14 June 2009 | Annapolis, MD
11 June 2009
10 June 2009 | Little Creek Marina, Norfolk, VA, USA
04 June 2009 | Little Creek Marina, Norfolk, VA, USA
31 May 2009 | Little Creek Marina, Norfolk, VA, USA
29 May 2009 | Little Creek Marina, Norfolk, VA, USA
26 May 2009 | Little Creek Marina, Norfolk, VA, USA
25 May 2009 | Little Creek Marina, Norfolk, VA, USA
13 May 2009 | through 21-May-2009
13 May 2009 | through 21-May-2009
12 May 2009 | St George's Town, Bermuda
11 May 2009 | St George's Town, Bermuda
07 May 2009 | St George's Town, Bermuda
04 May 2009 | St George's Town, Bermuda
21 April 2009 | through 02-May-2009

From One Extreme to the Other, Brings Us to The Saints

19 February 2009 | Bourg de Saintes, The Saints, Guadeloupe
CURRENT LOCATION: Anchored off the town of Bourg de Saintes on the island of Terre D'en Haut in the Iles Des Saintes, Guadeloupe
15 51.966' N, 061 35.285' W

Yesterday we covered over 52 nautical miles in about 10 hours. This was definitely a record pace for Team Prudence. It was a lovely day for sailing, with winds right in that sweet zone which allows full sails, comfortable speeds, and a balanced helm. Today's wind conditions were the polar opposite, switching from no wind at all to way too much wind, in the blink of an eye.

With some dark clouds moving off the coast in the pre-dawn light, we picked up our anchor from its resting place 26-feet below the surface (a good early morning workout, I can assure you) and left Pigeon Island in our wake. There was no wind to speak of, so we motored along waiting for the rain to fall. Eventually we saw it. Veils of rain moving gracefully down the green slopes of Guadeloupe's mountains. It was beautiful.


Watching the rain slowly march its way toward lower elevations was truly mesmerizing. With the autopilot steering the boat along the rhumb line through the calm waters, my immediate attention was not required at the helm, or so I thought. While staring at the spectacle of the cascading sheets of water, a tiny voice whispered in my subconscious, "You'd better watch where you are going." I turned to scan the water and noticed that we were headed straight for a line of fish pot floats! They were 15 feet from our bow when I hit the 'standby' button on the autopilot and quickly jerked the wheel to the left. Where there are usually two floats tied together with a floating line, here there were three floats connected with two sections of line (about 10 feet between each float). I got a good look as this potential prop-wrap nightmare as it passed just a few feet from us along our starboard side. Whew! Disaster was narrowly averted by the lucky timing of my nagging subconscious.

Although we didn't grab the camera fast enough to photograph the triple float threat which we narrowly avoided, here is a more common double-marked fish pot float...


Most of them here in Guadeloupe are less threatening than what we saw in Anguillan waters, due to the short distance between the floats. I suspect near Anguilla and St. Barts the floats were mined by commercial fisherman, while these are obviously being picked up by individuals in small boats. The commercial floats need a larger target (probably to be retrieved on the fly with a grappling hook) and the two floats are almost always separated by 10 to 15 (or more) feet. The floating line separating the pairs of floats commonly put out here off the west coast of Guadeloupe are usually only a few feet long, presenting much less of a target likely to wrap around our keel, skeg, prop or rudder. Of course, on the occasion when I wasn't paying attention, we nearly motored into the exception to the rule: 3 floats and 20 feet of floating line.

Conditions during the first half of the trip remained incredibly calm. This was the calmest open water experience we have had since November 2007 when we were becalmed for the better part of a day out on the Atlantic during our transit between South Carolina and Florida. It is amazing to be on such a huge body of water with a flat calm surface and a large slowly undulating swell. We motored over these mirror-like hills and dales for nearly 3 hours without a breath of wind, despite the 20-knot winds predicted for the day. This is because the winds were from the east and between us and those winds were mountains which ranged well over 3000 feet. I recall from one of my sailing classes that a wind shadow created by an object is 5 times as long as the object is high. Therefore, we might expect that we would be in calm waters here because those mountains should be blanketing the winds for a distance of up to 3 miles. We were skirting the coast a mere half-mile off of the shoreline.

We knew that our mill pond conditions would cease as we approached the southwest corner of the island. And cease they did. Even if you are not a sailor, you can see the wind coming in the photo below. Note the line in the water ahead of us where flat calm gives way to texture:


We crossed that line, rounded the corner and were suddenly seeing 20-25 knot winds coming from, you guessed it, exactly the direction we wanted to go. These winds alone would made it a rough go, but the Canal des Saints had also built up sharply-pointed, closely-spaced waves. We spent a miserable two hours bashing through the waves toward the group of islands collectively known as The Saints. Even though we enlisted a reefed main and the staysail, both sheeted down as tight as possible, the engine never got a rest today.

