Our next port of call was Guadeloupe. This is a large, butterfly shaped island and we had stopped at a couple of anchorages along the west coast before but not the main town, Pointe-à-Pitre on the southern side. This is located where the ‘butterfly’s wings’ meet but the river between the two sides is currently shut due to bridge repairs. Our draft precludes us from navigating the river anyway but we took the dinghy instead.
The 18 miles from Marie Galante was another great sail, if a bit slow. The wind barely got over 6 knots but we managed to drift and sail along at around 3 knots and enjoyed the lovely conditions. How long can this glorious weather last? The channel is well marked with lit buoys leading to the narrow entrance into the large harbour but there is plenty of depth for yachts to cut across the bay. Out of interest we motored up past the docks, with their cargo ships, cruise liners and saw ‘A’, the very futuristic powerboat.
Within the big harbour there are several anchorages to choose from but we opted for the one between the town and the marina, so we could speed between them in the dinghy. So long as you are out of the main channel, you can go where you please and we found plenty of space in all of them. Far fewer boats than in Marin in Martinique but again, almost all were French.
The cruise ship left after dark with all her lights blazing and the docks continued working into the night but weren’t noisy. The scene was a complete contrast to the night before and we enjoyed watching all the lights, ship movements, aircraft landing at the nearby airport and just the quantity of buildings, old and new. I’d have to say I prefer the empty bays and clear water of the smaller islands though, just for the swimming but we did find Pointe-à-Pitre fascinating.
The next morning we checked out the modern marina with the huge complex of shops, waterside restaurants and boat related services around it. There was plenty of room on the visitor’s pontoon, unlike Martinique and the fuel dock is easy to access and supplies water too, so we can fill up before we leave. A Carrefour supermarket is within the marina site along with lots of cafes and there is a bigger one about 10 minutes walk away. There are recycling bins, a rarity in the Caribbean, an ATM and oil disposal. A small dinghy dock is located in front of the Marina Office and has cleats you can lock the ‘car’ to.
We dinghied around into the southern part of the marina then turned northeast towards the Aquarium. Near there is a gate to the pontoons and a place to lock the dinghy up just in front of the security code entry gate. From there we took the track behind the car park and followed it around to the right, past the big sports centre and to the main road. Cross the road and go along to the right a few paces before turning left into the mall car park. The Géant hypermarket was huge and had an amazing selection, so much on offer that I started to wander aimlessly around the aisles in a trance, unable to take it all in ☺ At least with a bit of a walk back to the dinghy, we couldn’t buy everything we desired as we couldn’t carry it but if we had hired a car things would have been different! It had everything, from HP sauce to laptops. It was especially good for cheeses, meats, pâtés, frozen foods, fresh fish, wine, fresh produce and speciality items. We bought some Celebrations for Christmas but all the boxes of Lindt chocolates were very expensive. Otherwise the prices were reasonable.
Another little excursion took us up the Rivière Salée, a wonderful hurricane hole and an oasis of calm and tranquillity. It is well marked with red and green buoys but the depth in places is a few inches too few for us to get through the entire river. There was nothing to see apart from the bridges, acres of mangroves, a few birds and a couple of aircraft landing at the airport. We managed to get a photo of one of them through the bridge!
Another day we found a good dock to leave our dinghy on in the harbour by the bar called The Yacht Club, which is also near the market. The town is an interesting mix of old and new buildings with busy streets full of cheap clothes and shoe shops but we didn’t find it very picturesque and were quite disappointed with the run down feel of the place. There was a park area with a modern Christmas tree amongst the palms, a KFC and McDonalds of course but we didn’t manage to find much of interest other than the old architecture.
There are some big swells at the moment, up to 3 metres, so we will delay heading back to Les Îles Des Saintes as Howard and Wendy can’t leave St Lucia until the weekend. It should be a gentle downwind sail of about 18 miles for us, whereas they have at least 24 hours. The weather is still very good, with slightly higher winds for a day or so but they are then predicted to lull again towards the weekend. Looks like the Christmas winds will be late this year ☺