Wednesday, March 15, 2017

1980 - Iles des Saintes


A poster I made.  Photo was taken from the Hotel Bois Joli
To go to the beginning of this book, Tropic Moon: Memories, click HERE.

A day sail from Barque Cove, on Guadeloupe, took us south to the Iles des Saintes (The Saints).  The Saints are a small volcanic archipelago, fully encircled by shallow reefs.  The Saints are composed of two very mountainous, inhabited islands – Terre-de-Haut Island and Terre-de-Bas Island, with seven other uninhabited islets.  Cruise ships visit the main bay, which is also a popular anchorage for yachts. 

Postcard from the Hotel Bois Joli

Our anchorage in the Saints was a small bay off the beach of the Hotel Bois Joli.  I was sitting on deck one afternoon, doing some sewing, when a couple swam out to the boat from the beach. She said a tentative "hello," and I responded with a "bonjour," which set them laughing.  They were the first English-speaking people we met in the Saints.  They came on board for a chat, and Ed was rather surprised when he woke up from his nap to find me entertaining company on deck.  William and Katherine were professors at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.  William taught Greek in the Classics department, and Katherine was an archaeologist.  They were on vacation in the Saints, and were staying at the Hotel Bois Joli.  They invited us to the hotel for drinks that night.  At the hotel, we met another couple, Bill and Joan, from New Brunswick, Canada.  We continued a conversation that centered primarily on boats and cruising.  It seemed that William had quite a yen for a sailboat.  He said he was forever breaking the 11th Commandment - Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's boat! 

I'm afraid we worsened William's yen for the cruising life by inviting he and Katherine to dinner on Tropic Moon.  Our meal started off with Rum Punches, followed by a dinner of mushroom quiche, salad and French bread, with a bottle of white wine that they'd brought along.  Dessert was a coconut cream/pineapple pudding.  I put a cassette of Vivaldi's Four Seasons on the tape deck during dinner.  The music floated out to us, sitting around the cockpit table, under a very starry sky.  The next evening at the hotel for drinks again, Bill and Joan told us that all they had heard about that day was quiche, Vivaldi and stars. 

View of the hotel from Tropic Moon

I had purchased a pareu at a small shop in the Saints, and wore it to the hotel that night.  The pareu is a wide piece of material that can be wrapped around the body in a variety of dress or skirt styles.  After a lot of practicing at wrapping, and unsolicited advice from Ed, I ended up wearing it as a smooth strapless sheath that went to below my knees.  Katherine and Joan had also bought pareus.  Katherine wore hers as a wrap-around skirt, with a white peasant blouse.  Around my neck was one of my pieces of white coral, strung on a gold chain.  As I didn't have any shoes that would enhance the outfit, I went in to the hotel barefoot.

Walking from our anchorage, to the town below.  Quite a hike!

The next island in the Caribbean chain is Dominica, which we decided to skip.  That left us with 100 miles from the Saints to our next port of call, Martinique.  Before we left the Saints, I was cleaning up the boat, and had a couple bags of garbage I needed to get rid of.  Ed didn't want to dump our garbage at the hotel until I asked permission.  I looked up "garbage" in my French-English dictionary and found the word "issues."  I tried asking the ferry driver, but he couldn't understand me, and started to look nervous - I've seen that look before.  He stopped a man walking by, with a "Parlez-vous anglais?" and we got a three-way conversation going.  The new fellow was Norwegian, knew English and French, but didn't know the French word for garbage.  So, if you don't know the general term, name the particulars, and he started listing des papiers, des plastiques, etc.  Finally a look of understanding from the ferry driver, and words about "la porte gris" (the gray door).  Of course I could put my garbage there!  Why ask?

When we were ready to leave the Iles des Saintes, I made an attempt at clearing customs by visiting the local gendarme.  He spoke some English with a marvelous French accent.  He took down all sorts of information about us for his records - even our places of birth - but wouldn't give me any written clearance, or stamp our passports.  "But, Madame, I am not ze Customs!  There eez not a Customs here!"


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