So the goal had been to spend Christmas in Martinique and things had aligned for once: the visa, the weather... We arrived in Le Marin full of excitement after an exhilarating sail at 6 knots. We had been taken aback by the number of sailboats in this town, in the marina and at anchor over the two anchorages. But that's all in the previous post!

It was December 23rd 2o22. We checked in at the marina after being cut in line by a nice charter dude who took forever to fill out the online form... Welcome back to France! The check-in process is pretty unique. You sort of self-check-in and out on a computer located in places as exotic as a bar or restaurant, they print it out and stamp the form for you, you pay 5€ and you're done. How about a stamp on Yalçın's passport? Not their problem really... Alright! Doesn't seem like this visa was such a big deal in the end...

Christmas in Martinique

It was the first time Yalçın was coming to France (except for a short layover in Paris airport) and neither of us had visited the other's country yet, which of course was something we were excited about. Show the other all the little things that would seem usual to a local but are actually what defines a country. For years, we had shared such stories about groceries, food, the way things work, road signs... the list is long and hard to remember as it is just random things of daily life. Another big thing I had tried to describe to Yalçın was Christmas: again the food and the usage... what better way to share that than having a Christmas together in France! Of course, the family part was missing like the previous years, and it's a big part of the celebration, but we'd be one step closer to what I had described.

Baguette sandwich, fresh viennoiseries for breakfast, journal and groceries in known stores, and walks around the small town of Le Marin, we busied ourselves with domestic tasks for our first few days in Martinique.

Yalçın discovering the French lifestyle
Breakfast and apéro
My favorite Christmas decoration

On the 24th, I took out the few Christmas decorations we had gotten in Panama last year - hard to set a Christmas mood with tropical weather - and prepared a dinner for Christmas Eve. At the end of the afternoon, I used the Martinique SIM card we had just gotten to call my family, who gathered at different parties to celebrate. It had started but was making the dinner just the two of us a little sad. To cheer me up, Yalçın made Ali Nazik the next day, a delicious Turkish dish based on beef, eggplant on the fire and yogurt. It had become our common tradition over the past few years.

Christmas Eve dinner
Our French Christmas food and our Turkish Christmas food next to one another

After Christmas, the numerous chandeliers around Le Marin reopened and we started exploring options to get boat parts and service. Again, we had a little bit of a culture shock at times, when sellers insisted the part we asked didn't exist (even though we had it in our hands 5 minutes ago in another shop) or when the mechanic didn't believe our engine only had three mounts... Hard to have a productive discussion in these conditions!

Aaaaaah, reverse culture shock!

A Turkish New Year

Thanks to Instagram, Yalçın learned that another Turkish boat was in the area: Kısmet Güzelim. Captained by Can, a retired yard owner, it was also hosting Ömer, another Turkish cruiser waiting for his wife and his boat to cross the Atlantic Ocean. We'll come back to it, as we too decided to wait for their arrival as well! To meet them, we moved to the anchorage of Sainte-Anne, around the corner. A little further from the town, it was more natural with a beautiful sand beach, a small village and an open view over the Caribbean Sea and green Martinique.

We learned the story of the crew on Kısmet Güzelim, at the moment, Can, Ömer and Bodhana, a young Ukrainian girl who was an optimist champion, had crossed the Atlantic with Can and another crew and was now looking for a skipper job in the Caribbean. We spent New Year's Eve onboard and attended a few jobs on Tirb during our time in Sainte-Anne, like replacing our leaking propane pressure regulator or installing a cockpit shower.

Happy New Year!


After the holiday, we had a good incentive to go to Fort-de-France, Martinique's capital city: my Mom had gifted us coupons for the French sports store Decathlon and we were excited to get ourselves fins, swimsuits, etc, for our Caribbean adventure. There also laid the gift I had been waiting to buy for Yalçın's birthday back in early December, a free-diving watch. So on January, 9th, we beat all the way up to Fort-de-France, jib only.

The sail was overall pleasant but sometimes a bit swelly - we even surfed upwind XD a weird feeling! - and we went all the way jib only. We got a glimpse of all the Anses (bays in English) that lie along this coast and that we were hoping to visit on our way down. When we reached the flatter but windy waters of the larger bay of Fort-de-France, we jumped back in time and got reminded of our time in San Francisco... It seems difficult to convey, but geographically, it felt we were arriving from Berkeley (our old home port), had the big city on our left, the anchorage for container ships even further on the left (that would be the South Bay if you are familiar with the area) and there was a nice town with anchorages on the other side (that would be Sausalito/Angel island, in lieu of Les Trois Islets/Anse Mitan, which we didn't end up visiting). We just had to imagine the Golden Gate Bridge outlet where the wind was coming from, and that would do! Anyway... we missed home. Or at least, one of our homes... Tire-Bouchon's home?

