Thursday 17th, Friday 18th &
Saturday 19th March.
Before I start the log, I need to confess that we made a
mistake (again) in identifying a fish. The barracuda we caught the other day
was in fact almost certainly a Wahoo and would have been a great catch to cook
and eat. We were very unsure as we brought it in and as it is considered very
unwise to eat barracuda out here because of the disease they can pick up
from their prey, we erred on the side of safety. However we did photograph it
so we could do the identification later and hence our confession now! (For
those who know more about these things we have added one of the photos to the
website (http://www.rhbell.com ) and we
have a few more taken from other angles which I can email to anyone prepared to
give an opinion.)
Anyway, on Thursday we headed into the small town of
Deshaies in the morning to check in with Customs and to arrange a hire car for
the next day. Customs on these French Islands is a breeze as you simply put
all the info into a computer and bingo it is all done for you. Better still the
Customs clearance computer terminal is housed in a small internet cafe on the
front so access is very easy and the hours a lot longer!
Car hire proved more of a challenge and we had to visit the
Tourist Information centre to find out where we could do this. They sent us
along to the only car hire outfit in town who were a lot less than helpful. The
possibility of a car in the morning only ranked as ‘perhaps’ and
the best they could suggest was that we should return at 0830 hrs. We asked if
we could at least reserve a car should there be one, but he said this was not
possible and that the arrangement was ‘first come first served’ in
the morning. We then visited the Spar supermarket and bought 8 bottles of
Tarapaca wine which is our absolute favourite and unavailable anywhere else
that we have been over the past 4 years travelling.
In the afternoon we got a few things done as well as nipping
ashore again and telephoning our eldest son Tom as it was his 26th
birthday – where does the time go?
Friday dawned hot and still, which has to be a first here.
Normally the wind can be relied upon to howl through this bay but today it was
almost eerie. We were up a bit early but decided that we did not want to miss
the chance of hiring a car, so we set off in the dinghy at around 0745 hrs. As
we headed across the bay another dinghy headed off from a French boat and
guessing that they might just be planning the same as us, I suggested to Sarah
that when we reached the dinghy dock she should leave me to sort out the
locking the dinghy etc. whilst she nipped ahead and went to the car hire shop.
This was a smart move as it transpired that the French couple were indeed
acting on the same instructions as us and had intended to be a bit early.
However it simply had not occurred to them that we might be doing the same and
so they were more than a little shocked to find us stood outside the door when
they arrived. They did not speak to us at while we waited and when the office
opened, both Sarah and I had anticipated their next move and neatly stepped
ahead of them into the room and conversed with the manager as they tried to
rush the door! All very childish really but as it turned out, after the company
had sorted us out with our car, the manager then turned the French couple away
explaining that there was only the one vehicle. They were not best pleased and
the Entente Cordial took another hit.
So off we went in our battered and very basic Ford Fiesta
which rather critically did not have any Air Con. But it was at least a set of
wheels. We spent a lovely day driving around Basse Terre which is the westward
and highest of the two islands that make up Guadeloupe. The roads were a very
refreshing contrast to Antigua and it was like being back in France itself with
good fast roads and first class signposting (well, by Caribbean standards...).
We drove up to La Soufriere which is the volcano towering
over the rain forests, but decided not to bother with the 2 hour hike to the
summit. We then headed over to the town of Basse Terre which is the
administrative capital of the country and wandered through the market (where we
bought two straw hats – one for Sarah’s head and one as a light
shade for our cockpit light!) and the streets for a while before pressing on to
the wonderfully named Vieux Habitants. (Photo of me by the sign at http://www.rhbell.com ) where we found a
fantastic little restaurant only serving a small selection Plat de jour and we
had a really good lunch for next to nothing.
In the afternoon we headed up into the depths of the
rainforest and visited a waterfall and walked a short trail through some of the
forest taking quite a few photos of course. Finally we made our way back
to Deshaies where we returned the car and returned by dinghy back to
Serafina who now had some new neighbours in the bay. Still not a breath
of wind which is a bit of a pain as it makes the evenings and nights very hot
and humid as well as encouraging the mozzies.
The wind stayed away all night and when Saturday dawned
bright and sunny it was still completely still with all the boats in the
anchorage facing in different directions.
We raised the anchor and headed off south under engine and
for the first time since we arrived in the Caribbean we had to motor almost the
whole 35 miles to the Iles des Saintes. We were joined briefly by two large Common
Bottlenose dolphins, about 7’long. One of the dolphins had two
Remora fish attached to its stomach. These are large fish (about 14”)
which use a modified dorsal fin as a sucker to attach themselves to their host,
often leaving a nasty lesion. They basically hitchhike a ride with
the host, initially when small feeding off the parasites on the host’s
skin and then as their mouths get too large to pick off the parasites, “hide
behind the cover provided by their hosts and suddenly dart forth to make a kill
in a school of fishes”. It was really sad to see these ugly
fish attached to a beautiful dolphin – particularly so, as the dolphin
rolled on its back to show them to us as if asking for help.
We did manage to sail across the 7 mile gap between
Guadeloupe and ‘The Saintes’ but the wind died again as we arrived
at our destination.
We chose not to go and anchor off the town of Bourg des Saintes
as we had found it pretty uncomfortable last time we were here, and so we
headed straight to a beautiful looking bay on the protected south western side
of Ilet Cabrit. There were already a few yachts there and because of the light
and variable wind they were all lying at different angles which made deciding
where to drop our hook a bit problematical, however Sarah of course rose to the
challenge and we ended up in a very good spot.
Very good snorkelling here along a coral reef that starts
barely 40 metres from where we are moored which makes it all very easy. Lazy afternoon
snoozing and reading after which I went snorkelling along the reef which was
quite amazing and as good as anything we have seen in a very long while, well
that is up until I met a moray eel out on its travels and I elected to return
to Serafina for some tea!
We were astonished to discover that even though we are a
long way from civilisation out here, we could still pick up wifi – and for
free! Sadly this and a text from Mick and Dione rather took the shine off the
day with the news that England had been outclassed by Ireland in the 6 nations
rugby (bit like the cricket!!). However the day ended on a high note when we
heard that Wales had lost to France and so England were this year’s
tournament winners. Now there is just the small matter of a world cup coming up
in NZ later in the year.......