S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Tuesday, 16 May, 2006
Deshaies, Guadaloupe
N 16 degrees, 18.36 minutes
W 061 degrees, 47.86 minutes

David, my dear brother, I hope you will forgive me. I have seen more exotic birds in the past three days than you have seen in your entire life. And, here's the kicker, I can neither remember nor describe any of them. The sheer wastefulness makes me weep...

After our rolly night in St. Kitts on May 12 we got up eaerly to head to Montserrat. "But Montserrat has an active volcano," you say. Indeed it does, but the northern end of the island, being protected by the central mountain range, is inhabited and open to visitors. Our friends on Amanzi wrote us to tell us what an amazing time they had, so we were not sure whether we would stay a day and visit the volcano or just anchor for the night, moving on in the morning.

About twenty miles from the island, we started to notice a chalky, burnt smell in the air, and then we started to notice a fine film of ash forming on every surface of the boat. As we were headed SSE, the wind was from the SSE, and so we were downwind of the volcano the whole time. The boat was soon filthy.

We did enjoy the scenery during our sail. We saw a humpback whale as he made his slow way across our bow, and we were startled by a school of very small dolphins, only two feet long, who swam with the boat for a short while, jumping clear of the water and diving beneeath the hull, before they veered off and left as quickly as they appeared. The water was clear enough for us to photograph them swimming below our bow.

The small town in the northern end of Montserrat looked, from the boat, decidedly depressing. It took us an unusually long time to anchor, and during that time, a young boy waded out into the bay and started trying to get our attention. Eventually we got worried that he was trying to warn us away from some rocks, so I hopped in the dinghy and rowed over there. While I was rowing over he got out of the water, ran to where he'd left his clothes, balled them up, propped them on his shoulders, and waded back out toward me. It turns out he wanted us to take him to Antigua!

So we spent the night but left early on the 14th for Guadeloupe. We had a great sail for the first five miles, doing seven knots on a beam reach. That all changed when we got around the corner on the island, and we were beating into wind and waves for a while. Because the sun was rising behind the island and because of the ash in the air, we could not get a good picture of the volcano or the destruction it has done to the island's southern half. Whole towns have been buried and demolished, and many islanders have relocated permanently to other parts of the Caribbean or to England.

The wind died rather suddenly when we were halfway to Guadeloupe, so we motored the rest of the way, throwing buckets of water on each other to try to stay cool. We reached the bay off Deshaies, a small fishing village on the northwest corner of the island, by late afternoon, and we decided to stay here a few days. This small village is about two streets deep, with terrain that rises steeply on three sides. Immigration here is not too concerned about checking you in, and though there is an office in town, and new boats enter and leave the harbor every day, the officers do not keep anything approaching regular office hours. The good news is, checking in, when you finally do it, is free.

A botanical garden is located a steep walk up a windy hill from the port control office. We braved the walk one morning, and we were both surprised by how beautiful the garden was. Unfortunately, we forgot our camera, and words can't do justice to what we saw. The garden had an incredible number of trees and flowers and birds and butterflies that I have never seen before, and a pond with the biggest koi I have ever seen. There was an open-air aviary for parrots where one could hold out some concoction in a little cup and the parrots would land on you to feed. Dean and I declined the option. One of my favorite flowers in the garden were the orchids, many of which were growing out of old and dying trees along the way. Dean's favorite part was birds: parrots, macaws, and flamingos in particular.

There is also a beautiful beach around the corner, and we took the dinghy there one afternoon. An old sailboat with its side stove in rested on some rocks near the edge of the beach. We walked down to it and took a look inside. Aside from what had been lost whenever this boat met its fate (probably breaking free from an anchorage or mooring during a storm), anything useful on the boat had been stripped by scavengers or tossed away by the sea. It was eery looking inside the boat and seeing rocks protruding through the hull--like walking through an old house that has been destroyed by fire.

One dissapointment in Deshaies is the pastry. We have tried two bakeries, but the pain au chocolat has not been as good as in French St. Martin. Still, we will keep trying.


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