Wednesday 4th April 2018
Soon after leaving Îles des Saintes, we switched off the engine and enjoyed a peaceful sail most of the way to Deshaies with the wind blowing at a steady angle and speed. This was champagne sailing without the champagne. Only when halfway up Guadeloupe did mother nature spoil the party by spinning the wind 180 degrees in the other direction faster than you can say cheers! We tried tacking but started heading for Nicaragua, so we switched the engine on instead.
With the engine on and sails away, we motored the rest of the way to Deshaies spotting a whale or two along the way. This stretch of coast is excellent whale spotting territory. A whale watching boat operates out of Deshaies bay and carries its pink cargo of tourists a mile or so to the south to find them. We were fortunate to see this boat coming the other way and for it to stop just behind us. They had spotted a small pod of whales that we could just see in the distance. Unfortunately, as seems to be their gift, whales are extremely adept at avoiding having their photograph taken. So we took a photo of the whale watching boat instead.
Lucky lucky lucky
Ignoring the fact that a squall now battered our eyeballs, our luck continued as we entered Deshaies Bay. A large catamaran had just left the bay, leaving the last mooring ball for us to pick up. And better yet, this was the same easy-to-pick-up design that we first came across in Îles des Saintes. And even better, the mooring balls here are currently free.
Anchoring can be farcical in Deshaies bay; the wind shifts, as it does on the coast, by 180 degrees with the result that anchor chains are often wrapped around one another. My guess is that some folks aren’t aware of this. We popped our head up one morning to find someone so close to Lady Jane’s stern that we could have shared breakfast. And later in the week, three boats became entangled in a loveless embrace when their anchor chains became entwined. All three of them dragged through the mooring with much shouting, screaming and crying – so we were later told by the crew of Otilia.
Anyway, it was all peaceful and secure for us, so the next day we landed ashore to look around town.
Thursday 5th April 2018
Who should we meet at the dinghy dock?
Who should be at the (excellent by the way) dinghy dock? Bobbie and Camilla, the crew of Otilia, that’s who. We first met them in Tenerife prior to crossing the Atlantic and we have crossed paths from time to time ever since. This time they had a new crew member with them, Klas, who has arrived to help them sail Otilia back to Sweden next month. We also learned that they needed to return their hired car the next day to the same place from where we had hired ours. A win-win situation. Bobby could give us a lift there, and we could bring him back. Sold.
Completely ignoring Camilla and Bobby’s advice that it is imprudent to walk to Grande Anse beach in flip-flops, we walked to Grande Anne beach. Our feet are now those of hardened hikers, so rough terrain, even when wearing inappropriate footwear, holds no fear. It’s worth the walk to Grande Anse. As the name implies, the beach is huge. And it is surprisingly empty. We secured a perimeter of at least 100 metres of space around us and swam in warm crystal clear water with no risk of being clipped round the ear with a stray frisbee or football.
Arriving back at Deshaies with our virtue tanks filled from all that walking, we had a drink at one of the bars overlooking the bay , watched as the sun descended, then returned to Lady Jane for dinner.
Friday 6th April 2018
Death in Paradise
We met Bobby at the dinghy at 0830, bleary-eyed and ready, for our lift to the car hire place to the north of Deshaies. Car hire here is ridiculously cheap. It’s possible to rent a car for two days for less than the one-way taxi fare to the airport. After taking Bobby back in Deshaies, we arranged to see them for sundowners on their boat that evening and set off on a shopping mission. The idea here was to get the misery out of the way in one day. So after stuffing our shopping bags full at Carrefour and Leader Price, we took the shopping back to Lady Jane, then set about doing some exploring.
There’s a murder every week in St Marie. But, if it’s any consolation to the surviving relatives or loved ones, our smart detective, assisted by his loyal team of three, solves every one of them. Perle beach, just a little north of Grande Anse, is home to this famous detective, at least for some of the year, so we had to go and take a look.
The detective’s house
We found this person’s house midway along Perle Beach slightly hidden away in the trees. It’s a perfect spot with a perfect view. The house is undergoing some restoration at the moment, but the team of renovators are in town to get it ready for the detective to start solving murders again next month.
