According to a couple of forecasts,
another nasty tropical wave was coming our way, so we needed to get as
far south as possible before it was time to hole up somewhere.
Looking though our guides and charts, we nominated Deshaies
(“day-HEY”) in Guadeloupe as the “rest stop”
where we could sit out the nasty weather. The next few days
and islands passed by in a surreal blur as we pressed onward,
motorsailing hard on the southeasterly wind all day, anchoring with our
Q-flag up in the evenings, and moving on early the next day after
listening to the morning weather. Onward! Andale!
An open anchorage in the lee of pretty Nevis.
We sped past St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat. Each was more
beautiful than the next, but we could only wistfully stare at their
shorelines as we enjoyed the smooth seas of their leeward sides.
There is nothing like the sight of one of these towering islands from
the deck of a small boat at sea, the angry Atlantic waves smashing
dramatically on the rocks of the windward side, the towering green
peaks gathering their halo of clouds. Pictures don’t
do them justice.
The fishing fleet of Little Bay in for the evening in Montserrat,
complete with rainbow. That's Redonda rock on the background.
We passed by an active volcano smoldering away on the southwest corner
of Montserrat. Our guidebook warned that if it was really heating
up, the wind would carry volcanic ash to our boat, but luck
was on our side. We only got some thin smoke and a strong
sulphery stink. Soufriere Hills volcano devastatingly erupted in
1995, burying the town of Plymouth in ash, lava and boiling mud,
forcing 2/3rds of Montserrat's residents to abandon their homes and
flee the island. It's been erupting on and off since, though on a
much smaller scale. The ruined town of Plymouth sits under more
than 40 feet of volcanic mud, and shoaling occurs for more than 1/2
mile offshore. Even though every part of the world has its own
particular niche of natural disaster to contend with, living on a small
island with an active volcano has got to be pretty challenging.
Soufriere Hills with clouds on top and smoke billowing out of the dome (the wind's blowing it left to right here).
Now we've hooked around the island so the smoke is blowing on us. This
is the foot of the volcano. You can see the latest dark layer of
ash and muddy lava covering most of the land, and the few remaining
structures of Plymouth near the shore.
AMC sleeps while the baby sleeps, volcano or no volcano.
Even if we couldn't leave the boat, the scenery was unbeatable.
The weather for this portion of our trip was never great; all the
recent tropical wave activity meant the seas between islands were set
on perma-chop, and straggler squalls occasionally sped out of the
eastern horizon to dump rain on us. As the days wore on, the storm clouds
increased in frequency and size until finally, as Guadeloupe slid into
view, the scenery from the cockpit looked as though some Hollywood
special effects house had designed it! To starboard, the sun
shone benignly and the sky was a perfect Carolina blue. To port, a
crowd of ugly, khaki colored storm clouds had stacked up to form a
solid mass that blotted out the light and turned the sea a dull
grey. Up ahead, more swarms of huge, low cumulonimbus clouds
crowded up around the island, and one towering, incredible plume rose
up over the center of the group, so tall it seemed to take over the
whole sky. Seen in a theater, it would have been
fantastic, but viewing it in person made us quite fidgety!
As we sailed on, the plume rose ever taller, poised like an angry
snake, hundreds of stories high, and we sensed that, if there was ever
a time to pull out all the stops to get to our safe anchorage, now
wasn’t so bad an option. We gunned the engine to punch
through the last few miles, into and under the big mess and hurried
into snug little Deshaies. The tall hills surrounding the little
cove blocked the building wind, we dropped the anchor into the calm
water. The big, nasty snake plume plunged off to the west, by now
sporting a couple of nasty waterspouts, and we watched it go by with
binoculars from our smooth, serene little bay. The smugness
one feels in a protected anchorage when foul weather’s
brewing is exactly the same feeling one gets peeking out the window of
a cozy home, nibbling on a warm cookie while
a blizzard blows and rages outside. It’s not often that man
wins a battle against nature, but when we do, we sure are pleased with
Even in drizzly weather, Deshaies will charm your pants off.
Therefore, how satisfying it was to have a tropical wave to blame when
we went ashore in our raincoats the next morning, stumbling in to
linger over dark, steamy coffee, fresh-squeezed fruit juice and pain au
chocolate! Guadeloupe belongs to France. It’s not
merely a territory of France, stuck in some sort of weird
colonial-political limbo; Guadaloupe is
France, on equal footing with the other 26 regions that make up their
republic. The islanders are full French citizens, and the
currency is the euro.
