Martinique (French Caribbean) – Fort De France / Point Du Bout (15-24 May 2016)
My Former Life Comes to Visit
After a 30 hour sail and our near death collision on arriving at Fort Du France we were keen to get off the boat and ashore, where a well deserved dinner out and Malcolm and Dave T were waiting for us. We’d anchored on the other side of the channel to the Fort at a place called Point Du Bout near their hotel. Malc was part of the small team I had worked for at MOD Abbey Wood in Bristol and Dave worked for BAE Systems as one the MOD’s contractors. Dave had actually waved us off from Falmouth, England when we had first set sail on our adventure and been following the blog ever since.
It was ironic to be sat in Martinique while they were here working and supporting one of the RN ships that I used to look after. Usually it was me gallivanting around the globe on corporate business, but now I was sat here as a spectator to the latest dry docking drama listening to the problems with the propeller shaft without a care in the world. I had loved my previous job but this only confirmed that I didn’t miss it one bit. Constantly running around at a 100 miles per hour trying to fix as many things as possible and striving to fit in a personal life. I didn’t know how to relax as I was always on the move.
Now I get up leisurely and enjoy breakfast in the cockpit with my BF surrounded by fresh air, sunshine and ripples of water instead of cramming in a cereal bar during the polluted traffic jam drive to work. Scrumpy is walked along the beach for an hour at least and enjoys a swim rather than the 15 minute dash to the green in the dark at 7am. I might do a few boat chores, some hand washing or a food shop followed by an afternoon swim and a lay down and then watch the sunset over the horizon before a candle light dinner. No wonder I don’t miss it and haven’t come home yet and I don’t have any plans to return for good yet either! (Don’t panic Mum & Dad I will come home at some point!)
It was great seeing Malc and Dave we had an amazing meal of raw meat that we cooked at the table on a hot stone, with enough steak for Scrumpy to get spoilt rotten too. We chatted the evening away by the bar and Dave was pleased to question us on all the gaps and blanks in the blog. He even got filled in on all the gossip that gets edited out for censorship reasons! I’m so glad we made the effort to do a big sail down so that we could spend a few days with them before they head back to the UK.
The next day we meet up again in the evening for drinks this time with the addition of Darren, Dave’s colleague who I met briefly before handing in my notice and Brian, a subcontractor who I knew well. Simon was plied with beers all night and Malc let me use his hotel shower as we’d run out of water on board a few days ago and we couldn’t fill up due to it being a bank holiday. It had one of those huge shower heads which down poured a heavy stream of hot water over me. It was pure bliss, just like a Herbal Essence advert, I didn’t want to get out. I took full advantage and even shaved my legs while I was there, what a luxury compared to usual cold rinse on the back of the boat. Don’t worry Malc I didn’t use your razor!…… & can I just add that Malc was at the bar with everyone else while I was making noises of satisfaction in his shower I don’t want any inappropriate comments to be flung around the Abbey Wood office!
Once the bank holiday was over we filled up with water in the local marina and then decided to move over to the Fort anchorage on the Northern side of the channel. The BAE boys were busy undocking their ship, so we thought we’d keep out of their hair for a bit. Unlike the awful passage to get up the river on our arrival it was a lovely 30 minute sail straight across. With impeccable timing we also saw Malcolm passing by on the ferry 200 metres away as we entered the anchorage. He was on his way back to get his flight home so we got to wave him goodbye true Boat Hobo style and prove that we could actually sail, so I am hoping he will go back with lots of exciting tales of our adventure to tell all my former colleagues in Bristol. Although I am long gone I often think of them and hope they are still enjoying reading the blog.
