Antigua – west and north coasts

We are fortunate that two sets of guests are flying into Antigua as it gives us a good excuse to spend a month or so of reconnaissance work on the two major islands in the country, Antigua and Barbuda.

On arrival in Antigua, we anchored in Falmouth Harbour to celebrate NY Eve with friends but, as soon as the celebrations were complete, we were out of there! We had been buffeted around for a few days by a swell coming around the corner and for us to feel it in a Cat gives you an idea of how bad it was. It was also quite crowded so when it came time to raise the hook, well, let me just say it was an experience and one referred to in a previous post, Anchoring – Highs and Lows. We did enjoy our time in Falmouth and if you want to read more, check out a recent post Nelson’s Dockyard.

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Fort Berkeley in English Harbour

As there wasn’t much wind and it was a short trip, we motored around to Jolly Harbour on the west coast and dropped anchor in Mosquito Cove. Antigua has beautiful beaches and make claim to 365! Sailing to Jolly we went past several and they did look beautiful.

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Approaching Jolly Harbour

Jolly was a lot calmer but it is a funny little place. It is a marina and condominium development with mostly holiday townhouses on canals and a boat tied up at their door! There is no local village but lots of resorts and the marina is host to many charter boats so it’s got quite a transient population of yachties and holiday-makers.

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Townhouses in Jolly Harbour – can you spot the pelican?

After a few days in Jolly Harbour we refuelled and headed around the point to Hermitage Bay in Five Islands Harbour. There is a very pretty resort which has the best internet we’ve encountered on Antigua so it was time to catch up with blogs and Facebook! Slow Waltz and Nahanni River also arrived and, after checking emails, we played a few rounds of our favourite card game, Wizard. Nahanni River had an early morning start the next day (2am) for their sail to St Maarten so it was an early night.

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Calm and serene Hermitage Bay with Slow Waltz on left

The next day we sailed to Deep Bay where the Andes Wreck is lying just below the surface and right in the middle of the bay entrance. We anchored, had lunch and then joined Gwen and Guillaume to snorkel on the wreck. It was fabulous. The variety of soft corals were terrific and there weren’t any fish we hadn’t seen before but to see the ship lying on the seabed was extraordinary. Part of its’ mast is still standing and you can see the framework and holes through the bow.

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The ship’s mast
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Coral growth
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The ribs of the ship
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Diving on the ship’s bow.
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A Blue Tang with lots of coral growth

Later we walked to the top of Fort Barrington with 360 views.

The next day we headed to the north of the island and navigated our way through the Boon Channel to Long island. We anchored in a very pretty little bay known as Jumby. Long Island is privately owned with resorts and private homes; the restaurants are only open for resort guests and yachties are not encouraged to go ashore. So with 20-30 kt winds forecast, good protection, fast wifi and gorgeous blue water, we hunkered down for a few days and made the best of it  😉

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Jumby Bay, Long Island, Antigua
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Can you spy me reading in the cockpit?
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I couldn’t stay out of that beautiful water!

We spent a few days here before heading north to Barbuda, but that’s another story, I mean post!

Until next time, fair winds and smooth sailing, Sue and Mal xx

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Anchoring: The Highs and Lows

Just when we thought we had a handle on anchoring!

This is one topic all cruisers agree on; anchoring can be one of the most stressful boating activities. No matter how much you love your partner, there are times when you don’t see eye to eye and anchoring can be one of those times.

When bays are calm, the sun is out and you can see the sandy bottom, when you have lots of space around you, everything is hunky-dorey, life is sweet!

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Calm conditions, lots of space, all’s good!

But, when the rain is beating down, the wind is howling, the halyards are belting the mast, the boat you had been anchored behind is now parallel and the sea is churning, life can get rather ugly.

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Miserable conditions and not much space equal trying times!

As with most yachties, we have a system! When dropping the anchor Mal is on the helm and I’m dropping the hook. For raising the anchor I am helming and Mal is giving directions. We normally raise the mainsail prior to raising the anchor but only if the anchorage is not crowded. Many is the time we’ve had to re-anchor if we’ve been too close to another vessel or a reef or if the anchor hasn’t dug in well. But, raising the anchor is what has caused us most stress lately!

