Sunday, 8 April 2018

A brief update from Sint Maarten

Well, it has been a busy few days at Sint Maarten. We have done lots of maintenance chores because the chandleries here are excellent. We now have lots of solar panels fitted, a new outboard motor than doesn’t overheat and 100 metres of brand new anchor chain. We arrived her on 4 April and expected to move on to the BVIs today.  However, when we came to raise the anchor the new chain kept jumping off the windlass. On measuring it turns out that we have been supplied with the wrong chain; we need 28mm pitch but we were supplied with 30mm pitch chain.  The extra 2 mm makes a big difference! So, we are staying here at least one more night whilst we negotiate having the correct chain supplied. We then have about a 3-4 hour evolution swapping it all over and returning the wrong stuff. Not great but can’t be helped.

Hopefully the Blog will bubble back up to being top priority when we have got ourselves to the BVIs.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Pointe À Pitre Guadeloupe (Part 1)

There is a large gap in the Blog entries. The entries for Ste Pierre Bay and Dominica I think have too many pictures in them and so they have not uploaded properly with the poor or non-existent internet we’ve been experiencing over the last couple of weeks. I’ll rework them and hopefully you will see them posted soon. 

We left Prince Rupert Bay on Dominica at 0800hrs on 20 March to continue on north. We could easily have spent much longer exploring Dominica but we now had a deadline and had to get to Guadeloupe to meet up with Charlotte, my daughter, who would be flying in from the UK to join us for 3 weeks.
Passing the Îles des Saintes   

The passage to Guadeloupe was 40 miles of great sailing and on the way we passed the Îles des Saintes. These are reported to be beautiful and most people normally stop there on their way to Guadeloupe from Dominica. We, however, had decided that it would be better to pick up Charlotte first and then route back to ‘The Saintes’ so that she could enjoy visiting them too.
Basse Terre   

Guadeloupe is essentially 2 islands, very close together, shaped like a butterfly. The westerly wing is Basse Terre where the land has much more mountainous volcanic peaks. The eastern wing, Grande Terre, is almost flat. Between the 2 is the Rivière Salée passage which you used to be able to navigate through in a yacht, during the night when they were prepared the lift the bridges for our masts to pass. Unfortunately, now the roads are deemed to be too busy for that and so yachts have to sail all the way around the wings of the island to progress north.
Hotel Fleur Depée   

The harbour that we were aiming for, Pointe à Pitre, is in the entrance to this passage. As we approached, out to our right was a beach resort centred around the Hotel Fleur Depée.
Entrance to the Rivière Salée passage   

Ahead we could see the more industrial looking container port on the west side of the entrance. We navigated our way along the entrance channel, past the marina on our right and looked for a suitable anchorage.
The careenage anchorage and, just beyond, the Slavery Museum (bottom)   

There were 3 options, one on the west side of the river, one tucked close into the town and the final option was just outside the entrance to the marina lagoons by Careenage Bay. Our first choice, the one by the town, was suspiciously empty of anchored yachts and it looked like dredging work was going on in that bay. Having not tested our outboard after its maintenance work, we were reluctant to commit ourselves to a long dinghy ride right across the river to get into complete arrival paperwork and visit the shops. So, we joined the group of other yachts roughly anchored by Careenage Bay. That put us close to an unusual looking building which we discovered is the museum about slavery. We dropped our anchor at 1400hrs and set about inflating our dinghy to go ashore to the marina office to complete the arrivals process for Guadeloupe.

It wasn’t very far in to the marina office but it was enough to let us know that all was still not well with the outboard motor. Despite having picked out all of the bits of broken impeller we could find when it was replaced the previous evening, the cooling water flow was restricted and the engine was overheating. We got the arrivals procedure completed, which is very easily done on French islands using a dedicated computer often located in a marina or bar (very French!) and then contemplated our shopping trip. This was most easily done using the dinghy to get as close as possible before embarking on a 1km hike. The dinghy trip was 2½km to get up to the corner of the lagoon, more than our outboard could cope with, and so we got lots of exercise rowing all the way there. The hike back, laden down with heavy rucksacks full of victualling goodies, was equally good exercise and by evening, having rowed 5km, we felt that we had definitely earned our sundowners drinks.

In the morning the anchorage gave us a grandstand view of the cruise ships arriving, though it was slightly disconcerting when they stopped right next to us and turned to reverse into their mooring; very much a close up view!

News from Charlotte was not great. The French airline she was flying out with had planned a strike on the day that she was travelling. In the end her flight was cancelled twice, each time requiring her to spend several hours on the telephone negotiating to still fly out on the same day.
BV on the visitors’ pontoon in Bas du Fort Marina   

Content that Charlotte might actually get out to us on 23 March and recognising that in its current state, the outboard was not up to shuttling back and forth to pick up Charlotte, we moved into the marina on 22 March. That gave us the opportunity to give BV a good hose down as part of the ‘clean for guests’ procedure as well as using the powerful hose jet to try to flush out the outboard motor so that it would be able to stutter on for a few more islands, perhaps longer.

In the evening we joined Kaia and Kjell on their yacht 2K. We hadn’t seen then since Augustin’s party in Gran Canaria and so it was lovely to hear about their Atlantic crossing and pick up some top tips for the Caribbean Islands further north from where they had just come.

Mid-afternoon on 23rd March Charlotte arrived at Pointe à Pitre airport. Unfortunately, our plan to head off to the Îles des Saintes first thing in the morning was scuppered because Charlotte’s hold luggage was still in Paris having never made it onto the plane. Having asked for the bag to be delivered to the marina the following afternoon, we spent the rest of the day shopping for essentials for Charlotte and then enjoyed a ‘welcome to the Caribbean’ meal with her in one of the restaurants close to the marina.
Pointe à Pitre, Guadeloupe