First Night in Deshaies

‘You can’t anchor there!’

We looked over at the boat shouting at us. A Canadian flag flew off its stern. Two dinghies were attached to the transom. It was Saturday night and they were entertaining. Why were they shouting at us then, we wondered?

It was also blowing almost 30 knots in the anchorage. We’d come to Deshaies – on the north-west tip of Guadeloupe. We’d arrived and quickly anchored about ten minutes before the giant tropical light switch had turned the sky dark. Phew.

The north coast of Guadeloupe can act as a massive wind scoop, but this wind was ridiculous. It hadn’t been this windy all day crossing the channel between Antigua and Guadeloupe. It had been lively during our 50nm passage, unpredictable at times with squalls, but not this much blow. By comparison, we’d just pulled up in a giant wind tunnel.

The lady shouted at us in a high-pitched voice. ‘We’re on a mooring ball!’

Jack replied more calmly. ‘I know. You won’t swing as much. And we’re behind you so we’re not going to come forwards. We’re fine.’

We know this through simple experience. We were swinging a bit in this blasting wind, but we weren’t getting too close. Not dangerously so.

The boat wasn’t happy though. At that moment the man who they’d been entertaining, got into his dinghy to leave. He came past us and in a heavy French accent said, ‘They are worried because when the wind dies, you will drift up your chain and be too close.’

The wind dies around here? Well, this was good news.

Jack meanwhile, didn’t mince his words. ‘We are well enough behind them for now – and this is my problem, not yours. Are you going to spend all night on my anchor watch? Because I’m certainly not moving right now.’

He shrugged. ‘Good night.’

Lulu snorted at him. ‘Good night.’

We’d forgotten during our short time in Antigua the indignation in these French islands. For some reason, people are quick to tell you off here. When we were in Martinique for example, the sailing instructor in Le Marin who told us to move, also shouted that the flag Quest was flying – the flag sold to me as the Martinique ensign, was in fact forbidden.

I asked him why – more out of curiosity than anything. It was true I hadn’t seen many people flying it. I thought maybe it was harder to get hold of than the French tricolour. It’s a badass flag too – it has a white cross on blue and four snakes in each of its corners.

The sailing instructor had shrugged. ‘It just is.’

Weird. I googled it straight away. He was right – controversial since the flag was flown during the Atlantic slave trade triangle. It stems back from this time.

The rest of Quest’s crew was mortified at the news. ‘We’re flying the slave flag?’

I took the flag down and hoisted the French tricolour. I’d thought it was cool that Martinique had their own flag. Surely every nation should. Even if they are a ‘Department of France’ they’re still thousands of miles away. Oh well. Shows things here are complicated. Even when I write the word Martinique the emoji of the snake flag comes up. Some one should tell the emoji people it’s ‘forbidden’.

In the meantime, it was a rather long night. Horatio did an anchor watch upstairs – until about 3am. Now he’s all tucked up in bed. Other people came to the anchorage – in the proper pitch darkness and tried to anchor near us. Sure enough the Canadians shot out of their boat. Well, she did.

‘This is a mooring field!’ she yelled. ‘You can’t anchor here!!’

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