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February 2015

January 2015

You Gotta Have Friends---Particularly When in Guadeloupe

Most particularly when things are challenging, EW and I
evidently have to have friends who speak our language. We were getting testy
during our first three weeks here---and a little bit manic. While reading my
blog when they were in St. Lucia, Lynn from Silverheels III realized that we
were isolated. Bless her. That same day, I was delighted to return to the
anchorage to see an American flag fluttering from the back of a sweet cruising
boat. I sped to their transom to see that they were from Maine! No
kidding. We were thrilled to meet Elaine and Dutch, who graciously invited us
on board for a drink. They were only in for a quick stop and leaving the next
morning, but I squeezed in another chance to chat by offering Elaine a ride to
the market while Dutch readied the boat.

For. The. Win.

Thus began the trickle of English speaking sailors to
Pointe a Pitre. (The Ruling Brits on the Cat mentioned in the previous post did
not count.) A couple of days after Elaine and Dutch left, EW and I were walking
back from a shopping jaunt and heard American accents as we neared the dinghy
dock. Normally outgoing, we may have bordered on maniacal as we introduced
ourselves to Andy and Sally. Fortunately, they both have a great sense of
humor. Even more fortunately, they had been expecting to meet us, and
informed us that Lynn and Ken from Silverheels III were in the
anchorage and had left their boat card in our dinghy.

I am not ashamed to say that I did a happy dance on the
dock. Lynn and Ken, regular readers of the blog, and solid cruising friends
from our time in Grenada, had traveled from St. Lucia because Lynn thought we
could benefit from having friends nearby. How sweet is that? They also seemed
to break the language logjam as other US, Canadian, and English boats began to
join our neighborhood. While we were on the dock, EW met JoAnn and Gene, who
also have Maine ties; Andy and Sally introduced us to Mike and Jean, also
from the US; Gene and JoAnn introduced us to James and Claire from Great
Britain; and then we stopped by to introduce ourselves to John and Shelly from
New Zealand. All of a sudden we had to plan play time around boat projects and
organized or joined cruiser excursions for parts and the market.

For me, cruising is more about meeting new folks at
sea and on shore than it is about actually sailing. (Don’t worry, EW knows
that). Cruising offers a unique social life and an instant community of
like-minded folk from different countries and backgrounds. After three weeks
tackling our issues alone, we finally had cruising neighbors to offer advice,
help, sympathy, and fun. We even took a full play day to take the bus to Basse
Terre with Lynn, Ken, John and Shelly.

Imagine it. We had a day off from any boat projects or
shopping for boat projects. We played tourist. We took photos. We ate glace.

We. Are. Cruisers. Again.

EW and I are more relaxed, and things are moving forward.
The fridge is totally repaired, and EW rewired it as had been suggested by the
local expert; we will have new salon cushions next week; EW plays his guitar
every day. We are nearly back to normal---or to as near to normal as we get.

And I’ve rediscovered that I still love my EW and this

Whew.By the way, both laptops have issues, hence no photos: Sorry

Viva La French Sailors

We are in France,and since I’ve already  acted the Ugly American when re: conversing in AmeriFrench, I thought I’d jump in with both feet and discuss French Sailors and Anchoring.

We who cruise internationally make light of French sailors and their proclivity of  anchoring very close to other boats. If  there is a large anchorage with a few boats and lots of prime open space, odds are that the French sailor will anchor well within another boat’s safe zone. An international group of sailors who befriended us in the Canaries mentioned that all through the Med, Turkey, and Croatia, they prepared to defend their small circle of territory  when ever any French boat entered the harbor. This is even acknowledged when self-aware French sailors discuss anchoring. In a recent conversation, one Canadian cruiser said that she had to repress a laugh when a friend from France complained about someone anchoring too close to her boat. The French woman caught the Canadian’s eye and had the grace to laugh first. The implication is that if a French sailor thinks you are too close –—you are most certainly to darn close!

We had a prime spot at the entrance to Marina Bas Du Fort, where we had a short and relatively chop-free dinghy ride to the marina and were often able get the marina’s Wi-Fi. Of course, this means that many  other boats try to anchor  in the same location. Some succeed where they shouldn’t.

