Our first month in the Caribbean by Lochlann

Caribbean April 2016

We had been in the Caribbean for over a week and had been cruising up the Martinique coast thinking “WOW!!!!!!” when we visited the site of my downfall.


We were in a bay called Anse Noir where the snorkeling was so amazing that I swam too deep and damaged my eardrum. It hurt really badly for a few days so Mum insisted that I go to a doctor. I went with a worried demeanor for fear that she would tell me that I couldn’t go snorkeling while we are in this beautiful part of the world! My fears were justified. I did have to stop swimming but only for a week. Happily I went back to the boat, and we all agreed that we should go to the city of Fort de France while my ear was bad. This was not a good spot for snorkeling so I didn’t get too frustrated.

When we arrived, Mum and Dad went ashore to get food. When they returned, they told me about this amazing library that they had seen. It was made out of a metal structure, and they said it was absolutely beautiful. We decided that the next morning we would do home-ed there.
When we arrived the next day, I was amazed. The building was multicoloured, and was decorated all the way up the front of the structure.

History Lesson
In 1883, the Vice-Secretary of State for the French Navy and the Colonies, Victor Schoelcher, who was instrumental in the abolition of slavery in Martinique, donated his library to the island. All 9,534 books were shipped to Fort de France in 1884, and installed temporarily on the Rue Victor Hugo. The first curator of these books, Mr. Cochinat (a former secretary to Alexandre Dumas) donated his own library bringing the total collection to 11,000 books.

St Pierre Library

Pierre-Henry Picq, an ornamental sculptor, built the library, and because of the then marshy ground, he decided to use concrete for the actual structure and iron for the decorations. Wood was only used for doors and inside walls, to prevent the risk of fire. But it didn’t work. On June 22, 1890, a fire destroyed many of the books (but fortunately not the library building), so the General council added their own books to the existing numbers, and individual donations were received.

I love libraries, there is something amazing for me to have such a wealth of knowledge all in one place, and the more cleverly-built the library, the more I enjoy it. When you walk into the Schoelcher library, the first room you come to is the main section. It is a huge room, with windows high up the sides, with a balcony that runs the whole way round the edge of the room, providing an upper layer of bookshelves. Metal spiral staircases occupy each corner, and access to the balcony is restricted. From the ground floor you could see loads of old brown tomes, sitting up there, calling to be read. Unfortunately, access for the public was restricted, and anyway, we were there to receive Internet. It was infuriating to have to sit at a round table, in a modern white annex, behind the main building, when there were books like that sitting in the other room. Although, even if I had been allowed to peruse them, the books were all in French!
Inside the Library

We were in St Pierre in Martinique on my birthday, the second happiest day of the year (I prefer Christmas). I woke on the 5th of April and lay in bed wondering what I would find just outside my curtain. I poked my head round the corner into the saloon and saw, laid out on the table, red and green wrapped parcels. Balloons covered one side of the saloon and on my door in shiny white letters, the number 14!
Happy 14th Birthday Lochlann

I got out of bed and sat on the sofa and looked at everything. “Happy Birthday” was emblazoned on one side and the presents on the table looked very interesting. The largest was a long, wide flat package and everything else was piled on top. Three on them were definitely DVDs but the others I couldn’t tell. There was a soft squishy one, a rectangular one that seemed too thick to be another DVD, a long rectangular one that I had no clue about, and a thin laptop-shaped one. After waking everybody else I bounced around the boat while Mum made drop scones. As we ate, Mum gave me the laptop-shaped present. It was a case of drawing pens of different colours. I draw comics and have needed more colours for a while. Mum and Dad had arranged for us to go scuba diving with the local club, and just before we left, Mum and Dad gave me a dive knife, like Fin’s!! It straps onto your leg for easy access.

It was the best dive we have ever been on. Fish of all shapes, colours and sizes, swam among amazing tubular coral. The crowning moment was when we rounded some rocks and there, chewing on some coral, was a massive turtle. A female Green Turtle (we later discovered) and we touched her shell! It felt like the inside of a sea shell, smooth and shiny. I had my GoPro camera with me and I got a brilliant close-up of its head. It was the best birthday treat ever!

Turtles, turtles everywhere

When we got back, Mum had a tortilla ready for us to have as lunch (it was delicious). As we ate I was given two more presents! I received a magic DVD that Mum had been keeping since the magic convention that had been last year’s birthday treat. Then I was given the biggest present. I could feel that it had a handle, like a toolbox. Mum and Dad said I had to have three guesses before I opened it.
I said “tools?”
They said “no.”
I said “paints?”
They said “no.”
I said “remote control helicopter?” (in a hopeful voice).
“No,” again.
I pulled off the wrapping paper and saw… a red box with a handle, I didn’t have a clue what it was. I was about to open it when I saw a sticker on it saying ‘Fire Melodica’. I pulled it open and there lay a magnificent, black and red melodica.

Lochlann's new Melodica

A melodica is a small keyboard that you play using breath control. In other words, it works a bit like an accordion, except that instead of pumping bellows you breathe into it. The harder you breathe the louder it will be. I have wanted one for ages and ages.

