Friday, April 26, 2013



We left Saba in the early afternoon, after a morning dive trip.  The dive shop in Saba had contacted a dive shop in nearby St. Eustatia for us to arrange for diving the next morning and help with clearing in since we would not make it to Statia before close of business.  They also checked on the conditions of the anchorage for us, we were concerned it would be as rocky as it was a Saba. 

Statia was another small Dutch island, about 12 miles south of Saba.  As we got closer we could see that Statia appears to be a fuel holding station for the area.  They had quite a few tankers off shore and holding tanks along their northwest shore. 

Statia is also a volcano island, but different from Saba.  It is larger than Saba, but you can see that it’s volcano must have erupted differently.  On Statia you can easily see the crater of the volcano.  Hiking up to and in the crater is also popular here, but we wouldn’t have time to hike here.  It was Friday afternoon.  Our plan was to dive Saturday morning – hopefully a good wreck dive, since they have quite a few here.  Then maybe a short walk in town, and then we would need to head straight for St. Kitts.  We hoped to be able to clear in to St. Kitts and attend church there.  Neither Statia or Saba had branches of our church there, St. Kitts was the closest branch along our path. IMG_6132 IMG_6172

About a mile out from shore we were greeted by over a dozen dolphins.  Some just swam by, but a few stayed to play for a while in our bow wake.  They were so fun to watch as they would swim and jump near the boat.  It reminded me of traveling along the Intercoastal waterway in North and South Carolina where we would see dolphins everyday.  Out here we only see them occasionally.  But we do see turtles a lot, so I guess it is a trade.IMG_6141IMG_6225

We arrived in Statia just after 5pm.  We found a spot to anchor and settled in for the night.  It wasn’t as calm as I was hoping for, but it was slightly better then the Saba anchorage.  Viewing the town from the boat, it looked like a cute little Dutch town and we were excited to go for a walk in the town tomorrow. 

I woke up the next morning feeling sick.  I really wanted to go diving, but I did not feel well at all.  We decided to re-plan.  We would scratch diving.  Should we still go into town for a walk and see it?  I wanted to, but again I didn’t know if I would make it on a walk.  Also, we had not cleared in and customs would not be in for another hour, plus we would then have to pay the clearance fees even just to stay for an hour.  We decided to pull up the anchor and head down to St. Kitts.  We waved goodbye to Statia with regrets of not being able to stay and see more.


Exploring Saba


Diamond Rock, off the coast of Saba in the anchorage. It’s turned white from all the birds that visit it.  Has great diving around it.  Just amazing!

Saba (Say-ba) is a very small island.  About 5 square miles.  It is part of the Dutch kingdom.  It is off the beaten path of most boats cruising in the Caribbean for a couple reasons.  It is downwind of St. Martin, which means for sailboats it is a tough beat into the wind to get back to St. Martin or the normally travelled path.  There aren’t many power boats out in the islands, about 80% are sailboats.  The other reason Saba is less visited is a big one – no safe harbor or good anchorage.  The west side of the island is where boats moor or anchor to get out of the trades and swell, but the waves still wrap around the island, so swell makes it way thru the anchorage, which rocks the boat.  If the weather is calm, it is bearable. 


Because there is no safe harbor, it makes getting to shore a bit complicated.  The island is deep water almost to shore, and then the shoreline is rocky and steep.  In the past, everything was carried onto the island, waded in from boats in the shallow water and then carried up 500 steps to the village.  We happened to moor right near these stairs and look at them every morning wondering how they managed to get all their supplies, furniture, and whatever else they had brought overseas up those steps.  At the top of these steps sits the old customs house. 

In the last century they have built a small harbor to receive small boats and their once a week barge of supplies.  This harbor is on the south side of the island, 2 miles from the anchorage.  They also have one of the smallest runways in the world for small passenger planes. IMG_5570_thumb[1]

To get to the harbor we would tender the 2 miles south in the anchorage and around the corner, into the waves and to the harbor.  There we found a the harbor master office and customs.  We checked several times for immigration to stamp our passports, but they were never there when we passed by.  Also at the harbor are the dive shops.  Everyone lives up the mountain.  It is just a couple of miles up to “The Bottom” village, and then a few more miles to the busier “Windwardside” village.  We loved exploring this island.  All the homes are white with green shutters and red roofs.  Within the last few decades they passed a law requiring the homes to keep this color scheme.  It really makes for a picturesque island.  IMG_5550_thumb[1]IMG_5386_thumb[1]

We decided to visit Saba for a few reasons.  One- it is not tourist driven.  So we get to see what real life on a small island is like.  Two- they have incredible diving. Three- great hiking.



