Monday, December 9, 2013

Weather bound in Isle Des Saintes

Bourg des Saintes
With the awful rolling in Portsmouth, Dominica we decided to try our luck at the next group of islands to the north.  Just 20 miles away lay Les Saintes – a small group of French islands south of mainland Guadeloupe. Like all the French Caribbean islands their ties to mainland France and full government funding show in well kept towns and infrastructure - roads and waterfronts are well maintained and while the islands retain their small island charm the French are a lot more modern than their independent neighbours.
Isle des Saintes
Isle Des Saintes are probably the most idyllic of them all.  The only small town in Bourg des Saintes is a bright and colourful one.  You can not help but instantly want to stay the minute you step ashore. Small artisan shops, ice cream parlours, cafes and restaurants line the street.  Everything is painted in vivid pastel hues in a rustic chic and gingerbread lattice style. Palm trees and old almond trees provide shade along side colourful hibiscus and bougainvillea. Because of the rocky terrain, plantations never took hold and so slavery was never introduced.  The inhabitants are Breton descendants and apart from tourism, fishing is their lively hood.  Part of the charm is all the fort remnants from the days when the French and British Navies battled.
Isle des Saintes waterfront
Of course being French and tied to the Euro nothing is cheap. But then when did I ever like anything that was cheap!  Luckily our boat is well stocked and apart from the odd baguette and coffee ashore we are trying to resist the temptation to dig deep.  This is a lot easier for Sim who is recovering from his bout of food poisoning and has no interest in pretty dresses and jewelry shops that line the main street.
Pain Aux Sucre
We were quite happy, anchored in a beautiful spot called Pain aux Sucre (-the headland looks like a sugared loaf) about half a mile from the main town, with Jon and a couple of other boats we know.  While Sim recuperated Jon and I joined the others for drinks on “Spirit of Argo” with Cain and April and group snorkels around the sugary loafed headland. The seabed is littered with queen conch shells. We saw turtles and sea snakes, huge puffer fish and lots of coral which looked a lot healthier than in previous years.  The water was crystal clear and we could see down 12 meters or more.  The icing on the cake or should I say the sugar on the loaf was that we picked up the best wifi we have had in a long time.  Walks ashore to the beaches on the other side of the headlands and up to the look out point were almost like walking in the English country side.
Could this be English countryside?
But as things in our watery world are always fluid and constantly changing we had to make some decision about the inclement weather that was expected.  Sadly our happy spot put us on a lee shore and although our anchor was in it was a mix of sand and weed – not always a good combination.  Sim and I decided to take a mooring and move over to the more protected Ilet a Cabrit, the only place that offers protection from the strong NE winds – where if anything was to go wrong at least we could blow out to sea and not a rocky shore as one boat did later that particular afternoon.

Views of Terre des Haut from Ilet A cabrit
For now we are safely tucked up behind the island protected from most of the wind. Boats are swinging in odd and strange directions as wind and currents pull them in different ways.  But we are not rolling wildly and for now our floating home is a comfortable one. Yesterday we hiked to the top of the hill past all the (fluffy – I think, curry – Sim thinks) baby goats and the odd snake along the crumbling path to the fort remains and dilapidated old buildings at the top.  At the bottom of the hill a single French man lives in a ramshackle shed like building, pined to the outside are artisan masks that he sells to tourists.  Every morning he sweeps the black sand beach.  How cool is that – a whole island to himself! 
The masks hanging from the wall of the beach keepers abode.

Ilet A Cabrit anchorage
ferry dock in main town
All the lovely little shops
The town hall
Small catholic church
Wandering Star - at Pain Aux Sucre
Pain Aux Sucre anchorage
Cross at the top of the hill
Sim and Jon enjoying the view
Rolling countryside

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