Al's close friend from high school, Oguz and his wife Simone were due to arrive on the evening of December 6th, so we had asked Christian from Jumbocar to pick us up at noon from St Anne. When we got to the church before time, we saw that he was already there, waiting for us. We went to the office together, and dealt with the paperwork. He asked for a deposit of 600.- Euros (presumably the deductible on the insurance), and sent us to our way.
This was the first time in our guest preparations, that we had not done our grocery shopping and some cooking in advance. I did not like the selection in the stores of Le Marin, and wanted to check out the big names we had seen lined along the highway to Fort De France. But the first stop was the chandlery in Marin (Ruyam II has priority over everything).
We found a parking spot almost half a mile away, and came to the door, but what were we thinking? We forgot that French people have lunch outside of their working places. All stores close until 1:30 pm or later. What else but have lunch ourselves. There was a small family-run restaurant across the street (Mouline Rouge) which was inviting, so we went up the stairs to the second level of the small building. There were a dozen tables, and quite a few customers. The proprietor/server lady welcomed us warmly and led us to a small table at the front. The menu was limited, but was advertising house specialties. I asked for her suggestion, and ordered an excellent chicken, full of smoke flavor, which I like a lot. It was called "poulet boucane", something like barbecued chicken in my book.
As soon as we finished eating, buckets of rain started pouring. We had to change our table to stay dry, but was obliged to have coffee etc and wait for the end of this mansoon. It took us an hour to be able to venture out, but nevertheless completely soaked in two minutes just crossing the street.
Stephan, our friendly chandlery attendant, gave us an address of a gas filling station, somewhere in the industrial section close to the city (Fort De France - FDF) which was only accessible by car. Al, with his infinite pessimism, insisted that we should fill our cooking gas bottles before the guests would arrive, although neither of them was totally empty. Of course he is right to keep a full spare, since we do not know how full either of them was. One of the bottles, which we started using after coming back, was from last year. The other we replaced in Grenada, but seemed very light to Al, probably because the bottle was made of light-weight aliminium, unlike the old one.
The trouble is with the different system used in France; butane as opposed to propane in the Americas. Our boat started with butane, which comes in small blue containers, since it was a French vessel, but was fitted with an adaptor to receive propane in BVI. Two years ago, while visiting Puerto Rico, we had discarded all our blue bottles but one, and bought two propane bottles.
We (Al) like doing things in the hard way; so instead of exchanging our existing blue bottle, which is available even at the corner stores in Marin or St Anne, we tried to find the Vitogaz filling station in Californie, somewhere in the boonies. As a matter of fact we found a mini refinery after spending an hour looking for it, but saw that it was closed for the day long before 3:00 pm on a Friday. Who would work at that ghastly hour of a Friday afternoon. After spending more time trying other places the pedestrians suggested, we learned that filling our propane tank was not possible in Martinique. Nothing else to do but at least getting the much needed groceries before the plane arrives.
HiperU was a disappointment, despite its size. At all the supermarkets we had seen around here, the vegetables and fresh beef are lousy, fruits and fish are almost non-existent, but the prices are incredible. We bought whatever we could, and reached the airport almost in time for the arrival. (The best place for fresh produce is the road-side fruit and vegetable stands on the highway, such as the one at the turn-out of Riviere Sale.)
This was our first meeting with Simone, who is from France. Oguz has been living in Switzerland for thirty five years, but spends some time in Turkey every year. I only met him a few times, but he had been alone. We were excited, and they were a bit apprehensive, since Simone had never sailed before, and Oguz, although had spent a few days at a time on some sailing trips with their high school buddies, had never been confined to a boat for ten days.
It turned out that Simone was a born sailor, Oguz not so much, he can get seasick quite easily. All the remedies were only needed for Oguz when we sailed within the large bay of St Anne a few times. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate much. It rained almost every day while storms raged outside. I am quite impressed by St Anne, while wind comes down howling (over 25 knots), the sea is mostly calm, no swells.
This year we are prepared for rain; we brought a 20 ft x 12 ft grey tarp from Canada and developed a technique to quickly lay it over the bimini, so that rain does not disrupt our life on the deck anymore. Too much wind is a bit of a strain on its lines at times, but no matter. It needed guite a bit of convincing on Al to buy the tarp, instead of ordering yards of Sunbrella and sewing the webbing to turn it into a protective cover for rain. A lot of work and money. After my insistence, he reluctantly agreed to bring the tarp, and resisted installing it for the first time, since he thought it would look bad from outside. But afterwards he is sold, although we might have to replace it every year due to wear and tear. However, I saw an identical one in Grenada at the big hardware store in the Spice Mall. Even if it lasts only one season, I don't mind; it is cheap and effective!