Fourth in a Series:
After leaving Dominica aboard our Island Windjammers cruise through the French West Indies, we reached Guadeloupe early in the morning of our fourth day out.
Rather than visiting Guadeloupe’s main island, our sailing ship, the 24-passenger Sagitta, anchored off idyllic Terre-de-Haut, one of two small inhabited islands of the Iles des Saintes (Islands of the Saints), which Columbus named because he first saw them on All Saints Day.
The islands (also sometimes called Les Saintes) are part of Guadeloupe, which in turn is an overseas department of France — meaning it’s not a territory but part of France itself.
Being up on deck with our cups of coffee as we sailed through the island chain was a treat. The Iles des Saintes are truly the undiscovered Caribbean, visited only by small ships: yachts, sailboats, ferries from nearby islands, and small cruise vessels like the Sagitta.
Terre-de-Haut, just three-square miles in size, proved to be our favorite island of the cruise.
The island’s one town (Le Bourg) is charming, clean, easy to get around (there’s basically one main street), and very French. Many of its residents are blue-eyed descendants of Bretons, and in the morning we passed several carrying freshly baked baguettes, just as you’d see in mainland France.
The official currency is the euro, also just as in France, though U.S. dollars and credit cards are often accepted.
My wife, Catharine, and I caught the first dinghy into town at 9 a.m. and started walking in the direction of Fort Napoleon, which sits atop one of the highest points on the island.
En route, we passed alluring little cafes on the waterfront, an array of shops that were still shuttered at that hour, small inns perched on the hillsides, and a sandy beach that we made a mental note to try later.
The road then wound rather steeply up a hill toward the fort. Along the way, there were two outstanding views — one overlooking the harbor, bustling with boats, and the other looking toward the main island of Guadeloupe, just six miles to the north.
The walk was a bit of a trudge in the heat, emphasized when another couple from the Sagitta passed us in their rented golf cart (you can also rent motor scooters, a common means of transport on the island). We eyed them a bit enviously, but it was only a two-person cart.
Before we reached the fort, they motored back to tell us that it was closed for the May 27 holiday, which was the date that slavery was abolished on Martinique and Guadeloupe. But we completed the hike, saw the outside of the fort, and then continued our walk back downhill to town.
By now shops were opening and residents were gathering to spend the holiday gossiping in the town square. We opted to take the noon dinghy back to the ship, where the cook was serving “Cheeseburgers in Paradise,” and the servers were wearing special cheeseburger hats that were, well, cute (I refuse to use the word “adorable,” though several women at our table did).
Then we rode the 1 p.m. dinghy back into town to check out the beaches. We reached the biggest, called Grand Anse, by following a street through to the other side of the island. The street, which featured little inns, restaurants, and a very picturesque cemetery, proved more of an attraction than the beach itself, which was clogged with seaweed and hit by strong waves promising serious undertow.
So it was back to the harbor and the little beach we had spotted earlier. The beach had plenty of shade trees and sunbathers had staked out spots either in the sun or shade, depending on their tanning preferences. The water was delightful for swimming, and we remained there for most of the rest of the afternoon, until it was time to catch the 4 o’clock dinghy back to the ship.
A number of passengers had elected to stay on the ship for all or much of the day, sunning on deck, reading, or chatting with others.
There were no organized excursions on the cruise after the two in Dominica, and no pressure to go anywhere if you didn’t want to.
That’s one of the beauties of Island Windjammers: the watchword is casual. No dress code; no shoes or even sandals needed if you want to go barefoot; no worries in general.
Add to that excellent cuisine; complimentary beer, wine, or soda available most of the day and evening; both outdoor and indoor dining spots (breakfast indoors; lunch and dinner outdoors, weather permitting); a friendly crew led by Captain Matt and operations manager Leah — who made sure everything ran smoothly — and the ability to anchor off largely untrammeled island coves where big cruise ships cannot tread, and you can have a near-perfect Caribbean experience (nothing is ever perfect, but this comes close).
I’ll give you more background on Island Windjammers in my next post.
For earlier posts in this series, go to:
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