Legendary Marie Galante to ring in the New Year

In the francophone world, Marie Galante is legendary. This small, perfectly round atoll is part of Guadaloupe. It’s ts roots are firmly anchored in the sugar plantations that thrive here, and in their most famous by-product: rum! Very different from other, more touristic islands, it’s largely agricultural, and if your thing is not lounging about onl beaches, you might find it a little too slow-paced for your liking.We took a buoy in the Port Louis bay, where the water is absolutely translucent, and very calm.In spite of that, we had a hell of a time grabbing the buoy! When we were all tied up, we looked back and lo and behold, we’d tied up right in front of the Zulueta family’s Super Maramu, Ophelie X!We headed into “town” on day 2 and realized there wasn’t a whole lot to see or do. A bakery, a pharmacy, and a few outrageously expensive restaurants. And though we love to walk, neither of us have the courage in this heat. That afternoon, we motored over to look at the Ilet du Vieux Fort, a tiny island where the diving and snorkeling is said to be very good. On the 31st, we rented a car. I was surprised to hear the woman at the rental car place tell us, at about 10am, that by 4:30, we’d have had time to visit pretty much everything we wanted to see, and 10€ worth of gas would be more than enough! We took off looking for the Bielle distillery. Back in Mindello, Peter had been invited to a wild rum party on their boat, which Carrie’s rum to Europe, then brings back olive oil to the Carribean.Unfortunately, their distillery is not much to look at, in fact it looks completely derelict! I did buy a 3 liter cubie of their basic white rum, and 2 smaller bottles: one of a delicious coconut infused rum, and another that’s called Rum du Bois Bandé, which is supposed to have certain aphrodisiac powers! We bought a few little meat and vegetable turnovers from the back of a van (they were delicious!) In the Bielle parking lot, and took them along to a rather hip and beautiful restaurant called the Dantana (some connection with the revolutionary Dantan). More coconut palms and Beautiful People sunning amd playing beach volley on a picturesque, reef-protected beach… same old same old, y’know how it goes…Anyway, we took our paper bag of parking lot treats and ordered a beer and a Ti’Punch and it was perfect! Then we thought we should check out one of the posher distilleries, so we went to the Bellevue. It was definitely better-kept, and had a lovely old windmill and farm house. We also found a hardware store in Grand Bourg to purchase a very necessary piece of equipment: a chain and padlock for the dinghy, as people around here do not leave them unchained, and there’s surely a reason for that.We visited the Geule Grand Gouffre and ended the day with snorkeling on a long, low beach Anse Canot whose shore is lined with layers of large lava rocks and flat boulders. We weren’t expecting much in terms of fish sighting, but while swimming over a sandy patch, I saw an outline of something and doubled back. It was a large sting ray, perhaps 5 feet long from nose to tail, buried in the sand and lying in wait! Completely immobile, completely non-plussed by my presence, when Peter joined me, it still didn’t move… in spite of Peter trying to drop stones “next” to it. We continued swimming down the beach and over the rocks, and there were quite a few fish. Then Peter spotted another sting ray, then another and another, all placidly waiting on the sandy bottom. They were all smaller than the first, which was surely an adult female. That was really a special treat.The Zulueta’s invited us to join them at a restaurant for NYE, where they were meeting other participants from the Rallye du Soleil. They did their Transatlantic crossing in late November as part of the group of about 20 boats. But we were happy to have a very quiet evening, with spicy Christmas ham, potatoes and leeks, and bananas (almost) flambé for dessert, with whipped cream. We topped that off with some excellent Douro red and an episode of The Crown (the Aberfan disaster in 1966) and were happily sleeping by about 9:30! Not a bad way to end a very full year!Note: our water tanks are running low, so we stopped to see if there was any way to fill tanks at Grand Bourg. The Navilly port and anchorage-finding app said yes, but unfortunately, not a drop available from the port’s taps. We’ve got plenty of drinking water, plenty of wine, rum and beer and a nicely chilled bottle of Moet et Chardon champagne, so we’ll just have to wait and fill jerricans when we get to Dominica, our next island stop.

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