16:18.395N 61:47.841W Guadeloupe All
25 January 2007, Thursday
6.30 start. Checked the stem bolts, still tight. Put the sails up as soon as I was out of the bay. A bit overkeen, it was raining in the East and it soon got to me. 1 reef in the genoa and bring the main down to the spreaders seemed a good idea as it was 18-23 knots. The wind was fairly constant at 18+ and it was a good sail across. The waves did not seem that big, but they were very strong and some came right over the sprayhood and got me at the back. I set a course that was more E than I wanted and the current brought me back down to exactly where I wanted to be when I arrived at Iles des Saintes; islands are at the bottom of Guadeloupe. I left the main up until a mile from the narrow gap and the genoa until a mile from the anchorage. When I arrived the last boat was about to up anchor, so I decided to ask if there was a reason. Tropical wave expected tomorrow, so not a good place to be. I headed out the the anchorage on the other island. There were boats anchored in other bays, but I like to stick to recommended anchorages, just in case.
12.00 Got to the main anchorage, I took my time going round to see where there was, but there was not a lot of room and I ended up at the back near a little jetty. Was I too near, well there was an American boat as close. Anchored and it seemed to hold. Had some lunch and 13.30 there was a lot of hooting. Thought I should check and sure enough quite a big boat was coming for the jetty, he could have got past me, but needed room to manoeuvre so I had to move. The American boat had to move also. So then we were going round and round trying to find another space, there are some very tempting spaces that are nearly big enough, but not quite and there are some buoys that the owner may come back to later in the day. I anchored next to Nadezhda, I can spell it now I can see the name out the window. The American boat ended up back where he had started, but further forward. Let s hope that is it for the day.
That was not it. The American moved again, don t know where he ended up. Other boats came and took our places and the ferries managed to get in and out, it was just bad luck that we were there when the big boat wanted to come in. It is very strange that there are two jetties in this harbour, the new one is not on any chart I have got, but the ferries stop at both a few hundred yards apart. Nadezhda left for another bay, but they came back soon afterwards, I have not found out why. All I can find out on the weather is that a small craft warning is in place for 2.5 to 3 metre swell. I will have to decide whether to go in the morning.
26 January 2007, Friday
6.00 No wind, no swell. Got fed up waiting for the weather on the radio and left soon after 7.00. Motored all the way, the wind rarely went up to 5 knots. As I had the engine on I thought I should make some water to not waste the electricity. The tube would not work when going along, so I had one bucket on the stern and put the tube in that. I used the second bucket to fill the first bucket and the situation worked well, if a bit manual. Lots of pots to watch out for, even a mile or two out there were some very shallow parts.
Kestrel overtook and we had a chat on the radio.
Got to Bas Du Fort marina in Guadeloupe at lunchtime. It is a mediterranean moor to a buoy, no finger. Have to do customs, but do I anchor or do I stay in the marina. I want to go through the channel and the bridge opens at 5am, means leaving the marina at 4am, maybe a bit before. Decided to stay for 2 nights, so I can have a rest tomorrow. The water is included in the berthing charge, why did I bother. Did the washing as I had the water, the bedding and the towels. Worth noting that they required your insurance details.
Kestrel is here and was going through the channel, but is not keen on the early start. They have to go the long way round otherwise and it would have been easier to have gone up the west coast of Guadeloupe from the anchorage. They would like to go to Antigua, but they have a cat and the British islands are still very strict on animals.
Paul, Australian from Gomera is here, his crew have gone and his partner has joined him for the stretch back to Oz. Had G&Ts on his boat, I quite like it.
27 January 2007, Saturday
Today is my sister s birthday, happy birthday Helena, I think she is in India.
Went to the internet early. Checked on the bridge, it opens every day at 5am except Sunday and no guesses for what tomorrow is. Pay for another night, or try for one night refund - surprisingly got the refund. What about customs, the form said I was leaving Sunday and now I will not be, I was told it does not matter. Went to the supermarket as it was close and got a trolley load, bottled water a few cans of fizzy, very luxurious that is. I also got a replacement gas bottle, as this one has nearly has done its month. The French can make very good pastry. I probably spent the €22 I saved in the marina on goodies.
