Iles Des Saintes to Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadaloupe

View of Iles des Saintes from Le Chameau

View of Iles des Saintes from Le Chameau

A few weeks ago we arrived at Iles des Saintes, a small group of islands south of the main island(s) of Guadaloupe. We’d visited the Iles de Saintes when we first arrived in the Caribbean in 2015 so we knew where to check in and where the anchorages/mooring fields were. Unfortunately so did about 200 other vessels.

With no moorings available nearer the township we anchored behind Pain de Sucre in 20m behind a small mooring field. This was pretty good really, as we were mostly out of the easterly swell, which seemed to invade the moorings and anchoring closer to the town of Terre de Haut. From here the trip to town and check-in was only a five minute dinghy ride.

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The brightly painted town is filled with tourists and has the usual restaurants, souvenir stores, etc. From the main dinghy dock in town we turned right and headed down the lane for about 100m stopping at the sign of Les Saintes Multiservices (L.S.M). Up the stairway to the first floor you’ll find the place to check-in to the island. Completing the online form (with a French keyboard testing my typing skills once again), we then paid the token sum of two Euros, and we were cleared in. Afterwards a walk through the familiar town to grab a baguette then back to the boat for a swim.

Le Chameau, 350m above the anchorage

Le Chameau, 350m above the anchorage

For some exercise and great views of the islands, we decided to walk up the hill high above our anchorage. Perched at the top of 350m are the ruins of the fort Le Chameau. The walk along a tarmac track is easy enough but it is hot work and takes around one hour. From the top are spectacular views of Les Saintes plus to the north the main Guadaloupe islands of Basse Terre and Grande Terre; to the east the flat island Marie-Galante; and to the south obscured by low cloud are the high rainforest peaks of Dominica.

With the wind forecast to increase over the coming week we decided to sail to Pointe-a-Pitre – the largest town in Guadaloupe. This town is located in the centre of the two main island. It was Wayne’s birthday so after sailing 22nm, tacking a couple of times, we arrived at the dodgy anchorage outside the marina in time for some home-made birthday cake.

Soft mud and wind equals dodgy anchorage - as this catamaran found out!

Soft mud and wind equals dodgy anchorage – as this catamaran found out!

The anchorage at Point-a-Pitre isn’t pretty. To the east of the shipping lane and outside the marina it looks like a junkyard for decaying vessels. Reviews on ActiveCaptain comment on how poor the holding is in soft mud, and although we didn’t drag, on one occasion, we saw a catamaran drag right into the shipping channel minutes before a huge container ship came in. The ship had to deviate off its course while some Good Samaritan maneuvered the cat away from the ship.

The nearby marina has 1000 berths and it looked full. The courtesy dinghy dock is tiny and located at the entrance near the Capitanerie. Rubbish bins or poubelles are conveniently next to the dock. But toilets and showers, etc., are only available for paying customers. Walking up the road, a few boat supply stores, restaurants, and around the back is the Champion Supermarket (Carrefour products), a boulangerie, plus many waterfront restaurants and a laverie where you can have your washing done for you. A handy fuel dock is on the right hand side from the marina entrance. The marina complex is run down and tired, and like any marina trapped without water flow, there’s an odour of effluent wafting throughout the area.

Popular portside veggie market, Pointe-a-Pitre

Popular portside veggie market, Pointe-a-Pitre

More windy days and a dodgy anchorage kept us on the boat for a couple of days before the wind eased and we ventured out into the town. It was now my birthday and Wayne took me out for lunch. We shared a pizza and fries at the Bella Vita restaurant which overlooks the park in the centre of town. Dinghies can be tied up on the concrete dock in town, although it appears this area is used as a urinal for fishermen. I found this out after sitting down on the wharf to get in the boat!

Overlooking the anchorage, and a little out of place is the architecturally modern Mémorial ACTe dedicated to the history and memory of the slave trade, which was abolished over 150 years ago. This cultural centre was only opened a couple of years ago and built on the site of the Darboussier sugar factory.

Memorial ACTe, Pointe-a-Pitre

Memorial ACTe, Pointe-a-Pitre

A short dinghy ride to the north of this memorial is a small fishing boat harbour. On the nearby road is a boulangerie and across the road is a good-value self-service laundromat.

The port town of Pointe-a-Pitre was a little disappointing (they can’t all be fantastic now can they?). Besides the tired and distressed creole buildings, the shops are filled with plastic products and polyester clothes from China. There is a good veggie market at the waterfront though, plus a McDonalds if you feel like an ice-cream cone. So after a week and with the wind easing to the east we had a great sail back to Terre de Haut at Les Saintes.

Fort Napoleon, Ilets des Saintes

Fort Napoleon, Ilets des Saintes

One of the attractions at Les Saintes is the impressive Fort Napoleon. Typically, many forts on Caribbean islands are just a pile of rock walls, but Fort Napoleon is well maintained, particularly the grounds which are covered in varieties of spiky cacti, yukka and aloe plants. Fort Napoleon houses a museum with displays and tales of the sea battles around Les Saints between the French, English and Spanish back in the 1700s.

