Fantastic Voyage! We departed the tumultuous Fort Bay of friendly Saba at 1700 hours. In the relatively calm 20 knots and 6 foot swells, our task to move our outboard engine to its taffrail perch was still quite a feat. That was the easy part. Sans motor, we then hauled (or more like rolled) Korykory sideways up and over the port lifeline, so not to catch the frequent wind gusts and rested him upside down onto our foredeck.
Our shadows stretched aft, with the sun setting forward to port, leaving Saba in a warm glow behind. “Looks so calm there now”, I said, thinking about how this overnight passage of 96 nm will seem relatively easy. We forwent our traditional happy hour/sundowner, anticipating our upcoming overnight watch schedule.
Our night watches began with a simple agreement of three details: who starts first? when to start? for how long? Kelly and I often agree on these details very easily. Typically, we go 3-4 hours each, and wake the other if any concerns arise. This would be another evening on the port settee, with leecloth to prevent rolling onto the hard sole.
On this evening, since our passage initially would be clear offshore and out of traffic lanes, we decided to watch an episode of Star Trek Picard. Amazing device, that Starlink, which allows us to stream movies far from land. (More about ours, named Elon in an upcoming post).
You’re probably thinking… “that’s not really sailing!”. Well folks, I assure you that we ARE sailing. But, it’s the 21st century too. We are out on the deep and open ocean, and have modern instruments to monitor frequently such an AIS transponder, radar, wind direction and speed. Radar and AIS are set with collision avoidance alarms, warning us should any object come within two miles of our path. The wind offshore doesn’t change often, and usually we can set and leave the sails for hours unattended. My other senses are also continually listening and feeling for anything unusual - a strange creaking or bang, luffing sail, etc. Star Trek or YouTube, in moderation, adds yet another dimension, and helps pass the time just like a good book, music or podcasts.
So off we went on a brisk yet comfortable broad reach to an island yet to be visited (new for Kelly and me) – the island of Saint John. We approached the southeastern tip with bright sun behind us, at around 1030 hours. Our prior research indicated that anchoring is not allowed for most of the island – being it’s a national park. So after being up all night, we simply looked the first landfall with park moorings, a place called SaltPond Bay, to get some rest.
As we came around the point of Ram Head, just before turning north into the bay, we could see several masts. Ok, so some boats are there, but maybe one mooring is still available? I fired up the engine and swung the bow into the wind with Kelly ready to drop the mainsail, when aft to starboard another boat approached, motoring heavily on a direct course towards Fayaway. The captain of Sea Witch, a larger Pearson ketch, hailed us on the VHF…
“Fayaway, Fayaway, this is Sea Witch”, they called, seemingly motoring harder for a collision course. I backed-off on our throttle in effort to reduce any collision possibility, and realized they were competitors targeting the same little bay. Not interested in this game of chicken I diffused their concerns by replying that we were only looking for a place to stop after being on passage from Saba all night. “No problem,” I said, taking the high road, “If there’s only one mooring then please take it. We’ll just move onto the next cove.” No biggie, as we assumed more moorings would be available somewhere.
Sea Witch’s attitude changed from a mildly aggressive tone to one of being thankful for our consideration. Unfortunately, no mooring was vacant at Saltpond. After eventually getting settled later that day at Lameshur Bay, we motored over to Sea Witch to say hello. Captain John owns a chartering business based on Martha’s Vineyard. He and his female companion were traveling throughout the Caribbean for the winter, agreeing that the island paradise of St John USVI is among their top favorites. The next day we invited them over for sundowners, of course!
We frolicked and enjoyed snorkeling in the crystal clear water and amongst protected coral of Lameshur Bay. We hiked up to marvel at the 800+ year old petroglyphs – a remnant of first human habitation. Sea turtles are plentiful and swim freely here due to strict boat-speed limits. Vast and beautiful wooded surroundings are protected from man’s devastation and development. This tranquility comes at a cost of $26 per night to use one of the well-maintained moorings. A small price to pay for protecting paradise.
So, after four days, and craving some fresh food and a cold draft beer we motored the ten miles upwind to anchor at the artsy community of Coral Harbour. Where, sure as sunshine, we found a very well-stocked grocery store within a mile walk from the town dock. Better yet, a local favorite, Skinny Legs Bar and Grill was just a stone’s throw away. Like starved zombies, we were mindlessly led to the most juicy and flavorful burger available in paradise. Jimmy B would likely agree.
After another two days in Coral Harbour we learned that our son Clayton was planning to visit us in a few days. So excited to pick him up at St. Thomas, we soon began a comfortable light-air downwind run with only our genoa (and a tad of motoring). Next stop, Christmas Cove, at St James Island.
We hope you are enjoying these posts! Thanks for reading! Next up: Christmas Cove, Charlotte Amalie, Box Bar, Brewer’s Bay and the university in St Thomas.
4 thoughts on “Night and Day: Saba to St John”
Love Salt Pond Bay! I’ve been there several times. Glad you saw the sea turtles! Also, Skinny Legs is the best! I still wear my Skinny Legs T-Shirt every once in a while!
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Nice post Chris.
Question: when you say any object does that include floating debris including fallen off shipping containers?
Radar and AIS are set with collision avoidance alarms, warning us should any object come within two miles of our path’
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Thanks Hamid. No, I’m thinking big stuff, like boats. I don’t think smaller, low-lying objects can be detected with our equipment, especially in rougher seas. While there’s a very small chance of encountering, it’s virtually impossible to detect and avoid these things, even if standing outside with constant lookouts. At night they’re just too difficult to see. The only things we’ve ever hit are buoys and nets, which result in (worst case) a fouled prop – and that’s happened during daylight hours! I think we are more vigilant to avoid things at night than others I’ve met. If near shore, where fishing buoys are common, then we keep a more constant watch from topsides, and hope for the best.
Who knew? Parking traffic on the high seas!
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