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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 bucket.

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 pleasantly surprised.

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 lunch.

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 like) "… 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.

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