In 1782, Portsmouth was the site of the Battle of Les Saintes, a naval engagement between the French and the English. The English won the battle but lost the much tougher fight against malaria-carrying mosquitoes that bred in the nearby swamps. Once intended to be the capital, thanks to its superb harbor on Prince Rupert Bay, Portsmouth saw as many as 400 ships in port at one time in its heyday. But because of those swamps, Roseau, not Portsmouth, is the capital today. Maritime traditions are continued here by the yachting set, and a 2-mile (3-km) stretch of sandy beach fringed with coconut trees runs to the Picard Estate area.

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