The government moorings at Nevis are in a nice location, about 2 miles from the town dock, off a beautiful beach, and a short walk to a high-end resort. We enjoyed a two night stay at Nevis, comfortable in the lee of the friendly island and its mountain.
The second day we had some entertainment. The wind came up to about 15 knots, with low chop in the mooring field. Another Amel ketch motored in at full throttle (6-7 knots) to try and get a mooring. We were sitting in our cockpit enjoying the sun and conversation and I watched the Super Maramu try several times without success. The skipper would motor full bore at the mooring buoy off our port side, yell at his crew to get a line on it, as he tried to slow down while they ran aft trying to get the buoy. It was entertaining, and confusing. I looked at our friends and said, “They are going to get the boat hook on the float, then there will be too much tension because of the speed and someone will either have to drop the boat hook in the water or hang on and be dragged overboard.”
Sure enough, that happened on the 4th try and the boat hook sunk to the bottom.
That’s when I stood up and told my crew to begin paying attention, as it was apparent to me that the skipper would next lose his dinghy (which was trailing aft by about 30′) or run into one of the other yachts nearby, possibly us.
I tried yelling at the skipper to slow down but that didn’t work because of the engine noise. His wife was in tears on the bow and she heard me but he waved her off when she tried to convince him to slow down.
After another miss (with the backup boat hook) he started turning a high speed loop to try again. This time, the wind abeam drove them down on the boat moored behind the buoy they were after. He managed to pass close off the bow, bouncing off their mooring but forgetting about the dinghy trailing behind. The wind blew it between the other boat and its mooring buoy, and the dinghy engine caught the mooring line. They started to drag the other boat, and the mooring, behind them The extra weight slowed him down, which was fortunate since it gave his wife time to run aft with a knife and cut the dinghy painter. As he sped past our stern (less than 20′ away) I yelled as loud as I could, “SLOW THE —- DOWN”. He heard me this time.
The dinghy broke loose from the other boat and headed off with the wind. I jumped in our dinghy and sped off to get it. By the time I caught it several hundred yards away, they had managed to get tied to the vacant mooring. I returned their dinghy and I admonished the skipper to do it slowly next time. He disagreed and said everyone knows you power up to the mooring and the crew is supposed to get it tied. He told me he was a delivery captain taking the boat to Antigua and had tens of thousands of miles of sailing experience. Go figure.
We left Nevis the next morning thinking we might try Antigua again but when we cleared the lee of the island we were again faced with 15-20 knots of wind and 8′ -10′ seas, on the nose. We decided to motor sail on a beam reach to Montserrat, about 35 nm.
At Montserrat we anchored in Little Bay among a crowd of other yachts. It was choppy but secure. We did not go ashore since I did not want to deal with customs and immigration for a one night stay. That night, we got our second experience with the Caribbean affinity for VERY LOUD reggae rap music. It was nearly impossible to sleep, even wearing ear plugs with all the hatches closed. The music continued unabated until just before sunrise and quit at about 5:30am. We left Montserrat at daybreak, never to return.
We poked our nose around the north tip of the island and gave up any hope of reaching Antigua. We turned and had a very nice sail south east, headed for Guadeloupe, about 44 nm away. The sailing in the lee of Montserrat was great, in nearly flat seas with 12-15 knots of breeze. We had a good view of the active volcano (and a good whiff of sulfur) as we passed south. The wind picked up and it got a little bumpy in the gap between the islands so we motor sailed to point directly to the town of Deshaies. We were now getting used to the fact that the wind focuses and intensifies in the gaps between the islands. Sometimes if changes direction rather dramatically also.
We arrived mid afternoon to find the harbor crowded and breezy, just in time to enjoy an afternoon visit by 3 dolphins. Our friends dove in the water and enjoyed swimming with the dolphins for 30-40 minutes. We learned later it was a regular event but the animals did not return again before we left after three nights.
Deshaies is a delightful French village, with friendly people, decent shopping, a beach, good restaurants, and no obnoxious music at night. (We returned here on our trip back north.) We met some fellow cruisers who were also headed south to Grenada and enjoyed happy hour aboard our boat and theirs’. It was a lot of fun, with mild winds at night to keep us cool. Customs and immigration was quick and simple, using the French method of computerized documentation in a local shop. The French islands are by far the most “government friendly” in the Caribbean.
After our third night we got up early, took our friends John and Kathleen to shore and they got a taxi ride to the airport to fly home. That was a bit of an adventure, since the day of their departure was a holiday and getting a taxi driver to come to Deshaies was a bit sketchy. But he showed up (only a little bit late) and off they went. Mary and I left the anchorage that morning.
We gave up on Antigua, even though it would have been possible to work our way back north, because we now wanted to catch up with our new friends who had left for Les Saintes, another French island. After a short sail we stopped and anchored east of Pigeon Island (still on Guadeloupe), which was touted as great snorkeling. But it was far to0 windy and rough to ride the dinghy to the little island so we spent a bumpy night on 200′ of rode, hoping for calmer weather the next day. It was a very scenic spot but again quite crowded with boats hiding from the strong E winds. The next day we wanted to do a short hop and stop at Anse La Barque but found it very small, crowded, and uninviting. So we kept moving and headed for Les Saintes. Since it is also French we did not need to check out of Guadeloupe or check in to Les Saintes when we arrived.
The last stretch, from the south tip of Guadeloupe to the Terre De-Haut anchorage is open water and it got a bit rough, with some squall activity as well. But we made good time, motor sailing to stay on a straight course. The harbor is huge, with many, many well maintained moorings and good shelter. The town is delightful. Very tidy and clean, friendly, easy walking to and fro, and good swimming around the boat. A popular activity is to rent motor scooters and roar around the small streets and avenues so pedestrians must be watchful. The tourists are not known for their careful driving skills.
Many cruisers will tell you that La Saintes is their favorite Caribbean destination. Some will spend weeks in the same harbor. We did not feel quite that enamored but it is a nice spot, safe, with little crime, no vagrants, and great shops. We stayed 5 nights and liked it a lot.
Next Stop: Our favorite Caribbean island, Dominica.