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Guadeloupe (and les Saintes)
-- 9th to the 19th March 2012--
That’s another “French” stop, a good week starting with friends and finishing with family.

More pictures on our page "Pictures".

Sailed 54 miles
8029 miles since the start
We stopped in : Saintes : Anse du Pain de Sucre (anchorage), , Basse Terre : Anse à la Barque (anchorage), Anse des Trois Tortues (anchorage)
9th March 2012 : Portsmouth – Les Saintes (24 M)
This Friday, just like every Friday, is the day of the week with a good weather and a calmer wind. At least that’s what the charts promised. Yet strong wind gusts keep on sweeping the anchorage in Portsmouth as we wake up. Shall we, shall we not…? Luckily the VHF weather forecast broadcasted by the French agency on the next island can be heard from the bay. “12 knots measured on La Desirade this morning”, they say. OK, so here we go: indeed as soon as we exit the bay, we find ourselves in a nice little breeze. Portsmouth is well-known for its local gusts, they told us afterwards. Right. Anyways, we’re in the channel now and there’s definitely not more than 20kts.

Arriving to the Saintes
One good thing about being already so far up north: the Antilles arch bends here to the west, and we don’t have to tack and sail against the wind to reach the next island. A nice little ride with the wind to the beam is enough. Saltimbanque just loves this type of wind and glides, happy, more than 6 kts on average. In no time we’re approaching the group of little islands called “Saintes” (so called by Colombus who discovered them on the All Saints Day) in the south of Guadeloupe. We round the main island “Terre-de-Haut” and land on the north-east, so as to arrive to any anchorage place from windwards. This is a stunning island to sail by, greeting the arriving vessels with high and sophisticated cliffs and bays.

Entering a wide bay in the sun
Finally we enter into the 3rd most beautiful bay in the world (yes they have an official ranking system!). It is now forbidden to anchor here and we have to pick up one of the numerous buoys. Then we think: it’s Friday afternoon, we have less than an hour left to run to the city-hall and clear in before the weekend. Dinghy inflated, city-hall found. But the clearances have been moved to a private company, called LSM, on the main street. It’s the usual French computer-based system – and they charge 1 euro.
The bay may be beautiful, we don’t intent to stay in a place where anchorage is prohibited for too long. Back onboard we turn the engine on again and head for the next rock to the south. Behind this nice dark basalt block called “Pain de Sucre” (Sugar Loaf) is another anchorage. Turning around the block we slowly come to sight of a group of boats anchored there. Hey, there’s a small yacht with a “Navik” windpilot… Ster Vraz!!! And two yachts away, the elegant red and blue striped yacht ... Traou Mad! Long time no see mates, so long since Mindelo, Cabo Verde! We’re jumping all around on the deck, so happy to have found our friends again, and it takes some discipline to concentrate and complete the last maneuvers. We drop the anchor in 8m water on a brighter patch of sand, right in the middle between our friends (no favorite!). The ground here is uneven, mainly sand, partly covered with grass, and some big rocks. Excellent snorkeling, dinghy dock and all other facilities in-town (30min walk along a nice road).
The "Pain de Sucre" rock provides a relative protection against the NE swell
The bay may be beautiful, we don’t intent to stay in a place where anchorage is prohibited for too long. Back onboard we turn the engine on again and head for the next rock to the south. Behind this nice dark basalt block called “Pain de Sucre” (Sugar Loaf) is another anchorage. Turning around the block we slowly come to sight of a group of boats anchored there. Hey, there’s a small yacht with a “Navik” windpilot… Ster Vraz!!! And two yachts away, the elegant red and blue striped yacht ... Traou Mad! Long time no see mates, so long since Mindelo, Cabo Verde! We’re jumping all around on the deck, so happy to have found our friends again, and it takes some discipline to concentrate and complete the last maneuvers. We drop the anchor in 8m water on a brighter patch of sand, right in the middle between our friends (no favorite!). The ground here is uneven, mainly sand, partly covered with grass, and some big rocks. Excellent snorkeling, dinghy dock and all other facilities in-town (30min walk along a nice road).
10th-11th March 2012 : the Saintes
On the next day we will not even set a foot on the ground – let alone put a shoe on. Right after waking up (around noon) we go hunting! Julien (SterVraz) and Eric (TraouMad) come and pick us up in their dinghies, then we head for their secrete hunting spot. Well aware of the privilege to be introduced to those mysteries we follow and take pictures of our subaquatic heroes. Less than 2 hours later, 10 antenna-wriggling animals have come up from the depth of the sea to become our diner. 10 lobsters for 5 people, that should be enough… as the strengthening tidal stream makes it harder to palm steady and calm around the rocks we come back home. The afternoon will be short but efficient, as we brush clean the sparkling plug of our outboard engine and have it start again. Another nice evening onboard TraouMad, with lobsters, rum and friends. More pictures on their website here
Following the experts who are already in the water

