Log # 42e Martinique and Guadeloupe to Antigua

December 21, 2006 in Log Series 40-49, Logs by Series, Series 42 Grenada to Jamaica, The Logs



Ordinance Bay, English Harbour, Antigua


Dec. 21, 2006


Hi Folks,


Christmas is getting close, and we hope yours is enjoyable. This log gets us to Antigua, a passage which we thought would be 36 hours for the 170 miles from Marin on the south coast of Martinique. However, it took three legs and three days to do it, as described in the log. There will be one more before the New Year about Antigua and our preparations for the 1200 mile passage to Cuba. After that we will be out of communications for about two weeks until we reach Cuba and get to an internet café or WiFi source (or longer, if access proves to be too difficult). Then I will start with my new address list. Please be sure, if you wish to continue receiving my logs, to let me know if you haven’t already done so.


I have been enjoying having Veleda to myself while Judy is back home, but will be happy to have her here at our home onboard Veleda tomorrow night.


All the best for this festive season,




PS – For those of you getting pictures, I took none of interest related to this log, but have attached four more to go with the previous log, including the picture of the largest five masted tall cruise ship in the world, and a couple from the gun bastion on Pigeon Island above Rodney Bay, showing how it would dominate any attempted attack on the base. The rectangular pit was a redoubt, where infantry could fire over either side of the hillside to engage any attacking force attempting the climb. I think the fortifications were sufficiently impregnable that there was never an attack on the base. From the gun battery one could see all the way to Martinique to identify any movement of French ships south of the island. It was off the south coast of Martinique that the Brits held Diamond Rock, and put a gun battery up on it for a year or two to discourage the French fleet from the south of Martinique. It was called for a while HMS Diamond Rock, and considered a commissioned ship. See the attached picture taken when we were south bound last spring.




From Gun Battery overlooking Pigeon Island and rodney BayLog #42d From Gun Bastion overlooking Rodney BayLog #42d Royal Clipper five masted largest cruise tall ship in the worldLog-42e-HMS-Diamond-Rock.jpgd Rock


Log # 42e Martinique and Guadeloupe to Antigua


Ordinance Bay, English Harbour, Antigua


Dec. 19, 2006


We were looking at a 34 to 36 hour passage from Marin on Martinique to Antigua, a distance of about 170 miles. To enter in daylight we would have to start with a night departure. However, Marin has a shoal strewn entrance that I did not want to navigate at night. So after we checked out with Customs and Immigration (they never did stamp our passports in or out) we motored out in the afternoon to an outer anchorage at St. Anne (14 26.17N, 060 53.19W), from which we had an open exit available to us for a night time departure. This procedure is referred to as a staged departure.


Martinique is the northernmost of the Windward Islands, the southern group of the Antilles facing north at a 90 degree angle to the easterlies. The next group of the Lesser Antilles of the West Indies veers off to a north-northwest direction and are referred to as the Leeward Islands, starting with Dominica, then Guadeloupe and up to Antigua. There are a few other islands west and north of Antigua as well, bur we have not planned to visit them this season.


We weighed anchor after supper at 1840 (sunset was at 1733), heading under full sail around the southwestern cape of Martinique, past Diamond Rock, past Fort de France, Martinique’s capitol city that we enjoyed last spring on our way south, and northward up the west coast of Martinique. By 0200 we were at the north end under the lee of Mount Pelee, the volcano that devastated St Pierre a hundred years ago with a death toll of the entire city of 30,000 (there were only two survivors), and had to motor sail into ENE winds for a couple of hours in light force 4 winds. As we rounded the northern part of the island we were able to again sail by 0300. However as we progressed across the 30 mile channel separating Martinique from Dominica the winds increased to force 7 to 8 (25 to 40 knots) and by 0450 we were using double reefed main and genoa.


When the easterly winds hit the east sides of the Caribbean islands, they (the winds) go up over the mountains, through the valleys, and around the north and south tips creating varying wind patterns. As we were going up the west coasts of the islands we would experience a wide and unpredictable range of wind patterns and speeds. Sometimes, in the lee of the islands’ mountains, there would be very light breezes, but if the winds were coming through the valleys they would accelerate, squeezing between the high barriers, and vent out the west sides of the islands at great speeds. (Think of putting your finger partially over the end of a garden hose to spray the water further.) At the southern and northern tips the winds curve around, compressed and faster at the tips, but spreading out, and changing directions as they work around. Such areas are referred to as “acceleration zones”, as we saw in the Canaries. The channels between islands are subject to these varying patterns and speeds, making the crossing of these channels … interesting, as we have experienced previously and certainly found out as we were crossing the channel from Martinique to Dominica as indicated above.


