Saturday, June 9, 2012

From Antigua to Les Saintes, Guadeloupe, and passage to Bonaire May 15-24, 2012

The time has come for Sinbad to head south for hurricane season. For insurance requirements  and the safety of the vessel (and crew!), we have to be out of the hurricane belt (below 12 degrees North latitude) . The choices were Grenada/Trinidad or the ABC’s –Aruba-Bonaire-Curacao, and we chose the latter because it was cooler.  And there’s great diving!

We departed Antigua with a posse of boats , whom we had gotten to know a bit while at anchor in Jolly Harbour in Antigua and in a day we made Deshaies (pronounced Day-Hay), Guadeloupe.  We anchored under the shadow of cliffs on the northern rim of the bay, overlooking the pretty town and green mountains surrounding it.  Since we were transient, we kept the yellow Q flag up and did not go ashore, but turned in early . The next day we were up with the sun and headed for the Saintes, a small cluster of islands off the southeast corner of Guadeloupe. 

We arrived in the afternoon, hooked a mooring ball ( pretty much mandatory throughout the Saintes) and went ashore to clear in.  In the usual French way, we had to hunt all over town for the Mairie, the courthouse, only to be told that customs operations had been transferred to a contractor which was also an internet café.  Pas de probleme!

                                              Mairie, non...
                   Internet cafe, oui!
 We explored the charming village of Bourg des Saintes, built at the turn of the last century for  foot and donkey traffic in the old Norman and Breton way, and with mahogany siding  and windows on many buildings.
 The islanders now primarily use scooters to get around. We found the bread bakeries and grocery stores, as well as several unique boutiques and artist’s shops, but did not spend too much of our hard-saved cash.
  The rain was abundant and flowers were everywhere, and most yards had some sort of fruit or vegetable plants.  We explored a lot on foot, hiking out to the overlook on the west side of the harbor, where goats were tethered on the ruined 19th century signal station.

We hiked up to Fort Napoleon, a massive 18th century-style fort, complete with dry moat, built in the 1860’s long after the cannons stopped thundering.  It is well maintained, with museum exhibits throughout and a garden of succulents and aloes along the ramparts. We enjoyed spectacular views from the fort and on the road leading to it. We both took lots of pictures along the way; shots of the fort, panoramas of the town, and gardens along the way. 
 On the trip down we stopped at La Saladiere, a cozy seaside restaurant overlooking the boats at anchor, and run by Eduard, a sailor turned artist who made some really interesting and sophistcated collages from colorful bits of wrecked local fishing craft.  We enjoyed a great meal (salads, of course!) and chatted in Tarzan French and English with the artist.
One morning we got a Facebook messaged from Cindy and Steven from Red Ranger (another Whitby), saying that their good friends were anchored about about 200 yards due south of us.  So we introduced ourselves to Nancy and David aboard s/v Fawkes.  Had a great time with them, first with snacks and hospitality visiting each other’s boats, and then out on the town for pizza.

We rented a scooter and the Wild Hogs from Sinbad terrorized the island. To travel down all the navigable roads on the island took about two hours!  We circled the east end, visiting the cemetery, the tourist beach, the wild heavy surf beach with a 100 yard deep carpet of Sargasso washing in, then circled back and headed for the “best beaches” on the west end.  Well, this ain’t Antigua, Dorothy, and the beaches were small and rocky.

 After one elegant and delectable stalight dinner celebrating  the really great food of the French islands, we needed to move on. 

 The weather window was open, with E-ESE  18-25kt fair winds and moderate seas, so we departed Les Saintes for Bonaire on May 21 at 0730.  With following wind and seas, we struggled trying to hold our own course for a while, then conceded that we needed to tack downwind for ease of steering and for the comfort of the off-watch.  The following seas overwhelmed our automatic steering from the get-go, so we hand-steered in three hour watches for the four days and nights of the passage.  It was very tiring, but things went smoothly and without incident. One of the highlights of the crossing was observing two large pods of over 50 spinner dolphins coming along side, leaping and splashing, and surfing the big swells along with us. In the middle of one night watch, Di got smacked in the face by a flying fish (it didn’t hurt but it sure was a surprise).  We sighted the island around midnight of the fourth day, and so we dropped our sails and motored back and forth along the northwest coast of Bonaire, shielded from the wind by the mountains, until the sun was up and we could approach the shore safely in daylight and grab a mooring ball.

Clearing into friendly, laid-back Bonaire was a snap, and on the third day, our friends Jackson and Rico on s/v Apparition, whom we had met in Culebra P.R., pulled in and moored right next to us!  It was great to see them and to get to spend some time getting to know them better, and we're having a great time "divin' and jivin'" with them here in Bonaire. Stay tuned for Bonaire!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! Thanks for the update, pics, and exciting stories! Looking forward to hearing more about transient-life in Bonaire, and whatever is NEXT. Have a great day!! NF