Still being part of Guadeloupe, we are already cleared in so there was no rush to freshen up to go to Customs. Just as well, as the high winds and rough conditions during the short trip from the south of Guadeloupe to the Saintes made it an unpleasant passage. With the wind coming from the southeast, we had to motor directly into wind and waves and it was distinctly bouncy.
At least we sailed close to Guadeloupe at the beginning of the trip, close enough to see a few more bays to be visited another time, the terraced hillsides and the main town of Basse Terre.
We were glad to get into the slight lee of the Îles Des Saintes, a picturesque collection of small, forested islands with crystal clear water lapping their shores. To protect the seabed, moorings have been laid in some bays and for a boat over 14 metres it costs 11 Euros (about 8.50 GBP) a night. We first stopped at Îlet Cabrit, which is very pretty and reasonably sheltered. Plenty to see snorkelling along the coast, including a fish slowly swallowing another fish almost the same size, tail first. Not a pleasant sight first thing in the morning!
The mooring buoys are large, all white plastic but have a big metal hoop on the top for picking up and threading your own 2 lines through. Unfortunately the metal hoops banged very loudly into the hull when the wind died. To avoid damaging the boat, we pulled it up as far as we could until the buoy was out of the water completely and all was well. We could also see a huge shackle and chain underneath, leading to rope.
After a quiet night we moved to the moorings off the main town of Bourg des Saintes on the largest of the islands, Terre d’en Haut. We visited here in January 2012 and little has changed. There are 2 dinghy docks; the one to the north is lower and easier. The town is very charming, with pretty houses and churches, plenty of boutiques and restaurants to attract the tourists and a couple of small supermarkets, including a Carrefour Express. You can dump your rubbish for free, even recycle glass and plastic and there is an ATM by the ferry pier, another at the Post Office and a third by the Mairie (town hall). The shops are of a better standard than many in other islands but then tourism is their main source of income. Customs is still in the Internet café, LSM, just up the small hill to the south, on the right and they also have washing and drying machines in the same room. A wash and dry is 8 Euros.
We checked the weather and decided to wait until the wind is north of east, otherwise we will be sailing too close to the wind to get to Martinique comfortably. On Thursday the swell drops and the wind does swing round more northerly. So, since Sunday we moved from bay to bay and enjoyed the scenery, then returned to town to re-check the weather, clear out and have a meal in 1 of the many restaurants. A couple of bays, such as the one next to Pain de Sucre, are still anchoring zones, so the extra 22 Euros went towards our evening out ☺
Pain de Sucre was very sheltered and there was good snorkelling along the beach and under the Pain de Sucre itself.
We arrived on Sunday morning to be followed in by several local boats out for the day. Watching them drop their anchors just in front of us and then motor back to end up far too close was part of the day’s entertainment. They just had to up anchor and move again, so why drop it there in the first place? Maybe we are invisible! We then watched (we heard them shouting first) 4 people trying to pick up the only mooring buoy in the bay. It took 5 attempts and we were glad the anchorage wasn’t as crowded as Marin or some in the BVI or they could have caused carnage. Anyway, mustn’t get too smug, as we have probably forgotten how to get into a tight marina berth by now ☹