Some big thing!
Lobsters make a good meal, but we have nothing else on board, and for breakfast we’re not sure about the strawberry jam on lobsters… time to go ashore and refill. Go timing to be in town: on the ferry dock where tourists from the mainland disembark a familiar silhouette is walking towards us. And a bright smile recognizable miles away: there’s Amandine, a childhood friend from Laure, spending some holidays by a friend in Guadeloupe. They have been almost 10 years without seeing each other while their parents still live in the same town… but they had to be on the same island at the same time! We spend the rest of the day visiting the island with Amandine and her friend, from the heights of the famous Fort Napoleon (home to green iguanas) to the underwater landscapes of the Pain de Sucre Beach. After a last fruit-juice we all join back our respective board.

Nice view from the Fort Napoleon
12th March 2012 : Saintes – Basse Terre (anse à la Barque) (18 M)
Camille’s parents are due to come tomorrow. They have rented a small place on the western shore of Basse Terre (the western half of Guadeloupe) and today our goal is to sail closer to the spot. Their place overlooks a pretty bay called “Anse a la Barque”, considered to be one of the best shelter on this coast. This is a beautiful Monday morning, a perfect start to a week announced as sunny and with a mild steady trade wind of 12 to 15kts. Just like in the books. We fly across the Saintes Channel to the main island, Saltimbanque happy to run with the wind to his beam and almost no wave. A little lighthouse marks the southwestern point of Basse Terre, followed by a succession of cliffs and bays that could be Breton. In the distance the mighty towering shape of the Soufriere Mount can be seen every now and then between the clouds. On the leeside of the island there’s no wind again, just as usual. Engine on. Nestor is used to it now and is already putt-putt-putting quietly… as we feel a little breeze rising again… from the west!!! Everywhere else across the ocean and the islands the trade winds are blowing from the east, always. But here, the wind comes from the west. It is a stable wind of 3 bft, that will blow us on the 8 last miles to the anchorage. Can it be a sort of convection phenomenon due to the shape of the mountains? Or simply a thermal breeze? Anyways, everyday on this coast from Basse Terre to Bouillante a westerly breeze blows from 9 am to 5pm. At night it dies and veers east again.
Very funny you think. Funny indeed, until we realize that the anchorage bay is widely open to the … west.. . and thus doesn’t offer any protection against the wind and short waves induced whatsoever. The end of the Anse a la Barque is full with local fishing boats swinging on their buoys, and there are only 4 other yachts, apparently staying here all year round on their moorings. On the south side of the bay the water seems a bit more shallow and we finally drop the anchor in 7m. The hard sand ground covered with dead coral and bigger rocks doesn’t offer the best of holdings and our anchor will drift a couple of meters in each direction as the wind changes daily, before digging its hole in the sand. Nights are calm here. Days also, actually, as there’s nothing ashore and one has to walk to the next town a couple of kms away to find the first shop.
The "Anse à la Barque"
On the map we had spotted a little bar located on the next beach to the north and set up to walk there with our laptop in the bag, hoping to find internet there. As we ask the owner, she answers with her slow chanting creole accent: “Internet…well, the diver who lived across the street had internet… but he is dead…” then turning to another group of tourists sipping their beer: “ and you guys, there, you don’t have internet with you, do you?”. Too bad. She’s so much fun that we stay for a juice at least.
13th March 2012 : visiting Pointe-a-Pitre and the airport
The plan is to go pick up the parents from the airport at the end of the afternoon, and take the opportunity of the trip to Pointe-a-Pitre to visit the town during the day. Call us naïve, we thought that to catch the bus going there we had to wait at the bus stop, under the sign saying “Pointe-a-Pitre”. Wrong. An hour later, two buses have passed by… but no one stopped! We decide to walk to the next village and try our luck there. As we’re wondering which sign to follow, a car stops. They offer a ride. They work here, shooting films about the environment and tourism. Great, we get a free ride (through the scenic “route de la traverse” cutting in the middle of the island through the mountains) AND a guided tour with expert’s comments. On the other coast and before dropping us our driver parks just in front of a bus about to leave his stop – to make sure we can catch that one :o)

