Falmouth Harbour, Antigua.
The last few days of this Adventure remain a bit of a blur. But first I will rewind. We sailed up the leeward coast of St Lucia to give Cas En Bas beach a try at the north end of the island. Jody and I took the day to clean and reprovision the boat, with me now in the Captain as well as chef’s shoes while the gang drove from Rodney Bay to the beach, about 10 minutes by taxi. The girls spent the day in the bar, nothing new there, while Joaquin, Clinton, Cory, Mike and Lance all had one of the best sessions of their lives. Lance, under the excellent guidance of one of the best kiters in the world did his first board riding, while the butter water and solid winds allowed the others to hone skills and just have a blast. Our group was the only one there. They arrived back on Discovery that night a little sunburned, and happily exhausted.
Cas En Bas would have been a great place to ride for several more days, but as we we’re already half way through the trip and had a good distance left to sail to Antigua, we decided to sail for Martinique in the morning. An easy 3 hour sail to wind proved a perfect conditioning sail for the group. Joaquin showed his vast skills on the helm, keeping us rolling along over 10 knots.
Upon arrival at the south end of Martinique in Saint Anne we decided the best way to get some kiting in before dark would be to rent a car and head for Anse Triboud, one of the spots we’d heard about. Martinique is 20 miles, but a world away from St Lucia. Absolutely French- in language, presentation, feel. While St Lucia is wild and I would say even unkempt, Martinique is all clean and manicured.
It also has a windward coast that presents dozens of awesome places to kite and some long downwind potential. Triboud was a goose chase as none of us speaks French and we got turned around by a local who was unimpressed with our attempts to open his gate to get to the beach. Never mind, just north of Triboud is Anse Michel, which turned out to be a killer spot to ride til dark. The girls even found another bar!
We spent another day at Anse Michel after a hard night of partying and more pole dancing, one in which the skipper passed out on the aft deck and had to be put in Holly’s pajamas and sent to bed, but let’s keep that on the down low. By now Lance was getting close to staying upwind and was all smiles and the rest of us were working on more tricks under Clinton’s guidance. Joaquin was even pulling some sweet backrolls in a few inches of water right next to the beach, but his time would soon come…
Friday night we sailed up to Fort Au France where the guests decided to hit the town while Jody, Joaquin and I tried for some desperately needed sleep before a long run the next day up to Guadeloupe, about 100 miles north. Sometime around 3 am a very drunken group circled Discovery and woke me up, then raced through the anchorage at full tilt, hollering and making general asses of themselves, then took off to check out a container ship right across a reef that had thankfully just enough water to clear the prop or there could have been a serious accident. Needless to say, they got an earful when they finally got back to Discovery and got another one the next day.
An easy sail the next morning up to Saint Pierre followed where we hoped to get in a dive, but again our lack of French made arranging anything a bit challenging, so we simply enjoyed the quaint town, bought some avocados, did some internet and headed off for Guadeloupe. Guadeloupe is in fact two islands, separated by a very narrow salt water river which can be navigated by shallow draft boats- but only if you arrive at the bridge that opens once a day at 0500. That’s all the information I had, and unfortunately this would turn out to be insufficient. We had an amazing sail from Martinique up to Dominica, then mostly motored up the lee coast of Dominica, then Joaquin and Clinton expertly cruised us across at top speed from Dominica to Guadeloupe. Clinton woke me at 0300, right on schedule so I could bring us into the long channel, a well lit but dubious affair at night. We arrived right on time at 0430. 0500 came and went, the bridge stayed locked down. By 0530 I started getting a bit worried. We had to get to Antigua, and going around the island would add 70 miles and kill a day of kiting. Shortly thereafter a few French guys cruised by in a speedboat and said “no no no- tomorrow!” Sure enough, no bridge openings on Sunday. Shit.
So I turned her around and headed 8 miles up to Anse de Saint Anne, one of the Kite beaches Cory had downloaded on Kiteforum. The winds were too light for kiting on Sunday so the group did what it did best- drink. By now running the boat and cooking for 10 was really taking its toll on me, even with all the help from Joaquin, Jody and Clinton, but I was a wreck and took every opportunity for sleep. The plan was to try the bridge again the next morning, Monday, which would still get us up to Antigua Monday night, in plenty of time for everyone’s flights early Tuesday. Alas, it was not to be, but things turned out spectacularly well. Well, for everyone but me. We hove anchor from Saint Anne at 0315 and headed back to the bridge, arriving right on time at 0450. There was a monohull in front of me and I asked them something that had been bothering me since the day before. Would we fit through the bridge? Their reply was they didn’t know- the bridge had 7.4 meter width. We are 9.4 meters wide. OK, I was exhausted, but that was pretty easy math. So twice we were turned around at the bridge and now had a difficult choice. The group could go by taxi up to isle Caret, where we’d planned to kite all day on the north side while I took Discovery the long way around (about an 8 hour trip), or they could fly from Guadeloupe to Antigua, or we could all just sail around the long way. As sometimes happens, the decision was made for us through a dumbshit act all my own.
We motored back down the channel to Pointe a Pitre, the main city of Guadeloupe. I waited for the stores to open, then hit the chandlery to buy the Leeward island guidebook so we’d be making less bridge fiasco errors, then back to the boat and promptly sliced my foot between my big toe and index toe on the engine hatch covers. Joaquin took over and we headed for the hospital while the group headed for the airport. Two hours later I was sewn up perfectly by a fellow kiteboarder at the hospital and the group were flightless, so around the island we had to go. Which turned out to be a perfect end to an almost perfect trip.
It occurred to my foggy brain as we began our rounding of Guadeloupe that we still had time to stop for one final kite session at St. Francis, another kite spot on our charts- we were going to sail all night anyway and even with moderate winds we’d make it in time for the flights. As the sun sank lower and lower we could see a couple kites in the air and the race was on. Unfortunately we have no pictures to document what then took place, but I promise it was special. Lance got the best riding of his trip, staying upwind on his own, solo for the first time.
Cory, Mike, and Clinton were all powered up on their big kites and came back to the boat well after full dark with huge smiles. And Joaquin- well Joaquin made it until well after dark as well, but not before he shredded his board on the reef, then managed to get his 16 wrapped around the mast of another small sailboat anchored in the bay next to us, much to our amusement. I had dinner prepared when a very happy quintet made it back to Discovery, bodies and gear in one piece. The last supper was a memorable one. St Francis is one of the best riding spots any of us has ever seen. Even in the dark.
An easy sail ensued to Antigua. We anchored in Falmouth Harbour, next to English Harbour, a striking old British fortress that has been immaculately preserved.
I went in to customs and immigration to clear in the boat and get everyone off the crew list, and 7 wonderful friends hastily departed for the airport. All I can say – thank god we have a year before they come back! I don’t think the crew will ever have to work so hard…but we’re not likely to have so much fun either.