Going up the west coast of Dominica we had variable winds and variously motored, motor sailed and sailed, reefed and under full sail in east and northeast winds from force 3 to force 6. Judy took some pictures of the Pitons on her watch at sunrise, a couple of very dramatic volcanic mountains. Again when crossing the channel between Dominica and Guadeloupe we hit heavy weather, and ocean swells of three metres coming all the way from Africa. It was an arduous crossing in force 5 to 6 winds (17 to 27 knots) and heavy seas, but at least we were plowing through it under full sail. However, Judy was feeling the heavy motion (especially as, after we were at anchor, she found the scopolamine patch she had thought she was wearing stuck to the pillow she had used earlier) and said that sailing was supposed to be fun, and this was not. (Incidentally the winds were from a more northerly direction and two force levels higher than predicted. What’s new?) So rather than continuing through the night to make a morning entry to English Bay in Antigua, we altered course at 1720 and headed for the southwest coast of Guadeloupe, to Riviere Sens on Basse Terre nine miles away.


We approached the black coastal area cautiously, another nighttime anchorage in a strange port area. There is a breakwater for the local marina, but we could not make it out as it was not well lit. We knew there was an anchorage area north and south of the breakwater, and that we could (should) go close in as the bottom drops deeply 100 yards off shore. So … we slowly motored in (without a working depth sounder) towards a black beach area south of what we thought was the breakwater. We saw a catamaran at anchor and thought we could anchor parallel to it, but how close to the indistinct shore? As we approached, we then saw another boat at anchor, without anchor lights, and had to circle around again to avoid it. We finally dropped anchor at 1900 (15 58.80N, 061 42.99W), had a drink and supper and tried to unwind from a heavy 113 mile, 24 hour passage. It is interesting after anchoring in a strange area at night to see where you are come the morning light.


We were OK when we awoke in the morning; however I noticed the British sloop that did not have an anchor light drifting past us, with no one in the cockpit. He was dragging! We called to him and when he came from below we told him he was dragging. He was single handing and after he got his boat under control with his engine, he thanked us and said that his anchor rope had parted and he had lost his anchor, so he headed into the marina to get help.


We had another 60 miles to go; should we stay here, check in with customs and then leave for another night time departure? The water seemed calm inshore and so we decided to head out and up to Deshaies on the northwest coast, anchor there and head to Antigua next day, weather permitting. Time was running short for Judy’s flight home. The passage started out lightly motoring across a quiet offshore sea. However, even though this side of Guadeloupe is called Basse Terre (low land), it has two high mountains which funnel wind through the valleys and around them.


We left at 0745 in flat seas but force 7 winds (about 30 knots) which dropped progressively down to force 4, 3, and by 1000 to a drifter of force 1 as we motor sailed up the west coast. However by 1045 the wind increased to force 5 from the east as it swooped off land. The winds alternated from no wind to 30 knots as we sailed with full main and genoa. Half way up the coast we passed Pigeon Island, which has the interesting Cousteau Underwater Park. We made a note to stop there next season for a few days to do some diving. Another reason that island stands out in our minds is that just before passing it, I caught another 12 pound tuna. Mmmm … sashimi for lunch! Judy, starkers, cleaned it while I handled the boat in the increasing winds. She does a good job of filleting the fish, as we don’t want fish scales all over the cockpit. I hose down the cockpit sole, the lazarette, and Judy, after the fillets have been bagged and put in the refrigerator. By 1130 we were being buffeted by force 9 and 10 winds gusting up to 55 knots, with a full genoa out! In the next lull we furled the genoa and lowered the main to motor through now reduced winds of only force 2 into the bay at Deshaies on the NW tip of Guadeloupe, and dropped anchor at 1230 (16 18.43N, 061 47 .87W) after an exhausting 5 hour passage.


We hoisted flag Quebec to be semi-legitimate, although we knew we could not check in with Customs or Immigration there. We read in our pilot book that doing this is often acceptable if anchoring for only a night or two, and nobody is there to check if the crew goes ashore or not. After lunch we were visited by Graham and Wendy, a couple from Peterborough, Ontario, from Bravo 2, their catamaran. We last saw them in Hog Island and Prickly Bay on Grenada.We gave them a bag of tuna fillets as we had two more for ourselves. We said “Hi” to a British 40 foot Jeanneau Odyssey, Tarporley Two, that anchored astern of us. (They were going to leave next day for Antigua, and we would encounter them for an interesting situation in Falmouth Harbour as I will recount in my next log.) Later that afternoon we went ashore to stroll the pleasant sleepy village. Sleepy is right, as everything was closed until 1700. Siesta time?! In the early evening everything was open, except the post office. We shopped at the local Spar store for some groceries available only in France, such as frozen duck breasts, cheeses and wines.


We left next morning at 0615 with a bit of trepidation as we knew the light winds we were experiencing as we left the anchorage could be radically different once we were in the channel between Guadeloupe and Antigua. Several boats left about the same time, but all being larger than Veleda were well ahead of us and out of sight by half way across the 40 mile channel. The weather was OK, easterly about 15 to 25 knots. We shook out the reefs in the main to motor sail most of the way across. Even though I trolled a line, no fish were biting, and I hauled in my empty line before anchoring in English Harbour (17 00.32N, 061 45.70W) by 1415 back in familiar Antigua, in plenty of time for Judy’s flight a few days hence, and to be able to relax here until our departure for Cuba early in the New Year.


More about our time in Antigua in my next log, the last for 2006.