Saturday, March 13, 2010


March 11-14 Iles des Saintes to Dominica

We put many a footsteps in Bourg de Saintes. It was a place that had an island feel, yet it did have a bit of a touristy touch to it. But all in a tasteful manner. We found one restaurant that had excellent sourdough bread. It made very tasty sandwiches.

On Friday, we went to check out at customs and immigration and to our surprise found out that it was a holiday (not mentioned in our book). We investigated and found it was a religious holiday dealing with a post Mardi Gras day. Well, I could think of worse places to have to spend another day. The rest of the day we went to another beach on the eastern side, snorkeled a bit, then went back to the boat and took the dinghy to explore some other areas of the island more easily accessible by boat and did some more snorkeling.

We went to customs first thing Friday morning and checked out. We were on our way to Dominica by 10am. With a fresh breeze out of the northeast, we had a comfortable beam reach for the short sixteen mile crossing.

From the stories we had heard, Dominica had a mystic and somewhat dangerous side to it. There were reports of boats being boarded at night by thieves and the island was known for having “boat boys”. These fellows hang out waiting for incoming yachts and approach them wanting to provide yachting services such as tours, laundry, trash, fuel, water and security.

We’ve were given a couple of boat boy names to utilize. Albert and Martin are reportedly reliable guys who provide general yacht services, tours and boat security. Sure enough, as soon as we entered the harbor, a couple of boats approached us. We kept our eyes open for either Albert or Martin (names written on their boats). We shooed away a couple of fellows that approached us. Sure enough, in a few minutes Martin showed up. A nice guy, he greeted us and we told him that we’d like to use his services. Somehow this gets transmitted to the rest of the boat boys and after that no one else bugs you. Apparently, all of them have banded together and have provided yacht services and a measure of security in the night time to the yachts they service.

Still, knowing that boats have been boarded by thieves, we took extra precautions by locking things up on deck and hoisting the dinghy out of the water (engine and all) and locking it to the boat.

Enough emphasis on security. One of the things I love doing after a day’s sail is to get into the water. Mind you, the water is a comfortable mid-to-high 70’s. So after a hot and sweaty sail, to be able to jump into clean, clear and refreshingly (warm) water simply is outstanding. A light rinse with fresh water afterwards, and I’m a new man. Ah, the simple pleasures are the best. A glass of wine follows soon afterwards. Seriously, can it get any better?

The top thing that Dominica is known for is its nature. The saying goes that, if Columbus were to return today to all of the islands he visited in 1492 and 1493, the only one he’d recognize would be Dominica, for it has changed the least. It remains verdant, wild and rustic.

On Saturday, we got up and went to the fresh produce market. It definitely was third world qualities, but offered up lots of good looking vegetables, eggs and breads. The afternoon was busy with what is called the Indian River trip. More on that later.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Deshaies to Iles des Saintes

March 8-10 Deshaies to Iles des Saintes

Monday was spent on the boat because it mostly poured all day. We went into town briefly to buy a few grocery items but came back immediately - sopping wet. Luckily we had bought time on an internet wi-fi site so we got caught up with email and the blog.

Tuesday started out slightly cloudy but at least no rain. We opted to leave to check out Pigeon Island, known for good diving and snorkeling at the Cousteau Underwater Park. The sun became ever so stronger but, unfortunately, the wind and sea did too - all from the south where we were heading. By the time we got to Pigeon Island the wind was clocking twenty plus knots from the south. The anchorage was on the southern side of the island, which made it untenable to try to moor safely and the underwater visibility also probably was effected. We motored onward.

Next we thought of stopping at a small anchorage called Anse a la Barque. But as we approached it, the bay didn’t look all that inviting - small, deep water, a road around it and an unspectacular beach. Hey, we’re spoiled - if it’s not pristine looking, it’s thumbs down.

Now we were looking at the major town of Basse Terre, where there was a marina just south of it. As we closed up on it, we could see the volcano appear. It’s an active volcano but not spewing lava. The city of Basse Terre looked nicely laid out, with fields of sugar cane on its northern border. We called the marina on channel 16 but got no answer. The cruising book said it was difficult to find a slip there. The anchorage generally was considered to be a rolly one. We had had enough of that the last couple of nights at Deshaies. Onward we went, now to Iles des Saintes.

The weather kept improving, so it became warmer and the wind and sea action died down. The Iles des Saintes are a small group of islands, only a short distance south of Guadeloupe. There is only one small fishing village, Bourg de Saintes, that is on the island of Terre d’en Haut.

As we proceeded south, we suddenly saw a huge tail and a big splash - whales. The performed for us (all be it far away) doing some fancy tail maneuvers, breaches and more. It was quite the spectacle that lasted for several minutes.

We got into Bourg de Saintes and anchored just in time for drinks and dinner. The following day we walked around the village and ended up at the Napoleon Fort, high on a hill on the east side of town. Great view. They had a worthwhile museum that told of the island’s history and the naval battles that had taken place just off the islands against the British.

