Marie Galantinesday 15:57:25N 61:19:33W

Hamble Warrior
Jamie Hickman
Tue 22 Feb 2022 23:22

14th - 21st February

Valentine's day we set sail from Les Saintes towards the flat, round island of Marie Galante just across the water and still within the dependency of Guadeloupe.

We anchored off the port town of Saint Louis in clear water amongst a selection of other boats; motor and sail, local and visiting. Because the island here is so flat the water shelves slowly and anchoring is possible all the way along the huge stretch of sandy beach with shallow waters perfect for dropping the hook and loads of space for everyone. This is quite a contrast to most of the places we have visited so far in the Caribbean where islands have steep peaks on land which tend to be mirrored by steeply shelving water surrounded them making anchoring more challenging. The steeper the incline above land the more pronounced below water level. Hence in St Pierre we were anchored in 22 metres with 80 metres of anchor cable out!

Marie Galante is the first flat island we have visited in the Caribbean and over the next few days we came to appreciate how the shallow waters around the island made for perfect anchoring; perfect swimming and a unique set of wildlife; although I did miss the pelicans which had been present in nearly every other spot we'd stayed so far… they obviously prefer to fish in deep waters and nest high up because this is the first place they have been absent from the coastline so far.

We took our dinghy to a little pontoon next to the huge ferry pier where we were able to tie up and explore the island. We hadn't walked very far when we passed bar "Chez Judith" which caught my eye because that's my Mum's name. Judith was sitting in the middle of the bar and waved a greeting to us. I was so struck by how friendly she was that we pulled up a couple of seats and ended up drinking several beers each with Judith. We soon learned that absolutely everyone is this friendly on Marie Galante.

We went back to Hamble Warrior for dinner aboard and as it was Valentine's day we treated ourselves to the tinned duck that we had originally bought for Christmas dinner in the Atlantic but had been saved for a later date after we ended up spending Christmas in Tenerife with access to fresh ingredients. It was absolutely delicious and we instantly regretted not buying a dozen tins for the bilges as we would have had a special dinner on tap for every upcoming Christmas, Easter, birthday and anniversary! It is a tricky balance with stores; we try to carry as much as possible and since arriving in the Caribbean we have been grateful for all of our stores of tinned and packet foods; milk powder, tinned meat, dehydrated soy and jars of vegetables. We always have a meal on-board whether we have access to shops or not. Sometimes though it's a tough call as to how many of certain items to carry and the tins of confit duck at €8 a tin seemed extravagant to carry in great numbers. Looking back now however we are thinking €8 for a roast duck dinner anywhere in the world sounds pretty good!!! At least we have plenty of corned beef and spam so we can always improvise!! It's always once we have tested a new brand of something that we decide how many we would carry and we have had this a few times on our travels where we find something and buy one to try it; decide it's brilliant and we will carry a stock of them only to find we never see those items again. The most recent of these disappointments was "powdered coconut milk" which we saw on our very first trip to a Caribbean supermarket in Martinique. We carry several tins of coconut milk as we use it in various curry and rice dishes. The idea of carrying sachets of powdered coconut milk that we could make up into whatever quantity we like without leaving an open tin of milk to be stowed in the fridge was an appealing one. We bought a sachet and tried it and it worked brilliantly. We assumed this was a product we would see everywhere in the Caribbean and we'd be able to buy up a big stock of them for our stores.... we have not seen it since!! Every visit to the supermarket we comb the powdered milk and tinned coconut aisles and we have yet to glimpse another sachet of coconut milk powder!

Obviously one of the joys of being in a new part of the world is discovering what local produce is available that we might not have seen or heard of before. On our first provisioning trip in Marie Galante we visited a small store selling fresh local produce. We have seen various items in the markets that we have not recognised and not known if they were fruit or vegetable and we have stuck with the familiar. Today we decided to be brave and as we entered the store a customer was leaving with his purchases including a large melon-sized, irregular-shaped item that looked very much like an enormous mishaped conker; with a green skin covered in spikes. I managed to communicate with him in my steadily improving French and established it was a fruit; it was (in his opinion) delicious and when it softened it was ripe and you could scoop out the flesh to eat. He also told me the name but I forgot that very quickly. I think it began with a "C" (feedback welcome from anyone that recognises what I'm talking about!) Anyway there was one left when we entered the store and we bought it along with some grapefruits, cabbage and onions. When we took it back to the boat Meep seemed to be fascinated by this fruit and even insisted on climbing into the vegetable crates with it which was a bit weird! A few days later when it felt like it had softened we cut it in half to reveal a very white very soft flesh with large dark pips which I removed. It tasted like a perfect blend of pineapple and coconut and for this reason I have named it "pina colada" fruit.... simply add rum for the perfect smoothie ;)

We stayed a total of three nights anchored off Port Saint Louis and enjoyed a walk around the local area; including a walk out to the big supermarket on the edge of the town and an evening stroll along the long sandy beach. When it was time to move on we decided to make a short trip just a couple of miles around to the neighbouring bay from which we could explore the main town of "Grand Bourg".

As the waters are so shallow here and therefore; as I mentioned previously, we didn't need to have a huge amount of anchor chain out we decided this was a perfect spot to practise lifting and dropping our anchor without using the engine. Ordinarily we would turn the engine on and use the electric windlass to pull up the anchor chain before setting sail and then on arrival in a new spot turn the engine on to drop the anchor; run out sufficient chain and then put the engine in reverse to set the anchor by digging it into the seabed. However we can do this manually and so Jamie cranked up the anchor chain with a winch handle and then we set our sails and sailed a few short miles to the next anchorage. When we arrived he released the anchor chain manually and we set a small amount of headsail to give us the power we needed to set the anchor. It's a lovely feeling not needing to turn on the engine at all and adds to a sense of self-sufficiency. Without needing to run diesel engines or power outboards with petrol we are able to travel the world without a dependency on fuel which is a lovely feeling... plus rowing dinghies and hauling anchor chain is a great way to stay fit!!