David and I spent 2 days diving, and it was incredible.  Saba was formed by a volcano and the area around it, under the water, about 90feet down, are these pinnacles reaching from the deep bottom of the ocean.  What could have been tops of mountains that never made it above the water.  They are covered in corals and so beautifully colored,.  They are surrounded by great fish life.  We loved diving in Saba, we hope we haven’t ruined ourselves for diving other places as Saba’s dive sites were spectacular.IMG_4940


Early one morning we all went hiking.  We hired a local, well known guide to accompany us on our trek up Mt. Scenery, the old volcano that hadn’t erupted in 400 years.  We had heard good things about our guide James, but he spent a lot of time texting on his phone, so our experience with him was less than stellar.  Fortunately it didn’t detract from the beauty of the rainforest that sits on Mt. Scenery.




When we could pry James away from his phone, he was full of info about the area, the trees and plants all around us, and we really did learn a lot from him.  He pointed out cilantro growing along the path, and Calvin took to picking it’s leaves when he found it.  He brought a handful home to add to some yummy taco soup later on.  Another local fruit James picked for us was called Dry Apple; it was terrible, but interesting to try.  James cut off palm leaves along the way for the kids.  The higher we went the larger the leaves got and the kids had fun hiding behind them or under them.  IMG_4982



The higher we went, the more mossier and humid it became.  At one point we reached the clouds, and it rained a little on us.  It was so beautiful. 


At the top we found a plaque indicating the lookout to be the highest point in the Dutch Kingdom.  When the clouds would part, you could peer down to see Windwardside village and St. John’s below.  We took a break to enjoy the view from the top and to have a quick lunch.  It was over 1000 stair steps up to the top, we need fuel to make it back down.





Little Matthew had hiked at least half way to the top.  He took a turn in the back pack carrier for a bit, but mostly he walked.  That kid is a good hiker, slow, but good.  Calvin picked up trash along the trail for a cub scout project.  There wasn’t much to pick up but throughout the hike he was able to fill his bag half full.  IMG_5072IMG_5319


On the way down, we took a different trail that had less steps and took us through a little bit of different scenery.  Near the end we learned the difference between goats and sheep.  It’s easy—Tail up is a goat, Tail down is a sheep.  Our nanny Madison raised sheep growing up, and said she had never thought about it that way, but yeah, that’s one way to tell them apart.  On Saba, they have some sheep that look just like goats and they have sheep, so that’s how they tell them apart.



Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Here we come Saba

Ever wanted to jump in the ocean at 3am in 6 foot waves with boats circling around you?  Sounds like fun doesn’t it?  No?  Well, there is always an adventure waiting for us…

Our next stop was 85 miles away at Saba, a small Dutch Island.  85 miles at 7 miles (we hope) an hour means at least 12 hours to get there, if not more… probably more.  The best time to do this, so we can arrive in daylight hours is overnight.  While I hate being up all night, or even trying to sleep underway, traveling all night has its perks.  The kids sleep thru it. I don’t have to worry about any of them getting sick, or the youngest two moving around.  If it is calm out then none of the above matters, and the only concern is arriving during daylight so we can see where to drop anchor or pick up a mooring ball.  IMG_4758

The weather files were calling for 6 foot seas, 6 seconds apart.  It was the 6 seconds apart that had us more concerned.  6 foot waves are fine… further apart.  We were hoping it would be okay.  And it really wasn’t too bad for the first bit.  We left our anchorage a bit after dinner and had the kids settle down to watch a movie before bed.  This keeps them in one place and the mind focused or distracted at least.  Then off to bed and sleep.   And as always, when we get out a ways from land,  it got a little worse.  The kids were all asleep by then, even David was able to get a couple of hours in before waking up from the change in waves.  He joined me at the helm, just in time to help me maneuver around a cruise ship.  I was hoping to pass in front of it, but it is really hard to tell at night and would have been close, so we opted for the safer route behind it.  I was surprised at how much traffic there was on our route, although I guess I shouldn’t have been, we weren’t going too far from St. Martin/St. Maarten which is hugely popular with cruise ships and well, most boats go there.  Not us.  We were opting for the less traveled Saba.


