Taking Sarah out of her comfort zone

Darrell Jackson and Sarah Barnes
Mon 6 Jan 2014 23:49
18:04.17N 63:05.29W

Monday 6th January.

Sorry for the delay between updates, but off Saba the internet connection was non- existent and the seas were rough, so we were stranded on board. Causing stress for those with a deadline and plane to catch. More on that later.

Where did we leave you? Oh yes meeting Emael, our taxi driver on Saba. The taxi did little to allay our fears, definitely no MOT rules on Saba. Completely bald front tyre and a plastic sheet for a back window. Flip down seats for several of the passengers and lots of scrapes on the sides. Normally this would cause concern, but on "the road that couldn't be built", as it is known on Saba, with gradients of about 1:4, worse than the steepest of the Lake District passes and often bends over sheer drops it promoted much discussion amongst the passengers in the back. However, unfazed Adam chose to sit in the front over that tyre, brave man that he is. He will do anything to be able to talk to strangers.
When the other passengers had completed their customs check in we were off to drop them at The Ladder: the first and only method to get onto Saba until the early 1940's, up 800 cliff side steps cut into the rock, straight from the ocean (no beach) to the original customs house, carrying everything on their backs. They were/are a hardy lot on Saba! The majority of the 1500 Saba residents are descended from Dutch, Scottish and English settlers along with the inevitable African ones who were brought in as slaves.
Which brings me onto the road, and there is only one. It was built by hand by the islanders after the Dutch engineers said it couldn't be done. A local man, Joseph Hassel, took a correspondence course in road building and they started building to Fort Bay (now a harbour) and linking Bottom, the capital and the other village Windwardside, it was completed in 1958. They then added an off shoot from the Ladder down to a beach, which the taxi drivers name "the road that shouldn't have been built" as it is so steep. All I can say is, it is lucky they never have ice or snow as it is a scary road, but all the drivers are very considerate, but judging by the state of the vehicles, scrapes and bumps are common.
The tour was fascinating as we were all wondering why people would build settlements on these high ridges. But it is beautiful, small immaculate houses painted white, with green shutter and red roofs. Emael explained how they build the houses, as he built his own, and how all the rain water from the roofs is harvested and stored. We went all over the island, including a view of the airport. The Dutch authorities said there was nowhere for an airport on Saba, however, the locals were not having that. They got a pilot from St Barth's to come over and have a look. He reckoned he could land on the only flat bit. So the locals flattened it and filled all the holes by hand and he managed a landing. Thus they got to build their international airport, .it has a 400 metre runway and is a bit like landing on an aircraft carrier. Several flights come in and out every day.
Of course they have the ubiquitous medical university, which has up to 500 students from all over the world studying there, which bumps up the population significantly during term time.

Time to compare and contrast Dutch volcanoes:
The least said about our ascent of Mount Scenery the better, 1064 steps of concrete and stone, slippery and crumbling and all different depths and heights. But apparently next weekend the Triathletes will be running up and down them!
Unlike the Quill on Statia, Mount Scenery is more like a jungle; giant tree ferns, palm trees, Swiss cheese plants like weeds and chickens. Very damp and humid and obviously at the top no view due to the cloud, as it always is when Darrell and Sarah go up mountains. This was not the easy walk that it had been on Statia.
After we got back to Stream, Darrell and Adam went snorkelling, Sarah was trying to get her legs to work again. The boys swam through an underwater arch and saw turtles and lots of colourful fish. The spotters book is being well used. Foolishly, we left the dinghy tied to the back of Stream, just in case we fancied a swim before leaving in the morning - this proved to be a mistake!

Saturday January 4th.
We were on a mooring buoy at the base of Mt Scenery, the top of which was shrouded by cloud where as the rest of the sky was brilliant blue. However, after sunset the cold air would come whistling down the mountain into the bay with huge force, all night, causing a rolley and noisy sleepless night for some! Unfortunately, this continue throughout the whole of the next day, added to by strong northerly wind and strong swell - Sarah was back on the magic watch! This lead to a long delay before we dared to get the dinghy on board, due to it nearly flying away on the first attempt. To Sarah's horror it also meant a night sail in huge seas and winds gusting gale force 8, with a steady force 5/6 all the way. However, Adam and Darrell were delighted as they could relive their Atlantic memories once more. Sarah retreated to be seriously sick and hide, emerging only to help when anchoring the first time in Marigot Bay, St Matin ( The French Side of the Island) at nearly midnight. Relief was felt by all, but for very different reasons, when we could finally settle for the night.
Remember Sarah had broken the electronic controls of the windlass, so the anchoring had been done by hand for the first time and with no practice run. An important detail to have in mind as you read this. Darrell, being a good skipper set his alarm for 2am to do an anchor check, it was obvious that the anchor was dragging, but as there were no dangers in the bay he decided to allow his crew to sleep on whilst he monitored our slow, sedate progress across the bay from the comfort the super cockpit cushions. Sarah the non sleeper was then regularly checking Darrell and getting more stressed, despite Darrell's sangfroid. By 5.30 and the coming dawn Darrell decided to reset the anchor. So Sarah and Adam hauled it in by hand and with growing expertise used the manual winch to set the anchor more or less where we started 6 hrs before. Then we retired to bed again, with Darrell sleeping until 10am.

Sunday January 5th.
After a quick breakfast we set off on a long and wet dinghy ride to the marina to do customs. On arrival we were told if we could get the boat in before 12 we could have a berth. Mad dash back to Stream, haul up anchor by hand, we are getting pro's at this, and in torrential rain we made our way into Fort St Loius Marina for an along side berth next to the mega motor yachts by 11.59, which meant Jermaine got away for lunch on time. But customs didn't open again until 2pm. Darrell did an online form and printed it off in 10 minutes. Passports we not checked, but all costs will be revealed when we get the bill at the end of our stay here. To Sarah's relief, Darrell had booked us in for a few days, to recover and to mend things on the boat. After the pounding it gets when sailing it's no surprise that things come loose and sails wear, added to that Sarah is on board and has spates of clumsiness, as all who know her have experienced and she is able to break things. Top of her list is the windlass, top of Darrell's is the water pressure vessel - but his list is very long judging by the ever increasing number of post it notes around the chart table.
After a good lunch in a local bar Adam went off to the airport to get a ticket to Antigua for his flight home.(he has some football match to watch on Tuesday night involving a team that plays in red and white!) Sarah did some washing, while Darrell started mending and cleaning the boat. I never realised how much one appreciates clean, salt free clothing when they come out of the tumble drier ready to be put away, after two weeks of hand washing and drying on the ship rails. The simple things in life that we take for granted at home!
Adam returned with the good news he had managed to get a seat on a plane leaving at 7.50am, the only flight available as it is busy at the end of the Christmas/New Year break. So he started to relax.
After showers and a sundowner we had a pleasant meal in a local restaurant. Darrell and Adam enjoyed Moules Frittes, a repeat of the first meal they had when Adam joined Stream in Ile de Rey, France on the 2nd of September 2013, how far they have come since!
Adam from novice to seasoned Atlantic sailor in only four months, not a bad 'journey' as they would say on TV!