Guadaloupe is a French West Indies island. It is also the least English-speaking island we have encountered so far. The primary languages are French and Creole (a mixture of French, English, Spanish and African languages). But, French is the official language. We were probably more immersed in the local culture here than in any other island as a result of our lack of English speaking opportunities.
Guadaloupe looks like a butterfly on a map (or from above). The "wing" on the west is a very mountainous and lucious rainforest island, down the middle is a river, and the island on the east "wing" is a more flat terrain where all the crops of sugar cane and other agriculture is grown. The funny thing is that the west island is called "Basse Terre" (flat ground) and the east island is called "Grande Terre" (big land). Some cartographer was having too much fun.
We left Antigua from Falmouth Harbour on Friday, January 31st at about 10:00 AM. We had a nice sail (well, it was a bit choppy at first, but it got better as we approached Guadaloupe), and pulled in at about 3:40 PM into Anse Deshaies (pronounced 'day hay'). We did see a number of other sailboats in both directions between Antigua and Guadaloupe. Anse Deshaies is a beautiful little bay between two high mountaintop points. The town looks like a quaint little European town from a distance - and as we found later - up close. We were surprised to see about 15 sailboats in the little bay, but there was enough room for us to drop anchor - fortunately in a spot where it was only 25 feet - other places were much deeper (we don't have a lot of chain rode for our anchor - so we can't easily go much deeper).
Here are some pictures of Deshaies:
Frank went ashore as quickly as possible to find out about customs as it was already about 4:00 PM when Frank went in. As soon as Frank got on the little street and started down it towards customs a couple of other cruisers, with notebooks in hand, passed him going the other way and one of them said "They're closed!". Frank immediately turned around grinning, and said "Thanks, you saved me a walk!". They chatted a bit, and revealed they had tried earlier in the day a couple of times, and the customs office never opened up. They speculated that since it was a Friday, and the last day of the month, perhaps the customs guy got his paycheck and went partying.
The next day was largely a home schooling day. The girls have turned into bookworms (we guess to compensate for no longer being TV addicts). We think reading is a good thing, but we've had a hard time at times pulling them away to do things like school.
Around 1:00 PM a nice friendly gentlemen rode up in a 12' Apex Dinghy (just like ours) from Cajun Wind II - a Lagoon 410 catamaran - from Louisianna. He was quite friendly and invited us over for evening drinks. Around 3:00 Karen and Frank went ashore (the girls were doing school work) and we walked around Deshaies. It being a Saturday and mid-afternoon, not many of the stores were open. We found a gas station which claimed to have an Internet cafe, but there were no computers. We found a couple of gift shops open, a couple of dive shops, and several open - but empty - restaurants. We found a good grocery store though, and did some shopping. There's a library here with interesting architecture and a cool volcanic rock sculpture. But, we didn't go inside. After only about an hour of walking around we went back to the boat
At 5:30 we got ready and went over to Cajun Wind II. There we met Ken and Jo Ann Reed (firstname.lastname@example.org) and their British friends, from another boat, called Mike and Dinah. They were delightful people in their mid-50s - early 60s. Turns out Ken is a semi-retired veterinarian who made his fortune by being a horse specialist for Kentucky Dirby horses. We were part way through our conversation when Ken remembered to mention he had heard during the day that a space shuttle had burned up in the atmosphere. This put a solemn moment in our conversation, and Frank told a bit about his background in the space program and his experience working there during the Challenger accident. But, the punch and good company prevailed and we still enjoyed a couple of hours of excellent conversation.
Later we listened to the radio and traded E-mails with folks back home to find out more details on the shuttle accident. A sad day for anyone - but especially for those of us who have worked hard and dreamed about our expansion into space.
