What a difference a few miles makes!

We arrived in Portsmouth at midday and were welcomed by Ken, our boat boy from Eddison Tours. As he had driven his pirogue a mile offshore to attract our business, we did a quick check in the ‘Bible’……..Chris Doyle’s ‘Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands’……..to see if he was listed as one of the PAYS ‘good guys’, and then took him up on his offer of a mooring buoy. Once tethered, Ken gave us a very warm welcome and sold us tickets to the Sunday evening BBQ.

Island Kea on Ken's buoy with the PAYS building behind.

Island Kea on Ken’s buoy with the PAYS building behind.

The local ‘boat boys’ have organised themselves into a cooperative called Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services, PAYS and the weekly BBQ helps pay for the office staff, wifi and upkeep of the club house/shack. The PAYS moorings are known to be substantial and are checked and serviced regularly, so IK’s 20 tons were safely secured and we were contributing to the economy of this striving community.

Portsmouth was the original capital of the island, but so many of the early settlers were wiped out by Yellow Fever that thrived in the low lying wet land. They decided to move to the far less sheltered Roseau.

One of the beach front bars along the shore.

One of the beach front bars along the shore.

Portsmouth today is a small fishing town which actively encourages Yotties and tourists. After a stroll along the Main Street and the beach we took the Indian River trip, made famous by the fact that some of the swamp shots from Pirates of the Caribbean were shot here. Our boatman/guide was Jean Ettienne or ‘Special’.

Jean Etienne 'Special'

Jean Etienne ‘Special’

He proudly told us that his so-many-times grandfather had escaped slavery on Guadaloupe and fled to Dominica. It turns out that Britain abolished slavery 15 years before France, so it was worth the risk of making the passage.

The Indian River - named after the Carib and Arawak Indians who lived on its banks.

The Indian River – named after the Carib and Arawak Indians who lived on its banks.

The trip was enchanting, but unfortunately the promised ‘returning to roost’ birds did not appear.

Up the Lazy River.

Up the Lazy River.

As compensation there was a bar at the end of the navigable stretch……….they don’t miss a trick!

The Ticking Croc Tavern.

The Ticking Croc Tavern.

When we arrived on Sunday I made my very first rabbit stew and we invited some French friends, who we first met in Jacaré, on board for sundowners and a share of the stew. It turns out that on French boats to mention the word rabbit, or lapin, would get you thrown off for bringing bad luck aboard. Pascal and Mimi, said they never usually eat rabbit as they don’t have fond memories of it ………. a bit like the dreaded liver we remember from childhood! However the verdict was…….. ‘Delicious!’

On Tuesday we were invited aboard ‘Islands Coyote’ and spent a lovely evening with them. Fine food, great company and lots of silliness from the boys!

Onboard Islands Coyotte.

Onboard Islands Coyotte.

Frank Sinatra??!

Frank Sinatra??!

On Wednesday, we set sail for The Saints, or Les Saintes as the French call them. They are an archipelago of 8 islands off the south coast of Guadaloupe. They reminded us of the Scillies………the clear water, the tranquility, the lack of traffic and the friendliness of the people.

Approaching Les Saintes.

Approaching Les Saintes.

The High Street at lunchtime.

The High Street at lunchtime.

The island we anchored off was Terre de Haut. Like St Mary’s, in the Scillies, it is the hub of the islands, with ‘mainland’ ferries bringing the tourists in the morning and taking them away again in the afternoon.

The Z on the shutters is a local thing.

The Z on the shutters is a local decoration.

The 'Ginger Bread' fretwork is another.

The ‘Ginger Bread’ fretwork is another.

We did the tourist thing and hired two electrics bikes. Although they are electric, they don’t do all the work……..we had to pedal hard to get the bikes to ‘assist’ up the steep climb to the napolionic fort that overlooks the harbour and approaches to Guadaloupe.
image

Stairs to the ramparts that give 360 views of the island.

Stairs to the ramparts that give 360 views of the island.

One of the views.........

One of the views………

.......and another. Island Kea is somewhere there!

…….and another. Island Kea is somewhere there!

We spent the day touring the entire island, which is only about two miles long and one mile wide.

The view back to the ferry dock.

The view back to the ferry dock.

Being in Les Saintes is like being on holiday, but just to make you feel better, there are still all the daily chores of living to be done. This is laundry day onboard.

Clothes line on the foredeck.

Clothes line on the foredeck.

We decided that, rather than visit Guadaloupe by boat, we would take the ferry over and hire a car for the day, so that we could get a taste of the island before pushing on for Antigua. I’m glad we did it this way, as Guadaloupe seems far less enchanting than Les Saintes!

Our ferry for the day.

Our ferry for the day.

Guadaloupe is the largest island in the Leewards. It’s shaped like a butterfly and is actually two islands. The eastern half is flat and ideal for plantations whilst the western half is mountainous with arable land on the foothills. We crossed on a small ferry to Trois Rivieres.

The harbour at Trois Rivières.

The harbour at Trois Rivières.

A sleepy village with a small harbour. Hiring a car proved to be difficult, as all the hire shops were closed and contactable by phone……..we had no phone! Luckily there was a bit of a queue forming outside one of the shuttered shops, so, in true British style we joined it. Our stead for the day was a Peugeot 205.

Being on the western island, there are few roads that go over the mountains, so we got on the motorway and headed east. Like all the French islands, the roads are well maintained and poorly signposted, so after a few wrong turns and detours we got to the village we had picked out on the map.

Vieux Bourg, our chosen destination. School, bar and church.......what more could you need?

Vieux Bourg, our chosen destination. School, bar and church…….what more could you need?

Centre piece of the roundabout in Vieux Bourg.!?

Centre piece of the roundabout in Vieux Bourg.!?

Could be England......

Could be England……

Arty shot of a beach we stumbled on......

Arty shot of a beach we stumbled on……

.........same beach. Plastic is a real danger to the environment. Turtles mistake plastic bags for jelly fish!

………same beach. Plastic is a real danger to the environment. Turtles mistake plastic bags for jelly fish!

One for my Mum.

One for my Mum.

Palm leaf weaver/philosopher we chatted with and Marcus.

Palm leaf weaver/philosopher we chatted with and Marcus.

Once back on Les Saintes, we joined some new friends, Roger and Gilly, for a meal at a great little restaurant opposite the dinghy dock. The steak was the best we’ve had since Brazil!

Gully and Moi at the steak restaurant.

Gully and Moi at the steak restaurant.

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