The sun peeks out for a while. This is someone's backyard garden, and all the plants
look absolutely thrilled to be living there. That's a breadfruit tree in the back, flanked by papaya trees.
Now, the French are known for their nearly fanatical obsession with good
food. Take their bread, for instance, that famous French
bread. According to the law in France, in order to be called
“French" bread, a loaf must only contain water, yeast, salt and
flour grown and milled in France
So, never mind that the wheat has to be shipped across an ocean, even
though there are foriegn sources much nearer by; there are French
citizens in the tropics, and they need proper French bread! Off
go the bags of flour across the Atlantic. And that's not the only
thing shipped to Guadeloupe from Froggyland. The grocery stores
are full of every day French basics that we Americans pay top dollar
for in New York City: wonderful cheeses, pates, butter, aged dry
sausage, and the wine. Of course the wine!
Combine France's high culinary standards with the natural blessings
bestowed on Guadeloupe - the dark, mineral-rich volcanic soil and the
high mountains that attract plenty of pure, pollution-free rain - and
you essentially find yourself in a food lover's paradise. Things
grown in Guadeloupe taste incredible! Who would’ve thought
one could rave about the "terrior" of a cucumber, or that a banana
could have nuances of cinnamon and clove? We on SARABANDE have
been known to be a little food-obsessed ourselves, and the beautiful
produce made one of us dance for joy.
Our heads were spinning as we loaded the dinghy full of baguettes,
cheese, sausages, sweet little pineapples, tomatoes, and the
aforementioned cukes and bananas and gleefully sped back to our
SARABANDE adding ambiance to an outdoor cafe. It's a good thing the diners couldn't smell our problem from here.
In between gorges, we tackled the daunting task of tidying up the
boat. After all our traveling through wet weather and rough
conditions, SARABANDE wasn’t quite in top form. She badly
needed a good airing out and a thorough pass with the vacuum cleaner
and mop. Too, she was low on fuel and water. But the really
dire situation was the diapers. James was on his last few clean
pairs, and the heap of dirties looked almost alive, and smelled
dead. These had been rained on and splashed with salt spray since
Virgin Gorda, and the stench was rapidly getting out of hand.
Clearly, it was laundry day.
Lou supervises the laundry process.
It is here that we will introduce you to Washie
, a godsend who’s
been a valuable member of our crew since the Dominican Republic. As the tropical
wave became a tropical storm and passed to our south, Washie put in
several hours of quality service, in tandem with our watermaker.
Once the washing was done, intermittent rain dampered our usual
drying-on-the-lifelines routine, so we improvised. Diapers were
hung on every available crook and curtain, and Brian increased our
drying capacity by tying several string clotheslines across the
deckhouse, using the handholds. Diapers, diapers everywhere, and
the humidity made them take forever to finally dry, but it
worked! We celebrated by eating yet another baguette slathered
The source of all those dirty diapers.
Dirtying more diapers even as this photo was taken. Diaper Wonderland and Brian's
impromtu clotheslines visible overhead.
After two full days in Dehaies we were well rested with a freshly
scrubbed boat stocked with clean dipes and good food. Time to get out there
once again. Brian dashed into town to purchase some fuel and came
back with two more baguettes, warm, chewy and glorious.
can’t believe you bought two more loaves! We’ve got
to get out of here before we split our pants,” lamented
Alicia. “Honestly, I think we should live here”,
Brian said, his cheeks already packed full of
bread, chipmunk-like. After one last snack, with much sadness, we mashed the
starter button with our big fat fingers and set about hauling up the
Here's a little something new: we've added some videos to our
long-stagnant YouTube channel. Hopefully these links will work -
being away from the States for so long has turned us into old people
when it comes to technology.
Here we are sailing through Pillsbury Sound
Here's Alicia, drug-free and overestimating those ginger beers as we leave Virgin Gorda for St. Martin
And here's what things out there looked like at dawn, when we were almost there
Here, for your entertainment, is a baby sailing to St. Barts.
And here, for the grandmothers, is the same baby sitting around being cute
Also, we finally got on the ball and updated our google map.
PART II coming soon. In the meantime, happy belated birthday to
Alicia's lovely and talented Aunt Katie (9/1), and upcoming birthday
cheer to our good friend Kevin Ginty (9/16), who's a gentleman and a
scholar, to Brian's wonderful Grandma (9/18) and our hilarious and
quotable nephew Pete (9/23), who's about to be two whole years old!