This new spot was an absolute dream… a long, narrow sandy beach overhung by bush and mangroves with clear blue shallow waters that remained as warm as bathwater long after the sun had set.

Our evenings on the beach here were a highlight of our stay in Marie Galante... a highlight of our trip so far I would say. On Friday night we rowed our dinghy ashore with cold drinks; an iPod and speaker and had our own little beach party. We literally had the beach to ourselves. Even the other boats lying at anchor were such a distance that we couldn't have disturbed or been disturbed by them. We swam in the clear shallow water and watched the sunset over the horizon between the distant outlines of Les Saintes and Guadeloupe. After dark we found ourselves surrounded by phospherence which washed up onto the beach in large bright burning cinders like hot coals. When we swam bright sparks of phospherence flew off our limbs and wherever the water was disturbed became a little light show! We have experienced sailing in phospherence during night sails but this was our first experience of swimming in it - it was absolutely magical. There is a scene in "the beach" where Leonardo DiCaprio is swimming in phospherence having taken a load of drugs and is tripping out and I think we managed to pretty much recreate that scene with 60% local rum (yes 60 percent!!) There was much squealing of "look at my laser hands - pow pow" and "look at my laser legs - pow pow"... infact pretty much every body part was declared "laser-enabled" as the night wore on and the rum continued to flow...!!!!

Our rides back to Hamble Warrior were equally as exciting as we loaded everything into the dinghy and paddled back; I would shine the torch across the water to guide us and the seas would literally come alive with fish jumping all around us. As soon as the torch went on the water would literally boil with fish leaping and splashing about; I am amazed we didn't end up with any landing in the dinghy they were so dynamic.

Once aboard we would need to winch the dinghy back up on deck and check everything was stowed correctly; another sweep of torch light across the decks and once again the water would be alive and jumping!

It wasn't just fish we saw from the decks of Hamble Warrior. This was the first place since we have been in the Caribbean where I have been able to enjoy more than just a fleeting glance of turtles from the boat. They seemed to show up after breakfast time - mid morning and I would hear the loud snorting sound as they surfaced. Their massive forms were visible in the clear water but it was only their sandy yellow heads that would break the surface for a few moments before disappearing back below. We were treated to so many close encounters with turtles during our years in Greece and I have missed seeing them peacefully going about their business. 

Our weekend on Marie Galante culminated with a hike to Grand Bourg on Sunday. We paddled ashore and walked the length of the beach which was relatively busy with families each staking a claim to one of the many little natural alcoves created by the undergrowth and providing a shady little spot with a beachfront view. When we reached the road we walked for about 20 minutes past the many small holdings we had come to recognise with their occupants waving and shouting greetings from the shade of their porches, past the little supermarket we had visited on a previous walk and purchased cold beach beers from, and past the turning for the local rum distillery. We were less than halfway to Grand Bourg when a car pulled over and a couple I recognised from the beach offered us a lift into town. It was so hot that we gratefully accepted. On the way we chatted in a mixture of French and English and established they came from Brittany and lived half their year in the Gulf du Morbihan and the other half in Marie Galante. We told them how much we loved the Morbihan and the three months we spent in that area on our motor boat for our honeymoon some years back. It turns out they are also sailors; hardly surprising for someone from that part of the world, our driver took a brief glance at his wife and disclosed in rapid English that she had been very clear that she did NOT want to cross the Atlantic in a boat. His wife remained quiet and tight-lipped during this part of the conversation; clever girl!!

We were dropped by the port outside a restaurant where it turned out our friends were heading for lunch. They explained the town was very quiet on a Sunday and sure enough a brief walk around convinced us they were right and all the businesses were closed. We had a wander around though checking out the small marina and the beautiful church and I added several amazing murals to my collection of "graffiti/street art of the Caribbean". When we returned to the restaurant it was getting busy and we managed to get a table in the shade looking across the street to where a bar owner was setting out his tables and up ahead where we had a good view of the ferry terminal. It turned out to be a perfect spot and a perfect time to enjoy a delicious lunch and a couple of bottles of wine as everyone began arriving for the Sunday afternoon ferries back to Guadeloupe. Before long this quiet little place was bustling with people carrying holdalls and wheeling cases. Hire cars and scooters were getting dropped off and 4x4s queued up along the street. We were able to people watch to our hearts content with the music from the bar opposite to entertain us. Eating out is a bit of a rare treat for us but even more so was the wine we bought which arrived in a bucket full of ice - I can honestly say that is the first ice we've had since arriving in the Caribbean! We are well-used to not having access to ice now living on a boat and I wouldn't say I miss it - just having cold drinks is a treat but a chilled bottle of wine brought in a bucket full of ice was a massive treat and not one we took for granted. So it only seemed right to order a second one.....!!!!!

Our walk home was a jolly skip as you can imagine and despite our friends advising us that all we needed to do was stick out a thumb and anyone would stop to give us a lift (apparently it's the Marie Galante way) we kind of felt that we should walk the full 4 miles to work off our wine; chips and Accras!

Our night finished with another moonlit swim surrounded by phospherence and leaping fish... and of course more laser-charged body parts.... pow pow!!!!!

We had one more day off Marie Galante before we set sail for the large butterfly-shaped island of Guadeloupe back across the water. We left with the island as a firm favourite so far though; the friendliest people, the most stunning beaches, the most interesting waters... a lot of happy memories.


JPEG image

JPEG image

JPEG image

JPEG image

JPEG image