Guadeloupe Islands

After clearing the north of Dominica, we had a steady SE wind for the crossing to Marie Galante, our first stop in the Guadeloupe island group. Rain passed over the island as we approached, but cleared before we came in to the NW coast, past the prominent sugar loading gantry, to anchor in the wide bay near the sleepy port of St Louis. Ashore, we found a café with wifi, and had a beer plus a cheap pork, lentil and rice meal (the quality matched the price).

IMG_3133_GDL_MG_AnseCanotAnse Canot, Marie Galante

In the morning we found the bus stop and waited hopefully (there being no timetable) and eventually got a cheap ride to the capital, Grand Bourg. The road passed fields of sugar cane and in one of them an ox cart was being loaded. There were also tractors and trailers taking cane to the seasonal sugar factory. On arrival we set off to the customs office, which took some finding upstairs behind an unmarked door at the back of an anonymous building opposite the harbour. Checking in was straightforward after filling in the usual lengthy paper form, and with no fees. Before seeking out the return bus, we had another coffee + wifi experience, found a small supermarket (there are no big ones), and walked round the small produce market.

IMG_3126_GDL_MG_BikesByDinghyBikes on the dinghy dock, St Louis

Next day the folding bikes were ferried ashore and we cycled NE to the next bay, Anse Canot, chained our bikes up in the car park, then walked around the coral limestone headland to Anse de Viex Fort. We made steady rather than fast progress due to J’s preference for walking on hills. At one point, R was overtaken by a pick -up truck and was astonished to see two huge bullocks watching him serenely from the back! The beaches along the coast were beautiful with white sand and turquoise water, fringed with coral limestone cliffs or quiet woods. The dry woods above were full of hermit crabs and black termite mounds. Along the shore road were signs to look out for turtles crossing!

IMG_3141_GDL_MG_WoodlandPathDry woodland on coral limestone, north of Anse Canot

IMG_3146_GDL_MG_HermitCrabOne of the smaller hermit crabs

IMG_3158_GDL_MG_TurtleSignTurtle sign on the coast road

In the next bay a river, no longer flowing in the dry season, comes out on the beach. Upstream it forms a long wide pool surrounded by mangrove and swamp forest. A board-walk has been installed to give walkers access to the river shore. There are electric powered paddle boats available for hire to explore the river.

IMG_3170_GDL_MG_MangoveRiverPlantsMangrove and other swamp plants

Another day we cycled SW along the coast road for a few miles then inland to visit the Poisson rum distillery. We were free to wander round the ancient crushing, brewing and distilling equipment, then taste the rum samples from white Rhum Agricole (2 months old) to various stages of Rhum Vieux (aged in bourbon barrels). After 6 years or more, the harsh raw alcohol taste has mellowed, but the price goes up a lot too! We opted for a bottle of 59% Rhum Agricole for making punch. The distillery is the destination for local farms bringing the cane loaded on ox-carts.

IMG_3181_GDL_MG_SugarCaneTrailerAn ox cart loaded with cane

IMG_3192_GDL_MG_RumStillDistillation tower

IMG_3202_GDL_MG_BullockCartBullocks in action

IMG_3196_GDL_MG_SugarCaneHarvesterA more modern cane harvester

On Friday 23rd we motor-sailed downwind to the group of islands known as Les Saintes. There are lots of visitor moorings off the town (Bourg des Saintes) but all were occupied, so we anchored in 12m out towards the Sugar Loaf hill. It was a choppy dinghy ride over half a mile to town, with extra wash from the frequent ferries. Ashore we found ice cream and wifi in a café overlooking the quay, then a small supermarket (we later found the rather better Carrefour).

IMG_3211_GDL_SaintsApproaching Les Saintes from Marie Galante

Back in town next morning we found a customs terminal at the Multiservice shop, nice and easy.   checked out of Guadeloupe a day in advance, as they would be closed on Sunday. Then we walked up the steep hill to the Fort Napoleon with its great views of the islands and museum of random historical artefacts and artwork. We were overtaken on the road by other tourists in electric golf buggies and on scooters but we had more time to admire the views over the archipelago.

IMG_3249_GDL_Saints_ViewFromFortView over the anchorage from Fort Napoleon

Later we dinghied across to Ilet a Cabrit which has a small beach anchorage, where we swam over the rocks with some nice corals and fish, including a huge shoal (tens of thousands) of translucent fish. Ashore the hurricane had made the woods impassable except for the goats and chickens.

IMG_3254_GDL_Saints_FeralChickensFeral chickens and cat on Ilot a Cabrit

On Sunday we hoisted the main and sailed along the west coast of Guadeloupe, passing a picturesque lighthouse at the SW corner, huge quarries, the town of Basse Terre with its large fort above. Then on past pale green fields, possibly sugar cane, with a distillery in the town below. Towering in the background, the volcano La Souffriere which last erupted in the 1970’s.

IMG_3287_GDL_LighthouseLighthouse on SW Guadeloupe

IMG_3289_GDL_VolcanoVolcano La Souffriere

We passed between Pigeon Island and the shore, a favourite spot with divers visiting the Marine Park inspired by Jacques Cousteau, and passed sand-coloured cliffs apparently riddled with holes. Late in the afternoon we arrived at the bay of Deshaies and anchored amongst other boats in 10m.  A nearby English boat owner expressed concern that we might be too close, as the wind changes a good deal here. R tried to raise the anchor but it was snagged on something very solid, so we had to leave it like that overnight.

IMG_3307_GDL_PigeonIslandPigeon Island

The English boat left early on Monday morning, and some others also, leaving more room for manoeuvre. R pulled the anchor up tight and dived, to find a large chain wrapped round the anchor – presumably an old heavy mooring. We made up a chain loop on an old halyard and dropped it down our anchor chain, then let 25m or so of chain out while J reversed (R keeping the old halyard slack). We drove forward while taking in the halyard, making it fast when roughly over the fouled anchor, hoping it would snatch the anchor free. It worked! J motored out into deep water where R recovered the gear. We raised the main and sailed for Antigua, the wind ENE 15 knots, making good progress with 2 reefs in main and both headsails.

IMG_3279_GDL_RainRain over Guadeloupe (which fortunately missed us!)


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