Paul has just had a lovely arch made for his solar panels and was throwing away some old tubing. I could not bear to see it go to the dump, so I have taken it for use or passing onward. There is a thick stainless steel tube that I hope will do for a little davit to pull my outboard up and down. The aluminiium poles I am still thinking about. These are all currently residing in the aft cabin. I Had a shower, left the marina and came out into the channel to anchor. Saturday afternoon, all the dinghies and wilder boys are out zig zagging through the anchored boats, but I don t mind once I have anchored.
28 January 2007, Sunday
I do not know how I have done it, but the clock on the radio now says the right time and day. I have tried for 11 months and could reset the time, but not the day. Pressing buttons in the dark obviously has some merit.
The one side of the boat I had put netting along the guardrails, previously I did not quite have enough and had to overstretch it. I had one piece left, but that was dirty compared to the lovely new white stuff. Now the left over dirty piece matches, or is cleaner than the rest, all that sahara sand. So I spent all morning adding this extra piece and restringing it. Just because I wanted to keep myself occupied while the bread rose, twice.
Then I put the bread in the oven and made some cheese straws. I had got some vintage NZ cheddar in Barbados, it is cheaper there than in NZ. I used up the last of my Barbados eggs, the yolks were only small.
And then the fridge fell apart, again. It is probably 6 months, maybe more, since I restuck it in Lanzarote. The lid is cut out from the working top, with an insulated top that should be stuck to it. Something else for the list of things to do in Antigua.
This afternoons excitement was a Frenchman who kept blowing his horn. I thought he was trying to get help to the little catamarran dinghy that had capsized with the ferry bearing down on it, but no, more important than that, it was a runaway dinghy. It needed someone whose dinghy was in the water to go and catch it, which one of the Americans did, it was after all another American yachts dinghy.
This morning the drums from the Saturday night entertainment came throbbing out to the anchorage and were still going from 3 to 4 this morning, but I doubt if they will be on Sunday night, so I will have to set the alarm as I have to catch the bridge open.
29 January 2007, Monday
Did not sleep well, was really worried about something. Up by 4am. Left the anchorage at 4.25 and set off, it is very dark. No other boats left the anchorage and no boats came out of the marina, I was on my own for 10 miles or so of very shallow water, the first couple of hours it would still be dark. Just a few hundred miles up and it is dark until well after 6 here. Not all the buoys are lit, just lumps of concrete passing by and it is shallow if out of the channel. I did ok until two red buoys that can t have meant what I took them to mean. I passed on the correct side, but realised that they were only to get the big ships into the dock, I had to stay the other side of them, but where was the channel. I was checking where to go and then I realised that I was not moving, I was stuck. It says .8m on the chart and that is what it said on my depth gauge. The red buoy was set back in the mud and I was just too close to it and caught the corner. The tide was pushing me upstream, into the mud, but was not going to be enough to float me off if I waited.
I have a fin and bulb keel and the pointed end of the bulb had gone into the mud until it got too much, but reversing was not so easy as it is not so pointed at the back. I tried backwards, forwards and wiggling; throttle got really tested, but I did not move. I even tried hanging from the boom and jumping up and down on the front, but that had about as much effect as you would expect.
So, it is 5am, dark and I am stuck. I could get on the radio, but that would be too embarassing – Bonjour, Je suis stuck in ze mud. I could wait an hour or so until daylight when someone would see me and come to rescue me, it would only take the pilot boat a minute to pull my front round and get me out, but that is also rather embarassing. The red buoy that was the cause of this was not far behind me, I could swim to it with a rope – next idea. I could launch the dinghy and row to the buoy with a rope – good idea. I got the dinghy off and out the oars on and got my long rope and off I went. I tied the rope to the buoy and went back to the boat. The rope did not reach both ways and so I had to knot it, if I realised I would have to cut the rope I would have tied the knot right on the buoy to lose less. Back on the boat I started winching, the buoy was coming to the extent of its mooring chain, but was the boat moving. A lot of reverse, then forwards, for what seemed a very long time. Eventually I made it backwards into deeper water and all I had to do was pull the rope in as far as I could and cut it off. What sense is there in going forwards again up to the buoy just to undo the knot to get my rope back; none, but I did it anyway. If I had got stuck again I think I would have deserved the guillotine, but cutting a rope is a real no no.
