Around 130 AD the Arawaks arrived from South America and settled in Martinique. There was no custom or immigration forms to complete, they just came and set up shop near Mt. Pelee. Maybe that was a mistake. Mt. Pelee erupted (didn’t like the immigrants?) around 295 AD and nearly wiped out the Arawaks. The Arawak’s luck wasn’t any better when the Caribs landed on the island around 600 AD. They nearly wiped out the Arawaks also. Christopher Columbus charted the island in 1493 but didn’t land on it until his 4th voyage in 1502. He came, he saw, and left some pigs and goats and then left. Apparently, the Spanish were not impressed with what they found. One hundred and thirty-five years later, 1635, French citizens from St. Kitts arrived and set up shop near Mt. Pelee. They liked what they saw and expanded their agricultural products while pushing the native Caribs to the east side of the island. By 1660 the pesky Caribs were no more. Twenty-five years later, 1685, the local crop was sugar and it was so profitable they brought in slaves (nothing like cheap labor to make it profitable) to “help” with the harvest. Sugar was more valuable than gold (or diamonds). This attracted the attention of the Dutch and English like bears to a honey pot. Needless to say, this resulted in typical human actions, namely multiple military actions.
In 1672, Louis XIV built a fort, Fort St Louis, at Fort Royal Bay (it’s good to be king and name a fort after yourself). The town, Fort Royal, was built in a malaria swamp. At least it wasn’t near Mt. Pelee. In any case, the next 200 years saw military actions, multiple Anglo-Dutch wars, the Seven Years Wars, revolutions, the Napoleonic Wars, slave revolts, hurricanes, rhum, pirates, yellow fever epidemics, and the birth of Josephine in Les Trois-Ilets. By 1848 Fort Royal became Fort de France, slavery was abolished the malaria swamp was filled in and the town competed with St. Pierre (in the shadow of Mt. Pelee) for commerce and population. Paul Gaugain came and painted some great works. The great iron and glass Schoelcher Library building was disassembled in France and reconstructed in Fort de France. It is still there despite a fire in 1890 that destroyed much of city. The balance was done in by a hurricane the next year.
Not to be outdone, Mt. Pelee erupted in 1902 killing 29,000 people. The island survived, hurricanes came and reshaped the land, World Wars occurred (the movie “To Have and Have Not” was based on Hemingway’s story of a fisherman in Fort de France) and today, as a French Department, it is subsidized by the national government and developed into a great French tourist destination. Some regard this French subsidy as reparations for its involvement over the last 500 years. Others thank retired French chefs for the restaurants they open here.
All this is to say we first landed in Martinique in March of 2015 at St. Pierre and find the history of this island very interesting. The specific history of the islands explains a lot about their current affairs and circumstances. This year we stopped at St. Pierre, Trois-Ilets, Grand Anse, and St Anne. We will return in April when our daughter and son-in-law visit us. I only wish I could speak French, although buddy boating with ROXY has been a great help. Lynn has perfected her French to the point that we know what to eat, where to find things and, in general, don’t act like ugly Americans. Thanks Lynn!
After we went to the Carnaval in Fort de France and sailed from Trois-Ilets, we spent a few days in Grand Anse D’Arlet, a small picturesque sea-side French village. Beautiful Les Anses-D’Arlet is just a dinghy ride around the headlands away. Both feature beach front restaurants, good swimming, snorkeling and great sunsets. The day before we sailed out, light winds and currents brought in mats of Sargassum seaweed. The last time this happened to us was in Joist Van Dyke in the BVI’s. Fortunately, the mats do move on but eventually come ashore and present a real problem for beaches. Presently there is no solution to this problem.
On the way to St. Anne, you have to sail around the south-west corner of Martinique and round Diamond Rock. If you are sailing south, you may have some good wind until you round Point du Diamant, then head winds for 10 miles to St. Anne. If you head west from St Anne, you have a down wind run to Diamond then you have head winds after rounding it. Diamond Rock is named, obviously enough, because it looks like cut diamond from a distance. Having rounded this a number of times, I thought of other things about this rock other than diamonds. How the British lifted cannons up to the top in one of the many Special Military Operations at the time is one of them. But much like looking at clouds, Diamond Rock seems to have many faces imbedded into it. If only they could talk! Maybe they would fill in some interesting historical details of Martinique that I may have left out. Next time we sail by I’ll look for more and maybe ask them some questions.
Well, we had French Sailors Night Sun Downers on the beach front bar with cruising friends on ROXY, PANDORA and MARIPOSSARAH II.
It was a fun time with a great Green Flash sunset! I’m convinced, that if Columbus stayed longer, he would have enjoyed Martinique as much as we have.
One thought on “Martinique”
Looking forward to your arrival in St. Lucia……I am still ensconced at The Landings….so when and if you need a HOT shower….I have them….no hot water at the marina..at least for now………
My heart is broken beyond repair, so most days are “tough” to get a smile working, but I am hopeful that I get my head screwed back on even if my heart can’t be repaired……..63 years with Bob Perry was just not enough.