Sailing to France, sort of
26 June 2007 | Deshaies, Guadalupe
We had not had any really nice weather in some time. As you get used to the "really-bad" stuff, the "bad" stuff starts looking ok. It was not a great day to travel but we decided to get moving as it was better than the trend.
Sailing down the lee of Montserrat was intriguing. Hideko and I spent a lot of time looking through the binoculars amazed at how much of Montserrat, which we had not really seen by land, had been destroyed. The sail around the south end of the island is truly awe inspiring. You must stay outside the maritime exclusion zone just in case but you can still see the destruction clearly.
Around the southern point things got zippy. We were motor sailing with a reef in and I started to see the wind speed close on 30 knots. I went forward and popped in reef number two as we turned into it.
It was a 6 hour sail with the wind howling 25 to 30 knots thirty degrees off of the bow. Seas were good sized to go with it. The trip was rather eventless other than the passing of a small private plane. The thing sounded like a P38 Lighting and he buzzed Kelp Fiction really close. Fred tried to warn me but just as I was saying, "what plane", it blasted by us 100 feet off of the deck. I almost jumped out of the boat it was so loud. After rolling around to see the looks on our faces the pilot flew off. I'm sure karma will sort things out.
We entered the bay at Dashaies (Day-Hay) and anchored around noon. It is a beautiful little town. Unlike the former British territories, Guadalupe is France, and therefore the EU. The French islands are quite a bit less poor and have much better food than the surrounding areas. They are, of course, more developed as well.
Dashies has a small marina and a little canal that winds up by town. There are lots of little places to eat on the shore and you can tie up at the dinghy dock, in the marina or in the canal.
When Kelp Fiction arrived, Fred and I tried to go clear in. Another great thing about the French islands is that they are pretty lax on the clear in, clear out business. There are no fees involved, which I think relaxes the concern a bit. If you try to clear in every day, that's good enough. We tried. They were closed. So off we went to dinner at one of the local restaurants. We had a lovely meal and a lot of fun.
I had to think long and hard about the whole clearance issue at first. I am interested in respecting each nation we visit along with their laws. After speaking with officials in various countries however I have come to believe that you must consider each country in turn. No two are alike. The further south you go, the more things seem to be on the honor system. I have talked to several officials in the French countries and if customs is closed for the day (or week as the case may be) they would rather you buy dinner at a local restaurant and shop some to support the economy than stay aboard with the Q flying. That is as long as you make an earnest attempt to clear in as soon as possible.
You must always get the low down before taking a cavalier approach however. In Montserrat, a place I thought would welcome any visitor with open arms, we were told to wait on the boat until the next day when customs would arrive at 8AM. If we had not gone immediately to clear in we could have gotten on the wrong side of the local officials. Not a good idea on an island with 15,000 folks where officials have a lot of autonomy and fairly poor jail facilities (although the view from the Montserrat jail high on the clif was spectacular as I recall).