Pain de Sucre

Les Saintes has its own version of sugar loaf mountain. It’s called Pain de Sucre. Fifty-metres high, it sticks out from Terre-de-Haut and is connected by a narrow isthmus. The sugar loaf looks like it’s been cut in half. Its exposed innards are made of columnar basalt, formed from rapidly cooling volcanic lava. Amazingly, this is the same type of rock that makes up the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland 🤓.

Underneath the sugar loaf is a marine park. We’ve wanted to go there, but the whole archipelago has been really busy over Christmas. Yachties love Les Saintes! There’s even been an overspill anchoring zone off the town. We didn’t want to risk leaving our buoy in case the marine park was full and we’d lose our town spot, so we stayed put.

Then, on Boxing Day, came the great move. At least eighteen sailboats left Les Saintes. We left our buoy too and shot the mile over to the marine park. Free buoys! Another boat was thinking the same thing and we arrived at the mooring field together.

We watched the boat go for a buoy and chose a different one to theirs. They missed it however, and immediately started aiming for ours. It was a buoy stand-off. We won, despite the woman insisting they’d always intended to go for ours. Yeah, whatever Swiss people. Like boating road rage… rare but secretly enjoyable, plus with different nationalities involved.

Once we tied up, Pain de Sucre was hands-down beautiful. Jack took Delphine for a dive off Quest. He attached a rope to a dive belt and tied it over the stern as a shot line. Delph did her first giant stride with her gear on and down they went.

We found all sorts of mature fish on the reef. For example, parrotfish – usually a prized fish for the dinner plate – there were loads of large and cheeky ones here. These funny-looking fish – a keystone species – are crucial in maintaining healthy coral habitats. You might not think so, since it seems like they spend a lot of time biting at the coral with those impressive gnashers.

They make up a large amount of noise underwater too – munching and crunching away. Recent studies suggest parrotfish are the only fish on the reef to scrape and clean the coral – freeing it from weeds and sponges. To heighten awareness of their reef-saving role, there is a campaign currently in the Caribbean to stop people eating parrotfish. It’d surely be a tide-turner, as it’s one of the Caribbean people’s favourite fish dish.

Other fish spotted in the Pain de Sucre marine park: large pufferfish, the beauty queen angelfish, and something lurking underneath Quest.

‘What is that?’ Ellie asked. We spotted the torpedo-shaped fish when we first got in. A barracuda.

Solitary great barracudas often use the shadows of Quest’s hull as cover. Sometimes they don’t swim away either when you jump in, but stand their ground. This barracuda took a look at us and decided to find some peace and quiet. Ps and Qs. Just keep swimming.