The Burnetts are on the move! We are learning just how hard it is to blow through the beautiful Lesser Antilles, but we want to be up in the Bahamas, the place that inspired the crazy idea for this adventure, by June. Stupid fish farm.
After finishing up Dominica with a fantastic tour of the Indian River hosted by the charismatic Faustin Alexis and his nephew Fitzroy Alexis, the Burnetts sped over to Les Saintes, a cute cluster of islands just south of the French island of Guadeloupe. This time of year it was not hard to secure a mooring ball in this famously busy area. After tying up, the Burnetts found themselves back in the land of croissants, baguettes, Euros, red roofs, and irregular work hours. The people of Terre de Haute are very friendly, and we were thankful that the cashier at the grocery store Vival went out of her way (while we watched over six bags of groceries) to arrange an impromptu cash currency exchange with the owner of the nearby café when our credit card for some reason wasn’t read by their machine.
Beautiful Les Saintes turned into another social location for us, and here we met up with Price and Gail Powell of SV Panache, fellow Leopard 48 owners whom we have been communicating with for some time. Several hours of enthusiastic showing, telling, eating, drinking, and swapping ensued, and Mel is happy to add another blog of circumnavigators to her list of sailing blogs to comfort her during the more boring moments of her future “land life.” We also ran into the crew of SV Aphrodite, whom we encountered back at Little Farmer’s Cay in the Bahamas last year. It’s a small world when you have boat kids! Finally, we also met some pleasant Belgians from SV Juggernaut and empathized with their tales of learning to sail and crossing the Strait of Gibraltar and then the Atlantic only shortly after buying their first boat.
After Mel took Allie and her friend from Aphrodite shopping in the cute tourist town, the Burnetts finally had a successful snorkel and saw a broad diversity of fish, including a sea snake. After that, they were off to Deshaies (“Days-uh?”), Guadeloupe, to make some headway on the way to Antigua. Go go go!
Boat stuff: Sailing along the lee side of Guadeloupe was challenging, as the landscape undulates, and the wind shifts a lot. We are getting used to this pattern here in the Antilles. This will give you an idea of what it’s like to sail the western side of these crazy, lumpy islands. Basically, you can predict the wind changes based on the topography of the land. If there is a mountain with clouds upwind, you will have a lull. If there is a valley, even a high one, in between two mountains, the wind will funnel through and will probably reach 20 kts or more. It also whooshes a lot around the north and south ends of the island. In other words: for the helmsperson, the Antilles are a Candy Crush-free zone! Here are details of our sail today:
12:00 pm: Latitude15 deg, 52’. The Burnetts went off their mooring ball and motored north between Ilet a Cabrit and Terre de Haute, then turned west and crossed the narrow passage to Basse Terre, the “left lung” of Guadeloupe. This was downwind at 150 degrees in 14-15 kts, and we just flew the jib and one engine. Waves weren’t bad, maybe 4 feet max.
1:23 pm: Lat 15 deg, 56’. Marvin turned the corner of Guadeloupe and headed north, following the land so that he was always 2 nm offshore, where there would hopefully be some wind. Wind was up to 20 kts, but we did not hoist the main as we wanted to see how things settled once we were full in the lee of the land. Waves died down to only 1-2 feet and stayed that way. The kids read books.
1:45 pm, Lat 15 deg 58’. Main went up with one reef, we rolled out the jib and stopped the engine in 18 kts of true wind at 130 degrees. Once Greg was done hoisting the main (Mel hates to do it by herself), Mel ran the show and futzed with the sail plan for the rest of the trip. (Greg is reading a really good book right now.)
2:30 pm: Lat 16 deg, 4’. Wind died down to 5-7 kts true and Mel rolled in the floppy jib, kept the main up, and turned on the port engine at 2800 rpm, per our break-in instructions. Dolphins showed up.
2:37 p.m.: Lat 16 deg, 1’. The wind came back from the other direction, now on port tack (from the northwest?? How does that happen?), and got up to 7-8 true at 30 degrees, producing 13 kts of apparent wind since we had the engine on. Mel stuck with just the main here; no jib.
3:28 p.m.: Lat 16 deg, 9’. (Just north of Pigeon Island.) The wind increased up to 22 kts true and moved to 60-90 degrees, back to starboard tack, so Mel stopped the engine, tacked the mainsail, and continued with a single-reefed main and jib, making 8 kts over the ground with almost 1 kt of favorable current.
3:40 p.m.: Lat 16 deg, 11’. The wind backed off to 9-16 true at 70 degrees and she kept the main and jib up and tweaked them.
4:09 p.m.: Lat 16 deg 15’. The wind decreased to less than 10 kts at 90 degrees, but we were still beating a monohull hugging the coast, so Mel just trimmed things a bit.
4:34 p.m. Lat 16 deg 16’. We approached Deshaies Harbor, our goal. Suddenly there was action. A lone kayaker came up behind us, paddling furiously, and we watched him to see if he signaled for distress, since he was 2 nm offshore. He did not, but he trailed right behind us in an eerie way as we slowed down because the wind was dying. The wind pooped out at 2 kts. Around this time we saw before us a field of white balls the size of volleyballs indicating fish traps. We dodged them as we turned towards land to lower the main. Sails down, we motored through the small minefield of fish traps, 2 nm out from land, on the way into the harbor, happily not snagging any.
4:45 p.m. Lat 16 deg 18’. The famed wind tunnel around the harbor revealed itself, and the wind increased from 2kts to 25 kts true over a minute or two. We were motoring just fine, so this was more interesting than alarming.
5:00 p.m. Lat 16 deg 18’. We heard there might be mooring balls available in the harbor. Nope. They were close to shore and all were occupied. There were probably seven rows of boats in the harbor, with the last four rows anchored. We chose to anchor in about 27 feet of water, and even though the wind was blowing 25 kts, we fit in between the other boats just fine. Our giganto 55 kg Rocna caught on the first try. A few hours later, the wind died again, and three more rows of boats filed in to anchor just before sunset. They were smart to get in before sunset; there are fish pots even in the anchorage that would be invisible at night.
7:30 p.m. We went into town and ate French food at La Savane. The sea bream, probably a former inhabitant of one of those damn fish pots, was excellent! Dodge ‘em and eat ‘em! Bon appetit!