Guadeloupe is straight south from Antigua. We made landfall in Deshaies (pronounced Days-ay) and cleared customs at a tee shirt shop. For each new country, you have to “clear-in” when you arrive and then “clear-out” when you leave. It’s time-consuming, but unavoidable. Before you’ve cleared-in, you must fly a solid yellow quarantine flag, commonly called a “Q flag”. Once cleared, you take down the Q flag and put up a miniature version of the country’s flag, called a “courtesy flag”. The French islands are very relaxed about customs and everything is done online. They licence shop owners to provide access to their system. It’s very efficient and cheap. The English islands do everything on paper – in triplicate! It’s very inefficient, slow and expensive.
The French islands have really great food (particularly bread and cheese) and wine. You can often buy interesting fresh produce, such as endive and fennel. They have great cordials (lemon, lime, passion fruit, orange, black current, etc.), which are concentrates that you add to water. These are very handy for cruisers because you don’t have to pack bulky soft drinks. We use a Soda Stream machine to carbonate our water and then add the cordial.
The English islands tend to have really uninteresting food, terrible bread and a lame assortment of cheeses. That said, English rum is way better than French rum. We never buy the latter, unless it’s an emergency!
One of the many quirks of French islands is that businesses close in the middle of the day, their hours of operation are not standard and are hard to figure out. So don’t even think about getting anything done in the middle of any weekday, Saturday afternoons, all day Sunday or on any of the endless public holidays. In this regard, the English islands are much more straight forward.
I think a great business idea would be to establish a food store on an English island and then get a Frenchman to do all the purchasing – “Delicious food. Always open!”
At the south end of Guadeloupe there is a small group of islands called “Les Saintes”. The main town, Bourg des Saintes on Terre-d'en-Haut, is lovely and a popular spot for cruisers. We were delighted to discover that Greg & Mel Burnett and kids, Tommy & Allie, were going to be in Les Saintes at the same time as us, so we arranged a rendezvous. See a photo of them below. They are aboard The Amazing Marvin, which is a Leopard 48, the same design as Panache. Marvin’s logo is a cuttlefish! When we were researching boats to buy a couple of years ago, I spoke with Greg at some length to get his take on the Leopard. Greg is an electrical engineer who did some very interesting electrical modifications to Marvin. With a lot of support from Greg, we had a very similar system installed on Panache. So, after all this time, I was very keen to meet “The Amazing Greg” in person. Coincidently, we had been having a few electrical issues ever since we left Ft. Lauderdale. Greg once again kindly offered to help us out. He diagnosed the problem and provided the solution - how good is that!
Mel writes their blog in the third person and is hysterical. She is neurologist with a great sense of humour and irony. Their website is Burnetts Ahoy: Nerds Afloat. Check it out. We were very sorry to have had only an evening and a morning with the Burnetts, but really enjoyed the chance to finally connect.
It’s a short sail from Les Saintes to Dominica (pronounced Dom-in-eek-ah). Unfortunately, we only spent one night on the island because we had to be in Martinique to meet Thomas & Catharina Glanzmann. Our current long-term plan has us returning to the Caribbean in 5 years, so we will get another chance to discover this beautiful island.
Next stop Martinique. Spoiler Alert: the Glanzmanns will be treating us to a couple of nights at a fancy French island resort – ooh la la!
Guadeloupe is made up of two main islands in the shape of a butterfly. It is an overseas territory of France, so you are technically in France when you enter Guadeloupe. South of Guadeloupe are the Iles des Saintes and Marie-Galante, also part of France. Obviously French is the official language, and many of its 400,000 inhabitants don’t speak any English. Luckily, Benny and I are able to muddle along in French.
As with many of the other islands, Columbus “discovered” it in 1493. The French took over in 1635. The British took it from the French in 1759, but then traded it back to them in exchange for part of Canada, which they deemed to be a more strategic holding. It was retaken by the British some time later, subsequently traded to Sweden and then traded back to France. There seems to have been a lot of "horse-trading" going on over the years.
Click on the photos below for a larger view.