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Date: 25 Feb 2011 00:15:00
Title: Sailing to The Saints

15:52.339N 061:35.887W Anse Sous Le Vent, Iles Des Saintes, Thursday night

The Iles Des Saintes are a small archipelago just south of Guadeloupe so they're really a part of France. The bit we're anchored of is just a desert island, though, with no people and a load of feral goats. French goats, I suppose.

We had a pretty good night's sleep in spite of the strong wind which kept us yawing around but didn't slap us too badly. We awoke to find that the croissant delivery man had been round in his tiny tender so we had pain-au-chocolat for breakfast and fresh baguette for lunch. A bit of fresh fruit and yogurt and we were ready to go. With the wind still strong, we were soon sailing with full main and genoa, surrounded by catamarans which all left the anchorage at the same time as us. It was fun pitting our larger sail area against their lighter weight and we kept pace with them as we all headed south along the leeward (west) side of the island.

This part of Guadeloupe is mountainous so the wind soon got flukey. At times, we had to motor to keep going and a few minutes later, we'd be in 25 knots. We sailed for most of the time even though it meant constantly reefing the sails to keep Saxon Blue upright. About half way down the coast, I saw a black shape appear and then vanish off to starboard. Pointing the binoculars out there, I saw a whale spout and then another. As the wind was really light at that moment, we motored out to see what was happening and found three Sperm Whales lazily swimming along together. Apparently, there are a lot of family groups of them in this area so it may have been a mother with calves although they all seemed pretty similar in size to me.

They swam on the surface for a couple of minutes and then one did a flukes-up dive immediately followed by the other two. We stayed where we were and I got my big camera out but they never did resurface - didn't want the publicity, probably. We saw another single whale off to one side but I don't think it was part of the same group. In the end, it was the heat which persuaded us to continue. Just sitting there on the water with no wind was unbearable - like being grilled.

As we got nearer to the southern tip of Guadeloupe, the wind suddenly increased but now, as it was getting funnelled around the island, it had a lot of south in it. That meant we were beating into it but making great progress under mainsail and jib. We were briefly joined by three dolphins but they didn't hang around for long. As we cleared the lighthouse on Pointe Du Vieux Fort, the wind started to shift back around to the east, allowing us to keep beating towards the Iles Des Saintes. It was great to see a proper lighthouse again. This one is a circular stone-built tower, just like the ones in Europe and completely different from the clapperboard ones in the USA. We can still see it flashing from where we're anchored now.

The sail over to the Saintes was exhilarating. We were hard on the wind all the way apart from when I had to drop off a bit to avoid a shallow area. It was blowing just over 20 knots true so we had almost 30 apparent as we hammered along with Saxon Blue taking the occasional green one over the bow. I was on the helm with Kali trimming the sails the whole way. By the time we got into the lee of the islands, we were all soaked from the spray. Then the wind just switched off. I'd intended to go into the main anchorage off the main town but we saw a few yachts anchored in a bay to our port side and came in to investigate. It seemed very well sheltered from the swell and not too bad for wind so we decided to stay here. With the wind making everyone yaw around, we chose to go a bit further out again which is just as well because we're moving around an arc that must be 50 meters radius.

Andrea and I headed ashore in the tender which we put on anchor just off the sandy beach and swam in from there. It was great to get back into the water after a few days with no swimming on Antigua. Half a dozen yachts were moored stern-to with their lines tied to trees so I think we'll soon be doing the same. Brown Pelicans flew overhead and swooped down to catch the tiny fish which were sheltering under my board shorts. Ashore, there was a ruined concrete building and the remains of a military-looking roadway going diagonally up the hill. We followed it up to a ruined fort on the highest point with wonderful views of the islands around, including Dominica away to the South. This island is covered in trees but there's no undergrowth because it's all been eaten by the cute but hungry goats.

The fort was built in Napoleonic times to protect the bay below. This was the main harbour used by the French West Indies fleet until they were defeated by the British. The buildings seemed to have been used until fairly recent times as there were old electrical connections fitted inside some of them and it made me wonder what happened here during the Second World War and if the French islands were used by the Germans. I'll have to find out. On the way back down to the beach, we found more evidence of recent use - an inverted and heavily corroded Land Rover in among the trees below the roadway.

I swam back out to the tender, recovered the anchor and fetched Andrea from the ruined pier. By this time, it was almost dark so we came straight back out to Saxon Blue and had a quick shower followed by a lovely dinner of stir-fry vegetables and transparent noodles. We're all taking it easy now after another long but satisfying day on the water.

Harvey

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