Andrea has a fishy experience

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Sat 26 Feb 2011 02:02
Bay Sous Le Vent, Iles Des Saintes, Friday night

We've actually moved anchorage today but I didn't bother with an updated position as it's only 200 meters different. We're now anchored in 10 meters with our stern tied to a tree on the beach. The funny thing is that, last night, we couldn't get anywhere near the beach as there were about 20 boats in the bay. Tonight, there are only 4 of us so our nearest neighbours are a way off. Do they all know something that we don't?

It was funny moving Saxon Blue this morning as we watched all the other boats leave. That's great, we thought. We'd have a choice of where to go. Then a 100 foot motor yacht came in and put two lines ashore and suddenly there didn't seem to be much beach left. Another big yacht had sent a tender in to the beach and we decided to get on with it before they snaffled the rest of the space. When in the Caribbean, you'd better be decisive and make your move. We hauled up our anchor chain, headed in to the beach, dropped our anchor and had ourselves tied to a tree before anyone could have said anything. In the event, the other motor yacht decided not to come in close so we've got plenty of room. Just as well as it's windy now so we're moving from side to side a good distance.

Once we were safely moored, Kali went off to the town to clear us into Customs. While she was gone, Andrea and I got our gear on and went snorkelling. I headed out to check that our anchor was dug in properly, which it was as usual, and then headed back for the beach. Before I got there, I lifted my head out of the water and could see Andrea's snorkel and blue dry bag ahead. I carried on swimming towards her and, just as I got there, I looked ahead again under the water. Only it wasn't water, it was fish. Tens of thousands of them. Every one was identical with a translucent silvery body and a neon green horizontal stripe. They were about 3 inches long and they were moving as if they were all part of one organism. I could see Andrea just floating motionless in the water while the giant fish shoal whirled around her. The fish didn't touch her but they separated from each other at her feet and rejoined at her head so that she was enclosed in a cocoon of fish.

No wonder the Pelicans like this beach so much - if I jumped into the water with my mouth open, I think I'd catch some and they've got a much bigger mouth than me. Once the fish finally swam off, Andrea stood up and looked completely radiant. I don't think she could quite believe that she'd been part of such a spectacle. Once we'd discussed how amazing it was, we continued snorkelling over to the rocks at the end of the bay. There were some boulders with the tops just under the waves and their vertical faces dropping down 6 or 7 meters. They were covered in all kinds of marine life including some lovely anenomies and some kind of giant barnacle with feathery branches. Fish of all kinds were flitting around, some immediatley beneath us and others right down on the sea bed.

I dived down to to see what was happening at the bottom of the boulders and I found yet more tiny fish sheltering below the overhangs. I was able to stay down for much longer today than I had been before doing the dive course last week. I think I'm much calmer in the water now so I don't feel the urge to breathe again as soon as I get down. I was able to have a good look around before coming back up and even managed to equalise my ears properly despite going down much more quickly than when using SCUBA gear. By the time we got back onboard, we were a bit chilly, tired and famished but it had been the best snorkelling trip so far.

Kali arrived back from town at the same time having not managed to clear in thanks to a power cut. She had discovered that the town of Terre-de-Haute (which has the same name as the island it's on) was lovely so we had a quick lunch onboard and then got our gear on for the trip over there in the tender. Kali sensibly put full waterproofs on whereas Andrea and I just did jackets. Predictably, we got completely soaked on the trip across the bay so we both looked as though we'd had an embarrassing accident by the time we arrived. The little town is great, though, so it was worth it. The single storey houses are mostly wooden with red tin rooves and the main street is pedestrianised so there's no noisy traffic jam to make it feel stressful. There were a lot of touristy shops and bars but, being French, it's all done with much more style. Kali got us cleared in while Andrea bought a new shirt and sarong and then we all sat and ate ice-cream, drank coffee and watched the people walk by. It reminded us of the little towns like Massat up in the Pyrennees where people are intent of enjoying the quality of life rather than increasing the quantity of it.

Once we'd tired of that - which took a long time - we walked along the seafront to a house that looks like the prow of a ship emerging from the hillside and heading out to sea. Nearby, there's a diving company and we wanted to find out about Kali and I doing a dive trip over the next few days. It was closed but we got the information we needed so we're hoping to get out tomorrow. Andrea and I then went for a walk around the tiny town. We climbed to the centre of the island so we could see the Atlantic swells smashing against the rocks on the eastern shore. The town itself looks out onto the sheltered bay between the islands but there was still a bit of swell running in there and the anchored yachts were rolling around. We were glad that we'd stayed in our secluded little bay although the yachts nearer town could go ashore to eat without the long and wet tender ride. Hey ho, you pays your money and you makes your choice.

After another drink in a bar by the tender dock, we headed back to Saxon Blue but, having had time to survey the bay from above, I'd come up with a Cunning Plan. This involved going upwind in the shelter of the land, then heading across the bay at an angle with the waves coming up on our starboard quarter. Unusually, it actually worked. We arrived back home dry and unruffled to find the family from the large yacht playing volleyball on the beach. They'd been at it all day, in fact. The young kids were wakeboarding and then skimboarding on the beach before jumping off the sides of the yacht time and again. It was good to see people really enjoying their charter boat and I'm sure the crew were happy to be dashing around as well. I bet they get good tips at the end of the week.

Kali rustled up a delicious dinner while I tried to take pictures of the Pelicans diving into the sea around us. Then we ate and chatted before settling in for an episode of Battlestar and the end of another fantastic and full day. Everyone has told us to come to The Saintes and they were right, it's beautiful. Making it even better is the fact that I feel that Saxon Blue is completely safe here. We're not yawing or pitching around which, in a Caribbean anchorage, is a welcome change.


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