Born of the Sea

Preparing for a phased retirement on the sea. Muirgen (Gaelic for 'born of the sea')

14 May 2024 | Union Island, SVG
10 May 2024 | Mayreau, Grenadines
09 May 2024 | Tobago Cays, Grenadines
07 May 2024 | Mayreau, Grenadines
05 May 2024 | Mustique, Grenadines
02 May 2024 | Baliceaux, Grenadines
01 May 2024 | Bequia, SVG
22 April 2024 | Saint Vincent
15 April 2024 | Marigot Bay, Saint Lucia
08 April 2024 | Saint Lucia National Parks
06 April 2024 | Rodney Bay / Gros Islet, Saint Lucia
31 March 2024 | Sainte Anne, Martinique
13 March 2024 | Iles des Saintes
10 March 2024 | Deshaies, Guadeloupe
03 March 2024 | Monserrat to Guadeloupe
02 March 2024 | Monserrat

French Antilles

08 February 2024 | Guadeloupe and Iles des Saintes
Donna Cariss
We departed Piccard's Bay at 0720, with sunshine and a very light breeze, which increased to a pleasant 12 knots as we came out of the shelter of the headland. The sea was calm and with the foresail out, it looked like we would have a comfortable sail south to Guadeloupe. We could see rain over towards Monserrat, to the southwest of us but thought we might just avoid it as we turned south. No such luck; we were hit by a sudden squall, with torrential rain and winds of 22 to 27 knots that were veering wildly. I was already soaked through but Pete manned up to take the helm and instructed me to shelter under the sprayhood. We thought the squall would pass through in 5 or 10 minutes but 30 minutes later we were still battling with it and not making much progress south, as we tacked back and forth. We put the engine on and tried motoring but with the wind and the swell, we were struggling to make 3 knots. Eventually, we took the decision to abandon the trip to Guadeloupe, for today and head east, into Carlisle Bay. I turned off the AIS as we were now effectively illegal immigrants, having checked out of Antigua 24 hours beforehand.
Carlisle Bay was lovely and mostly protected from the wind and some of the swell. The rain came and went all day but in between we had time to fish. Pete caught 2 yellow tail snapper, one too small to land and the other a very fine specimen of about 15 inches. He let the pretty thing go just before I read on Google that it was very good eating. Later he foul-hooked a garfish, which was also released. Chicken for tea, again, tonight then! We also saw a lovely turtle swimming around the yacht and a small shark swimming underneath. By 7pm, we were in our bunks to get some sleep before an early start for Guadeloupe. Unfortunately, it was a roly night.
On Tuesday morning, we were up before the larks, at 0355 hours and we were on our way out of Carlisle Bay by 0415. It was dark, with no visible moon but it was warm and dry and there wasn't much breeze. There was still a swell from the east though, the result of yesterday's inclement weather. The sunrise wasn't visible, due to low cloud and I went below to the lee berth for an hour, to rest my eyes, having been disturbed all night by the rocking and rolling at anchor. We had a pleasant crossing, under engine until the last half an hour or so, as there was no wind until we closed in on land. the 10 hour trip to Des Haies seemed to pass quite quickly. We saw a few other yachts heading in the opposite direction but nothing close enough to wave to. Guadeloupe is French, as evidenced by the vast number of fishing pots dotting the sea for the last 8 or so miles but we managed to avoid them all. We anchored in Des Haies and went ashore to check in. We knew that it had moved from the Pelican to somewhere else but it wasn't clear exactly where. We were told to go up the hill, towards the ferry, to the customs office (Douane), which we found but it was closed, so we gave up and returned to the boat, via a bar to get some wifi. On the way, we passed 'Lime in Time', a yacht from Jolly Harbour, owned by Billy, from Liverpool, so we had a quick chat. We snorkelled from the boat, spotting turtles and an octopus. I was stung by something unseen in the water, potentially jellyfish tentacles in the seaweed. We wasted white wine vinegar to clear the sting and any infection. Bedtime came nice and early, at 8pm and we slept soundly.
We didn't get up until 8am, so had 12 hours sleep; not unusual for Pete but approaching a record for me. We headed for shore, in the dinghy, to look for the check-in again. We wandered down the main street, avoiding the cockerels and chickens that were roaming the street and beach and found a small portacabin on the side of the fishing harbour. Yesterday it had been closed up but this morning, the blinds were open. We had found the latest place to check in, which had moved since the day before. The procedure was simple; fill out a form, get it stamped and pay €5. They didn't look at our passports or the ship's papers. We called at the Boulangerie for a coffee and to buy a baguette and 2 pain au chocolat for tomorrow's breakfast. It was great to be en France! There we met Ricky, a US (female) marine biologist and solo sailor. A very interesting and thought provoking conversation; lovely to meet you.
