Deshaies, Guadaloupe

We spent 6 days on Nevis in the end enjoying the location, the scenery, the beach bars (above) and the chance to catch up with Aussie friends met first back in Morocco.  We took a taxi up to Gingerland one day and had lunch in one of the beautifully converted old plantation estates with stunning views and magnificent gardens.  We returned by bus which is another great experience here.  The buses are all individually owned and leave when full or when the driver feels like it.  They will stop anywhere to let people on or off and it doesn’t matter what side of the road you are waiting.  Half the time the driver doesn’t appear to take any money from his passengers so we guess he sees them regularly and knows he can collect sometime.  On our bus there was a young lad who needed to be dropped on the safe side of a busy road so the driver detoured and turned around especially for him.  It all feels like a personal service and very jolly with it, so much better than back in GB!

Our lunch spot in Gingerland:

 

… and just up the hill, how the other half lives:

The day before we left Nevis we had to go into Charlestown to do some shopping but also to check out of this little country (one of the smallest sovereign nations in the world apparently).  Checking in and out is part of the way of life for boaties and after the ease of travelling around the EU takes a bit of getting used to out here.  At every island, you have to search out the relevant authorities which usually means three different officials – customs, immigration and port police.  Each of these then requires you to fill in long forms about your boat and its passengers and the old blue carbon copy paper is much in evidence.  Some islands have tried to introduce a computerised system and the French ones appear to have managed it, but the ex British colonies seem to have abandoned theirs as too expensive to administer.  Often the offices you need to go to are closed as the official is off checking passports at the airport instead and sometimes an official has no idea what the system is for the other departments.  It can be very vague but also quite bureaucratic and time consuming and you need to have plenty of patience and good humour about it.

 

After a farewell meal with our Aussie friends (we treated ourselves to lobster which, whilst cheap, wasn’t as great as it was cracked up to be), we departed from our buoy off Pinney’s Beach on Nevis early on Saturday morning around 6.15 am just as it was getting light.  We had a taxing (well for skipper at least) windward sail in rough seas south to  Montserrat, hand steering most of the way.  The main destination was Guadeloupe but it was a little bit too far to reach in daylight (only 12 hours out here).  We broke up the passage by anchoring in Little Bay at the north end of Montserrat.  This aptly named spot is now Montserrat’s only port even though it’s not much more than a few shacks on the beach and one small stone jetty.  The island’s main town used to be Plymouth in the south but that was destroyed by several volcanic eruptions which began in 1995.  More than half the population left the island and the whole southern half is completely off limits as the volcano is still active.  We sailed down the east coast this morning and had very good views of the steaming vents and the ash flows that buried so much.  We could see old sugar mills and chimneys sticking out of the ash and some houses left surrounded by little islands of greenery as the ash flowed around them.  With hurricanes and earthquakes as well, this part of the world does have more than its fair share of natural disasters.

The fuming volcano from a safe 2 miles offshore, and (right) Little Bay, now the country’s only harbour:

 

The wind strength and direction was perfect for a fast sail on to Guadeloupe and it was just a pity that David couldn’t enjoy it.  He was suffering from stomach cramps (maybe the lobster biting back?) and had to retreat below when not needed by first mate to advise on sail trim etc.  We covered the 43 miles in 6 hours and were able to anchor before other boats arrived in this popular bay and stole the best spots.  Deshaies (pronounced dayay) is a delightful little fishing harbour that has become a draw for tourists and yachties because of its setting and waterside restaurants.  We rowed our dingy ashore late in the afternoon to have a look around and immediately noticed the difference in the prosperity of the village compared with those in the old British colonies.  Guadeloupe is a fully fledged department of France and as such, much better looked after, although it still has plenty of problems with disparities of income, expectations and political aspiration amongst its people.  It is certainly a bit of France in the Caribbean and we are looking forward to hitting the local boulangerie tomorrow morning for some croissants and baguettes.

Deshaies and a quirky “freedom rigged” yacht: