Like all good hidden kingdoms, Saba doesn’t come easily, and the cruising sailor who wishes to visit must be prepared to pay the price of possible frustration in the face of the elements …Many bare-boat charter companies make [Saba] off-limits for their guests” – Chris Doyle, Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands

Turk holding onto Maria in rough weather

We had a pretty rough 26 hour crossing from St John to Saba…the wind was a brisk 20-25 knots, just off the nose but it was more the seas that were uncomfortable. We had 5-7 foot seas, which normally are fine when they are far apart and coming from the same direction. But we had confused seas that were close together (about 2-3 second period), with an 8 footer thrown in every now and then for good measure. At one point or another, each one of us would shout at the waves, “Just *%$@ STOP!!” as they pushed us around. Finally around daybreak we were rewarded with our first glimpse of Saba, a small volcanic island jutting out of the ocean, the top of it lost in the clouds, with nothing else around. Maria and I had to check our position to make sure we somehow didn’t get transported to Pitcairn Island, as they looked identical from afar. It was just after this sighting, still getting our butts kicked by Mother Nature, that Maria went down below for a much needed nap, I laid down in the cockpit and Scott took the wheel. Of course, even in crappy conditions, he has his fishing lines out. The usually great sound of the line getting taken by a fish sounds in the air. “Fish On”, he shouts…I groan. Then the words you really don’t want to hear when getting bounced around by seas and just want to get to the island that is so tantalizingly close, “It’s a blue marlin and she’s a big one…400 pounds at least!” The only thing I can think of is “s@#&, this means at least another two hours out here!” I call down to Maria, she wearily comes up and basically says that the only bloody way Scott is going to get the fish in is if it follows us to Saba, turns around, and goes back to bed. Defeated, Scott cuts the line to the blue marlin, I give a half smile, lay back down and count down the hours to landfall.

Approaching Saba for the first time

About seven hours after we initially spotted Saba, we finally made it to the mooring field on the west side of the island. Anchoring is very difficult in Saba because it is basically 100 feet deep up to about 100 yards off the shore, and then goes to about 50 feet right up to the shore. Therefore, they have
graciously put out 11 mooring balls that are free to use for up to seven nights. Ten of the 11 moorings are good for boats up to 50 tons and one is good for boats up to 150 tons. We started to moor on the 50 ton mooring, but as we were doing this, the Saba marine park ranger pulled up in his boat and suggest that we take the 150 ton mooring, because the wind was howling and was not supposed to let up for weeks. Once we got properly tied up, we allowed ourselves to relax and take in our surroundings. We were the only boat in the mooring field, the water, deep navy blue, was to one side of us and Saba’s red and brown cliffs that rose straight up to meet lush green countryside lay on the other. Words can not describe how beautiful this island is.

White marlin!

One of the reasons why we chose to go to Saba is because two of our friends who we know from Cape Marina in Florida live there. Picky, a gentle Rastafarian who was born on Saba, and his wife Kathy from California, were on the same dock as us in Cape Canaveral and would talk about Saba often. They live on Saba but had bought a sport fishing boat in Florida and fixed it up in Cape Canaveral before having it shipped back to the Caribbean so they can start a fishing business on Saba. Before we left Florida, we had promised that we would come to visit, and asked how we would find them. ‘Just go on the island and ask for Picky” is what they said. So, we dingied around to the north side of the island, which is the only place accessible to shore, and came upon the customs man. We were still in our dingy when he asked for our passports, stamped them right there, and told us to go the harbormaster office to fill out the rest of the paperwork. We told him we were friends of Picky and Kathy and asked if he knew how we could find him. A big smile broke out on his face and said that Picky was his cousin and that he would drive us up to his house after we were through with the harbor master. Love the small islands!

Kathy had been at the harbormaster’s office earlier in the day, so the harbor master knew we were coming and called Kathy when he saw us (not many cruisers visit Saba so it wasn’t hard to figure out who we were). So, as I was filling out the paperwork, Kathy drove up and once done, took us on a quick tour of the island. There is basically one road on Saba, and it is known as the road that could not be built. Engineers from Holland had come to look to see if a road could be built, said that it couldn’t because the island was too steep. The islander’s wouldn’t take no for an answer, and hand built it themselves. The stone road is very narrow (barely two cars fit on it side by side), hugs the cliff side with on a onefoot high stone guard rail, and winds around more than most roller coasters. I refused to sit by the window on the side that looks out over the ocean, because when you look out and down, you are looking at several hundred to thousands of feet straight down!

Island tour with Kathy and Shamar

Saba itself has two main towns, Bottom and Windward Side. Both towns are small and very picturesque. Saba is a Dutch island, which is seen in all of its quaint buildings and homes, almost all of which are painted white with green trim and shutters and red roofs. It looked as if the fairytale characters Hansel and Gretel could pop out of one of the houses and walk down the cobblestone streets at any moment. Most of the houses are perched on cliff sides, and look as if they could fall off the ledge at any time. Kathy took us to one of her friend’s house at the top of the mountain, right by a cloud forest, to see the view from her balcony. When looking out, you could see the ocean extending forever, and when looking down, the green forest. It was pretty amazing!
Picky was in St Thomas, so we hung out with Kathy for the next two days. She took us on an extended island tour, down to the swimming hole, and we hung out at her house and cooked dinner. They have a really neat house in Bottom, with two huge mango trees, a papaya tree, banana trees and cinnamon plants in their forest of a backyard! We sat for hours on their porch, listening to the music of the birds and the crickets in the forest as the sun went down and chatting to all the locals when they walked by the house.

Maria’s spa night

On Saba, Maria became quite the love interest of two young men, Tyreke and Shamar. They are Picky’s nephews, aged 10 and 8, respectively! Boy did they love Maria. One night, they brought out Kathy’s hairbrushes and hair ties and gave her all kinds of crazy hairdos. Then out came a bottle of Kathy’s very expensive aromatherapy lotion and she got the full arm, leg and foot massage while we all looked on and laughed hysterically! Who needs a spa in Saba?

The following day, we went snorkeling in some of the clearest water I have been in. There were tons of reef fish and lots of curious and friendly sea turtles! They would come right up to you, almost let you touch them, and then swim a short distance away. It was too cool.
Picky chillin’ out on his porch
Picky came back from St Thomas the following day and we got a chance to hang out with him while Kathy went to work. We had great times relaxing on the porch,
catching up and telling stories. The next day, we tried to repay their hospitality by helping to pull weeds in their soon-to-be garden and Scott rewired some of their electrical outlets that were acting up.

We were sad to leave Saba, but friends from Texas were flying into Antigua in a few days and we wanted to make sure we got there on time. So we heaved up anchor and sailed away from the enchanting island. I would highly recommend going to Saba to anyone. If you don’t want to sail into Saba, you can take a ferry from St Maarten. And if you do make it there, just ask for Picky and Kathy!