Guadeloupe to Curacao

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Guadeloupe to Curacao (17 Nov.  2003 – 30 June 2004)

Guadeloupe (17th-29th November)

After Marcel’s brother René and his family left from Point à Pitre in Guadeloupe, we only stayed a few days to do our usual errants, such as shopping, laundry, internet, and to have our cockpit cushions refilled. As soon as this was done, we left. We did not like the anchorage in the canal of Point à Pitre, as the water there smells like open sewage, especially at night when the wind dies down. At night we could also hear the sound of sirens and alarms going off, and one night we thought we heard shooting.

We sailed to Islêt à Gosier, a nice little island with a bright red lighthouse, just east of Point à Pitre. Here the water was nice and clean again, good for swimming and making water. It had been cloudy for most of the days, but one morning we woke up with a clear blue sky, and saw that the Soufrière Volcano was completely out of the clouds. So, we decided to grab this opportunity and rent a car for that day to drive up there. The volcano was attracting us like a magnet. It was truly magnificent. We walked up the volcano, and the sky stayed clear until we were back down again. The sulfur fumaroles at the top were quite forceful and smelly. We had a wonderful view over Basse Terre and Les Saintes. We took lots of pictures and had a great day.

Marie-Galante and Les Saintes (30th November-1st December)

On a Sunday we sailed to Marie-Galante and were just in time to see brightly coloured spinnakers racing to the finish of a regatta, held between Point à Pitre and Marie-Galante. We anchored at Saint Louis, a sleepy little village on the west side of the island. We walked around the village, were a bit disappointed, as it looked somewhat run down and wasn’t very interesting. We decided we rather wanted to sail to les Saintes, and left the next morning. The sail was a nice beam reach on the genoa and then wing to wing on a running course. Here we got an email from Marcel’s parents, who had heard about an interesting contact for Marcel in the boat business in Antigua. We figured, that we might as well sail to Antigua for a chat after we had phoned him.

Les Saintes to Antigua (2nd-10th December)

We sailed from Les Saintes to Antigua via Deshaies on Guadeloupe.  We managed to dodge the many little fish buoys around Les Saintes and Deshaies. In the lee of Guadeloupe we had to motor for a while. When we arrived in Falmouth harbour, we found that the annual charter yacht show had just started. About 60 charter yachts were on display, both motor yachts and sailing yachts. To rent one of these for a week (with crew) would cost up to $200,000. The show is aimed at the brokers who sell holidays aboard these yachts. On some of the nicer sailing yachts we talked to the crew, and many times they let us have a look on board. One of them we particularly liked: SY “Windrose”. Unfortunately we were not allowed on board. We also made a nice tour around the island with Nancy, an artist friend of mine, whom we had met when we first arrived in the Caribbean.

Antigua to Les Saintes (10th-12th December)

On the way to Les Saintes we stopped again in Deshaies, where we had a rolly night, which is quite unusual for Deshaies. In Les Saintes we anchored at Pain de Sucre, a rocky island, which looks indeed like a sugarloaf. It’s an idyllic place with a view on a nice Caribbean house, surrounded by palm trees behind a beach. We hiked up a rocky path on one end of the beach and saw more houses with a nice view over the bay, where we were anchored. That evening “Aeson”, with Piet and Jelka, passed by. We had last seen them in Bonaire, where they had won the regatta. We waved at them; they changed their course, and decided to anchor close to us. We invited them for a drink, and we caught up on each other’s stories.

Martinique (13th-26th December)

Passing Dominica we saw many beautiful rainbows. After a long day sail we arrived at St. Pierre in Martinique. We rented a car, and visited the northern part of the island, which is mountainous with lush tropical vegetation. We walked along the Canal de Beau Regard, which was built by slaves in 1760 to supply water to the rum distilleries of St. Pierre. The canal was constructed along a steep mountainside, and you must have a head for heights, because you walk along the outer wall of the canal, which is about a foot wide, and often has a large vertical drop. The walk was beautiful and we had fantastic panoramic views over the valley. Unfortunately, that day the Mt. Pelée Volcano, which is now extinct, was hidden in clouds, so we didn’t go to the top. But we did stop at the old observation tower, which was now deserted, and went to the Jardin de Mt. Pelée, a botanical garden, which both displayed the geological history of the eruption in 1902.

We spent one night anchored at Anse Noire. It was a bit odd to see a public telephone out on the palm lined, black sand beach. I walked a trail to the fishing village of Anse Dufours with a white sand beach, located just south of Anse Noire. Marcel went for a snorkel. The next morning a customs boat surprised us. They were just hanging around, and after a while they left again. We thought they might have taken a note of our boat name. We had not been able to check in at St. Pierre. We went about four times to the customs office there, only to find that there was still nobody there. Now we felt we had to go to Le Marin to check in that same day.

