Landing on Saba
El MoMo, Saba, Monday night
We've finally made it onto Saba after we were thwarted by big seas the last time we came. It's an amazing little place with just one road, loads of wildlife and a small population who seem just a little too pleased with themselves for my liking.
We had an early start this morning as I was expecting the Frostline guys to come and fix our aircon first thing. In the end, they arrived about 9am by which time Andrea and I had already had our pain-au-raisins, collected by Kali from the French boulangerie. After that, Kali dropped Andrea off ashore to explore the retail delights of Marigot. While the guy was below fitting the new aircon pump, Kali and I got busy sorting out the halyard problem at the top of the mast. We made it safe but I don't think we'll use it until it's fixed properly. While she was up there, Kali found a problem with the way the mainsail was hooked onto the furler so we released the halyard and sorted that. The anchor light mounting is also wobbling on its bolts but we'll have to come back to that issue another time.
By now, the aircon guy was finished so we ran that up for a while to check it worked. Saxon Blue was suddenly all cool inside so it seems that the pump was the problem and we now have a system which will run from the 50 hertz generator supply or the 60 hertz shore power out here. Apparently, that's how it's designed so, hopefully, we'll have a lovely cool boat whenever we want. We didn't have time to enjoy it, though, as we had to get ready to get to the airport.
A frantic bit of packing and a quick tender ride took us over to the taxi stand. Our cabbie was Mr Entertainer who played us a CD of him singing a sequence of popular classics. He had a good voice and was another example of the taxi drivers on St Martin being a pretty cool bunch - probably some of the more sparky members of society. We checked our bags in and had a surprisingly good meal at the airport before getting on a tiny bus to take us to our even tinier plane. There were about 10 passengers with a pilot and co-pilot sitting in front of us but completely visible. We could see that they had their doors open until the moment we took off.
There were only 3 seats accross the plane and they weren't really big enough for an adult to sit in. We waited a long time before we got airborne and it got progressively hotter as we sat in the exhaust fumes from the jet in front of us. When it was our turn, we were surprised to see both pilots with their hands on the same engine controls and then we were airborne. We banked hard over Simpson Bay so we could see Marigot with Saxon Blue anchored and then the other boats on the South side of the island. We never got very high but at least it cooled down a bit. We could see Saba from when we took off so the flight was only about 10 minutes.
The plane was just heading straight at the central volcano and it wasn't until we were nearly there that I saw the airstrip off to port. It was tiny. We think it's about 400 meters long and is the shortest commercial airstrip in the world. The plane can't line up with it thanks to the volcano so we turned at the last moment, landed a few seconds later and barely had time to slow down before the plane did a handbrake turn to starboard and stopped outside the terminal. Very impressive. We all filed out and waited in line while a Dutch guy did the immigration then we picked up our bags and went outside to meet our ride up to the "hotel".
Donna, our taxi driver, has ancestry on Saba going back to the 1700s so she told us all about it as we drove along. "There's an Iguana" she said and brought the car to a halt right next to a small dinosaur sitting on the wall by the side of the road. It was a stunning creature with stripes, beady eyes and a full-length crest. We were a bit lost for words and it ambled off into the undergrowth. We passed through the tiny town called Windwardside and then up to El MoMo. She dropped us at the entrance from where we had to climb enough steps to get me out of breath - I was carrying both bags, though. The hotel is cute and the owner, Anders, is cool but it's just a bit too rough around the edges for me. Our cottage is a bit more shed than chalet and everything could do with a good clean.
We booked into the restaurant in Windwardside for dinner and promptly both fell asleep on our bed in the delicious cool air on the island. We're high enough up to really feel the difference. We woke up and set off as we were going to a talk before dinner on the natural history of the island The talk was given by a Mexican dive-guide called Oswold who was very personable. He told us about the way the locals used to launch their wooden boats from the rough beaches and showed us a video of the menfolk carrying a boat down to the shore in the 1930s. In the 1940s, they hand-built their only road and we watched some film of that work, too. The island is surrounded by a marine park so there were plenty of photographs of beautiful marine creatures, some of whom we saw when we went snorkelling here on our last visit.
Once the talk was over, we ordered our dinner which was OK but not as good as the guidebook had given us to believe. The veggie curry was excellent, though. After that, we had to climb back up to El MoMo where we had a mini-crisis when the hammock broke beneath me so I fell onto my bum and Andrea couldn't get the stove to work to make a cup of tea. That, coupled with the dampness everywhere now that it's night, made us feel a bit negative about our new home but we'll hopefully get used to it tomorrow. We're only staying here two nights before moving to the eco-lodge so it should suffice until then.
We're surrounded now by the sounds of tree-frogs, insects and dogs barking so it's proper Caribbean, alright.
Oh, one thing I forgot to say yesterday was that we heard from Gary, the Canadian solo-sailor we met in Bermuda. He's arrived in the Dominican Republic after 16 days at sea. Sounds like he had his fair share of problems but he's arrived safely so thats a relief for us and a big achievement for him. He's a tough old bird, though, so I'm sure he was actually in less danger than we were, if less comfort as well.