Mar 18, 2018 - Sea Cloud
Only 30 miles separate our Sunday destination at the Iles des Saintes from Prince Rupert Bay and Fort Shirley on Dominica yesterday, but these islands are politically, culturally, and geographically worlds apart. While Dominica was rugged, wet, mountainous, forested, and somewhat basic in its development, the French Iles des Saintes are a dry lowland archipelago with a more refined French Caribbean architecture and appearance. In fact, while Hurricane Maria in September 2017 devastated Dominica and left 90 percent of the houses and buildings roofless, Iles des Saintes has most of its rooftops intact despite the same “direct hit.” And one of the most important and decisive naval battles in new world history was fought in those 30 miles that separate Dominica and Iles des Saintes.
We anchored during breakfast and took Zodiacs ashore at the town of Bourg, which means town, on the island of Terre de Haut (High Island), next to Terre de Bas (Low Island) in the Iles des Saintes, which are part of the French Maritime Department of Guadeloupe of France. So just like when you visit Hawaii you are in the United States, today we fly the French flag, use Euros as the local currency, speak French with the locals, and pay European Union roaming charges on our cell phones.
Some of our group opted to make a morning visit with our historian Tom Heffernan to the massive Fort Napoleon atop the eastern hill, looking out toward Fort Shirley at Dominica. The fort houses an interesting maritime museum that features among other exhibits a recounting of the 1782 Battle of the Saintes—the largest naval battle ever fought in the western hemisphere. Thirty six English ships led by Admiral Rodney took advantage of an unexpected shift in the winds to “break the line” and send the 36 French ships under Admiral de Gras into disarray, preventing the French from progressing west to capture their intended goal of sugar-rich Jamaica. Fort Napoleon also offers excellent views of the harbor below, where we were all proud to come from the Sea Cloud, the most beautiful ship in the harbor.
Later in the morning we enjoyed café au lait, pain au chocolat, and a nice swim or snorkel before setting sails south for the afternoon. We finished the day with a green flash sunset and a talk on the history of the legendary Sea Cloud, of which we are all now an eternal part.
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