Tuesday, February 11, 2014

GRAND ANSE D'ARLET


For the last two months we have been waiting for the storms to ease up. Every day, Al checks the app that shows the strenght of wind by a colour scheme, from very light gray (less than 5 knots) to red (hurricane). I remember our Norwegian friend Norton, who had showed the app to Al when we all were spending time at Fajardo, Puerto Rico. He was waiting for his wife and daughter to arrive from Norway; we, for our dear friends Deniz and Zeynep from Canada. As a matter of fact, they all came on the same night, our friends being  on a later plane. So when Norton could not find his family after the arrival of their plane, he came to us in panic for help.

Anyway, Norton showed us how to install the app, and said "do not sail when you see green! (20 - 25 knots)" Whenever we see green while checking , we remember him. And it had been solid green for the last two months. Enough is enough. We are kind of bored of being stationed at the shallows of St Anne, staring at the Bucanneer Beach. However, I have to admit that St Anne proved to be everything I had hoped for when I looked at the map of the Windward Islands. Its different shape protects this bay from northerly swells; the wind comes down to us with its full force, but the sea stays calmish (!), with small waves, which do not translate into rolling. As well, the water is relatively clean, albeit full of algae, which get stuck to my baby's bottom. However, we regularly wipe off the greenery with a cloth, so that they do not grow long and dense.

After so much rain and wind, the forecast promised some blue winds (15 - 20 knots), and we decided to take advantage by sailing a bit, up to the Arlets or beyond. Al briefly thought of going to Anse Mitan or Anse Alain , which are located at the south coast of the large bay of Fort De France, but I could see no point in it. The water is very dirty at the protected areas, and getting there a challenge, the wind being on the nose, after turning into the bay. We had observed during our visit on land that the small communities at those bays are geared toward tourists, who started to come in drones lately. It appears that major discounts on air travel from Europe are in effect, so mostly retired people are filling the vacation properties on the island. All in all, going further than Grand Anse D'Arlet seemed unnecessary, so we checked our map to estimate the arrival time.

We weighed anchor on January 22nd at 8:15 and went underway. Actually most of the course was visual, the first target being the Diamante rock, directly west of us, less than 8 miles away almost at the south west corner of Martinique. After that, the land itself protrudes a bit to the west, so the course to Arlets is slightly northwest.
The wind was mild but favorable and directly from our back, so we set the sail wing on wing, and reached the Diamante in less than two hours, and turned north, where wrap around winds picked up, and flew us, 7-8 knots for a while. It was quite exhilerating really, but did not last too long. It turned out to be a very pleasent ride.

We passed by first Petit Anse, a small bay where anchoring is not suggested, and Anse D'Arlet (also known as Petit Anse D'Arlet, confusing or what), then reached the Grand Anse. It was a beautiful day, the water a bit dark, due to most of the bay being deep. For that reason, the south portion was covered by mooring balls, no way of anchoring, and most of them were taken, since it is the most protected part. The easterly swells were somewhat reaching into the bay, and hitting the north portion, where also many balls were installed. The remaining anchorage in the middle was quite tiny, and I got prepared to pick up a ball. But no, Al wanted to anchor and got me quite worried, when wedged us between two mono-hulls, and backed up, almost to the anchor chains of two more. We were cosily surrounded by other boats, but thankfully not swinging too wildly. He claimed to have checked that we would clear all of them with a small margin, so we stayed. It was a good spot, not too far from the pier.


It was interesting to watch the resident turtle who was swimming around us in circles, taking a couple of breaths, and diving in afterwards for a long time.  I know that turtles eat jellyfish, so I am a bit apprehensive when I see them. However, I did not see a sign of any jellyfish there, so the turle must be feeding on some other stuff! Or maybe it ate them all so far.

First afternoon we swam and took it easy, but the next morning it was time to explore. Hoyle mentions that Anse D'Arlet was not far from Grand Anse on foot, so we put it to the test. We took off from the pier to the main road, which had some kind of a pavement at the side, and it was almost level, without any ups and downs. Al did not complain much, and we reached the turn-about at the intersection for Anse D'Arlet and Petit Anse in about half an hour. The sign indicated that Petit Anse was 3.5 kms from the intersection, so I figured that Arlet was not far. The road went right into the small town, which really was a short strip of shops and restaurants along the beach, and turned up into the hills to the east and south. Petit Anse being the next bay to the south, I wanted to check it out too, but first we had to stop for a drink (it was hot). We saw a sign on the road that a restaurant called Littoral was located at the hill 100 m away, which had "feet in the water" (in French of course, but I started to understand a lot, especially in writing). Intriguing, so we pushed a bit more, and saw that it was a very charming restaurant, open deck style on the water, with stairs going down to the beach for swimmers. Perfect stop for lunch, but the French do not start serving a minute before "midi" (12:00 sharp) and it was 10:30 am.

I ordered coffee, but the server decided that I was Spanish for some reason, and came back with half a page of a response in Spanish. When she saw our blank stares, she turned to body language, and brought the coffee after all. She wanted to know if we were planning to have lunch, and when we kind of said yes, she showed us a smaller table for two. People come and  reserve their tables for lunch, and go off to other pursuits in the meantime. So we did the same, and took to the road that was winding around the steep hill. We had about an hour to kill, so I thought we could go to the top of Petit Anse to have a peek down and come back. But Al started to complain after halfway, and the road was not safe at some places (nobody is expected to walk on mountain roads), so we turned back, went into the town and walked to the other side.

The main beach was at the nort side of the small bay, and everybody was there. The strip of beach bars and restaurants were full, and much cheaper than the place we reserved, but we returned, keeping our word. It was almost  time when we reached our table, and the view was great, with a lot of activity going on at the shallows below to keep us entertained. There was a nautical school next door, teaching teen-agers how to paddle double kayaks. They had a set course to go around and return backwards, racing with each other. They were having so much fun, it was a pleasure to watch.

Despite the food being mediocre but expensive, the restaurant get filled, and we had a good time looking around. On the way back, we passed by a boulangerie, and bought an amazing county (campagne) bread and returned to Grande Anse in no time.

That evening, while we were having dinner, our friend Levent from Le Marin called, and bragged about having an elaborate raki dinner with some Turkish sailors. We were curious, so promised to pass by Le Marin to meet them.

2 comments:

  1. Last Phagraph is the most exciting part of this story.. :)

    ReplyDelete