Iles des Saintes: If you come:

Since we would encourage everybody cruising the Caribbean to visit this delightful place at least once, here are some practical tips that are current as of the beginning of 2023.

The red outlined areas on the charts are places with moorings, and anchoring is not allowed. The green area is where anchoring is permitted. More of the deep water in the harbor is also available for anchoring, if you are good with anchoring in 40 to 60 feet (12 to 20m).

The largest mooring field is the most convenient to town, but none of them are too far to ride in a dinghy. During busy holiday weeks with lots of charter boat activity, the main mooring field fills up rather quickly. It can be rolly, both with waves wrapping in and with the frequent ferries, the more remote fields are quieter.

The moorings are of a type we have seen around several of the islands, and they cause a lot of trouble for people who don’t know how to use them.

This is the mooring ball, and the way a lot of people tie to it. Do NOT do it this way.

First Problem: This skipper has put a line from one cleat on the boat straight through the steel ring, and back to the boat. This is a disaster ready to happen. As the boat swings back and forth in the wind and waves, the line will rub on the ring, chafing through and setting the boat adrift, much more quickly that you might expect. Solution: Tie a separate line to each side of the boat, and attach to the ring using a round turn, and a bowline. Yes, a bit harder to execute, and more of a pain when you leave, but infinitely more secure.

Second Problem: When the wind dies, as it does most nights after midnight, the buoy will drift along the boat’s hull. That big steel ring will scratch up the boat’s hull. Not a disaster, but aggravating for sure. Solution: Pull TIGHT on the ring. The ring is actually not attached to the float, but passes through it straight down to the anchor. If you pull the lines very tight, the ring will pull up, and now the boat can not drift into it in light and shifty winds. Almost nobody seems to understand that this is how these are supposed to work.

On a boat with freeboard too high for crew to reach the ring, there are two approaches that work. First, do not put the bow of the boat along side the ball, and hope your crew can get the line through–somehow. Instead, put the crew on the swim platform on the stern and BACK to the buoy. Now the ring is an easy reach. Pull the lines around to the bow, and all those people who were watching your approach in the anchorage and wondering what the heck you were doing, will see what a brilliant sailor you are! Second approach: Have a small line of about 2 fathoms in length with a monkey’s fist in the end. Throw the monkey’s fist through the ring, snag it with the boat hook, and use the light line to pull your main mooring line on through. Very salty.

If you are coming from somewhere other than Guadeloupe, you’ll need to clear customs here. Like on all the French islands, you find the customs computer, and “do-it-yourself.” Here the computer is located at Les Saintes Multiservices, located on the 2nd floor in the building just south of the ferry landing. There is no sign, you just have to know.

Of course you could also come over from Guadeloupe by ferry. There are at least two boats each making three round tips a day.

Finally, for my pilot friends, there is an airport, but no scheduled service. I am not knowledgable enough to understand for sure how complex the approach is. Here is a picture looking straight downwind. Obviously, a straight on approach isn’t possible. In the week we have been here, I have seen one plane come in, and he obviously had several turns to make during his final approach to make his way between the hills.

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2 Responses to Iles des Saintes: If you come:

  1. chavester1 says:

    Graciás Bill. We are heading for Les Saintes from Antigua in the near future. With our freeboard, the stern mooring approach is our favorite. I expect fees for the moorings are payable at multi service, or to random locals in small boats?


    • Bill Kinney says:

      Funny you should ask about the cost for the moorings. LMS (where you check in) is also the place that collects for the moorings. When we checked in we went to pay for the mooring, and we were told “Free for the week.” Now our French and his English did not overlap well enough for us to understand if you always get one week free, or if it was just the holiday week that was free.

      But no matter, the listed costs were pretty nominal, and the place well worth the stay.


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