Cousteau Marine Park
23 January 2017
When we were growing up, Jacques Cousteau was the man who brought the world under the sea to TV screens across the world. On the west coast of Guadeloupe, at Pigeon Island, is the Cousteau Marine Park, where Jacques himself had declared the area of great importance and we just had to go there.
After a fantastic sail from Pointe a Pitre and an overnight at anchor at Basse-Terre, we arrived at Pigeon Island and dropped the anchor for a couple of days. Just snorkelling off the boat was great with turtles swimming around. Although we jumped out quick at one point as we were cleaning under the hull and what looked like a shark came over and nestled up against the keel. We took some photos and are now not so convinced that is was a shark but we don't know what it was either.
Next morning, before the day tripper boats arrived, we took the dinghy over to the marine park and tied to one of the boat buoys whilst we explored the area. As soon as we jumped in, we were in another world, and surrounded by lots of fish. Some were familiar to us but lots were new. The water was crystal clear and very calm which enabled us to see everything clearly.
Just like when we were in the Saintes, a shoal of Blue Tang's swam past but this time I had my camera ready and took a video of them. If I can ever work out how to put this on the blog, I will. It was wonderful.
Not only were the fish fantastic as they munched away looking for their breakfast, but the corals, sponges and plants there were mesmerising too.
Friends of ours had passed through there the previous week but with different weather, had had a completely different experience. If we hadn't stopped to get the fridge and other stuff fixed, we would have been there at the same time and would have missed out on a great experience.
No charge to go to marine park.
Anchor depths were much more than our chart indicated.
Leader Price & Carrefour supermarket next to the fisherman's tiny harbour, about ½ mile south of anchorage. Self-service laundry there too.
BOAT = Bring Out Another Thousand
22 January 2017
Anyone who read our blog of Martinique may recall that our fridge was playing up but we got it fixed there. Well, 3 weeks later, on Christmas Eve to be exact, it stopped working completely. We were in Dominica then, going to the Saintes and neither places had anyone who could diagnose or repair the fridge, so we kept it stocked with bags of ice-cubes, which worked very well, until we could get to Guadeloupe to sort it out.
We booked into the marina for 3 days in Pointe a Pitre as that was the easiest place for our fridge man to see us. Richard arrived, as promised, first thing Monday morning and by the afternoon, we had a completely working fridge again, which meant cold beers and gin & tonic – hurray!! Turned out that a connection had loosened and some gaskets needed replacing. The refrigerant was then taken out to make sure that there were no blockages anywhere and then replaced.
PP is a great place to get anything sorted for boats and Chris took the opportunity of replacing the starter motor battery. We washed the boat and got ready to leave. However, when going under the floorboards to get something, we found fresh water under there sloshing around (about 2 litres). Some boats do have systems that mean they have water under the floor but our boat doesn’t and so we had to find the leak. We traced it back to the hot water heater/storage but to mend if meant getting it out and this involved Chris doing a Houdini act to get into a very small space, turn upside down and get the tank out. The washer at the top of the tank had split and was letting water out, so we replaced it and put the tank back and turned it on. Straight away, the electric popped off. There was a short somewhere. More investigation proved that one of the heater elements had corroded the inside of the tank and so the tank had to come out again but this time could not be fixed. Thank goodness that the chandlers had a replacement that worked for the space that we had and so a new tank was purchased (600 euros later) and installed.
Together with jobs and then making the most of being tied to the land for shopping and laundry, we spent a week there and lots of euros!!!! So much for just a 3 night stop.
However, we did visit Pointe a Pitre which was just like being back in France but with a Caribbean twist. The central market was very colourful with the flower ladies stalls brimming with flowers and the fruit and vegetables piled high on tables. Strolling past the fish stall, a Yellow Fin tuna had just arrived and so we bought a steak each for dinner.
There is a very good holding anchorage just outside the marina from where you can dinghy into town or just sit and watch the happenings when the big container ships come into port to deliver or take on goods for other destinations. Huge cruise ships came in most days too and it did take a little getting used to, sitting in the cockpit watching these huge vessels of all shapes and sizes passing quite close by.
Marina Bas du Fort – 33 euros per night incl. water, elec and wifi (which hardly worked). On site laundry, post office, supermarket and several chandlers.
