Sequestered at Saba

This account is less about the place, Saba, and more a glimpse of our experience. We’ve been to Saba before, and this time was different. Hence, read on! 

Attempting to shake the grogginess from my brain, I slowly stretch by holding one of several hand-holds located between the galley, navigation table and companionway. I think of that small area the “hallway”, being a spot I can get more space with the least amount of bumping into walls. It’s dark 0230, and Kelly just jostled me from a dream – eerily hearing her voice “Sweetie” from within the dreamscape, and somehow realizing it wasn’t part of the dream. I can’t understand it, but I sleep rather soundly in these physical conditions – boat bouncing and jerking – yanking at the mooring. Wind is howling at a steady 25 knots, frequently gusting over 30, or 35 with a few 40’s thrown in just for fun. I’m only bothered with mild anxiety, if (or when) the anchor proximity alarm starts beeping (if we broke free – will one of us hear it?) And well, also there’s the annoying gooseneck, screeching and grinding with each adjustment of the boom as we roll back and forth.

At first… it was relatively calm…

Now on our third night under raucous conditions, we’d agreed to start night watches, thinking that if the Saba Marine Park mooring is really taking a beating, it could release us unannounced into the torrent. An ensuing sleighride would likely cast us out to sea, or into the rocks, or at least bounce off one of the sparsely-moored boats downwind. I don’t want to think about it. We’re about 150 yards from a rocky shore, just outside of Fort Bay. An easterly, sometimes northeasterly wind is about parallel of where we are waiting it out.

Weather reports lie! Friday through Saturday we had consistently 25-30 knots! Was the wind amplifying around the island, eliminating any chance of shelter?

Swells aren’t as bad here as where we came from two days ago, along Saba’s western side, near Ladder Bay. With exposure to the northern wind component, and seas continuing to grow, I telephoned the Saba Marine Park Office. Surprised that my wifi call actually went through to a “local” number, a man answered the phone and I explained our situation. At first not believing where we were, he sternly advised that the Park mooring “is not able to handle you in those conditions”. Oh oh. He advised that we should move to our present location near Fort Bay, but cautioned “I can’t promise you it will be better there.” So, at approx. 1600 hours, after untangling the already stressed docklines securing us to the mooring pennant, we fell away to enjoy a few moments of relative calm, motoring downwind, toward the briefly sheltered southwest corner of this no-man’s-land.

Sustained winds, Thursday through Monday.

Around the bend we are immediately hit by another headwind and waves bending around from the easterly winds. “We aren’t getting a break”, I think as I goose the diesel to an unusually high 2500 rpm trying for some headway. Cutting into the waves, we slowly approach our new “home”, another yellow/blue Park mooring buoy. We round upon the bouncing ball and its sunken pennant line. Kelly reaches with the boathook as I attempt to keep our bow into the wind. On the fourth approach, Kelly manages to hook the line just long enough to temporarily loop it over the gunwale and onto a cleat.

Approaching Saba from southeast – when relatively calm.

Phew! Quickly, I put the shifter into a neutral idle, lock the wheel straight and crawl up to the foredeck to assist Kelly, still wrestling with the lines. We work together silently to align and thread two docklines – one port, one starboard through the mooring’s eyesplice and back through each respective hawshole to another cleat.

Back to my wake up… later.

While stretching I notice a gasoline odor, and realize that one of the two fuel cans lashed to the stern rail must be leaking again. The cap aren’t so great on these newer cans, and it’s imperative to keep them upright. I can tie them up only so well. When the boat rolls 30 degrees broadside to a deep swell, it’s inevitable they’ll tip some and fuel seeps under the crappy cap. In this case, the smaller, 2-gallon plastic can had again defied my attachment method, “rolled” forward, allowing just enough drippiness to be detectable. I scamper out, attempting to untie the bowline knot in the inky blackness. After spending ten seconds of futile attempt, I give up, and go down the companionway ladder for my headlamp.

Looks calm?

We arrived at Saba on Monday afternoon, signed up for the soonest available guided dive on Wednesday, and made back to Fayaway that afternoon. Thereafter, the conditions disallowed leaving the boat, and concerned about Korykory’s fate on his tether, we removed the outboard engine, full-knowing we wouldn’t have a chance of getting to shore without it. Prior paragraphs are a sample of the next five days and nights.

Our dive boat. A pleasure!

Saba is really cool place. Friendly and clean. You shouldn’t miss it. But it’s a difficult place for a smaller vessel to visit, except in optimal weather conditions. The one dive we had time for offered beautiful coral and vibrant sea life. Another fantastic experience. (Coincidentally, our guide (required) was our Statia-instructor’s twin sister!) Maybe some day we’ll go back, definitely paying closer attention to any possibility of increased northerly or northeasterly winds and swells!

  • Hawshole – A hole in the side of a ship through which hawsers are past.
A final comment: They can’t help the weather, but I must call attention to Saba’s special level of unique hospitality. Upon initial arrival, and after a wet ride with Korykory through the chop and into the small protected inlet, we were personally greeted by Lionel, a port officer. He offered a warm hello, and helped with our bow painter. He offered Kelly a helping hand as she climbed onto the quay. Wow. He continued to offer his concierge skills, asking that we contact him if we need anything during our visit. Upon advising him of our departure, he seemed a bit sad, as a friend would upon leaving for a long adventure. We regrettably missed getting to know Lionel better, because he already seems like a very good friend. We’ll miss you too, Lionel. 

3 thoughts on “Sequestered at Saba

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