All-in-all we had a very pleasant day at this spot and decided to stay another day before heading off to Dominica.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Antigua to Guadeloupe

March 3-4 - Jolly Harbor to Falmouth

We left Jolly Harbor in the morning after getting Lahaina Roads ready to sail. The weather looked good with a promise of a fresh breeze that would make for a good sailing day.

As soon as we got out of the harbor and were able to, we hoisted the sails. Darren appeared to enjoy the experience of getting everything ready. We ran him through all the tacking strategies, using the GPS, using the wind gauge and setting the auto-pilot.

After about a five hour sail along the coast and making a few tacks, we pulled into Falmouth (though not without a small engine malfunction that Dave quickly fixed).

Falmouth is an open harbor to the west, but otherwise is well protected. On the other side of it lies English Harbor and the historic (Horatio) Nelson Dockyard. It’s a far better protected harbor, but it’s very tight with not much room for the boat to swing.

The following day, Thursday. we decided to rent another car since we had not seen much of the eastern part of Antigua. Among the places we visited, were Half Moon Bay and Nonsuch Bay. One of the interesting spots we found was in Nonsuch at a place called Harmony Hall. It had an exquisite panoramic view, with an old wind-driven sugar cane mill turned into a visitor center and a unique art gallery. We would have enjoyed a lunch there was it not for the fact that lunch prices hovered in the $40 price range. But the view would have been a good one.

On our island tour, one of the things that befuddled us was the cost of local pineapples. Apparently, these fruits are like gold here. At the mom and pop fruit stands we found them for $10 each and thought we were being taken advantage of and so balked at buying any. Turned out that that was the going rate. We don’t get it.

After a few more sights such as Parham Bay and Shirley Heights, we drove back to Falmouth. It had been a long but fun day.

March 5 - Antigua to Guadeloupe

Friday morning, after coffee and breakfast the three of us headed in by dinghy to the dock of the Antigua Yacht Club. Darren was taking a bus into St. John, spending the night there to be close to the airport for his early morning flight. Dave and I were headed out to Guadeloupe. It was odd sort of parting with Darren walking off to a bus stop near Nelson’s Dockyard and Dave and I, going off in the dinghy, back to Lahaina Roads.

Dave and I were quickly underway and had an uneventful forty mile crossing to Guadeloupe. The island appeared low to the east and mountainous to the west end. It was a few more miles to our destination.

We anchored in Deshaies (pronounced day-ay), a small fishing village, on the northwest side of the island. No sooner had we plunked down and secured the anchor, when customs officials off of a navy boat came by and requested permission to come aboard. They didn’t have the serious commando look - the commanding officer was in shorts and bare feet.

But it was the first time we ever had been boarded and checked so thoroughly. The crew, three men and a woman, asked all sorts of questions and searched the boat from stem to stern. I really don’t know what they were after, but obviously they found nothing. They were very friendly, cordial, finished their search and bid us adieu.

A short time later, a white, young, long-haired French fellow came by on his skiff asking if we wanted anything for the morning such as baguettes or croissants. Only in a French harbor does this happen, eh? I’m surprised he didn’t asked if we needed an expresso with that!

On Saturday, we took the dinghy into the town dock, which is up a small river. We got our customs and immigration check-in done and took and then decided to take the bus to the main island town of Pointe-a-Pitre.

Guadeloupe looks kind of like a lopsided butterfly. It’s actually composed of two separate islands divided by a river. The eastern island is flat and geologically older, while the western island is younger and more mountainous.
Pointe-a-Pitre is situated on the eastern island, where the butterfly’s wings connect to its body. Although not that far away, it took us 2 ½ hours by bus to get there. Since it was Saturday, lots of things were happening - fresh fruit markets, spice markets, clothing street vendors, street musicians and flea markets. It was a happening place.

We walked all around a section of town near the water, had a very tasty paiea lunch and set about to find our way home. We found Guadeloupe to be more prosperous and livelier looking than Antigua (of course - one is British and the other is French). The people seem friendly and most are well dressed, looking all too Western.

Lots of young teens walk with MP3 and cell phones. Some of the boys dress like the gang bangers back home with baggy pants that hang down to their knees and baseball caps, while the girls dress very smartly and look beautiful. Obesity, although present, doesn’t seem to be quite the problem it is in Antigua. They must be eating the French diet.

We got back to the boat in time for a quick swim before the evening’s cocktails were served - Crown Royal for Dave, wine for me. A light dinner consisting of scrumptious cucumber salad with soup followed.

Sunday morning, we walked up the hill to the south of Deshaies to find the Botanical Garden. With the warm weather, it was a hot and sweaty, one mile walk. The Jardin Botanique was a very nicely laid-out botanical garden with native and non-native tropical plants and birds. The paths were curvy and several times cut across a creek and a small waterfall. Although it wasn’t cheap, it was a worthwhile excursion.

The afternoon was spent catching up on email and reading. Just another grueling day in the life of a cruiser.