I'm still putting in the daily positions (see
above). These should be showing up on the position chart on the mailasail
website, don't know if anyone looks at it, since I'm e-mailing you all
Statia was pretty, but with everything closed on a
Sunday, we didn't see the best of it. This morning we set off just before
0800 hrs. The extent of the huge oil refinery and terminal became more
obvious as we left the anchorage. There were some very large tankers
waiting to berth alongside the very long oil jetty. We set sail, but it
was a very light wind, so we had to motor sail across the 17 miles to the last
of the Leeward Islands that we are intending to visit - the tiny Dutch island of
Saba. This is a place I have always wanted to see. The pilot book
gave us some interesting information, and it certainly wet our
appetite for an island tour. This island is not always accessible by
yacht. There is little shelter if the wind goes round the wrong way, and
the ocean swells can make it impossible to anchor/moor off due to large
seas building up. However, we were in real luck - the wind was light and
the sea calm and what little shelter was good for us. (We met some Dutch
people only a few days ago who couldn't land here and had to move on to find
better shelter elsewhere). We picked up a mooring at about 1130 and after
attaching the outboard to dinghy, we set off to find the officials, check in -
Customs were a jolly lot, (he waved his hand in the air
when we asked about immigration clearance, and said 'don't worry'!) Then to the
other end of the harbour to harbour master + another form + $20, then
yacht registration in yet another building around the harbour + another form +
$12. The harbour master had phoned for a taxi for us. Taxi took us up an
amazingly steep hill to the capital town - and it's name is Bottom !
It was charming, clean, freshly-painted old buildings everywhere with
red-painted roofs. No litter and lovely people. But we were not
stopping in Bottom - we were on the way to the island's other town - called
Windwardside - no marks for guessing on which side of the island that was
The island is a round volcanic mountain top sticking out
of the Caribbean sea. A total of 5 square miles and a peak called Mount
Scenery at just over 3000 ft. From the sea it seems to have nothing but
sheer cliffs everywhere. I quote from a Saba guide ........."for if there
was ever a hidden Shangri-La in the Caribbean, it is Saba" Here! here! ...
and I should know, since I've spent the last 28 years travelling many of them,
but never here until today. Until the 1940's, the island was almost
inaccessable. On the west coast (the Leeward side) there are steps up the
cliff side. Known as Ladder steps, there are apparently close
to 1000 steps (all cut out of the solid rock) up from Ladder Bay.
Boats could only land in calm conditions, and cargo had to be carried by men
waist deep in water to the shore! Everything had to be taken up the
Ladder Steps! The island has a population of 1500, descendants of Dutch,
Scottish and English settlers, and they all speak English. Of course they
became a great seafaring nation, and apparently (so we were told at lunchtime),
there were boat builders up in Windwardside building huge boats and sliding them
down to the sea (not sure about this story yet though - needs to be
verified). Apparently if you Goggle 'Of Saban descent' you can find much
more on this (so our host at lunchtime told us).
Until the 1950's the only way to pass from Bottom
to Windwardside was along a precarious mountain track. Dutch
engineers said a road couldn't be built and went away. A local man called
Joseph Hassel took a correspondence course in road building and with funding
from Holland set too on the project with local people. 'The Road' was
completed in 1958 after several years work. The island is full of Hassels
- the church is full of them (mostly dead there though). I have already
informed my pal Jim Hassall, even though his spelling is different.
Probably some of Jim's ancestors sowing wild oats in this part of the
world. Actually I have come across the name in St. Lucia and one or two
other islands over the years. Our taxi driver was a Wayne Peterson - of
Swedish descent he thought. The island was certainly a haven for pirates,
since for a long time the colonial powers were not interested in it, so it
became a useful hiding place. It it thought that many Sabans
of European ancestry are descended from the Jamaican pirates, who were
mainly originated from England.
So - the taxi took us to Windwardside for a lovely
lunch. Great pub-like restaurant with lots of wonderful memorabilia over
the walls. After lunch Wayne, our taxi-driver drove us to the top of
Hell's Gate on the NE side and we looked down oo the smallest commercial airport
in the world (apparently). Only 400 metres long, it was again built by
locals, after being told that there was nowhere to build an airport.
Apparently it has been described as being like an aircraft carrier to land a
plane on! Later Wayne dropped us about 1/4 of the way up the path (that
goes to the top of Mount Scenery), and we walked back down to
Windwardside along a very steeply descending twisting path of continuous
steps, which passed through the most beautiful wooded mountainside.
It took 15 - 20 minutes back into town and we had time to see one of the little
stone churches (there are 7 in total). This one was an Anglican one.
Very clean and recently painted and preparing for Easter this week, and
surrounded by very pretty stone and wooden houses with low stone walls around
the gardens. Most houses have a balcony to sit on in the
evening. Everywhere was so clean and you felt everyone takes a real
pride in keeping their properties clean and painted.
Eventually we arrived back at the port and took the
dinghy back to 'Catou'. We have decided to stay another day and go
snorkeling off the West Coast tomorrow, since it is apparently excellent.
We will sail late tomorrow night and do 1/2 the crossing to the British Virgin
Islands at night and then arrive the following afternoon. We are hoping to
catch up with our friends, Robin and Jenny on Maymio later in the
week. Poor them, they seem to have had loads of trouble with generator,
engine and now their cutlass bearing/prop shaft. Apparently they tells us
that they have been out of the water 3 times to try and sort various
problems out. No doubt we will hear more.
I've had some real problems sending these blogs over the
sat phone in the last day or two, so will send this alone and then will try
another blog with three photos (about as many as it can send via sat phone I
Not sure if we will do a blog tomorrow. It's early
to bed for a midnight start I think!