|The anchorage at Fort de France, Martinique. Internet photo|
To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.
On April 21st, we sailed from Ste. Anne to Fort de France, to clear customs to leave Martinique. While we were in Fort de France, a boat named Lyra arrived. We had been anchored near Lyra for about a month in St. Maarten, but had only met Sandra and Leo when we were leaving the island. The day after Lyra arrived in Martinique, I invited them over to Tropic Moon for drinks.
Sandra’s first comment, when she climbed on board, was to mention that the boat people in Martinique must be really lonely. While they were still putting down their anchor, a boat they didn’t know invited them over for drinks. Then some people on a powerboat extended a dinner invitation, to follow after Sandra and Leo had drinks with us. Rather than be cool about it, and say I’d just wanted to see them again, I started telling them they wouldn’t believe how lonely I’d been. I missed having a conversation with someone who spoke English.
Sandra and Leo were from Montreal (where he was in electronics, and she was a psychologist). In 3-1/2 years, they had sailed Lyra as far south as Martinique. We had finally met someone who traveled as slow as us…. Whenever Leo and Sandra were running low on funds, they stopped and worked. They’d spent eight months in Puerto Rico, where Leo had a carpentry job. They had just been in St. Barths (a French island) for four months, while Sandra worked in a boutique. They’re bilingual in French and English; Leo also speaks Dutch, as he was originally from Holland. While in St. Barths, Leo rewired a house for a man who collected solar panels. Leo took one in payment for that job, so Lyra, like us, charged with solar energy.
We bonded with Sandra and Leo. We talked about the loneliness, the boredom, and the alienation from the life back home – as well as the many good parts of the cruising life. We talked about politics, and religion, and not having children. We both had some funny stories on that last one. The people of the islands placed a high importance on having children. We were frequently asked if we had kids. I told one taxi driver that no, I didn’t have children, and didn’t want any. He snapped back that I’d better not let my husband hear me talking like that! He mellowed, and then waxed eloquent, after I asked him if he had kids. He described his little daughter to me, obviously the prettiest and brightest child there ever was! Large families were popular. My “vegetable lady” in Grenada, and my “laundry lady” in Antigua each had ten children.
I asked Sandra how she answered the question. She said she’d given up trying to explain about birth control pills. She just shrugged her shoulders. Sandra and Leo had spent four months in Haiti, probably the poorest island in the Caribbean. While the Haitians were the poorest people they’d ever met, they were also the happiest and, in Sandra and Leo’s opinions, the most beautiful, physically, of all the islanders they’d seen. Children and family were very important on Haiti. Because Lyra stayed there several months, they became well known to the local people. There was general concern that Sandra and Leo didn’t have children. Leo said that after several months in the Bahamas, he had lost a lot of weight, and was skin and bones by the time they reached Haiti. People looked at Sandra, and looked at Leo, and decided he was the one with the problem. Several people approached him to offer potions to help him out! Even the immigration officer was concerned, and told Sandra there were good doctors on the island who dealt with those types of problems.
Having company on a boat was a far cry from having company in a house. We had to think about weather, and other environmental considerations. The anchorage at Fort de France had the tendency to be very rolly, and this night was one of the worst. All the boats in the harbor were rocking heavily from side to side. We were sitting in our cockpit when the people on the powerboat, who had invited Sandra and Leo for dinner, came by in their dingy. They said they had to cancel, because it was too rough to cook. Our new friends were disappointed, so I invited them to stay and have dinner with us. They accepted. Ed, who was thinking a little more clearly than me (too much rum & coke), asked me what I planned on fixing. I said, not to worry, and headed down below. I quickly realized how difficult it was going to be to cook, despite the gimballed stove. It was too late for my company quiche, which takes an hour to bake. I decided on a tuna, macaroni, and cucumber salad. The only part needing cooking was the macaroni. With French bread, a cake I’d baked earlier, and the bottle of wine Lyra had planned on taking to the powerboat, we managed fine.