Time to head back to Basse-Terre, to go do some more hiking in its mountains, and visit the hot spring at Bouillante.

This was a comfortable downwind sail, across the bay. Once we rounded the corner behind Basse-Terre, we were in the wind's shadow, and had to motor-sail up the coast to Bouillante.


Bouillante is named after the hot spring on the mountainside, that it taps for geothermal energy, and pours a river of hot wastewater into the sea. You can swim in the sea, where this torrent of hot water arrives, and enjoy a hot spring in the sea.

We've visited the bay before, but hadn't tried the springs, yet. You can't keep my mother away from a hot spring, so in the evening we set off in the dinghy to try them out.

The hot springs are something quite special. The hot water current is strong, you have to stand to the side of it, to keep your footing, on the rocky bottom. There was quite a crowd on this side, so I swam across to the other (almost empty) side. This was great, until I stepped on something sharp, a black sea urchin. There was a reason everybody was on the other side...

I pulled as many of the big protruding spines out as I could, and we headed back to the boat. In the light, we found around 40 spines stuck in my foot, and after an hour of poking around with tweezers, we'd hardly got anything out.

So, quickly organized a car rental from the local mechanic that we'd used before, and went into the hospital in Basse-Terre to let the professionals have a look. The nurses at the hospital have seen it all before, and said nothing can be done. Getting the spines out would butcher my foot. The spines are almost entirely made up of calcium carbonate, which the body can absorb over a couple of weeks. They sent me home with Microlax, a topical laxative cream meant as a suppository for babies, and instructions to apply the cream to the wounds and change the bandage daily.


We heard a variety of home remedies for the urchin spines:

  • The mechanic suggested soaking the foot in petrol.

  • A drunk sailor on the dinghy dock suggested getting drunk and tenderizing the sole of the foot with a rock. To break all the spines, so they dissolve quickly. This is apparently the Polynesian way.

  • Various people suggested peeing on it.

  • A local remedy was pulp of green papaya, wrapped onto the foot under cling-film, where it would ferment. We tried this at some point.

  • Soaking the foot in hot vinegar can help dissolve any exposed spine. Did this regularly, later on.

  • One can wait until some pus builds up around the spine, and then squeeze them out. A few weeks later, some of them came out like this.

Surprisingly, there was no pain after the first hours. As long as I kept all weight off the foot. This meant I was boat bound, and hobbling on one foot for the next few weeks. When it didn't seem to be healing, we tried to find doctors to look at the foot and suggest things to do, but we ended up just having to wait, and re-dress it daily.

While I was kicking my heels on the boat, everyone else went hiking in the mountains of Basse-Terre. And swimming in the hot springs (on the safe side).

One evening the dinghy, that they'd anchored near the springs on a rocky bottom, dragged its anchor, and drifted out to sea. John realised it was gone, swam to another yacht at anchor, woke up their French charter captain, and asked for help to go looking for the dinghy. They found it :)

And then everyone started heading home. First my parents, back to South Africa, then Clare back to Canada. John and I would take the boat down to Trinidad to haul it out for Hurricane season.

But first, we waited for my foot to heal...

Time on the water: 6:14
Distance covered: 37.9nm
Avg speed: 6.1kts
Max speed: 9.5kts
Crew: John, Stefano, Clare, Sandy, Ugo

Navionics Track


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