Friday, 19 April 2013

Guadeloupe & Les Saintes

A brisk sail North again, wind from the ENE (it always seems to be 20kts+)!

The Saintes are a small archipelego, a dependency of Guadeloupe just to the south of the main island. They are a must visit place when cruising around here. Entry from the south looks interesting as the waves are crashing against the rocks and the swell is pushing us in towards the islands.

The 'Passage du Sud Est' is the one we have chosen, it looks very narrow but as we get closer we can see that the gap is probably close to 1/2 mile wide. At this time we drop the mainsail as the wind looks to be dead downwind and we don't want an accidental gybe as we come between the islands (good move)!

We scream through the gap with wind and waves behind us and have a controlled gybe to bring us towards the anchorage at Basse Terre. With the wind heading us we motor the last mile or so and look for a mooring. The pilot book says we can anchor but the best anchoring spots have been laid with mooring buoys. There is an option to anchor further out but it is very exposed to swell. As it is most of the buoys are taken and we have a very rolly night. (Just think we were charged €9 per night for the privilege).

The bay at Basse Terre

The following morning we can see a vacant buoy close to the lifeboat so we are on the move, thankfully this is a much better spot.

Ashore the village is pretty, almost too neat and tidy, we wander around and find where we need to check in which we were told is in the Mairie. However it has moved and is now in LMS, the office of the guys that collected the mooring fee, now why didn't they tell us that when they took the fee? Especially as we were flying a 'Q' flag.

View from the dinghy dock

All checked in and we have found the supermarket. Lunch at a local Pizza place. We really should have asked how big they were before ordering one each.We ended up with a 'doggy bag'. Most shops are only open until lunchtime, some open in the afternoon (3-4 ish until 5 ish).

Main street

Watching all the scooters zipping around we decide to hire one. This is a good way to see the island. We can probably drive around all of it in a couple of hours. We want to see the fort and museum but it is only open in the morning so that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Born to be wild!

The fort is interesting, built in the 1850's it looks much older. There is a whole room dedicated to the battle of the Saintes, (1780 something) where the French basically refused to fight and lost badly to the English fleet commanded by Admiral Rodney. There is also a Columbus room (well he did find the island!).

Zipping around the island on our hired motor scooter we did all the bays, the airstrip and the town. We even discovered a wholesale booze shop, close to the dinghy dock, selling wine, beer and cold drinks by the case at excellent prices.

Marigot bay - note the goats

Catch of the day!
Twice upon returning to the boat we saw dolphins swimming right next to it and one day people were in the water with them. There were many pelicans all round the island, the further north we go the more common they become, but are still great to see.

To think we worried about seagulls!

We had 4 days here and really fealt like we had seen the island. Time to move on.

We sailed North early on Monday morning towards Guadeloupe's main island. A good sail in flat waters, we were soon hit by a rain squall. We were approaching Basse Terre marina so called them on the VHF (no answer). Anchoring outside did not offer much shelter so we sailed on. The Pilot book showed a small bay, Anse a la Barque, where we could anchor. Motoring in it was full of local boats on moorings and nowhere to 'drop the hook'. Next stop was the marine reserve inside Pidgeon Island. The pilot shows a small area to anchor close to the cliffs to the North of the bay.

Anchored on sand in 6-7m it was a bit rolly but there were turtles swimming around the boat so we went for a snorkel. Absolutely beautiful, Green turtles feeding on the sea grass, a small coral reef closer inshore had an abundance of life on it. If it had not been so rolly we would have stayed another night. On the morning we left there were five turtles on the surface at the same time, our book says Green Turtles are almost extinct, but they seem to be plentiful here. We had planned to go on as we wanted to get our fridge looked at and our water tanks were running low. We had not seen a readily available water tap in either the Saintes or Guadeloupe.

A Green Turtle

The wind was light and fluky when we left, occasionally blowing fiercely down the valleys, motorsailing was the best option to get to Deshaies. Anchored in the bay we were in perfect shelter. Ashore there was little in yacht facilities. The village was attractive and had a few shops and bars. There was a bit more of a Caribbean feel to the town but still with a very French flavour.


The trip to Antigua is over 40miles so we will have an early start. Motoring out of the bay at 0615 we are hailed by a Frenchman waving wildly in the direction of a dinghy sailing out to sea. We set off in pusuit of the dinghy, the hapless owner wanted us to get him before the dinghy. Fortunately we got to his tender before it had gone too far. By this time he had managed to wake the whole anchorage and was ferried to us to be re-united with his dink.

After this slight delay we are off, heading for English/Falmouth harbour, the forecast F4 easterly has not materialised and we have a NW F5, ugh! This is now hard on the wind, very bouncy with lots of spray. 40 miles of this will not be fun. Plan B, ease the sheets and head for Jolly Harbour on the West coast. Good plan, with a double reefed main and reefed headsail we are off at 7kts with a much more comfortable ride.

Arriving in Antigua
Arriving mid afternoon we find the channel unmarked as it is being dredged, there seems more water outside where the channel is supposed to be. This is not the place to rely on the GPS as some of the charts were last surveyed many years ago and the sands have moved plus the absolute position cannot be relied upon. Anchored south of the 'channel' we find ourselves close to 'Impressionist' - we last saw them in Dominica. It is getting late and we need to pump up our dinghy, we will not make customs before they close at 1600. We will wait until tomorrow.

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