1st – 12th February
With James ‘Home Alone’ and Claire on ‘Granny duties’ the first two weeks of February were a little different to say the least! James had to struggle with cooking for himself. The first couple of days were covered by things that Claire had made and left in the ‘fridge but then the experimentation began. Everything took much longer than expected but by the end of the two weeks James had worked out a routine and was producing enjoyable meals for himself. Preparation would start at 5pm and once everything was ready for the cooking stage he would stop for his ‘sundowner’, cast his fishing line and get out his book. Around 7pm he’d cook up his meal and by 9pm everything was washed up, put away and he was ready for bed!
The daytime was spent cleaning and maintaining the boat interspersed with time ashore Skyping, doing emails and shopping. There was a wonderful trip to the waterfalls with Gene and Jo-Ann the day after Claire left then there was the day of the ‘move’ when Ocean Rainbow had to change anchorage from one side of the channel outside Pointe-a-Pitre to the other because of dredging (in true French fashion this has yet to begin!). Barb and Stu from ‘La Luna’ came to James’ aid for this manoeuvre as raising the anchor from a very muddy bottom when you are single-handed is not easy. The new anchorage is much nicer, with less rocking and rolling from passing ferries and much clearer water but it is a little further to dinghy in to the shore. There was an attempted trip by bike to Gosier but that was thwarted by the lack of bikeable roads and riding down the dual carriageway on his bike did not appeal! There was a successful trip to Jarry by bike – a long cycle in the heat but you do have time to look at everything unlike the bus trip where you are squashed in and driven at high speed with very little chance to ‘sightsee’. Then the final challenge was the ‘fridge. James spent the first day of malfunction trying to sort things out himself but sadly failed so he had to dingy ashore and seek expert advice. Richard, from the little local electrical workshop, was incredibly helpful and said he’d have a look but James needed to bring the boat into the marina. Slight challenge doing this single handed so James enlisted the help of Ivan, a friendly American who just happened to be standing admiring the local scenery when James was on the hunt for help! He was a great help and OR weighed anchor and moored in the marina with no trouble at all. Sadly Ivan, Ursula and family are moving south so no chance at the moment to entertain ‘Gavroche’ on Ocean Rainbow but we hope we might catch up with them later in the year as James really enjoyed their company. Richard was really quick to come on board and identify the problem – water had dripped onto an electrical connection under the sink. So simple if you only know what to look for and where to look! All well now so that’s a big relief and for the next week any problems that arise will be problems shared which are always so much easier.
Claire arrived home at 4pm on 12th so life on board Ocean Rainbow has returned to normal! Below is a picture of the 'choice' room at her hotel in Paris! Comfy, warm and quite adequate but somewhat lacking in 'Parisienne style'! The other two photos are Emily, of course!!!
The week has passed so quickly with a few chores completed on Ocean Rainbow, a little bit of sailing and a new anchorage plus some partying (no surprise there then!). The anchorage of Ilet à Cochons always has something interesting going on in the distance whether it is passing freighters on their way into the docks, ferries plying between the islands or day trippers out to have a look at the local scenery. We took Puddle ashore to a little beach on the island to scrub the weed off her bottom and had a wander around, meeting the owner of ’The Lost Paradise’ in the process. He has just taken back possession of the family business on the island after a family squabble lasting 12 years! The restaurant (Gran Gou) is charming and the music we have heard playing there is very mellow so hopefully business will be good. Mind you, there was the night at the beginning of the month when the island was let out to another company and they shipped in 3000 people (not the 1000 agreed) and partied until dawn. James’ sleep was somewhat disturbed!
The little fellow on the right came in with the fresh veg from the market - he was somewhat stunned having been put in a bowl filled with Milton solution and left to 'sanitise'! He seemed to be fully recovered when we released him on dry land again but I'm very glad we wash everything we bring on board as we have no idea in which particular vegetable he'd been hiding!
We went ashore on Saturday to visit the markets. There are three; the fish market along the quayside, the fruit and vegetable market in an enclosed market area next to the harbour and the covered spice market which is in the centre of town. We enjoyed the atmosphere with the local ladies dressed in national costume. The smell of all the spices is wonderful and it was just lovely to browse amongst the stalls without being pressured to buy. A very relaxed morning and back on board for an equally relaxed brunch. We had planned a romantic ‘black tie and hearts’ for ourselves on board and decorated Ocean Rainbow in Valentine’s theme but before we could enjoy the fruits of our labours we were washed out by the rain (and we hadn’t managed to take the ‘perfect’ staged photo by then either!). We had dinner below and then, as the rain had stopped, we took to the dinghy to go and join the party at “Gran Gou”. We arrived to find that the party was a lot more ‘mellow’ (and a lot smarter) than the previous party James had experienced from afar so we decided to head home and crank up the Rock ‘n Roll on board!
