CARIB-GUADELOUPE250You wouldn't exactly say that the French island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean is “off the beaten path”. With a population of 406,000 and an area of 1,780 sq. km., it's among the largest of the islands in the Leeward Islands. There is a major international airport there where thousands of tourists from around the world flood in daily to enjoy the sun and sea and French ambience.

Several charter boat operators have bases here and long-term cruisers usually plan a stop when travelling up- or down-island to relax in one of the marinas, take advantage of the array of marine services available, and to stock up the ship's larders with French goodies, namely fine French wines.

So why would a couple of cruising sailors looking for quiet rarely-visited places come here? It was by accident really. We were looking for a part for a boat improvement project and there are good chandleries to be found in Guadeloupe. You can also get duty-free diesel there when you clear out which is always good for the cruising budget. And okay, any opportunity to add a few good bottles of French wine to 'the cellar' on SV Distant Shores is always a draw for this crew.

Since Guadeloupe was more or less on our planned route south we thought we'd just make a quick stop there after exploring the islands of Saba and Montserrat (see the June 2009 issue of CY for more on that), do the chandleries, provision, top up the fuel, and go. But then we started doing a bit of research and talking to fellow cruisers, in particular French Canadian sailors who know the French islands well and feel at home there. French, of course, is the main language spoken in Guadeloupe.

So, as a result Paul and I discovered some of the most delightful and rarely visited cruising grounds in this popular Caribbean destination starting with the string of magical islets that lie off Guadeloupe's north coast. We followed this with a unique “jungle cruise” down the Rivière Salée, a natural saltwater mangrove channel that divides Guadeloupe into two halves and is rich in exotic bird and plant life. And as if it wasn't surprising enough to discover these gems amidst the touristic and industrial chaos present in Guadeloupe, we found yet another rarely visited cruising area here – Îles des Saintes (known to English-speaking sailors as The Saintes), the small islands that lie just off the southwest coast of Guadeloupe where we concluded our “off the beaten path” cruise. The Saintes are so utterly charming we could barely tear ourselves away. More about them in an upcoming next issue.

We arrived in Guadeloupe from Montserrat on April 18. Our destination was the small port of Deshaies (pronounced day-ay) on the northwest corner of Guadeloupe, one of three official ports-of-call. The other two are the capital city of Basse Terre and Pointe à Pitre, Guadeloupe's main city where a large commercial port is located.

As I mentioned earlier, Guadeloupe is divided in two by the Rivière Salée so in reality Guadeloupe is two separate islands. On the chart, it looks like a lopsided butterfly. The “butterfly wing” or island on the west is called Basse Terre which means Low Land and is actually tall and mountainous. Grande Terre, which means Big Land, is the eastern wing of the butterly. It has low rolling hills, flat planes and is the smaller of the two. Just who was in charge of naming these islands anyway?

We sailed into the harbour at Deshaies in the late afternoon. Deshaies is a little fishing village that is slowly evolving into a popular waterfront destination with numerous wonderful yet casual French restaurants just a dinghy-ride away from where you drop the hook in the anchorage. We felt we had been transported back to Europe. The village was centred around the church with its tall steeple. The church bells tolled out 5 bells for 5 o'clock. French flags fluttered in the breeze. Guadeloupe is an overseas department of France so the same rules apply to yachts as if you are visiting Europe. If you are a non-EU flagged vessel and stay longer than 18 months you will be charged VAT for importing your boat. The currency here is Euros. There are no charges for clearing in.

After a delicious dinner ashore, a good night's sleep, and fresh croissants for breakfast the next morning, we set sail for the north end of the island. As we left, a group of local sailors launched their traditional sailing sloops for the weekly Sunday race. Their colourful sails lent a festive air to our departure.

