Monday, June 6, 2011

Southern Guadeloupe

From Deshaies, our plans were to sail south along the coast to Basse Terra, located on the southwest coast of Guadeloupe. When we arrived there with Oceana, they were concerned that the swell would be uncomfortable. We understood their concern as we've seen how a swell can cause mono hulls to sway like pendulums. The day was still young, so we decided to continue on to the Saints, which is a scenic group of small but tall islands just south of Guadeloupe.
Oceana off Basse Terra, Guadeloupe

We had been motor-sailing in the lee of Guadeloupe with a slight sea breeze until we reached Basse Terra. As we left the lee of Guadeloupe, everything changed. The wind switched from less than 10 knots out of the west to high 20's from the east in about a minute. This is something that you get used to in the lower Leeward and Windward Islands. As you leave the lee of the island, the trade winds are accelerated as they squeeze around the tall island and hit you full force from the east. If you are not looking at the sea state in front of you, you will have no warning. Depending on the conditions, you might have 10 knots of sea breeze from the west and then an immediate switch to 25 knots from the southeast in as little as a few seconds.

We saw the white caps and lumpy seas ahead and quickly shortened sail. Then Jen commented... um, where did the Saints go? Up ahead the Saints, which were clearly visible only a minute or two ago, were hidden by haze and rain. It was a wet and brisk sail to the Saints. Being a weekend, the anchorage close to town was quite full and we couldn't find a suitable place to drop the hook. Instead, we moved to another location in the Saints that we had anchored before and were happy to drop the hook and let the rain wash off the salt we accumulated crossing the channel from Guadeloupe.

The next morning was a fine day which we spent exploring the town and sampling the local beverages, food and of course, ice cream.

A view of the Saints from the town dock

From the Saints, we sailed back north to Point A Pitre, the largest city in Guadeloupe. Oceana had gone ahead to refit with new house batteries. We joined them a day or so later in the Marina Bas du Fort where we enjoyed a couple of nights on the dock. Laundry, some mechanical maintenance and other chores more easily accomplished on the dock were taken care of. Then it was back to the Saints, which was a good staging point for the jump south to Dominica. On the way back to the Saints, I caught two largish Barracudas which I released since they aren't so good for eating. Note the big pointy teeth!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Deshaies River Scramble

Our second day in Deshaies we returned to the botanical garden about a mile walk up the road. We had visited it the last time we were here, but it's worth a return visit. Quinn's favorite part is the aviary.

On the third day we decided to try a hike up a river that is recommended by our guide book for this area. Kathy and John from Oceana joined us. The guide book describes the hike as "a cool shady scramble", and it certainly was that.

It was a quiet little river, but it was clear that it would grow into a raging torrent when it rained. It was strewn with large boulders that showed recent evidence of bouncing off other rocks. The banks were very steep on both sides, and the forest very thick so the easiest path was to scramble and jump from rock to rock and wade where necessary. It was great fun and the scenery was very lush. There was no sign of habitation or litter anywhere and the river was covered with a thick canopy of trees.

After several hours of scrambling up the river, we were concerned that we had not seen the road that the guide book promised would lead us back to town. We had been working our way up river for considerably longer than suggested by the guide book, and although we were slowed a little by hoisting Quinn up and over the more difficult stretches, it still seemed that we had come a long way.

Eventually we did find a road. Just as we were considering if we should turn back given the late hour and ominous sky, John scouted ahead a little and found the road. This was fortunate, for if we had turned back we would have been forced out of the river due to a heavy rain that started shortly after we gained the road. Our "shady scramble" would have been transformed into a difficult slog through the forest in the rain! Happily, it was just a 20 minute walk down a very steep road in a torrential downpour.

By the time we returned to our boats it was still raining heavily, so we took advantage of all that fresh water and had showers out on the transom. Jen was a bit shy of a near by boat until she noticed its French flag. "What the heck, they're French. They don't care!"

Tropical rain can be something to see. In this case, virtually no wind, but the warm rain coming down as if you were standing right under a strong shower head. Cup your hands and they would fill in 20-30 seconds.

It was a very fun day that ended well (and clean).

Guadeloupe - Arrival in Deshaies

After a fast sail from Antegua accompanied by our friends on Oceana, we arrived in Deshaies in early afternoon. Deshaies is one of my favorite anchorages. It's narrow bay that is well protected from all directions but the west with good holding. The sides of the bay are steep hills and cliffs tapering down to a picturesque town at the head of the bay. I've included a picture, but it doesn't do the anchorage justice as you can't see the high walls on the sides of the bay.
The town is a small strip of small shops and restaraunts along the shore with scattered residences that pepper the hilside as it rises steeply behind the town. One of the shops in town is an internet cafe where we are to clear customs and immigration. The French islands make clearing in and out very simple. You find the cafe hosting the customs computer, fill out a form on that computer and print the form. Someone at the cafe signs and stamps the paper and you're all set. The only down side is you don't get a stamp for your passport.

By the time we set the anchor, let it soak for a while and took the dinghy ashore, most of the shops and restaraunts were closing for the afternoon siesta, the internet cafe hosting the customs PC being one of them. Knowing that at least one restaraunt or cafe is always open during siesta we strolled down the street and found it without any problems.

Soon we were sitting in a cafe and I was drinking chilled Cote du Provence Rose. I got the idea from the Rasta man sitting at the ajacent table chatting with his friends. The French islands are intriguing this way - Rasta mixed with the French cafe - perfect!

After a few beverages in the cafe, a nap semed in order to recover from the daybreak departure from Antigua. We headed back out to the boat and relaxed, watching several other boats arrive and find a place in the anchorage.

Early in the evening, we returned to town to clear in and have dinner. On the way in, we were treated to a bright rainbow stretching from one end of the town to the other. Gorgeous.

After clearing customs we wandered around until we found a restaurant we liked and joined Oceana for dinner. We enjoyed a wonderful sunset overlooking our boats at anchor while we ate. By the time we were returning to our boat it was quite dark with no moon, but the stars were very brilliant and lit our way back to Mirasol.

Blog Catch Up Day

I keep telling myself I need to put aside some time to catch up on the blog, so here goes. We just arrived in Schoelcher, Martinique, which is a couple of islands south of where the blog is. We dropped the hook and have a few hours to burn before we go ashore, so now is a good time.

Quinn's inside watching Star Wars, Jen's sitting in the cockpit reading and I'm up in my hammock with my laptop watching the boats and sailboards from the nearby sailing school putter around the anchorage. If I can hold off a nap, maybe I can come up with a few entries...