June 2016: French West Indies and Dominica

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July 28th, 2016 by

June 5th: Jolly Harbour, Antigua – Deshaies, Guadeloupe

At the beginning of June, we started to watch the weather. From now on, we would be heading almost due south, so our concern was the easterly trade winds and beam seas. Although conditions weren’t perfect, we found a window for cruising the fifty miles south to Guadeloupe. Just across from us was a sailboat, Symbiosis, which was heading in the same direction. We discussed the weather, and we agreed to leave more or less together on Sunday the 5th. In order to leave at dawn, we checked out of the marina and the country, and anchored out in front of the harbor entrance. We took a last dinghy tour of the beaches south of Jolly Harbour.

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                               Jolly Beach                                                                      Coco Beach

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                   Coco Bay Resort                                                                Ffryes Beach

We left with no wind and calm seas. The forecast called for winds of ten to fifteen knots, and seas from three to four feet. Shortly after leaving the lee of Antigua, it was obvious that this was going to be a lousy passage. The winds whipped up to twenty-five knots, and the seas were pounding our beam at six to eight feet, with a short period. The stabilizers couldn’t keep up with the rolling waves, so we had to start a tacking course, varying from the direct course by 20°. We saw Symbiosis taking a course far to our port, which I supposed was better for the wind. About halfway across the passage, Rose was on watch, and she saw what appeared to be several fish trap buoys, red and yellow. However, the depth was over 4000 feet. We then got a hail from Symbiosis, and they said they had lost a few jerry jugs off of their deck – mystery solved!

Once we got into the lee of Guadeloupe, conditions calmed considerably. We had read that the harbor at Deshaies had a lot of free moorings inside, so we were planning to take one. Once we arrived, we could see that virtually all of the moorings were occupied by local boats, so we needed to anchor. It was a little crowded near the preferred anchorage area, but we managed to get the hook set. After such a lousy passage, we were relieved to be at peace. Symbiosis arrived shortly after us, and anchored in the southern part of the bay.

Position at destination: 16°18.454’N, 61°47.860’W
Air temp: 89, Humidity: 53%, Water temp: 82
Nautical miles for this leg: 49.69   Total: 10,058
Departed at 6:10am, arrived at 3:15pm

June 5th – 9th: Deshaies, Guadeloupe

The bay was very scenic, surrounded by forested green hills, with a quaint French-looking town. 160606 Le PelicanWe had read that check-in was done at a store in town. We stopped by Symbiosis (Scott and Noi), but that had already checked in. We did agree to meet in town for lunch after we checked in. We were looking for a place called Le Pelican, which we thought was a bar. It turned out to be a clothing shop, which was more of a shack than a shop. We walked right past it at first, but we eventually found it. Check in is simple in the French West Indies, done on computers in local businesses. The only trouble is the French keyboard, which has a few different keys placed on it. Most annoying is the placement of the “A” where a “Q” normally sits. We met up with Scott and Noi, found the ATM at the post office, and tried to find a place for lunch. Since it was after 1:00, several places told us they were closed, or out of fish. We eventually found a place that was open and had fish. After lunch, we decided to visit the local botanical gardens the following day.

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                 The north side of the bay                                        Looking towards the village of Deshaies

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The gardens, Jardin Botanique de Deshaies, are located on the hill overlooking the bay. Since it is a long way up, the gardens sent a van to pick us up in town at no cost. The gardens turned out to be fabulous, and well worth the time and the 15.90€ admission price. The gardens have an extensive collection of tropical plants, and it turns out that Noi is an expert on tropical forests, so she was a great guide. There was also a walk-in enclosure full of lorikeets, and we found a number of ripe mangoes to eat as we walked through. It rained off and on, but we were very happy that we took the time to visit. A sampling of the pictures we took are included here – for more of them, see the photo gallery.

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160606 Garden 39 160606 Garden 51 160606 Garden 52 160606 Garden 42Following our day at the garden, we went snorkeling at the mouth of the bay. There were several buoys set up for dive boats, but we didn’t see a lot of fish. We did catch our first glimpse of a lionfish. There were two of them resting between some rocks – they are active at night. We didn’t have the spear with us, but we were able to photograph one of them from above – you can make it out in the crevice between the rocks.

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    Yes, that is a lionfish hidden in the crevice

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We then took the dinghy around the corner to see the huge beach, Grande Anse. The bay was probably a mile wide, with the beach about fifty feet wide. Behind the beach was dense forest, but there were some picnic and camping sites in the forest.

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                                             The beautiful Grande Anse beach north of Deshaies

160606 Sunset 1During our stay, we got a visit from another trawler dinghy (center console style). There were three people on board – one couple was on a Hatteras trawler near us, and the other guy was on a sailboat. They asked us about our plans, and we told them we were going to Grenada, where we had reserved a slip with US power (120V, 60Hz), since that was the only marina to have that power- essential for air-conditioning! They didn’t know this, so we told them the marina name and urged them to make a reservation. That night we had the most fabulous sunset that we had yet seen. The picture has not been edited – it really looked like this.

June 9th: Deshaies – Anse le Barque

After a few wonderful days, we were ready to move on. Our friends on Symbiosis decided to leave early in the morning, planning to spend the day and night near Pigeon Island, where the Jacque Cousteau Reserve is located. It was supposed to have some of the best snorkeling and diving in the Caribbean, but we were warned that it is usually very rolly as an anchorage. We left a few hours after Symbiosis, and headed south down the coast. It was a very calm day, and a beautiful cruise. When we arrived at the Pigeon Island anchorage, the few boats that were anchored were rolling fiercely. We looked at the south end of the bay, but it was just as bad. We didn’t see Symbiosis, and they didn’t answer a hail. The cruising guide listed an anchorage a few miles south of Pigeon Island that was more protected. We proceeded to Anse le Barque, which was a small anchorage protected from anything but a western swell. But like Deshaies, it was full of local boats on the free moorings. We managed to find a spot towards the outside of the bay that wasn’t rolly. Two other boats came in later- the anchorage was tight, but fairly calm. We were able to snorkel off the back of the boat.

