Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Saba Island

February 14-17 - Kristi Actually Arrives

The airport scenario was strange. The video monitors stated that flights were on time and announced that flights had landed, when in truth, the flights never even had left their points of origin. In Kristi’s case, on our third adventure trip to the airport, the monitors stated that her flight was on time. Soon afterwards, the monitors announced her flight had landed. In fact, her flight was still in the air and did not land for another half hour. But her flight did indeed land and Kristi did, in fact, arrive.

As soon as we got to the boat, we decided to get out of Margot harbor and sail to Grand Case, a quaint beach town with shops, French restaurants and bars along the beach. We ended up anchoring near Lisa and Renz’s catamaran, a couple we had met earlier in Margot. That evening, we had cocktails on their boat and afterwards went out to dinner at one of the beach-front restaurants (not to be confused with the fine French restaurants that were there but were a bit too spendy). The cruising life can be so grueling, at times.

The next day, we sailed to the Dutch part of St. Martin to spend the night in Simpson Bay. The plan was to position ourselves for a sail to Saba Island the following day.

To get into Simpson Bay, you need to go through a bridge that opens at particular times. We planned our arrival and queued up. At 5pm they had the outbound vessels exit. At 5:30pm, as an inbound vessel, it was our turn.

At first, some boats that had appeared to be at anchor, were now starting to move towards the bridge. It was like a race - all the boats started to head for the gate - large and small. We lined up with some of the super yachts, who ended up right behind us.

The bridge is not a huge one - allowing for a maximum width of about a 56 feet. We went through just fine and at the other end were greeted by revelers at a bar that happened to be positioned well to see the boats traverse the small channel.

The following day, we listened to the weather - SE winds of 15 knots, with gusts up to 20 knots. Not a bad forecast. Again we went through the bridge. When we got out of the harbor, the winds were a little bit stronger than had been forecast, but not bad. We reefed the main and unfurled a little bit of the headsail. Soon we were cruising at about 5.5 knots, on a beam reach and had Saba in our sights.

It’s interesting to sail around here. Once out, you can see a number of other islands 30 or 40 miles away that are other countries. Right now we’re sailing to Saba Island. In a few more days we’ll sail to St Barth’s, Nevis and Antigua. All, relatively short distances.

As we approached Saba, it looked like a foreboding island - a big rock jutting out of the ocean with side wings that dropped straight into the sea. We found an available mooring, tied up and relaxed for the evening.

In the morning we dinghied over to the small harbor and found a taxi to give us a tour of the island. Billy, the taxi driver, was a local, born in Saba. He was a bit of an oddball, but in a nice way. He took us to the towns of Bottom (the capital), Windward and St. John’s and showed us a bird’s eye view of the small airfield.

Saba’s history goes back to you know who - Christopher Columbus! He discovered it on his second trip to the new world and didn't think to much of it. The Spaniards claimed it anyway. But eventually a group of British sailors claimed it for England, after they were shipwrecked in Saba. Then later the French claimed it in 1635. Shortly afterwards, Holland sent people over from the neighboring island of St. Eustatius to take up residence in Saba. Finally, in 1816, Holland formally took control of Saba and it has since remained a part of the Dutch Antilles.

Historically, Saba was a seafaring island with various nationalities. Today, Saba still has a variety of people who make it their home, including Brits, Scots, Dutch and blacks. It’s a neat and tidy place. We found out from Billy that you can paint your house any color as long as it is white with green trim. All houses must have red roofs. Saba has a medical school and the tourist trade going for it. It has a rain forest, beautiful hiking paths, diving and eco lodges with beautiful ocean views.

We had lunch at Scout’s Restaurant. We had a table that was on in a room at the edge of a cliff with a spectacular view. It was a bonus that the food happened to be tasty too. Of course with that view, anything may have tasted good.

After we got back to the boat, we went snorkeling. We enjoyed it, but the waters were deep - more suitable to diving. But I still got to see a turtle and some nice coral formations. We truly enjoyed our day-long excursion of Saba.

Tomorrow we off to St. Bart’s.

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