On a whim we decide to head for the Îles de Saintes. The islands of the Saintes and Marie Gallante, are part of Guadaloupe. It’s a quick sail to Bourg des Saintes, the capital of of the largest island, Terre d’en Haut from our anchorage in Guadaloupe at Anse å la Barque. I know little about The Saintes, aside from the fact that cruisers consistently rave about them. Fortunately, we do not have to check out of customs and our spontaneous departure from Guadaloupe is both easy and quick.
Îles de Saintes – All the colours of the Rainbow
As we sail into the harbour, the view is exquisite. My first impression is a box of colouring crayons have been liberated and given free reign to run unfettered. A painting spree replete with red roof tops, white beaches and red and brown cliffs compliment the blue waters and lush green hills. It is a lovely, vibrant sight. And to lend to the vibrancy, the town itself is ablaze with colour. Applied liberally to facades, doorways and signs, lavenders, yellows, oranges, greens and blues jump out and greet you. Fishing boats, painted cheerfully in the same bright colours line the beach. Not to be outdone, there are flowers blooming everywhere to add to the charm. And hummingbirds!
Boats can anchor or moor here, but we are lucky to find an open mooring ball. At only $10 US a night, it’s a great deal. There’s a lot of boats here along with a profusion of tourists who come from Guadaloupe via fast ferries. Bourg des Saintes is full of lovely shops, restaurants, hikes and places to visit making it a perfect day visit. The residents, once fisherman now make their living renting out cute homes, mopeds, cooking or whatever the visitor requires.
I’m impatient to get the dinghy in the water so we can walk around the town. Once there, we take our time walking through the streets, sampling food, taking pics admiring the beauty of the place. We stop and try sorbet and another vendor offers small pastries stuffed with crab, chicken, veggies or beef. They are divine and only 3 euros for six. A heavy rain shower cuts our walk short but running through the rain in the colourful streets is exactly the romantic notions I carried in my brain of what the trip would be like before we left.
Hike with a View
Hiking is popular in Bourg des Saintes as trails are plentiful and depending on the challenge you want, there’s ample choice. We’re looking for a challenge and chose Le Chameaux, a 1000 ft vertical hike offering spectacular views of the town and surrounding islands. Napoleon’s influence on these islands is everywhere with several hikes bearing his and his wife Josephine’s name; she was born in Martinique. The climb up the Chameaux is arduous and hot but the view from the top makes it all worthwhile. After our hike we walk around the town, buy wine, beer and bread (cruiser staples) and eat it on a stoop before heading back to the boat and taking a quick dinghy ride over to a small island for a quick snorkel in the crystal clear waters. A nice way to cool down!
On our way to the hike we’d seen S/V Terrapin (Molly, Baxter and Kala) in the mooring field and popped over to say hi. They are Salty Dawgs, whom we’d met in Annapolis and we invite them over for happy hour to catch up. During our catchup they mention they are heading to Martinique to hike Mt. Pelee in the morning and ask if we’re interested in joining them? Still high on our hike that day we think about it for all of 2 minutes and because we don’t have a set agenda, we say what the heck and go for it.
The next day we were up and into town early to check out of customs and set our course for Martinique. But one more stop at the street vendors before we leave the lovely Saintes for fresh bread. We’ll be stopping in here again!
Sail to Martinique
The sail to Martinique is about 80 nautical miles S-SE. The morning is warm and the wind is brisk with medium-high seas. As we round the Saintes, the wind picks up as it wraps around the islands and our sails quickly fill. It’s a good, fast sail and in the afternoon we see Terrapin in our sights. We decide to stay off the coast of Dominica near a beach and resume our sail the next day. As we close in on the coast a large pod of dolphins approach our boat and swim and play near our bow. A moment of panic ensues early next morning when we are awakened by two boats approaching with spotlights shining at our boats. We figure they are fishermen who have gear all around the coast of Dominica and just checking us out.
The next day we leave early and resume our sail to Martinique. It’s brisk and we reef the main with a full jib. Terrapin who is ahead of us radios to let us know that once they cleared the headland of Dominica they experienced gusts up to 45 knots with sustained winds between 30-35 knots. The seas are also high, over 12 feet and the ride is a bit wild! We add a third reef to the to the main and reef in our jib. We count down the miles and settle in for the most vigorous sail we’ve seen so far. Terrapin sails ahead of us disappearing between swells and then riding high on the crests of others. We are wet, salty but buzzed from a challenging and sprightly sail.
A treasured aspect of life that we’ve come to love as f/t cruisers is the unfettered life we live, free from schedules or deadlines. Free to go wherever, whenever we wish, with the wind as our only constraint. We love the luxury to haul anchor and go on a whim.
After a challenging yet, exhilarating sail we pull into the port of St. Pierre and set our anchor. Happy hour aboard Terrapin is full of stories and cheer!