Boiling in Guadeloupe

Merry Christmas! We miss you all, our special friends, and family, and truly hope that you and yours have an enjoyable Christmas holiday (or whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year), preferably in the company of ones you love. 
Christ Crown – or Euphorbia milii seems appropriate at Christmas.

I write this while waiting in a beautiful open courtyard at the historical Copper and Lumber. Part hotel, part restaurant, part historical monument, I’m sitting in an old world 17th century courtyard, open to the sky. I can see mega-sailing yachts in my view out the open shutters beyond, docked in the adjacent Nelson’s Dockyard, in English Harbor, Antigua. A pleasant breeze blows in, and while the sun hasn’t risen high enough above the walls, the temperature is a very comfortable 78F.

Courtyard- photo credit

It’s 0827 on Christmas Eve (morning), and I’m endeavoring to clear through Health, Customs, Immigration and Port Authority, for the second time this month after returning from our sojourn to Guadeloupe. Here’s a brief glimpse on the Antigua process…

In that exact order, one must first meet with the Health Officer, and fill out two forms claiming to be free from “sickness” for all aboard. The friendly officer greets and works with you outside in an adjacent courtyard with picnic tables under the shade of mature betel nut trees.

Health Department waiting area, Nelson’s Dockyard.

Next it’s the Customs Office, where he takes your signed health forms, and looks up and prints your previously filled-out documents from From there, you walk over to the right (adjacent but separate windows) to Immigration, left back to Customs, and then pivot left to pay (almost) all your money to the Port Authority. The website does help speed up the process, as there are no more forms to fill out; you only need to sign multiple copies and pay several fees.

Island Time takes precedence here. Schedules and service hours are out the window. Usually restaurant service is pretty good, except when you eventually want to pay the bill. They’re in no hurry. Even though Antigua Customs said they’re open at 0630, I arrived at 0815 and was told to come back in “maybe an hour and a half” to see the Health Officer when he might come in. I decided that breakfast seemed like the ideal method to pass the time.

So why are we back in Antigua, you may inquire? I’ll answer with the story of our visit to Guadeloupe during the past week, which was actually intended to be a direct course for Dominica. Last Sunday (6 days ago) we changed our minds, like plans drawn in the sand at low tide, to call at Deshaise on our way to Dominica. Deshaise (sounds like deh hay) is along our route, so why not stop there first. As a fellow cruiser said, “You can’t just pass by Guadeloupe!” We also had heard about fuel shortages in Dominica, creating some chaos with regards to getting taxis and other services. Residents had other priorities rather than tending to visiting yachts. So a delay to Dominica was probably a good idea now.

Fortunately, we didn’t need fuel. We still have 75% of our capacity since leaving Bermuda, and can’t imagine needing any for a while. So that wasn’t an issue. But chaos can be an issue, so hence, we thought it’d be nice to check out Guadeloupe, as if fresh French baguettes and croissants (avec chocolat) weren’t enough of a draw? These delicious treats are conveniently sold at the Patisserie just across from the dinghy dock! Just too easy!

Port tack beam reach south to Guadeloupe. Marvelous sailing!

Our initial attempt to anchor amongst what appeared to be in the lee of the north-eastern end of the harbor, resulted in scowling glares from a close-proximity neighbor. Following typical anchoring etiquette, we found a spot between boats, not in anyone’s way, considering swing, etc. We know what we’re doing, I thought, while glancing back at the ranting man out on his foredeck. Perhaps some folks can’t be satisfied, just aren’t happy and/or assume everyone else feels the same. Fortunately, we live on a sailboat, and can move from nasty neighbors anytime we feel. And so we simply picked up the hook and motored to the other side of the bay, with plenty of space between happy neighbors. No worries here!

Fayaway in bottom of photo- south end of Deshaise Harbour – the friendly side of the Harbour.

Ironically, our new spot turned out to be delightful, often with less wind and swell compared to the original location, with an uninterrupted view of the sun setting on the western horizon (complete with Green Flash!)

Sunset from bow, pre-green flash; French courtesy flag flowing in the breeze.

