We cleared out of Antigua in daylight and set a course for a small fishing village on the North West corner of Guadeloupe called Deshaies(pronounced De Hay). This cute little Creole village was made famous by the film, ‘Death in Paradise’. The pilot book stated that the owner of a shop called the ‘Pelican’ was able to complete formalities in the same way that a Justice of the Peace is able to certify documents. His name was Monsieur Lavaud which was quite a coincidence as the Main Street of Akaroa just happens to be Rue Lavaud!
Guadeloupe is a country with a population of some 400,000 people and is French territory. The currency used in all French Caribbean countries is the Euro.
After an excellent sail from Antigua with wind on the beam, averaging around 7 knots of Boat speed, we arrived at Deshaies on the north west coast of Guadeloupe. Feeling our way into the bay we looked for a suitable spot to anchor amid 30 odd other yachts already at anchor. Not all of the yachts were displaying an anchor light – a 360 degree all round white light at the top of the mast. The shallowest depth to be had that would still allow swing room was 23 metres. We had difficulty lowering the anchor as the controller buttons were sticking. When Blair pushed ‘Down’ the winch would not stop but just continued to pay out chain. Midnight was not the time to fix it. With all the available chain out (60metres of 10 mm chain) we still had little more than 2:1 scope when 3:1 scope is considered the minimum. It would be a restless night as the wind was still blowing into the harbour in spite of the fact that we were on the leeward side of the island. We did not want Meg to drag her anchor!
Another Skipper called out to us saying that he would be leaving early in the morning – just a courtesy thing. I got up twice during the night and checked the transits – Meg had not moved. When our neighbour left at 0500hours I woke Blair and said, “we might as well pull pins too as by the time the village wakes up and we clear in it will be 1100 hrs and we still have 50 Nm to cover before nightfall.” Decision made – we weighed the anchor and sailed down the leeward coast of Guadeloupe. Four years before it would have been possible for us to use the River/Canal route right through the middle of the country between Grand Terre and Bas Terre as there were two lifting bridges that allowed for a standing mast route straight through to the capital in the southern Cul de Sac known as Pointe à Pitre. This route was no longer open and so we had to sail around the southern tip of Bas Terre and back up into the Cul de Sac (50 Nm)
We had wind on the beam all the way down the leeward coast and only a slight sea. This was champagne sailing at 6.5 knots. We had one more shot at Customs clearance in another small town called Marina Rivière Sens where the pilot said one could complete formalities up until 1500hrs on a Sunday at a restaurant called ‘Barracuda’.
Rivière Sens Marina
The narrow entrance
The narrow entrance to Marina Rivière Sens.
It was tight but we managed to negotiate the harbour entrance spin the yacht around and tie Meg up at the fuel dock without assistance and pointing out to sea. I padded off round to the Barracuda Restaurant where a Frenchman said in his best English “Shut”. Oh well disappointment, but let’s take the opportunity to pick up two smoked salmon baguettes and a couple of large freshly baked chocolate chip cookies for a late lunch. By default we would sort the customs on Monday morning 13 May at Marina Pointe á Pitre Gosier.
After rounding the southern point of Bas Terre we were once again hard on the wind.
We spent the afternoon tacking up towards Pointe à Pitre reaching the marina just after dark. There was a buoyed channel in and the whole of the Caribbean uses the American IALA ‘B’ buoyage system which can best be remembered by RED, RIGHT, RETURNING.
We left the red markers to starboard following the channel into the marina. It was stern to mooring with mooring buoys on the bow. Blair went to the bow and it is fortunate that he has long arms and was able to lean over the bow and thread the mooring line through the eye and return it to the cleat while I went astern and got the mooring lines onto the stern.
Earlier that day Blair had phoned the marina and got the Dockmaster Mister personality plus. The conversation went like this;
Blair, ” we wish to request a berth for our Yacht Roaring Meg from 13 – 15 May. Do you have a berth available?
Dockmaster” NO English!”
Blair ” may I speak to someone who does speak English”
Dockmaster ” What do ya want?”
Blair “to speak to someone who does speak English!”
Grunt – and the phone was passed over to a woman who was very pleasant.
When we were ready to leave the marina we received similar treatment when we showed up at 1250 hrs. “Go away, come back after lunch at 1400 hours”!
The Dockmaster would have been better suited to the French Foreign Legion rather than customer service!
Apart from this one incident everybody else on the island was very pleasant. We had a rip in the mainsail and we needed to get it repaired. Our next door neighbour, a Frenchman called Jean Noel escorted me to Marc the sailmaker as he was having a new main and Genoa fitted to his yacht. His loft was only 200 metres from the dock. We were able to strap the sail onto my trusty 120 litre Kathmandu Super Tank which is a soft bag with a frame and big wheels and deliver it right away. That was on Monday 14 May and Marc assured us that it would be ready by Wednesday and it was.
Sharon was to arrive on 15 May and that meant that Blair and I needed to shine up the inside of ‘Meg’ – that is not to admit that the standard of ‘housekeeping’ was poor, however there was room for improvement!
We found a Boat Sparkie who was able to supply and install a new controller for the anchor winch and now it works perfectly.👌 The other issue was the gear cable which had some damage on it which caused it not to fully engage the transmission at low revs and could cause serious damage over time. I spoke with Jean Noel who was a mechanic prior to retiring and he said, ” you cannot repair it just install a new one”!
