5th May 2022
Portsmouth, Dominica – Lee Bay, Antigua via Bouillante, Guadeloupe, Plage Thomas, Guadeloupe, Jolly Harbour, Antigua & Deep Bay, Antigua
In years gone by Guadeloupe has always been known to us as ‘The Cursed Isle’. While in its rolly anchorages Ruffian 1 was battered by weather and when we explored its hinterland, we found ourselves stranded far from home not a bus in sight where our thumbs didn’t illicit friendly lifts home. Antigua on the other hand had been a joy, its sun kissed beaches had lapped Ruffian 1 into a gentle slumber while underwater fishies had frolicked and corals were colourful. Since our last visit Guadeloupe has shaken its curse and joined the joy of Antigua.
Waving goodbye to the assembled OCC fleet in Dominica was hard but we had our sights of breaking Guadeloupe’s curse at an anchorage that promised sights we’d never seen before and those sights didn’t disappoint. Just as the anchor set in perfect sand we dived into the water and started swimming ashore. The usual warm waters of the Caribbean Sea were being super-heated and we swam through waves of warm and hot water before being completely immersed in hot water.
Water heated by from sources deep in the earth was streaming to the bay making us feel like we were swimming in a hot bath. The fishies and coral took on bizarre forms as their shapes were distorted through the heat making them look like they were in an aquatic hall of mirrors. Closing on the source of the heat became increasing difficult as the temperature went from hot to scotching to boiling. The ‘Eau Chaud’ warning signs were warning of something very real. This first experience on Guadeloupe showed it had very much broken its curse.
Guadeloupe continued to be kind as we pushed further along the coast in flat seas and bright sunshine. In these delightful conditions the places we’d previously sought sanctuary were not required and Fiona took to the charts to find the picture prefect Caribbean bay, fringed with palm trees, protected by reefs and find it she did.
With not a soul to disturb the peace frigate birds flew overhead and the only waves were made by the shoals of fish that sought protection in Ruffian’s shadow. This was a Guadeloupe that we’d not experienced before and its curse felt like ancient history.
As a parting gift Guadeloupe served up perfect sailing conditions blasting us towards to Antigua. Ruffian sped along at breakneck speeds but once we arrived in Antigua this would be the last time we’d see anything move at speed for a while. We were about to brave the bureaucracy of multiple offices staffed with officials who’d misunderstood the phrase ‘charm offensive’ and focussed on the ‘offensive’.
Our first mistake was assuming that a big door marked ‘push to open’ should be pushed. We were then informed that under no circumstances should we push the door to enter the office, and this was the wrong office anyway. The first office we had to enter opened a mere hour after all the other offices.
After waiting our allotted hour we were given our first form and returned to the office we had earlier been forbidden to enter. Gently knocking our boat registration, passports and exit documents we sequestered and then randomly distributed among all the other offices. To complete this picture of perfect inefficiency the same documents were taken from all the assembled boats and then casually mixed. Upon their return it seemed like we’d all been entered into a game of bingo as documents were matched with owners and when we had a full set we could call ‘full house’ and go on our way. At this point it looked like the curse of Guadeloupe had simply been transferred.
Sailing around Antigua we found that the curse didn’t extend outside of the officialdom. Bay after bay shone with water and bay after bay allowed us to explore wrecks under the water and play in forts that overlooked it. The rugged undeveloped wild western coast gave an insight into Antigua of yesteryear as turtles were undisturbed by the development on the mainland and corals grew in water that was only disturbed by the swell that had been building since it left the African coast.
We are pleased that Guadeloupe is no long a ‘Cursed Isle’ and Antigua continues to be a joy. The next question however is will Barbuda still be a joy after the devastation caused by hurricane Irma? We’ll be finding out as our push north continues.
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