Since customs wouldn't open sooner than Monday, we decided to leave on Sunday morning and sail part way down the island. We stopped at Pigeon Island (not as bad as it sounds - and that's the English translation, not the French name). Pigeon Island is in the middle of the Jacques Cousteau National Marine Park. We read this might be a good place to dive or snorkel. We thought a nice snorkel was in order. This place was amazing! Frank thought it was fantastic. Karen and Frank ended up doing a snorkeling circumnavigation of Pigeon Island (the girls only made it a quarter of the way before heading back saying they were cold). Frank took about 50 pictures. We saw tuna, sea turtle, a large grouper, trumpet fish, yellow tail snapper, and all the usual pelagic fish. The water was as clear as it could be, we could easily see diving groups 200 feet or more away! Amazing!
Here are just a few pictures from the snorkeling we did at Pigeon Island:
Karen gave Frank a haircut in the afternoon, and the girls swung off the spinnaker halyard and splashed in the water. Frank did some more snorkeling to wash off the hair, and washed off parts of the underside of the boat.
The next day - after a quick morning snorkel - we left for Basseterre, the capital of Guadaloupe. Winds were calm, so it was a motoring trip. Karen drove the boat while Frank taught math and science. We anchored outside the marina on the south side of the island. Frank went ahore to do customs. The guy at the marina didn't seem to speak English, but pointed out a spot to park the dinghy. Even the guy at customs barely spoke Engligh. Weird. Although this was a French country, the one thing they were thorough about was checking the vessel document. They actually spotted the expired copy in the notebook, so Frank gave them the new one and they were fine with that. Thanks again Zenda for getting the new document to us in time!
We all went ashore later in the day and found a chandlery and a little supermarket. We started practicing our limited French, we were going to need it here! We also found out there was a circus nearby and they were going to be there for just a couple more days. The girls really, REALLY wanted to go.
The next day, Tuesday, February 4th, after some home schooling we went ashore to do some touristy stuff. We took the dinghy and parked it on a large ship dock in town. The dock appeared to be closed for rennovations, but we used it without any problems. We walked over to the tourist office. The woman there actually spoke a bit of broken English, and gave us a map and some tips on a couple of places to go. Karen took a picture of us next to the Statue of Liberty - miniature sized:
Frank walked through the town to try and find an Internet cafe listed at the tourist office - but, it was closed when he got there. On the way back, he found a nice little computer store who offered Internet - and it turned out to be decent DSL. The people there barely spoke English of course, but you don't need much to say "Internet?" and "How much?". :-) Frank noticed they had a network, so figured he could bring a laptop later. Best of all, they only charged $4.57 EC per hour (that's like US$1.75).
We went to lunch at a really nice little chinese restaurant Catherine had noticed. They didn't speak a word of English, but we managed to communicate by gesturing at their buffet-style layout of food what we wanted. They had a really nice dining area with tiled floors and walls and A/C blowing away. Not only that, they had a bathroom and the food was excellent!
After lunch we caught a bus up into the mountains. Not a word of English spoken. We got as far up the mountain as possible and got off. We had targeted a water fall we wanted to go to and if possible we wanted to go to the top. The only problem was that the mountains were enshrouded in clouds and occasional showers were falling on us as we walked up the small road. It was a steep road, and we enjoyed looking at the houses and the beautiful greenery and flowers all along the road. This is rainforest country, and you could see it was difficult for some of the houses to keep the vegetation under control.
We were getting tired after about 3 km, and a rain shower was coming when Karen spotted a little restaurant. We went over and Karen asked if we could get ice cream. The woman proprietor spoke a few words of English and so we were able to order what we wanted. This was a nice little French restaurant with all kinds of beautiful plants inside the place. They made us ice cream with sprinkles and whip cream on top. A great snack after a hard hot hike up. We showed the woman the water fall on the map we were interested in, she indicated it was back down a 1/2 mile near a police station we had seen ("Gendarme") and the waterfall trail was off a little road nearby. So, given the rainy conditions, we decided to go back down to the falls. We finally found the trail (which was overgrown with tall grass) and suddenly we were in the middle of a rain forest on a nice trail. It was a wonderful hike, except it rained and rained. We didn't bring any rain gear, so it was a wet hike. But, what do you expect in a rain forest? The water fall was beautiful, and if it hadn't been for the rain we would have stayed longer. We did find some large leaves that we tried to use as umbrellas.
