Caribbean - Guadeloupe
Every four years, Guadeloupe has its place of honour, long enough to witness the finish of the Route du Rhum. Yet the destination deserves further consideration, and proves to be the perfect place for a week-long cruise in catamaran in the West Indies...
From Petite-Terre to the Saintes, via Marie-Galante and its famous rum, Guadeloupe’s islands offer some wonders to lovers of beautiful anchorages and original encounters, and even more so as a few of these havens are reserved for multihulls, or at least boats with a shallow draft. Leaving for a week’s cruising in Guadeloupe allows you to sail for a few hours per day, and discover several completely different islands and atmospheres. Between the visits to the distilleries, diving in the most beautiful sites in the world, the unique fauna, with notably some impressive iguanas, and of course the scenery that only the West Indies can offer you, there is more than enough to do and enjoy.
A cruise in Guadeloupe always starts in the Bas du Fort marina, where the catamaran charter companies are based. Once you have embarked, we recommend you spend the first night at the small island of Gosier. Less than three miles from the marina, this anchorage will allow you to acclimatize easily to life aboard and the West Indian heat, whilst already enjoying the Caribbean Sea. In the evening, the island is deserted, and this is the ideal moment to enjoy it.
Then, if the wind allows (beware, this may mean a nice passage close-hauled), go and have a look at Petite-Terre. Halfway between Guadeloupe and Marie-Galante, Terre-de-Haut is a desert island, populated only by two guardians, several thousand iguanas (there are 10,000 in the reserve), innumerable birds, dolphins, turtles and of course, hermit crabs. The anchorage is reserved for shallow draft boats (less than 2 metres), and it is absolutely forbidden to drop anchor. You must therefore pick up one of the mooring buoys available (the biggest ones are reserved for the day charter boats), and if they are all occupied, you will have to leave... It is therefore best to plan on arriving early in the morning, or on the contrary, at the end of the afternoon. Paradise is then yours, and you can spend the night here for a unique experience. Note that landing on the other island, Terre-de-Bas, is completely forbidden. Finally, note that Terre-de-Haut has to be earned, and access to its pass is difficult, especially with a north-easterly swell...
After this stopover, you must now head for Marie-Galante. This island produces the best rum in the West Indies. But shhh, it’s a secret. What is certain, is that more than a hundred windmills adorn this unique island, and that hiring a car to visit it is essential... The Grand-Bourg anchorage is pleasant and its access is well buoyed, although you must always beware of the (too) numerous lobster pots, and stay as far away as possible from the fast launches arriving from neighbouring Guadeloupe.
Leaving Marie-Galante will inevitably tug at your heartstrings: this island has a unique personality and many people swear before getting under way that they will return one day...
Set a course now for the Saintes, about twenty miles away, generally downwind. A nice passage which will allow you to arrive in one of the most famous, and above all one of the most beautiful, bays in the world. In the anchorage below the island’s famous ‘Maison du Medecin’, in the shape of a liner, you will have the time to wait until the tourists (who arrive from Guadeloupe in boatloads) leave, at around 4 or 5 pm, to enjoy the island, whose atmosphere then changes. A real wonder. Beware, holding in the anchorage under the Maison du Medecin is poor, and we know of some experienced sailors who have dragged their anchor here... For peace of mind, don’t hesitate to anchor at the Anse du Pain de Sucre, or even better, at the Anse Fideling on Terre-de-Bas, which is much less touristy.
After this stopover in the Saintes, you can sail up the coasts of Guadeloupe towards Deshaies, less than 30 miles away, which will allow you to dive in the famous and superb Cousteau reserve, next to the small island of Pigeon. One of the most beautiful dive sites in the world!
The Deshaies anchorage is pleasant, opposite the little village nestling around its church tower. A clearly West Indian atmosphere, and numerous little shops and restaurants... It is also the ideal departure base for going to visit the Basse-Terre National Park.
To return to your departure point, you now have two solutions: continue sailing round Guadeloupe and try the incredible visit to the ‘Grand Cul-de-sac Marin’, a superb mangrove area, and pass via the Rivière Salée to return to Pointe-à-Pitre. Warning: check with your charter company to see if you are allowed to attempt this passage, which is not always easy (max. draft 1.50m), and above all the timetable for passing the bridges, which are supposed to open between 4.30 and 5.30 am.
Otherwise, the easiest way is to turn back and return via another stopover in the Saintes.
Did you enjoy this visit to Guadeloupe’s islands? Note that you can easily include a stopover in Dominica in your cruise, at Prince Ruppert Bay, between Marie-Galante and the Saintes, or choose to head north as far as Antigua...
Easily accessible from both Europe and North America, Guadeloupe is in the heart of the West Indian arc.
The Caribbean Sea offers a wonderful and diverse cruising area for catamaran. The catamaran charter companies have understood this, and there are a lot of charter bases here. From the Virgin Islands to the Grenadines, the string of West Indian islands offers numerous destinations... The best period for enjoying them stretches from December to June.
The currency is the euro in Guadeloupe and all its dependencies – the EC dollar on the other islands (but the euro is accepted everywhere).
French in Guadeloupe, English in the other islands towards the south and the north, and Creole everywhere...
Valid passport. No health problems, apart from a bit of sunburn...