I think we messed up. We certainly must have done something wrong because we didn't have much fun in Iles des Saintes (Les Saintes). I'm certain it was us, it must have been. So many people have reported that it is a "must see" and that it was one of their best stops and that they could spend weeks there. Or did we get our navigation totally wrong and the islands we went to were not Les Saintes at all (discovered on All Saints day) but some other archipelago with crowded, rolly anchorages, dragging boats, and insane ferry drivers who roar through said crowded anchorage at 10 knots? The islands themselves looked amazing. Steep sided, dry volcanic islands with bright narrow beaches and many colorful looking houses. The guide books all rave about visiting the forts and the windward beaches.
The problem is, all of the activities require that you leave your boat and go ashore. This doesn't seem to be a problem for most (all?) of the cruisers and bare boat charters visiting the islands but it stumped us. I'll be honest, we didn't exhaust all our options but after spending a nerve wracking windy, swinging, sleepless night squashed between a dragging charter cat, several fishing boats, a couple bare boats and a rocky lee shore less than 3 boat lengths away we were looking for a bit of peace and quiet. We did try three other spots but failed to find the peace of mind kind of spot we were hoping for.
The islands of Les Saintes are in the path of the powerful trade winds which rush around the relatively short but steep peaks hurtling down the other sides into the anchorages from multiple angles. The current wind conditions were such that the daily oscillation of wind direction was over 60 degrees. And all the anchorages were very deep and small. You put all this together and you have a lot of boats with not enough chain out (us included as we don't really have enough for a place like this), packed into a few shallow areas swinging in different directions and several of the boats dragging each day. Oh, and did I mention the rolls? The anchorages look well protected but between the ocean swell that somehow manages to creep in there and the frequent ferries zipping past it felt like trying to sleep in a washing machine.
At 0400 this morning we'd had enough. Carla and I got up, cleaned and readied the boat while it bounced around about as bad as we'd seen on this trip (yeah, as bad as Mustique). By 0530 we were underway to check out Pigeon Island on the west coast of Guadeloupe without having set foot on Les Saintes.
We're disappointed for sure. After all the buildup and anticipation we were really looking forward to this stop. And I'm sure we would have had a great time if we could have relaxed a bit more and adopted more of the laissez faire anchoring attitudes of the locals and the French cruisers but that's not where our minds were at this weekend. Oh, and an extra 150 feet of chain would have created a lot more options to anchor the way we wanted. Maybe we'll get it right next time. For now we'll just enjoy the rest of our time on Guadeloupe. We're already looking forward to getting to St. Maarten to see Iain and my dad (we may even get there in time to see Linda before she leaves).