Coral hopping on the East Coast

Martinique has an unbelievable number of yachts in its waters. That said , the anchorages are so roomy that it doesnt seem crowded , but it is a bit like the Solent on a sunny day and gives the place a holiday feel . We on the other hand are on a rapid Cooks tour of the island as Peter only has limited time , so apart from a midday snooze ( I think we are still catching up on our sleep debt) we are putting in the miles.

Peter was very keen to visit the East coast of Martinique . Uniquely amongst these islands it has a coral reef which partly protects its east coast from the Atlantic weather. I say “partly ” as the Doyles guides just say “Dont go , its too dangerous!” and even the very expensive French pilot which I surreptitiously read in the chandlery advises avoiding in all but settled weather and low swell. I bought a chart which shows fairly obvious passes through the reef into what looked like glorious gunkholing anchorages midst the coral , but it was also covered in areas that were marked as unserveyed or partially surveyed.

Well , we went , starting out early with a forecast of 10 to 15 Easterly and arriving at the passage through the reef with the sun still in the east so that we could see the bottom. At least that was the theory , but a series of squalls reaching 27 knots cut up the seas so that Lynda , standing in the bows was getting soaked and unable to see much at all. We reduced sail to a triple reefed mainsail to keep the speed down and in reality the navigation was pretty easy with a few buoys and some pretty obvious topography. Our eventual anchorage was our best yet – anchored in a little indentation behind a sandy reef with the sea going from the turquoise over the sand , to the brown and orange of the reef , back to turquoise and the deep deep blue flecked with white of the deeper water the other side. Outside the entrance on the outer reef is a single sand Island ( Loup Garou) with two palm trees that must have come from central casting labelled “desert island”! Unlike the thousands of yachts on the Western side – we saw 2 others sailing and there are 3 or 4 anchored in various little bays around us.

It would be good to spend a week or more swimming , canoeing and generally exploring this coast but we will have to move on if Peter is to catch his plane – so no doubt we will be back.

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