Earlier this month we were anchored off Pigeon Beach in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, where we had a serious swell coming around Black Point. It was so big that at some stages we were looking down and into the cockpit of True Colors, the catamaran anchored in front of us. Being New Year, the anchorage was quite crowded with boats all around. The winds had been strong during the few days we were there and Kool Kat had been turning this way and then the other, making it difficult to recall where our anchor actually was.  We advised True Colors that we would be leaving the next morning and they offered to motor forward if needed.

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Pigeon beach anchorage : Kool Kat has blue mainsail cover and is right of centre – Nahanni River is the cat to the right and Nightwatch is on our port stern. True Colors hadn’t arrived when this photo was taken.

So, after quite a rocky night’s sleep and with trepidation, I took the helm and Mal prepared to raise the anchor. We didn’t raise the main. As usual, I motored forward using the two engines to follow Mal’s arm signals indicating where to steer Kool Kat. Port (left), straight ahead, starboard (right), and so it went with the wind always pushing us away from where the chain was laying. Mal’s arm movements are getting a little more frantic as he starts to resemble one of those blow-up figures you see at carnivals or out the front of used car yards! Port, starboard, port again, no starboard, slow, no faster. Kool Kat is trying to do the best she can with me throwing the port engine in reverse, then forward, then in reverse again, then forward, now starboard. All the time we’re not really getting anywhere but the swell is pushing us over towards True Colors, who is now, monitoring the situation and motoring forward. I’m also very conscious of the depth getting less when Mal repeatedly yells over his shoulder faster, go faster! I finally hear him over the noise of the wind and engines. I have to give it a bit more grunt to combat the wind pushing against us. Duh! This is so different to what we have experienced before where I edge Kool Kat forward gradually. All this is happening with friends Doug and Wendy on Nahanni River watching (and worrying) and other boats also lifting their anchors to start the next leg of their journey.

Finally it’s up; we’re damn close to True Colors and I’m giving her more throttle to create as much distance as possible whilst being careful we don’t run aground or crash into another boat! Mal hotfoots it back to the helm to help manoeuvre through the tight anchorage. We look back to see True Colors smiling and giving us the thumbs up and Doug and Wendy waving goodbye. We look at each other and breathe a sigh of relief!

Since then, we have had some strong winds providing opportunity for lots of practice under these conditions. The good thing is that we’ve been in quiet anchorages where we can relax whilst trying this and that without fear of hitting anyone!

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Looking under Kool Kat. Note the bridle attached to the anchor chain.

Last year we purchased a 40kg Rocna anchor after dragging half-way across a bay during a thunderstorm in the wee hours of the morning. Joining “The Rocna Club” has given us peace of mind and we feel really comfortable when anchored that Kool Kat isn’t going anywhere! But, 40kgs is a big anchor and when it’s full of sand or mud, and it’s blowing the boat this way and that, bringing it up can put a strain on the windlass. So, again, recent windy conditions have given us lots of opportunity to hone our anchoring skills.

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Kool Kat’s 40kg Rocna
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We love this little baby – she’s fully dug in!

Long story short: stressful situations can put a strain on many a relationship and the living 24/7 cruising lifestyle has its’ fair share. Fortunately, we feel stronger and closer now than ever before but wonder what the next stressful situation that challenges our relationship will be!

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Team Kool Kat.

The January edition of Caribbean Compass has an excellent article about anchoring (pp 37-38) and is definitely worth a read.

Cheers, Team Kool Kat. xx

Picture yourself here? Then read this before packing your bags

I met Jody and Peter from s/v Mary Christine when we undertook the PADI Open Water Dive training together a few months back at Dive Grenada. Not only were they very supportive dive buddies but a few weeks later they also encouraged me to try out their SUP (stand-up paddle board) and I loved it. I was so chuffed I could do it that I wrote about it in a previous post.

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Peter and Jody are the cool dudes in the sunnies.