One such boat was a nearly new catamaran with (of all things) a British flag and pink lettering. We returned from a trip ashore last week to find them anchored well inside La Luna’s zone of safety. As both boats were pointing in the same direction and there was no immediate danger, we wimped out and didn’t address the issue. The next morning, I popped up on deck to lower the dinghy and found the butt end of this cheeky catamaran, very close off La Luna’s stern. How close were they? I don’t think I could have swung the stern ladder down, but if I had, I could have used it to easily clamber aboard their pontoon.  IMG_8728Catamarans swing differently than keeled mono-hulls and it’s the wise boat owner who takes that into consideration. I believe my exclamation roused our neighbor who arrived on deck about the same time EW did. At that point, the cat had finally started to swing and we no longer could have shown up for breakfast sans dinghy. They left shortly afterward, and we assumed/hoped they’d left the island

Also last week, a small sloop anchored well off our bow. The (also compact) young couple appeared to be that breed of practical French sailors who cheerfully and adroitly make their way on a small boat with few amenities. While I was off one morning rowing the dingy for exercise, EW had reason to go on deck and could not help but notice that sailing with few amenities requires one to sleep in the nude, and to hang over the stern for one’s morning business. EW was adamant about how much of the young woman he’d seen, but I was a tad skeptical.

Way back when we were dating, after the “I sail and all of my friends sail,” conversation, EW convinced me to take a Power Squadron safety and chart-plotting course. I was a naïve, twenty-something, and two slightly older young professional males also taking the course delighted in teasing me about 1) taking a course at the behest of my boyfriend, and 2) all of the things I would have to endure at sea. One of those things, they assured me, was hanging over the rail bottom-out in order to relieve myself. I was appalled and promptly called EW,  after class to let him know that was not an option.

Frankly, I didn’t really think it was an option for anyone, but those same Canadian cruisers mentioned above were well aware of this practice among French sailors. Sure enough, a few days later, I happened on deck to observe a tight compact behind, perched just so on the stern rail, as the lady on board did her morning thing. EUWWW!

So, the scene has been set. The small French boat left for a few days and returned to anchor closer to La Luna’s port side. EW watched them anchor, realized they were astute sailors who understood their boat, and decided that while they had unnecessarily positioned their boat within easy hailing distance, they weren’t close enough to cause problems. A few hours later, a large, new catamaran with pink lettering steamed into the anchorage. The cheeky Brits were back. Knowing their modus operandi, EW and I both sat on deck and stared at them while they tried to find a good spot, ignoring the wide open spaces just a few boats beyond.

The Brits wisely chose to avoid the La Luna zone, and instead anchored just ahead of the little French boat. That couple were on board doing boat projects in the hot Caribbean sun. The young gentleman was in cropped pants, a pink long-sleeved shirt, and a floppy hat. He had been concentrating on repairing his steering vane, and hadn’t seen the Brits anchor. They had scooted below to change into fetching shore outfits and had just lowered their dinghy for a trek to the marina when our petite French captain walked up to the bow and asked them to move.

The burly Brit was reluctant to do so, and a discussion ensued. We couldn’t hear it, but all conversation stopped as the French captain planted both feet on his bow pulpit, leaned back against the forestay, crossed his arms, and simply stared at the Brits. Mrs. Britannica looked around the anchorage and suggested to Mr. B. that they move off to port a bit. He clearly wasn’t ready to declare this his own personal anchoring Waterloo, but abandoned the field of conflict and moved his boat.

We were  disappointed. We had been looking forward to the following morning when we imagined the Brits enjoying their tea and scones as a nubile young French female sat on her stern and took a dump, barely a meter aft  of the Brit’s raised dinghy.

Dang! That would have been so great! Ah well. In addition to how one says “You are welcome” in French (which get’s huge smiles here), this week I learned the following: 1) The French are different; 2) French sailors do have an anchoring zone of safety, it’s just smaller than ours; and 3) Those guys back in Maine 30 years ago were right. It is possible for a woman to “go” over the rail.

I am, of course, more likely speak French fluently than I am to bare my non-compact Anglo-Saxon butt in that fashion.

Cato, You Fool! Or -- The “Bimps” Along the Way

If The Pink Panther is my reference for the
French language, you know I’ve got problems. EW and I are isolated here in
Pointe a Pitre. Granted, the first week and a half we weren’t fit for company, but
now that we’re feeling more social, we haven’t found any English speaking
cruisers. In fact, it was much easier to find American and cruisers from other
English-speaking countries while we were in the Canaries than it is to find
them here. We have always liked Guadeloupe, but have visited more obvious
cruising ports of Deshaies and Isles de Saintes where we always met new sailing
friends from the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Great Britain.

We love Deshaies and Isles de Saintes, but
unless you need marine services, I don’t find Pointe a Pitre or the complex at
Marina Bas du Fort particularly appealing. All of you who replied to previous
posts and mentioned dining in Guadeloupe, and pan chocolat have not visited
Marina Bas Du Fort recently. Online, they boast “over 100” restaurants and
shops. As our dear friend Carrie would say, “Dat is a LIE!” There are shops and
restaurants, but not 100 of them, and the best restaurant we’ve found is a
popular Asian one. In fact, in these many fewer than 100 establishments, there is
not one boulangerie in the port,
though we finally found one at road exiting the marina complex. While we can purchase baguettes at the
indifferent grocery store in the complex, it was only just this week when I
finally enjoyed a pan chocolat. Here at the marina, there are, however, four
places that offer American style pizza and two hamburger joints -- all in a
place where few profess to -- or actually do -- speak English. It is an
adventure of a different sort.