We motored the 10 miles down to Pigeon Island, a marine conservation area, founded by Jacques Cousteau and anchored off the 'mainland' beach, outside the protected area. Then we realised that we had anchored next door to Billy again. We snorkelled right beside the boat, with a large turtle which was feeding off the bottom and coming up for air every few minutes. Pete even managed to dive down and scratch its shell. A Danish boat anchored between us and Billy and swam over to introduce himself and tell us how much chain he had out. This is important as in Guadeloupe, in most of the anchorages, the boats swing at very different angles, meaning we could come stern to stern at some point. Pete invited the guy aboard and gave him a beer and by the time he left it was time for us to take the dinghy over to Pigeon Island to snorkel on the reefs. Ricky had said that we would enjoy it but it wouldn't be spectacular compared to the places that we had dived and she was bob on. The reef fish were pretty and the coral a bit more colourful than we have seen so far in Antigua and Barbuda but nothing like the Red Sea or the Maldives. We completely missed the Jacques Cousteau monument at 6 metres depth though, not that I knew I was supposed to look for it.
During the night, we had to re-anchor, as the wind had turned and we were extremely close to an uninhabited catamaran that was on a mooring buoy and therefore not moving very far. We managed to move closer to shore without hitting anything, including the yacht alongside that had no anchor light.
Today was all about the shopping at Carrefour. We were up early, eating the warmed pain au chocolat for breakfast before motoring a mile down the beach to drop anchor opposite the small boat harbour at Pigeon. First priority, having gone ashore in the dinghy, was to find some free wifi. I had received a 'welcome to the EU' message from EE, so wanted to top up my account and activate a pack to use EU data and we also needed to top up Revolut and transfer money into Euros. We found 'Le Fromage', a tiny little cafe bar and ordered coffee. The choice was espresso or La Longue (tall) and as I don't really like coffee, I ordered the espresso, it being a smaller volume and surprisingly, I enjoyed it. The wifi was excellent and we completed all our transactions whilst being eaten alive by the mosquitos. Then we were into Carrefour for a French shopping frenzy. We loaded up with fresh fruit and veg, cheese, meats, tinned cassoulet and potato gratin and real beer. It was a struggle getting it all back to the dinghy and then fitting it in, with me balanced on top. We reached the boat and I clambered out onto the sugar scoop, with the dinghy rope in hand. I was just going to tie it off when I slipped and went sideways into the water, fully clothed. There was no damage other than a ripped off finger nail, as I hadn't let go of the rope. I blame the caffeine!
Having unloaded the shopping and dried off, we motored around the headland to Bouillante, which was described as idyllic with a hot spring. The town itself was ugly but the anchorage before the town was scenic and uncrowded. We went ashore to look around and were unimpressed. There were scores of people standing in the sea where the hot spring entered the water but it smelled very sulphurous. Back on board, we spent a lovely evening, listening to Spotify, via my EU data. We watched the boats swinging on their anchors, in the dark and it was disconcerting again but there was no need to move this time.
On the 2nd February, we lifted the dinghy and dropped the outboard handle protector sleeve in the water. Time for a little man overboard practice. Successfully recovered and we started motoring south, as there was no wind again. The island was pretty; verdant green hills and valleys, rocky coastline and coloured houses dotted here and there. At 0920, a small pod of dolphins passed 50 metres away from the boat but they didn't come over to play. As we reached the southwestern point of Guadeloupe, just before noon and passed the lighthouse, we picked up a little bit of breeze, so put up the cruising shute. We had 6 miles to go to reach Iles des Saintes, the small group of islands that lie to the south of Guadeloupe. We were living the dream, 4.5 knots speed over the ground (SOG), listening to country music on Spotify and Pete was probably having a beer! We arrived at Ilet de Cabrit and found that the small bay now had mooring buoys and there was only 1 remaining available. We picked it up at the first attempt, then lowered the dinghy and rowed ashore. The beach, which we had been told was lovely, was covered in clumps of black weed and old fishing nets, which was disappointing. We walked the beach and headed into the trees behind and settled down at a picnic table, under a shelter, to avoid the sun for a while. There we were approached by 3 ginger and white cats, of varying ages and sizes. I found this somewhat upsetting given the island is uninhabited but they looked fairly healthy, so must be getting by, either on titbits from tourists or being fed by fishermen. Back on board we were charged €13 for the use of the buoy. The buoy had a very large, metal ring on the top of it, which was hitting the boat, so we put the fender blanket round the bow and raised the buoy as high as possible, to prevent any damage. Then we had steak au poivre, with chips and salad for dinner, washed down with a nice bottle of red.
