Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Two sides of History

Les Saintes are a cluster of small arid mountainous islands with a couple of picturesque settlements. We passed a series of massive 2 bladed wind generators; the only ones we have seen in these trade wind islands! Terre De Haut’s population is all descendents of Breton fisherman and Norman sailors. Anse du Borg looks like a Med style fishing village with hundreds of painted wooden fishing boats, charming architecture, and manicured landscaping.

I should leave well enough alone in my scientific reef observations, but this is what I saw. Just in front of our boat right next to the ferry dock was a reef extending out from shore. Diesel fuel from the huge commercial boats on the surface, oh, raw sewage draining onto the reef from town, and what are these funky rectangular coral formations??....a pile of lead acid batteries!! This defies everything some might think is the problem. The reef was teeming with fish, vibrant corals and life despite the assault. The cause has to be more global!

We hiked to…another foooort! Fort Napoleon, just the guy Parker was studying about. Before entering we asked if it was in English (besides the welcome sign and exit). Once inside the guided tour was only in French and “some” of the displays had loosely translated descriptions in English.

We had learned of the famous French/ British battle that took place here. Always consider the source of the written word. In our guide books, we got the “British” version of how against all odds the British in an unconventional way cut through the French line of ships and “divided and conquered” the enemy. In the French museum, they “whined” of how the British didn’t play fair and they lost most of their fleet because of it. It did sound like they really “had their knickers in a twist” as the English would say.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Where is Customs, Where is Customs?

We need to get south fast so off to Guadalupe. The dense forested backdrop of the 4800’ volcanic mountain of La Soufriere or Old Lady as the locals call her is amazing.

In the morning, Angie set off to try to find the customs people to clear in; a very informal thing here in the French Islands. 2 hours and 3 miles later she returned, customs was only there on Wednesday's from 1-4. Ah, oh well lets just head south down the island to Pigeon Island, an underwater Cousteau National Park. The site where the “cattle” boats go had a couple of fish and was completely devoid of any underwater formations. As for the rest of the dive sites, you could “imagine” that they were once spectacular but now sadly are 90% dead. We anchored for the night in Anse Malendure outside the rows of painted fishing boats moored in the bay. No customs here either. Oh well, we’ll try again tomorrow before we leave Guadalupe!

In Basse Terre we try anchoring outside of the marina but the "cement" bottom was not working and the wind was blowing us on-shore. , So we went inside the unattended marina area looking for a spot to tie up for the night. Except for the collapsed pier with the rebar sticking out of it, every inch was covered with boats. Now it’s closing time and that means fuel dock. We finally find someone who spoke Spanish ,and he says it’s ok to stay the night there.

We invited local kids aboard to play on the halyards that evening. They tried to teach Parker and Sabrina some French with little success. The next morning, Angie again set off to find customs, this time with a good long book! She said, “I’m not coming back until I find them!” After she left, guess who showed up.. customs.. I was able to communicate that we’d been in search of them for days now and were wishing to clear in, and out, before leaving. When asked for our papers I explained that my wife had them and was waiting on their office door step. On board they all piled, “expertly” searching every “convenient” drawer and locker. So where is your wife now? Still waiting for you! Again, she isn’t leaving your office until you get there. Can you send someone up to get her. Oh, she’ll come back. No she won’t, she has a long book. An hour later in this waiting game they finally sent someone up to get her by car.

We cleared in…and out, got our duty free fuel saving over $100 and sailed away ….to Les Saintes of Guadalupe!