Around Pointe-a-Pitre (from “Peter’s Point”, called after the Dutchman who first started a fish market here) huge residential and industrial areas are sprawling. Commercial centers thrive in this duty free zone. The city center is quite compact and looks dilapidated as well. Not recommended to walk around after dark. A few nice creole houses (most of which abandoned) gather around the main square, place de la Victoire. We run a couple of errands in the commercial streets there, before heading for the marina, 2 to 3 km away. Lucky it’s noon when we walk this long street looking like slums. The young ladies sitting in a row, bored on their chair, are waiting for… clients... Back in the city center a salesman told Laure that she’d better not wear her necklace around here. It feels just like Cayenne, where a (well-meaning) fisherman stopped us and said that south of the market white tourists were not welcome. we let a sigh of relief out as we reach the campus, then the marine. People of much better company are to be found there: Ster Vraz, Tim Jak, and a couple of other ocean-crossing fellows. We have only to choose between the chandleries. There’s a sail-maker, and a shipyard where we will probably come back to clean the hull. Wifi is widely accessible everywhere, and so quick that updating the site is a matter of minutes!

Just landed: white face, busy changing their time and sending "we've landed" sms home.
We have a quick lunch and we stroll around before heading back to the city center (in bus!), where we hop in a taxi to the airport. The plane landed on time, Camille’s parents are happy to be here – and Camille is happy to see her parents :o) And, they have a car ( :o) again) to drive back home.
14th-19th March 2012 : visiting Basse Terre with Camille’s parents (anse à la Barque – anse des trois Tortues) (12 M)
The sun is barely up the next morning when the parents come to meet us on the jetty. Can’t wait to get started! Alright, we’ll go and explore. But first let’s use the car: we have some food and cans and other dry stuff to buy before the crossing back. One cart full! After that it takes some time to learn and tame the asthmatic engine on the way up to the Route de la Traversée. We briefly stop at Morne a Louis (where the view is supposed to be beautiful – at least, we think it is, from what we can imagine behind thick trees), before having lunch at the Mamelles Park (the first meal of a long series… lunch and diner in restaurants every day for a week! Love my in-laws, but sometimes I dreamed of simple salad and fruit at home). In the afternoon, let’s the serious adventure begin: mountain shoes on, we hike down through a thick rainforest on a muddy path to a waterfall called “Saut de la Lezarde”. By far the best waterfall we’ve seen so far. A wide and bright clearing in a pristine forest, rays of sunlight striking the water falling into a blue pool, slowly transforming into a lazy river… how can one stay away from such a swimming pool? It’s not even cold… After soaking there for a while the way back up is a bit more strenuous and we’re exhausted when we get to the car.
The "Lizzard's fall", calling for a nap in the sun !