On Sunday we went ashore to experience ‘Dimanche Gras’ – otherwise known as ‘Fat Sunday’ - as Pointe à Pitre was the venue for the main parade. What stamina the local people show. As we ate a delicious ‘Mafiosa’ pizza in a little restaurant at the top end of Place de la Victoire, we watched folk pouring into the centre of town for a full two hours before we made our way to the parade and still we were on time to see ’Valval’ at the head of the parade followed by the King and Queen for this year’s Carnival on their float! The whole atmosphere was really good natured with folk sitting on pavements, perched on stools and boxes or sitting on windowsills of the surrounding buildings (our chosen perch!). The whole atmosphere was really good natured with folk sitting on pavements, perched on stools and boxes or sitting on windowsills of the surrounding buildings (our chosen perch!). The first 12 groups coming through were wearing gorilla masks and costumes representing the various trades – catering, plumbing, engineering etc. They were interspersed by men, also wearing gorilla masks, wielding great long whips that they cracked as they walked along – a really alarming sound when cracked near you. We haven’t been able to find out why the gorilla masks but a local lady did explain that the masks were worn so that ‘the powerless achieved power and the faceless fame’. Then there followed groups with ever increasing complexity and colour in their costumes and headdresses. We tried to get a position nearer the head of the parade but the crowds were wedged solid and no room even for ‘two tiny little people’! With dusk approaching (and we’d forgotten the head torches) we decided to head home while we could still spot Ocean Rainbow in the anchorage. A fabulous experience even though we couldn’t stay to see the end of the parade.
On Monday we sailed off to Gosier – a mere 4nm from Pointe à Pitre – and anchored in Tabarin Bay. The waters were crystal clear which made a lovely change from PaP but we rolled constantly which was a little disconcerting after the calm of Ilet à Cochons. The town of Gosier (named after the largest species of Pelican which colonise there) feels more like a village and is typical of this part of the Caribbean with clapboard houses and wrought iron balconies but not as colourful as places like Carriacou. The Town Hall provides free WiFi but otherwise the town is a WiFi free zone and has very little in the way of amusements so it isn’t a place for families on holiday with teenagers! Ilet Gosier is a tiny sandy island just off the town which gradually becomes more and more crowded as the day progresses and boat loads of holidaymakers go to visit, armed with beach paraphernalia and picnics. We dinghied ashore and had a wander around and climbed the lighthouse, we tried snorkelling but the waters were very disappointing and really too shallow so we returned to OR. On the way back we stopped at La Luna (Barb and Stu) and invited them on board for sundowners. It was good to have a catch up. On Tuesday, with the winds increasing, we decided to head back to PaP and the sheltered waters off Ilet à Cochons.
The height of the carnival parades in Guadeloupe is the one on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras)with the main venue being Basse Terre (the capital) and located in the south of the area known as Basse-Terre (all very confusing when only one name covers an area and a town in the area). We didn’t witness this one but we did see the final night parade on Ash Wednesday. We had heard the drumming from the boat so went to see what was happening – we tied up Puddle in our normal place to one side of the harbour and went to find a good position to watch as groups of screaming and wailing revellers dressed in black and white paraded through the town behind ‘Valval’, the King of Carnival. Valval is a giant papier mâché character symbolizing the adversities overcome in the past year. The end of the feasting and excesses of carnival and the start of Lent is marked by the torching of this effigy. By great good fortune we spotted Valval being positioned on the quayside ready to be burnt and realised Puddle, parked just below, was in imminent danger of being reduced to a molten mass at the same time as Valval. We exited the parade area at a run and made it back to Puddle with minutes to spare. We leapt into the dinghy and waved at the crowds and TV cameras as we had become the focus of attention until we managed to exit the limelight and the cameras all returned to watch Valval being reduced to ashes! A memorable start to Lent, and that’s for sure!
Now, with James back in England beetling all over the country, Claire is ‘Home Alone’ and anticipating a relaxing time enjoying the tranquility of life on board!
21st – 26th February
Relaxing and tranquil? Not a chance – there have been winds gusting 30+ knots howling through the anchorage and for two days I stayed on the boat to make sure we didn’t drag our anchor – unlike two other yachts, one of which had a miserable time without its owners on board and managed to damage two other yachts before coming to rest gently on the sands. I haven’t been idle, you have no idea how much cleaning you can do and how long it takes! The cooker is clean, the galley has been scrubbed out, the heads, the bunk room and our ‘cabin’, the bottom of the dinghy is cleaned daily, the water line on OR is given a quick clean every two days and I have gone for my daily ‘fitness’ swim no matter the conditions. Unfortunately, I have failed to dive down and clean the propeller – a touch of labrynthitis makes diving too disorientating so I’m hoping James will be able to cope with the growth when he gets back.
I did manage to do a good turn on Monday for La Luna when Barb and Stewart turned up unexpectedly in the anchorage. They were planning to take La Luna into the local yard to take off their old anchor chain and replace it with 248ft of brand new shiny chain. I volunteered to help so at 4pm I met up with them. Barb and I measured out and marked up the new chain before then handling it back onto the boat. Stew operated the windlass! It turned into a really lovely evening as I was invited on board for supper and then a bit of a ‘jam’ session! They’ve now headed north but maybe we will meet up with them again.
