Thursday, January 31

Glutton for punishment

Some of us like to think we are taking on a challenge while others might think we are a glutton for punishment.  Is that like asking if the glass is half full or half empty?  As we continued our tour of Guadeloupe, we felt we couldn't leave without visiting Pointe a Pitre.  It was described in our guidebook as "Guadeloupe's largest and most important city, a lively Creole town...".  We couldn't miss out on that now could we?  At this point, we were beginning to think that the guidebook author must have 1.) spoken fluent french or 2.) been paid to say these things or perhaps both.  By no means do I mean to be disrespectful, it's just that there seems to be a recurring theme of all things great in Guadeloupe.  As you know by now, we had not experienced that thus far.  However, as everyone deserves a second chance, we decided to give it another go after a more pleasant experience at Pigeon Island anchorage.  Before heading to Pointe a Pitre, which was a full day of sailing, we stopped in Basse Terre.  Basse Terre is the capital and also the southern most point of Guadeloupe.  Only Erica and I went ashore to search out a laundry facility and perhaps a grocery store.  It took us 20 minutes just to find a place to park the dinghy in a place that looked like it would still be there upon our return.  By the way, we did find a petite laundromat that was big enough for a mouse but no grocery store.  Instead we found a bakery and a butcher shop.  Yep, you guessed it, we picked up a couple of baguettes.

If you were to look at a map of Guadeloupe, you would see that the island is in the shape of a butterfly, sort of.  Pointe a Pitre is located on the south eastern side, in the middle, where the body of the butterfly would be.  Get it?  In order to sail there, we had to BEAT into the wind and heavy seas for about 10 miles of our 20 mile journey.  And when I say beat, I mean nasty, pounding, can't do anything but be sea sick kinda beat.  The wind had been howling at 30 knots for days, so you can only imagine what the sea state was like.  The captain thought if we left at daybreak, the wind might not be as strong thus making our 'beat' a little  easier.  HA....that's all I need to say!  You might be scratching your head asking why we would even consider leaving under such conditions.  Well, we really wanted to leave Guadeloupe because we didn't feel that warm and fuzzy feeling, but we wanted to check out Pointe a Pitre first.  Like I said, we are glutton for punishment!

Leaving Basse Terre under a dark and rainy sky

Rounding the point, bracing for a bumpy ride.  We motored with no sails in a direct path hoping we would get it over with faster.  No such luck, it was truly a slog that seemed to have no end.  The pounding waves kept us from going any faster than 4 knots, at best.

Looking south east toward the sunrise and Les Saintes

This Container ship moved through the rough seas as if it were glass.  No fair!  However, check out the name of this vessel - "Elizabeth Boye"  Perhaps the r got rubbed off.

Tough when you wake up before the sun

Smiling at the calmer water once we closed in on Pointe a Pitre

Patronus bringing up the rear - for once!

Turquoise water as we enter the channel

Happy all the pounding is over

Another happy girl

Sunday, January 27

Pigeon Island

I'm not sure why it's called Pigeon Island, but it's just a mere 6 miles south of Deshaies.  There were no french speaking people unless you count the ones on the day charters that we didn't mingle with.  It is not an island that is inhabited by people - only pigeons perhaps.   However it is a national park and is best known for the Cousteau Underwater Park.  The snorkeling and diving was great, the best we've seen so far!  There were tons of colorful fish, big and small.  Some of them, in fact, swam right up to us as if to say hello.  If you are quick you can actually reach out and touch them.  There was one barrel coral so big a person could get in side of it.

Leaving Deshaies

Sailing down the Leeward (western) side of the island

Sunshine and smooth sailing

Life is like rainbows and unicorns when sailing on a beam reach.

We passed this mega yacht named ICE just as the private helicopter was landing.  I was looking through our binoculars, gawking at the fine spectacle only to find the owner (I presume) looking at me with his binoculars! We both waved.  :) 

One of the dive boats that brings tourists to Pigeon Island to snorkel and dive

Erica sportin' her dive gear.  Craig did a buddy dive with Erica for the first time.

The anchorage across the way from Pigeon Island.  This was a lively beach filled with locals and french tourists in speedos, big belly's smoking cigarettes!

Our french flag

Happy to be playing legos

Reese and Kate writing and illustrating their story

More rainbows in the anchorage

The fruit and veggie truck

salmon grilled cheese and homemade gazpacho for dinner

Finally found some crepes in a truck on the beach!  They could only make one at a time, so you can imagine how long it took to make just our 12 crepes!  Craig, Erica and I enjoyed jambone and fromage crepes - pronounced "crrrrrrrreeeeeeeepe" with a short e sound.  You gotta roll the R and NOT say it like 'crap'.  We, figured out how to say "Bonjure, jambone fromage crepe s'il vows plaĆ®t".  So they decided to serve us!

