Our time in Martinique is coming to an end.

Tomorrow Brenda and I hope to head south to St Lucia, our next to last stop before we begin thinking about the end of the season and a return to CT.   I say “we hope” as the wind is expected to be a bit “sporty” which will make for a difficult run but it’s not all that far, about 25 miles. And the wind will be from the beam so Pandora should ride fairly well with a reef in the main, or perhaps two.

An additional complicating fact is that we have to have a rapid Covid test before we leave here and can’t arrive at the marina more than 24 hours after testing.  We can’t wait till tomorrow to see what the wind is like as the pharmacy isn’t open on Sunday.   While the wind should be less than the winds today, gusting near 30kts, it will still be in the high teens with gusts into the 20s, more wind than I’d like.   That’s not particularly fun so we will have to see how it goes.  Fortunately, bad or not so bad, it’s not all that far to where we will be in the lee of St Lucia.

At this point, Brenda and I are pretty much ready for some pampering at the Marigot Bay Resort, our destination, and are also looking forward to being in a more protected area out of the relentless winds that we’ve seen since we arrived in St Anne.

In the evenings the wind is generally a bit calmer and we always enjoy watching the sunsets.  A few nights ago the view from Pandora’s cockpit was particularly dramatic following a squall that had passed us earlier in the evening.

Behold the glory of nature!  You can almost hear the choir of angels belting out a dramatic chorus.   Always on the lookout for great cloud photos, I summitted this one to the Cloud Appreciation Society to be considered as one of their “Cloud a Day” images.  They share a photo of a cloud every day to their 55,000+ members.  I have submitted a number of photos this season and most were rejected.  However, I learned a few weeks ago that they will be sending out one of my images next Sunday, my second.  When you consider how many members there are and they can only use 365 photos a year, getting mine chosen is a pretty big deal.

We are now into the last month of our cruising season here and we began talking about what we would do with Pandora at the end of the season, shortly after arriving in Antigua.   I was only about half of the way to Antigua last fall when I decided that I needed a break from the slog back and forth and we thought taking her to Trinidad made sense.

That all seemed like a good idea but as we began to think about all the details and costs associated with having someone else do so many of the jobs on Pandora it began to be less of an obvious decision.   I won’t go into all the details that went into our decision but Pandora’s heading north yet again.

So, off we head tomorrow, I hope, to Marigot Bay resort for some luxury time on the dock at a four star resort, time at the pool and to enjoy some meals out.  All, while the AC hums away aboard Panodra and we have unlimited water, hot and cold.

We’ve been there before and for the budget minded, taking a mooring for $30/day gives you the run of the place.  We are going to splurge and go on the dock at about $1/ft per day.  It’s still a steal and less than a mooring most anywhere in New England.  They even have room service on the dock and I expect good wifi.  Movie time anyone?  Take a look at this place?We also hope head a bit farther south to Bequia (pronounced Bekway) for a bit and then return to Marigot in early April where we will leave Pandora for a few weeks.   At that point, both Brenda and I will head back home, open up the house and get the kitchen stuff moved to prepare for the renovation to begin.  New floors, counter tops and painted cabinets are on the list.  It’s going to take a few months to complete the job so we want to get going in early May with the hope that it doesn’t take the entire summer to complete the job.

After a few weeks in CT, I will head back to St Lucia in late April or early May to rejoin Pandora and begin the run north.   My friend Craig will fly back with me and we will make our way north to where we will hook up Alex, my other crew for the run north with the Rally.  The rally is expected to depart from St John this year on May 10th, when we hope to head north to the Chesapeake.

I have mentioned in previous posts that I need to replace the house battery bank and want to upgrade from AGM lead acid to lithium.  This is a fairly big deal as the new batteries will require some different charging equipment and they are also slightly different in dimensions.  The good news is that by replacing the four 8D AGM batteries with Lithium will actually save some 500 lbs and offer us more usable power.

I am told that these batteries, current state of the art, will likely last for longer than I will own the boat, and that assumes that I live to be quite old.  I do hope to live a long time but I am realistic about the number of years I will still be sailing.  Well, perhaps not all that realistic but the good news is that the next owner will have a functional bank with lots of remaining life.

