Saturday 28th January 2012 - Too much sea and too little see at Saba

Jon & Carol Dutton
Mon 30 Jan 2012 02:08

17:37.98N 63:15.50W


28th January 2012 - Ladder Bay, Saba


Originally, we had intended that Antigua would be the northernmost island in our Caribbean voyaging but that plan changed when we encountered auxiliary generator problems and it appeared that Sint Maarten was the most likely place to have them fixed.    Having been in Simpson Bay Lagoon for just over a week and with the necessary repairs carried out we headed south for the tiny island of Saba.  The passage was a tad uncomfortable as the wind was right behind us and the swell caused us to roll, pitch and yaw seemingly simultaneously. 


We had been warned that Saba was a difficult island on which to land and this proved to be the case.  Because it’s tiny it provides very little lee anywhere and funnels the wind down its shores.  We picked up a mooring off the main harbour on the south side of the island with the wind gusting a good 25 knots and the seas heaving around us.  Jon went ashore in the dinghy to deal with the formalities and rather a wet, bumpy ride it proved to be in an Avon Redcrest rub-a-dub powered by 3.3HP outboard.  The three different authorities with which one has to deal are housed in two separate portakabins and a small harbour office – a million miles from the smart new customs and immigration building in Sint Maarten.  On the other hand, they were much more pleased to see us and made the process a great deal easier and cheaper.




                                       The somewhat utilitarian Fort Bay


We then motored the couple of miles round to the west (leeward) side of the island where it would supposedly be calmer for the night.  It was, a bit, but the NE wind, having curved round the southern end of the island to become easterly at Fort Bay, curved round the northern end of the island to become northerly on the western shore.  That made things very uncomfortable indeed.  Ladder Bay takes its name from 524 winding steps that, until pretty recently, were the only means of getting anything onto the island. 




                     The rather more picturesque Ladder Bay and the 524 steps


As planned, we set off the next morning to motor back to Fort Bay (trying to get ashore at Ladder Bay in these conditions is little short of suicidal) but the weather gods were not with us again and conditions were even worse than the day before.  As we were preparing to leave the mooring in Ladder Bay, the rub-a-dub, attached to our stern took off vertically and nearly drowned the outboard engine.  OK; hint taken; off with the engine and we’ll put it on when we get to Fort Bay.  In the process of trying to drown the engine the rub-a-dub had managed to shear off one of the silly little rubber mushroom-shaped jobbies on its stern tube, that hold the plastic frame onto which the outboard is secured.  So, no matter what, we were going to be into jury-rigging the way in which the outboard was attached until we could find someone to do a proper job.  But, not a major issue provided that you take trouble with your lashings and take it easy.  It was a pretty good idea removing the engine for the short trip round.  The dinghy took off and did one and a half barrel rolls on the way round there, ending up upside-down.  One look at the 30 knot conditions at Fort Bay decided it.  It was too late to move on to Nevis so it was back to Ladder Bay.


It was very disappointing not to be able to land as, from what we’d heard and read, it is a remarkable island populated by some very resilient people.  The island is about 4 miles square and has only 1,400 inhabitants.  The photographs of the flora and fauna were very exotic and the houses painted white with red roofs looked delightful..  And who could resist visiting a capital named “Bottom”?   It is marginally below the only other “town” Windwardside.  The brochure Jon was given, which is clearly a translation from the Dutch, states “As a result of the limited accessibility of the island, tourists remain small-scaled and of a high quality level.”  Sadly, Saba will have to wait a couple of years for these two “small-scaled, high quality” visitors to make a second attempt at landing.