Here are some pictures: a picture of the flowers on the road, finishing up the ice cream, in the rain forest, the water falls, and Karen under a broad leaf "umbrella".
We hiked back and walked back down to the bus stop and caught a bus already there waiting. On the way down, Karen spotted a big grocery store/department store we had read about. Sort of like a super K-mart. So, we stopped and got some provisions. Caught another bus and we got off close to our dinghy.
Well, the girls still wanted to go to the circus, so after a quick dinner, we dinghied ashore and went to the circus. It was the Suarez Circus - a mexican run circus. They had a fair number of the usual circus things - jugglers, clowns, dancing dogs, tight-rope walker, white tigers, and the two motorcycles inside a small steel ball. We all had fun, and headed back after a long day to PatiCat.
The next day, Wednesday, we left for Ile des Saintes. These are wonderful islands off the south end of Basseterre about 12 miles away. We had a brisk sail down with one tack needed to get far enough east. We managed to sail all the way into the Saintes and then motored all through the anchorage looking for a spot where the water was shallow enough. We finally found a spot, but we had a hard time getting the hook to hold. Another boat left, and we moved over to their spot and finally got a good holding.
The Saintes looked like a beautiful area, and we arrived before lunch. But, we decided to stay on the boat and catch up on home schooling. Later in the afternoon, we had some rain so Frank got to clean off the salt from the passage again.
We ended up spending 4 days in the Saintes. Hardly a word of English spoken the whole time! The islands are visited several times a day by ferries which bring tourists from cruise ships on the main island. There are nice little streets all over the main island of the Saintes and they rent scooters to all the tourists. The girls really wanted to, so Frank agreed to rent a couple of scooters. We spent a day with the scooters exploring the entire island including Fort Napoleon - a restored fort with a nice museum (although mostly in French), we went to a nice beach with picnic tables, and ended up going to a number of other beaches including a "nude beach" - the girls didn't want to stay though. :-) There were only a few people there anyway. We did meet a nice couple from the US who were interested we left from Beaufort since they regularly visit Beaufort from their home in Maine, and were former cruisers themselves.
Frank took the dinghy over to another island and climbed a hill to another fort. This one is not restored and is partly overgrown. We also tried to move our boat one night, but the holding wasn't good, so we ended up moving the boat back to the main anchorage. There had been more winds than usual, and there were some small swells making it into the anchorage at an angle from the wind, making it a bit uncomfortable.
Here are some pictures from the Saintes: The bay we anchored at from the fort Frank went to, the entrance to Fort Napoleon, an iguana at the fort, another shot of the bay, the beach we went to, and a shot of our scooters.
On Sunday, February 9th, we left around lunch time and sailed back up to Basseterre - with plans to run errands and then clear out on Monday to leave for Dominica. After anchoring, we heard lots of drums on shore - it sounded like a parade. The girls wanted to stay on the boat, so Karen and Frank went ashore and found the parade was just starting. It was a fun time, and we were quickly wishing we had remembered our camera. It seemed a bit like Carnival, but we knew from the schedule we had that Carnival wasn't for another few weeks. Later we discovered they get started early with parades like this.
The parade consisted of groups of people usually sponsored by some primary organization or company, and several other companies as contributors. Each group consisted of sign bearers, usually young kids, a group of female dancers, followed by usually men musicians (some were actually playing real brass horns, others played mixtures of things like Conch shells, pipes, recorders, etc.), drummers (sometimes homemade drums, others were a mixture of real marching band drums), and some of the bands had portable generators or actual cars loaded with big speakers so they could play electric pianos and/or guitars and microphones. And of course, a lot of the groups had chants and songs.
The next day, we all went into Basseterre and ran our errands. Frank took the laptop to the computer store and updated the web site and processed E-mails. The girls went grocery shopping. Then Frank cleared out of customs, and we decided to leave even though it was 2:00 and we wouldn't arrive until after dark. The port we were arriving into at Dominica was easy to navigate, so we figured it would be easy enough to pull in with a bright moon out - we were right.
Go to Dominica for more.