Every island has a story. The BVI’s tell the tales of charterers here for a good time, not a long time. St John beckons travellers looking to get off the beaten path. St Martin calls to cruisers in search of boat parts, croissants and a casino. St Barts invites the rich and beautiful to boutiques, cafes and clear snorkeling with the turtles. Saba whispers to the few who dare to venture to its beauty and lush hills.
Jenny, Connor and his friend, Scott, joined us in St Martin on the 18th for reading break. After a night in St Martin, we motored to Ile Fourchue, a small private island off St Barts, where a boat can pick up a free mooring ball in the Marine Park. In the heat of the afternoon sun, we snorkeled in crystal clear waters, dove for sand dollars and met up with the local Canadians in the bay. (For a country with a population of less than 40 million, we seem to be no stranger to sailing. 1 in 5 boats in St Martin flies the maple leaf. Perhaps a tribute to our sea-faring ancestors, we find ourselves welcome wherever we go.)
The next morning we sailed 4 miles to Gustavia, the capital of St Barts. Again, the sun, the clear water, the turtles popping up amongst the cruisers on mooring balls. We lunched at the famous Le Select in St Barts after wandering through boutiques where we could look but not buy. Late in the day we motored to Anse do Columbier, a pristine bay just off Gustavia. Turtles, mega yachts, big swells pitching the monohulls side to side.
We left Anse de Columbier early today, Wednesday February 22. Motoring in easy swells and no winds, we dropped two lines and a Cuban hand reel and quickly caught a small tunny. Back in it went to the fishing gods. We could see Saba from the second we left St Barts – rising 3000ft into the skies, this 5 square mile island is lush and sparsely populated with just 1500 residents, including 150 students at the local international med school. The terrain could have been inspiration to the King Kong film crew.
We picked up a mooring ball in Fort Bay, checked into customs and quickly swam. From the surface, under the clouds, the water looks dark and cold. But once in, it was clear and warm. As a volcano, the island rises quickly from the deep, with little sand the waters boast sea life and clear waters.
After lunch we dinghied back to the harbor, booked a scuba trip for Connor and Ziggy and then taxied into town. The well-paved road belied the winding treachery into the two main towns – Bottom, aptly named in comparison to Windwardside, but definitely not near the bottom. Red roofs, white houses, stone walls – clean and orderly. The 200 ft megayacht anchored beside Windancer looked like a toy boat from the hills.
We wandered Windwardside that looked down into the east coast. Small shops and bars hopscotched down the main street passing the cemetery home to the original descendants, the Johnstons, the Hassels and the Petersons of Scottish and Irish descent.
As part of the islands that brush the skies (Saba, Statia, St Kitts, Nevis and Monserat), the clouds come in over the top of the island sprinkling rain into the hills. We ducked into the Long Haul bar for happy hour and pizza. Long Haul is owned by a young Belgium man, who moved to Saba eight years ago. He had sent emails to 20 hotels across the globe with his credentials and his life story and promised to work for the first hotel that responded. Saba is now home; after working at the hotel, he was employed by the government for a few years before marrying, buying the bar and just recently becoming a dad to little boy Dominic. Dinner was on Scott, our guest, who only sheepishly skulked back to the table to confess he was $25 short.
Wanting to head back to the harbor, we asked for a cab. The local artist woke her husband to give us a ride back through the winding roads, but not before the proprietor gave us half a bag of ice filled that the neighbouring bar then filled to the brim.
We arrived back to the harbor to see 5 heavily armed coast guard officials board the local fishing boat. We had heard about the strict Dutch police and expected to suffer a fine for our dinghy, only to discover the police buying 2 16lb mahi mahi.
Almost home, we unlocked the dinghy, untied from the dock and got ready to step in our tender. And then, the greatest of sins. Trying to be helpful, Scott tossed the bag of ice into the tender, only to discover he had not tied the top. Ice, the nectar of the sailors, littered the deck.
Meandering back to Windancer, we swore, sundowner cold drinks for all, except for Scott. No ice for Scott.