Once we finally reached the protective lee of The Saints, we found it to be a very busy place. Hobie cats and wind surfers greeted us upon arrival, and we had to dodge a big Windstar cruise ship as we searched for a spot to anchor. The anchorage was crowded with boats and the water was deep everywhere we looked. We finally settled upon a spot near Tete Rouge, where we dropped our anchor and a lot of heavy chain down into 35-feet of water (the most shallow open spot available). I am not looking forward to having to retrieve the ground tackle, but that worry will be for another day.


We were settled on our anchor by noon, and after lunch I inflated the kayaks. Since we are so close to a beach here (where the local yacht club exists), we are going to try to get by with kayaks alone. This will save the effort of assembling and securing our dinghy during our visit to The Saints. It will also make our preparations for eventually crossing to Dominica that much easier.

We kayaked ashore and walked to town to clear in with Customs and Immigration. Unfortunately, we were told in a thick French accent, "It is not possible," due to the general strike. Not certain what to do, Sheryl asked if we had to return directly to the boat or could we walk around. They said it was no problem to walk around town, and she agreed to arrive at their office at 8AM tomorrow to try again to become legal visitors to Guadeloupe.

We strolled the length of the only town on these islands, Bourg de Saints (or simply Le Bourg), through narrow streets where transport is mainly by bicycle, scooter, or one's own two feet. Cruise ships and ferry boats fill the streets with tourists and the businesses cater to their needs with ubiquitous restaurants and shopping opportunities for which we have little need. We did, however, take advantage of the availability of fresh-made ice cream and sat on a bench with our deliciously cold treat watching the tourists and locals meander by. Not a word of English was spoken. Unlike Culebra, where the influx of both English and Spanish speaking visitors forces at least some degree of bilingualism upon most businesses that deal with the public, The Saints appear to be decidedly French, through and through. When we did need to deal with a clerk and inquired, "Do you speak English?" The reply was, "Non, je ne parle pas anglais." Of course, Sheryl and I are decidedly monolingual and any communication at this point becomes a game of charades. Fortunately, pointing at a small cup and then pointing at the flavor of ice cream we spied through the glass case was enough to facilitate this first transaction.

Ice cream only whetted our appetites, and we started thinking forward to dinnertime. Pasta made on the boat would be accented nicely with some fresh French bread. The town bakery, unfortunately, was closed. We looked through a couple of supermarkets, only to find that the shelves were as bare as we had been told to expect. It is a good thing that we arrived with a well-stocked boat. Finally, while walking back toward the kayaks, we saw a woman selling bread on a table in front of her home. The bread was wide and twisted in a braided fashion, and Sheryl was concerned that the loaf may be stuffed with something she would not eat (like meat). She inquired, "Do you speak English?" only to get the negative response to which we were now growing accustomed. Not knowing how to proceed, she tried to gesture and mime her question regarding what was inside the bread, to no avail. Finally, knowing that I would eat just about anything, she changed to a question more easily communicated without language, "How much?" pointing to her purse. A mere 1 euro bought us the most delicious bread you can imagine (with no fillers whatsoever). I was concerned that the bread might get a little extra seasoning with salt water during our kayak ride back; however, Sheryl (who is always prepared), produced a clean one-gallon zip lock bag and relieved me of those worries.

We dropped off our shoes at the kayaks and walked into the yacht club. It was a casual sort of shack with the sand beach for a floor beneath our bare feet. I ordered a cold Carib beer and Sheryl tried something new, Ti Punch. Hers was a potent brew of mostly alcohol, tempered with only a little sugar and lime juice. We sat and looked out across the water (note: the photo below shows our view from the bar, Prudence anchored next to a Windstar cruise ship). Sometimes I have to pinch myself to be certain I am not dreaming. This isn't a Caribbean vacation on a cruise ship for us, we actually sailed our vessel down here ourselves, working to earn each and every nautical mile. Hard to believe that as little as 4 years ago, we didn't even know how to sail.


One pre-dinner drink was enough for us. Comfortably sated with adult beverages, we hopped back into our kayaks and paddled the short distance to our home. Once again, we sit here under the Q-flag. Hopefully, tomorrow we will be able to replace it with a proper French courtesy flag.


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Vessel Name: Prudence
We are Doug & Sheryl, owners and crew of the sailing vessel Prudence.

This blog starts in 2005, when we initially had the idea to quit our jobs and live on a sailboat while we cruised to the Caribbean. At that time we had never owned a boat and had no experience sailing. [...]