The New Year –
Onwards and upwards
the debacle of Roman’s Christmas Party (the invites must have gone
astray) we decided to quit the high life and decamped to a quieter bay, Anse de
Colombie and watch the turtles. There are definitely more turtles around the
Caribbean than we have seen before so the various conservation programmes in
the Islands are obviously having some good
effect. Next day we took the short sail over to St Maarten, waited for the
swing bridge to open and anchored up in Simpson Lagoon, a totally landlocked
lagoon giving complete shelter. What we didn’t realise for half an hour
or so was that it is also at the end of the runway for St. Maarten’s
international airport. We definitely knew by the time the first 747 had taken
off above us. Luckily the airport is not too busy although the large jets and
the local inter-island planes appeared to just skirt the top of our mast.
not a very big island, but it’s divided between two countries, half
French and half Dutch. Even within the lagoon you could choose whether to
anchor in Holland or France. One half uses the US Dollar
(although the official currency is the Dutch Antilles Guilder, but we never saw
any) and the other half the Euro. The French half is very French and the Dutch
half very American. We stayed in the Dutch half as that is where most of the
boat services are and our first priority was to get the Code 0 sail repaired.
We found a sail loft and after initial examination it was decided that it was
bad, but not that bad and it could be repaired. It was going to take a few days
which enabled us to also get our GPS repaired (which failed as we approached
St. Maarten – only a faulty cable – phew), and also to take a bit
of a rest and catch up on e-mails, shopping etc.
people wonder what we do all day when just ‘lazing around on a
boat’, but just living takes up a lot of time. Shopping, boat
maintenance, correspondence, dealing with local officialdom and the odd siesta
(it is hot after all) seem to fill the time completely.
did however manage to take a day trip to the tiny island of Saba.
We were considering sailing there but the island is almost inaccessible,
especially if there is a large swell, so the ferry seemed an interesting
option. About 40 of us piled onto a strange catamaran ferry that sped across to
Saba, under the cool, cool control of Captain
Mikie in just over an hour. We disembarked at the one tiny dock and then
commandeered a taxi to show us around. This is an island where you don’t
want to walk to far as most of it is vertical! Some of our fellow passengers
chose to hike to the highest point on the island, Mount Scenery.
We chose to take the taxi to the highest place he could drop us off and then
walked down to the principal ‘town’ named
‘Windwardside’ (the only other town is called ‘the
Bottom’). I use the term town advisedly as the whole population of the
island is only 1200 people.
Mikie, skipper of the Saba ferry, complete with
Saba, The Bottom
stopped for lunch at a bar with a fantastic view over the sea. Whilst there,
two parties came in who had climbed Mount
Scenery. They were soaked
in sweat (and that was after the descent) and swore they never wanted to climb
another step! (the path to the top is over 3000ft high and includes over 1000
steps. If you have climbed to the top of Mount Scenery you are given a
certificate stating the you have been to the highest point in the Netherlands
(part of Holland again). We got our certificate by chatting up the lovely lady
in the conservation society shop!
Saba, lunch stop, Windwardside
the 1940s Saba was almost inaccessible. There
was no dock and everything that island required had to be unloaded in
waist-deep water and then carried up an impossibly steep track up 800 steps.
There was no road on the island until 1958, but since then the locals have even
managed to build an airport on a tiny, nearly-flat promontory. It has the
shortest runway of any commercial airport and by all reports taking off and
landing is akin to flying on and off an aircraft carrier. Definitely not for
‘Ladder’. Everything had to be carried up 800 steps. The building
is the old Customs House, halfway up to the Bottom
loved Saba. It is beautifully clean, the
Sabans are very friendly and helpful and the scenery is at all times beautiful
and dramatic. Although only 30 miles from other Caribbean
islands it feel completely remote. Wonderful!
New Year’s eve we got our repaired sail back (excellent job and not as
expensive as I had feared) and decided to leave the lagoon and anchor outside
as we were to start early for the 90 mile sail to the British Virgin Islands.
a fantastic sail, covering the 90 miles in just 7 hours, averaging about 12
knots. That’s what Snow Leopard is all about – speed AND comfort.