February 14 - March 2, 2008: Dominica to Guadeloupe
Today, February 15, we went into town, (a) because we needed to get clearance from the local "gendarme" - it turned out to be the police, not the gendarme, and we will still need to clear in Pointe a Pitre though the jurisdiction should really be the same: Guadeloupe, (b) because we wanted to see the little town which had been written up quite interestingly. We also stopped for lunch - had wanted to find the "Creperie" we had seen from our anchorage. What a disappointment! It is a bar only and not a restaurant any more. Still, we got some nice lunch, finally managed to clear in with the local police, were approached by some German who was looking to hitch a ride South as a deckhand - of course, we had to disappoint him but recommended for him to go to Le Marin from where a lot of boats seem to be going South.
We called the marina in Pointe a Pitre "Port de Plaisance de Bas du Fort" to reserve a spot for us as of Monday next week and to let them know that we were expecting a few FedEx packages. We also tried to firm up Peter's visit with us - it is now fixed for February 27 to March 2nd, if we understood him correctly. This may mean that we might meet up on Antigua rather than Guadeloupe, but it all depends on the weather, etc., etc. So, to date, we have not made any decision as to this particular point.
After returning from Bourg, we decided to do laundry. Unfortunately, the generator stopped because it had overheated. So far, we have not really gotten it to work again. We hope that, after a night's rest, it will perform properly again...
February 16 - my aunt Herta's birthday - happy birthday, Tante Herta! We spoke to her though she had her house full of guests - and was quite happy about it.
February 19 - Lippi's birthday - 18 years old! - and so excited about it. We talked to him for a little while but really agreed for us to call the next day. We took the ferry early in the morning (0830) to go to"Trois Rivieres" on Terre Basse (of Guadeloupe). We had hoped to rent a car to drive to Pointe a Pitre to pick up a FedEx package which had been sent by our building staff. Well, there was no car available and no public transportation right at the ferry dock. Instead, we had to walk up a rather steep hill to the town center. Thank God, there was a bus just about 15 minutes later. The ride was interesting - about 60 km long (36 miles - statute miles, of course) - took us through a lot of different villages where lots of locals "boarded". About one hour and fifteen minutes later, we made it to downtown Pointe a Pitre, a rather interesting looking town with wide avenues. The taxiride to the marina - a huge operation with lots of infrastruccture, a capitainerie with very professional employees, lots of stores and restaurants - took about 10 minutes or so. At the capitainerie, they immediately told us that they had our FedEx package. We took it to lunch where we finally had our first meal - we never managed to have breakfast due to the issues at hand in Trois Rivieres. We had delicious creole food, a nice bottle of Muscadet - not even very expensive -, reviewed the proofs and marked them as ok for printing. After lunch, we took the package back to the marina where they called FedEx for the pick up immediately, then they called a taxi for us, and just about 20 minutes later we sat in the bus returning to Trois Rivieres. Our ferry arrived around 1730. We were the only passengers. It was a wild ride, not as wild as that in the morning when the wind had been blowing even more than now and the waves had been a lot higher. The ferry windows were not totally tight, and my dress was totally wet on that side (in the morning). Since we had the entire ferry to ourselves on the return trip, we sat in aisle seats, were still bounced around a lot in this very noisy cabin (the engine had no insulation it seemed). We arrived in about 30 minutes' time and were glad to be off. At 22 knots in even these fairly mild seas, the boat jumped and wiggled around incredibly - thank God it was a short ride... I for sure would not want to be on this thing in heavy weather...
We went straight to the dinghy and back to Impromptu - sat in the cockpit, watching the sun go down. The moon had risen already - a full moon...
February 20 - we decided to stay on the boat today. I had tried to upload our website - without any success. This morning, it was not any better. Even SKYPE was bad. For some reason, it works better on Juergen's computer than on mine. So, I had to log out of the WIFI system, he logged in, and he is happily talking to Susanne right now.
