vocabulary for sailing in the French islands. For example – the French word for anchorage (mouillage) translates to “the wetting.” And the most common word for mooring ball (corps mort) translates literally to “dead body”. Yikes! They don’t teach you that in French class.
The best part about anchoring in Sainte Anne, Martinique is that one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean is just a short walk away. Ok, it’s a 3-mile walk each way, but that’s par for the course when you don’t own a car and you go everywhere on foot! In less than a week, we’ve already done the walk twice and I think I could do it every other day without getting bored. The path is gentle and shaded, following the coastline beneath a canopy of mangrove branches. You frequently have the option of emerging onto a beach to dip your feet in the water and cool off, and often there’s a surprise! Maybe a wooden swing swaying gently above the tide. Maybe a massive picnic party, complete with a DJ and caterer, maybe (toward the end of the hike) a nude beach where everyone lets it all hang out.
Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you emerge from the final row of coconut palms and there it is – a mile long stretch of white sand, bordered by palms, with turquoise blue seas lapping gently at the shore. Whaou! Even better, there’s a row of beach bars about halfway down the beach where you can find anything from a hamburger, fries, and draft beer to a three-course French lunch complete with chilled rosé, coffee, and homemade dessert. Or, just follow the women dressed in bright madras plaid and ringing a handbell to find refreshing homemade ice cream. Is this paradise, or what?
On our first visit this January with our friends Chantal and Gary on SV Maracuja, we arrived too late for lunch but we were able to order cold drinks to go and enjoyed the people watching from a shady spot under the palm trees. The second time, we planned ahead and arrived at Chez Olivia just as lunch service started. Honestly, we hardly even needed to look at the menu. Planter’s punch? Check ✔️ Bottle of fizzy water, bottle of rosé? Check ✔️ Hmmm … Really the only tough decision is which fresh fish dish to order. Capt. Mike went with our favorite – tuna ceviche with coconut milk (thon à la tahaitienne) I always love the fresh grilled fish – although i did fail my French test a bit by not asking what is the fish of the day. I clearly look like a tourist because madame decided i would prefer the filet of daurade. She might actually have looked straight into my soul because I was thrilled with the generous portion, perfectly cooked in a delicious ginger and curry sauce. But if she had told me all of the options, I probably would have ordered the whole grilled vivaneau. I’m a sucker for whole grilled fish!
Service is island time slow, but we didn’t mind. We brought backgammon and as long as we made it back to the dinghy dock before sunset, we were fine. And heck, if we end up so on land at sunset, there are benches in the public square at the top of the dinghy dock just begging for people to sit, enjoy the sunset, and cheer on the kids playing games and giggling due to their ice cream sugar highs.
Ok, maybe i should do some grocery shopping and laundry tomorrow, but after that it’s back to Grand Anse des Salines beach the next day for another day in paradise!