More Inter-island Swell
We’ve just spent an idyllic 5 days at anchor in the archipelago of Les Saintes, just south of Guadeloupe, and it was very close to perfect- however, we didn’t get off to the best start.
Our sail north from Dominica was only 18 miles, and quite frankly, we were glad to get in. This constant inter-island swell is getting on my nerves! It was also blowing about 20 knots, but did we have any reefs in? Of course not! So we were heeling over like crazy, holding on for dear life and lamenting that after that morning’s downpour which had left our boat happily salt-free, she was being subjected to regular waves crashing over her bow and coach roof- and yes, even occasionally into the cockpit. Nick and I got pretty good at dodging them- you get about a second’s warning, so if you’re already in a good position under the sprayhood, it’s enough time to duck behind it, if you’re paying attention. Like coiled springs, we were. Alas, we were unable to avoid a couple of particularly big waves, which left us both absolutely drenched from head to toe. We are at nature’s mercy, after all!
Back In France!
So we arrived in the little anchorage called Pain du Sucre. We made a beeline here because Eupraxia had been there for a couple of days and assured us it was borderline perfection. Well, it looked good as we rounded the headland, but we could see on our chart that it was pretty deep unless you were fairly close to shore. So that’s where we headed- it was a little crowded, but with our lifting keel, we’re usually able to nudge our way in. We lowered the anchor in a perfect spot off the beach, but it didn’t seem to be holding. Nick snorkelled on it and confirmed that our anchor was nestled between two rocks! Eek! It was too deep to snorkel on, so we crossed our fingers and toes and hoped it wasn’t snagged. We breathed a sigh of relief when it came up without a hitch, but then we had to re-anchor. We chose a spot further out, where it seemed to be less rocky, but then the anchor wouldn’t hold at all, we were slowly backing into the boat behind, who’s french owner also informed us that we were over his anchor. Fed up, we waved goodbye to Sandra, who was hanging out of her cockpit holding up coffee and cake for us and motored over to the main anchorage.
There are, according to the cruising guide, 80 mooring buoys here, and every one was taken. The designated anchorage (the french, I’ve realised, just love putting out strings of yellow buoys to mark no-anchor zones. Why!?) was far too deep for our 40 metres of chain and it was pretty unprotected. So back to the first place. Nick asked me what our plan was if we couldn’t anchor here. I offered an eloquent shrug. There was nowhere else, unless we were to continue to Guadeloupe. Uh, no thanks.
So, freshly determined, we picked a third spot, made sure we were over sand (oh, how we love a seabed of beautiful sand!) and lowered the anchor. This time it held. Nick snorkelled on it again and gave the thumbs up. Phew! Only problem was that we were a liiiiittle bit to close to a Norwegian catamaran, but frankly, there was no way I was moving. So I just put some fenders out and hoped for the best.
That evening we went over to John and Sandra’s for dinner again (Nick taking over the cooking… again! Sandra is proving to be an excellent sous chef, she assures us!) and had a wonderful meal of pork and veggies washed down with some rosé wine. We were back in France after all!
Yet Another Wet Dinghy Ride
The next day Nick and I jumped in the dinghy and made our way over to the main town, Bourg des Saintes. It was a bloody long dinghy ride and the wind was still causing enough chop for the occasional splash, but we were just congratulating ourselves on remaining largely dry when a inter-island ferry crossed our path and we were confronted with their wake. Nick yelled, “What do I do!” I yelled, “Slow down, slow down!” We both yelled, “ARGH!” as we got drenched yet again. Good thing it was a sunny day.
I have to say though, that we were suddenly very fond of our new outboard and it’s external fuel tank. We exchanged our little 3.5 horsepower engine in Rodney Bay a couple of weeks ago for a 6 horsepower one, complete with an external fuel tank (Nick was getting mightily sick of re-fueling every 5 minutes… literally). We’d talked about it for ages and, fortuitously, found a guy on a our pontoon who wanted a swap, so a deal was struck, and here we are!
So, Bourg des Saintes. Wow. What a fantastic place. We wandered around and all we could say was, “It’s just like Brittany! It’s literally just like Brittany!!” It really was. It’s quite bizarre to find a town in the Caribbean that so closely resembles a region of northern France, but it has very strong historical and cultural ties to Brittany (for reason’s I never found out), which explains the similarity.
Nick and I were completely charmed and celebrated by having lunch in the most ‘french’ restaurant we could find, called Au Bon Vivre. We splashed out and went for 3 courses, a glass of rosé and finished it off with coffee and rum, then managed to roll out the door, into the dinghy and somehow hauled ourselves onto our boat where we rested in a largely horizontal position for the remainder of the day.
The following day we repeated the dinghy ride in and hiked up to Fort Napoleon which is located up a hill with a commanding view over Les Saintes. The views were spectacular.
The next few days were taken up by doing all those boat chores that just don’t seem to go away no matter how much you ignore them: laundry, sanding and varnishing the interior woodwork, scraping and scrubbing the hull, as well as all the usual boring cleaning. We also managed to fit in a lot of snorkelling, mooching about on the internet (a nearby bar had wifi which we could get with our wifi bat), and laying around in the cockpit, which was actually highly entertaining.
Better Than Television
Boats were coming and going every day, and Nick and I very much enjoyed watching other people on their boats, going about their day and speculating on their sailing ability, personal lives, and everything in between. We happily watched a Spanish couple have a prolonged screaming row on the boat next door, bitched about the loud Americans to our other side (sorry to any Americans reading this… but why are you so loud?), and reminded each other where we’d seen other yachts before (“Oh, hey, it’s the french couple who are always in the nude! Remember them from Martinique?”). And, of course, there were the never ending antics with anchoring. Let’s just say, I didn’t feel nearly so embarrassed by the end of the week about our three attempts. One day Nick and I were lying in our cockpit reading as I noticed suddenly that that catamaran next to us… I’m sure it was closer to the beach before! Nick was like, “Huh? Who? What?” But no, it was definitely dragging- we could see it slowly floating backwards before our eyes. It was only blowing about 12 knots. So Nick, bless him, got into the dinghy, whizzed over and raised the alarm. A french man emerged in his underpants, looked at Nick in some mystification as Nick explained politely that he was dragging and about to hit another boat (it’s owner stood by armed with a boathook), then comprehension dawned and he simply said, with a very french shrug, “Ah. Oui.” Then, in no rush whatsoever, turned on his engine and re-anchored elsewhere.
Another yacht dragged also (we let someone else save the day that time) and on a third occasion a yacht’s electric windlass failed and Nick and I had a grand old time watching two women from two separate neighbouring yachts (one of whom was singlehanded) instruct an older gentleman and his wife on how to overcome to problem as they stood in a dinghy, holding on to his bow.
Anyway, I’ve rambled on too much for one week. Perhaps I ought to blog more often!