Green, gorgeous, Guadeloupe. It’s hard to imagine there can be so many different shades of green. It was an instant love affair when we went ashore to the quiet little backwater of Deshaies (pronounced “Day-ay” – gotta love those silent French consonants -and if you imagine putting a G’ in front of it, then you’d sound just like a true blue Queenslander!) We decided to by-pass St Kitts & Nevis and Montserrat, partly because of our need to push on to Martinique, but also because there were few suitable anchorages on those islands that would be comfortable in the current NNE swell. So instead we chose to do an overnight passage from St Barts to Guadeloupe (approximately 120NM). The weather guru in these parts is Chris Parker, who does a daily weather forecast on the HF radio and also sends through daily emails. He seems to get it right most of the time and as a sailor himself he’s a little more attuned to the needs of the cruising community. His forecast was for east-southeast winds 12-15kts meaning another windward beat, but there doesn’t seem to be much escaping that until we get to ‘the top of the hill’ at Martinique. Despite a bit of a slow start where we needed the motor, that’s pretty much what we got – beautiful night sailing with an almost full moon. Approaching Monserrat there’s a very big lump of rock called Redonda which used to owned by the British for phosphate mining but is now abandoned. It’s over 1000ft tall so we were careful not to run into it (!) but it looked spectacular as the dawn’s rays hit it.
We were hoping to sail down the east side of Monserrat but a large approaching squall made us reconsider – going round the other side seemed a prudent choice!
Sailing past Monserrat was spectacular – it’s still an active volcano, last erupting in 2010, and there’s a maritime exclusion zone on the south part of island, mostly to protect boats from being covered in ash I suspect, as there’s currently no imminent danger of another eruption. It was quite a sobering sight to sail past the remains of the capital, Plymouth, which was mostly destroyed in the latest eruption, and to see the massive lava flows and boulders spewed from the summit.
Once we cleared the southern end of Montserrat we had a great romp to windward, maintaining a good 8-9kts even when close-hauled. Who said cats don’t go to windward? But as always seems to happen, 10NM from our destination the wind died and we ended up motoring in to Deshaies a little after lunch on Tuesday.
Checking in is easy – just find the Pelican souvenir shop and café on the main street and use their computer tucked in a corner to fill out your details. In my mangled French I asked if we needed to come back to check-out and she said no, no need, the one form is all we needed. Now that’s civilized! Deshaies is very quaint with lots of interesting little bars and restaurants, many serving creole cuisine. We enjoyed a beer at a waterfront bar overlooking the bay, feeling very happy to have found a little piece of paradise that for once wasn’t too touristy.
The next day we sailed a little further south to Pigeon Island, home to the Cousteau Underwater Park, a prime diving and snorkeling site.
Our dive compressor is still out of action (awaiting parts that should have arrived in St Martin but never did – we’re now counting on our knight in shining armour, Geoff Sherman, to bring the necessary part with him in January) so we had to be content with snorkeling. As soon as we dropped into the water we discovered we’d acquired our own bottom-cleaning team, two ramoras that were very keen to hoover up the organisms on our hull!
We put our kayaks to good use, paddling out to the island with our snorkeling gear, but the snorkeling itself was a big let-down due to the surge from the big swells. Oh well, at least we got some exercise, and the sunset over Pigeon Island was very lovely.
Tomorrow we’ll do the short hop to the Isles de Saintes, also part of Guadeloupe but just a little further south, and supposedly well worth a visit.