Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Med moor at fuel dock. First time we did that!

April 4, 2007  Wednesday

It is 4:00 a.m. with a beautiful full moon and totally calm water, and I have been wide awake for a couple of hours already.  Woke up thinking about a small cup of Chantico from Starbucks.  Have only tasted that drink twice before, but it was like drinking melted Godiva chocolates.  Obviously not available here and we aren’t visiting the States anytime soon to satisfy this little craving, so I prepared a cup of instant hot cocoa and sat in the cockpit and enjoyed the full moon and the quiet solitude and the ever so gentle rocking of the boat.  A couple of sailboats arrived during the early morning darkness only about 20 minutes apart.  Both of them opted to go farther toward the main city of Pointe ‘a Pitre than we would have during darkness.  Especially since Pointe ‘a Pitre has heavy commercial traffic and this is an industrial channel with large freighters coming and going 24/7.  Both these boats were moving far faster through the channel than we would have during darkness.  Maybe they are more familiar with this area than we are.  The charts and sailing guides indicate a couple of anchorages that are really not anchorages anymore; they are now mooring fields.  And it is darned difficult to pick up a mooring ball in the dark.  I enjoyed watching the navigational lights of the two of them doing an anchor dance with one another.  The local fishermen are already beginning to head out for the day. 

We are on a mooring ball just outside the Marina Bas du Fort.  Our plans to go to Iles des Saintes on Monday were delayed.  The simple paint job to touch up the scratches on our main mast took longer than we assumed it would.  That delayed our departure until Tuesday morning.  Then when we closed up the bimini in preparation of leaving the dock and moving to the fuel dock we realized that the boom for the mainsail was too low.  We had the Amel guys replace the topping lift connections that go through the boom on both the mainsail boom and the mizzen boom.  This should be done about every 4 years and our boat is now 4 years old, so it was time for this routine maintenance.  Bill questioned if the main boom was too low when they finished the job last Friday, but the rigging guy said it was in the correct position.  Not true.  When we folded back the bimini frame and tightened everything down, the boom was actually several inches lower than the mainsheet!   Our mainsheet runs over the top of the cockpit and bimini to the mizzen mast and is controlled by an electric winch on the mizzen mast. Having the boom positioned lower than the mainsheet was obviously wrong, but rather than mess with fixing it ourselves Bill walked back over to the Amel office and brought the rigging guy back to the boat to position the topping lift correctly.

 It took him just a few minutes to get it right, but by then the fuel dock had closed for lunch.  These French people truly believe in their two hour lunches.  So we had to wait until 2:00 p.m. to get our duty free fuel.  Once a foreign flagged vessel has cleared out with Customs here in Guadeloupe then you can purchase duty free fuel.  Normal diesel costs 1.1 Euro per liter; the duty free price is .77 Euro per liter.  For the amount of diesel that we needed this was a savings of 80 Euros, or about $107 USD at the current currency conversion rate.  We would have preferred to wait until Martinique to fill up, but Martinique sells duty free fuel only to charter boats.  Anyway, it was worth the $107 to further delay our departure another few hours.  This is the first time that we have had to back up to a fuel dock, normally you tie up alongside.  Bill dropped the anchor as we backed up to the dock and I handed off the stern lines to the attendant, sort of like Med-mooring.  The current kept moving the bow of the boat to the right, so I sat in the helm seat and used the bow thruster to keep the boat stern aligned properly with the fuel dock.  Our fuel tank inlet is inside a locker in our cockpit and luckily their pump line was long enough to reach our center cockpit.  The whole process worked just fine, and it was a good learning experience for both of us.

But by the time we finished at the fuel dock it was rather late in the day to head out for a 23 mile sail.  We prefer not to arrive in darkness if at all possible.  We should have gone over to the anchorage at St. Annes; it would have made a much nicer point of sail for the trip down to Iles des Saintes; but we weren’t sure of the time of sunset so instead we just moved to this mooring field just outside the marina so we could raise the dinghy up onto the davits.  So we will have a very leisurely sail down to the Saintes today.

BTW, people usually think of Guadeloupe as just the large butterfly shaped island(s) of Basse Terre and Grand Terre.  Actually, Guadeloupe includes several other islands, all within about 25 miles of one another.  The easternmost island is La Desirade; hardly anyone visits there.  Roughly 15 miles southwest of La Desirade are Iles de la Petite Terre, which is an environmentally protected area sort of like a national park.. About 20 miles southwest of Petite Terre is the island of Marie Gallante.  Then about 10 miles due west of Marie Gallante are the Iles des Les Saintes.  The Saintes are one our most favorite places in the entire Caribbean

The Saintes never imported slaves.  These small islands were settled by people from the Brittany region of France; and it is still very Breton.  A very picturesque place.

Update:  We arrived in Iles des Les Saintes this afternoon; and it was definitely a leisurely sail down here.  Could not believe that the water could be so calm and flat after seeing how wild it was in that same area just a week ago.  Winds were also exceptionally calm, ranging from 1.6 knots to a whopping 10 knots for a few minutes.  It took 6 ½ hours for us to sail only 23.5 miles, for an average speed of only 3.6 knots.  But we weren’t in any hurry and it was a very pleasant and relaxing day.  Tried my new fishing lure but again did not get a nibble.

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