There is something special about the Saintes.
A cluster of eight little islands, they are a
dependency of Guadeloupe, lying six miles to their
north, which is in turn an Overseas Department of
France. Too small and mountainous for
the ubiquitous sugar plantations and the slavery
that went with them in the rest of the Caribbean,
these islands are populated by fishermen and their
descendants. Settled by the French in the
mid-17th Century, it is the site of many skirmishes
between the French and British navies.
Ownership of many of the Caribbean islands changed
hands between the two colonial powers up to six or
seven times over a three hundred year period.
A famous battle occurred here in 1782 between
Admiral Rodney and Admiral de Grasse resulting in
three decades of British rule. The islands
were returned to France through the 1815 Treaty of
We arrived here after a
short downwind sail from Marie-Galante last Friday.
The sail was uneventful except for the loss of two
of my fishing lures. You can just imagine my
frustration. Dragging a line off both the rod
and the rail-mounted reel, we got two hits, the
bigger one on the reel. The tell-tale zing of
the line paying out abruptly stopped and I
discovered upon reeling it in that the snap swivel
which connects the line to the lure broke in half.
I guess I need to change those every so often.
Good-bye to my beautiful, newly made orange, yellow
and pink squid. I tied on a new snap swivel
and decided to try a spoon lure which I have never
used before. Robert on Following Tides had
lots of success with a spoon on the Atlantic
crossing so I thought I'd give it a go. Sure
enough, we got a nice solid hit within a half hour,
only to loose it again. This time it was my
knot that failed. We did reel in a small tuna,
but let it go. So far, we have only caught one
fish in the Caribbean, as we were coming in to
anchor in St. Pierre, Martinique. I'm starting to
Upon arriving at the
anchorage in Bourg, we quickly discovered another
American boat with a nine-year old girl onboard.
Jim, Norie and Nikki have been living aboard their
for a year and a half, although they have spent most
of this time refitting the boat in Antigua and
getting her ready for cruising. She is a
beautiful 64 foot wooden schooner. Although
their boat is about as polar opposite from Zia as
you can get, our cruising lifestyle and attitudes
are analogous and we quickly hit it off. We
hiked up to the nearby fort and museum, shared
dinners on each other's boats and ice creams in
One day we hiked over to the beach on the
windward side of the island where the girls quickly
went to work erecting a palm frond and driftwood
We also had the pleasure
of meeting a couple other boats with kids here.
We all got together on the beach one afternoon, and
the next morning geared up for a hike to the top of
Le Chameau. Unfortunately, Juliana got a speck
of dirt that blew into her eye as we were walking
through town at the start of the hike so she and I
had to return to the boat to deal with that and
missed the exercise and the stunning views from the
top of the peak (see first photo).
We also went scootering
around the island one day, exploring the many bays
and inlets, beaches and rocky shorelines.
Wind-whipped and pounded by relentless waves, the
windward side of the island is rugged and beautiful.
We were warned, however, not to go swimming in Grand
Anse because of the fierce undertow. That
didn't stop the kite boarder we watched skimming
back and forth through the surf.
The north facing Baie du Marigot looked inviting
the other day from the top of Fort Napoleon, but was
clearly untenable with a strong northerly breeze.
Pompierre beach is also on the windward side of
the island but is well protected by a series of
large islands that shield it from the direct
onslaught of the wind and waves. It is popular
amongst locals and tourists alike, and just a short
walk from town.
To get a feel for why
this place holds so much allure for us, imagine,
mixed in with all this poignant natural beauty, the
ambiance of France. The restaurants, wine,
baguette, pastries, language, people, and attitude
all exude that "je ne sais quoi" which gives France
a special place in our hearts. The common
complaint about the country is that the people are
rude. It is true, at times, that they can be
opinionated and abrupt in dealing with tourists.
They don't make it easy to break through the initial
negative attitude they have towards us. But, a
humble "je ne pas parle francais" and a smile goes a
long way to smoothing the waters and the rewards are
well worth it.
So worth it, in fact,
that we have stayed here for over a week despite the
sorry state of supplies on the island. A three
week long strike on Guadeloupe has paralyzed
transportation, emptying the shelves of most fresh
produce and supplies. Gas stations are closed
and restaurants are shutting down one by one as they
run out of propane fuel for their ovens and grills.
Luckily, Zia's stores are up to the task. We have
been able to find some long lasting vegetables such
as cabbages and tomatoes and with a plentiful supply
of fresh baguette, we've been happy campers.
We are looking forward, however, to a big
re-provisioning on our next stop north.
Antigua here we come!