The weather gods were threatening the entire eastern Caribbean with high winds and huge seas. We figured we needed a bit more protection than we were getting at Marie Galante's anchorage, and, we needed a new plan for moving north. So, we left St. Louis early and headed across the channel to Guadeloupe proper. We would go inside Guadeloupe up the Riviere Salee to the north, instead of heading around the windward side. From the north coast we would eventually head to Antigua when the weather settled down again.
The sail across the channel was magnificent. The seas were already starting to get high, but the wind was steady and we made good time, anchoring at Petit Havre on the southeast coast. We figured we still had a couple of days before the horrible weather was approaching -- for that we would hide inside at Pointe-a-Pitre (PP). So for two nights we sat behind the reef at Petit Havre -- the only boat in the anchorage. Can't say enough how nice it feels to sail well, put down the hook, and breathe. Staring out at the ocean, watching the pelicans, swimming the reef.
But the weather did turn nasty and we headed into PP, welcomed by at least 8 dolphins at the entrance buoys. We anchored about halfway between the city basin and the Marina Bas-du-Fort. Turns out we were incredibly lucky with our anchoring; or maybe it was the Rocna! But when the squalls came through the anchorage on several of the days we were there, boats on either side of us dragged -- some were never able to set their anchors initially. One day French Customs was out in their boat helping people reset as well as rescuing boats that didn't have anyone on board.
However, we were getting a little tired of being in PP. Not that it was crowded -- maybe 20-30 boats anchored there -- but the dinghy dock at the marina was always a madhouse and the gymnastics we would have to go through to tie up and get to land got old. Once on land though, all was good. In town, the bakeries had pomme cannelle for our breakfast and made for interesting walks. In the marina we could get internet at one of the cafes and the supermarket was decent (even had smoked fish and wasabi -- woo hoo!)
Our bright spot was running into Annette and Ric, a Dutch couple, on Koolau again. We met them at Sandy Island, Carriacou some months ago. And here they were, anchored next to us in PP. They had guests on board and we got together on Anhinga as the guests had never seen a monohull before. (Koolau is a catamaran.) Lots of fun -- you never know where or when you will see people again.
We watched the weather looking for that break and finally found it. We picked a day to go to Antigua and then backed off a couple of days to make the trip up the Riviere Salee to the north. This river (really a mangrove channel) is only a couple of miles long but has two bridges with low clearance over it. So, like the ICW, you have to plan your arrival at the bridge for an opening. Unlike the ICW, the southernmost bridge only opens once a day, at 5am!!!! (And not at all on Sundays...) So, we had to stage by anchoring near the bridge the night before, and then do this trip in the dark. Sounds like fun, right? Then we had to do the second bridge in the dark as well. Finally around 6am there was some light and we were able to finish the trip seeing some of what there was around us. Hundreds of egrets flying by. Nice. And bugs!! Not so nice. Yikes - we had to get the repellent out and spray ourselves while we were still in the channel.
Once out of the mangroves, the water opened up in front of us. And we saw our next anchorage in the distance, the small mangrove islet, Ilet a Fajou. This is behind a barrier reef and the waters are a calm, crystal clear turquoise. Puttering into the anchorage we saw starfish all along the sand bottom. We were so happy to drop the hook after the white knuckle exercise of the Riviere Salee. Our original plan was to stop here for the night, then push on to Antigua, but we figured it was so beautiful, we would stay an extra day. So tomorrow, Wednesday, we are off again, 40 miles to Falmouth Harbor, Antigua.
Petit Havre: 16d12.260'N 61d26.329'W
Pointe-a-Pitre: 16d13.708'N 61d32.098'W
Pont de la Gabarre: 16d14.981'N 61d33.065'W
Ilet a Fajou: 16d20.883'N 61d36.139'W