A quick visit to Îles de Saintes

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.

Quiet Sail to The Saintes
Sailor Kitty
Pretty Stoop
Narrow Streets

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.

Juice Bar
Doorways at the Saintes
Fisherman Repairs Nets
Pretty colour boats
On the Dock
Typical Street view
Fishing boats
Dinghy Dock

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!

Le Chameau
Hiker Pose
Al on Top of the World
Top of Chemeau looks out on Martinique
Spectacular View
The Fort at Le Chameau
Al out shopping
$10 lunch

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.

Dolphin welcome off Dominica
Ingomar as captured by Baxter S/V Terrapin
Sail to Martinique was wet!
Terrapin with Mount Pelee in the background

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!

Author: tess

We, Al my husband, Filbert my cat and I, sailed our 37-foot Tartan to the Caribbean from Newfoundland in 2016-2017. We documented it on our blog, greatbigsail.com Today I continue to write about sailing, improve my photography skills, practice graphic design and dream about sailing.

10 thoughts on “A quick visit to Îles de Saintes”

  1. Totally awesome – when the lows are low, your wonderful posts bring me to a bright spot which I certainly need. There are no words to describe the colours and the beautiful environment on your photos – must be spectacular seeing all this in person. Stay safe and God Bless as you continue your amazing adventures!

  2. AFT,

    ON your last post I commented that it couldn’t get better, and your response was,”it does” Now, I understand what you meant, your description and photos of the view of Iles de Saintes, breathtaking. To top it off, there’s hummingbirds!

    I couldn’t help thinking about Alice in Wonderland,esp the part where you’re running through the street, fat raindrops falling, colourful houses in the background. geez, that’s the stuff of fairy tales, you even have a Cheshire Cat and a Mad Hatter, tagging along. ha,ha

    Continue safely on your amazing fairy tale adventure.
    Love you.

    1. I love the Alice in Wonderland comparison. Fabulous. There’s days I feel like I fell down a rabbit hole and living the fantastic everyday. Oh it really does get better! Love you!

  3. Tess, I think this is the best post yet, the pictures are truly amazing, I cannot get over the colors, the scenery…….. absolutely beautiful. The way you describe this new found freedom from the day to day routine is inspiring. Life is too short to not achieve that feeling once in a lifetime. I am truly in awe of you both………..and of course a little envious……………LOL.

    1. Hey Jennifer! We’re still awed too that we get to visit these gorgeous islands. It’s a great life out here, I strongly encourage anyone to try it. Nice to hear from you and hi from Al!

  4. “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”.

    Sister! this blog is beautiful and so well conveyed, I am quoting you back to yourself. You just transported me to my romantic day of walking through rainy Maretea, Italy and sitting on a door stoop during siesta waiting for the skola bus to take me up the hill. I had a pasta meal of pomodoro and red wine that was so sublime, to this day tomatoes make me tingle. So thank you for that.

    And the colours! What the fuck can you say about the colours!

    I have a few song that will always remain on my playlist of life.
    Your beautiful writing brought this to mind.

    “When you’re on a golden sea
    You don’t need no memory
    Just a place to call your own
    As we drift into the zone.

    On an island in the sun
    We’ll be playing and having fun
    And it makes me feel so fine
    I can’t control my brain.

    Hip hip from me and the familiar. ❤️

    1. It is the prettiest island! So happy to bring back lovely travel memories for you; makes the blog successful for me. That sounds like an excellent day in Maratea!

      Is that Holiday? I was thinking of using it for my next video. Hope you and Murph are well and managing to enjoy winter. Kisses from us!❤️

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