Tomorrow, we want to take an island tour. We have to start early, 0900, because the museum at Fort Napoleon is only open until 1230 - strange, isn't it? You see, we are very busy with making all these plans. On Sunday, we will be sailing up to Pointe a Pitre. Though we would not want to be too long in this huge marina, we still are looking forward to being there, enjoying its infrastructure, going out to dinner, doing some sightseeing all over the island as well as in Pointe a Pitre itself before we head up North, along the Riviere Salee, a river that cuts Guadeloupe into two islands so to speak, and from there North to Antigua. When exactly this will occur, we have not decided. It all depends on the weather, but we know that we need to be there before March 6th as on the 7th, we will be flying to New York. We are also looking forward to seeing Luise and family again, to taking care of our mail and other things, to visiting with Alexander, Jean and Bert, maybe also the Costantinos, our dear neighbors, who are taking care of our plants during our absence.
February 21 - We decided against the island tour for today because the second square rigger arrived today with lots of passengers aboard who were taken to land by launch. Thus, we are sitting in the cockpit in heavy winds, playing Backgammon. I had hoped to have better internet access today because a number of sailboats left this morning. Unfortunately, there is none which means that we actually will have to go to land later on to talk to the gentleman who sells this WIFI service. Hopefully, he can help.
February 23 - Today is our last day in this beautiful island group. We took the island tour yesterday and had a ball. We saw great sites, visited Fort Napoleon, formerly Fort Louis, never used.We saw a number of iguanas, large and small and took lots of pictures of the sites, the bays, the adjacent islands. We not only could see all the "Saintes" islands, but also Marie Galante, the two main islands of Guadeloupe, even Dominica. We had lunch in a "recommended" restaurant (the food was pretty bad) but we sat together with a Canadian couple who was on the minibus as well and had a nice conversation. We spent the afternoon lazying around on Impromptu, playing Backgammon, downloading photos, talking to Luise and Sid.
This morning, we did two small loads of laundry, just so we are set for Pointe a Pitre, where we cannot make water in the harbor - the water is too filthy for the system. It has been pouring onn and off, now the sun is shining again. Remember the French couple we had met (because they approached us) at the restaurant at the marina in Pointe a Pitre a few days ago? Well, they sent us an email that they will come to the boat on Monday around noon time with a bottle of champagne, will bring their sister who they had picked up from the airport the day we met, and, a second email indeicated that they would invite us to lunch - we think at the same restaurant we had met at - funny? We think it is. We are also looking forward to meeting them again. They seemed like a very nice couple.
This morning, when we woke up, the Sea Cloud 2 was anchored far out behind us. At this moment, they are already departing again, a few sails pulled out for their voyage to - we don't know where, could look it up on AIS, but prefer to watch them sail away... I will try to load up this and the images of yesterday's island tour. Enjoy!
February 24 - Sunday. We prepared Impromtpu for our departure from Les Saintes, packed everything away so it won't fall while sailing, took the dinghy engine back aboard, then pulled the dinghy up by halyard, turned it upside down on the foredeck and secured it. Initially, we had to motor-sail because we had the wind almost on the nose but as we could change course, we turned the engine off and sailed for 3/4 of the way - wonderful. The wind blew between 15 and 20 knots, the seas were fairly calm, the sun was shining, not a squall in sight. What else could we ask for. We called the Marina du Bas du Fort as we rounded the last buoy of the channel in the Riviere Salee to enter the marina. One of the employees greeted us by boat and led us to our spot. There is no alongside docking, instead, stern or bow-to. We had a heck of a time going bow-to despite all the help of two dock boys. In the end, we finally made it. But then, we realized that the wind was pushing all the rain into the cockpit and that we would not be protected at all from weather. It was too windy to turn the boat around. Maybe, tomorrow...
Steffi and Tim came from "Apelia", a small but beautiful little boat which they crossed the Atlantic with, arrived around 1800. We waved to them. As they passed Impromptu to go to their assigned dock space, we invited them for drinks. They ended up staying for supper. Stefie had made a very delicious salad from cabbage, apples, banana pieces and some nuts. That was our appetizer. Our main course consisted of pasta and chicken breast, sauteed in alive oil and spiced with the mix of onion, garlic, olives etc. that I had purchased - I think at Costco - but don't remember for sure. They, too, liked the sauce of creme fraiche, a touch of white wine and the spices. It was a very nice evening which lasted till almost midnight.