Fridge Doctor – Richard Dubois. email@example.com
Iles des Saintes, French West Indies
16 January 2017
With two reefs in both sails, we headed north for Iles des Saintes, a small group of French islands just 20 miles away. We had a great sail there and made for the only small town, Bourg des Saintes, on the largest island Terre d'en Haut, where we took a mooring close to the shore, as it was too deep to anchor there. Since the islands were never used for agriculture, no slaves were imported, and the local inhabitants are all there because they want to be, and we understand why.
Bourg des Saintes is a pretty town with a strong French feel. It is very popular with day-trippers from Guadeloupe who arrive on the many ferries that bring the tourism euros to the island to spend in the shops, restaurants and holiday activities. But the same ferries also take everyone away at the end of the day and quiet descends. We spent New Year Eve here with friends, Dave & Anna, enjoying a meal on the waterfront followed by music and dancing in a local bar. At midnight, we were treated to a great firework display as we popped the bubbly aboard Dave & Anna's boat, Apollo. We were very pleased to have arrived a couple of days before New Year because very quickly all available mooring buoys were taken and the only permissible anchoring area was exposed to wind and waves.
Mooring buoy 12-14.99m - 13 euros day/85 week/290 month Dec-May
Laundry 10 euros wash & dry
Lots of recycling but regular rubbish goes on street parallel to the main street
Make sure you have fuel and cooking gas before you arrive as it's not easy to get there
15 January 2017
Terre d’en Haut is small enough that you can get about on foot and we did quite a lot of walking and hiking. One such trip took us to Fort Napoleon, built in 1867, which stands on a hill overlooking the whole of the harbour. The fort has been very well restored and is now a museum and art gallery. Part of the museum is devoted to the famous battle of the Saintes, when England’s Admiral Rodney demolished the French fleet under the command of De Grasse in 1782. The surrounding gardens are well maintained and a walk around them gives commanding views across to Guadeloupe and Dominica.
Only open until midday. Get there early to avoid the crowds when the ferry arrives.
Baie de Pompierre
14 January 2017
This bay is on the windward side of Terre d’en Haut is protected by two rocky islands whose cliffs rise to about 130 feet. The horseshoe bay is surrounded by coconut trees and we can testify that the local goats love eating fresh coconut!
To get a different view of the bay, we decided to make our way over to the rocky islands which involved Chris balancing our bag on his head as we waded across the narrow gap between the bay and the islands. Just as the water got to chest height, the ground started to come up again and so we didn’t get a soaking. Most visitors stayed on the main beach but we had our own, private beach on the island where we had a picnic and did some snorkelling. We were both a little taken aback when a school of about 50 large Blue Tang’s swam by. I could have kicked myself for not having the camera with me. There were such a deep but bright blue with a yellow dot just in front of their tail fin.
Hike to Le Chameau
13 January 2017
The islands most spectacular view is from Le Chameau with an old Napoleonic lookout tower. From below, it looked very steep and high at about 1000 feet but the road up there was in very good condition and it took us about 50 minutes to reach the summit. The reward was indeed the view. We were above the height at which the small airplanes were descending to the tiny airstrip far below and Deep Blue looked like a pinprick in the harbour. The lookout tower was in need of some restoration but must have had an important job in its day with commanding views all around.
The island is full of well-marked walking and hiking trails and we noticed that one would take us down the front of the hill, through woodland and over rocks, so we decided to return that way. We were very pleased to have come down that way rather than have gone up that way, as it was much steeper and more of a direct descent. On the way, we were amazed to see a type of hermit crab living in the woodland, so high out of the water. They carried their shell homes on their backs as they scrambled about the leaves and tree roots. It was incredible to see.
Dominica, the nature island
28 December 2016
Everyone that we had met who had visited Dominica has raved about its beauty, so we were very excited to arrive in Roseau, the capital, to be able to see the island for ourselves.
Dominica (pronounced Domi-ni-ca, with the emphasis on the ‘ni’ and not like the Dominican Republic), lies between the French islands of Martinique, in the south, and Guadeloupe, in the north. It is an island of nature with nine potentially active volcanoes (most other islands only have one!), countless waterfalls, hiking trails, a boiling lake and as much to see below the surface as there is to see above.