Except for the rather superior ladies at
the marina, and the most unfriendly grocery clerks I’ve ever encountered,
everyone is pleasant and as helpful as possible. As we did in the Azores, we
work each day to learn new phrases and to use them properly. I talk as slowly
as I possibly can (which is a chore for me) and apologize frequently for not
speaking French. Still, we get “punished” often by these friendly folk when
they project ignorance where it cannot reasonably occur.

Our first meal ashore was pizza, because we
frankly couldn’t find anything else at the marina and were tired and cranky.
The menu was in French, but the proprietor said she had “some English” so we
worked together to place our order, until we got to the “Olives”. She replied
with a frown, “Pardon?” We repeated, “Ol
-live, si vous plait”. She frowned more and shook her head. In my mind, I
heard, “What is this Ol-live, Cato, you fool?” I pointed to the menu. She
smiled, “Ahhh! Ol-LEAVE! Oui!”

Really? You own a pizza parlor and can’t
interpret “Ol-live” to be “Ol-LEAVE” in context? I am not the fool.

The pizza was delicious and just as we had
ordered it, with cheese, pepperoni and black olives.

Five of them. Whole. With pits. In a nice
little circle around the center.

If anyone actually made and offered crepes
here -- we’d order ‘em. In the meantime, I’m back to making our own pizza. I
think we will accept an estimate on the main salon cushions this week and
expect the refrigeration expert to show up finally early next week. While we wait for the cushions, we’ll get on
with our appointed boat tasks, learn more French, and eat more pan chocolat.

Our next stop will be Nevis and St. Kitts.
I understand they speak English there. We are ready.

Life in France, UFO’s, and Popcorn

It’s been an exciting week in Pointe a
Pitre, where all the women are strong and the men are good-looking, and the
anchorages are above average. La Luna is still happily at anchor just outside
the marina at Bas du Fort. The anchorage is a bit bumpy because the power
boaters are without clue regarding waves and wake, but it’s close to the dock
and we’ll stay here until the refrigeration is repaired, and then we’ll move to
a quieter spot across the bay.

In the meantime, EW has seen a doctor
because the bug bites continue to poison him and he now has an industrial strength
antihistamine that seems to help. I had an infected root/gum under an older
crown, so I’m on antibiotics and had a root canal on Thursday. This is all
proof that real life goes on during the cruising life and that we all just have
to make adjustments along the way.

The dentist speaks English but his
assistant does not, so bi-lingual Ariane from the marina actually book my first
visit for me. After the diagnosis, I agreed to be available for a last minute
“rendezvous” when someone else cancelled. (Isn’t rendezvous a wonderful word
for appointment? Having a rendezvous with my dentist sounds much more fun than
having an appointment for a root canal.) The other morning, my Guadeloupe phone
rang, and when I answered I heard a young lady speaking French. I replied,
asking for English, (with a French “please”) and she continued in French. We
have been talking with a number of service providers, but all of them have some
English -- except the dentist’s assistant --- so I assumed she was the caller
and interrupted the next multi-sentence French onslaught.

Barb: Dentist?

Stephanie: Oui

Barb: Rendezvous?

Stephanie: Oui

Barb: Day?

Stephanie: In French to someone else then
back to me -- “Tursday.”

Barb: Oui. Thursday. Time?

Stephanie In French to someone else and
then back to me -- “NINE”.

Barb: Oui. Thursday at Nine. Merci.

We got ‘er done.

On Friday, EW took me by dinghy to our new
favorite laundry and dropped me while I did two loads. These European machines
were different than the European machines in the Azores and Canaries, so
there’s always much to learn. Since this laundry is in a local neighborhood,
all instructions are in French only. EW and I had been there with a lot of
laundry after the Endurance Crossing, so I pretty much knew how things worked.
After loading the machine one inserts the coins or bills into a machine on the
wall, and then presses a button with the number that corresponds to one of the six washers or two dryers, and that starts the machine. 

This time I was joined by a West Indian
gentleman who spoke the King’s English and French. We were delighted to find that he is Baba and
I am Barbara, which called for an exuberant high five. We chatted about jobs,
kids, countries, languages, and the Caribbean, and were joined by a very happy whom
woman EW and I would describe as a “UFO”. A UFO is an Unfortunate Fashion Option, and
they are much more prevalent these days due to the patterned leggings or tights
that are worn (for some reason) more often by women of a certain size -- about
three or more sizes larger (and 30 decades older) --- than those who should be
wearing them. This lady, who never gave her name to either me or Baba, topped
her flowered tights with a barely held up strapless top. Her nails were over an
inch long and two toned purple and green.