Our time in Martinique has been more than a month and we have seen more of the island than during any other past visit.

A few days ago we rented a car with our friends Jim and Stephanie on Hero.They moved aboard last May and will be sailing the southern Caribbean this coming summer, south of the Hurricane belt and expect to be back in Antigua next November when the fall Rally fleet returns.  Me too…

We visited one of our favorite distilleries, Clement.    It’s quite a place with an elaborate sculpture garden.  As you enter the grounds you are greeted by a dramatic row of palms. As you wander, you pass a reflecting pond.    The sculptures that are placed on the grounds are quite large, like this 8′ tall mask beautifully sited on the edge of the pond. From across the way, the “mask”, in the distance, is framed by this piece. I thought that the siting for this trio was perfect.  I understand that the crops in the distance are rotated between bananas and sugar cane to keep yields high. Another dramatic view was these two 12-15′ high wire pieces.Thinking about that ficus plant you left in your office at the beginning of the pandemic?  I expect that it didn’t fare as well as this one.  And, speaking of “house plants gone wild”, how about this strangling fig?  It’s certainly  living up to it’s name. A display garden, with sugar cane and an old narrow gauge steam engine once used to move freshly cut cane to the factory.  It’s always a rush to process cane as it begins to ferment within hours of being cut.  And, speaking of the factory, this equipment has been long abandoned with production now in nearby modern buildings.  The old steam machinery and distillery are still open for viewing.  These gears once connected a huge steam engine to the cane crushers and other equipment connected by long belts that snaked through the building.

Being around all this exposed equipment must have been hugely dangerous. I read that when working near a cane crushing machine there was always an ax handy just in case someone got their hand in the gears, so that the arm could be swiftly cut off to avoid being fully pulled into the machine and crushed.  What an image.A riot of pipes and pulleys. The huge fermentation vats, each a dozen feet across. Below the building displaying the old factory equipment, a tasting room.   Try all you like at no charge but be prepared to elbow your way to the bar.  Not a lot of social distancing. And some huge warehouses with giant wood barrels for the early aging of the rum.  I have no idea how many barrels one of these holds but they were perhaps 20′ tall.  That’s a lot of rum.Later the rum is transferred into smaller barrels where the rum ages for years and sometimes decades.  A lot of rum being prepared for market. As you can imagine, this sort of production was a source of great wealth and the Clement family was quite well off.  This was the family home up until the middle of of the 20th century.  The place is a picture of elegant tropical living. With beautiful plantings all around.  Of course, their home was up-wind from the factory. We purchased a good stash to share with friends.  “would you care for a tot of rum, imported to the US aboard SV Pandora?”

A friend suggested that we visit the banana museum, and we did.  I’ll admit that I was skeptical but we went anyway and it was very interesting.   I won’t bore you with a litany of how many types there are except to say “I had n0 idea”.

They have a very nice garden with many varieties represented.Well maintained cement pathways winding through a variety of bananas from all over. The views were really beautiful and very lush.On the nearby hillside, many, many bananas.  Bananas that set their fruit in a remarkable spiral. I was struck by the way the fruit grew on this variety.  Sort of like an upside down layer cake.  Many bananas that are only eaten cooked.  Actually, that’s the bulk of the types.  Not sweet.  The type we see in our markets is plantain.   They look like the sweet ones but taste like a raw potato unless cooked.

Some are very tiny.The type that is most commonly grown and the vast bulk sold worldwide are Cavendish.  They are actually clones, all genetically identical and set fruit asexually meaning that they do not need to be pollinated and never develop seeds.

Each stalk is individually wrapped in a plastic bag to protect them from insects and to promote faster growth.  When the fruit is ripe the part of the plant that bloomed dies and is replaced by a sucker that grows up from the bottom bulb.   Along with the Marigot Bay Resort, we are looking forward to touring St Lucia and again visiting a restaurant that has arguably among the best views anywhere. It overlooks the Pitons, long extinct volcanic cones that rise up dramatically, dominating the landscape. It’s been great visiting Martinique but it’s time to move on.

Let’s hope that the run isn’t all that sporty after all.  Good luck with that!

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