Displays of local sea life, examples of period furniture, equipment, charts and all sorts of stuff will keep your interest up for a while too. The walk up the hill takes around 20 minutes from town, or you can easily hire a golf cart or a scooter and be there in minutes.

The forecast for the next day was light breeze from the south east so we thought we’d take advantage of the nice weather and sail to the west coast of Guadaloupe to the Jacques Cousteau Marine Park at the Ilets a Goyaves, aka Pigeon Island. Maybe we can get in some scuba diving.

Until then…
ally-fdfrance

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Southern Martinique

martiniqueTo the south of Martinique is the tiny village of St Anne. Most yachties visit St Anne, usually because it’s a fair anchorage and it’s close to the chandleries and marinas. During our recent visit, I reckon over two hundred yachts and catamarans were at anchor at St Anne.

Le Marin, and Port de Plaisance where hundreds of boats are berthed or on anchor, is a 2nm dinghy ride away. This is the main location for chandleries and getting any boat work done. Fortunately for us we had no need to visit Le Marin’s chandleries, although we did stroll through the various shops and boat supply stores anyway. We haven’t been here since April 2015 when we crossed the South Atlantic.

St Anne is a pretty location, with a few restaurants, souvenir shops and the like. The small church greets you as you leave the dinghy dock. Behind the church is a winding path that takes you up a hill with excellent views of the bay. One sunny day we walked an hour or so south through the mangroves along the coast to Pointe Salines. Plenty of people were also on the walk with many having BBQs and picnics within the mangroves and near dangerous manchineel trees.

Walking long the southern beaches

Walking long the southern beaches from St Anne

About one kilometre south of the village is the Hotel Caritan where yachties can take their laundry to a self-serve laundrette. In the village is a small grocery store and a covered fruit and veg market. After a few days though with much wind chopping up the water and hundreds of crazy charter yachts anchoring too close, we decided to leave and headed up the west coast to one of the prettiest areas in the Caribbean (another favourite of mine) – Les Anses d’Arlets.

Gorgeous Petit Anse

Gorgeous Petit Anse

Petit Anse, just south of Grande Anse, is a gorgeous village with little to offer except clean beaches, clear, clear water, turtles, good anchorage, and a boulangerie with excellent cakes and baguettes! There’s a post office, customs check-in at Cyber Base. For some exercise, a walk from Petit Anse atop Morne Champagne has you in Grande Anse within an hour then about a 25 minute walk back along the road.

Les Anses d'Arlets - stunning

Les Anses d’Arlets – stunning

Now we are back at Fort de France and will leave here in a few days. It’s been a nice stay over the past five weeks and I hope to return to this beautiful part of the world again soon.

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Jardin de Balata, Martinique

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Porcelain Rose

The number 25 bus from Fort de France took us to the popular Jardin de Balata. The trip of around 20 minutes dropped us off right at the entrance. Plants aren’t usually our thing – the only plant-life we tend to deal with is the stuff that we scrape from the hull. But when recommended to us by other yachties and with plenty of time we decided to have a look.

The Jardin de Balata is a private garden brimming with tropical plants and palms from around the world. Hummingbirds zip by on their way to grab a feed from the bird-baths – almost impossible to take a photo of.

Hummingbirds at Jardin de Balata

Hummingbirds at Jardin de Balata

A winding concrete path takes you down the sloping land through a damp garden filled with bromeliads, palms, begonias, cycads, aloe vera, Asian bamboos, all sorts or variegated plants, colourful crotons, bright red waxy porcelain roses, and many other shrubs and trees. Ponds filled with slimy carp and goldfish feed off the water lilies and along the path small huts are available for tourists to wait out passing showers. For the adventurous gardener there is even a treetop walk (it’s only about 5m from the ground!) with magnificent views of the valley and beyond to Fort de France harbour. It was a pleasant morning out and easy to get there from Fort de France.

Below are a selection of images for the garden lovers!

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Fort de France, Martinique

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Soon after arriving in Fort de Franc back in December, I’d placed my Nikon D7000 in for a much needed service at a local camera store. The guy said it would be done within a couple of days. This turned into a week, two weeks, then a part was needed. Five weeks later I went into the store and he gave me an apologetic shrug before returning my camera and money. Obviously the part didn’t come in! To make matters worse, my smaller Olympus Tough camera died back in the Tobago Cays (note to readers, I don’t recommend the Olympus Tough’s with the selfie screen – they eventually stop working). So now I am down to my iPhone for taking photos.

imageIn Fort de France, every other day or so one or two cruise ships sneak into the bay docking either right in town at Pointe Simon or at the Quai des Tourelles just outside town. The main waterfront road is Boulevard Alfassa which runs from Fort Saint-Louis to Pointe Simon.