In boat life it’s not so easy to plan for Christmas and New Year celebrations. You never know in advance what is going to happen. We were not sure if any of our friends might come out to join us. We also thought of celebrating it with John and Rija from “Queen of Hearts”, but due to our side trip to Antigua we could not catch up with them in time. In St. Anne we happened to meet Bob and Brenda from “Siesta Dos”, who had been our neighbours in Coral Cove marina in Trinidad the year before. We celebrated Christmas with them and another couple, going out for dinner in a tiny restaurant. On Christmas Eve we went to a “Nativity Scene”, played by local amateurs at the village square. It was so terrible, that it became hilarious. “Joseph”, the carpenter, was hammering away for a long time at some obscure wooden construction, until finally “Maria” was ready to arrive at the scene. Then “Maria” could not easily mount the donkey, holding her “pregnancy pillow” in place. Three men had to come and help her. We waited for some time for the “three kings” to arrive, and then there were angels and the newly born “Christ”, and the donkey stood in one corner and the oxen in the other and said, “Mooh’. Afterwards we went to church to the night service, which was quite special. While we were in St. Anne, we met another nice couple: Roberte and Willem from “Fine Fleur”.

Bequia (27th December 2003-3rd January 2004)

From Martinique we went straight to Bequia, passing St. Lucia on the windward side. We thought we would have more wind that way, but there wasn’t, so we decided to motor along St. Vincent on the leeward side, and have fewer waves. When we arrived in Bequia, we anchored at Princess Margaret Beach in Admiralty Bay. But we left the next morning, because they forecasted wind and swell from the NNW, which would make this bay untenable. We went to Friendship Bay on the other side of the island. From there we walked across the hill to Claude Victorine’s Art Studio at Lower Bay. We saw her silk painting and paintings from her daughter Louloune. We saw the boats rocking and rolling on that side, so it was good that we had moved.

In Friendship Bay there is a nice resort surrounded by a beautiful tropical garden, which is run by a Swedish couple. We had a nice lunch at their beach bar and decided to celebrate New Years Eve in their restaurant. This was a delicious, candlelit dinner, and people from different nationalities took turns singing songs. At twelve we all had champagne and toasted to the New Year.

The next day it became rolly in Friendship Bay, so we decided to sail back to Admiralty Bay. There was a moderate easterly wind and we reefed the main and the genoa to sail around West Cay to windward. While we were tacking, a photographer in a speedboat came alongside and took some wonderful pictures of us in action. Later he came to the anchorage and we bought the picures.

Trinidad (4th-19th January)

From Bequia we sailed straight to Trinidad, skipping Tobago. There was a rather strong NE wind and high NE swells which made most of the anchorages in Tobago very unpleasant, if not dangerous. We had to go to Trinidad to pick up our mail and Marcel wanted to see if he could find a job in the oil industry there. When we entered in Chaguaramas Bay, we were welcomed by dolphins. Our mail had not yet arrived, so we had to spend more time in Trinidad than expected. Marcel phoned around to the local oil companies, but none of them had any vacancies. We bought new antifouling paint, arranged for the fire extinguishers to be serviced, and bought new flares because they were about to expire. It turned out that the CO2 bottle of the engine room fire extinguisher was empty, because it had a crack. Marcel did some work on the boat, and I gave a few free yoga lessons to other cruisers, which were so well received that they were sad to see us leave. We did some shopping in West Mall and in Port of Spain, and got our yellow fever inoculations for Venezuela. My friend Barbara from “Phantasea” from the writers group was there again, and we also met up with Robert and Jeanette from “Nassau”, whom we sailed with from Trinidad to Curaçao the year before. We spent a nice time together making a tour to the Chaguaramas National Park and going to some movies.

Towards the end of our stay we made a wonderful trip to Grand Rivière on the northeastern coast of Trinidad. We stayed at Mt. Plaisir Estate, located right at the beach, at a river mouth. We slept in what used to be stables, 30 feet away from the sea. There was a big ocean swell and at night, when we were sleeping nicely tucked in under our mosquito net, we could hear the waves crashing onto the beach.

The owner, an Italian, who used to work as freelance photographer, is enjoying his piece of land, which he proudly showed us. He is growing lots of different fruit trees, such as banana and papayas, and vegetables. He gave us some fruits, we had never seen before, to taste. He was also growing timber trees, such as cedar, mahogany and fast-growing “pui” trees, which he called his private pension fund. He also has a horse, keeps pigs, goats, ducks and dogs. It's like a mini farm in the tropics.