February 25 - this morning, it poured as it had during the night. I got up to clean our fridge and freezer, Juergen readied himself to check in with Customs. Once all this was completed, we finally had breakfast - the sun was out and we could even sit in the cockpit and enjoy it as usual. Around 1100, Joelle, Charly and Joelle's sister and husband arrived - as promised, with a beautiful bottle of champagne. We shared it with them, talked for a while - Juergen in English, I tried my French again. Of course, we showed off Impromptu. They have a Bavaria 38 - in the Bretagne - used to have a boat down here but sold it. They invited us to their home in Francois, a town on the Southeastern tip of Grande Terre - sometimes also called Terre Haute. We politely declined because it would take too long to get there by boat. They also invited us to their house in the Bretagne or their apartment in Paris - also proposed to exchange our apartment for their apartment or house some time (except that this will not work in our building). They were all very nice, we all enjoyed our time together. Around two hours later, they departed to go back to Francois. There had been lots of pictures taken - by Joelle - which she promised to send by email. You might see some of them eventually.
March 1 - Saturday. I cannot believe that February lies behind us and that we will fly to New York in a week from yesterday. So much has happened since I wrote last. We spent more time with Steffi and Tim. They even decided to stay at the marina one more day just to drive around the island with us. We had a ball. They are both really nice, we had lots of fun and saw a lot. First, we drove over the Baimbridge which is the most Northern bridge crossing the Riviere Salee. We wanted to see the land around and beyond (but could not) as we both would have to take our boats through there. Still, the river looked intriguing as it seems bordered by a rather thick mangrove "forest". We tried to get closer but instead sort of got lost, driving through little towns including Sainte Rose and others, taking pictures of scenery, of steers lining the streets and fields, all sitting or standing by themselves, tied to a line that was tied to a stake, saw Antigua from afar - can you detect it on some of our images? We stopped at a beach, took pictures of a few cemetaries - they all seem to be overlooking the ocean. While we have seen this in Europe and the US as well, we still marvel at the fact that cemetaries seem to be located on prime property - we are wondering why???
We stopped in Des Haies, capital of Guadeloupe, for lunch, and while the food was anything but great, we enjoyed our surroundings. (The restaurant was quite attractive, the bay was filled with a number of sail boats but looked peaceful and well protected against Northerly swells, and of course, we enjoyed our company). We stopped at a "Cocoa Museum" - decided not to go in because of the steep entrance fee of Euro 5 per person. It was not even connected to a true plantation, only showed and sold chocolate bars at Euro 6 a piece - which we all thought was quite steep - and coco fruit. We all had seen them on different islands and decided to move on. There was a really fat pig lying in the shade, tied up to a stake near a small river. The others (not me) patted it, and I took pictures. We went through the rain forest on our way back towards Pointe a Pitre and thought it amazing. The valleys were quite deep, the trees very tall, straight-grown and covered with thick leaves. We stopped at a river where people were bathing, thinking that the water might be fed by a caldera-heated water source - no such thing. They were just enjoying sitting in the river, it seemed. Tim picked a "roseau" stalk and cut small pieces for each of us to suck on - very sugary, of course (roseau is sugar cane. That is also where the name of the town Roseau on Dominica comes from). We made it back "home" to Impromptu and "Apelia" on time for Steffi and Tim to check emails etc. one last time before casting off.
Once has to cast off in the evening (late afternoon really) to get to the moorings - or to anchor - South of the Riviere Salee Bridge, the first of the two major bridges to get through on the way North towards Antigua. They left around 1800 and were soaked by a deluge of a squall (we were glad to be sitting in the cockpit, nicely dry and comfortabale, and felt bad for them). Meanwhile we received a few SMS messages - they made it through the bridges comfortably and reached Antigua, in total an approximately 50 nm trip, in about 12 hours, i.e., by 1700.
We had planned on possibly following them, together with Peter, who arrived on Thursday morning, all weather dependent, because the Northeasterly winds may build up some nasty chop and create some breakers in the area where one leaves the marshland to enter the passage between Guadeloupe and Antigua - and, according to various guidebooks and other sources, this is not recommended for anyone to go through, certainly not if depth is an issue. It is for us and was for Apelia. In the end, we did not go but passed our time with Peter way too quickly.