Fred Marine had a selection of gear cables and a mechanic available to fit it. Blair and I spent 1.5 hours pulling equipment out and unbuttoning the various cavities that the cable passed through in order to accurately measure the length of it – it was 20ft long!
Fred Marine had a new cable 22ft long and Jean Noel said long is no problem but short simply will not work. The new gear cable was promptly installed.
On Wednesday 15 March 2018 I rented a car from Gina Car Rentals – a little Renault Dacia, Sandero. Nadia and her husband Gill had started up the business a couple of years before and their customer service could not have been better. Nadia was Italian and during her university years she had spent 6 months in Auckland, New Zealand, polishing up her English language skills and she loved the country. We got on famously.
It was like going to the airport to meet Royalty! The first thing was to get there on time For those who know me I have never been late in my life and wouldn’t know how it feels! 😇😂Well I eventually found my way into the airport car park after completing two circuits and met Sharon as she came out of the Customs Hall. She was tired and rather pale compared to the indigenous population. We would soon ‘brown her off’.
We dropped the bags back at the marina and went on a Tiki Tour with Blair on board. First was a stop at Gosier beach for a swim and then a trip along the South East Coast of Grand Terre visiting St. Anne’s and then St. Francois and finally to Pointe de Chateaux a very narrow peninsula that extends out into the Atlantic Ocean. Here was a rugged point and an excellent place to watch the sun set on another day.
Sunset at Pointe Des Chateaux, Grand Terre, Guadeloupe.
On the following day we were in Blair’s hands. He had done the research on what there was to see and do and I was the driver with Blair as chief navigator.
We were going to explore Bas Terre and part of the tour was to traverse the island visiting the highlands. Most of the islands of the Caribbean are volcanic which means steep sided mountains, waterfalls and hot springs.the interior is tropical forest or jungle. With elevation the temperatures are cool but never cold.
First stop was Longueteau Distillery. Here was a traditional old sugar cane mill where all of the sugar used was grown on the property. Health and Safety may have had a fit if they saw the operation but as far as we were concerned we could not have got closer to that “bubbling brown sugar” and the process that makes the liquor we are so fond of. Yeah mon!
Blair and Sharon with the mill and distillery in the background
A whole vat full of bubbling brown sugar!
After inspecting the distillery we walked back to the tasting room for a glass or two of the nectar. Sharon declined but Blair and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
From Longueteau we drove to the waterfall on the island traverse road. Along the way we stopped on the roadside and bought a beautifully fresh watermelon from a couple of ‘good ole boys’ who were selling off the back of their Ute. Tap it and it rang like a 🛎 The waterfall and surroundings reminded us of the West Coast of New Zealand.
Driving north up the leeward Coast we happened upon the Chocolate House. The Caribbean produces lots of Cocoa and they have many varieties of chocolate and we wanted to sample some made with ginger.
Eventually we arrived in Deshaies and got to meet the owner of the Pelican shop.
He was well aware of the fact that Akaroa’s Main Street was the same as his family name. I mentioned the Nanto Bordelaise company that had been set up to colonise the South Island of New Zealand in the name of France 🇫🇷 and his family had come from the same area. He told us that Deshaies had been made famous by the movie, “Death in Paradise”.
We had dinner overlooking the beach and a beautiful sunset.
Then it was ‘home James’ as we were all tired after a big day out. I parked the car rather casually near the marina and paid for it with a traffic infringement notice in French for Euros 35. We completed formalities and left AFTER 1400 hours because of my mate the Dockmaster.
We sailed for the northern end of Marie Galante, a very cute island that was at the heart of the sugar cane business and had been recommended by Kelly Glass. We dropped anchor in a sheltered bay and the next morning Blair swam ashore and went for a hike through the bush.
At anchor in a cute bay in the North West of Marie Galante.
We had heard that Marie Galante at Grandbourg (capital) was hosting a Blues Festival – the biggest festival for the year. How could we miss it!
We entered the marina and found it to be very full and those on the fuel dock indicated that we should bugger off! Well you cannot get rid of us that easily so we just stooged around until we spotted a police launch getting ready to slip the lines. They had been rafted up alongside a resident Yacht with the owners permission. The owners mobile number was on the side of the hull and the gendarmes suggested we call him for permission. He was very accommodating – the answer was,”Mais Oui”, to us and our Kiwi registered Yacht Roaring Meg. It was brilliant as other yachts anchored up outside of the breakwater were rocking and rolling all night with the Atlantic swell while we sat on a mill pond!
That night we were off to the festival – that is Sharon and I in a taxi as it was staged about 2 km out of town. Blair had met some young French sailors and sailoresses who had sailed from Martinique and they invited him to hang out with them. The festival was going great when two different politicians decided that they were going to use the stage as a political platform and rabbited on for far too long. Killing time was easy with Rum Punch from a pop up bar that had it mixed in a 20 litre Jerry can. Just imagine how many ‘giggles’ were in that can!!
One of the Cafés that where we ate.
We walked home and the exercise was good. There was a great party atmosphere throughout Marie Galante – an excellent port of call which had been recommended by Kelly Glass who knows the Caribbean like the back of his hand.