So, it has been a while! What can I say? We had bit of data accessibility problems most of the time we were in Guadeloupe, but we can also blame Demon Rum. Seriously, there are so many rum distilleries in Guadeloupe that it flows like water and it is all at least 100 proof! When you order a Ti Punch they set a bowl of cane sugar, a plate of lime slices, a 6 0z glass, and a bottle of rum in front of you and say “Bonne Chance.”
Fort Napoleon is a beautifully restored site atop the hill surrounding the harbor. The museum and gardens are nicely done, but the views are fantastic. No wonder the British never captured these islands. Which reminds me: Who knows the most important naval battle of the American Revolution? Ah, the battle of the Chesapeake (Yorktown )which led to Cornwallis’ surrender in 1781? Nice try but no. Move ahead to the spring of 1782. In an attempt to protect her territories in the Caribbean, and avenge the defeat at Yorktown, the British sent her entire fleet to destroy De Grasse’s ships. At the battle of the Saints, some 60 Men of War joined battle in sight of the battlements of the fort Napoleon (it was called something different then. Sorry, no brilliant foreshadowing in real life). The British were victorious in heavy ship-to-ship combat. This led to the realization in America that there would be no further French aid, peace negotiations were moved in England’s favor, the revolutionaries abandoned several territorial claims, the British retained her Caribbean colonies.
In addition to the hike up to the fort, we took a 4 mile hike up to the battlements on the south side of the island. The road up was tough enough. The signs said 16% grades, whew! But the trail down was quite perilous! Lots of hand and bottom work I can tell you. But the views were wonderful as well.
We had some fine diving there but when the wind shifted to the northeast we had to leave as it was too rough on the mooring. So, a CRAZY sail up to Pointe a’ Pitre in 25-30kts of wind and 6-10′ seas coming from all directions was our favored option. Finally, a flat, calm anchorage! Never mind that you are only 2 boat lengths out of the shipping channel where Panamax container ships slide by at all hours to unload at the terminal across the way. After the first one went by at 0200 and the tug captain smiled and waved, we didn’t even wake up to watch the rest. But the activity at the terminal was mesmerizing. The entire process is well choreographed.
Oh yeah, on the way up the main sheet parted and we lost control of the main sail. No worries, we were on a broad reach and Nancy just luffed, I went on deck re-led the sheet, tied the ends together and on we went. When we replaced the mast two years ago we replaced all the standing and running rigging. Except the main sheet! Well we have a new one now, thanks to the chandlery in PaP.
The ACTe museum along the waterfront follows the history of slavery in Guadeloupe and the Caribbean basin. It is a beautiful building and the exhibits are fantastic. The audio brings it all to life. And it’s free. The absolute best museum experience I have had in a long time, and I love museums. That more than made up for not being able to go up to the volcano caldera. The weather was cloudy and rainy all the time and the mountain was closed due to poor visibility almost the entire 6 weeks we were there.
After a week of repairs and sightseeing we decided to head back around towards Deshaies. We set out early in the morning and were quickly attacked by more of what we encountered on the way up. Not the 12-15kts that were forecast for the area, oh well. So, rather than worrying about gybing around the southern end in 35kts and crazy seas, we decided to do the lazy man’s gybe. We stayed on the same tack all the way back down to le Saintes, picked up a mooring (mandatory in le Saintes) stayed a couple more days then sailed up to Pigeon Island on the opposite tack. Brilliant! No stress, no strain, and best of all more pastries! Honestly, I was pleased with the way the boat handled what were probably the most unsettled conditions of the trip so far. I had fun driving.
It was calm and pleasant in the Pigeon Island anchorage, but we take no chances. We always let out a lot of scope on the chain and power the anchor into the bottom at full throttle in reverse, even if the weather is settled. I like to sleep at night. We also set an anchor alarm, which lets us know if we are dragging. It is all very routine and I don’t understand why so few people take similar precautions. So, when the wind piped up into the 20’s at 0100 that first night, I stuck my head out to see that all was well. It wasn’t. A 44′ monohull that was anchored to the right of us was slowly dragging. I turned on the loud hailer and called to him that he was dragging, then I flashed my huge strobe into his ports until he finally woke up and moved to reset his anchor. Shortly after, I felt a disturbance in the force and again went on deck to see the 48′ catamaran that was anchored ahead of us drifting slowly to leeward. I repeated my previous actions to no avail. Fortunately the wind angle blew them out to sea, just missing the rocks of Pigeon Island. I watched them drift for two hours, they were about 7 miles downwind, at sea when someone finally woke up and they came back and re-anchored. Ah the relaxing leisure of the cruising life. I considered chasing them in the dinghy, but we had the electric motor on and he was drifting about the same speed as the electric can move us so not a good idea. It turns out, another boat far on the other side of the bay saw the excitement and dispatched their dinghy, with a 10hp outboard. It took them all that time and distance to catch the catamaran.
So we did a few more dives in the Cousteau Reserve and checked out of the island at Deshaies.
We headed back up to Antigua for the Classic Sailing Regatta coming up this week. Already there are some beautiful boats gathering around us: Chronos, Ticonderoga, and many more arriving as I write this. It should be a fun time. Then we’ll start heading northwards to St. Kitts, or St. Martin and on up to St. Croix eventually back to the Bay (Chesapeake Bay).
Scuba diving, provisioning and traveling around have put a crimp in Nancy’s painting. Or maybe it’s just a needed break. In any case sometimes her photos capture the essence. I’ll leave you with this amazing view from a Pointe-a-Pitre evening.