Tuesday, March 18, 2014
NEW FRIEND MARC AND CAP CHEVALIER
Right after we waved good-bye to Ender and Buket of Istanbul yacht, Al received an e mail from Marc, who is from Switzerland and a friend of Oguz, Al' s high school buddy, whom we had hosted earlier this year. Marc was interested in buying a sail boat, and had been corresponding about it with Al for a couple of times.
Marc advised in his message that he was currently in Grand Anse D'Arlet, but wished to meet with Al after looking at some yachts moored at Le Marin. He said he had rented a car, and could come wherever we wished in the afternoon. We were going to be at St Anne later that day, to wait for our laundress to bring back our stuff around 5:00 pm, so decided to spend some time at Le Rendevous restaurant which had free Wi-Fi, to do our internet while waiting for Marc.
Marc came, accompanied by Sy, a young sailor-to-be in his twenties, who worked formerly as crew to some mega yachts, but had recently mutinied with a group of mates and left the yacht owner stranded at some port, before coming to Martinique. Sy was also looking to buy some sort of a vessel to sail to Brazil, in time for the World Cup. I talked to Sy while having drinks, and learned that working as a crew member on the yachts was lucrative and easy, since one lived free of charge on the boat year-round, and worked maybe a month's worth, when the owners, mostly of Russian origin, or his guests would grace it with their presence. However, after a few years, Sy became wary of being treated like a door knob by the owners, and decided to start learning how to sail by part-owning a cheap boat. I presumed that Marc might have contemplated getting Sy and his partner Valentine as crew when he bought his yacht, hence his association with Sy.
Marc related that his wife, after spending some weeks in Martinique in rented villas shared by their friends, returned to Switzerland recently, leaving Marc to fulfill his dream of buying a boat and sailing to St Vincent and the Grenadines. I thought the dream is not all that far fetched, it takes a couple of days to get there, and maybe a month to thoroughly exhaust the charms of the Grenadine islands. Then what? Being all alone on a boat does not seem attractive to me (I might be biased!). Marc let us know that his wife was a very good woman, but did not share his enthusiasm of living aboard a boat in their retirement, rather having an appreciation of taking university courses to enhance her general knowledge. Everybody to their tastes!
After some probing we learned that Marc is an accomplished sailor, having owned a boat in Switzerland, going around the lakes. So he did not mind being single handed if need be. And since his ambition is not very deep, and long lasting, he was thinking of returning to his life back in Switzerland after a month or so, leaving the boat somewhere safe at the end of his adventure. I suppose he did not wish to think everything through beforehand, and take things as they would come. I don't know what he might do if he loved the life style.
After a chat for a couple of hours, I invited them to our boat the next evening, to continue our pleasent discourse. He expressed doubt, on account of the damned strike in France, by the union of oil workers. There was a shortage of gas, starting the previous week, which had even affected us, when we tried to fill our cooking gas bottle. Thankfully, we were able to find one of the last full bottles to exchange our empty one a couple of days before.
Anyway, Marc indicated that he was using his tank of gas, driving back and forth between his hotel at Anse D'Arlet, and Le Marin, where the boats and brokers were. He said that it was imperative for him to find some gas (maybe at the black market) soon, since he was going to meet at the airport new friends arriving in two days.
He did come, in the company of Sy and Valentine. Sy is a young New Zealender, while Valentine is a baby faced French lad, who first thing apologized for being French (!), so we promised not to hold it against him.
Valentine was full of stories and ideas. It seemed that the two of them were looking to buy a boat with their combined savings, and reach Brazil, where Sy had some familial association, along with language skills. After Brazil, who knows, the world is their oyster. Isn't it nice to be young and care free?
We had some drinks and food, and a jolly good time! As Marc was supposed to drive back to Arlet, (an hour of winding mountain roads) he did not want to stay too late. When we asked about the source of his gas, while all the stations were still closed, he related that his yacht broker put him in touch with a previous boat owner, who had just sold his boat, but kept his extra jerry jug of diesel, just in case. It became a lucrative decision, having Marc pay double for its contents. However, he was extremely happy. Marc told me that he was prepared to pay 100 Euros if need be, so he did not think it to be expensive, just convenient. Everything is relative to need and dept of pockets.
