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Date: 23 Feb 2011 23:47:00
Title: Sailing to Guadeloupe

16:18.374N 061:47.991W Deshais, Guadeloupe, Wednesday night

Now that was a long day - but a great sail. Just like they show in the brochures.

We were up early as I wanted to leave the dock at 0800. Kali had gone off to get us cleared out and I prepared Saxon Blue for sea. When Kali returned, she looked mightily pissed off. Apparently, the clearing out procedure was of truly Kafkaesque complexity and she'd been shunted from pillar to post for an hour. I had to go off with her and sign a bill but we were still only cleared out of the port, not the country.

By now, Kwami and the divers had turned up so I had to decide whether to get them to go down and make sure our anchor was clear or wait and see whether we had a problem only it would then cost more for them to go down. As I had precious little room to maneuver between the boat on our port side and the buoy to our starboard, I opted to play it safe so he went down and pronounced us good to go. We slipped our lines and motored forward slowly as Kali hauled in the anchor rode. Having been pulled on for over a week, the anchor itself was a bit reluctant to leave it's muddy bed but gave up in the end, bringing a clod of stinking mud up with it.

We were now floating free, underway but not making way in fact, as we waited for a catamaran to clear the fuel dock. They were taking their time so Kali raised the dock on the VHF and they waved us into another one just forward of the cat. We had to reverse into it but that went well so I'm getting my confidence back slowly. We started filling our port tank while Andrea deflated our large fenders and got them stowed away.

As were working away, up came Steve, the electrician from Sure Power who had done most of our electrics when Saxon Blue was built. He was in Antigua working on the 67 that I'd seen in the Cat Club marina with another Discovery guy and they were accompanied by the skipper of the 67. We had a good chat about our trip and he knew all about the problem we've been having with our water tank. We laughed about how much work it would be to remove it. I suggested that they'd have to start by removing the mast and rudder. This is only a very slight exaggeration.

Once they'd gone, we filled the starboard diesel tank and Kali returned looking even more angry than before. I didn't push the issue but it seems that the clearance hadn't got any easier. Antigua is notorious for crazy random paperwork, all in triplicate and all promptly lost as soon as it's completed. Anyway, we hauled the tender up and lashed it securely onto the davits and then finally set off just before 1000.

It wasn't long before we cleared English Harbour and the wind started to pick up to around 15 knots from slightly north of east. That's about perfect as we were heading almost due south down to the leeward side of Guadeloupe. We got our newly repaired Genoa out with a full main and had a great sail, barely dropping below 8 knots the whole way and doing 9 for much of it. Reaching along in 15 knots of wind is how everyone describes the Caribbean and this was the first time we'd actually managed to do it since we arrived here. Kali was enjoying coastal sailing as much as she ever does - ie not atall - but she felt a bit better as the trip went on. We saw a Sperm Whale off to port about half-way between the islands. He spouted a few times and we got a good look at his flukes when he sounded.

After that, it wasn't long until we could start to make our features on Guadeloupe including the hill behind which we're now anchored. The island has been French for most of its post-Columbian history and is now a Department of France, even sending MPs to the French Parliament. The bits we've seen so far are sparsely populated but very well wooded. It's notorious for having few and poor anchorages and I'd certainly agree with that. Deshais is fairly sheltered from the swell but there's enough making it around the headland to keep us rolling a bit. The bay is small and, as it's the only one on this coast able to accommodate more than a few boats, it's crowded with all and sundry. We didn't fancy getting mixed in with the crowd as there is a strong wind blowing and everyone is yawing around. We didn't like the first place we anchored so we picked it up and had another go. We're now anchored just to seaward of the crush and just inside Mirabella III, a well-known and rather good-looking super-sailing yacht.

Once we'd got ourselves safe and secure, I fell asleep in the armchair holding a glass of water on my lap. I awoke half an hour later to find that Andrea had removed the water without me even noticing, much to her amusement. Just goes to show how much concentration I'd put into getting us here. We had an early dinner as we were all famished from the trip and not eating much underway. Andrea now has her fishing gear out, inspired by the lovely fish one of our neighbours was gutting as we came in. She hasn't caught anything yet, though. We cuddled up in the cockpit together and watched the sun disappear after a full-on but very satisfying day.

Harvey

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