Thursday June 20th, 2002
Exploring Anse Mitan, Martinique
Curt opted to take a stab at fixing the
engine before calling in a professional. As expected, Sean
had kept all the manuals and apparently they've got troubleshooting
guides inside. So while Curt tears apart the boat, I pack
up the laundry and head off with a bag of dirty clothes slung
over one shoulder.
I walk through the quaint little village
with brightly painted shops reminiscent of gingerbread houses.
It appears this will be our current home (at least until we
fix the engine). Upon arriving at the Laundromat, I'm greeted
by a jolly, rosy cheeked man rattling off to me in French.
Slowly (trying to look apologetic) I explain that I only speak
English. My previous experiences in France prepared me for
his jovial demeanor to turn to terseness and impatience when
he discovered I'm not French. On the contrary, he said "Ah-ha!"
with a laugh, and struggled to explain the process and pricing
for his laundry service using his limited English. With lots
of hand gestures, pointing and laughing, we communicated
well- okay anyway. It turned out he would wash dry, and fold
our laundry for us for a small fee. He was so nice, I was
happy to give him the business. Whatever small guilt I carried
about not doing it myself was admonished by the knowledge
that soon enough, there will be no Laundromats at all where
we're headed and I'll be washing our clothes by hand in a
Having unexpectedly just freed up a few
hours of my time, I went on a walking tour of the little village.
Now this I DID feel guilty about since Curt was buried up
to his ears in Force Five's engine! Anse Mitan certainly seemed
to be geared towards the tourist trade, with lots of souvenir
shops, small boutiques, creperies, and pattisteries. Over
and over, I was surprised to find everyone smiling as they
tried to speak with me in their limited English. Those that
knew no English still seemed to rattle on congenially in French,
while pointing and nodding. I guess they were still hoping
to find themselves useful even though I couldn't' understand
any of it? In any regard, the friendly French left me overwhelmingly
I returned to the boat to find Curt scratching
his head over engine matters. I'm sure he could explain in
greater detail what he'd done, but my layman's understanding
is that he'd changed some filters, bled the engine, and shortened
a hose. It seemed to be working again, though we are both
too superstitious to have assumed it was entirely fixed- though
it certainly did seem so.
That night, in cautious- sort-of, but not
really, celebration- we decided to eat out. I put on a dress
and Curt a button down shirt, and we headed to the ferry dock
where we heard we'd find a number of restaurants. There were
several, though all seemed nearly empty. We found a livelier
one, Village Creole, where we were greeted by a homey atmosphere,
candlelight, and our host: yet another smiling, nodding Frenchman.
He led us to a table on the outdoor, picket-fenced porch.
It wrapped around a very small garden with a tiny stage in
the corner. There sat a guitar and amplifier system. The backdrop
to the stage had been painted to look like a rolling European
hillside (in the manner of the Sound of Music ala puppet show).
And a cement dance floor sat in the middle of the garden surrounded
by immaculately manicured shrubs and flower bushes. The waitresses
wore the native madras dress trimmed in lace (madras is the
brightest colored plaid). Friendly, they were the sort that
only spoke French to us
but they seemed to understand
our requests using the pointing method of communication. After
Curt and I enjoyed our Creole crayfish and lobster, our host
appeared on stage. It seemed he would be our entertainment.
After a long speech (in French), it appeared he was introducing
his first song. Then the neatly pressed, gangly man, balding
and wearing glasses, began his repertoire with Sting's "Fields
of Gold" sung in English while couples swayed back on
forth together on the dance floor. After receiving a standing
ovation, our host went on to play a repertoire of French love
songs, of which Curt and I only could bare to stay awake through
a few before heading off to bed.
Friday June 21st, 2002
The Engine's Still On the Fritz and We're Hit Up for a Bougie
Today's Friday and we planned to head further
down the coast to Marin at the southern tip of Martinique.
We got so far as stowing everything away, taking off the sail
cover, and putting on our ball caps and sunscreen before we
started the engine to find that it was not, in fact, fixed.