We divided our stay into two halves, one week in the south at Roseau on a mooring buoy, as it was too deep to anchor, and one week in the north, at anchor in Portsmouth. Friends Dave and Anna were with us on their boat and together we snorkelled at Champagne Reef where warm bubbles ascend from the sea bed. We also saw in the wild torrent of water at Titou Gorge and were glad to be wearing life jackets as we were buffeted around the narrow gorge that led to a waterfall. We then hiked through rainforest to Middleham Falls, where the almost daily rain ensured that there was plenty of water falling down the sheer drop high above us. From here we continued our hike to the town of Cochrane, where the local bar also had ‘Pig Meat for Sail’! At the end of our hike, we were rewarded with fresh grapefruit that had fallen from the trees and a local taxi as we could walk no further.
Back in Roseau, the botanical gardens were given a great write-up in our guide with a parrot conservation area but the reality was a disappointment and three sad looking parrots in a cage didn’t seem like a conservation project to us. However, a group of local dogs escorted us up the short hike from the gardens to Morne Bruce, which gave us a birds-eye view of the city and a glimpse of a local bride who was having photos taken. Each day cruise ships of all sizes arrived into Roseau and the town came alive catering to the tourists but after everyone had left, it was quite quiet as everyone got on with their daily lives.
Our time in Portsmouth was quite different. Whereas there were very few boats stopping in Roseau, we counted up to 50 boats either at anchor or on a mooring buoy in Portsmouth, including friends Barbara and Stephen, who were joined by Stephen’s son Dan. We met many years ago in the Mediterranean and it was great to see them again and also see Q-Queenie, their motor-catamaran, for the first time.
Even though we were just days from Christmas, you wouldn’t have known it. There were no bright decorations in the streets or Christmas carols blaring from every shop that you passed. It was only on Christmas Eve that the main street became pedestrianized and food vendors came out and there was excitement in the air as everyone busied themselves preparing for a 3-day holiday. Christmas Day for us started with drinks aboard Q-Queenie followed by lunch with Dave and Anne where we enjoyed chicken, not turkey, with roast potatoes, sprouts, butternut squash, cabbage, stuffing and delicious gravy followed by mince-pies by Anna, stolen and a French Christmas log. We hadn’t eaten like that for a long time and so relaxed watching Love Actually on dvd. A good day was had by all.
Dominica has provided the setting for many scenes in the Pirates of the Caribbean films (the Titou Gorge being one of them) and it was on a trip up the Indian River that our guide proudly showed us the home of the witch Calypso that featured in the second film. None of us had seen the film, so it didn’t mean much to us, but the rowing trip up the river was very nice and scenic and we enjoyed our ‘Dynamite’ drinks at the small bar at the end.
We really wanted to do a lot more on the island but the weather had other plans. We expected rain during our visit, the island wouldn’t be so lush and green and the waterfalls so impressive, if it didn’t rain but there was so much rain and strong, gusty winds that we didn’t feel inclined to go hiking and seek out the famous Sisserou parrots only to get soaking wet and cold. We’d had enough of that just getting shore and back! Maybe we just hit it at the wrong time of year but Dominica is definitely worth spending some time at and you really have to go inland to see its true beauty.
Roseau – mooring buoys at Dominica Marine Centre (40EC) are in best location for town. Call Markus VHF 16. They had a nice bar & restaurant with wifi and can refill gas bottled (30EC).
Portsmouth – Indian River guides formed the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services (PAYS). A great bunch of guys who are there to help and look after cruisers needs. They are not pushy and can assist with anything.
Regulations – we checked in at Roseau and benefitted from the 2-week check-in/out at the same time system which meant that we didn’t need to check out in Portsmouth.
St. Pierre, Martinique
27 December 2016
Our last stop in Martinique turned out to be one of our favourites. Lying at the foot of Mt. Pelee, St. Pierre was once the commercial, cultural and social centre of the island but on 8th May 1902, Mt. Pelee erupted killing the nearly 30,000 inhabitants of the town, leaving only two survivors. Twelve ships in the anchorage were destroyed and the town was left in ruins, some of which can still be seen today.
The anchorage is in a lovely setting and the town was bustling with shops and restaurants catering to locals and visitors alike. The daily produce market is next to the fish market which was a hive of activity the day some local fishermen brought in a huge shark they had caught. Cries of ‘Requin’ could be heard in the anchorage as the fishmonger announced that he had ‘Shark’ for sale.
Once stocked up with some French goodies for Christmas, we waved ‘au revoir’ to Martinique and headed north for Dominica, our first new island of the season.
November & December Caribbean weather
14 December 2016
Le Marin Saturday market
14 December 2016