Upon arrival in any of the French Islands, bureaucracy is non-existent. The French government has their act together, using an ideal system, less difficult than the silly declaration (airplane) form that US Customs uses. Additionally, they also have outsourced the clearing in/out process to whoever wants it. In our case of visiting Guadeloupe, I only had to find Le Pelican, a quaint boutique shop along the main drag, where between tourists buying t-shirts and trinkets, the courteous and non-English-speaking attendant directed me fill out a one-page form on a PC in the back corner. The only waiting was for her to finish ringing up another customer so she could print and stamp my arrival and exit papers. Island Time was running a bit quicker here! A flat 5 Euros is the grand total, of which all goes to the shopkeeper. (In contrast, it’s more than $100 per week for a 40ft vessel visiting Antigua, which then compounds more fees upon clearing out!)

This is where you do the office Customs clearance!

On my way back to the dock, I stopped at one of the small restaurants that had some food out on display. In my broken French I asked for two items on the adjacent signboard “pour emporter”. We may have committed a serious French act of treason, because with dinner I popped the cork on a bottle of Italian white wine. (oops ;-).

On day two, we walked up a winding road outside of town, uphill to the Jardin Botanique de Deshaise. My photos don’t do this wondrous place justice; you can go to the link above to see some professional photography! We were treated to a fantastic walking tour (a la IKEA style) of verdant highly-manicured tropical paradise.

A stroll through Le Jardin Botanique.

We could spend a large portion of this blog post going over all the fancy flora and fauna in the garden, as I wouldn’t know how to keep my fascination brief. Maybe another time! Lastly, a brief stop at the gift / snack shop for a drink and tarte au poire (pear tart) before we more easily strolled back down the hill.

Before returning to Fayaway, we stopped for some postcards and lunch at the Le Coin des Pecheurs “for sinfully good Guadeloupean Cuisine”.

On Day 3, we arose early to increased wind and waves in the bay. While not too uncomfortable, it signaled us to consider moving further south toward Dominica. According to our Doyle cruising guide, “when the wind funnel at Deshaise is blowing 30 knots, Pigeon Cove can typically be more comfortable”. Hmmm.. seems like the place to go!

While preparing for departure, ie. unzipping the sail cover, unraveling sheets, etc. a man approached in his dinghy. He greeted us warmly and we introduced ourselves. Cabot was anchored across the bay where the wind was indeed more uncomfortable and was checking out our location. We said we’re planning to head south to Pigeon Cove about 7 nm. He thought that was a good idea and would call us to see how things looked (so he could decide if it was better). After that was out of the way, we got to chatting. Cabot Lyman is from Thomaston, Maine. Turns out that Cabot is one of the (now retired) founders of a large marine services operation in that area called Lyman-Morse. Kelly and I had stayed for three weeks at one of their marinas located in Camden, Maine last summer. Beautiful place! However, not wanting to delay our departure further, we decided to delay our discussion and agreed to pick up again at another occasion, perhaps over a wee bit of rum.

Well, Pigeon Cove did seem like a good idea at the time! Pigeon is in the general area called Bouillante, which means “boiling”. Well, it certainly was boiling when we got there, not because of the namesake nearby hot springs, but because the wind was gusting at nearly 40 knots! We could barely see through the spray, never mind find a spot to anchor while keeping the bow into the wind. We chatted via VHF radio with Cabot on his beautiful Ted Hood designed “Chewink“, and collectively decided to turn back to Deshaise.

Later that evening, we were kindly invited for drinks aboard Chewink with Cabot and Heidi Lyman. During our visit we learned that along with their three children, Cabot and Heidi sailed Chewink, a beautiful Seguin 49, around the world. Wow, what a great experience we had with these seasoned sailing legends! See the link above for more info. 

We spent yet another relaxing day and evening aboard. Kelly decided to treat herself to purchasing a nice dress from the good folks at Le Pelican, and then we decided it best to head back to Antigua the following morning. That final evening we invited new friends we met also aboard Chewink, Ben and Jade, over for drinks aboard Fayaway. We enjoyed a variety of local and imported snacks for dinner, watching the sun set and shared many stories. Ben from Anchorage Alaska, and Jade from New Zealand, have been traveling together extensively, both on and off their custom Pearson 44.

Beating back to Antigua on Friday, Christmas Eve, eve.

So, with fond farewells, the next day we departed for the upwind beat back to Falmouth Harbor, where we began this blog post.

Merry Christmas to all!

-Chris & Kelly

Christmas Day at Nelson’s Dockyard.

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