I checked the time to see if I had missed the bridge, I had. That was a relief. I did not want to chicken out, but I think 10 miles + of 1,8m was a no brainer on my own. I draw 1.6 and am low on the waterline so I would have been going through the soft mud and my nerves would have been completely unravelled by the end of the river. No boats came through from the other direction either. I think this route should only be attempted in convoy and when it is light at 5. Safety sometimes has to come first, as we learnt in paragliding – nobody every got hurt packing up and going home. Trite, but true.
6am, I got to drink the cup of tea that I had made 2 hours earlier and I was back at the anchorage, I could sit there and try again tomorrow, or I could go the long way round the island. Off I went, it is very low lying for miles here and I followed the buoyed channel, nearly to the fairway buoy. I was towing the dinghy, but soon pulled it back aboard and tied it down, happier that way. Then I had to deal with pots all round the coast, even a mile out. The wind was not enough to sail so I left the engine on. I have had trouble trying to motorsail with the windvane and with the autopilot. Some of it is the strong currents and some of it is configuration for which I need someone to go through the options with me and check the settings. The autopilot in sail mode seems fine and settled down to the job. I stood up the front and watched the pots. It is like indians, when you see one there are more hiding under the next wave. Quite nerve wracking in ordinary circumstances and not what I needed after this morning. All this time, lots of pots, but these seemed worse, too many and too badly marked, not a flag among them. There won t be any lobsters left at this rate. I was telling myself that I would have to go in the water and cut off the rope if I caught one, I was not being very optomistic. I might think again about paying for a rope cutter on the prop.
I have not used the autopilot a lot recently, but did remember that if you put your hand through the wheel you can get your fingers caught when it moves. I know this. Using your left hand does not make a difference, you still take a chunk of tan off your finger. It went through the first plaster quite quickly, but the second one seems to have sorted it.
I have used quite a lot of diesel now and was below ¾ in the main tank so I changed over to the second tank. The unused fuel still runs back into the main tank, which means the tank fills up again. This is quite weird to begin with, but I now have a nearly full main tank and have changed back again. I am not sure what would happen if I use the second tank beyond the point where the first one is full again.
12.00 I anchored on the SW coast, there is a marina here, but I don t go in now. There is another anchorage 20 miles up and then it is another 45 miles to Antigua. I was going to stop and have a rest and then set off again at 5. It would be light long enough to get out to deep water away from the pots and then I could arrive in the morning. I seem to have a force driving me on, when I should take it easier. There is no rush and I am so worried about stuffing up at the last minute having got this far, but I am still pushing myself. I know I should have left the island, but I am not checking in and out again, circumstances beyond my control – it is only France after all.
It took extreme resolve not to move. Once it is dark I will not move. We shall see what tomorrow brings.
30 January 2007, Tuesday
I had a good nights sleep, two chunks of 1 ½ hours and some restful bits. I feel much better for it. 6.45 set off for the anchorage 20 miles away. There was no wind and had to motor. Very calm water, most of the time I just sat on the coachroof, read a yachtie freebe paper and looked out for the pots. Arrived lunchtime and anchored. I am still concerned that 45 miles is too far in these short daylight hours and any slight setback will have me arriving in Antigua in the dark, which is serious and will leave me sitting outside for many dark hours before I can go in. I am going to have something to eat and do what I was going to do yesterday, leave just before dark. I am rested now and I think this is the best option, it gives me 24 hours to do 45 miles, that should see me anchored and hopefully checked in.
So this is all there is to Guadeloupe.