I learned to dive 16 years ago at Saba, a tiny dormant volcano which lies just 30 miles ESE of St Maarten. Those 30 miles are an ocean of difference. While St Maarten is noisy, dirty, tourist cluttered and lacks much natural beauty (because it has all been destroyed to make way for hotels and casinos); Saba is spectacular and quaint. Almost a perfect circle, barely 5 miles from one coast to the other, the island soars into a permanent cloud top some 2,800 feet up. For many years the only way to access the village of “Bottom” was to climb 800 steps straight out of the ocean. Now there is thankfully a road (granted, an incredibly steep road) which allows locals and the handful of tourists who come to hike Mt Scenery or dive the famous walls of Saba to access its treasures.
With a light forecast we decided a return to Saba was in order. I held vivid memories of it’s rainforest and coral gardens, and wanted to see again the almost fairy tale villages that lie on its impossibly steep banks.
After a calm evening on the French side of St Maarten we sailed down to Saba in light airs, enjoying being at sea again after almost a month since our last Adventure. We anchored in Well’s Bay, one of the only decent spots to settle in as Saba has no defining bays. Adam, back for his second trip of the year was able to boat launch with a 17M and surfboard and ride until sunset. No doubt the first kiteboarding Saba has ever seen as there isn’t a single beach on the island. The rest of us (Cristobal and Christian, from Chile, Bruce from Australia, Jody and I) ventured out to Diamond Rocks for a snorkel and a look around.
I would later find out that this was Christian’s first time snorkeling. Now, 5 days later I think he’s still smiling.
Day two we decided a trip to “Bottom” and “Windwardside”, the two main villages on Saba (population 700) would be interesting and maybe even a trip up to Mt Scenery. Our taxi climbed in low gear up switchbacks, through a land that in my memory hasn’t changed a bit. The white buildings with red roofs, manicured gardens, smiling faces, lush jungle and dizzying drop offs were all just as I had remembered. It’s not often you return to a place and find it unchanged these days, and I was happy for the surprise.
We took a short tour around the island then disembarked and climbed 1064 steps (posted on the sign, not from counting!) to the top of the island, 1700 vertical feet from the start. The hike is almost literally straight up and while our sea legs were screaming we enjoyed the sights, smells, and sounds of the virgin rainforest.
On my previous visit I hiked Mt Scenery every day for a week (granted, I was 18 back then) and never once got a view out of the clouds, but on this occasion we got lucky, making out Windwardside as well as a brief glimpse of Discovery, some 2800 feet below.
From Saba we had a perfect sail across to Anguilla, where we hoped to find a bit more wind. Instead we found a bit of trouble. Frustrated with the light airs we decided to go for a skurf behind the dinghy at sunset on day 4. This time of day makes it hard to see underwater objects and while I was enjoying a tow behind the dinghy I suddenly heard a loud bang and instantly knew we were in trouble. Sure enough, the lower unit on the dinghy was munched, rendering our chase boat useless. Cristobal, who was at the helm felt horrible but we assured him that these mistakes are a part of the sailing process and inevitable. Better now with no wind for kitesurfing and while we are so close to St Maarten to undertake repairs than some other time. So, back to St Maarten, where we spent yesterday. The rest of the crew took taxis over to Oriental Bay, but were again skunked with no wind while I cajoled and pleaded with the Yamaha shop to get our engine back in working order. Thankfully, the boys worked hard all day and we’re underway again. We left this morning at sunrise to sail back up to Anguilla and with an improved forecast, we all hope to be kiting soon. From Anguilla we’ll sail NW to Anegada in the BVI’s and a hopeful visit to see Mr. Branson on Necker island.