The idea of escaping to a yacht in the Caribbean is never far from most people’s minds, maybe more so in the midst of a pandemic! Live the dream vicariously as we join Tristan Algret from Guadeloupe for a voyage exploring his native island in the company of Pierre Mortefon and photographer Robin Christol. This feature was published in our April 2021 edition of Windsurf Magazine.
Photos – Robin Christol // Words – Robin Christol, Tristan Algret and Pierre Mortefon.
Tristan Algret – “The idea for the boat trip came about during a dinner with friends at Pierre’s house last November. We were talking about Pierre coming to Guadeloupe with his family and friend Robin Christol (a professional photographer). It was an ideal winter escape for Pierre as it is one of the easiest warm places to fly to from France. They organized the trip and joined me at the end of December for 10 days. The conditions were so good that Pierre and Robin decided to stay for an extra 10 days, so I proposed to organize a boat trip so we could explore and visit the other islands near to the main island. Pierre Macquaert, a young rider from France was also in Guadeloupe for one month, so we built a team around this crew as well as two of my best friends.
It was not too difficult to plan the boat trip as we rented the boat with www.antilles-sail.com, which is a company owned by a friend of mine. We are used to doing boat trips over here so we had experience of what needed organising and knew how to skipper a boat. For sure though, anyone can organize a trip in Guadeloupe like this as the sailboat company can also provide you with a skipper who knows the islands and can bring you wherever you want, advise on the best places to go and take care of the planning.
We had to be careful with the amount of gear we would bring onboard, buy the correct amount of food from the supermarket and time our departure from the harbour properly. In the end we decided to bring only foiling equipment and some wing surfing kit to make sure the boat was not too full of gear! For COVID-19 we followed the basic precautions and brought masks onboard for any occasions we needed to go on land, but naturally on the boat we were far apart from other people, so everything worked out.”
Robin Christol – “It was really easy to come here for us as Guadeloupe is part of France. So all we had to do was a COVID-19 PCR test 72 hours before the flight; I was more worried about all the excess baggage we were checking in!”
Tristan Algret – “When I thought about the trip, I had a plan, but we left most options open, preferring to react to the conditions and let the trip naturally develop. Guadeloupe is an archipelago made up of a group of small islands. The basic plan was to spend two days in Marie Galante, the island more to the east and then sail downwind to Les Saintes for the next two days. In the end we did actually follow that plan and it was worth switching from one island to another because we managed to score some crazy photos and footage during a sunset session in Les Saintes.
The days before the boat trip I was in Marie Galante with my girlfriend and we went to the north of the island to check out some cliffs. We found a special place with a massive hole in the rocks and I thought it could be a great idea to foil to this location for a photo opportunity.
We finally made it there two days later with the boys foiling for 45 minutes upwind, followed by the catamaran, it was a super wild experience but amazing. I think we were the first guys to foil this place so that made it even more special.”
HIGHS AND LOWS
Tristan Algret – “The highs of our trip were the amazing wind conditions and also the vibe in our team! We had perfect winds everywhere we sailed and perfect weather during the trip! Of course, we were in the Caribbean so that is the normal here! If I had to choose though, my favourite moment was a downwind run in Marie Galante. It took one hour but it was simply crazy and I think we will all remember that one!
We also visited a rum factory (Père Labat) and learned about rum production. The owner gave us some bottles of rum as gifts when we were leaving, that was definitely a high too!
Half an hour before finishing the trip and entering the harbour, three dolphins joined us to play in front of the boat! It was a great ending and a parting gift from Mother Nature.
The low point of our trip was on the way back to the harbour, sailing into 2 metre waves and 20 knot winds, especially after the night before where rum was involved. Let us just say it was difficult for a few of us!”
Robin Christol – “We found some really good wave spots on the north shore, really safe and big swell, and for beginners or slalom we went into different lagoons with crystal blue water everywhere. The wind is never super strong, 10 – 20 knots, but enough for you to ride and still be comfortable if you, or someone in your group, just wants to chill on the boat.”
Pierre Mortefon – “On a boat you definitely enjoy your day to the maximum! You wake at 6 a.m. and you finish the day fishing at 11 p.m. Rigging is not the easiest, but you are always in the spot, no driving needed! You just check the conditions, jump in the water and it’s ON! It was really a great experience and it will definitely not be my last boat trip.
Having locals guide us meant we were always at the right place at the right moment, but the best session was a late one in the bay of Les Saintes, it was crazy good! Flat water, 15 knots, 28 degrees, sun setting and insane colours. We were reaching up to 30 knots on our foil kit, racing against the drone, that one will stay forever in my head!
The great thing about the foil on trips like this is you can just check the map and choose where you want to go as foils are so good for long distance runs, especially upwind. We had some great downwind runs too, surfing with our gear in the 3 – 4 metre swell.
The worst part of the trip was when we had to abandon the downwind run from Marie Galante to Les Saintes (30 km) due to a lack of wind. One day we will do it!”
Robin Christol – “A highlight for me was when we were in Les Saintes, and the guys had been sailing all day long and I was shooting. Then we had a break at 2 p.m. for lunch and a nap so I went for a wind foil session myself, then the light became really amazing so we decided to go shoot again, bagged some really cool shots and finished the day going out for some drinks and pizza with friends. It was a long day, but a good one!
Also when we were coming back from Les Saintes, we had some really good sailing with the catamaran in 18 – 23 knots of wind, reaching so fast on the boat, but for Tristan and Pierre Macquaert, who got seasick, that was probably the worst memory of their trip!”
Tristan Algret – “Everyone enjoyed the boat life. We cooked together, drank beer, had some awesome fishing and of course amazing foiling. In the evening we all looked at the shots and footage from each day. The maximum capacity of the boat should be 8 persons, but we decided to go with only 6 persons, and it felt like the best option as that meant we all had our own cabins. Actually, it was very cool that we only had six of us onboard as it meant less equipment. We tried to keep the gear as organized as possible otherwise it was easy to break or lose your gear. To rig the sails, we mostly did it at the front of the boat with two people helping each other rig. Otherwise some parts of the boat can damage your sail so you had to be careful!
For me, the most important tip is to carefully choose your team, otherwise a boat trip could be a disaster. It is best to make the decisions all together for a good atmosphere on the boat. Take time to choose the gear you take onboard, as space on the boat is limited. It is important also to not bring too much equipment! Checking the forecast before you go can help you to decide. Concerning food, our plan was to choose a menu for every day including breakfast, lunch and dinner. This way it helps you shop efficiently and reduces the cost. I also recommend bringing a few warm clothes, as the nights onboard can be cool. To give you an idea of costs for a trip like this, including boat, food and fuel it worked out around €450 per person for 5 days.”
Robin Christol – “Onboard we knew the windsurf and wing gear would be a big deal so we always stored it properly to avoid damage to the boat or the gear. The guys had to rig one by one at the bow then go sailing while another one was rigging, but it was ok! A wing was definitely easier to rig than a windsurf sail!”
Pierre Mortefon – “Day after day we became more organized. A super important point is to not rig all at the same time. So you just give 10 minutes to each rider then it goes much quicker at the end. The catamaran was pretty comfortable and I slept like a baby there. Cleaning the dishes was quite funny because you straightaway get fish coming around so then the even bigger fish start to cruise around. There is also a lot of different motion sickness medicines that can help make life more comfortable if the conditions are hardcore. We spend half our life on the water and we still had some problems with seasickness one day and it’s not funny. So before you go, just pass by the pharmacy to get some pills to stop seasickness. It can save your life, and also your relationship with your partner if they are travelling with you!”