Louis Charbonneau Sailing School


All adventures don't end the same way, see
" Alegria 11 in the Bay Islands, Honduras "

Adventure at sea

May day! May day! May day !
Sailboat Ensueño on fire
in the Bay harbour of Gustavia

A few years ago, Nicole, my girl friend and I lived an adventure
that will remain for a long time engraved in our memory.
Here is the story


Louis............................................ Nicole

My God! This sound .. what's happening … A dark, grey smoke, …What smell !… Who lit all those matches at the same time? It smells like fireworks …
- Fire !!! Extinguishers, quickly

photo Britta ©
Excitement in the harbour of Gustavia St-Barthélemy
A 44 ft. Beneteau is burning

localisation map

What is it? Torches?
- Don't know! But we're burning! Nothing to be done here anymore!
Impossible to try to reach for anything, smoke is everywhere… Where is Nicole?
- Ouch!
- You're ok?

- I've just hit myself ! Let's try to put the dinghy down ! Take your side!

Beautiful these davits, but in emergency… .

photo Britta ©

- Dammed ropes, couldn't they put suitable ends and pulleys…I have to cut!
The knife is in the drawer near the chart table, no way to go get it, it's hell inside! Some dinghies are coming towards us…
- Let's jump! …

A Zodiac is rushing towards me...
- Move back! I'll hoist myself in the bow.
I don't want him to pass over me.
- Stop your engine! You will cut me to pieces ! Your propeller! I'm finally dragged into the dinghy.

A young man picked up Nicole, and she's already on board a sailboat … My rescuer is bringing me to the same boat.

- Put on this short and this Tee-shirt…

We find ourselves, sitting in the cockpit, both of us, looking stupidly at what is going on: The other sailboats are pulling up their anchor to move away… The firemen, on board a small boat are watering with a garden hose … A steamer manoeuvring in the direction of Ensueño… the flames are coming out from everywhere…

For the whole story, fallow the directions at the bottom of this page.

- Look Nicole ! That steamer ! It's approaching our boat in flames on the port side.
- What is the captain doing ? The boat will explode right in his face!
Tourists are gathered on it's starboard side, they're watching the show : the crew is watering the boat with water guns…Sound, light…, fountains of water and smoke going up to the sky….
- We can't see the hull anymore !
- I just hope that the propane won't explode!
- How can anyone think of staying there? Risking many lives for a plastic heap ...

Deposition at the police station

I never thought I'd see the day, taking a ride in a police car. Small sinuous streets, I hope the driver knows the

road well... At this speed! Steep slopes, approximately 10 minutes, time to recuperate (sic!), the gendarmerie is on the right of the abrupt downward slope. The driver makes a wide left turn to better turn to the right. There's a curve. Can he see the cars going up in the opposite direction? … Oops! Here is one… What a fast way to go! It would be too stupid to get killed in a car accident… Ouf!

- Name, first name, address….

Nicole is in another room, she seems to undergo the same treatment …
- We had arrived at noon, we had eaten and taken a nap. Around 14.30, we woke up. I was looking at my movie shots …
- What is it sir? Do you feel ok?
In fact, I just realized that I lost all my equipment ... My film … Gone !
-… Nicole, my partner and girl friend, the one who is in the other room…, she was reading… We were sitting in the main cabin; me, my back to the stove , she was on starboard, just next to the chart table. It was approximately 15.00 hours…; when suddenly, I heard a sound similar to a friction of several matches, and smoke, white, then black… I did not know what was happening to us! Then extinguishers, the first, the second, the third… useless! …
The police officer takes notes. He asks questions, helps me to clarify my deposition… I have the impression to be in a movie. I answer the best I can. They probably separated us to confirm our declaration.

They left me alone, I hear snatches of conversation in the next room,… Why is this taking so long?
Nicole returns. We look at each other, I'm sure we are thinking the same thing… No papers, no money, no clothing, how are we going to make it? …

You know, when one arrives at St-Barths, even when he's coming from St-Martin, it is necessary to present himself to the customs on the port, even if the two islands are in French territory … He continues his sweet talk, I listen to him… I have the impression that we are not out of the woods …
-… We understand very well that it was difficult for you to fulfill the requirements… by the way… would you be thirsty.
- Yes, a glass of water would be fine.
- No…, a Pernaud? What ever you want…

They want to kill me!...

Two nice cold Kroenembourg beers. We're really in France !

… The night before we ate rabbit (hare)…

Honour where honour is due: the rabbit and its long-eared cousin whose name is also banned, the hare, are two friendly little animals who strike terror into any good Brittany sailor. Say “rabbit” on board a sailboat



If you want to read the entire story you can go on the French part and use Google Translate, a new page will appear.

First part
2nd part
3rd part
4th part
5ft part

The translation will be a bit awkward. But ... We will soon write a proper version.


We lost the boat ! But St-Barths is a beautiful island
( Photo Copy Right Michel Hasson)

To see other boat on fire Link

To be continued Louis

The troubles, communications, insurance, money, ...