Guadeloupe is composed of two islands in the shape of a butterfly, separated by a narrow river/waterway. The western island is called Basse-Terre. The route along the West coast of Basse-Terre is the beaten track for cruising sailors. A fluency in French is extremely helpful, although not absolutely necessary. The culture is very different from the English speaking islands to the North and south and much more laid back. Guadeloupe is part of France and the currency is the Euro.
Our first stop was in the North west of the island at Deshaies (pronounced Deh Heh) on Wednesday the 12th February, where we tied up to the free mooring buoys for yachts. The town is a quaint and laid back fisherman’s village with a number of nice restaurants. Checking in on a computer at the police station was a breeze and took 10 minutes.
A few km above Deshaies is the Deshaies Botanical Gardens. We walked up, about an hour uphill and about 40 minutes down. The gardens are extensive and well worth the visit, despite the EU15 entry fee per person.
Guadeloupe has a bus service that covers the entire island and is inexpensive. We used this to explore the island and visit a shopping centre at Destrellan, where Annie had some retail therapy. We met quite a number of sailors in the anchorage with similar itineraries as our own, which resulted in numerous sundowners for “planning”. We will no doubt see them along the way to Panama. We enjoyed the town, people and lush green environment so much, we ended up staying for a week.
Our next anchorage was only 9 nm south at Malendure, behind Pigeon Island, in the Cousteau Marine Park, where there were excellent snorkelling and diving opportunities. An added surprise was that about 40 metres from the dinghy anchorage, we found an excellent laundromat and a further 50 m on, a Carrefour supermarket. Lugging our shopping in backpacks and trolleys, usually requires at least a half an hour trek.
After two nights at Malendure we had a relaxed 23 nm sail to the Iles des Saintes (the Saints Islands), where we picked up a mooring buoy at Pointe Coquelet on the island of Terre de Haut. These buoys weren’t free, as this a very popular destination for cruisers. We thought Guadeloupe was fantastic, but these islands are exceptional. There is this “joie de vivre” quality that adds to the beauty of the place – impromptu parades with drummers and musicians dancing down the narrow streets, with the tourists joining in.
Our first day was a challenge for me, as Annie insisted on climbing up to Fort Napoleon above the town – serious cardiovascular stuff, approaching a heart attack. The next day was more relaxed, exploring the town on the level, stopping for coffees and croissants.
On the Sunday, we had bright sunny conditions, which galvanised us into action to do some canvas waterproofing work. After almost four years of wear and tear, the spray dodger, bimini and infill panel leaks like sieves into the cockpit and on to us, when it rains. I had read an article about mixing a cartridge of silicone sealant with a litre of white spirits, to make a good waterproofing mixture for canvas work. It takes a while to dissolve the silicone in the spirits, to get a paint consistency, then you brush it on to saturate the canvas. The white spirits takes about 15 minutes to evaporate, leaving the silicone in the fabric and voila! Hopefully waterproof. I will report back after the first rain!
In the meantime we explored the island and adjoining islands which were only a dinghy ride away, snorkelling and climbing up to Fort Josephine and the Sugar Loaf. We had a good rain downpour four days later and the waterproofing of the canvas worked a treat – we’ll see how long it lasts.
We ended up spending 10 days in Terre de Haut before enjoying a brisk 21 nm sail to Portsmouth on the North west coast of Dominica. Quite a nice anchorage with good phone/internet reception. Our next anchorage was at Sibouli, a mile south of Roseau the capital, on the South west corner of Dominica. English is the official language of Dominica, but Dominican Creole, based on French, is widely spoken.
Dominica is especially vulnerable to hurricanes as the island is located in what is referred to as the hurricane region. More recently, in 1979, Hurricane David, in 2007, Hurricane Dean, in 2015, Tropical Storm Erika and in 2017 Hurricane Maria struck the island, the latter causing losses of approximately US$ 930 million or 226% of Dominica’s GDP. The island is very green and is a coffee producer, but has very few beaches and hence, little tourism.
Back in Australia, our daughter Karen, recently returned from Cuba and South America, informed us that she has bought herself a house in the historic old part of Newcastle, where she works at the John Hunter Hospital. Newcastle is about two hours north of Sydney. Welcome to the world of mortgages my girl!
We had a good 33 nm sail south to Martinique and anchored at Saint Pierre on the 4th March, in the north west of the island. This French island has a lot to see and we will make that the subject of our next post. Until then, cheers!