The following morning, we relocated to an anchorage opposite, close to Terre de Haut, anchoring close inshore, then went into town in the dinghy. We had a walk around the small, colourful town, browsed the little boutiques and gift shops and photographed the church, before calling into the Cafe de la Marine for coffee. I again had an espresso and enjoyed it. I used the facilities and could hear Pete ordering a glass of Sancerre while I was out of the way. It was just turned 11am! However, the wine was delicious and nicely chilled. We took the dinghy round to the beach to explore that end of town. It was Saturday and every restaurant was fully booked, not that we really needed to eat out but we thought it would be nice to enjoy some local snack, along with the view. In the end, we bought fish crepes (much like croquetas), 3 for €6 and took them back to the boat to have with our cheese, biscuits and dips. We returned to Cafe de la Marine for a sundowner and were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
We had a relaxed start next morning and were probably the last boat to leave the islands heading north, as we could see a line of yachts and catamarans ahead. The cruising shute went up once we cleared Ilet de Cabrit and picked up a gentle breeze again. We sailed across the strait and continued to sail up the west coast of Guadeloupe until an hour south of Pigeon, when we lost the wind altogether. Our SOG varied from 2.5 to 5.2 knots but we weren't in any particular rush. The weather was mostly cloudy but warm and comfortable for most of the trip but very overcast by the time we reached the anchorage by the small boat harbour. An Aussie, passing in his dinghy, with his 2 dogs, commented on the grey day, as we were anchoring. We went ashore to the supermarket, only to find that they all closed at midday on Sundays. We were out of fresh provisions so had tinned cassoulet for dinner. The wind got up and the anchorage was extremely bouncy and rolling. I wanted to move into the shelter of the headland a mile south but Pete refused to up anchor and move when we had to return there in the morning. The Aussie and his wife moved. It was a horrendous night, rocking and rolling and crashing up and down and not a lot of sleep was had. I wasn't awoken by the cockerels starting their crowing at 2am.
We saw the Aussie again next morning, in the small boat harbour. Their night had been peaceful. He introduced himself as Dave and said they would be heading up to Des Haies today, as we were, to check out before going to Jolly Harbour the following day. We did our shopping, stocking up on camembert, other cheeses, French beer, wine and vegetables and motored the 10 miles north to Des Haies, where we picked up a mooring buoy, nipped into town and went to check out. The guy reviewed our check in paper and said we could go; nothing else was required. I picked up French bread and pain au chocolat at the boulangerie and we were back on board and departing before we could be charged for using the buoy. We motored round the headland to the next bay, where there was currently only 1 yacht and 1 cat at anchor. There was a little bit of swell coming in around the headland but nothing too uncomfortable. We had baked camembert, stuffed with garlic gloves for lunch and watched as more boats came in and anchored around us and the wind got up. We had anchored a good distance off the beach, as Pete was worried about the potential for an onshore breeze, which didn't materialise. It made for a long swim ashore and some decent exercise. The beach was lovely and sandy and very steep, backed by trees and a swampy lake. It was a popular place, with a large carpark and several small bars and restaurants back in the trees, which looked like they would be swarming with mosquitos. We swam back to the boat, against the tide. We were in our bunks by 7.45pm, tired after the previous night without sleep, with the alarm set for 5.45am.
At 6am we had just enough light to be able to pot watch as we left the anchorage and headed away from Guadeloupe. The number of pots was incredible and it was amazing that we didn't catch one. The forecast said we could have around 20-25 knots of wind today but there was a streak of blue and green on the chart between Antigua and Guadeloupe, which moved depending on which forecast you looked at. They all agreed that the wind would be generally from the south. Initially we had no wind at all and as we left Guadeloupe behind, the swell came at us from east by southeast, more or less on our beam. The wind was up and down and with it, the foresail and cruising shute were up and down but we rarely had enough wind to fill either sail, especially with the swell rocking the boat from side to side, so we ended up motoring most of the way and the swell increased as we progressed north. There was a stream of mainly catamarans behind us, everyone believing this was the day to head north and everyone was having the same struggle. Gradually everyone caught and passed us, with their power advantage. 8 miles south of Antigua, Dave and his wife came alongside on Joyful Surprise, almost getting her up on the plane coming across to us. We passed on advice about Jolly Harbour and said we would see them there and they powered away. After another couple of miles, we picked up 15 knots of breeze coming off Antigua and had a beautiful sail up the coast to Jolly, seeing quite a few turtles on our way through the shallow waters. We anchored near our usual spot, passing Joyful Surprise as we went down the channel, then Pete went ashore to check in while I tidied up the boat. He had been gone over an hour, so I swam across to see Jimbo and Lil. I was just about to swim back when Pete came into view in the dinghy. He had had a devil of a job at immigration because our passports hadn't been stamped in or out of Guadeloupe and then he had paid a quick visit to Derek and Linda, who were sitting on their terrace when he passed, having arrived the previous night. We had a beer or two on Freedom Girl. Jimbo and Lil said there had been 30 knot winds in Jolly all day and they had been worried about us sailing back in it, so they were surprised by our frustrating day. We then headed to the Eppie to buy take-away chicken, which we ate with Derek and Linda, while chatting until almost 11pm. I then had the best night's sleep on board.
It had been a great trip to Guadeloupe and Iles des Saintes. It was just a shame that we didn't have time to head further south to Dominica, the jewel of the Caribbean.
Comments
Vessel Name: Muirgen
Vessel Make/Model: Westerly Typhoon
Hailing Port: Hull
Crew: Donna and Peter Cariss
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