We set the sails in Tobago for a beat to windward and after 36 hours of 6 to 8 foot seas we dropped the hook off St. Anne on the south end of Martinique. St. Anne is a colourful small town full of and personality and a favoured stop. Just a dingy ride away is Marin, one of the largest yacht centers in the Caribbean. This is provisioning paradise! Two large wonderful markets are steps away from the dingy dock and there are wonderful items on the shelves that you just can't get anywhere else but on the French Islands. Our dinner was a fresh baguette, wine and brie - perfect!
The Christmas winds have come early and this region of the Caribbean is experiencing 30 + knots gusts daily. Many boats are held up in various ports waiting for a weather window to continue north. Many of us had planned to be in the Virgin Islands for the holidays but remember that schedules are written in the sand at low tide.
After 10 days we moved along the leeward coast to St.Pierre on the north end of Martinique. Being such a high island, the wind and seas are sheltered so we had a pretty good ride. There appears to be a small settling of wind and seas so off we go in the morning continuing our trek north. We spent a quick overnight in Dominica without checking in and of again.
Ah, the heavenly Saintes where they deliver still warm chocolate croissants and baguettes to your boat in the morning. Our trip here in 8 to 10 foot seas went fairly well due to the fact that the interval was quite long and we just rolled up and down smoothly. The wind is really howling through the anchorage here but this is such special place. I am trying to take in every sight and smell, every street and view, and record it in memory as I may never be here again (We keep saying we will be west next year but we have said that before). This is almost every cruisers tiny French paradise. We took several nice walks and filed up on wine before heading on. The weather is crazy but It is a short trip to the shelter of Guadeloupe so we are not overly concerned about conditions. We now know we will never make it to the Virgins so we are shooting for Antigua where several folks we know are headed for the holidays.
Pigeon Island is a good location to stop to take a bus to Basse-Terre and we enjoyed exploring and a bit of shopping. This is also a great place to dive or snorkel and the entire area is a protected marine park. This time the weather conditions have it so stirred up that visibility was limited and we didn't even bother to get the gear out. The beach is lovely and there are several places for snacks or a beer. Often the swell prevents a good nights sleep and after two windy and rolly nights we had enough and we moved up to Deshaies.
We arrived in Deshaies by noon and went to shore to check out. It is always sad leaving a French island, not knowing when you will get great cheese and wine again. After we checked out we prepared the boat for a rough 52 mile ride to Antigua. The forecast was for 18 to 20 knots and big seas but we were set. By 6am the anchor was up, there were 2 reefs in the main and the storm sail was rolled out. By 8 am we were back anchored in the very same spot as before and we prepared for the possibility that we would spend Christmas on Guadeloupe. Forecasts are not any more reliable here than back in the U.S. so we just check several sites and take a best guess. This time we were wrong. The seas and wind were almost on the nose with gust over 30 again. A close beat for10 hours was not a pleasant thought. There is so much power behind those swells that it almost stops the boat when they hit you from the front, on the other hand when you have those same seas following you they can surf you along and you can see speeds exceeding your calculated hull speed. Anyway, we had never turned around before but we're glad we did.
Shortly after we settled back in, Arctic Tern and Tusen Tak II arrived. We also met other English speaking couples so all is good! On the Saturday before Christmas we took a bus to Baie Mahault, a big shopping complex with a variety of great stores. As hard as it is to admit, the hustle and bustle of the day was very enjoyable. We were however, very glad to get back to our boat and the peacefulness of living on water.
Christmas in Guadeloupe was a very nice experience and I just love the French bread, wine and cheese. Joyeux Noel