National Geographic : 1948 Jan
The National Geographic Magazine west, of volcanic origin and extremely moun tainous; and Grande Terre, to the east, of limestone formation and very flat in com parison. Soufriere, dominating Basse Terre, is an active volcano which towers to 4,867 feet, while the highlands of Ste. Anne, on Grande Terre, rise only 375 feet above the sea. The two are divided by the Salee River. It is amazing to see such completely different land scapes on either side of a narrow ribbon of water. Food Plentiful in Guadeloupe Basse Terre had one of the best native markets we found on the trip. Each town on every island has an area reserved for prod uce brought in by the neighboring farmers. By daylight women are squatting behind piles of tomatoes, plantains, yams, pigeon peas, limes, coconuts, breadfruit, papayas, oranges-everything that grows in the in credibly rich soil. Other women sell cakes and little sugar patties, medicinal herbs, eggs, bits of cloth, papers of pins, tin cups, pottery. Underfoot dart children and dogs, while chickens tethered by one leg range as far as their cords allow. There is a confusion of noise and color and odor, but everyone is good natured and enjoys the bargaining. In such markets, Zib, as cook, and I, as basket carrier and assistant haggler, did nearly all our shopping. Food was not a problem. Most staples, canned and otherwise, were shipped down aboard Carib from New York. But they would have been available locally, although at a much higher price. We were able to buy vegetables, fruit, bread, and eggs at nearly every stop. Meat was scarce, as was-sur prisingly enough-fish. Water was our only real headache; except for that taken on at U. S. "destroyer deal" bases, we could trust it nowhere. All taken aboard was laboriously boiled and bottled before drinking. Ice, that manna of the Tropics, was available in large towns. After a rainy night in the harbor of De shaies, where we stopped to break the run, we set a compass course of NxE. For the first time since leaving Grenada our next objective was not in sight. For the first time, too, we were besieged by squalls. All during the morning black clouds made a ring around us. As one series would disappear to leeward to hide the mountains of Montserrat another would come drifting in from the open Atlantic. At one moment we would be wallowing in a nasty sea with no wind to fill our canvas; at the next, standing by the main halyard to douse sail if there was too much. Such con ditions are trying for a small crew. Shortly before noon the coastline of Antigua showed clearly, and the wind steadied and freshened from the southeast. We closed fast, trying to identify the entrance to English Harbour-a place so well sheltered that it had once been the hurricane refuge of the British fleet. Closer and closer we came to a wall of sheer rock. A sea had made up and was breaking heavily all along the coast. I read and reread the Sailing Directions for The West Indies, studied the chart, and peered through binocu lars. I could see no entrance. Suddenly we were in too close, and there was a scramble to get in the mainsail. A squall hit, we shipped a heavy dollop from the backwash off the rocks, and I hurt my hand on a reef cringle as the sail slatted getting three misfortunes over in a hurry. With forestaysail and mizzen sheeted in flat we were virtually hove-to, but still I couldn't see the entrance. While the look of the coast seemed to match the description, we couldn't be sure. And you don't run a boat towards a lee shore unless you are really sure! So we bore off and ran downwind about a mile to look into neighboring Falmouth Har bour, made our check identifications, and beat back to our old stand. Even then the entrance was hidden. But this time we confidently sailed towards the rocks and suddenly looked into the en trance, followed it around an S-turn, and found ourselves in the best anchorage I have ever seen (page 37). To port lay the remains of the old dock yard, formerly commanded by the immortal Nelson himself, to starboard a house once occupied by the Duke of Clarence, afterwards King William IV. Carib Moored in a Giant Cup We were in a giant cup, the surrounding hills topped by weathered fortifications. For a couple of days and nights we swung around our anchor in perfect peace despite the fact that technically we were lawbreakers, having come into a place not legally a port of entry. But the authorities were lenient and gave us clearance, and Chief Magistrate Charlesworth Ross appeared with then U. S. Vice Consul Nicholas Fuller, not to censure but to welcome and invite us to a picnic. The buildings of English Harbour are in surprisingly good repair, and it is unfortunate that funds do not exist for their preservation.