Anyway, Jody writes a mean blog called “Where The Coconuts Grow” and recently did a post about what guests should expect when visiting their yachty mates. As is Jody’s nature, she is happy for other cruisers to share her comments. I’ve modified her list to suit our boat so, before you pack your bags, please read the following and hopefully there’ll be no surprises!

Mal and I have changed our lifestyle considerably as it takes quite a bit of getting used to living on a boat. Some of the following may give you an insight as to how.

What to keep in mind when planning your visit:

Clothing:  We are in the tropics. It’s HOT! For the ladies, bring a couple of pairs of bathers/bikinis, cover-ups, sundresses, tank tops and shorts. No long pants! Maybe a light wrap or cardigan for the evenings if you tend to get a bit chilly. For the guys: bring a couple pairs of bathers, t-shirts and shorts. Perhaps a nice shirt if we go to dinner ashore. Don’t forget to bring enough undies for your trip as we may not get an opportunity to do laundry! The photo below gives you a good idea of what cruisers wear ashore.

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Typical yachtie clothing and shoes in The Caribbean.

Dirty Laundry: We do have a small washing machine on board but it takes alot of water and power to run it. Most places we visit have a laundromat service if you really need one, but down here in the islands it’s not uncommon to wear the same clothes a few days in a row. Same goes for beach and bath towels; we hang them up outside to dry and reuse them again the next day.  We have plenty so you don’t need to bring one unless you have a favourite!

Shoes: We don’t wear shoes on board, even when visiting other boats. We use thongs/flip-flops for going ashore or perhaps some other slip-ons for “going out”. If you like walking/hiking, bring a pair of walking shoes too.

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Hiking/walking shoes
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Crocs can be useful too!

PJs: There is normally a gentle Caribbean breeze in the evening but sometimes the wind dies down so bring something light to sleep in.

Bedding: We provide QS sheets and pillow slips. We can also provide a blanket but we seriously doubt you’ll need it.

Luggage: It is preferable for you to bring soft luggage as this can be folded and packed away thereby maximising space in your room.

Hair styling: Leave your curling iron, hair dryer and straightener at home. We swim in the ocean at least once a day and no-one cares what your hair looks like out here!

Makeup: Forget it! From someone who used to wear makeup every day, I now only use a little kohl pencil and lipstick when going out and my skin has never looked this good! As Jody says, mascara and saltwater just don’t mix!

Gorgeous nails! Unfortunately, dark nail polish, including red, leaves little streaks of colour over our white fibreglass which isn’t easy to remove. I know they look divine but please use a light colour or why not choose a French pedicure?

Clean Feet: Just like you might remove your shoes before entering your home, we leave ours in the dinghy. This prevents sand, dirt and black scuffs from getting over the decks and inside the boat. If our feet are dirty or sandy, we rinse them off with fresh water at the back of the boat. We do everything possible not to bring sand or saltwater inside as it is corrosive, retains moisture and could make everything feel wet.

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Showering: You have shower facilities in your head (bathroom) but you can also shower off the back of the boat! We rinse off with fresh water after every swim but sometimes, at the end of the day, we  jump in the water, lather up on the sugar scoop (steps), jump in again and then do a final rinse with fresh water. Very refreshing!

Fresh Water: We have our own watermaker on the boat which converts salt water into fresh water at the rate of 40 gallons/hour. To do this we run the generator which requires a fair amount of power. Water is always precious but particularly so on a boat. Please be water conscious and use it wisely.

Electricity: Our power comes from the sun and our in-board 6.5kw diesel generator. We normally run this once a day in the evening.

Techo stuff: The boat generator is 110 volt which will be OK for most chargers, even Australian. If you need to plug something in like a mobile, camera, etc. we may need to run our generator or inverter which takes power. This doesn’t run 24/7 so you may not be able to charge your device exactly when you want. Any device that charges using a USB connection will be fine.

Internet: Connection to the internet varies greatly depending on the country we are visiting. We have a long range booster and try to pick up WiFi but if that’s not possible, we have to go ashore to get connection. Happily, we normally time this with happy hour!