We sailed along the west coast of Basse Terre for the morning and arrived at Ilet à Fajou, one of the little uninhabited islands with quiet anchorages and isolated beaches lying off the north end of Guadeloupe. These islands are often overlooked by visiting sailors since you have to back-track here after clearing in, the navigation can be a bit tricky since there are shallows to avoid (our swing-keel Southerly 42 only draws 2' 10” with the keel raised so not such a problem for us) but they are well marked and most sailors coming to Guadeloupe are ready for a break and want to enjoy the benefits of restaurants and comfortable marinas in the more populated areas. Fair enough. We look forward to that too.

Since it was the weekend, there were several groups of local power boaters rafted up together at Ilet à Fajou visiting with family and friends. It reminded us of summer weekends at home in Ontario on Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe – just a bit more tropical! We had a lazy lunch at anchor and spent the afternoon swimming and reading. We could have spent a week here.

One by one the local boats departed for home and eventually we raised the hook too to begin our journey down the Rivière Salée. The entrance to this well-marked mangrove channel is only a short distance from Ilet à Fajou and as we wound our way along the curving waterway we saw flocks of egrets and other exotic birds. We felt miles from civilization but when we dropped the hook in the little anchorage we had marked for the night, we were just north of the Bridge l'Alliance and discovered we were also at the end of the runway of the international airport which gave us a shock a few times when planes landed!

To travel the Rivière Salée you must time your transit for two bridge openings. So not to disturb the busy traffic on the roads during the day, the bridges only open for boats Monday through Saturday at 0430 and 0520, the dark hours of the morning. This is another reason few sailors explore this area; but if you approach this as a fun navigational exercise, it is worth the effort to do the trip.

Our first bridge going south would be the nearby Bridge l'Alliance which was scheduled to open at 0430. We had been warned that if you are not standing by with lights on and engines running by 0420 the bridge attendant turns his car around and goes home! We and one other sailboat were there on time the next morning! To add to our enjoyment it was raining. I started to wonder if this was such a great idea.

But it really was fun to wind through the mangroves from light to light testing our abilities and getting familiar with this area that is also a good haven in hurricanes. Who knew? We might have to run here one day and deal with terrible conditions. This could just be a warm up.

Pont de Gabarre was the next bridge. It's actually two bridges since there's a pedestrian bridge as well, but since they open together, they are considered one bridge for timing purposes. We and our buddy southbound boat made the 0500 opening. Three sailboats were waiting on the other side ready to head north. They had cleared out and would continue on to the island of Antigua. We all shouted and waved. I think we were all happy to know we weren't the only crazy ones out here having an adventure!

With the bridges behind us we were home free. Soon we began to see a glow on the eastern horizon. The rain stopped. We started to relax and enjoy the early morning sounds of life in the mangroves. The channel started to widen and soon we began to see city lights ahead. We were headed for Pointe à Pitre, Guadeloupe's most important city and commercial port. By daylight we were passing large cranes and even larger on-coming ships and ferries. Was it the same day? The contrast was fantastic!

But that's part of the fun. That's why we love travelling by boat.

Lifestyle

  • Prev
The seasoned sailor mapped out an ambitious course around the world — aboard his 28-foot ...
Clean wake: A concept amongst cruising sailors that stresses the impact that individual behaviour ...
This line-up of Beneteaus can to us from our friends at RCR Yachts in NY State where they are ...
As another harsh Victoria winter came to a close, the deck repair and refinishing continued with ...
The Peterborough Canoe Company was formed in 1892 and began production the following year after ...
On one of the sunny days we had recently, Kyle MacTaggart in Honey Harbour ON fired up the Merc to ...
For all those OnBoard subscribers who have followed along with the maintenance, repairs and ...
We hardly need tell you about the pandemic but it’s worth noting that the marine industry is acting ...
If you’ve been to CORK, you’ve probably seen Tim Irwin. Whether he was organizing volunteers, ...
This brilliant shot comes to us from professional shooter Elle Bruce.  These four sailors are ...