There were tropical rain showers when we were there. Everything was soaking wet and muddy, at the same time it was impressive to hear such a downpour coming, and all the clattering of raindrops all around us and on the roofs. Our boots covered in thick mud we walked sliding across his land, and although we were getting muddy ourselves, we thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It reminded me very much of New Guinea, where I spent a few years in my early childhood.

Venezuela (20th January-21th February)

From Trinidad we sailed to Puerto la Cruz, with a short stop in Margarita to fill our diesel tank and for provisioning. From Porlamar we sailed SW in between Coche and Cubagua, rounded the west tip of the Península de Araya, and sailed the inner route in between the Caracas islands and Isla Venados, and Chimana del Sur and the mainland, which belongs to the Mochima National Park. The rocky islands are virtually uninhabited with some fishing camps on the shore. The limestone layers reminded us of Oman, a treat for geologists.

In Puerto la Cruz we stayed at Bahia Redonda marina and went to Aqua-Vi to be hauled out for new antifouling. Labour is cheap in Venezuela, and it is nice to leave this job to someone else. They also polished the hull above the waterline, and re-painted the blue stripe around the cockpit, which was suffering badly from the UV in the tropics. Unfortunately, they dropped a can of blue paint on our beautiful teak deck, and it took quite a bit of effort to clean it.

Puerto la Cruz has several marinas and recently built housing projects, all built along the waterfront. The area consists of little islands, connected by bridges across narrow canals, which reminded us somewhat of Venice. Some of the housing projects are very nice with colourful houses with balconies, built in colonial style, and some have their own dock. Bahia Redonda marina has a nice social scene with a BBQ night, a film night etc. I gave yoga and dance classes again, and we did water aerobics. Sander Koenen and his wife Mariana, who we first met when we were living in Caracas, spent a weekend with us on board Alegría. We went out, visited Chimana Segunda, and spent the night anchored at Ciénaga on Chimana Grande, just off the coast of Puerto la Cruz for the occasion. We took our dinghy around to Ciéneguita, which is a beautiful, secluded bay, lined by mangroves.

From Puerto la Cruz we sailed to Los Roques, where Roos and a friend Fons came on board. We met them at the tiny airport of Gran Roque. They were overwhelmed, arriving on such a tiny island out in the blue sea, where the airplane stops right at the beach. We spent a few days at Gran Roque, walking around the village, having drinks with a view on the beach, looking inside some of the nice posadas, and talking to some of the owners. When we asked the Italian lady, who owns “Piano y Papaya”, what had made her decide to move to Los Roques, she answered, “Sometimes you wait for the right train, and when it passes by, you jump on”. “Yes, that’s how it is”, we thought. We bought some fruit on the village square, and found out that there would be dancing that evening. We had a lovely meal first at “Ballena Azul”, also run by an Italian family. There was a wedding celebration that evening, and it was very nicely decorated with tropical flowers on the tables and candles in paper bags, placed in a circle in the sand around the outdoor tables of the restaurant. What a great atmosphere. Later we went to the place where the locals were dancing to life salsa music. The excitement was growing as the rhythmic music was speeding up, bringing the dancers into a trance. There was only one couple dancing in the middle, surrounded by the musicians and spectators. Every now and then, another dancer would come into the circle, and take over the dance partner, showing her or him how well and how sensual he or she could dance. It was great to watch them, but we were not quite up to participating.

We had a great time together snorkeling and enjoying the beautiful turquoise-blue waters. We first went to Francisqui, and snorkeled in the “piscina”. The rest of the day it was raining. We stayed inside for most of the time and chatted away. One of the things Fons was saying was, “The power is in the limitation”. Amazing the possibilities one can discover, living together in a small space afloat. We were also truly submerged in the tranquility of nature. And Roos and Fons started to relax from their hectic jobs back home. We sailed south to Buchiaco, and along the east tip of Los Canquises, where we saw bright pink flamingoes, which spread their wings and flew up in the air when we approached. We stayed two nights at the beautiful lagoon anchorage at Cayo Remanso. Snorkeling is great there, and we did yoga together on the beach. One day there was a fisherman in a small boat, who dropped by to sell fish. A heron was keeping him company. Later that day Marcel, Roos and Fons went to Isla Carenero, and saw him again living in a shack on the beach. I stayed on board to finish a painting.

From there we sailed to Las Aves de Barlovento. We went onshore to look at the birds. At the dinghy landing in between the mangroves we saw many hermit crabs. We saw boobies, which had already lost most of their baby fur by that time, frigate birds, and pelicans. In the early morning just before we left, I took the dinghy to explore an inlet in the mangroves on the west side of Isla Sur. I saw many young boobies on their nests.