Since he had enough gas and more than half a day to burn until his friends' arrival the next day, he invited us to visit Cap Chevalier, at the south east coast of Martinique. As a matter of fact, not too far away from St Anne, directy to the east, over the hills. We had tried to visit the small community before, with our friends Levent and Guylaine on a Sunday. Major mistake, since it is a very popular destination for the local week-end crowd, the only narrow road leading to it was cramming with cars, as well as ambulance and police vehicles. It turned out that there had been a fatal drowning accident just then, and the road was blocked.
The day that Marc came was overcast, and a week day, so when we reached the park/beach of Cap Chevalier, there were only a couple of people para-skiing in the pool like confines of the shallow waters sorrounded by reefs. Unbeknownt to us, Marc was thinking of snorkelling around the reefs, and cool off. It was stuffy for a minute when the sun came out, then cold (with my standars) when disappeared, due to the constant unbridled east winds. Not my type of weather to swim. I was happy to walk along the beach, while Marc dipped his toes. Then it started to rain, so we took shelter in a beach bar, devoid of any customers.
It did not take too long for Marc to freeze his butt, and join us to get his car keys to change. Shortly therafter, we went on our way to explore the east coast some more, and turned south a bit. We were amazed to find a small community at the end of the road, comprised of a series of shuttered wooden stalls, which could probably cater to the fishermen; and a coin operated ice dispenser. The bay at the back drop however was amazing.
There was three separate small bays loosely connected, but so unexpedtedly calm and blue, that it was hard to beleive it was the east coast - nothing like the famous Cap Chevalier, altough almost touching its south corner. When I looked at the map, I realized that we had seen Baie Des Anglais. The same bay that our sailor friend Selcuk (the world traveller) had told us to explore by boat, instead of sitting on our bums at St Anne. Unfortunately the east winds never abated until now, and Doyle cautions sailors to refrain from tackling the narrow entrance to the bay if the winds were over 15 knots. So far that kind of weather did not present itself unfortunately. Next time I see Selcuk, I am going to say that we had seen the bay, how is not for him to know.
After a short time, Marc declared that he found the perfect boat, a 35 ft mono-hull, which had just arrived in Le Marin after completing a crossing (presumably Atlantic). Although it was an old boat, it was overhauled nicely, with essential parts, like engine, sails and lines renewed, wooden panels renovated etc. Marc indicated that after looking at the crap boats on the market, he saw the wisdom of snatching this one immediately.
Marc asked his son Nicholas (Nick) to come immediately, to accompany him on his trip to St Vincent, after his friends from Switzerland left Martinique.
Marc and Nick had a wonderful two week sailing trip, around St Lucia and St Vincent, fulfilled his dream living in the "paradise", and was ready to sell his boat in Le Marin. I was dumbfounded to learn that he even found a buyer, two days after advertising for it. It turned out that the buyers had been thinking of buying the boat before Marc had seen it, but were not as quick to act as Marc. All in all, in a total of four weeks, Marc was able to buy his dream boat, do his dream act, and get rid of the boat without spending any money. He is a smart dude, and also a very nice, laid back and gentle soul. Nick as well, so handsome, personable and warm, ready to embark on any adventure. I felt jealous about having a son sharing the dream of the father, and Marc expressed envy about our ability to live the life. We invited both of them to visit us next season, when they felt the oppression of the winter in Switzerland.
I also saw Sy separately, while spending time at the Le Marin marina one day, and learned that he and Valentine had bought a small boat, and were taking off to explore the lee bays of Martinique for a while. He decided that travelling to Brazil for the World Cup would be easier by plane, rather than taking the ardous route among the pirates and other dangers. We wished them well in their adventures.
It appears that Le Marin is a good place to buy or sell a boat!