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Perfect combination: free wifi with happy hour!

Odds and sods:

Sea Legs:  It may take a day or two to get your sea legs. Some people take to the ocean naturally and some have difficulty with the rocking of the boat. Please bring seasickness medication if you know you will need it. Being sleepy is much better than being sick. In an emergency, we do have some on board. After awhile it will feel more strange to be on land than on the boat!

Strange Noises: You’ll hear noises you’re not used to hearing. Don’t worry. It took us ages to work out all the little and not so little noises. We can now identify when something doesn’t quite sound right so let us do the worrying for you!

The Galley: Feel free to help yourself to anything we have in the galley or pantry but please ask for help to get it out. Everything is stored away to maximise what little space we have so it all fits together in an organised chaos type of method!

Snorkelling: If you’ve been following our blog or our Facebook updates, you might have gathered we love to snorkel! We have plenty of goggles and snorkles on Kool Kat and a couple of extra sets of flippers: a really big pair and a small pair. If we have the same size feet we can always take it in turns!

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A Blue Tang on Deep Bay Wreck, Antigua.
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The very striking Yellowtail Damselfish (Intermediate) and Smallmouth Grunts (yellow and silver) at Anse d’Arlets, Martinique.
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School of Big Eye Scads at Anse d’Arlets, Martinique.

We hope this helps you make up your mind to visit us in The Caribbean. It might seem like a lot of detail, but we want you to be prepared.

Looking forward to your visit, Sue and Mal xx

Nelson’s Dockyard

Having waved au revoir to my sister on the 27th December we sailed the next day from Deshaies on Guadeloupe to Falmouth Harbour on Antigua. The sailing was good with Kool Kat averaging 7 knts over the 44.5 nm, taking us just under 6 hrs. We had some 17 knt squalls and I felt a little under the weather but nothing I couldn’t handle 🙂

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We dropped the hook and immediately joined friends from S/Vs Slow Waltz and Serenade in a walk to Shirley Heights, which affords beautiful views over English and Falmouth Harbours as well as boasting the best vantage point for sunsets. Shirley Heights is a military complex which houses many buildings including an old Signal Station. History states flags were flown by day and guns used at night to convey messages to Fort George in St John’s, over 10kms away. Sunday is party night at Shirley Heights with bands playing, bbqs cooking and drinks flowing, so we joined hundreds of cruise ship participants and danced the night away! We even sang and danced to Men At Work’s “A Land Downunder”!

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View over English (foreground) and Falmouth Harbours from Shirley Heights
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L-R: Jo & Gregg from Serenade, Guillaume & Gwen from Slow Waltz amongst hundreds of cruise ship tourists.
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The 1st of two bands for the night, a tin-pan band.

Like many Caribbean islands, Antigua, since first discovered in 1492 by Christopher Columbus, has been colonised by the Spanish, French, Dutch and most recently, the English. The end of WWII marked the beginning of the road to independence, with  independence finally gained in 1981. The English Harbour Dockyard, more commonly known as Nelson’s Dockyard, is a major Caribbean yachting centre. It has been restored to house businesses, restaurants and hotels and is a hive of activity. The Lord Nelson sailing vessel, pictured below, was purpose-built to enable able-bodied and physically disabled people to sail together.

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Sail lofts at Nelson’s Dockyard. (Aussies note the gumtree!)
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The Engineers’ Offices now used as a modern hotel.
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S/V Lord Nelson

The next day our good friends, Dalynn & Glenn from s/v Amoray, arrived in port and we went hiking with them and their guests, Reed and Cathy. It was a beautiful hike from Falmouth to English Harbour and ended at Fort Berkeley near Nelson’s Dockyard.

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Love these tree roots embedded in stonework at Fort Berkeley

I had to include one photo of the many super yachts here in Antigua. Air is 81m long, 11m wide, has 21 crew and, of course, comes with her own personal helicopter. She’s currently available for charter at 750,000 Euros/week, that’s approximately $1,089,900AU PER WEEK! If you’d like to check out more before booking her, click here.

