Navigation in Guadeloupe


The enjoyment of Guadeloupe's coasts, ports and moorings depends primarily on their windward or leeward exposure. As a matter of fact, the Trade Winds blow fairly regularly all year from the east to northeast sector in accordance with the seasons. It has a strength from 3 to 5 on the Beaufort scale in the Winter, more variable in strength and direction in the Summer, and followed by the hurricane season from August to October. The winds die out frequently along the leeward coasts.

Secondly, hydrograpy is the same as for the rest of the Antilles: the bordering coast is laden with aggressive coral beds of 5 to 10 meters wide (16-30 ft) - sometimes more - which demands a strong vigilence even though a great effort to clearly buoyage the areas was made.

There is a permanent general current towards the west with strong divergence in the proximity of the coast (NW to N, sometimes SE) with variable speeds from 0.5 knots to 1 knot on an average, and at least 2 knots to the capes and in some channels (Channel of the Saintes).

Visibility is generally good, except in squalls that are frequent but short. Fog is non-existent.

In Guadeloupe, the heights of the tides vary between 0.1m (0.3ft) to maximum 0.9m (2,9ft). Only the currents they bring about are important for navigation.
Solely the tides' variations, due to the effects of the developing hurricanes (during August and October), are important and eventually dangerous.

When the Trade Winds blow a cool breeze for several days, the sea may become difficult to navigate in the channels between the islands. Approaching the NE coasts of Grande-Terre, the Désirade, Marie-Galante and Les Saintes (windward) the sea becomes surging with large undertows.

In Guadeloupe, the buoyage system B is used:

Green on port side - Red on starboard !

Lateral System Cardinal System
balisage B

Lights: Periodicity: a circle = 60sec
Fixed light
Range: 12 nautical miles

Occulting light
light > obscured
(here 1 occultation,
duration of signal 4s)

Flashing light
light < obscured
(here 2 flashes, duration of signal 6s)

feux Regular occulting light
Light = obscured
(duration of signal 4s)

Morse light
(here letter A ._ )

Quick flashing light
(3 quick flashes, duration of signal 12s)

N.B. The radius of the light is not always proportional to its range.

Littoral Zone
The littoral zone is composed of a 300 meter (984 ft) continuous band along the coastline and around the islands, as well as the rivers and canals until the first obstacle for navigation. The speed within this zone is limited to 5 knots.

The Bridges over the Rivière Salée
Basse Terre and Grande Terre, the two islands which make up continental Guadeloupe, are separated by an arm of the sea, the "Rivière Salée". The islands are connected by two draw bridges each with a 4 meter overhead.

The "Pont de la Gabarre" opens at 5:00 AM and the "Pont de l'Alliance" opens at 4:30 AM and once again at 5:30 AM thus allowing the ships to circulate in both directions. Draft is of 1,50 meters, distance between the bridge pillars: Pont de la Gabarre ca. 9m (29.5'), Pont de l'Alliance ca. 14m (46').

(probable duration of one year from 2013 to 2014)