On the basis that we were going to spend time later in the trip in the other French island of Martinique, we had initially decided to cut short our time in Guadeloupe. Perhaps this sounds a bit judgemental but we are running out of time to see all the places we’d really like to and still get S enough to be safe as the Hurricane Season (and wet season) nominally arrives at the start of Jun. So prioritising where we spend time is sadly necessary.
No plan survives contact with the enemy and unfortunately the enemy here proved to be Skylark’s port engine.
Our engines don’t get a lot of use. We have them on for anchoring and getting underway (must haves as our windlass needs engine power to power it – frankly a design flaw but nothing we can do about without replacing the damn thing) and little else. As we left Monserrat, we heard the scream of the engine alarm showing us overheating. We switched off and failed to find anything markedly wrong. Oil ok, coolant level seemingly ok, nothing gumming up the seawater intake and the filter was fine.
Coming in to Deshaies at the NW end of Guadeloupe we had 5 mins of engine before the engine alarm screamed again. We managed to anchor and on checking the engine again, this time it was obvious the coolant level was painfully low. We refilled and with Robert from Almost There acting as the engine guru tracked the leak to an outflow pipe from the coolant tank to the engine. The tank had slipped, allowing the pipe to touch the belt (another rubbish design) and the belt had eaten through the pipe, just enough for a very slow drain of the coolant.
One advantage of being in Guadeloupe is it is the home of Volvo for the Caribbean. We decided to stay and make the most of the island for the day, hired a car and then drove across to the capital, Pointe-a- Pitre. I got to go and be frustrated by the lack of correct part and Robert at the cost of some dive equipment. I had a conversation in my pigeon French with the Volvo engineer, mainly drawing pictures of possible solutions with a lot of questioning raised eyebrows which led me to take another pipe part with a cutting suggestion. Not the perfect solution but one that will do us (hopefully) until I can get the right part ordered from Europe.
On the way back across, we failed miserably to find a field that we could surreptitiously nick some more sugar cane but did find the Rum Museum which combined its attractions with a fantastic collection of dead bugs and model boats through the ages. Have to admit although the mix sounds pretty messed up it was an excellent afternoon’s entertainment and the kids loved it. The grown ups enjoyed a selection of straight and flavoured rums. The model boats allowed a reaffirmation of the explorer work we had been doing with the girls; Sir Francis Drake and Columbus’s ships both in the collection.
After managing to cut the replacement tube to size and refill the coolant tank, we moved on to the one place we did want to stop at in Guadeloupe which was Pigeon or Jack Cousteau Island. This island, half way down the W side of the island is a famous dive sight. We anchored on the Guadeloupe shore, about a mile from the island and dinghied out. Having been protected for a long time the wildlife around it is fantastic. Although it is better dived rather than snorkelled as it is all pretty deep , the coral where we swam in 20-40’ of water was excellent with plenty of fish. Friends that have dived it down to about 70′ say that whilst you need to be careful in the currents that run up the side of the island, it is one of the best sites they have dived in the whole of the Caribbean – no mean praise. My thanks go to the young French couple who saw my dive knife fall out of its holster and recovered it for me.
Having had a great day at the island, we left Guadeloupe in the dark for an overnight sail down to our next port of call, Dominica.
We didn’t do Guadeloupe justice at all, I fear. It looked good, the French influence was very obvious and we enjoyed the short time we were here. If we had more time it would have been good to have a proper explore of the island. As it was we missed completely the islands of the S coast, which were on our really want to see list.
The island is definitely somewhere to revisit when we next pass through this way. In a few more years……