Les Saintes and Guadeloupe

Sun 16 Apr 2023 16:53

Just south of Guadeloupe, almost on the course from Dominica to the west side of Guadeloupe we spotted on the chart a small group of islands called Les Saintes (15:52.00N 61:35.00W) and the scale and arrangement of these tiny islands reminded me of the Isles of Scilly; we had to go there.  Reading the pilot book later, it seems everyone goes to Les Saintes on this north or south-going highway.   Many of the Les Saintes islands are marine reserves with only limited places to anchor.

We left Prince Rupert Bay on the NW of Dominica on April 10th and arrived within Les Saintes in time to anchor and swim in a bay before lunch.   Sailing into the islands was interesting, we had used the Hydrovane to steer from Dominica and we entered the island group through a tiny passage between rocks using just the vane gear –  admittedly in perfect sailing conditions – but ready to disengage it and return to manual at any time and despite momentarily snagging a polypropylene ‘pot’ float line, we slipped through easily.

As we had to clear-in we moved near to the main town on Terre de Haut after our swim/lunch stop.  When we got there it was clear that most boats were on moorings and seeing a free one, we picked it up.   The moorings turned out to be free of charge so we ended up spending three nights on the same buoy.

On the first evening we went ashore to orientate ourselves and after a little walk around the main street, we sat at an outdoor bar and asked where the immigration office was and were pleasantly surprised to find it literally next door – but only open 2-4pm, so a job for the following day.

On the 11th we walked across the island (in 20 minutes) to the windward beaches exposed to the Atlantic and found the water line piled high with beached Sargassum weed which smelled foul.  The growth and expansion of the sargassum is a real headache for so many resorts and beach-front hospitality venues on exposed beaches.   We have also had Sargassum block our engine cooling water strainer, a toilet flush inlet and snag up on the Hydrovane rudder, as well as carrying away fishing line. Les Saintes are part of Guadeloupe so, like Martinique, also a part of France; consequently, the island was smart, tidy (apart from the Sargassum) and very chic; with regular ferry links they are also a resort for people from Guadeloupe.  The islands are not high, so don’t develop the rain clouds of the bigger islands and are thus much dryer (on average).   Due to this there were never plantations and so no African (ex-slave) population, and many of the locals are fair skinned.

On the 12th we took our dinghy to the adjacent island of Ilet Cabrit, a recognised diving site, and took turns with Brian’s SCUBA gear to explore a reef site in 12-14m with spectacular tropical fish and coral structures.   The diving was amazing, the islands were beautiful and the people we met were charming.  The following day we are set off for Guadeloupe intending to clear in at the marina Riviere Sens on the SW coast, a ‘hop’ of about 10miles. We were unable to contact the marina on VHF radio so picked our way through the tiny entrance to see what the situation was.  There was a fuel berth and, apparently, only one vacant visitor berth stern-to.  There was very little water for our 2.5m draft and we grounded (gently) approaching the fuel berth with the sounder reading – 0.3 m (negative depth) but reversed out and turning in a very small space reversed up to the one vacant berth which required getting a bow line through a mooring buoy and a couple lines, one off each quarter, to the pontoon. The harbour office didn’t open until 3pm so we had some lunch in an Indian restaurant on the quay.   In due course we dealt with the office, immigration, laundry , shopping, rubbish disposal and showers. Because of our sugar scoop stern, stepping off to the pontoon was a stretch – maybe we need a plank for these occasions?

All best, Tony, Brian and Cilla


One of the beaches on the NW of the main island of Les Saintes
A view into the sheltered, central Rade des Saintes
Les Saintes from the chart - I did try to rotate it.
Sargassum accumulation on an exposed beach.