The rest of the day passed moderately uneventfully. I was given a stripy, long-sleeved top and then we went for a walk. During our excursion we came upon a ruined church that had been wrecked by a volcano eruption, which destroyed the town of St Pierre, killing around 30,000 people in 1902. We also visited a ruined theatre and next door to that was the remains of a prison. The only survivor of that catastrophic eruption was a convict named Cyparis. The small cell he was in was still there and I went inside. It wasn’t very pleasant and smelled quite a bit, but obviously a good place to be during a volcano eruption!

That night we watched one of my new DVDs - The Avengers. I really enjoyed it, although I don’t really think that Mum and Dad did. To finish the present business, I also received the following DVDs, Green Lantern, Tom and Jerry and Tristan and Isolde.
It was the best birthday I have ever had!
Either lots of wind or none!

A few days later we decided that the weather was good to sail to the next island.
Dominica had been described to us as the most unspoiled Caribbean island. I don’t think I can really judge right now, seeing as it is only the second I have been to. However, comparing this to Martinique, I can see why. Our impression of Martinique was that it was a miniature France. It is a French island and they have baguettes, nice apples and croissants (I like France).
Also, as an aside, contrary to many people’s current beliefs after reading my blogs, eight meals a day are far too much, I prefer a healthy six (read my Atlantic blog).
Going back to the original topic, Dominica held many of the things that I had expected from a Caribbean island that Martinique did not. Or rather, that Martinique had hidden under layers of Frenchness.
Dominica had huge palm trees that towered upwards, laden with yellow and orange coconuts. Beautifully coloured flowers were blossoming everywhere, while in between them flew hummingbirds. These beautiful small birds are the only creatures, apart from insects, that can hover in midair and fly backwards.  They were amazingly coloured, mainly black but with a bright streak of colour on their heads (it differed, I saw green, red and blue ones). They moved so quickly that they were hugely difficult to photograph, no matter how hard we tried.

Dominica is the greenest place I have ever seen. Inland there is a huge rainforest that spreads out across the whole island. Hot springs bubble up from under the ground and massive waterfalls crash relentlessly down onto huge slippery boulders. The first hot spring I saw was right by the sea. In fact it was part of the sea, we walked down the beach and saw a pool that had been separated from the rest of the ocean by a small wall of stacked stones. It didn’t effectively keep the seawater out but when I walked down to put my feet in I burnt my feet on the sand. I ran out again ‘owing’ in pain. Mum laughed and walked in (in the way of someone who thinks they are tougher than everyone else). She also ran out squawking! I carefully made my way into the sea beside the hot pool it was pleasantly warm. I snorkeled a little way out and then suddenly I reached a colossal dip of the sea bottom that sloped down and down and down. It was an undersea volcano crater and I was right over it!
Hot, hot water coming up in the sea mmmm...

On the same day we went snorkeling in a place called Champagne. It is called that because hot water bubbles up from the seabed and rises in streams to the top.
A few days later, Dad took Fin and me into the hills to see some places he had discovered. The first thing was a bubbling, hot, sulphur spring that was in a cave, high above a river. It bubbled and smoked, and you could imagine a fire-breathing dragon was lurking inside. It stank of rotten eggs, but wasn’t as bad as you might think. We walked on for quite a while until we reached the 120 feet high Trafalgar Waterfalls. We continued down a path towards the huge roaring sound that was a slight clue to what we would find. We passed some more hot pools, this time with people in them, but we forged past and then we reached the boulders. They were huge. We got into our swimming trunks and set about the extremely difficult task of climbing the wet, slippery boulders to reach the bottom of the waterfall. It was tough getting there. At one point we had to push and pull each other up a particularly high rock. When we reached the top though, it was worth all the slips and tumbles to swim in the relatively warm water in the pool at the base of the waterfall. It was absolutely amazing. The water pounded down on top of us and we could barely open our eyes. On the way back we sat in the hot pools and I had the first hot bath since I left the UK. It was wonderful. It was a hard walk back, but at the end we passed a tree in a botanical garden that we had seen a few times before. It is impossible to give an adequate description this tree, so I shall include a picture.

Please, please can I climb this amazing tree?

As you can see, it has roots that grow from the branches, hang down and embed themselves when they reach the bottom. This of course provides an amazing climbing frame. Dad let us climb up when no one was looking, and the thing that amazed me most is that the branches were so wide that for the first time ever on a tree that high I could just walk along a branch without holding on to anything!

Since we arrived in the Caribbean there has always been the question of whether we would sail back to England in the summer, or fly back for a few months to prolong our adventure. We all decided that we wanted to go back England to get stuff that we couldn’t do without (Rollerblades, board games and DVDs for me, peanut butter for Fin). But we were worried that if we sailed back we wouldn’t leave again. Our long-term plans are all askew but we don’t want to stop sailing. Eventually, after much changing of minds (the parents’ problem) and much enmity and annoyance because of it (the children’s problem) we finally decided to fly back. This means we would have to sail back down to Martinique, and island hop further south until we reach Grenada where we will leave the boat when we fly back to England. So we turned and headed south again - back to the land of baguettes and croissants (and apples).

But that’s another story…

Written by Lochlann, April 2015


  1. Oh my ! How I enjoyed reading this ! Wonderful xx

  2. An amazing blog. I am so jealous, I wish I could write as good as you can! xx Anneleize