A anse along the coast
Arrival in Fort-de-France

Besides Decathlon and the industrial zone where we did some shopping and bought cheap oil for Monsieur Engine, we also discovered our first proper Caribbean French city. Because yes, Martinique is France, but being part of the Antilles, it also has its own vibe and culture that you don't get in the mainland. The rocky downtown anchorage near the "fort" gave us a feel of Cartagena, while the town architecture reminded me more of Alps cities for some reason. A sort of ramblas (pedestrian walkway) with restaurants and hangout places proved like a good place to get a savory crêpe for dinner but we didn't manage to find the kebab shack at the time when it was serving, sadly for Yalçın, and quite a general thing (stores and food places had a lot of missing items in the menu).

Our most memorable experience was the colorful market from where we got fresh produce and had lunch at Chez Geneviève. I even got a hat made of the local madras fabric.

Les Anses on our way down

We explored our first anse (bay) on a return overnight trip from FdF: la Anse Noire, the Black Bay, named after the color of the sand on the beach. The bay was small but we managed to find a spot roughly in the middle of the 8-10 boats which were anchored there. We tested our new swim gear in the appealing water and enjoyed the sunset as a good chunk of the boats left before dark. The privilege to finally be out again in a somewhat remote place felt huge.

Testing the new gear and reading new books

As I said earlier, we were determined to be there when Ömer's wife was going to arrive with their boat, and our time had seriously shrunk before her estimated arrival time. Not that she got faster but we had just taken too much time, as often happens. We then had to make a selection about where to stop on the way down. We picked the anse without mooring to be able to anchor for free, Les Anses D'Arlet, and ended up satisfied with our choice. It was a pretty bay, with marine turtles swimming around (!!!) by a small village - still with a boulangerie (baker), a post office and a pharmacy as our English fellow cruisers had described. We grabbed a drink on the beach for our one sunset there after a short walk on the outskirts of the village and snorkeled and played rackets a bit the next morning before taking off after lunch for Sainte-Anne again. Yalçın even swam to shore and back at dawn!

But our favorite experience on the way down turned out to be an improvised anchorage, for an hour at most, on our way from Fort-de-France to Les Anses D'Arlet. The weather, which started foggy and rainy when we left, became sunny as we reached the South side of the Bay and Yalçın, who was steering and skippering, suggested a quick stop to test out the water. What a good idea! For the first time, we were alone in an anchorage in the Caribbean, and, cherry on the cake, the sea floor was way more preserved than anything we'd seen earlier on: the snorkel was quite nice!

After our dip, we continued to reach Les Anses D'Arlet and then Sainte-Anne/Le Marin the next day. A lovely sail in the sunset, where we stubbornly tried to sail at all costs (mostly time and an arrival in dark).

Başak Mireli, the first Turkish woman sailor to cross an ocean solo

So... why did we shorten our exploration and come back to Sainte-Anne/Le Marin, where we already had spent an extensive amount of time?

Well, because of Başak Kaptan (Captain Başak): Ömer's wife who was sailing their boat Istanbul from Cape Verde, about to become the first Turkish woman to sail across an ocean solo. We were both excited by the achievement and discussions with Ömer and Can aboard Kısmet Güzelim had sparked our curiosity: we wanted to welcome the sailor and see Turkish history being written. With my eyes always open for a good story to report on, I had also offered the French sailing magazine Voiles et Voiliers to cover the arrival. Here is the online interview (in French) with the photos of Başak Kaptan.

On arrival day, we lifted our anchor at 4 AM in the night and set off for the channel between Martinique and Saint Lucia. We spotted a few boats arriving from the horizon and the third one was the charm: Sailing Vessel Istanbul, onboard the first Turkish woman to have single-handed across the ocean. Yalçın made radio contact with Başak (who thought at first that we had a Tire-Bouchon (corkscrew in French and Turkish) ready to celebrate her arrival!) and we both got extremely excited to be part of this incredible adventure. Dinghies with Ömer and other Turkish crew who had also just finished their crossing came to welcome the hero they had left on the other side. Ömer eventually boarded Istanbul and the boat went around the anchorage of Sainte-Anne to salute the dozen Turkish boats in the anchorage! We followed, cheering and taking pictures for the article. We anchored near Istanbul and hopped on their cockpit to celebrate the accomplishment: champagne, friends, then pizza and viennoiseries. We'll remember this day!

Yalçın contemplating Turkish sailing history being made

This is goodbye... for now!

During this additional time in the area, we were able to tackle a few more boat projects (finalize our cockpit shower (a big victory!!) and change the oil of our main engine), do medical checkups for Marie, discover the natural side of the area which proved gorgeous, and also hang out with all the Turkish cruisers which had recently arrived. It felt that our last week in Martinique was somewhat more Turkish than French, which was fair enough! We met many cruisers, ate a lot of good homemade Turkish food and tasted rakı directly imported from Anatolia.

Şerefe time
ve iyi ki doğdun Simon!

We were lucky to witness a yole race - the traditional and colorful sailboats of Martinique, and spend a beautiful day by the Salines Beach and after a goodbye barbecue and a fail for the check-out, we were off to Saint-Vincent and the Grenadines in the South... a story for another time!

The yole race was pretty exceptional to watch for the dinghy sailors that we are!
Hazard: falling coconuts! Not a bad day in Les Salines

Our month in video:

Keep on reading...