Heading South into the Eastern Caribbean
26 January 2019
So after the new year all our family left us on our own in Antigua. Nine marvelous days with all twelve of us. Grandpa and grandma on Lucky Bird, Diane & Billy and their four boys at Harbor Island Residences and Norm & Laura and their two girls at Antigua Italia. Like all vacations when they arrived we thought, fantastic, nine days. Then, seemingly all of a sudden, they were gone. Antigua is still our favorite; it was time though for us to move on.
Our first stop south was Deshaies,Guadeloupe. A short hop of some 47 nm. Weather was good, sailing was terrific and we arrived late afternoon. This is a very popular destination from and to Antigua. It's really only an indentation with little to no protection for both the southerly and norther ocean swells, so guess what, we rolled and rolled. It was full when we got there and we had to anchor in over 30 feet of water, that meant letting out almost 200 feet of chain, I like to be cautious. As it always happens, in the night the wind picked up and changed direction. I got up to do an anchor check and yikes, there's a catamaran within 50 feet, not good. So I essentially sat watch the rest of the evening as Lucky Bird swung on the anchor away from the cat and then back, fortunately we never got closer than the 50 or so feet. We were anchor up really early heading south to Iles Des Saintes where we planned to check into that French island.
France has the easiest check in-out process, You sit at a desk top in a store or internet cafe, answer all the forms information requests, print you clearance and yoila, all done, sweet. We stayed one night, headed for Pointe-A-Pitre, Guadeloupe the next morning. We had one of our best sails so far. The wind ranged from 12 to 18 knots BEHIND THE BEAM, hurray, at last an off-the-wind sail. No pounding, no reefing, no blue water over the bow, just play with the sails, racing days influence, and the 22 nm trip was over too fast. We spent a week, rented a car for four days and really played tourist.
Guadeloupe is really two islands, Grand Terre and Basse Terre, in the shape of a butterfly separated by the Riviere Salee. We took a slip in Marina Bas Du Fort, making it easier to get to the car and on shore services. Next it was off to Marie Galante, a small French island east and south of Guadeloupe by some 20nm. Another decent sail although windward, again on the nose sailing, but no pounding, no blue water on the deck. In this area of the Caribbean you can see all the islands due to their volcano heritage.
Marie Galante is quite different culture-wise from Guadeloupe, it's very laid back. Shops open around 0800 and close at 1100 to open again around 1400 and close by 1600. So renting a car meant getting into the dinghy at 0730 to try and be first in line. A ferry arrived just as we were tieing up the dinghy and we hustled to beat the crowd.
We are members of the Ocean Cruising Club, OCC, and fly our OCC pennant. It's recognized by other cruisers and as a welcoming sign to stop by and get to know us. A couple, Mike and Robbin on their beautiful Mermaid invited us over for Sundowners and conversation. That's the way we get to meet and lean about the travels of others in this beautiful place, the Eastern Caribbean.
We heard listening to Chris Parker, on our Single Sideband radio, that another big blow was on the way and the anchorage at Saint Louis, Marie Galante was no place to be, so Martinique here we come. We had about four days to make it to a safe harbor stopping first in Dominica to check in having already checked out of France. Chris's forecast was for the trade winds to build significantly with funneling between the islands do to compression to build to near 40 knots. Not so cool.
Dominica is a very poor island and is not really a major stopping point for cruisers. I have talked with some who just love the island but for us not so much. We spent one of our four days parked in Portsmouth, the only cruisers harbor in the western side of the island. The next morning we sailed about 16 kms to Roseau which would be our jumping off spot to Martinique. Oddly enough to us, there was a cruise ship berthed at Roseau, seemed strange but who knows. Anchor up at 0630 and we set sail for the 50 km trip to Anse Mitan, across the bay from Fort Du France. We didn't go ashore at Anse Mitan as our four day window was now down to one day, so early the next morning off we went to Le Marin where we had spent time back in 2010. It was a 25 jaunt and guess what, 15 to 18 knots on the nose. Now we could have sailed, tacking back and forth and probably done just fine, but, I'm getting a little lazy so we powered the whole way. Blue water over the bow but the waves got smaller and smaller as we approached the harbor.
Now here I must pause and try and describe the harbor at Le Marin. It is almost a hurricane hole in that it is well protected from winds in all directions except possibly south west. Even then with the various, reefs and shallow spots waves wouldn't be much of an issue. So.... guess what, over 2,000 of our very closest cruising friends were already there. As we approached the anchorage you could not see the land ahead of us. It was wall to wall boats and masts. Some 1200 to 1500 boats on moorings and anchors with another 600+ in the marina. A real sight to see. Le Marin has everything and that's why it's so popular.
Here we sit tonight, safely on a mooring with wind gusting to 20 – 25 but no waves. Squalls pass by dumping rain for ten minutes or less and we've been dinghying to shore everyday shopping, checking in, getting the lay of the land. We've rented a car for three days starting Monday to again become land tourists. Were doing boat projects, reading a lot, pulled a small boat off the nearby reef, and generally sucking in this cruising life.
Up next, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, maybe, and then Bequia, Mustique, North Mayreau, Tobago Keys, Union Island, Canouan, Carriacou,(Carry ah koo) and finally the Grenadines and Grenada. After all that we turn back north to be in the Virgin Islands late April where we are considering joining the Salty Dawg Rally to Hampton Virginia.
So that's it for now, peace to everyone.