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              Western shore of Guadeloupe                                                        Anse le Barq

Position at destination: 16°05.259’N, 61°46.161’W
Air temp: 89, Humidity: 59%, Water temp: 82

Nautical miles for this leg: 14.6 Total: 10,073
Departed at 11:45am, arrived at 2:30pm

June 10th: Anse le Barque – Bourg Les Saintes

We left early the next morning for The Saintes, a group of islands about a dozen miles south of Guadeloupe. Just before we pulled anchor, Symbiosis hailed us – they had just passed by on their way to Dominica. We told them we would meet them there in a couple of days. We had a pleasant cruise with little wind and no seas down the rest of the Guadeloupe coast. But, as soon as we rounded the southwestern tip of the island, all Hell broke loose. The wind was steady at thirty knots on our bow, gusting to thirty-five, and there were whitecaps everywhere. Despite the high winds, the seas were not large – probably just two to three feet. We thought this was just a cape effect, but the wind blew hard all the way to The Saintes. We were towing the dinghy, but it looked fine, which was a relief. As we entered the protection of Bourg les Saintes, the wind suddenly died down. You are required to take a mooring in the Saintes, and there were quite a few open. The French moorings are strange – they don’t have painters, just a huge eye on the top of the mooring, and most boats tie up tightly. Because our freeboard is seven feet, Rosé had to catch the mooring off the stern, then walk it to the bow. With the calm conditions, it was fairly simple.

Position at destination: 15°52.208’N, 61°35.084’W
Air temp: 87, Humidity: 59%, Water temp: 82.5

Nautical miles for this leg: 18.44 Total: 10,091
Departed at 7:50am, arrived at 11:00am

June 10th – 12th: Bourg les Saintes

We went on shore to check in and grab some lunch. We knew we were in France, since all of the stores, including the check-in location where we would pay for the mooring, were all closed for lunch. We did find a nice cafe on the waterfront for lunch, and afterwards we walked around the town and paid for our mooring. The town looks quite French, with a lot of red-tiled roofs.

We spent the following day exploring the town. There was nothing remarkable about it, but it was a pleasant place to visit. The only downside was the ferry traffic. We were fairly close to the ferry channel, and the ferries had no concept of “no-wake” in a mooring field. We were rocking and rolling at least once an hour as a ferry powered by. We did engage in one small rescue mission. A French sailboat in front of us loaded six people into a very small dinghy, slipped the line, and then they could not get the motor started. I watched them try to get it going, and then I saw a ferry leaving. They were drifting back through the mooring field, and I figured they would be swamped by the ferry. I jumped in the Little Blend and towed them back to their boat. They were able to get the motor started, and went to town for the evening.

June 12th: Bourg les Saintes – Portsmouth, Dominica

On Sunday morning we left for Dominica. The seas were calm, and it was an easy passage southward for twenty-one miles. Portsmouth is known for its boat boys. They have formed an organization called the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services (P.A.Y.S.). In season, the group does security patrols of the anchorage at night, and they maintain a number of moorings. The anchorage was quite large, and although there was plenty of room for anchoring, we decided to take a mooring. As we rounded the headland towards the bay, we saw competing skiffs headed out to us. The first boat to reach us was Daniel from Eddison Tours. The protocol for the boat boys is that they rotate between incoming yachts, and the same guy takes care of you. They help you to moor or anchor, they take you to check-in, and they can arrange tours and provisioning. They don’t get paid for helping, but most yachts tip them generously. Daniel found a mooring for us close to Symbiosis, and we arranged with him to check in on Monday morning, followed by a tour of the Indian River.

Position at destination: 15°17.523’N, 61°23.081’W
Air temp: 88, Humidity: 60%, Water temp: 84.5

Nautical miles for this leg: 21.14 Total: 10,113
Departed at 7:30am, arrived at 11:30am

June 12th – 16th: Portsmouth, Dominica

We spent a relaxing afternoon on shore with Scott and Noi at Sandy’s Beach Restaurant, a small typical Caribbean beach bar. The boat boys hung out here, and there was a lot of weed around, and well as beach dogs. Noi wanted to adopt one of the dogs, given her love of all “cute dogs”. On Monday morning, Daniel picked us up and took us to the far side of the bay to check in. The procedure was simple, and they allowed us to check in and out at the same time. The total fees were around $30, so it was an inexpensive place to stay.

After check-in, Daniel took us to the mouth of the Indian River for our tour. As Daniel wasn’t certified to conduct the tour yet, we had another guide join us . James Bond, no less. Once in the river, it was strictly rowing, and James was very knowledgeable, pointing our the wildlife in the area. About halfway up, he showed us a shack that was used for filming one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. At the end of the river there was a jungle bar that had some potent drinks. Another guide showed up with a French woman, and he shared his ganja with me. What a country! 
        James Bond and Daniel

                 Land crabs were everywhere                                                 Rollin’ on the River


















Position at destination: 16°05.259’N, 61°46.161’W
Air temp: 89, Humidity: 59%, Water temp: 82

Nautical miles for this leg: 14.6 Total: 10,073
Departed at 11:45am, arrived at 2:30pm


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