The Island of Guadeloupe is shaped like a butterfly, and the butterfly is the often used symbol of the island, gracing the much of “We love Gwada” street art around the island. Once we dragged ourselves away from the lovely Les Saintes islands we spent some time cruising the “West Wing” of the Guadeloupe butterfly. We revisited this lovely part of the world on our way south again and enjoyed touring inland as well.
We set out from Les Saintes about 9ish thinking we would head to Marie-Gallante, the round, and less visited island to the east of us, but the wind was stronger than forecast (when will we learn…) and we were banging into short chop so we changed our minds and headed to Pointe a Pitre, the main town of Guadeloupe. It’s in the centre of the two parts of this butterfly shaped island. We are still going to windward but on Starboard tack initially the swell is not so bad. On port tack we had negative 3kts VMG at one stage, but we kept pace with a couple of monos, one of which gave up and put the motors on. We end up doing several tacks to make course into to our destination but it’s a good exercise in sailing to windward and it took us about 5 hours, in total to make the 21nm passage. The anchorage is outside the marina in a very sheltered, enclosed bay although the surrounds are quite industrial with views of the cargo port and dockyards. We go ashore in the afternoon and walk into town but it is very seedy, dirty and nothing much open. There is a lot of very colourful street art though, a vain attempt to distract from the scruffiness.
The next morning we do the obligatory supermarket run - only cruisers truly understand the need to take advantage of a large supermarket to stock up on those items you just can’t get in small island village markets. As a bonus I managed to get a quite reasonable haircut while Keith loaded us up for the walk back – we really must get a “nanna trolley”! Rather than heading straight for the west coast we diverted to a small anchorage 3nm east. Islet Gosier is a tiny island with a reef either side and not much ashore, just a lighthouse, some abandoned buildings and a small bar. It is popular with day trippers and school excursions too! We took the dinghy in, walked the island and had a swim at the beach. A good call to come here and a lovely relaxing spot for a night.
We dragged ourselves away the next morning, expecting to be sailing to the southern tip of the west wing, but had to motor to the corner, where we can see a large white lighthouse. We had shifty breezes, increasing and decreasing as we made our way north along the west coast. Passing Riviere Sens we see how amazingly green this part of the island is. There is a large and active volcano here and we find out later that it attracts some 15m of rain per year! There is a large fort that we can see from the shore and the rather drab anchorage, where we stopped briefly on our return, which is overlooked by a quarry…
Our next anchorage is in the north of the bay near a town aptly named Bouillante, 33nm from Ilet Gosier. After lunch we took the RIB across to the very high dinghy dock and had to tie fore-and-aft in the corner of the T to avoid getting bounced under the dock by the swell - not to mention scrambling up to the dock from the dinghy. From here it was a short walk along the black sand beach to the “Hot River”, where steaming hot water enters the sea. Ashore there is a geothermal station which uses this water, as a natural thermal stream runs through the town and meets the surf at the beach. And it really is VERY HOT! Boiling in fact! Surges of hot water come out of the rivulet and mix with the sea water. The current is quite strong, pushing you back in to the cooler water. It was lovely and novel to have a hot bath in the surf, but it did leave a bit of a sulphury smell on the skin.
We were up and away fairly early the next morning and motored the 2nm north to Anse Malendure, opposite Pigeon Island, part of the Jacques Cousteau nature reserve. We heard snorkelling was great here so we took the RIB across and had a look underwater. We could not find the underwater Jacques Cousteau statue that is supposed to be here but the water was lovely and clear and saw quite a few fish. Nothing spectacular coral wise though and quite a strong current running as well, making it hard work. We stopped here again on our way south for a provisioning run as there are a couple of good supermarkets ashore. We took the opportunity to walk along the shore to the beach, which is a black sand one. Nowhere near as attractive as the beautiful white sand beaches in the north, but people are enjoying themselves in the beach bars that line the shore.
In the afternoon we continued on north to the town of Deshaies, motoring as there was not enough breeze intially and then it was on the nose with quite a chop wrapping around the top of the island. The bay is pretty crowded but we manage to find a spot. Boats are swinging all directions and a number of them get too close to each other and have to move. It all seems very amicable though. We end up with a big steel boat near us but put out plenty of fenders.
We woke the next morning to see the deck covered in tiny dead insects and took some time to clean them off. We took a walk up hill to the local Jardin Botanique. Great views over the anchorage and the garden was nice enough, but the highlight by far was the flock of rather orange looking flamingos!!! As we have never managed to see any in the wild, this was indeed a bonus. It’s our last day in Guadeloupe on our trip north so we treated ourselves to lunch at Chez Lelette down on the beach in Deshaies. Lovely food and a great atmosphere. It’s time to check out of Guadeloupe, and we do this at The Pelican, a small souvenir shop, where we ran in to Matts and Helena from Ella of Stockholm. They are also leaving tomorrow to Antiqua so they come over to ITIKI for drinks, happily brandishing their negative Covid test results! These are needed to check in to Antigua. I am in the shower and just as they arrive and Keith is taking their dinghy line the shower malfunctions – Great timing!
