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  • Peggy Simonsen

A new caribbean adventure

After many years, I finally managed to get my family to all take a vacation at the same time! I chartered a 40-foot catamaran on the island of Martinique in the French West Indies (southern Caribbean) and we all converged there. My son Michael and his family live in California and my other son Steen and his wife live in Virginia and I traveled from Chicago. Catamarans are not as fun to sail as a monohull, but they sail flat so are more comfortable sailing, and are more spacious for the galley and sleeping cabins. We gathered at a lovely resort, Sainte Luce Residence Pierre et Vacances for one day before we got the boat. So we played in the ocean and had cocktails on their veranda before piling on to the boat, Ripple. I had ordered provisions to be delivered, so first order of business on the boat was to store food for seven people for a week! Sunday afternoon, after an orientation by the SunSail manager and planning our route, we had dinner at a hot-stone restaurant at the marina and slept our first night on the boat in the harbor.

Monday morning we left the slip, with me as captain and my two sons as first mates. We sailed north on the lee side (west side) of the island and anchored at various harbors each night for a week. Martinique is still part of France, French speaking and with the Euro as currency. My granddaughter has studied French for seven years in middle and high school and now as a freshman in college, and my daughter-in-law lived and worked in Paris for a couple of years so both of their French beat mine hands down. We cooked dinner on the boat some evenings, and some we dinghied to shore to local restaurants. We explored Saint Pierre, a town that was destroyed by the volcano Mt Pelee in 1902 and has rebuilt with a very informative museum about the eruption. My geologist son was interested in learning more about the catastrophic event.

We snorkeled at the anchorages, but the coral isn’t nearly as colorful as that I explored years ago in the Caribbean. When we were anchored on sandy bottoms, we saw giant sea turtles munching away on the grasses below us. Sailing along the coast, we spotted schools (pods?) of dolphins and an occasional turtle would lift his head.

We had strong winds and some bumpy rides, but unfortunately when we were sailing north, the winds were from the north and when we headed south the winds were from the south, so we motored a lot. (Catamarans can't sail as close to the wind as monohulls can.)

On our last day out, we anchored at a little cove to have lunch and snorkel one last time, only to be surrounded by hundreds of small motorboats and ski-dos. We knew there was a sailboat race around the island but wondered about all the motorboats. Turns out they were gathered there to position themselves to see the racing boats cross the finish line! I learned about a local boat type called a Yole, a small boat with a big square yawl-rigged sail. The race is Tour Martinique, an annual race of the Yoles, with the motorboats owned by everyone on the island who become race groupies. Going into the harbor to return our boat, we had to navigate all the boats and their passengers in full party mode.

The trip was great fun, but a bit sad, since that is probably the last time I will charter a sailboat with my whole family together. Lots of memories!

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