Guadeloupe to Antigua

6th April
From Marie Galante we had a quick and easy downwind passage to Les Saintes. Since it was our third visit to the islands, we didn't hang around. An overnight stop, a chance to pick up some fresh provisions and we were off. Northwest across the Channel des Saintes to the Southwest corner of Guadeloupe. As usual the wind was fresh around the end of the islands, a good F5 - 6, and with 1 reef in the main and the No.1 jib we sped over on a broad reach at 7 -8 knots. Once behind the island sheltered from the full force of the trade winds we had alternating calms and gusty conditions. And then as we sailed on a couple of miles offshore we found a steady westerly wind.................... obviously produced by a large eddy around or over the island, and this took us half way up the island to our next overnight anchorage at Ilet Pigeon.

After a rolly night we weighed anchor and continued up in the lee of the island. We set off under the motor but after half a mile we found a breeze and continued under sail all the way to Deshaies. The wind was gradually building as we made our way north and as we approached the anchorage it was blowing hard................... probably a F6 or 7 . It was offshore and the sea was calm which made things easier but with the same sail up as yesterday we were overpressed and I was relieved to get in under the shelter of a cliff and hand the sails. We approached the anchorage under power and spent 45mins going back and forth looking for a space. There were 60 or 70 boats at anchor and apart from dropping our hook behind them there was not much space. Boats were yawing all over the place, and where a large gap appeared one minute it was closed up the next by the the swinging boats. I was nervous of the possibility of dragging anchor, and also concerned about the difficulty of rowing ashore into such conditions.
Eventually we went right ahead of everybody else and ound ourselves a gap 70yds off the beach in about 10 feet of water. I snorkelled down to check the anchor and thankfully it had set first time. Also since the water was not deep, less chain was required and our swinging arc was small, nevertheless we sat aboard for a couple of hours building up confidence in our anchor and watching other punts coming and going before setting off in Cub to check out of Guadeloupe.

It was an attractive little village..................................... nicer than the others we had stopped at on this island. A clean white sand beach, coconut palms, cafes overlooking the anchorage etc. etc. ............................ Checking out, as at the other French islands, was a much simpler affair. Rather than visiting immigration we simply had to fill in forms on a computer in the designated location, which in this case was a shop. I assume the proprietor gets a fee for hosting this service. Then it was back to one of the terraces overlooking Holly Mae for a cold beer, some e-mailing, and most important some weather forecasts to be studied. Was this strong wind just a local effect or was it the same 'out there' ? The forecast suggested that we'd be fine to carry on to Antigua in the morning, but I spent a restless night listening to the wind howling in the rigging until it suddenly stopped about 5 in the morning. That was a relief as we'd planned an early start to guarantee making landfall in daylight, and we were up hoisting sail at 6 o'clock.

The passage was a typical inter island passage................................... a lively start as the wind accelerated around the north of the island, the a steady beam reach under blue skies with the monitor doing all the work. As it turned out we arrived mid afternoon and needn't have started so early, but we were never sure if the wind might have too much north in it and we'd be beating the whole way, to make it slower and more uncomfortable. The easterly swell was building as we approached Antigua and we were sliding sideways down some of the bigger waves. And then Monitor seemed to lose its way and we rounded up into the wind. A quick look over the stern revealed the Monitor paddle at a strange angle like a broken leg. The tube connecting the paddle to the pendulum arm had collapsed under the sideways strain when the arm at the limit of its swing came up against the main frame as we slid down the wave. So we had to steer by hand for the last couple of hours.
The breakage was not a big problem........................ the broken tube is designed as a weak link to protect the rest of the gear when the strain gets too much. I had a spare and I had learned the limits of the Monitor in those conditions

STOP PRESS. Haven't got time to finish this one now, or the next one about the Antigua Classics Regatta as leaving today for the Azores. Hope to get up to date when we arrive and will post in early June. 7th May 2014