The « acomat boucan », so called because natives used to make a fire between their roots (sheltered from any wind) to smoke (or "boucan") their food.
The short nature discovery trail at the Forest Center back on the “Route de la Traversée” offers a flat wide and 20 min long, perfect way to end the day. Back at the parents’ villa we have a good shower, the first shower with hot water for Camille since October in the Canarias! (her reaction to this forgotten wonder “hey, the soap actually makes foam in fresh water”). We drive around for a while before finding a place open for diner, and we land in some hut on the side of the road, where they have everything, provided it’s of chicken, rice, fries or spaghetti.
The second day starts under the rain… how nice to be in the Caribbean’s, we could have stayed in Brittany! With this weather there’s only one option: the rum! Visit a rum-place I mean. Severin is one of the biggest distilleries in Guadeloupe and we enjoy a lot the tour in this old habitation’s garden and through the traditional plant. Driving back by the northern coast of Basse Terre we find ourselves in a deserted Sainte-Rose: everything is closed this Thursday, it’s the national holiday of “Mi-Careme” (= the half of Lent, the third Thursday of Lent… yes they celebrate the beginning, the end.. and the middle of Lent here). Further south we spend some time watching the nice yachts anchored in Deshaies and Malendure, before going for a swim in the bay just next to our anchorage. The parents haven’t tried snorkeling for years and it takes some time to get used to the mask and palms again. Nothing very nice to see here though, maybe one or two sponge and small fish – and sea ursins, that Camille’s father we go and see from too close :oS
Historical mill to crush the cane in the Rum Factory
On the next morning we make use of the car again to go … shopping! There’s a big “Decathlon” in the middle of the island (this French sport chain sell very good sporting gear at lower price, mostly their own brand – it’s the absolute reference for all French people and we miss it a lot in the other countries). Decathlon is a magnet for sailors deprived of basic shopping convenience for months: all the yachties around here find a way to visit once. Hence we bump into Traou Mad, busy choosing new bikinis. Eric gives some advice on the spear gun we’re considering to buy and we check out, happy and equipped for the months to come (new wetsuit, new beach shoes, spear gun catch fish – or lobsters…).

There's the sea, the coral reef and... the lagoon! Two worlds meet here.
This will be our only excursion into the eastern half of the island. This is the more developed, lower part called Grande Terre – and we much prefer the high green western half called “Basse Terre” (which means “low land”, whereas it’s higher… confusing isn’t it? Actually “bas” used to mean “on the leeside” as well, centuries ago. “Grande terre” = “Great Land” is smaller, but flatter and thus appeared larger to the first settlers. End of the digression.)
So, back to Sainte-Rose on Basse Terre, where the Adventure is awaiting us. We’ve booked a tour in the mangrove and the lagoon for the afternoon. This is a popular trip offered by numerous companies, and we have chosen the only one that brings you on dinghies – instead of the usual comfortable small fishing yacht. The dinghy is much bigger than ours and has a 6 hp engine (3 times more than ours…)… and we get to drive alone! The 4 of us in one craft, we follow the guide and the other dinghies in the group. So much fun to ride fast on the flat surface of the lagoon. Then we enter into the mangrove itself, looking at the trees growing on the water, the crabs and oysters growing on their intricate roots. The parents are delighted: they’ve never seen this landscape before, except on our pictures from Senegal… and it’s much more impressive in real life!! Here the mangrove grows on salt water, directly on the sea – something new to us as well, since before it was always on a river or a swamp.
Out of the "forest", heading towards the sea. We ride full speed now, trying to catch up on the boat before us, playing and surfing on its wave… Fun – and wet! On the reef that closes the lagoon we stop for snorkeling. The parents are getting used to their palms and masks and marvel at the scores of little fish, the lambi’s (you know, that big shell where you hear the sea), the big murenas. As for us, we’re getting a bit difficult with coral and find the spot somehow dull and dead. Not as good as Dominica…
There was ONE nice coral head…

