Words by Jesse Serwer—
Yesterday, we told you about the prominent role boat racing plays at Anguilla’s Carnival. While unique among Caribbean carnivals, Anguilla Summer Festival is not the only culturally significant boating-based fete happening in the islands right now.
Martinique’s own carnival takes place before Lent (typically in February), but each summer the French department comes alive in a different way, with the annual Tour des Yoles Rondes. Local and international boaters navigate the island in seven stages, participating in a week-long spectacle as colorful to watch as it is challenging to take part in.
With its myriad colors, yole boat racing looks pretty, but it’s not for punters: sailing these marvels of Martinican engineering requires a unique balance, thanks to their rounded hulls. As Uncommon Caribbean‘s Steve Bennett put it, “Sailing a Yole boat requires all hands to be overboard, balancing on long poles while riding astride the vessel in an effort to keep it upright… and tame the wind.” And no breaks allowed: come to a stop at any point, and your boat’s going under.
While the races provide entertainment for spectators on the shore and pleasure boats who trail the action at sea, much of the action takes place on the shore, where Martinicans and tourists revel side by side at raucuous, rhum agricole– and Biére Lorraine-fueled beach parties. Tour des Yoles truly is a carnival at sea.
Watch the videos below for an inside look at the action at this distinct marriage of Caribbean boating and partying traditions, and start making your plans for next year. We already are.