The delightful small islands of Les Saintes are a day sail from Pointe-a-Pitre and the main charter bases on Guadeloupe. The village, Bourg des Saintes that overlooks Les Saintes Bay, one of UNESCO’s ‘Most Beautiful Bays in the Worlds’, looks like an old French colonial movie set with colored tiles roofs, white balconies and large, loose shuttered windows. Several of these old wooden buildings house outstanding French-Creole restaurants including favorites La Fringale and Au Bon Vivre.
If you time it right, there are mooring balls available in Les Saintes Bay directly in front of Bourge des Saintes. A short dinghy ride to the small boat pier brings you to the main street of this tiny town. A few pubs overhanging the water invite you with offers of the local ‘ti’ punch’. Restaurants, shops and cafes line the waterfront until the colorful street winds up and over the hill towards Pain a’ Sucre.
Rebuilt in the mid 1800s, Fort Napoleon is a worthwhile hike uphill to see its gardens and museum depictions of the Anglo-French naval battles that frequented Les Saintes coastline.
Discovered by Columbus in 1493, Les Saintes were occupied by the French in 1648. Because of the strategic location many naval encounters took place nearby between British and French ships. The British gained the area following victory in the extended Battle of the Saintes in April 1782.
Assisted by Rear Admiral Francis Drake, the British fleet of 37 ships under Admiral Sir George Rodney engaged the French fleet of 36 ships under Comte de Grasse, recently feted for victory over the British in the American Revolution naval ‘Battle of the Chesapeake’. Following a week of broadsides and pursuit, French losses versus British were 8:1. Coming on the heels of the defeats at Chesapeake and the American Revolution’s ‘Battle of Yorktown’, as well as territory losses in the Caribbean, the victory at Battle of the Saintes helped to restore the then dwindling British powwer in the area. In 1816 Les Saintes returned to French ownership.
The islands of Les Saintes are worth several days of your charter week. One can enjoyably spend two overnights on a mooring in Les Saintres Bay doing a couple of day sails to the great snorkeling spots nearby.
Or , an overnight at one of the more secluded anchorages, a few with mooring balls, such as nearby Ilet a Cabrit and Pain de Sucre. There are no amenities at Ilet a Cabrit besides the colorful sea friends you’ll see while snorkeling. Or you can go for a hike around the small isle and see the ruined fortifications and the views across Les Saintes Bay towards Borg des Saintes.
Both spots are worth spending a day swimming and snorkeling along the shore. Try to plan for an open mooring ball. While possible to anchor, you must be outside the mooring field where it drops to 40+ feet — OK for a few hours but not much scope ratio for an overnight!
Pain de Sucre is a small cove sheltered by the steep wooded hill which gives it its name. There’s a pretty beach easily reached from the mooring field and the Hotel Bois Joli across the cove has a nice terraced restaurant for sundowners. A 20 min walk along the winding island lane brings you back by land to Bourge des Saintes if you wish to take advantage of the fine French Creole cuisine available in the village.
There are another half dozen coves to explore around Terre de Haut, the main island of the group, and more after a short sail to its little sister island, Terre de Bas. A couple of these coves have small beach restaurants, others you must be provisioned for your meals aboard. No problem since Borg des Saintes is nearby from any daytime stop with several markets, fresh fish harvested by the local fleet of tiny blue and orange saintoises (traditional fishing boats), and fresh baked bread!