We flew from St. Lucia and arrived in Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, an archipelago of over a dozen sun drenched islands. The two main islands are butterfly-shaped and are joined together by a mangrove swamp and a few bridges. The eastern island, Grande-Terre is flat, dry and ringed with golden beaches, whereas the western island, Basse-Terre is mountainous and wreathed with jungle. While we spent a day on the island, we were due to set sail with the Yacht Tribe — the plan was the visit some of the archipelago but eventually make our way to Antigua — one of the two major islands that make up the independent Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda.
While I had been sailing before, this was my first Armada, and I can’t imagine a better group to be part of. The Yacht Tribe is a group formed by Yann, and started with him making trips with his friends, and has now grown by word of mouth to a larger group — in this case, 46 of us. The journey was going to be dependant on the winds and weather conditions but ultimately, our plan was to charter five catamarans and sail to Antigua for the new year. Our boat, Vahevala, a Lucia 40, and was perfect for the nine of us: Javier our skipper, Geraldo from Gaudalara, Gemma, Montse and Nayara from Barcelona, Adriana and Popy from London, and Jeff and I from the US.
Saturday 12/28: Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe
We met at the marina to complete the boat inventory checks and provision the boat for the week. The crew spent time getting the boat ready, taking inventory and determining sleeping arrangements as well as visiting the marina supermarket. 25 bottles of wine, 20 limes, several avocados, some protein, veg and carbs later, we were ready for the week.
Rather than set sail late in the day, we stayed at the marina for the evening and went to Coco Kafe for dinner, a nearby restaurant that specialises in Creole and Caribbean cuisine. We also managed to break in our new mugs by polishing off a bottle of Casamigos tequila – both compliments of Gerry. He was kind enough to bring us each a mug with a unique design and song/phrase, along with this great bottle of tequila.
Sunday 12/29: Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe
After a long morning trying to complete our customs clearance as well as a number of other logistics, we were off for a long day of sailing. We raised the sails around 12pm and were in for a bumpy ride ahead. The weather was nice, but there was light rain on and off through the journey, making for several gorgeous rainbows along the way.
Given the amount of time on the water, we were not able to stop for lunch or swimming, but did enjoy a salad with tuna & salmon along the way.
We also got our boat ready to look like part of the Yacht Tribe by raising our flags to represent the nationalities of the crew.
We finally made it to Deshaies around 6pm and anchored in the bay for the evening. Upon arrival, Gerry whipped up some fajitas, and following dinner, Yann stopped by, via dinghy, and took a few of us over to Davide’s boat for a party. A great way to get to know the other members of the Yacht Tribe!
Monday 12/30 Deshaies, Guadelupe
As we knew we had another long day at sea as our goal was to make the crossing to Antigua, we decided to set off early in the morning. We left the bay at 7am, with the wind at about 8 knots, coming from the east.
Along this sail, we also had to get the boat ready for the customs clearance — basically, Antigua requires their flag be put up, so we needed to remove our French flag and put up the Antigua flag. And in addition, since we hadn’t cleared customs yet, we also had to put a yellow flag up temporarily.
We parked the boat in the English harbour, and while the skippers went off with our passports, the crew made a great Italian lunch.
Once done, we removed our yellow flag and were off to find Carlisle Bay. For this evening, we decided to raft the boats together in a line, so we anchored down and tied ourselves to one of our neighbours. We then made burgers and roasted potatoes, hung out for a while and eventually crossed over to Yann’s boat for the evening party.
Tuesday, 12/31: Carlisle Bay
We started heading to the west side of Antigua, and enjoyed the morning with mangos, pineapples and apples and also saw a number of turtles along the journey. Gerry also kindly used his medical skills to inject rum into a mango for later on.
As we made our way west, we stopped off at Cocos Beach and rafted the boats in a square. After some swimming, and hanging out on the “floating bar” visiting the different catamarans for their specialty drinks, it was time for a Yacht Tribe tradition: The Initiation Games. We were grouped into four teams, and we held dinghy races to compete with one another. Fortunately, this wasn’t like the Hunger Games and all of us newbies made it into the Tribe!
