DATE: January 29, 2007
Saba was described in a cruising guide as a lost island kingdom. Not so lost, the Sabians know what they are about and use the impenetrable island fortress to control outside access on their terms, today as they always have. There are no real harbors in Saba save the small manufactured one, which accommodates a few small boats and roll-on roll-off cargo boats. Most cruising boats, sail or otherwise pick their weather to visit Saba and either pick up a free mooring or anchor on the lee side in Wells or Ladder Bay. Its open to the North and a northern swell will chase you out of there. Ladder Bay is so named because of the thousand or so steps cut in the mountain leading to the town “Bottoms”. Not to long ago all cargo and visitors, including the Queen, were off-loaded in the water in Ladder Bay and were carried up the stone “ladder” to Bottoms. Very controlled access.
Now days a small dingy or outboard is allowed in the small harbor and the cabs/tour guides pick you up and then come and take you back some hours later. An all day or half day tour of the island can be arranged. The driver picks you up here and there and in the meantime often goes and comes with other rides. Even a cab ride that started out as a simple trip to the great little mountain town Windwardside became a tour. My cabbie Wayne Peterson, in his Sabian /Dutch dialect informs me, “tonight is Thursday, you want to go to the Eco-lodge just above Wndwardside tonite. Great food and a slide show of the island. I will drop you at Royales ( I hope I have the name right) and you can have a cocktail and look around. I will be back and pick you and 6 others up there in a half hour or so. The road stops a few hundred feet from the lodge so you have to walk the trail up to the lodge. It will be dark when I pick you up, so in the meantime I have to give a fellow a ride to Bottoms and I will stop by my place and get you a flashlight”.
Well Royales was a great little hotel/ restaurant with a spectacular view and would have been worthy of a trip itself (especially for burger and movie night) what a place. The Eco-lodge was run mainly on solar power and candles and the owner, also a biologist gave a great slide show of Saba, a little history, a little geology, and a little biology really entertaining and a spectacular reasonably priced dinner. The moral to the story…. listen to your cab driver while in Saba. My only regret is I neglected to take my camera and this trip up the mountain was my only one early enough in the day still light enough for photographs.
Saba has become a haven for the hiker as it has trails running across and up the island that cross through 4 distinct ecological zones. The top of the mountain is the cloud-nourished rain forest, I didn't make it up there but if I go there again I will certainly take the trail up. The other Saba tourist industry is its diving, regarded as the most spectacular in the Caribbean basin and at this point I am not going to argue. The reefs are not huge in area but hugely diverse in depth, topography and reef structure. Mountain pinnacles rise from the depths and materialize out of the blue clear water as you approach. As good as any diving I have experienced. If you're an experienced diver see Mike at Saba deep.
I would like one more day to perhaps hike one of the trails and get some good mountain shots but the weather objects and early this morning the northerly swell builds as predicted. I think Parallax would be fine on this deep mooring as the period of the swell now is long and gentle but already I can see it breaking magnificently on Ladder Bay so the sailor's conservatism says move on. The wind is as south of east as it gets in the winter and making destinations south of east are not an option. Anguilla is to the north and east with a reasonably good harbor and should be an easy sail. Parallax likes the close reach and we make 8 knots in 14 apparent, pretty good for a little cat. With luck, we should be in Road Bay, Anguilla by noon.