Sunday, May 24th, 2009
The Barque Picton Castle is happily anchor at “The Saints,” a lovely small group of islands just south of the big French island of Guadeloupe. There had been some civil unrest in Martinique and Guadeloupe recently but things are back a very pleasant normal now. We had cancelled an earlier stop at Martinique some weeks ago when things were a little worked up but reports from trusted sources in these islands told us to come over, things were fine now.
We have just sailed from Antigua, tacking in an attempt to get to windward of Guadeloupe to keep the fresh breeze that this large island blocks, but gave that up on a squally night with a lee shore coming up close by. We fell off and sailed along the western side bound for the Saints where, in days gone by (1973), one Brigantine Romance, while at anchor, was rammed by a French minesweeper coming in to harbour with some kind of cowboy at the conn. Quite the kerfuffle with a snapped jibboom and broken spritsail yard, but we got their flag and flag staff. Tempers were a bit hot, say, white hot? But lovely spot anyway. The French CO decided it wasn’t his fault somehow…a bit of history, we called it the Battle of the Saints. I thought anchored vessels generally had the right of way over vessels making way – what do I know?
After several days at anchor at the main island of Terre de Haut in Les Iles des Saintes, we shifted the Picton Castle to Terre de Bas, the smaller of the islands and are now at anchor in a tiny and improbable but beautiful little cove. The Saints are just a treat. Beautiful in a Caribbean way and yet very country French with fine coffee, baguettes, wine, good cold biere and croissant and even the kids dressed pretty with style etc. The locals tend towards a light mocha in complexion running from quite white to a rich brown. Les Isles des Saintes, just a fishing outpost back in the day, never had any major cane agriculture here calling for lots of African slaves so the ancestry is largely Breton French. Well painted and well kept old wood frame and plank houses dating back plenty, plenty years, small and with wooden shutters line the streets close aboard, they do. Likewise pretty painted wooden fish boats moored just outside the small surf or pulled up on smooth beaches, nets hanging from trees and in neat piles on the sand in the shade – fishermen landing big dorado in the late afternoon, caught by line well out to sea. Pretty and steep hilly fields with goats staked out looking up at us with their devilish eyes and bleating sporadically for reasons unknown.
We are relaxing here at anchor and about to have a swim call – plenty of time to do ships work once under way and the crew have worked plenty hard. Lynsey took the ferry over to the main town to clear out with the gendarmes, should be back soon and off we sail for the BVI – clear blue skies, a nice force 4-5 easterly– yup, we do all just love it here in these West Indies. Sure, we want to be in Lunenburg soon, but soon enough for that, meantime we are here and that’s pretty sweet too.