I am, of course, talking about Death in Paradise, the popular UK / French comedy-drama TV series that is filmed in Guadeloupe during the summer months, mostly around Deshaies. And the crew are here getting the sets ready to start recording in May. Perle beach is home to DI Jack Mooney’s house, the police station is actually the village hall in Deshaies, and Catherine’s bar is the Madras restaurant close to the beach in Deshaies.
Drinks with the other Motley Crew
Bearing gifts of nachos, we took our dinghy over to Otilia for drinks with their motley crew at 1730. Despite having seen each other so many times over the last few months, we have never spent any real time together. This was a perfect way to put that right. These are fun people to be with. Alas, they had to be up early to head off to Antigua, so a couple of drinks later we let them be and headed off back to Lady Jane with contact details in hand.
That evening, my enthusiasm for those mooring balls waned. We discovered that, although they are great when the wind is blowing steadily when the wind is slack they have a tendency to bang against the hull. And when they bang against the hull, not only do they wake you up, they also leave a mark. So, the next morning I wrapped an old swimming noodle around the loop to lessen the impact. It still sounded like a bass drummer practising on the hull, but at least it wasn’t scratching the hull anymore.
Saturday, 7th April 2018
With the practicalities of shopping and sorting out the errant mooring ball done, Saturday was leisure day and a road trip. We started at the botanic gardens, just up the hill from Deshaies, where they have fish, flamingos, parrots and trees. The photos are below. It’s an enjoyable place – perhaps a little too expensive for a tightwad – but worth the visit.
Our next stop was to drive through the northern part of the Basse Terre nature reserve to the Cascade aux Ecrivisses. This is a great place, and it’s accessible to wheelchair users, which is great to see.
Rum and black pudding on the beach
After driving through the rest of the nature reserve, we took the north coast road back to Grande Anse beach to spend a couple of hours basking in the sun before returning to Deshaies. And as we were about to leave, Maria struck up a conversation with a local family who were also preparing to leave. I think the conversation started with the woman apologising for her brother being an idiot. A good opening gambit I thought. Somehow, after speaking with each other in broken French and English, Maria was offered a shot of rum to drink and I was given a black pudding (Boudin) to eat. That doesn’t happen every day.
Back in Deshaies, we parked the car at the church car park for a photo shoot at the St Marie police station. Then, back at the boat, we decided to jump into the sea to cool off but jumped straight into a smack of jellyfish. Fortunately, these aren’t the Man O’War evil types, they simply make you aware of their presence. But we didn’t spend a lot of time in there.
Sunday 8th April 2018
Hemmed in by the mob
Perhaps the only downside of getting a lift to the car hire place was that we had to return the car earlier than we would prefer. At 0815 we arrived at the church car park only to find that we had been hemmed in – by the church congregation. These folks are keen. The service starts at 0800 and the car park was beyond full. I phoned the car hire company to tell them we could be late, but it’s God’s will.
Fortunately, a man with a baby was outside the church, so Maria told him our predicament and he relayed the message to the flock. And eventually, the car owners appeared to let us out. We were the lucky ones, only two cars blocked our exit. If we were further in the car park the entire congregation would have had to move.
We made it to the car hire place on time, but there was no-one to give us a lift back to Deshaies. I asked the woman at the hotel reception if there are any shuttle buses – there weren’t -but she said that if we walked to the bus stop either a bus, a taxi, or a car would stop for us. This young, attractive, blue-eyed blonde girl said that many cars had stopped for her. So I was sure it would work for us.
It’s an eight-kilometre walk back to Deshaies from the Fort Royal Hotel and we can describe every metre of it. It’s just as well we didn’t wait for the bus though – it never came.
As a reward, we treated ourselves to ice creams from the shop before heading back to Lady Jane, where I spent a large part of the afternoon polishing the scratches from the hull, and scrubbing the bottom with the brush I bought from the Chinese Supermarket. It might be sad, but I am very pleased with that brush. Maria and I then spent the rest of the time loafing around before crashing out for an early night in preparation for an early start to get to Montserrat.