Once again we had a great sail across the open stretch of water between Iles de Saintes and Guadeloupe . Once clear of all the other yachts in the anchorage off Le Bourg we rounded up , hoisted sail and set off on a broad reach for the southwestern tip of Guadeloupe . The one thing that l have become used to in the Caribbean are the strong winds that you encounter at both the north and south ends of each island , some stronger than others .
Guadeloupe didn't disappoint and while rounding the bottom corner to head up the West Coast of the island we had gusting 30kn winds off our starboard quarter.
But we were prepared with two reefs in the mainsail so Windward took it in her stride . With the wind hooking around the southern tip we had a great run up the coast with the regular katabatic blasts sweeping down the mountains , all in a days work for our boat .
The one issue about the leeward coasts of the Caribbean islands is the dodging of fish traps . The fisherman use transparent cool drink and water bottles as floats attached to the lines secured to the traps . They are difficult to spot until you get close and at night it is impossible to see them . We have done our fair share of dodging these obstacles and so far so good in that we haven't fouled one yet .
Our destination was Deshaies , a picturesque little fishing village near the northern end of Guadeloupe's west coast . The anchorage is set in a deep , well protected bay surrounded by steep hills . Looking up at those hills l knew that one feature this anchorage would suffer from would be strong katabatic winds screaming down through the anchorage , so while power setting the anchor l gave our trusty Spade an extra 300rpm just to bury it a little deeper . It didn't budge and even though the wind pipes up through the night we sleep soundly .
We were fortunate one afternoon to spot a small group of dolphins nosing around the stern of our neighbour's yacht and while we watched them they appeared real close to our stern before disappearing out of sight .
Getting back to Guadeloupe and Deshaies in particular , the island is very french but now after having spent time in Martinique and Les Saintes our french has improved to the point where we can order meals , ask questions while exploring the town and the locals understand us. Except my little wife throws the odd bit of Portuguese in just to confuse the people . Two years of cruising Brazil is hard to shake off .
Deshaies ( Haye meaning harbour ) has had a turbulent past mainly due to the fact that it has a well protected deep bay which was appreciated by sailors for centuries . Christopher Columbus sailed in here in 1493 to replenish his water stocks . According to the history books because the town was so isolated it became a haven for pirates or as the book l read states “ ships with aggressive intentions “. Invasions by the British and frequent attacks by pirates and groups of slaves who had managed to escape from their masters became a huge problem for the local inhabitants and after a massive looting of their town there was a mass exodus leaving the area with less than 500 people who continued to suffer with various epidemics including malaria .
Deshaies's big attraction is the magnificent Jardin Botanical Gardens situated high up on a hill above the town . At 16 euros a ticket it had to be good and the bonus was that they sent a vehicle into town to pick the two of us up free of charge .
The gardens are spectacular and we spent the day wandering around the paved walkways admiring some of this planet's most beautiful plants . My mate Billy would have given his eye teeth for some of the stunning orchids growing off the mature trees .
Guadeloupe itself is in fact two islands , Basse Terre and Grande Terre with the narrow Salee River separating them down the middle . My original plan was to motor up the river from the south through to the north but for some unexplained reason the powers that be decided to stop operating the opening mechanisms on the two bridges that cross the river , thereby making it impossible for yachts to pass through . Often referred to as the Butterfly Island because the two islands combined resemble the shape of a butterfly , both islands are quite different .
Grand Terre meaning large land is in fact smaller , flatter and drier than Basse Terre meaning low land which is mountainous resulting in more rainfall making it the wetter of the two . Whoever named these islands had a weird sense of humour .
No visit to Guadeloupe would be complete without a trip to Pointe-a-Pitre . Having hired a car in Martinique which for me as the driver limits the amount of time that you can check out the surrounding views we decided to catch the bus and let the driver miss out on them . It turned out to be a good decision as both trips there and back on the bus were in heavy traffic on tight island roads . Pointe-a-Pitre although not the capital is the island's largest city and over the years it has suffered severe damage from earthquakes , hurricanes and fires particularly the huge fire of 1780 that devastated this historic city . Hurricane Frederick (1979), David (1980) and Hugo (1989) unleashed their fury on the city and it's wounds are visible as you walk around the city .
The old city in its day must have been beautiful with its French colonial architecture , but unfortunately today it has a distinct run-down feel to it . The heart of the old city is Place de la Victoire , the oldest square in the city built in 1764 . The square is surrounded by wooden buildings with balconies and shutters and sidewalk cafes . During the French Revolution it was here where 300 royalists met their bloody deaths , publicly executed by guillotine .
There is a bustling market place selling herbs and herbal remedies , spices and all sorts of fruit and vegetables .
It is a great pity that money is not being pumped into this historic city to restore it to it's former glory . After a day of exploring the city it was time to catch our bus back to Deshaies and our beloved boat .
A day later with Montserrat off our port bow we motored out with our watermaker filling our tanks and headed for Antigua . We had a lot to look forward to with the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and the Antigua Sailing Week all happening while we are there . Another couple of large ticks about to be marked off my “ Bucket List “, isn't that nice .