After a leisurely breakfast we drove along the Southern shore of Grande Terre to show Peter St. Anne as well as Pointes des Chateaux. Unfortunately, the weather was not as nice as it had been the day before when Juergen and I drove there, but we sat on the beach for a little while. The water was way too rough to go in. We chatted for a while, walked around a little. As it was too early for lunch, we drove towards Le Moule, a town about 20 km or so North of St. Francois. It is located on the Atlantic coast and is actually quite a nice little town. We wanted to find the rum distillery. It took us a while the find the tiny road that led to it, but the countryside was just gorgeous, and the long drive was clearly worth it as we found when we finally arrived. The distillery was in full operation, we were permitted to walk around anywhere we wanted, were permitted to take pictures. The entire property was decorated by antiquated equipment that seemed to have been used for distilling rum - really run. Check out the pictures! In the end, we purchased a few bottles of rum, of course, after first tasting it.
After lunch at Hostillerie de Pointe des Chateaux (this time not as good as it had been the first time around) and waiting for the rain to subside, we drove back to St. Anne. Peter even went into the water, Juergen and I wandered around a bit and then stopped for a drink before heading back to our marina.
Yesterday, Friday, Juergen and I checked all the mail Peter had brought, then we decided to drive around again after purchasing his flight ticket at the airport and doing some food shopping at the Pointe a Pitre Carrefour which is lightyears ahead of the one in Martinique. It is more modern, much more attractive, and the selection of produce and other products was at least twice that of the one we frequented in Le Lamentin (on Martinique). Juergen asked whether I would like to purchase an apartment so I can go shopping at this Carrefour all the time. I replied that I would like to live right in it... We bought some very yummie things and enjoyed them at lunch.
In the afternoon, we tried to find another beach for Peter, were not too successful, however. so we ended up at the same beach in St. Anne we had been at the day before. Peter did not seem to mind. On the way to find another beach, we saw a lot of rather attractive private homes, but we were shocked at the amount of graffiti that is found just about everywhere - really disturbing!
We had cocktail hour on the boat and went to a rather nice restaurant right here in the marina, had two bottles of wine and a wonderful meal, appetizer, main course, and two desserts and coffee included. The atmosphere was beautiful, lots of people came to eat and though it started raining a little, we remained outside (protected by a nice awning). It was past 2300 when we got back to the boat.
This morning, we had pancakes with fresh pineapple and then drove into Pointe a Pitre to see the downtown area a little. We were amazed at the many different markets that existed, in part in beautiful halls, in part on plazas, or even in pedestrian walkways. Nothing seemed touristy, all authentic. We saw amazing variety of produce, fish, musicians playing on the sidewalk, and everybody seeming eager to bye. We purchased some vanilla beans and saffron - we think for a good price. In both cases I got permission to take pictures not only of the display but even the sales ladies involved. Many of the locals are objecting to being photographed, some get very upset, meaning that I did not get photos of those women dressed in very typical and colorful outfits (just those that I really would have liked to take pictures of). Still, I hope that you will enjoy the images and that you can understand our appreciation of this small but extremely lively town. Too bad, we will be departing for Antigua in the next day or so.
We had lunch on the boat as Peter's flight was at 1730 and he needed to be at the airport already at 1600. We extended our car rental agreement to 1700 and drove him to the airport. We were sad to see him leave but understood that he preferred to leave this afternoon even though his connecting flight from Antigua will only depart tomorrow afternoon. The next time we hope to have him fly non-stop into the island where we will meet, whether St. Maarten or some place in the BVIs.
We returned out car. I immediately starting working on the website - it is necessary as I have not done anything in the past few days. Juergen filled out water tank. Water and electricity is included in the docking price at this marina. They even have 110V in addition to the typical 220V (the European voltage).
At this point we are planning to leave here tomorrow afternoon to take a mooring near the Riviere Salee Bridge which will open at 5 a.m. on Monday morning (they don't open at all on Sundays) and to get to Antigua on Monday afternoon. The weather is supposed to be easing again. Let's hope it is true...