I had been hoping share the cost of a hire car with another boat and go to see the waterfalls in Basse Terre (left wing of Gwada) but so far no luck although I have asked random French, German and American yachts at anchor in the bay. There are a few new yachts in the anchorage so I shall go and accost them but if all else fails I’m going to brave another bus trip (4 hour round trip from Pointe à Pitre to Basse Terre, the capital in the left hand wing!) and hopefully get to see a rum distillery! I say another bus trip because I have been exploring. My first trip I took the bus along the south coast of Haute Terre to St Francoise via Ste Anne and Gozier – rather disappointing as the main streets of the towns were so ‘touristy’ without any of the charm of Ste Anne in Martinique, for example and the side streets were really run down and grey. The fishing port was lively and the locals friendly – I asked if they were selling the lobster/fish traps but a lovely old gentleman informed me they weren’t fish traps they were for catching mermaids and definitely not for sale! If I had taken the bike I could have cycled to the Pointe des Chateaux which looks (from pictures) a bit like The Lizard in Cornwall and very beautiful and wild but time was running out and I didn’t want to make a hash of the return bus trip.
A nice treat at the end of the day was to go on board Azzurro – an Ohlsen 38 – and join Wolfgang and Kristina for Kaffee and Kuchen. They’re from Bremen, have been sailing the Caribbean for 3 seasons and are expecting their first grandchild in March. A lot to chat about. They came on board OR the following day for Tea and Biscuits but now they are on the move north but we think we’ll catch each other again before the end of the season.
The next trip was to the very north of Haute Terre to Anse Bertrand. I had anticipated spending an hour or so there before making the trip home but when we finally got there it was nothing but a beach and a few shops. Chantelle (bus driver) was very kind and stayed longer than she should so that I could have a quick look around, take a couple of photos and then hop back on the bus. We then returned along the same route until Les Mangles where Chantelle dropped me off and I caught another bus to Port Louis. My French let me down badly as I had understood that I would be able to take a ‘navette’ to get back to Pointe a Pitre by sea. Unfortunately ‘navette’ refers not only to water taxis but also land taxis so I could, at vast cost, have hired a fishing boat and gone back by sea or I could hop back on the bus and go via land! Still, I got a good look at Port Louis – beautiful sandy beaches, clear lagoon, small fishing port and totally empty streets and town! The only restaurant that was open was ‘Au coucher du Soleil’ replete with plastic flowers! ‘Rasta Man’ drove me back to Pointe à Pitre via Beauport (totally solar panel run town and grammar school – even the street lights had their own individual solar panel), Petit Canal (loads of sugar cane), Morne a l’Eau (more sugar cane) and Les Abymes (industrial, being developed and very dusty) and then dropped me in the centre of town with strict instructions on how to find the final bus to take me back to the Bas du Fort and Ocean Rainbow.
For the time being I’m taking a break from sightseeing and letting my nerves settle down as I continue with cleaning, polishing and perhaps some sewing! Oh, and I’ve asked Gail and Tim (G&T) from Wild Bird to join me for a sundowner tonight ….
Well, the sundowner on OR didn’t materialise, instead I went to Wild Bird and had sundowners with them and met Chris and Rachel from Hogfish Maximus. Chris is Cuban, a boat builder and has sailed all his life, Rachel is Canadian and they have lived in the Bahamas ever since they met 35 years ago. G&T hail from the Lake District and used to sail out of Pwhelli – looks like St David’s Day may not be spent on my own after all! Anyway, the long and short of it, we hired a car for the princely sum of €40 and set off to explore the famous Chutes de Cabret in the south of Basse Terre. We followed the map and ended up at the Visitors’ Centre near Ste Sauveur where we discovered ‘no dogs’ were allowed which rather spoilt things as Gem and Pip, G&T’s Patterdale terriers had come along for the exercise. We paid our €2 entry fee and walked swiftly to the second waterfall – which is the nearest – but access was restricted so we could only take photos. We then took a photo of the first waterfall from a viewing platform and decided not to trek up to it but rather to see if we could find the third waterfall which looked as though it was outside the National Park and therefore we would be able to take the dogs. We were in luck. We parked up, donned our walking shoes and set off. The dogs were in their element – what great fun they are and game for anything. It was a stiff walk to the falls but well worth the last scrambling bit. We had enormous fun in the water and, on the basis that there is safety in numbers, I swam to the back of the waterfall without too much trepidation. As it turned out the current wasn’t too strong but I certainly had a good workout! Such a lovely day with lovely people.
The last day of the month and what have I been doing? Sanding, varnishing then more sanding and more varnishing interspersed with a little painting! Not 100% sure that I have ‘added value’ but we shall see what the Skipper says when he gets back! I did have a little respite when G&T popped by to have a sundowner but then it was back to work to make sure everything was shipshape and ready for St David’s Day.