22nd February to 1st March
Riviere Sens, Basse Terre, Guadeloupe
In the third week of February after a wonderful stay on Marie Galante we set sail once more headed for Guadeloupe. We lifted the anchor manually and sailed off our spot without turning the engine on and enjoyed fabulous tradewind sailing conditions of around 15kts on flat clear waters. This is ideal sailing - downwind so travelling nice and upright, we were making 5 or 6kts most of the day and it was comfortable enough that cooking lunch and making tea in the galley was no drama; Jamie trolled a line for a bit and we even went up onto the bow together to sit and enjoy a cup of tea in the shade of the sails whilst the windpilot steered us along. As we approached our intended destination of Riviere Sens off the town of Basse Terre in Guadeloupe we sailed into the shadow of the island and lost our wind completely. With the anchorage in sight we turned on the engine and motored in to find ourselves a suitable spot. It was an enjoyable 5 hour trip and we dropped anchor in deep water off a small black sandy beach and modest marina with fishing boats coming and going and pelicans bombing into the deep waters around us.
We stayed in this spot for nearly a week. We found everything we needed between the small town of Riviere Sens and the much bigger town of Basse Terre which was a very comfortable and picturesque walk along the seafront - or via the inland road which offered a glimpse into the stunning interior of the island. On one of these many walks between the two towns we saw the most impressive "display" of iguanas; I'm not sure if they were courting or fighting but it was a thing to behold these massive creatures - a metre in length perhaps - circling each other with their necks all puffed out and chasing each other at the side of the road. Our regular trips ashore also meant we got to know some of the locals pretty well - especially the ones we saw around the harbour where we landed our dinghy. We became friendly with some of the local fishermen and the little group of guys who worked at the "garage" just outside the harbour. This place had no building whatsoever but was a scruffy little patch of land on which sat a 20 year old Peugeot 106 and a group of about 4 to 6 guys would be gathered there most days as one filled and sanded the bodywork and the other 4 or 5 would point and smoke and chat. They were a lovely lot; every time we passed by we exchanged the same pleasantries in my limited French until one day the main man rustled up a "hello" with the crispest English accent he could muster. After that I would yell my customary "bonjour ca va?" or respond "Oui bien merci et vous?" to the rest of the gang and address my main man with a crisp "good day Sir" which made him giggle like a school girl.
Carnival was approaching during our time here and everyone was getting in the mood and enjoying the preamble to the main event. The kids had these incredible rope-like lassos that they would whip on the ground to make a sound like a firecracker or a gun going off. I have never seen these things before but we soon became familiar with the sound of them and watching the kids as they would compete to see who could make the loudest "crack"!!
As we began preparing for our onward travels to Antigua we started the rather frustrating process of trying to establish what paperwork we would need to import Meep. Until now he had not been a problem as we had travelled through French islands and he has an EU issued pet passport but arriving into Antigua was a different matter as they have their own - very strict - rules on importing animals. Annoyingly the department we contacted to help us verify what we needed was far from helpful although we managed to get everything in place and the experience at the customs dock in Antigua was then pretty strighforward. At this point though we needed to get Meep up to date with several documents and a visit to a vet for a health check and some additional tests. We found a very helpful vet in basse terre and arranged to take Meep to see her shortly before we departed the area. This involved a trip ashore in the dinghy for Meep and then an overland trip in a pet carrier as we walked him the 30 mins or so to the veterinary surgery in Basse Terre. He did this without complaint although I think he was glad to get home again afterwards.
Conscious that we needed a clean bill of health ourselves to arrive in Antigua we decided to leave Basse Terre on the day of carnival and not to risk being in such close proximity with everyone partying. We would have loved to watch the parade and join in the celebrations but a positive covid test would result in not only delaying our trip to Antigua but would mean the money we had spent on Meep's tests would go to waste. Reluctantly we lifted our anchor on the 1st March and waved goodbye to a special place we had enjoyed very much. As we sailed along the coast passing Basse Terre we could clearly hear the sounds of carnival floating out to us and see the crowds gathered along the seafront. 4 hours later we dropped anchor off Pigeon island further up the coast and the sounds of carnival and the last of the parade was still going strong there.. so we didn't feel like we missed out entirely.