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Super yacht, Air, with personal chopper.

We ended the year on a high, with friends. We started the night on s/v Nightwatch, courtesy of Mary and Ralph, and then moved to Kool Kat to watch the fireworks from our trampoline. Kool Kat’s dance floor got a good workout and the singing was heard across the anchorage right into the wee hours of the morning! It was a great night and we shared it with Serenade (Jo and Gregg), Nahanni River (Wendy and Doug), Amoray (Dalynn and Glen), Nightwatch (Mary and Ralph) and Slow Waltz (Gwen and Guillaume)!

Happy New Year to you all and we hope your 2015 is full of happiness and joy! Sue & Mal.

 

What flag is that?

We are asked that question often and our answer is: it’s the Australian Red Ensign. Then people say, but the Aussie flag is blue, why fly a red one? Traditionally the blue flag is used on land and the red one at sea. In reality, we can fly either the blue or the red but, because we are at sea, we choose to fly the flag associated with maritime activity.

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Australian Red Ensign

Then people say, oh, we thought you were British.

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Britain’s Red Ensign

We can see their confusion and, to be honest, there are alot more Brits over here than Aussies.

The very next question seems to be about the New Zealand flag. What is the difference between the Australian and the NZ flags? As I couldn’t remember, and they almost look the same when fluttering behind a boat, I did some research and found the following.

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Australian flag

The Aussie flag, both Red and Blue Ensigns, have the Union Jack, the Commonwealth Star and five stars representing the Southern Cross.

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The New Zealand flag also has the Union Jack but with four stars, each with a red interior, representing the Southern Cross. Interestingly, the New Zealanders may change their flag soon as there has been ongoing debate since 1973 resulting in a promised referendum by the current government. Will it be the very recognisable Silver Fern?

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NZ quasi-national emblem, the Silver Fern

If they get to use the Silver Fern as their national flag, perhaps we could use our Boxing Kangaroo?

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Since we commenced sailing in the Caribbean, we have become more and more interested in flags and, both of us being quite competitive, now regard identification of the flag as a sport. By far, the easiest to recognise are the USA, Canada and France.

When sailing, in addition to flying the flag of the vessel’s home port, it is customary to fly the flag of the country you are visiting, known as a courtesy flag. At the moment we are in Antigua and it is a beautiful one. Many Caribbean countries have modern designs due to their more recent independence which makes them very interesting.

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According to Wikipedia, the rising sun on the flag of Antigua symbolises the dawning of a new era. The colours have different meanings, the black is for the African ancestry of the people, the blue for hope, the red for energy or dynamism of the people. The successive colouring of yellow, blue, and white (from the sun down) also stands for the sun, sea, and sand.

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Kool Kat flying the courtesy flag of Grenada

Upon arrival for the first time in a country and before visiting customs and immigration, it is required that your vessel flies a Quarantine flag. This is yellow, known as a Q flag, and indicates you haven’t yet cleared in. On occasions, if we are sailing from one country and by-passing another, we may pull into a bay to spend the night and fly the Q flag. We can’t go ashore under these circumstances. The next morning we sail away and continue our journey. We did this recently when we pulled into St Lucia for the night, after having left St Vincent and the Grenadines and on our way to Martinique.

Flags get a beating and this is what happens to them after eight months exposure to the elements. Fortunately, we purchased two new ones which my sister, Anne, recently brought with her which we are treating with far more reverence 😉

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A sad state of affairs!
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Our brand new flag! Gorgeous, isn’t she?

Anne very kindly gave us an Australian Aboriginal flag but before flying it we want to check if there are any regulations we need to follow. Hopefully it will be fluttering on Kool Kat soon.

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The flag designer, aboriginal artist Harold Thomas, stated black represents the Aboriginal people of Australia, red represents the red earth, the red ochre and a spiritual relation to the land, and yellow represents the sun, the giver of life and protector.