For the sailors, there’s supermarkets, laundrettes, and other places to provision in FDF. If you walk thirty minutes west along this road you’ll eventually arrive at the large Hyper U supermarket (they seem to have the best selection of meats). Within the city though are Carrefour at the aqua coloured Cour Perrinon commercial centre or the less glamorous Leader Price opposite Sea Services. A block behind Sea Services is the Laverie de la Pointe where you can wash a load from 7 euros. Very handy for yachties. Further north of town along Ave. Jean Jaures you’ll find plenty of hairdressers which seem to be more reasonably priced than those closer to the tourists (I had a trim for 10 Euros). Throughout the town are plenty of cheap clothing stores, and heaps of shoe stores – you can smell the polyethylene as you walk by! Of course there are lots of patisseries, boulangeries, and an horlogerie (clock shop). Here I found a new clock movement for our ships clock which had died. There is the covered market Marche Couvert, which sells touristy stuff and some veggies, but there’s a better veggie market up on Boulevard General de Gaulle – the Lafcadio Hearn Market. Up the hill behind this market is the Calvaire Chapel with great views of the bay.

Here are some iPhone photos from around Fort de France.

View of Fort de France from waterfront. St Louis Cathedral in background.

View of Fort de France from waterfront. St Louis Cathedral in background.

  • Fort de France anchorage and surrounds – swings at the foreshore; anchorage at Fort de France, Pointe Simon, statues including a headless Josephine (apparently they don’t like Napoleon’s woman very much as she helped to reintroduce slavery).
  • On the street – walking around the streets of Fort de France offers some delights not only in street names, signage, murals, old and new architecture, but also the sounds, smells and people of this interesting city.

 

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Noël en Martinique

imageAlthough my last post referred to the island of St Vincent, we didn’t actually stop there on our way north from Bequia to Martinique; the weather window was open for two days before forecast rough seas expected to roll in from the Atlantic. St Vincent is a magnificent looking island – as most are in the Caribbean – rugged, volcanic, covered in thick jungle. We visited St Lucia earlier this year and we would stay only one night at Rodney Bay for a sleep before heading to Fort-de-France on Martinique’s west coast early next morning. The next day our course was NNW which gave us a break from bashing into seas, so with trimmed sails and 25kn easterly, we had a fast sail to Martinique.

Wharf at Petit Anse D'Arlets

Wharf at Petit Anse D’Arlets

By late morning after a fantastic sail from St Lucia, we’d pulled in at Petit Anse D’Arlets and grabbed one of the free moorings. Petit Anse is familiar to us, so we went directly to Cyber Base to use their computer to check in for the reasonable cost of 3 Euros.

Skipper enjoying his gateau

Skipper savouring every mouthful of chocolate gateau

Within an hour we had checked in, had a swim, bought goodies from the boulangerie, eaten a baguette for lunch plus a delicious chocolate gateau for a treat! Gotta love the French islands!

We motored along the lee of Martinique for around seven miles north into the harbour of Fort de France. Deep within the harbour, Trois Ilets was supposed to be a nice anchorage but I wasn’t happy with the area. It was too exposed to fetch from the east and very shallow. With strong winds due over the coming days, I did not want to be dragging through weed. There were no other transient yachts here either except for few old yachts weighed down with weed and barnacles. We motored back around to Pointe du Bout on the southern bank of the harbour and dropped anchor tucked behind Anse Mitan near one of the the ferry terminals.

From Anse Mitan or Point du Bout it’s a short ferry ride across to the very French town of Fort de France. It wasn’t long before I’d stocked up on more French goodies that I’d missed in the other islands – pâté, fromage, yaourt, cafè, crème fraîche, and a bottle of Merlot for Wayne. Our latitude is 14deg33’N and the climate is perfect. Evenings are cool enough to have a light blanket, while the days are around 25-30degrees.

imageSo with Christmas upon us once again, I look back at the year that was. Famous people who dared to be different left us this year – David Bowie (the Androgynous one), Prince (the Symbol), Fidel Castro (the Revolutionary), Mohammed Ali (The Greatest), Gene Wilder (The Waco Kid!) – just to name a few. This year evil terror attacks saddened and angered us, while the paradoxical actions of voters – disgruntled, disillusioned, disenfranchised, even those deplorables! – certainly astonished many of us, as we are taken on an uncharted journey into Bizarro World!

But as the year drifts to a close, my thoughts are with my family on the other side of the world in Australia. Regular readers will know that my brother’s sons, my nephews Matthew and Tim, have Niemann Pick Type C disease. Tim, at 27 who stands over six feet tall, is in the grips of this disease, having been hospitalised on and off since October. Although I’m not there to give him a big hug, I’m comforted to know that both he and Matthew are cared for by excellent health professionals, and surrounded by good friends and family that love them very much.

For those that follow this blog or the Blue Heeler Facebook page and have helped raise awareness and supported the Australian NPCD Foundation with their fund raising efforts this year, thank you very much for your kindness. If you can support ongoing research to fight NPCD and help the families battling this disease, the Australian NPCD Foundation accepts donations through their website.

To our family, our readers and sailing friends who may also be far from loved ones, we wish you a safe and happy Christmas season and hope 2017 brings peace, health and happiness for all.

May your winds be fair and your seas be following…

Joyeux Noël et Bonne année

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