DIY & How to

  • Prev
Boating safety is always—always—a critical consideration whenever you push off the dock, but with ...
Building on our last two editions (Sealants, and Fibreglass, respectively), Gelcoat is the next ...
After a successful R2Ak and regatta season in 2019, I felt that Pitoraq was due for a major ...
Pause for a moment and ponder this question. How much is your life and your safety at sea worth? ...
Last edition we talked about sealants to perform tasks like bedding and sealing. Other tasks like ...
Over the winter, a many-thousand pound fiberglass, wood or metal shell is held in position by only ...
Since the late 19th century, a debate has raged on the relative merits of diesel fuel over ...
This bag does more than hold your anchor and rode in one tidy little pile. After you’ve anchored ...
Purchase your copy of the BRAND NEW Ports Georgian Bay 2020 Edition at the Toronto International ...
The boat was put on the hard for this winter and were going to follow along with Graham as he ...

Shrink Wrap2020 is a year of change – self-isolation, social distancing, quarantine, and working remotely have become the norm. For many, this has been a bitter pill to swallow. Another bitter pill for boaters is the delay of the season. Provincial laws differ – so terms like ‘essential’ aren’t translating widely across the marine world.

In BC, marinas remain open and fuel is available, sometimes with conditions. In Ontario, marinas, boat launches, yacht clubs and the professionals that service the marine industry aren’t considered essential, unless the service and location allows a person to access their permanent residence only accessible by boat.

Read more about Boating in 2020........................

 

  

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
New at the end of 2019, the 58 Salon Express design features large windows to flood the living ...
No wonder this is one of Regal’s best-selling boats; the Regal 33 Express offers amazing ...
The newest member of Beneteau’s Gran Turismo line is the GT 36 and this yacht brings the style and ...
With a philosophy of quality and 'doing things right Ranger Tugs launches the all new R-25 at the ...
The new Beneteau Swift Trawler 41 renews the spirit of the practical seaworthy cruiser. The ...
The Canadian Yachting test crew last week had the opportunity to run the Bavaria S36 HT at St ...

CY Virtual Video Boat Tours

Virtual Boat ToursWe all love boats and nothing can break us up! So, what better way to spend our time than looking at interesting boats and going aboard in a virtual ride or tour. We have asked our friends at various dealers and manufacturers to help us assemble a one-stop online resource to experience some of the most interesting boats on the market today. Where the CY Team has done a review, we connect you to that expert viewpoint. Our Virtual Show will continue to grow so visit frequently and check it out. If you can’t go boating, you can almost experience the thrill via your screen. Not quite the same, but we hope you enjoy our fine tour collection.

 

Read more about the CY Virtual Boat Tours....................

KingstonBy Amy Hogue

Cruise into the city of Kingston, Ontario, and it will quickly become clear that this city and surrounding waterways have something special. Built around the northern shore of Lake Ontario, Kingston is the place to go if you love to explore new waterways, fantastic views, and exceptional boating opportunities.

Sitting at the intersection of three world-class Canadian bodies of water, Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Rideau Canal (Cataraqui River from Kingston to Newboro), the water’s influence is deeply woven into Kingston’s culture and history. 

Read more about Kingston...........

 

Marine Products

  • Prev
The new 2020 PORTS Georgian Bay, North Channel & Lake Huron Guide is available for purchase at ...
Professional boatbuilders don't want to have to redo a job any more than a DIYer. Many choose Life ...
Since its introduction last year, the JBL by Harman Marine BassPro 10" Powered Subwoofer (JBLMBP10) ...
After decades of perusing charts and guidebooks as part of planning a cruise, it was a totally ...
Ever since I was a youngster Jeeps of all kinds have fascinated me. It wasn’t until the mid 70s ...
New from Plastimo, this bi-colour backpack in Tarpaulin 500D will keep contents dry from ship to ...
Being a boater can come with certain space restraints for additional items that may make your ...
Whether you are interested in monitoring your vessel’s systems while underway or remotely from your ...
No wires to install down your mast. Transmit to smartphone/tablet. Works with lots of great ...
Vesper Cortex, the advanced multi-station VHF, AIS, monitor with intuitive touchscreen operation is ...