Happy sailing, Sue & Mal xx

Guadeloupe Part 3: Deshaies

Deshaies (pronounced day-hay) is on the north-west corner of Guadeloupe and our last port before sailing to Antigua. In our previous post we mentioned we spent Christmas Day in Deshaies but I also wanted to highlight some areas of interest in the town.

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Customs Office –  doubling as a retail outlet, Le Pelican!
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Excellent boulangerie/patisserie
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Kool Kat (blue mainsail cover) moored in Deshaies with dinghy dock in foreground

Deshaies is the home of the Jardin Botanique de Deshaies which is beautifully laid out and offers some very interesting flora and fauna. We spied the most beautiful flower called the Dutchman’s Brazilian Pipe with its’ velvety petals along with a large variety of heliconias, orchids, bromeliads and cacti. The Talipot palm is striking and enormous and I can’t go past a favourite of mine, the Ficus tree, with it’s sombre but elegant long limbs! Flamingoes, macaws and rainbow lorikeets added some delightful colour and complimented the man-made waterfall cascading through the gardens. It was a lovely way to spend a hot day!

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Sisters?
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Mal and the magnificent Talipot Palm

Fauna:

Flora:

Fabulous fig tree
Fabulous ficus
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Dutchman’s Brazilian Pipe – with its’ velvet petals and measuring 6-8″

Along the coast of Guadeloupe we saw mausoleum cemeteries and visited the one in Deshaies which overlooks the town. Some were very elaborate with enough room for 12 family members but the most common housed six.

Deshaies is also known due to the fact that the entire village is the setting of the popular British TV series Death in Paradise (series I and II).

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Deshaies’ church is right next to the fictional Honoré police station
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Main characters from Death in Paradise

References:

http://www.mygola.com/deshaies-d1082574
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_in_Paradise_%28TV_series%29
http://creationwiki.org/Talipot_palm

Guadeloupe Part 2: Cousteau Underwater Park

As in the past, we invite our guests to post on our blog and below is Annie’s.

We had a fast and smooth sail from Bourg des Saintes (a beautiful town on a beautiful island) to Pigeon Island, just off the west coast of the island of Basse-Terre in Guadeloupe. Pigeon is known for good diving and snorkelling and is located within the Cousteau Underwater Park. We anchored just off shore at Malendure on the mainland and were in the water snorkelling within minutes. It was Turtle City! It was amazing to see so many big, medium and small turtles who didn’t seem the slightest bit concerned by our presence. I had forgotten how beautifully peaceful it is to snorkel, just floating through the water following whatever catches your eye. The next morning we took the dinghy to the actual island and saw lots of stunningly coloured and patterned fish swimming around the coral and rocks. The water was crystal clear for the turtles feeding on the sea grasses so close to the boat and for the fish near the island.

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Lighthouse on south-west coast of Guadeloupe mainland
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Turtle swimming around our boat at Malendure
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One of many beautiful tropical fish at Pigeon Island
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Stoplight Parrot fish
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Sue enjoying the water

I’ve had some fabulous experiences on this trip – great weather, exhilarating sailing, good food and wine. As a Francophile from way back, thank you France for these precious little outposts in this paradise called the Caribbean – delivering excellent wine, bread, pastries and our Christmas dinner of French champagne, duck pate, terrine de campagne, stuffed rolled lamb and even a pistachio Buche de Noel! Sue’s version of Key Lime Pie was a sensational icing on the cake.

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Good French wine
Christmas 2014 lunch
Stuffed lamb, beans, potato and pumpkin with gravy. Tres bien!
Traditional French Christmas Cake: Buche de Noel
Traditional French Christmas Cake: Buche de Noel

Mal and Sue have been great hosts and it’s been such a privilege to be invited to share part of their wonderful adventure. I loved their company, lots of talking and laughing, swimming and snorkelling, learning to play an addictive card game called Wizard and sleeping and lazing in the sun. A truly fabulous 17 days!

Sue & Mal’s postscript:

Thanks Annie for being such a great crew member. It was such fun travelling together again and sharing all the highs and lows that travel brings.

Our next post will be on the township of Deshaies as the final of our Guadeloupe series. Until then, stay safe, Sue & Mal xx