After 1am I headed off to attempt to sleep.  Madison was asleep on the couch, which turned out to be a good thing.  Around 3am she woke up to an annoying sound – the engine alarm.  One of our engines had stopped working.  David was at the helm, but had his super noise reducer headphones on, watching a movie, so he hadn’t yet noticed – and never would have heard—the engine fail.  Madison notified him and he got it working again.  A little while later, Madison approached David again and said she heard a “POP” noise this time.  They looked around, unsure of what it might be.  Since the engine had failed, David had kept an ear out of his headphones and had noticed the radar had beeped a few times, indicating something nearby in the water—usually a boat, but hadn’t seen anyone but us.  He looked back behind us and noticed the tender (the little boat we tow a couple hundred feet behind us) lights were further back then they should be, and he realized the tender had broken free from us, and we were moving on, and it was drifting away from us.


Oh fun.  Madison came to get me, not that I was sleeping in the bouncy boat.  David donned his wet suit and life jacket.  I reminded him to grab a snorkel and mask. I drove circles around the tender while we came up with a plan.   He had pulled in the tow line and found the shackle we use to attach our tow lines together with the tender tow bridle had broken in half.  We were only half way to Saba, which meant we had at least 40 miles to go, so the goal was to reattach the tender and tow line. David planned to tie the line from the tender and the tow line back together with a bowline knot.  My concern was how.  He asked if I could circle close enough that he could have enough slack in the line to tie it, so we wouldn’t have to stop the boat.  Crazy idea.  No way that would work.  We were left with the only option of having to stop the boat close enough to the tender, upwind from it, so he has enough slack in the line to tie the 2 boats together.  Stopping the boat meant we would be subject to the waves, and the boat would rock A LOT.  David and Madison grabbed the few items left out that might fall and break from getting thrown side to side. David put our side ladder on the boat and hoped he’d be able to reach it to climb back out of the water.  Then it was time to take the engines out of gear while David jumped in the water.   Madison was armed with the super bright spot light—her job was to keep it shining on David the whole time—we didn’t want to lose him and needed to know where he was at all times.

He tried to swim over to the tender with the tow line in hand but as I was circling the tow line got pulled away from him of course.  So I swung the boat close enough for David to grab the line again, then we slowed down, upwind and stopped.  It was a long couple of minutes as the waves rocked us side to side.  Before David jumped in the water I had Madison go downstairs and wake up Savannah to let her know what was going on, and that she was to stay with all the kids, in case anyone woke up from the crazy rocking, so she could keep them calm.  She was instructed to leave Alexander in his crib, no matter how much he cried—it is the safest spot for him.  Savannah did great with this task.  The kids did wake up and wanted to know what was going on, and she was there to help them.  IMG_4843

Once he had his know tied, David swam back over to the boat and climbed on board just as we got rocked hard again from the waves.  Happy to have him back on board, I put the engines back in gear and drove off, getting the stabilizers to kick in and work!  Too much excitement for me.  After David showered and changed, I went back to “sleeping” and he took back over at the helm.  Savannah stayed up for a bit to help out, and David could nap just a little with her taking a turn on watch.


We made it to Saba, sometime after 10am, exhausted.  It is a beautiful island.  The anchorage was not super calm, but it was manageable for a couple of days.  But first thing—naps!