Camille and her parents on a small piece of tropical paradise
The sun is quickly dropping already as we are riding back. On the mangrove hundreds of birds are gathering for the night. Frigates and pelicans mainly. Magic. A last quick stop on a tiny island , fringed with white sand and turquoise waters. The guide takes a bottle of “planteur” (a rum and fruit based – delicious – drink). Cheers, to a great day!
The parents are still tired on the next morning and we plan something light. A short hike in the forest around the Carib Mounts in the south, then a ride to the Vieux-Fort lighthouse (on the southwestern point of the island). Then in the afternoon we head into the forest again, to visit a coffee plantation. The road to the “Griveliere” domain is winding and narrow, climbing steep along a breath-taking valley. So much so that many signs stand on the road, “Honking is compulsory”. Sometimes it’s the only way to know whether a car is coming around the curves… Shaking but alive we reach the entrance and grab a quick sandwich before catching the guided tour. Very interesting demonstration of the technics and machines to grow, cut, process coffee, vanilla, cocoa… yummy! Finally we go back home and enjoy another hot shower :o)
A coffee plant. The "cherries" are still green - they will turn red as they ripe.

Easy sailing in the Caribbean's! (well they picked the right week, lucky them not to be here 5 days earlier)
On Sunday, we’re the hostesses: the parents join us for a day trip onboard. There’s a little wind – still weirdly west. Saltimbanque rides happily on the flat water. The conditions are ideal to retrieve their sea legs and Camille’s parents take turn at the helm - and at the camera. As we reach Malendure and the famous Islet Pigeon (natural reserve and diving paradise), the wind veers back to the east, then dies out. We round the islet and sail to the south again, soon back in the westwards breeze area. We stop for a snorkeling at the Anse des Trois Tortues (= 3 Turtles’ Bay). 3-4m deep, good holding sand, very narrow and we have to anchor close to the rocks… which is actually the best spot for snorkeling :o)
Finally a beautiful coral world! Countless fishes and corals of all shapes and colors! Laure tries out our new weapon (and brings back 3 little fishes for diner!), Camille loves her wetsuit and breaks her diving record (7m!), while her father stays for hours swimming around in his swimming suit: “Sure I was cold, but I didn’t want to go out, it was too beautiful!”
On the north of the "3 Turtles Bay", plenty of coral and fishes
Back to our regular anchorage in Anse a la Barque we prepare the fish and make our favorite coconut pie, then go to the parents’ villa for a last family diner (and shower!). The parents are leaving on the next afternoon and we take the chance of a last laundry.

The catch of the day : soldier-fish, (small) parrot-fish and a filefish
Here we are, on our own again after a nice and busy week. Just a last swim to catch our diner from the rocks around the anchorage, and we’re off, back to our normal life, sailing away on our little boat! Our next stop will be Marie-Galante– but that’s another story…
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Your messages:

Sylvia - 27/03/2012 22:40:58
Jullie hebben best veel meegemaakt lijkt het - leuk ook om je vrienden weer eens te zien. Ik hoop dat "the parents" ook van hun vakantie hebben genoten :-) Hier wordt het eindelijk lente! We zijn veel buiten in de zon, genieten van ons tuintje. En ik ben weer met buiten fietsen begonnen. Groetjes

SuDad - 26/03/2012 12:41:47
Dommage pour vos supporters daltoniens; quel festival de couleurs ! L'une des plus belles baies du monde, des orgies de langoustes,des fonds sous-marins de rêve. Ca va, dans l'ensemble, vous tenez le coup ? Et en plus vous nous faîtes faire de gros progrès en géographie. Insistez pour que personne ne manque d'aller compléter la découverte par "photos". C'est superbe. Pour notre plaisir commun, il y' a encore tellement à voir. Bon chantier de nettoyage.

Sylvain - 26/03/2012 02:29:59
Moi aussi j'ai des eaux turquoises ! Enfin, sur la carte postale que vous m'avez envoye... Merci :)

la mamou - 25/03/2012 10:40:59
c'était super méga trop bien !!!
merci les filles !!!

Kariine - 24/03/2012 01:06:03
Belle semaine les filles !
Y'a pas de langoustes à la cantine ici, ni de poissons multicolores :( alors j'ai peur de ne pas bien me rendre compte du gout que peuvent avoir les vacances...

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