We returned to Deshaies two months later on our way south, arriving in the morning after a 2-day, 220nm windward sail from the BVIs. Thats a story for another blog... After 2 days of bouncing around on our windward crossing, the remote control on the windlass has packed it in so we had to work from the helm station. This means Keith has multi-task and steer the boat and lower the anchor chain at the same time. It was then time for a long overdue kip, but as there was very little breeze in the bay we ended up swinging in the opposite directions to a nearby boat, and got a little too close for comfort. Anchorage etiquette dictates that the more recent arrival (ITIKI in this case) has to move so Keith’s nap was short-lived. The water was clear enough to see the anchor chain which had cleverly wrapped itself around a rock while we had been turning in circles so with Keith again working the controls from the helm and me directing from the foredeck we had some interesting manoeuvring to do to get it free. We anchored further out but then the wind picked up considerably so we reset the anchor putting out some more scope. Spent the rest of the day chilling out and cleaning the boat, which of course was covered in salt from our crossing. Fortunately we had a few heavy rain showers over the next few days to give us a really good rinse. We also get some really strong gusts through the anchorage, up to 30kts at times! The anchor is holding well though and we are quite comfortable with our new bridle snubbers that went on in St Martin – that’s also a story for another time...
Deshaies (which is apparently pronounced “de-aye”) is famous as the location for filming the BBC series “Death in Paradise”. We have never seen an episode of this but we learn that it is about to start filing its 12th season and so it is clearly very popular. I quickly google it so that I can take some pictures of what would be familiar scenes to those that enjoy the show. The arrival of the film crew and actors in May brings welcome income and employment just as the tourist season is starting to wane.
We took a hike over to Gros Morne (=big hill) and down to Grand Anse (=big beach) to the north of us. It is supposed to be an easy walk but it’s quite steep and stoney and we are only in sandals. At least it is in shade but that means there is not much of a view along the way. The beach is indeed quite big, a long white stretch of sand in contrast to the black sand beaches in the southern part of the island. We stop for a drink at the rather derelict looking Chez Samy as we are too knackered to walk further. Fortunately we can walk back into Deshaies along the road, which is much shorter and flatter. We pop back to the boat to freshen up and then go in search of lunch ashore, which is a bit of an adventure. Places are full or run out of food! We find a place by the dinghy dock and narrowly avoid ordering black pudding (boudin) which is a local Creole delicacy. Opted for Accras (a kind of spicy donut) and a lovely grilled snapper with too many frites! An afternoon nap was in order and no dinner! The wind has backed off significantly, which is a relief after several days blowing dogs off chains. It’s a much different and more pleasant place now.
The next day we take 4 x 4 tour of the north of the “west wing” with Pelican Safaris, as we did not have a chance to see much of the inland on our initial visit. We head south and take the traversing road inland towards Pointe a Pitre. The road winds up hill and down dale, through very dense rainforest. This part of the island clearly gets plenty of rain. We stop at a river with a waterfall and a popular swimming hole but its quite crowded. Across the road there is another small rivulet with a swimming hole and waterfall which is harder to get to so a lot less crowded. The water here is not so warm but it's novel swim in fresh water and very refreshing. Next stop is a short rainforest walk, the jungle is quite thick and very diverse flora.
Scenes from our tour of the island:
There are no snakes on Guadeloupe as mongoose were introduced by settlers, who also shot all of the larger birds, including native parrots. Nice! We head back to the coast and Pointe Noire to stop to look for iguanas before a lunch stop at Hibiscus restaurant, Grand Anse. Lunch was lovely but 2.5hrs was way too long in the middle of a tour. Next we headed up into the hills to a sugar cane plantation and could see a fantastic view over the Grand Cul de Sac which is the middle of the top of the butterfly. Here there are extensive reefs making navigation pretty challenging, and mangroves line the shores. It used to be possible to go by yacht through the middle of the island from Point a Pitre to the Grand Cul de Sac but the bridge no longer opens. We take a very bumpy stone road which was built by slaves, through thick sugar cane which lines either side. We stop at the top to try some sugar cane and check out the view. There are a few wind turbines up here as well. From there we head down to the coast and through Saint Rose where there are dozens of tour operators to doing mangrove tours. We stop in at a rhum museum but it is now so late that it is closed so we check out some of the unusual plants around the garden. Our final stop is the north-western-most point of Guadeloupe - Pointe Allegre. It’s a pretty wild place and the orientation of the trees leaves you in no doubt of the direction of the prevailing wind! There is a also tree here which is really deadly. When it rains it drips acid onto you. Also the fruit is deadly to eat. These are marked with a red band, not sure why they don’t cut them down but I guess they are protected… From there it is back to Deshaies, its getting late and we just make it back to the boat before sunset.
And so our time with the Guadeloupe butterfly is coming to an end and we are winging our way south. Although it's not yet officially rainy season, the weather is becoming unsettled and we are starting to see rain squalls come through. Sometimes these are short-lived and are over by the time you have closed the hatches or brought the cushions in from the cocktail deck. They can be quite heavy though although we don’t complain about the boat getting a free freshwater wash. Unlike the rains in the Med they are not laden with Saharan dust. As we sail down the coast we experience an interesting phenomenon. Despite the trade winds blowing consistently from the east, we find ourselves heading south on starboard tack! Yes a westerly! With the trade winds wrapping around the top and the bottom of the island there must be some sort of back eddy. As we continue south towards Les Saintes the wind inevitably eventually comes onto the nose. As we pick up a mooring ball the heavens open, but we are in our happy place at Ilet Cabrits, Les Saintes and celebrate with a BBQ in the rain.
Lynda is slowly getting used to the transition from working to not working and racing to cruising.