Our anchor was aweigh at seven on Sunday morning and Beatitude’s bow was pointed in a southerly direction. For the first hour, we motorsailed along the western coast of Montserrat in calm waters, protected from the trades. While still in the lee of the island, we caught a nice mackerel using a cedar plug. That would become our delicious evening meal. A little later, something large hit the other fishing line, but before I could get to the rod, he was already gone. And then, just prior to reaching our next port of call, I caught a small, 24-30 inch long barracuda which was released back into the deep blue sea.
The passage was not much different from our previous passage except that the sun was shining most of the day. This seemed to make the seven hour, 42 nautical mile bash into the 15-17 knots trades and 4-foot short and steep seas more bearable. Thankfully, all went well and we arrived without incident to the country of Guadeloupe, a French island shaped like an asymmetrical butterfly. Actually, it is two islands with a narrow river between them. It’s the largest of the Leeward Islands and has a population of 330,000 people (compared to 5,000 on Montserrat). In November of 1493, Columbus landed here looking for fresh water and named the island Santa María de Guadalupe after the Virgin Mary venerated in the Spanish town of Guadalupe. It has been firmly in French hands since 1814.
We pulled into the port town of Deshais (pronounced day-yay) and dropped our anchor in 25 feet of water in perhaps the most picturesque, protected bay we’ve yet visited. Customs was closed when we arrived, so we just settled in for the evening and had fish tacos for dinner, courtesy of our catch earlier in the day. Looking around in the harbor, it is clear we are traveling where relatively few American cruisers dare to travel. US-flagged vessels are few and far between and your neighbors in the harbor may not speak much English. For example — the French boat that pulled in around dinnertime and dropped their anchor almost on top of ours and backed down toward us with about a 2-1 scope. I wasn’t happy about this and told them so as they were anchoring. Although they feigned an inability to understand what I was saying, I’m sure they got the main point. When it was clear they weren’t moving, I jumped in the water with my fins and snorkel and followed my anchor chain up under their vessel, and politely informed them that they should move to another spot in the anchorage (and their were plenty available). Despite my bringing the fineries of anchoring etiquette to their attention, they ignored my persistent pleas and refused to budge. What else could I do but tolerate their intrusion or pull up my anchor (which would require them to move to let me reach my anchor) and move Beatitude? We decided to stay put for the time being and see if any further issues arose.
My guide book says that customs opens at 8:30, so we showed up at Le Pelican (where clearing into the country is done on computer) at 8:45 this morning. Unfortunately, the sign said (or so I thought) that they do not open until 12:30. Ugh! So, we bought some French pastries and returned to Beatitude for the morning, where a few passing showers gave Beatitude a needed fresh-water rinse. Around 12:45, we returned to town to clear in and found that they were still closed. I asked some very nice people next door who said the customs office was open for a while this morning, but were closed this afternoon because of a bank holiday. So, we couldn’t clear in on Sunday, and now we couldn’t clear in today. I asked the fine French people who spoke pretty good English if they thought we would get in trouble wandering around without having received clearance into the country. They replied they thought it would be okay… after all, we’re in the islands. I’m not sure if the customs officials would agree, but we decided to go ahead and explore.
After failing to clear into Guadeloupe, we decided to walk to the Jardin Botanique (Botanical Gardens), which is just a mile out of town. What we didn’t realize is it is a mile of completely uphill walking on a 10% grade. Doing so in the tropical heat and humidity was daunting for Cindy, but she persevered and eventually we arrived at the gardens. By the way, today is her 6-week anniversary of her knee replacement surgery. The knee is doing great. She had no knee pain the entire uphill walk there, the hour or so we spent walking through the gardens, or the one-mile trip back down the hill. She could not have done this before the surgery. We’re thankful!
The Jardin Botanique was marvelous. The gardens were beautifully landscaped and featured tropical plants from around the world. There were also magnificently-colored lorikeets, pale pink flamingos, and touchy, territorial, blue and yellow macaws who let you know when you were walking too close. We were exhausted afterwards, so we returned to Beatitude around 4 p.m. to relax for the rest of the evening. For dinner, Cindy made me a good southern meal: Hoecake, sausage, and gravy. Mmm! It was delicious!