We sailed to Aves de Sotavento, and decided to try a new anchorage between Isla Palmeras and Isla Ramon. We tried three times to find a place where the anchor would hold, without success. It was getting late, and we could just make it to Curricai, which we knew, and find a reasonable anchor spot before darkness. The next morning we went for a brief snorkel, and Roos and Fons swam to the island and discovered a “roadsign” pointing to Bagdad on this sandy island with only one palm tree.

Bonaire and Curaçao (22th February-30th June)

From there we sailed to Bonaire. When we arrived, we heard the noise of the carnival parade, and Arjan and Andrea waved at us from the Cay. Later we had a drink with them at Karel’s Bar, and Roos, Fons and us went to Bobbejaan’s for a gadogado with sate. The same thing, which happened to us the first time we sailed from Los Roques to Las Aves and to Bonaire, happened to Roos and Fons. Now, they were suffering a culture shock, leaving behind this serene peacefulness and tranquility of nature, to all of a sudden arrive back into the civilized, crowded world. What a shock! The next day we decided to go snorkeling at the east side of Klein Bonaire, trying to hold onto the beauty of nature’s underwater world. That evening we rented a car, and the three of us went to the saltpans and mountains, and to the slave huts, while Marcel had to fix the alternator. We went for dinner at “De Tuin”. We also went to the evening carnival parade. This was a lot of fun to watch and a big happening on Bonaire. There were several groups dancing in fancy dress, and there was also a group from Peru and Colombia. The next day the three of us went to see Bolivia, with a view on the ocean; we saw aloe fields, and the oasis “Fontein”, which was closed. We also went to Washington Slagbaai Park, where we saw the blowhole, many cacti and Pos Mangel, where an iguana mistakenly thought that Roos’ finger was food and bit, and we went snorkeling at Playa Bengé.

To ease even more back into civilization, we sailed on to Curaçao. When we arrived, we met up with some friends of Roos for dinner at Sarifundy’s, and went to Willemstad the next day. From Curaçao they flew back to Amsterdam via Caracas. For them, these two weeks had been a holiday of a lifetime. For our part, we very much enjoyed the company and the good conversations, and we missed them when they left.

In Curaçao we saw our friends Gloria, Glennert and Militza, and Kees and Caroline and their kids again. Marcel installed a third solar panel, and had our main alternator repaired. Then we went back to Bonaire, where we celebrated Easter with John and Rija from “Queen of Hearts” and Hans and Sabine from “Libertijn”. We often went snorkeling, and one time we saw a spotted eagle ray gliding through the water, and a turtle, coming up to breath. At Klein Bonaire we saw a huge lobster, several turtles and beautiful soft and hard corals. Marcel was looking for jobs in the oil industry on the internet. I went painting at Renate’s. She taught me how to “look” differently, when painting. One evening we went to a concert for piano and violin. This was a wonderful performance by Tjeerd Top and Mariken Zandvliet. We were invited by Cees, a member of the Bonaire music society. On Bonaire this concert was free, and afterwards everybody was invited to Rendez-Vous for a drink and a bite to eat. That evening we met a nice couple, which had just moved to Bonaire, and we became friends with Karel and Willie. Willie is a schoolteacher and an artist, and Karel gives sailing lessons at the sail club. We spent some nice time together, and Willie taught me a new technique of glazing, putting different colour layers of paint on top of each other. We went together to the annual Rincon festival, where girls in traditional dress are dancing on the squares. It had rained a few days and that day we noticed that the “Kibra Hacha”, a tree with yellow flowers, which only blooms a few days per year, was in full bloom.

From 3rd of May to 9th of June I went to Holland. While I was there, Marcel sailed back and forth to Curaçao together with Karel. I had not been in Holland in the spring for a long time, and I enjoyed experiencing this season again.

When I came back, we stayed a few more days in Bonaire. We made two dives: one behind our boat and another one, a night dive at the town pier. This was a marvelous experience. We saw beautiful, bright orange cup coral against other bright red coral on the pylons. Purple sponges were sticking out. Big silver tarpons were swimming in between the pylons. We saw spotted drums, and spotted moray eels. We even saw a red seahorse! On Marcel’s birthday we had a lovely dinner at Mai Mai.

On 25th June we set sail to Curaçao. We invited Kees and Ria van Uffelen from “Mariele” for dinner, and we met our friends Bob and Ingrid and went with them to the “Habri” (open house) in Otrabanda, Willemstad, where historic buildings were open to the public.

We saw most of our friends, also Jeroen and Ana, in five days, because on the 1st of July we left for Panama.