Here we are, hanging out in St Anne, Martinique, a charming spot that we enjoy visiting. It’s a very nice rural sort of village with a church that dominates the downtown scene.To call it a “town” perhaps overstates things a bit. This is just about all of it and after dark, it’s even smaller when many of the businesses close. Saturday, yesterday, is market day, with all sorts of vendors showing their wares. The Caribbean is known as the “spice islands” and the vendors do not disappoint with a huge variety to choose from. The diminutive scale of the town is not proportional to the size of the harbor, perhaps the largest anchorage in the Caribbean, about 1.5 miles long and a half mile wide. Without a panorama to show all the boats, perhaps a shot of the town dock gives a feel for how many boats there are. You can’t see the other side, but it’s just as packed. In the distance, part of the fleet, several hundred strong. I’d guess that this view is about 10% of the total. Nearby, perhaps a 30 minute run in a dink at high speed, is La Marin, home to a huge marina with more than 1,000 slips. The number of charter boats is daunting. Just one of many piers lined with dozens, no hundreds, of cats and monohulls, standing by and ready for you to jump on board and head out on holiday.
Don’t want to head out for a week long charter? Not to worry, you can charter a motorized floating barbecue for a few hours. We have seen these in the past but never out and about. In the wind, nearly 20kts today, I can’t imagine that these would be a whole lot of fun with the umbrella propelling you along in a way that makes the tiny outboard useless. Don’t like the idea of a black umbrella in the tropical heat? There are other colors to choose from. Problem solved, or as some local T shirts advertise, “Pani Pwoblem”. I am trying to imagine what happens if the grill won’t light. “Roberto, just squirt more lighter fluid on those, sort of smoldering coals. ” Wooosh!!!! Run away! Run? On second thought, SWIM AWAYYYYY!Anyway, St Anne is a nice place to hang out in a less commercial environment and yet still close enough to La Marin to be able to buy most anything you might need.
I’ve been reading about the price of gas in the US going up because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and everyone is stressed by gas over $4.00 a gallon. Here in Martinique it’s a lot more expensive than that.
I purchased about 5 gallons of gas for the dink and our Honda generator, and the total came to over $50, about $9/gallon. So there, you spoiled Americans! One way to get energy gobbling Americans who seem to think that 15mpg is fine for their family car, would be to charge what the rest of the world does for energy. That would sell a lot of compact cars, PDQ. The folks that say they are fine with cars that get terrible mileage often say “I can afford it!” or “You only live once.” Perhaps they would feel differently if it cost $200 to fill that guzzler up every week.
Anyway, off of my soapbox and back to cruising.
On my way back in my dink from shopping and gassing up in La Marin, I passed these unique sailboats racing in the harbor. It seems that they are called Yoles boats and there is a very active racing fleet. These races draw thousands of spectators. Follow this link for a brief overview of their history. They have an interesting sprit rig. It looks like sailing them is pretty energetic with a large crew working hard to keep the boats upright. Note how they are steered. No fancy rudder, just an oar sticking way out the back. With all that sail way up in the bow, I expect that the boat has a lot of weather helm so having the long oar way out back will give it a lot of leverage. Better yet, check out this brief video that gives a pretty good feel for how exciting the races are.And finally, to the topic of this post…
A major focus of cruisers, for many years now, has been connectivity. The ability to get email and stay in touch with family and friends while “off the grid”.
This has been a perennial frustrati and while connectivity gets better each season, increased expectations always seem to outstrip progress. In the past, the first question asked by anyone when they arrived in a harbor was “where is the best wifi”. Now, not so much, with the advent of cellular service that can power a hotspot, offering fairly good access to all but the largest files. Having said that, the service quality can change hour to hour, sometimes amazing and sometimes less so…
In spite of things getting better it is still amazing how much data you can purchase for a reasonable cost in the islands. While fuel is hugely expensive, when compared to the US, data is a pretty reasonably priced. For about $45 we get 70 gigs of data for a month, more than enough for most applications with the possible exception of watching movies every night.
The ability to do a blog post from the boat or a zoom meeting with family, all without worrying constantly about running out of data, is a real improvement over years past.
A standout, and not in a good way, on the data front for us, was when we were in Cuba in 2016 and there was no way to use our cell phone or even have access to wifi any kind for the entire two months that we were there. Being in Cuba was a wonderful experience overall, but it was hugely tempered by being nearly totally isolated from family for the entire time.
Here we are, a little over 5 years later and we can talk to family every day, sometimes more than once and even use video in some areas. It’s a huge change and certainly one for the better.
In spite of the vast improvement in connectivity, it can be very frustrating as service quality varies greatly from hour to hour and place to place. In some areas we can easily watch videos and download the current issues of the NY Times, Wallstreet Journal and Times of London to keep up on the latest news. In other areas, not so much.
As an example, for this post, I did a search to learn more about the Yoles boats and previewed the video that I embedded above. A few years ago there was no way that I could do that from aboard Pandora. Now I can.
Yes, being aboard and cruising for the winter involves accepting that we are not nearly as well connected as we are in the US but after years of searching for Wifi ashore to get even access to email, it is a huge improvement to be able to do most everything we wish from aboard, albeit in moderation lest we run out of the allowable data before the end of the month.
Who knows what the next few years will bring but I am sure that it will be great. The big question will be if the reality will fall short of our ever expanding desire to remain in touch.
For now, between my Google Fi phone and the Digicell data plan, at least we feel more connected than ever. I can only imagine what lies ahead and hope that we are still cruising to enjoy what will come.
Besides, when temperatures drop to the low double digits at home, it’s nice to be here, spending time swimming and visiting Tiki bars to watch the sun go down, like this one, a few steps from the dinghy dock.
I think I’ll have another Lorraine and make that a 50cl grande. See, I can speak French after all. For now, we are making the best of what we have and are enjoying sharing video calls with family, especially our three grandchildren Tori, Rhette and Emme.
It’s so great when we ask, “can you hear me now” and they say YES! Well, at least some of the time. It’s better than it was and for now so I’ll take it.