Gas Gremlins and Guadaloupe

Tue 22 Apr 2008 23:31
15.52N 61.35W
Les Saintes, Terre de Haut bay, Tue 8 April.
The customs office at Basse Terre, where we landed on Mon 7 April was never open when we visited, and as the note on the door said, contrary to our rather out-of-date guidebook, that there IS a customs office on Les Saintes, we decided to sail over there. The Marina Riviere Sens where we'd landed wasn't quite as expected either - quite run down and the visitors pontoon was filled (where the concrete wasn't crumbling into the sea) with permanently berthed boats and a sinking wreck ! The laundry and bakery were fine though.
We had another good sail in 20knots of wind, first squall hit with rain that felt like hailstones ... second squall just shifted the wind direction to make it a dead beat up a  shallowish (compared to 1 mile deep water at the windward end of it) stretch of water so the seas had become Gibraltar Straits-like almost vertical even though only about 6 feet high.... very bumpy!!! so lots of tacking, and a sleek 60+foot yacht hurtled past us. We tried to anchor beside another Hylas on one side of the bay, but couldn't get fixed so moved over to the other side, where another guy came up to us when we'd just finished our afternoon snooze and said he was in the process of buying a Hylas so we invited him and his wife aboard for a look and a wee chat.  We often get people, usually Americans dinghying up saying 'Is that a Hylas' or 'we're in the Hylas over there'. Sometimes it's interesting.
Tuesday we signed up with customs in the lovely little town hall, bought the last baguette in town, managed to avoid the multitude of mopeds just hired by American cruise passengers, walked over to the other side of the island, thought about hiring one of the Hobiecats flying around between the anchored yachts and went back to the boat to plan the next few days. Annabel was dutifully cooking supper, wondering when we'd find an excuse to eat out again, having spent a few weeks on French territory now...oh well at least there's good meat and veg to cook with...Uh-OH ! she suddenly realised the rice wasn't coming to the boil - the gas had run out !  Luckily the meat was cooked so we had that with the remaining baguette and re-planned the next few days!  We're a bit ashamed about running out of gas 'cos the other bottle ran out in January. We've been procrastinating about getting it refilled because a) they're american bottles and b) we were told in Las Palmas that as they are 10yrs old they should be replaced.  We decided the large marina at Pointe a Pitre,where the Route du Rhum race finishes, would be a good bet for getting a refill. So...  
Thurs 10 April and...
Off we go ... well the first thing to do is get the sails up ... all going fine until the reefs we had in the main wouldn't come out ... the ropes deciding to lodge firmly inside the boom  .. so up went Syd to the mast and started a tug of war with the offending ropes where they come out of the boom (by the way the boom is about at head height at that point ... not good to get any purchase! But after lots of tugging Annabel wound the sail another yard or so up the mast ... then Syd heaved again ...Annabel started winding and up the sail went till a great shriek was heard round the whole bay .. as a 3" cockroach jumped out of the rapidly unfolding sail .. acrobatically grabbed the rope Syd was pulling (all of 6 inches from Syd's face .. leapt over his hand and disappeared down the boom .... Composure quickly regained, Syd started tugging at the rope .. and loo and behold out leapt the cockroach .. landing firmly on the coachroof ... with Syd in hot pursuit ... after some acrobatic dancing by Syd  and a fair amount of screaming ... had it positioned nicely on a bit of open deck .... then a bit of right foot craftwork that even Beckam would've been proud of as it was lifted up into the air  over the rail and with a dramatic curl to the left  floated gracefully into the the face of the oncoming wave ... Great  cries of elation by all concerned .... But how it got there remains a mystery .... and so far (touch wood) no others to be seen......
And on we sailed to Marina Bas du Fort at Pointe a Pitre (at 16.13N 61.32W). Wind had swung back and got a bit of south in it, dropped AND Annabel helmed and only a bit of tacking and finally enjoyed a no wind, stern to docking (easy peasy compared to Gibraltar ...  the marina chap tying our bows to the big buoy that each berth has in the French marinas here.  The office check-in was slick, pontoon wide and clean, water and electricity at the ready - just like a spanish marina !  After showers etc(only basic, typically French) we wandered along to the also typically european restaurants round one part of the marina and enjoyed a good french meal.  Next day, we contacted the gas refilling station, but no, they only did french bottles and the chandlery only had french bottles and fittings, which are different to ours and they use butane which burns hotter than our normal propane.  So another thinking/planning session about whether it was worth having a french one as a spare, but the connection changes and storage wouldn't be worth it, so we decided to sail up to Antigua immediately as we were going there anyway, and being a very 'British' island, with many yachts passing through, we were sure we could get a refill, or if not, new propane bottles. Oh and we did phone the yacht services company that advertises propane refills in English Harbour to confirm - one of the occasions we were particularly glad we have the satellite phone, as Syd's mobile plays up terribly on french islands  (well what do you expect of things French!) and won't send txts even though it says it's on french Orange! Oh yes and we spent the rest of the day (well most of the day really) cleaning and scrubbing all those endless hidden nooks and crannies that seem to come free with every boat. ... But no sign of cockroaches (relief by all) and after .. no traces of food for them to eat without having to expose themselves (all part of the battle plan)!!!!