Friday, June 7, 2013

SNUBA at Jacques’ Place

Field Trip laying at anchor in Nevis.
As we slowly work our way down the Caribbean Island chain we want to stop at each and every island, but we're fighting the clock with hurricane season rapidly approaching so we cherry pick those islands we've heard good things about. According to our guidebook, Guadeloupe is a cruiser favorite: "the one destination that delivers the quintessential image of the Caribbean; awesome beaches, tropical rainforest, active volcano, great hiking, creole cuisine, friendly, colorful locals, rum distilleries, abundant tropical produce, etc."

That works for us, so we departed from Nevis early in the morning with a nice steady 20-knot easterly. We were averaging 6 - 7 knots and enjoying a close reach when we got a call from Mark on Field Trip warning us of strong winds that were funneling around the southern tip of the island. We shortened sail and soon found ourselves in 25-knot gusts and 6 - 7 ft. waves as we passed the point. The boat handled well with the reefed genoa as we headed towards the lee of the volcanic island of Montserrat.

We had to stay several miles offshore of the active volcano at Monserrat because of volcanic dust in the air.
The 1995 eruption of Montserrat devasted the town of Plymouth with pyroclastic flow. 
The volcano violently erupted in 1995 and pyroclastic flow buried the town of Plymouth, resulting in thousands of people being relocated off the island. There have been subsequent eruptions in the years since. Because the underwater topography has been altered by the eruptions, there is in two-mile exclusion zone around the south end of the island that we skirted as we sailed past.

We soon lost all wind in the lee of Montserrat and ended up motor sailing the rest of the leg as the wind was once again on the nose. Approaching Guadeloupe was a treat with the towering mountain peaks shrouded in clouds and a vibrant green carpet of jungle flowing down to the white sand beaches, a very typical description of all the Windward and Leeward Islands. We arrived in Deshaies (pronounced "day-hay") around 4:30 p.m. and anchored between Field Trip and Escape Velocity with just enough time to enjoy the picturesque harbor as the sun began to set.

The next morning we went into town to wander around and buy a few food items. Deshaies was a step up from your typical Caribbean seaside town, somewhat run down with small grocery stores, a few patisseries, a couple general merchandise stores, and not much effort to take advantage of the incredible waterfront location. As usual, we visited the grocery store to get some fresh vegetables and other items, but we will have to save a more thorough exploration of the town for our next visit.

This meticulously maintained Hinckley ketch was anchored near us at several ports. 
The next day (June 7) we headed down the coast a short distance to Pigeon Island, location of the Jacque Cousteau National Marine Park, where we could do some snorkeling and scuba diving. We anchored in a small cover just inshore from Pigeon Island as it was a little too rough to anchor out at the island.

Mark from Field Trip brought his SNUBA rig and invited us over to Pigeon Island to go diving. The islands are about 2 miles offshore and given the strong 20-knot winds, it was quite a wet dingy ride. Once we got tied up to a dive buoy in a small cove in the lee of the island, we got the SNUBA rig set up and Mark and Walter dove along the northern tip of the island where a wall descended down to about 100 ft. Mark and Walter cruised the wall at between 20 and 50 ft., marveling at the incredible sea life.

With SNUBA you tow your air compressor in a floating inner tube behind you and as a result, you tend to cruise along slower allowing you to see more marine life. Walter saw two huge lobsters and a large poisonous lionfish, both firsts for him. There were also a number of big basket corals with many small colorful wrasses and other tiny reef fish darting in and out of their protective cover.

Meryl snorkeled with Sara and her two kids, Elizabeth (the human fish) and Michael, and saw lots of fish and beautiful soft corals. The dingy ride back was even more exciting than the one over since we were now motoring into the 20-knot winds and our little 10 ft. dingy was bouncing up and down like a rodeo bull rider.

By the time we got back we were both wiped out and took such a long nap that it nearly went into bedtime for us. Oh, the joys of being in your mid-60s. We did get to enjoy a phenomenal sunset, one of the rewards of the cruising lifestyle where every day you live on waterfront property with a view.

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