Mmmm good, filled with Nutella

Maggie and Bryson savor their crepes

Saturday, January 26

A hike to remember

When one thinks of a hike, or at least when I think of a hike, I think of a mountain with a defined dirt trail meandering through tall trees and valleys of wild flowers leading to a lake or a fort or something.  Usually one would encounter a small stream or two and be able to view the world from high atop a beautiful vista. 
On January 1st, once we had a nap and did a little housekeeping after our passage to Guadeloupe, we decided to take a hike that was recommended in our “Top 10 best hikes in the Caribbean”.  It said it was a great hike up the Deshaies (Day-ay) River to a waterfall.  Sounds great, right?  And we didn't have to speak french to anyone!  We set out after lunch first walking along a dirt road next to the river.  

The dinghy dock is just beyond the bridge

The start of the hike is across the street

Greeted by a curious cow 

Soon, the trail disappeared and we were wading in the river.  No problem, that's how the guidebook described it, so we kept going.  The kids really enjoyed climbing over the boulders and walking in the ankle deep, cold running water.  The lush green, low lying vegetation was broken up by dense tall native trees with vines dangling down.  As we crawled over boulders, we traversed back and forth across the river depending on which side was easier to negotiate.

The kids happy to be blazing a trail up the river of boulders

Very tall palm trees

Reese getting help over a tree across the river

Some interesting fungi on a fallen tree

More lush forest

Figuring out which rock to step on was half the fun

We came upon an entire colony of (large) ants carrying leaves up the mountain to their home 

Up the river we continued, as the boulders began to get larger and slick with green moss, we began to wonder if this was a good idea.  Reese said somewhere along the way that her mom, Erica, wasn't allowed to pick out the hikes anymore.  I couldn't let Erica take all the blame, so I confessed that it was my idea too.  Reese promptly responded that I wasn't allowed to pick out the future hikes either!   If it weren't for the landmarks pictured in the guidebook, we might have thought we weren't going in the right direction.  How hard could it be to follow the river?  About the time that we were questioning if we should keep going because kids and adults alike were slipping, sliding, getting multiple cuts, scratches and bruises all around, the river and boulders mellowed out.  Making it only slightly easier to convince the youngest crew members to keep going.

Ginger Lilly's everywhere

Cascading water

The whole time we were climbing, wading, balancing and traversing we kept the waterfall at the end of the trail as our goal and dangling carrot for the kids.  However, there was a chain across the river with a sign of no admittance once we got close to where the waterfall might be.  We were a little defeated but secretly happy to walk the short path to the road that would lead us down the mountain.  Although we missed the waterfall, we were pleased with our accomplishment just the same.  We were high atop the mountain and never realized how much climbing we actually did until we saw the view!  

Looking west at the Caribbean Sea

The walk down (on a paved road) was just as amazing as the hike up the river.  We came upon fields of cows and these beautiful trees with buttressed roots.

And a cemetery 

Back at the boat enjoying the cool breeze from a squall as the sun goes down

Friday, January 25

When in Rome

The old english proverb "When in Rome, do as the Romans do", dates back to at least 390AD.  We believe in this little saying and are teaching the kids the same.  We feel we are sensitive and considerate of the customs and cultures demonstrated in each country we visit.  But when we stepped foot in Deshaies, Guadeloupe, we were not only greeted with a language we didn't know, we were not greeted at all.  Deshaies is a very small and quiet french town.  When I say french, I mean VERY french.  In our defense, let me point out that we did try to speak french as best we could, pieced together from memory and a translation app.  We would have been ok if they had laughed at us for our pathetic attempt at speaking bad french.  Heck, we would have been thrilled.  We only came across a couple of people that even considered speaking english to us.  For which we were grateful, by the way.

The lowest moment came one late afternoon when we were all very hungry, looking for something to eat.  How can you fault us for wanting to try out the local cuisine.  Most of the restaurants were closed for the afternoon - afternoon siesta you know.  We had our hearts set on crepes after reading rave reviews in our cruising guide.  Come to find out, after trying to speak half french and half english, we found out it was closed too.  Finally, we dragged ourselves to the end of the road, again, to find the only place open.  We'll just ignore the tiny little fact that we could have gone back to the boat and cooked!  We were rudely turned away because we did not speak french.  However, the woman at the door knew enough english to explain this to us.  Go figure.  And then she stepped outside to make sure we walked away from her restaurant.  I guess the business people of Guadeloupe get enough French subsidies that they are okay with turning away 10 paying customers doing there best to be polite.  To make a long story short, we ended up buying some bread and cheese at the market and sitting on a retaining wall in front of someone's house (someone french of course).  Sure enough, an elderly lady came out and started waving her hands and talking in french, fast as if we could understand.  We concluded that she did not want us there, so we gathered ourselves and walked back to the dinghy feeling very un-welcome.

Since we didn't get to really celebrate New Year's Eve because we were on passage and the weather was too rough, we celebrated with the Conway's on New Year's Day in the quiet harbor of Deshaies, Guadeloupe!  Chilled sparkling cider for the crew

Chilled Prosecco for the officers and first mates

Deshaies - It is beautiful even if they only speak french

Rocky beach view

"A rooster crosses the road to the a new answer to the age old question, "why did the chicken cross the road."

Anything Goes resting at anchor

Walking on street 2 of 2 looking for an open restaurant

Checking out the Euro's from the cash machine

French flag and the flag of Europe

Breadfruit tree - similar to a potato. 

View of the anchorage and Deshaies from our boat

Sunset view of the boat behind us