Location: Pigeon Islands, Guadeloupe
Ah, Guadeloupe. A most wonderful island full of natural beauty and the French. Speaking of Le French, a pair of young French chaps were duking it out in the early hours of this morning. Luckily, this was not a contest of fists but instead a contest of sail. Each came with massive trimarans and set out from Brittany, France, last week in an attempt to complete one of the fastest solo crossings of the Atlantic Ocean in history. These gentlemen sailed a 3,542-nautical mile course across the Atlantic in just seven days and 14 hours. That is an average speed of roughly 20 knots or 23mph. While that may not sound very fast, our sister ship Argo is going to make a similar crossing in roughly 22 to 24 days, and she has 30 or so crew aboard. There are several other competitors racing in the Route du Rhum, and all are solo sailors who are essentially driving semi-trucks over rough roads (i.e., massive waves) at 23mph for seven days. They are doing this all while sleeping, eating, and everything else that needs to be done at that time. It is quite a feat. This year was a nail-biter, as Franois Gabart and Francis Joyon were within minutes of each other as they approached the finish line. Francis Joyon, in a come from behind victory, managed to squeak ahead of Gabart and took a first-place finish. It was really exciting seeing the vessels pass by in the lee of Guadeloupe yesterday, and to hear about the finish this morning made it all the more interesting. We hope to see a few more competitors on our sail tomorrow.
We began the day with a plunge into the waters just off Pigeon Island. The area we are anchored in is named after the legendary oceanographer Jacques Cousteau and has been designated as a national park and marine protected area. Because of this, the reef surrounding the island is in great condition, and the rangers and French authorities do an excellent job patrolling and keeping it that way. Every time I have entered the waters of Guadeloupe, the Coast Guard has come by to say hello and occasionally perform a routine search of the vessel. They came by again this evening, but luckily one of the three officers on board had boarded Ocean Star this summer and recognized me as I walked up on deck to greet them. It was nice seeing an official offer a smile and a wave in a familiar way, and it is also nice knowing that the French are out there if you need their help. With the friendly and french speaking help from Steph and Carolyn, the authorities decided that they need not search Ocean Star this go around and that they would see us again next spring.
We completed the diving with style and managed to snap some excellent photos with the bust of Cousteau that is sunk in the mooring field where the best diving takes place. The afternoon was spent taking an exam for a Marine Biology class and then watching a documentary on deep ocean wildlife. The chefs did a great job with the meals today and even made a bread crust version of Ocean Star for the top of the chicken pot pie. There have been a lot of good chef teams this trip, and it will easily go down as the best semester for meals I have eaten while working here. It has been fun to see all of the students and staff trying to outdo each other with better and better meals.
After dinner, we discussed the plan for tomorrow’s sail to Antigua. The weather looks calm tomorrow, with a good breeze from the southeast to push us comfortably up to the southern end of the island. We will be waking up at 0530 to seize the day and hopefully arrive by 1400, giving us plenty of daylight to see us into English Harbour and onto the dock at Nelson’s Dockyard. I won’t give it all away, so you will have to read tomorrow’s blog to find out more about this historic site and about our epic sail to make it there.