4 Mar 2011

[Cruise News] Port a Pietre, Guadeloupe

Having dropped off Fiona and Andrew yesterday in Dominica (more of which later) we sailed north to Les Saintes, a collection of small islands belonging to and just south of Guadeloupe, with the plan of spending the weekend there.  We were pleased to see our Canadian friends whom we last crossed paths with in Martinique were already at anchor and looked forward to catching up with them over a rum cocktail or too.  And then disaster: the windlass that is used to drop the anchor wasn't working, and so we were unable to anchor.  Whilst I motored around, Paul and Michael (the Canadian) tried to identify the problem but to no avail and so we had to plead with Les Saintes Yacht Club to allow us to tie up to their water buoy ... not something they usually permit but it was an emergency and so they relented given it was so late in the day.

As Paul has mentioned on his blog, we're both feeling very despondent with all the technology problems we've had to survive on the trip, and of course the two impacts and continuing bad conditions.  We know that boats go wrong and anchors drag ... in fact sailors should have that expectation ... but even long-term cruisers we've got to know out here think we've had far more than our share of bad luck.  Sadly our indomitable spirit is starting to flag a bit but "c'est la vie" I guess .... a bit of French seeing as we're effectively in France at the moment.

On the positive side of things, we enjoyed a great 9 days with Fiona and Andrew and were sad to see them leave.  Probably the highlight for us all was the trek to Victoria Falls in
 Dominica, a challenging adventure that involved crossing a fast-flowing river 5 times each way,  leaping from boulder to boulder.  Not always enjoyable at the time but a real sense of achievement at the end of it.  And then we had lunch in a Rasta's shack ... eating a delicious vegetable stew (Rastas are vegetarians) out of calabash bowls with a coconut shell spoon, accompanied by pan-fried balou (a local fish) ... all very authentic and tasty.

So now we're continuing north to Antigua once the electrics are fixed where we've got a few weeks to try to sort out the paintwork repairs caused in the two anchor-dragging impacts.  The boat's insurers are not playing ball, offering only 25% of the lowest estimate we've received to date, and with no apparent intention to negotiate.  So it looks like we've got another battle on our hands .... more stress .... maybe we should have stayed at home!

Crew Contribution from Andrew and Fiona

Thanks so much to Debra and Paul for an amazing holiday on board such a wonderful boat Pandora and letting us share in a little bit of their Caribbean experience. We have experienced so much. Firstly gusting force 8 near gale force winds and high waves including a couple of 20 feet waves in short succession which led to an exhilirating sail riding the waves from Martinique to Dominica - second attempt. Bit nerve racking but complete faith in Paul and Debra although I was thinking at some points we had not had the emergency briefing!! We also experienced a Harrison Ford type adventure clambering boulders along a river in a beautiful rainforest to get to a 170 feet waterfall in Dominica. Paul and Andrew braved the fury of the downforce of the waterfall, the spray and the noise to go behind the waterfall (which involved diving into the water and then up behind it).  All we could hear was lots of screaming and did not know if this was cries for help or pleasure(!) and were quite relieved to see them reappear only to see them then scrambling up the rocks at the side of the waterfall to jump 25 feet into the fall. They were guided in these exploits by our guide Octavius (French for Octapus otherwise known as Sea Cat locally). As well as this brilliant hike up to the waterfall he drove us round the south part of the island and seemed to know everyone. He kept stopping and diving into the bushes to come back with some berry, fruit or nut to taste. The boys liked trying "moonshine" - a local distillation made in Meunshen. The only other person drinking at the bar giving us funny looks was, we were informed later, the local policeman off duty! On the topic of alcohol we have loved the rum cocktails especially having them on the deck watching for the 'green' flash as the sun disappears behind the water (the last vestiage of the sun) but all we got was the Paul Witting flash with Debra's "little brother" muscling in!  These are just a few of the highlights. Debra and Paul have been fantastic hosts, great company and are very proficient sailors. We were delighted to be with Paul when he achieved his 2500 miles as a skipper target, making him eligible to take his yachtmaster practical qualification. We are very sorry to be leaving and wish Debra and Paul all the best and a calmer time for the rest of their adventure.