Les Saintes, Guadeloupe

The arrival to Caribbean and the West Indies took a surprising turn a few days after our arrival as the main battery bank, fridge&freezer and generator broke down. As if that was not enough a long planned visit from our close family was cancelled due to illness. It was hard to face the dismay and overwhelming mount of troubles. Unfortunately the misfortune did not stop there, but all this and more will be revealed in a different format and another time and place. With all the trouble we were faced with a few weeks after arriving, the crossing seemed like a well oiled and smooth running machinery in comparison.

On Feb 18, two weeks after arriving to the Caribbean, we finally left the main island of Guadeloupe behind us and sailed to Les Saintes where we arrived to a pretty full mooring field. We immediately started scouting for available buoys as we heard a familiar voice calling us from an approaching boat. It was Pieter, who crewed on Libertad on the Newport to Cascais crossing last year, and his wife Marie. They were also searching mooring buoys to stay over night with their guests. In the commotion we were also called on the radio “Blue coloured Norwegian flag sailing vessel, do you copy?”. Responding on the radio, we heard nothing back and did not understand who that could be. A month later, in Barbuda, we met the mysterious callers, a Swedish couple who had tried to alert us of a vacant buoy that was not easily visible from sea level. From their vantage point, the Napoleon fort over looking the harbour of Terre de Haut, they wanted to help us. In the end we found vacant buoys near “Pan de Sucre”.

After tying up we had a visit from Tom, who crewed on the recent Atlantic crossing. He had tracked us to the bay on his scooter and made his way down to the sea (through a number of fenced off properities) and swam to Libertad with his belongings on his head. After a joyful lunch we agreed to meet downtown in the evening. Les Saintes, and in particular Terre de Haut, is a delightful little island with a nice beach facing the anchorage and a number of great restaurants and shops. It has a distinct European village feel to it. Unfortunately, it is all well priced also. Hoards of tourists come by with the numerous ferries that shuttle people from Guadeloupe main island. In the evening we met up with Pieter and Maria on their boat for some drinks and headed into town by tender for a few more. In the process, one pair of glasses was lost in the annoying winds that plagued the islands during these weeks. We met up with Tom for dinner later on.

Next day was full of trouble. As we were taking in the beauty of the town, exploring the various shops and cafes, we ran into a Swedish fellow who asked us if were the owners of the blue Swan. Yes, indeed we are. “Well, you are sooo lucky!! I have just saved your boat …” With the increasing winds and waves, the mooring line had torn and the boat was headed towards Terre de Bas in the west. Another fellow from a neighbouring boat and himself had just managed to climb the boat and throw a rope round one of the last buoys in the anchorage. It was all safe now, he assured us. With that news we nervously made the long way back to the boat to check on it and learned from the other aide that the boat had bumped into theirs before heading off further. That may very well have been the end of the Caribbean tour.

In the evening we had another visit by Tom for dinner. I picked him up on the beach nearby with the tender and we had dinner inside on account of the wind.
About three hours later it was time to bring Tom back to the pickup point…. However, there was no tender. On deck was a snapped rope which did not look like it had been cut. We assumed that it must have snapped due to the stamping motion from the wind and waves. We called for help from a neighbouring charter boat and they kindly brought us around the tip of the island and half way to the neighbouring Terre de Bas island. No tender in sight. It was dark and a hopeless mission to begin with. There was also quite a bit of wind and spray. We gave up and returned to call the coast guard, who noted down every detail and led us to believe they would be looking for it in the morning. That was a hollow fantasy. Instead we contacted police, went ashore by paddle board walked into town and looked for possible helpers that could take us to the neighbouring island to look for the tender. At a dive center they were willing to take us, but suggested we talk to the tourist office. In town we waited patiently for them to open and the lady made a call to the town hall of the neighbouring island to ask if anyone had reported a lost tender. What a surprise we had when they could confirm that indeed a tender fitting our description had been washed up the beach across the bay and was now safe and sound. We were instructed to go the police to verify that this was indeed our dinghy (showing pictures etc) and then made our way back to the dive center to ask them to bring us across and help tow it back an approximate mile. By the time we got to there it was already lateish in the evening and we realised there was no way we could bring the tender safely back out to sea from the beach. The waves were too big and powerful. The kind lady police officer, Sandra, who had checked the tender in the morning when it was reported was waiting for us in the little (and only) harbour to take us to the dinghy. She also called for a truck driver who could drive the dinghy back to the harbour from where we could safely get it back into the water (a tender with engine like ours weighs above 100 kg). By dusk we were on the way back to Libertad with our tender and a few kilos of sand which had made its way into the boat. Back onboard we were exhausted, mentally and physically.

Next day we rented a scooter and toured the short distance locations that can be seen on the small island. In the evening we met up with Tom again, updated him on the story. Tom is a skilful and deciseful adventurer. He is also self-taught sailor who usually practices his passion for sailing on a windy lake in Germany. To him taking the ferry back to Guadeloupe was to ordinary, so he spent two hours of the day carving a message in English on a piece of drift wood. It read as follows: “30 yo German sailor looking for boat to Pointe-a-Pitre”. Then he left the board on the dinghy dock where all the boaters come and go and sat himself down in the pub next to it and waited. In less than half an hour he had already found a hitch sail back to the main island.

We, made our way north on the west side of the island en-route to Antigua, taking it slow and easy as we were waiting for our new fridge compressor to arrive to Antigua.