With a sigh, we put the sail cover back on, hopped in the
dinghy and went in search of the Yanmar mechanic. Thankfully,
he spoke a bit of English, but regretfully, he can't come
look have a look until Monday.
On the way back to the boat we had the ol',
"So what do you want to do today?" conversation.
We settled on a dinghy adventure and went exploring without
a plan. A little ways south of our anchorage we found another
little bay, Anse a L'Ane. There was a little holiday resort
there, and it seemed lots of locals use this as their own
afternoon hang-out. A gaggle of high school kids were playing
in the water and lying under the shade of a tree. We found
a table at a little beachside café and had a light
That evening, we watched the sunset with
a bottle of wine, baguette, and some cheese for dinner. The
quaint little bar on the dock we anchored near was alight
with candles placed all around as people gathered for "sundowner"
cocktails. Curt was telling me a story when I noticed a dark
haired French boy I had seen around town rowing our direction.
I think it was his boat that was on a mooring off our port
side: a 15' footish trimarin I had seen him aboard once or
twice. This evening, he was with another boy his age- about
eleven or twelve I'd guess. His friend was a red head with
freckles sprinkled all over his cheeks. I lost track of what
Curt was saying as it became certain that the two boys were
indeed headed for our stern. As their little rowboat sidled
up against Force Five, I leaned over the side and greeted
them with "Bon Jour." In English, but with quite
a thick accent, the dark haired boy asked if we had (something
a fire in a tube?" Of course, Curt
and I exchanged perplexed looks and turned back to him quizzically.
"A lighter do you mean?"
"No, no madam." He turned to his
friend for help. They deliberated in French and kept repeating
the word, "Bougie" (pronounced, boo-jee). The two
of them were making cylindrical shaped hand gestures towards
us and kept repeating words like, "fire" and "light"
and "in tube".
Curt and I became engaged in a game of charades:
he was below passing items up to me that I would show to the
boys to see if it was what they needed. "Flashlight?"
"Lightbulb?" "Matches?" But they would
just shake their heads no and kept repeating bougie.
Finally, I had an idea. I asked Curt for
our nautical almanac which has a small translation section
for boat terms in French, Spanish, and German. I started to
flip the pages looking for what it might be and the boys said,
"Ah! Yes, yes!" and helped me flip through the terms.
Finally I found the word bougie. "A sparkplug!"
They looked at the word and we all said "Yes! Yes!"
and started to laugh.
"Curt? Do we have a spare sparkplug?"
Sadly after all of that, we didn't have one for them. Their
shoulders slumped as they returned to their deliberations
in French. They finally said thank you with warm smiles and
waves, and started to row back to the dock.
Curt and I sat back down in the cockpit
and just laughed. Why on earth would these two boys come to
us for a sparkplug? There were probably forty boats with French
flags nearer to the dock they had just rowed from, and at
least ten French yachties in the bar. So they come all the
way out here to us (with our American boat) and inquire about
a bougie. Go figure.
That night, I lay in the cockpit reading
my book and watched the two boys row by us several times to
the little trimarin
always waving and smiling with an
eager, "Hello!" It was getting later and later-
and we finally realized they must be sleeping out on their
boat tonight. I was totally enchanted by them. From Force
Five, I could see that they must not have any electricity
as flashlights danced around the ceiling of their cabin and
out their windows. We could hear them laughing and chatting
in French from afar as they dangled their feet over one of
the pontoons of their boat and fished. I suppose their little
boat served as their version of their clubhouse. I tried to
imagine what they must be talking about.
I was washing my face and brushing
my teeth before bed when I heard them shouting excitedly to
each other. I peeked out from our companionway to see that
they had caught a fish. As I lay in bed trying to sleep, I
smiled to myself as I heard them even still trying to land
yet another catch. From Huck Finn in the southern United States
long ago, to a little modern day French boy on a Caribbean
island- I guess the world really hasn't change as much as
one might think.