Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Passing through Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe sunset

Guadeloupe is a hilly, green, butterfly-shaped island, with lots of coastline to explore and excellent hiking. We didn't have time to see as much as we wanted, in a hurry to get to Antigua in time for Classics Week, but found fantastic snorkelling at Pigeon Island and a relaxed, pleasant anchorage at Deshaies in the north.

Guadeloupe is less than 10 miles of open water away from the Saintes. Natalie saw a whale breaching in the choppy waters (I managed to miss it every time) and we then had a relaxed sail mostly in the calmer lee of the island. A classic yacht approached and overhauled us, and I managed to get some good pictures as they passed close by. Later, the wind dropped and our engine went on.

Troubadour passes us, en route to Antigua.

Pigeon Island is two-thirds of the way up the coast, a little islet less than a mile from the mainland shore. We arrived shortly before sunset and anchored off a slightly touristy area with several dive shops and restaurants, spotting a turtle as we did so.

Jacques Cousteau once described Pigeon Island as one of the world's top dive sites, guaranteeing - you might assume - that it would be instantly spoilt. Luckily, we found it was well managed, if inevitably quite crowded. We took the dinghy across in the morning and tied to one of several mooring buoys (anchoring isn't permitted for obvious reasons). The snorkelling was on a different level to anything we'd seen so far: superb visibility, abundant coral, an interesting underwater landscape and no shortage of fish. There were plenty of jellyfish too, but they were the none-stinging kind.  It's a shame that our underwater camera had given up by this stage..

We had lunch back on board before packing up the dinghy and setting off up the coast. A couple of hours later we were anchored in Deshaies, an attractive anchorage with, for once, no rolling. Our fastest turnaround ever! Ashore, landing via a smart dinghy dock, we found a small town with several restaurants and bars, and (this being France) a good small supermarket.

Deshaies, late afternoon.

We fancied eating out for a change that evening, and (after a particularly good sunset) took our chances with a pizza place one road back from the waterfront. We sat outside on the terrace and enjoyed p'tit punches (white rum, lime juice and sugar - they left the bottle with us!) and were delighted to see musicians turn up. An ancient local was the most energetic dancer to a mixture of local Zouk and reggae, some of the best music we heard on the trip.

The anchorage had been calm that day, but it wasn't to last. Deshaies is a naturally windy place, the bay funnelling air down from the hills, and in the night we were woken by disconcertingly strong gusts whistling through the rigging. We tried to sleep, hoping it wouldn't last..

Limbo, Deshaies sunset

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