New Year’s Eve (kind of)

‘Everyone look sharp – the police boat is coming towards us.’

We stopped in our tracks. Stared at the flashing blue light. The police boat was heading our way. Wasn’t exactly how we imagined our first night in Fort-De-France would be.

We’d arrived mid-morning on the 30th to a filling anchorage. This was no surprise. New Year’s Eve was tomorrow – so we wanted to get our spot early.

We’d never been to this anchorage either. Didn’t know quite what to expect- except what was written in the pilotage. In fact, Fort-De-France is only a small part of a large bay that indents the middle of Martinique. You can go much further into the bay – among a large system of creeks and mangroves.

I like how the pilotage describes this area, which is also near the airport, as somewhere you’d go to ‘hide from your ex-wife.’ Can’t help but imagine a series of ageing French sailors all hiding up there in their boats.

It had gotten steadily busier during the day – but nothing too dramatic. Then sunset arrived, and the whole world arrived at Fort-De-France. Small boats – many of them tricked out with underwater lights and huge outboard engines appeared from nowhere. Perhaps they’d come from further up the bay? Taking a break from ex-wife hiding? Like a New Year’s truce.

We watched, bemused with the boating bustle, but still not thinking too much about it. After all, it wasn’t New Year’s Eve. Delph put on Blue Crush, the surfing movie downstairs, and the girls sat down to watch this Questie classic. This is the point where the police boat arrived. Huh.

‘Are they moving people?’ Jack asked, peering at them through the darkness.

A sailboat which had anchored in front of us earlier, was now motoring past Quest. Another boat did the same. It moved quickly, before dropping its hook right next to us. Under the police’s blue light, every single boat in front of us began to clear away.

We were all facing Fort Louis in the anchorage. Martinique had been the most important military Caribbean French island and the fort juts out into the water right next to the capital. Our bows were facing its stone wall.

The police were wasting no time. They were clearing each boat out. We were the next ones in the line.

They passed us silently, shark-like. I stared, willing them to keep going. With all these small boats around, it would be a nightmare to re-anchor. Amazingly, they did pass us. They looked and kept going.

I went downstairs and had a quick google. Hold on. The New Year’s party – Martinique’s Les Boucains de la Baie was actually happening tonight – 24 hours before 2020 officially rang in. That included fireworks. Due to start at 8:30pm – in an hour’s time!

Ok, duh. That would definitely make sense. And presumably the police were clearing the anchorage for safety. The boats in front of us were likely too close to the fireworks. By chance this left Quest with the best view. Complete chance.

For the party the night before New Year’s Eve! Ahh, luck, you fickle lady.

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