It was 0730. The sun was struggling to climb above the clouds that cover the mountains surrounding the roadstead anchorage off the village of Sainte-Anne, on the island of Martinique. Another warm day in the Caribbean. The trade winds were blowing, keeping the 200-plus sailboats anchored there all aiming in the same direction.
I had just come into the cockpit of Dove—a 54-foot Crealock sloop that I was boat-sitting for a friend—with a bowl of fresh fruit and my coffee when I heard the familiar buzz of a 10-horsepower outboard approaching. A young French couple was heading toward me with the rest of my breakfast.
“Bonjour,” I shouted as their 10-foot inflatable came alongside.
“Bonjour,” they both replied. Guerric, a tall, thin man in his late 20s, stood up to grab the cap rail. His companion, Juliette, sat on the dinghy’s pontoon, crammed in among plastic tubs of baguettes and pastries. “What will it be today?” she asked in her accented English.
“A chocolate croissant,” I replied. “And a baguette for my lunch.” Juliette removed the cover to a pastry tub, slipped my breakfast into a brown paper bag and handed it to Guerric, who then handed it up to me along with a long baguette.
“I’ll be right back,” I said, diving below to paw through a pile of coins on the chart table. The baguette they sell me each morning is 1.90 euros, the croissant 1.50. I could get both cheaper in the village, but that would mean getting dressed, lowering the dinghy, firing up the engine, speeding into town, finding a spot at the overcrowded dinghy dock, locking the security chain to a cleat, walking through the village, then standing in line at the boulangerie with a dozen others. Then, it’s all the way back to the boat. Forget the expense. The service Juliette and Guerric provide each morning is worth the markup.
Besides, after two weeks here, alone, among hundreds of French yachts at anchor and a village full of French tourists, they were the only two I could converse with in English. So we would chat.
Guerric and Juliette are both from Lyon, France. He was a chef and she was teaching school until they both took off the previous fall for a yearlong adventure. Since neither had much sailing experience, they couldn’t find a boat to sail on to cross the Atlantic, so they flew to Guadeloupe. From there they joined a catamaran heading south. In Tobago Cays they met a chap on a small boat making the rounds of anchored yachts selling stuff. That got them thinking.
With the Sainte-Anne anchorage chock-full of liveaboards, and transit and charter yachts, there was a ready market for a morning pastry-delivery service. The couple bought a dinghy and engine, rented an apartment with a large stove, and set up shop. Their business card reads: “Mado—Artisans Gourmands.”
“So, you make all these things?”
“No,” Guerric said. “We buy the baguettes from the boulangerie in the village.”
“But we make the croissants ourselves,” Juliette added.
“What does that entail?” I asked. Guerric and Juliette looked at each other, and she giggled.
“I get up at 2 in the morning,” she said, “to prepare the croissants. We use frozen pastry that has to be thawed, filled, rolled, and brushed with butter. Then Guerric gets up, and he does the baking.”
“So the croissants are freshly baked?”
“I make 85 croissants every morning.”
“Is it working?” I asked.
“Yes, it is working,” said Juliette. “We are very happy.”
“So, you make a living at this?”
“Yes, we can pay all our expenses, the cost of our travels, and save some for the future.”
“How long have you been doing this?”
“Every morning. Except if it’s blowing too much or raining.” Juliette said.
Guerric, I learned, studied journalism before landing a job as a chef. Juliette is a few years younger. Their English is very good. They are a couple but not married—yet.
“We are using this year in the Caribbean as an adventure, to see if we are ‘compatible.’”
“It’s like you’re taking your honeymoon before the wedding,” I said.
They both nodded and laughed.
“What’s in the future?” I asked.
They looked at each other, and laughed again.
“Who knows?” Guerric replied.
“We love the restaurant business,” Juliette added. “We hope to find a boat that will take us north to Saint-Martin in the spring. Or maybe Cuba.”
“Will you come back here?” I asked. Sainte-Anne needs someone to carry on this morning ritual. The two looked at each other and shrugged.
If you spend any time in these parts, you’ll find that these two are not the only floating entrepreneurs in the island chain. My friend Larry, who owns Dove, sailed up and down the Leewards and filled me in on a few others.
“There are lots of harbor entrepreneurs,” Larry wrote. “Bequia has excellent croissants brought to your boat by a very nice young man, and they are delicious. Better than I get in France. Carriacou has always had a guy making the rounds, selling wine and oysters, while on Saint-Martin, they not only bring croissants out to you, they can fill up your water tanks. An old West Indian in Rodney Bay sells vegetables and fruit from his overstuffed rowboat. In the BVI,” Larry added, “a couple comes around selling fruit and vegetables from their own garden, as well as fresh eggs from HM Prison! It’s stamped right there on the box. In Tobago Cays, someone sells bread, baguettes.”
“We have to go,” Juliette said. “We have lots more boats to visit.” Off they went in their dinghy, waving.
“See you tomorrow,” I shouted, with a wave.
Juliette waved and shouted back, “Bonne journée, à demain!” (Have a good day, see you tomorrow!)
I sat down at the cockpit table, with my croissant, pineapple and coffee. Life is all possibilities for those two, I thought to myself. I too was there once. Heck, I’m there now.
David Lyman spent three months during the pre-pandemic winter of 2019-20 in the Caribbean moving from island to island while boat-sitting for a friend and writing. He is currently back home in Maine.