It did seem a bit odd that Malc was missing the undocking of his ship but apparently the MOD bosses are cracking down on overseas travel, so your expected to provide assurance during ships maintenance periods from your desk thousands of miles from the vessel. Another thing I don’t miss is the bureaucracy of it all. Anyway the contractors all assured me that any tax payer’s money saved from sending Malc home early would just be added to the MOD funded work that Malc wasn’t there to vet…. So it’s all swings and roundabouts! (That’s a little MOD joke by the way, so no one gets their knickers in a twist I don’t want to get sued for libel). Maybe the MOD should have paid me on a short-term contract instead after all I’m already here no travel needed.
Over the next few days we relaxed and enjoyed being on the anchor. Simon went off into town to buy me some birthday presents and I did some much needed hand washing. I even did all the bedding so that I could wake up on my birthday surrounded by nice clean fresh smelling sheets. It’s all about the little perks when you live on a boat.
Back in March when my mum had visited in Antigua she had brought me birthday cards ready for 19th May. Now officially being a grown up I don’t really get excited about birthdays, but being so far from home and family & friends the thought of some messages from those I love had me feeling like a child on Christmas morning. I was so eager I woke up at 6:30am and couldn’t contain myself so immediately opened them.
Simon had wrapped up all my pressies in lovely paper and I opened them all in bed. He’d done a brilliant job and bought me lots of lovely treats, apart from a rather disgusting old lady dress that my 73 year old mum would wear. I had asked for something that my baby bump could grow into and it certainly met those criteria but with a high neckline & below the knee length I felt like a fat, frumpy, unattractive nun. At least he had tried I should have been a bit more specific, I mean my bump could have been accommodated in a bin liner.
We enjoyed Nutella and banana pancakes for breakfast with fresh coffee and a naked swim around the boat, which was overlooked by the historic Fort and a palm backed little beach. What a wonderful start to the day.
Together we wondered around the town where I got to change my dress for something much more pretty and cute. Late afternoon we moved back to Point Du Bout as there was more choice of restaurant and we went for a romantic meal just the two of us, making the most of our time together before we have another little person to be responsible for. Unlike previous birthdays which had been spent getting obliterated by booze this one was devoted to eating myself into a food induced coma followed by a few non-alcoholic drinks with Dave T. At about 11pm Simon and I walked back to the dingy dock hand in hand tired and satisfied ready to crawl into bed for a cuddle.
Boat Repairs, Upgrades & Goodbyes
After a few days R&R (rest & recuperation) it was time to get down to some serious boat repairs and upgrades. In Antigua we bought a big sheet of foam and some Sunbrella material to replace all our ripped and knackered cockpit cushions. With only a couple of weeks until Simon’s friend Nick and his girlfriend Catherine were coming to stay we were keen to get everything ship shape for their arrival. I spent two solid days working 9 hours cutting fabric and sewing it on the machine, managing to finish 3 out of 4 cushions. I’d never made them before so it was a learning curve but they looked great. Simon undertook some much needed repairs on the engine as the dreaded hole in the exhaust manifold is slowly reappearing and there were some more repairs to be done on some tears in the sails. Luckily for us Dave and the guys let us use their air conditioned office making it so much easier to get stuff done instead of us overheating and getting in each others way manoeuvring around a tiny little sweat box. Scrumpy wasn’t a big fan of the noise the A/C made though so decided the best place for him was to hide behind the bin in the corner of the room ….. he can be a strange dog sometimes! I found it pretty tiring being at a desk all day and my brain felt frazzled towards the end, clearly I am now fully adjusted to my leisurely existence.
On their last night we went out for dinner and drinks again with Dave, Darren and Brian. The entire time we’ve been here none of them have let us pay for a single drink. Simon has been topped up with beer every night. We have been overwhelmed by their generosity and help and loved spending the week here with them. Dave in particular has become a good friend rather than a former colleague and we are hoping to bump into him and his wife in New York next year if all goes to plan.
We were sad to say goodbye, but looking forward to going back to reality. All these late nights had taken their toll, as we’re not used to it. Also the cockpit cushions were looking amazing and I couldn’t wait to have some evenings on board enjoying them.