As we approached Gaudeloupe for the first time, I immediately just liked it. It seemed so picturesque and not crowded at all. Of the two French Islands we definitely prefer Gaudeloupe to Martinique – and not just for the diving.
We spent a lot of time hiking and geo-caching on Gaudeloupe. This is after all, where we found Patrick Star! Our much beloved travel companion. I think Patrick deserves a blog entry entirely devoted to himself : ) .
The anchorage off Malendure is amazing in terms of the sunsets, the location in regard to Pigeon Island, the turtles, Karin J and Sophia’s fort and geocaching walks. It is close to commercial dive shops and restaurants. Two beaches – populated by the French mainland tourists – lie just across from the anchorage. And yes, my girls had their first glimpse of topless bathers and the general disregard of modesty. It doesn’t matter what your shape and size . Amazing!!!
But… there is absolutely nothing for the cruising sailor in terms of facilities. No water, gas, diesel or groceries.
The closest food shopping is a 1.6 mile walk along the shoreline road. So, our first shopping expedition included all of us except Marike who begged off to do some schooling or something. We were armed with backpacks and shopping bags, making the journey in the blistering heat for provisions. The walk is really good and not a problem for us, but the heat and the heavy shopping bags are well.. very hot and very heavy. We were very grateful that this turned out to be our last expedition there on foot, for, lo and behold, we found a fishing boat dock VERY close to the stores and didn’t hesitate to do all future shopping by dingy! This little inlet is practically invisible from the sea.
We were not disappointed in our French food expectations either. A Carrefour and Leader Price opposite each other and a lovely little bakery alongside. We LOVE baguette and Camembert and Brie and Paté and…their excellent fruit juices and of course, especially for Frans – the wine.
Cruisers don’t tend to stay at this anchorage for very long and we must have been the longest staying cruise boat in history. We tried catching rain with our ‘rain-catcher’ to augment our dwindling water supply, but even though it rained on land EVERY day, it never reached the anchorage. We did get some good exercise in assembling and disassembling the thing. (especially Franci and Marike).
The other problem with the anchorage is the exposure it has to the open sea. In certain winds, this is not a problem at all. In fact our first couple of days the anchorage was beautifully calm and restful. Then the wind changed and these big swells started rolling in from the sea, catching us on the side. We managed to sleep okay that night, but the next day was terrible. Frans had to go to Point-a-Pitre to arrange for a document from South Africa, and the rest of us gave up on any schooling/ work and sat in the cockpit watching the sides of the boat taking turns to dip in the water. Some of the girls swam to the mainland and that helped them from becoming seasick. Frans came home very late – the buses are totally unreliable – and as he neared the anchorage, he could see our little home really taking a beating. We moved to the opposite side of the bay that night. To another anchorage just off Bouillante that is protected from these specific winds.
It was here, that we discovered a source for water. The little beach looks as if it was a stunning place in its time, but is now only a very run down ablution block. There is still a tap with running water to rinse your feet and we made full use of it. We own 9 foldable water containers of 20 liters each and one solid jerry can that can take 15 liters. To fill our two water tanks on board Shang Du it takes about 8 trips with the dingy and lots of very hard labour – especially from Frans. As with most of the hands-on sailing activities I am normally exempt from this one. You won’t find me complaining 🙂
A short distance along this same beach, there is another little structure that looks run down. On closer inspection we found that it used to be a beautiful tiled room with a bath and fountain. The water still runs continuously from a piece of pipe straight from the mountains. It is lovely heated water directly from the volcano region. If you take along your own bucket, you can have a great hot water wash. Hot, fresh water!! The only downside is, that it never becomes cold enough to really benefit from the heated water.
We were able to celebrate Marie’s 11th Birthday with the Yoshimas on AmarSemFim. Yuca and Marie also came to our boat for a sleepover. They even had to bring schoolbooks to join our kids in their yachtschooling.
On our last day at Gaudeloupe, we rented a car. Frans, Ricardo and Helena (from our lovely Brazilian family) had to go into Point-a-Pitre once more, and after a previous long, long day of waiting around for buses that didn’t come, it was unanimously agreed that with Helena’s French and by splitting the cost, we would rather rent a car. The Yoshima family and Frans went into Point-a-Pitre in the morning and we, the Van Zyls, had the use of it for the late afternoon. We LOVE cars! They go so fast and far.
We were able to drive along the Island to the Atlantic side. This is where the sea can become quite rough and we even watched some people surfing the waves. It was a relaxing time of sightseeing and getting a feel for the part of the Island that was out of reach before.
Travelling back to the anchorage, Frans remembered a sign he that saw from the bus,, advertising Horse Soup. He was very set on trying this out and we had a heated debate in the car as to who would try it and who wouldn’t. The girls all knew someone who would probably never forgive them if they did try it. It seems as if all their friends are avid horse lovers. Fortunately or unfortunately, the shop was closed ad no-one had to fight their consciences. Yes, Frans did ask – the soup is made from real horsemeat.
We were really sad to leave this island, but as we already stretched a few days’ stay into nearly a month, it was time to move on. We sailed alongside the Yoshimas and Marike sailed with them on their boat, AmarSemFim. Their engine was still not working and they would not be able to enter the Puerto Rico harbour with sails only.