Following the games, a few of us took the dinghy to the beach, and went Sheer Rocks, a restaurant and bar poised at the edge of cliff, protruding over the rocks of Ffryes Bay, and enjoyed some cocktails and bites, as well as a dip in their plunge pool.
While we were off galavanting, Javier whipped up his famous Spanish tortilla on the boat.
By early evening, we were at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina and it was time to shower and get ready for the evening – our NYE white party at Clobby’s, the restaurant and bar at the marina. We ate, drank and danced until the early hours of the morning – a great way to start 2020!
Wednesday, 1/1: Antigua Yacht Club Marina
As expected, it was a late start to the morning. Once again, we needed to complete our customs clearance and we also needed to clean up the boat and fill our water tank – a procedure that may sound simple, but between the hangover and the difficult staff at the marina, even filling water was an arduous task.
Finally around mid-day, we made our way out of the marina and set sail to Green Island. I took the helm for most of this journey, which made for a fun way to spend the afternoon. Once at the bay next to Green Island, we anchored the boats in a star formation, creating a space for swimming in the middle.
Some went off to the beach, others went to explore. In our case, Montse whipped up a lentil salad, which paired perfectly with the rose we had bought. Following lunch, we took the dingy to a nearby reef to go snorkeling — while there weren’t many fish, I unexpectedly spotted an octopus and Jeff saw a lobster! Popy, on the other hand, joined us for the snorkel, but was mostly focused on delivering spiced rum to all of us on the journey!
It was a leisurely day — we got back, hung out a bit, showered and eventually, had a mexican dinner of quesadillas and guacamole. There was a party on Davide’s boat next door, and Gerry, Gemma, Jeff and Montse attended, while Adriana, Popy and I decided to sit in the “VIP section”, meaning the top of our boat, and enjoy it from the distance. It was a gorgeous night in the bay – the sky and the stars above made for spectacular evening.
Thursday, 1/2: Green Island
Given the long crossing ahead, we decided to set out early in the morning. With the wind coming from the east at 8 knots, we set off in the dark at 5:30am. It was a nice morning, and while cloudy, it was still great to sail with the sun rising in the background. Around mid-day, we stopped in Gran Anse Beach. and spent most of the afternoon on the beach while Gerry completed our customs clearance to re-enter Guadeloupe. It turned out to be quite the adventure – we initially thought we would make a short visit and just check out the beach. As it turned out, the customs clearance was a lengthy procedure so we had a lot more time. Given this, Javier and Adriana swam back to the boat to get some money, and Gemma, Monste and I went hunting for turtles. The visibility was very poor so our hunt was unsuccessful and instead, it just became a long swim! Eventually, we all reconvened at Karacoli Beach club, and enjoyed pina coladas and tapas on the beach, before returning back to the boat.
Given the late departure, we sailed through sunset and into the evening, but has a fun ride along the way – the Michael Jackson playlist elicited a dance party (and perhaps the whiskey may have also had something to do with this). Once we anchored near Marina Riviere-Sens, we enjoyed an evening filled with red wine, jamon and a salad, before hopping over to the Russian boat to celebrate a few of the birthdays that evening.
Friday, 1/3 Ilet Du Gosier
We set sail around 9:30am to head to Ilet Du Gosier. We arrive early afternoon and spent the day at the beach nearby – we had lunch the one and only restaurant on the beach, went swimming, took a bunch of photos and ended up consuming a lot of some local rum concoction.
While we were enjoying our day at the beach, Yann and a few others were negotiating our dinner plans – they managed to procure some fresh fish, lobster and chicken, as well as access to the beach for us to have our tropical party. We all brought whatever leftovers we had on the boat to contribute and enjoyed one final party together, under the stars. A perfect way to end the trip.
All good things have to come to an end, and it was time to head home. We started the morning early to go refuel before heading back to the marina. It turned out this was taking longer than expected, so Jeff and I jumped over to Yann’s boat to get to shore, and then a few of us all headed over to the airport to catch our flight.
We had a number of us going via Puerto Rico so we had a fun flight over. And then thanks to a delay on JetBlue, I ended up getting a bit of a holiday extension and enjoyed lunch and drinks with Mischa, Ivan, Ebrahaim, Scott and Jeff. Probably the best way to spend a long layover!