Les Saintes is a sticky harbor and it’s easy to stay here longer than planned. We need more time to explore all of the beaches and trails; we love the people; and fresh produce and fresh fish are plentiful and reasonably priced. We can get water here (though it is the strangest set-up we’ve ever seen), and since this is a French island we can also find excellent wine and cheese ashore. What we couldn’t find was gasoline for the outboard and Honda 2000.
This was inconceivable to me as there must be a thousand motor scooters on this island and all of them run on gasoline. I had walked all over the town, and crossed the island on every road without seeing a gas station of any kind and we were running low, so we went to the tourist office and asked the nice lady there where to find fuel. “Ah!” she said, “Morel Marine at Baie de Marigot!” and she pointed on the tourist map indicating the bay north of town. This agreed with the information in Chris Doyle’s, The 2008-2009 Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands:
It can be choppy when you enter Marigot, but the seas diminish farther in….there is a good little fuel station selling gas and diesel.
Earlier in a description of the bay, Doyle said about Morel Marine,
You can take your boat there or walk over. It is a long but lovely walk, the last half-mile being along a tiny path through the trees.
EW and I had already hiked to Marigot Bay and discovered that the easily accessible boat shop is not the one that sells the fuel. (The boat shop we visited is to the left of Beach 4 on the map. La Luna is moored at the far left of the map. Morel Marine is labeled “Fuel Depot in yellow lettering.) We could see Morel Marine across the water at the mouth of the bay, but we had no idea how to get there, and could not believe that the entire community used this out-of-the-way location to purchase gasoline for the many scooters and few four-wheeled vehicles. The lady in the Tourist Office assured us that this was the only fuel depot on the island and pointed out the route. Since we were nearly out of gas and the seas were choppy, and since she didn’t indicate that this was not a normal walk, we set out one morning with another couple, towing two 5 gallon gas containers strapped to our shore cart.
We followed the road out of town where it met the road that turned toward the head of the bay. Earlier EW and I had found only a rough track from the head of the bay towards Fort Josephine. Do we continue along the main road, which goes around the steep hills away from the bay, or turn towards the bay and the mountain trail? “I’ll ask these gentlemen,” I said, pointing to a town work crew. Since I speak no French these conversations are always interesting but the islanders are helpful, friendly people and try to answer my questions. Looking at the four of us with our cart and gas jugs, the gentleman driving the truck was incredulous. “No, No” he said. Followed by the French version of "Maine’s “You can’t get there from here.”: He absolutely conveyed that we should not take those jugs over the hill to get fuel, but did finally concede to provide directions: right at the end of this street, then left. I confirmed that “this” street was indeed the one we were standing on as EW and I had been down this road before and knew it was a dead end.
Well, not exactly a dead end; one must simply leave the street and set out up hill to the trail. The photo at left is looking back from the easy, grassy trail to the dead end, and two of the ubiquitous scooters. At the top of the first hill, there are trail signs indicating that the path to the left goes to Morel Marine and the path to the right goes up hill to Fort Josephine. Neither of these paths are easy walks on grass and be began to understand what the town worker had been trying to say. We took the lower path on the left, up hill, over volcanic rock, and through brush. It was not a comfortable path and all we could think about was traversing it with two full 5 gallon containers of gasoline. We knew that we’d never be able to negotiate this trail with the cart and were in fact carrying everything at this point, I had the cart and each captain was carrying his boat’s gas jug. Still, we persevered for a short while until reason took over. We were not wearing the proper footwear for this hike, and carrying thirty pounds of fuel back along this trail would not be fun. We returned to our boats. At right is a view from the beginning of the Morel Bay Trail. You can see the buildings we were trying to reach and the mountains we had to skirt or trek in order to get gas.
The next morning, I went to my source in Les Saintes, Ali, the produce man in the park. He speaks some English and delights in teaching me French. “Fu-el?” said Ali. “Ah! For ze scooters!” We take bateau to Marigot Bay. You know Marigot Bay? You have bateau?” I assured him that I did, indeed, have a bateau and asked him again about walking. “No,” he said. “You take bateau.” By this time, the seas weren’t quite as choppy, so EW and I set off at 1:30 for Morel Marine Services in Marigot bay. It was a lovely dinghy ride, and we arrived to find a well maintained ramp and break wall, fuel pumps, and buildings in various states of dis-repair. In one, EW found a work crew building a fiberglass boat, while I checked the property. There is no road to Morel Marine, but there is a path that enters the yard from the direction we had taken the day before. While I explored and took photos of boatyard goats, EW found out that the fuel depot was closed until 3:00, so we waited.
Shortly before three, a fisherman arrived to queue up for fuel, followed by another fisherman, and finally by a man in a small boat who opened up shop for the afternoon. He chatted with the fishermen, and they untied their boats and prepared to leave, one saying to me, “Fuel for you, no fuel for me.” Evidently the fisherman must purchase fuel that is charged a different tax and they were out of that gasoline and diesel, but they had gasoline for tourists and scooters. As we finished filling our three containers, a young man arrived with a small fuel jug. He filled it, paid and left on foot, back along that trail, and five other people emerged from the woods and walked along the utility lines, picking their way down to shore. All were locals, and all carried small containers for gasoline.
Scooters get about 80 miles to the gallon of gas, and there aren’t a lot of roads on this island, so perhaps they can go a long time between fill-ups. When they do need gas, they can take the ferry to the mainland, take a private bateau to Marigot Bay, or trek over hill and dale and rocks to the pumps. Chris Doyle was right, it is a long and lovely walk and the last portion is through the trees, but he did not mention the rough terrain. The town worker was right. We did not want to carry 30 pounds of fuel over that trail and our cart would never have made it. Ali was right. “You have a bateau? You take the bateau.”