Monday, April 22, 2013

Goodbye BVI

From Anegada we headed to our favorite BVI spot – Great Harbour, Peter Island.  It was crowded when we pulled in late in the day, with all the other boats seeking shelter from the crazy winds too. We struggled to settle ourselves at anchor and kept swinging a little too close to one of the nearby boats. The rule is, who ever anchors last is responsible. So if we swing to close- we have to fix it or move. We had moved once but still the boat kept swinging where we didn’t really want it to. So the decided fix, was to put out a second anchor. It did the trick and kept us in our “swing space”. Time to to settle in for the weekend. A few dolphins were also seeking shelter in the harbor from the winds, and it was fun to watch them play as we sat on the boat.
We were able to attend church on Sunday, but it was a wet ride across the 4 mile channel. We had expected the waves and spray because the wind was still blowing a lot! So we dressed for it. I am sure we looked crazy to all the bathing suit clad boaters, dressed in our foul weather gear. We had heavy rain jackets on with the hoods pulled tight around our faces. The baby sat in his car seat on the floor of the tender covered by a towel tent. We arrived relatively dry. Savannah and I were on the “wet side” of the boat so we had planned for our raincoats to keep our top half dry and then we packed our skirts to change into once we arrived in Roadtown. It was a good plan—our bottom halves were soaked! Thank goodness the winds were blowing, or we would have all melted in our rain gear.
Monday the winds had calmed. David, Benjamin, Isabel and I made another run to Roadtown and hardly got wet this time. We made a last trip for groceries. We have enjoyed shopping at the Riteway in Roadtown. They have great sale prices. We picked up half gallons of milk for $0.99. They were expiring the next day, but that was fine for us, we tossed them in the freezer to be used later. Same with the yogurts and cheese we found on sale too.
We also stopped at customs to clear out of the BVI’s. We were moving on that night. The weather files showed the wind had calmed all day, the waves were dropping and it would hopefully be a good overnight passage to Saba for us.  We were kind of sad to leave the BVI’s, we had been there a month now.  I wasn’t sure when we arrived if I would like it much, with ALL the boats and tourists.  Turns out we loved it there. It is a beautiful place, even with the thousands of charter boats.  But it was time to move on and see more of this beautiful world.

Friday, April 19, 2013


Since we were waiting out weather in the BVI’s we thought we would head north to see Anegada.  It is different from the rest of the BVI’s in that it is a low lying island, rather than a hilly one.  In fact it is disappearing into the water little by little, and what is left is a beautiful reef.  On paper--the anchorage looked like it would provide great coverage from the current winds.  It was a not so pleasant 2 hour journey up there, and the anchorage was not calm as we had hoped.  Anegada’s shore line is mostly one big beach, so it was fun to tuck in only a few hundred feet from the beach and drop anchor in 9 feet of water.  It had been awhile since we had anchored in shallow water.  We only rocked a little, but enough that we debated whether to head back Virgin Gorda for the night.  The kids spent the afternoon playing in the soft sand on the beach.  Once the baby was down for a nap, Jessie and I jumped in the water for the nice swim to the beach.  The sand was gorgeous and soft.  The kids were building a fort with the boogie boards, having a great time.  I started walking down the beach and then decided to run.  I ran as far as I could go till branches and rocks blocked my path, then turned and ran back.  Several times Jessie would pick up a branch and chase me, thinking I would stop running and throw the stick for her.  No such luck.  Once I reached the kids again, I checked on them before Jessie and I made the swim back to the boat.  What a great work out. I had never run barefoot before, at least not a significant distance.  I was worried my feet my get sore, but the sand was so soft, it was great.  I mapped my route on the GPS back on the boat and my barefoot, sandy run was close to 3 miles. 
We made it through the night and headed into town the next morning to rent a car to tour the small island.  Our vehicle turned out to be a pick up truck with benches in the back.  The island is very small with only a few roads.  We drove the north side, stopping at a couple of beaches.  The north side was being hammered with waves and had beaches for miles and miles. IMG_4295
The kids had a nice time shell hunting along the north beaches and just walking on the sand.  Of course if you were looking in the right direction as the wind blows it would whip sand in your face, and that wasn’t very fun. IMG_4546IMG_4359
Before we left Puerto Rico we had purchased a new camera.  I may have mentioned previously that I broke our old DSLR, so it was time to invest in a new one anyway.  Well, we invested alright, in a camera without auto settings.  Needless to say, I have a lot to learn about how camera’s work and what makes a great photo.  But it was fun to sit for a bit and play with the different settings and light.  This camera can turn out some great photos, I just need to learn how…IMG_4408
On the drive back we passed slowly by the salt ponds looking for the resident flamingos.  Off in the distance, far away, we finally found them.  With the help of my new super zoom lens we were able to capture a few shots that you can tell they are in deed flamingos.
It felt good to get back to the boat and pull up the anchor.  It was a bumpy 2 hours back to the lee of Virgin Gorda, and then another 2 hours to our anchorage for the weekend--  Great Harbour, Peter Island.  We love it there.