National Geographic : 1966 Oct
400 800 30° STATUTE MILES TROPIC OF CANCER lanticOcean cape Kennedy RIDA O S ' Bahama * Islands At CUBA, A S. .... ICAN HAITIIC JAMAICA Hispaniola PUERTO SRICO Caribbean Dominica< I Sea Aruba Curacao r indward . Grenada^: Islands Panama ,Canal TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO Anegada Sombrero Atlanti S~ n Sombreroguilla 81^p' Ocean Vieques / , St. Martin PUERTO , e SSt. Barthelemy St.Croix Saba t.Eustatius Barbuda p St. Christopher vevi'- Antigua Mon tserrat. SGrande Terre Caribbean Sea Guadeloupe Basse Finisterre's route shown in red. 1" \ Marie Leeward voyage continues cruise "Ies des Galante begun in Windward Islands (dashes), O Saintes NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, December, 1965. ' . Dominica 0 50o 100 150 STATUTE MILES GEOGRAPHICART DIVISION Martinique:., © NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY Links in a chain across the Caribbean gate, the Leeward Islands paradoxically lie to windward, or upwind, of the Windward Islands; trade winds reach them from the northeast. British officials named the groups when they divided them for administrative purposes. Columbus discovered the Leewards in 1493 on his second voyage to the New World. Later came colonists, adventurers, and pirates. On a trade route of sailing ships bound from Europe to the Americas, the islands pros pered. British, French, Spanish, and Dutch bat tled to possess them. Now the Leewards cater to throngs of sun-seeking visitors. Spindrift whipped from foaming rollers pelts author Carleton Mitchell as he struggles to secure gear. Finisterre'smaster starts his Leeward voyage in the Iles des Saintes. He described his cruise through the Windward Islands in the December, 1965, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC. EKTACHROMEBY JAMES L. STANFIELD © N.GS . SLeeward S.Islands 490 the West Indies. Astern faded the rugged moun tains of Dominica; over the bow lifted Guade loupe and its smaller dependencies, and beyond beckoned all the rest of the Leeward Islands. Columbus made the Sabbath landfall of his second voyage in these waters on November 3, 1493. And, on April 12, 1782, British Adm. Sir George Rodney caught the French fleet under Admiral Comte de Grasse and won the Battle of the Saintes, a naval action that firmly established British power in the Caribbean. For me, a new cruise was beginning. "The West Indies have changed," I had been told before taking Finisterreto the Caribbean. But in weeks of sailing the Windwards and poking into harbors from Grenada to Dominica, I had found life basically the same as on my visit in Carib 18 years before.* Those slow-paced planter isles still depended on growing and shipping products of their volcanic soil to northern mar kets. Tourism had not supplanted the colonial pattern, nor had air transport introduced the tempo of the 20th century. Tourists Come From Neighboring Isle As soon as we dropped anchor off Bourg des Saintes, in the Leewards, I saw the difference. I remembered this village in the Iles des Saintes, a dependency of Guadeloupe, as a scattering of neat, small dwellings hidden among palms above a crescent of beach unbroken except by fishing boats. Now I stared at a modern hotel and a cluster of cement villas reminiscent of the mushrooming Mediterranean Riviera. Going ashore to clear Finisterre into French waters, I found the answer. "We now have le tourisme," explained a gendarme's wife. "But who comes?" I asked. "In summer, the Guadeloupeens," she told me. "They crowd us, especially on weekends." In winter, when frost and snow chill the cities of the United States and Europe, only hours away by jet, travelers turn to that happy combination offered by most of the Leewards hot sun and white sand beaches. It was my first contact with these "fun-in-the-sun" islands, where tourism has become the fastest-growing local industry. To me the Leewards, which include Dutch, French, and British territories, seem more a part of a world on the move than the tranquil Windwards. Nowhere was this more apparent than on Guadeloupe. As we tied up to the yacht club pier in the center of Pointe-a -Pitre's harbor, traffic rumbled along a teeming street astern, *Veteran yachtsman Carleton Mitchell told the story of an earlier voyage through these islands of the sun in "Carib Cruises the West Indies," GEOGRAPHIC, January, 1948.