She only spoke French and would converse
with both of us, laughing often, and didn’t seem to care that I couldn’t
understand a word she said.
After she left, Baba told me that she had decided
to “take her break” after walking past the laundry and seeing “this beautiful
white woman.” It was a moment. Considering the events of the past two weeks, my
still slightly swollen jaw, and my laundry day attire, I’m not sure even EW would have
called me beautiful at that moment. The best I was going for was clean.

With all that’s been going on, we gave up
on decorating for Christmas and EW actually had to admit that he hadn’t even
purchased any stocking stuffers for me before leaving the Canaries. At that
point, I didn’t care. While shopping
downtown, we had wandered into a very nice natural clothing store and decided
that Santa would purchase on item for each of us -- getting EW off the hook. I,
however, had met up with Santa in the Canaries so was able to surprise EW last
night for our first Friday Pizza and Movie Night in weeks. As our dear friends
Lynnelle and Rhoda know, one must have popcorn on Pizza and Movie Night, and
while shopping in Lanzarote I had found plastic, reusable, popcorn canisters
like the ones you get at the theatre. I purchased two for the boat as a gift
from Santa and EW was surprised and delighted.

Those familiar with our Christmas stocking
tradition will know that EW is usually the king of filling the stocking. This
time, I win. It may be by default, but I win.

NOTE: Strong, free Wi-Fi is available at
the marina, but my laptop battery isn’t charging and I can’t plug it in there,
so this is going up via a thumb drive and a computer at the local hotspot
business – one that has a French keyboard. I haven’t totally given up on
photos, but need to work out some kinks here.
Barb Hart

Sailing. Find out where by going to:

Seven Days at Anchor

EW just informed me that we arrived a week ago today. How time flies when ..

Well, fun wasn't on the agenda this week, though, yes we have enjoyed a bit of French food and wine. Just a bit. We opted for Guadeloupe because I want to spend time at anchor in some of my favorite places. We chose to first visit Pointe a Pitre because we have issues to take care of. This week, some of the more difficult bits were crossed off the list, necessitating roaming the city and it's surrounding area on foot, in a bus, in a taxi, and in the dinghy.

The boat has been rid of pests (don't ask)and cleaned more thoroughly than normal, almost every article of clothing has been washed, EW has fixed the dinghy motor (for real, this time), and we've begun work on some more more yachty boat projects. On Monday, we will finally call the fridge repair person, but in the meantime we get by with two coolers and daily shopping. The people are friendly and willing to help even if they don't speak English. Per capita, it seems as if more folks in the Azores spoke English than they do here. On the other hand, they grow the best small melons here, and many other lovely fresh food items. Being without a fridge has not been a hardship (except on the day and a half when we didn't have a dinghy motor).

I had hoped to have all necessary things done by the 6th, but that isn't going to happen. No worries, we are at anchor in the Caribbean where there are many free dinghy docks, wine, sun, and one very friendly French Bulldog who likes belly rubs. The one thing I find lacking is available WiFi. The marina offers free WiFi near the office, with no bench or table to make it easy and comfortable. There is an "old-fashioned" space with computers available and I'll probably go in and pay them for a few hours tomorrow -- if I can remember to get in there before their two and a half hour mid-day break. I cannot find out what Digicel would charge for X amount of data, but Orange is ridiculously expensive. We currently only have a local phone number for calling and texting.

For the first few days I did check email and Facebook, using my phone on the Marina's WiFi, but then the dinghy motor died, we got very busy with tasks and searching for parts and services, and EW was poisoned by the Caribbean black flies. Liberal applications of OFF! and a great itch reliever have given me back my husband. So, on Sunday we are resting and gearing up for another few days of boat work, and treasure hunting.

In the meantime, we are just now beginning to sleep through the nights, and are getting caught up. Eight hours in our master stateroom, sleeping next to EW is such a luxury. (Get your minds out of the gutter, people!)

And two other observations:
1. We were delighted with the emails and Facebook messages waiting for us when we arrived. It was great to hear from so many of you. Thank you for the best wishes, advice, condolences, and appreciation of my weird sense of humor.
2. I truly liked writing a blog post nearly daily and without worrying about adding a photo or ten. While I appreciate (Lynnelle) that photos are necessary, I will focus on them less, and on writing more.

Because I know I've been remiss these past few days, this post is being written and published via Sailmail as if we were at sea. Because we kinda are . . . we aren't on a dock and we don't have WiFi. That's like being at sea, right?

Finally, the Caribbean sun is doing wonders with our new solar panels -- course it helps that they don't have to charge up the refrigeration. The sea gods givith and the sea gods takith away.