Sea|Mester Part 6: Saba

Saba was the Fifth stop on our Leeward Islands tour. It was easily the most bad-ass place we visited. Surrounded by a sheer rock face hundreds of feet high, covered in dense jungle, and with roads so steep you could barely stand up straight, it is an imposing place to say the least. It’s also the home of the Saba Triathlon, one of the most intense races I’ve ever heard of. Even so, Saba still has plenty of good Caribbean chill, and everybody there is super nice. It also has a very diverse local ecology, with lots of fruit trees and a wide variety of plants, birds and animals. All around, it was one of my favorite stops.

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We had a pretty quick five hour passage from Ile Fourche to Saba, our last day sail of the trip. We dropped anchor on the west side of the island, ate some dinner, and prepared for an epic day. The group would split into hikers – who would conquer Mt. Scenery – and divers – who would explore Diamond Rock. I chose the hike. This was my journal entry for that night:

Nice sail from St Barths over to Saba. This island looks super beast so far. I can’t wait to hike it tomorow. I’m a little nervous after hearing about how intense the hike is and from just looking st the island, but I know I can do it and I’m sure it will be lots of fun. I also had a good time just hanging with ppl at dinner and stuff. It’s too bad the trip is almost over. Four days to go, so crazy. I’ve learned so much about sailing though. Today I beasted the yahcht training test, so that’ll be something to put on the resume. I also kinda want to take one of those wilderness medical courses chase was talking about. That sounds fun and super useful. I just want to learn everything I can about how to live life. The sooner I can finish my philosophy major the better. I want to get out into the world and live man. Who needs classrooms and junk for 16 years. I like school, but everyone says, and I now know, that you can learn so much just by traveling and absorbing. I love being in different places. It’s so great! Travelling is definitely more possible than I thought. Ok bed.

In order to reach the island, we had to dinghy to shore and climb a huge rock staircase known as “the ladder.” This was once the only means of entry to island, before a harbor was built on the eastern side.
The beach was not sand, but beautiful round rocks. Beautiful, but very difficult to walk on.

Prior to the building of the Fort Bay Harbour, access to Saba was by way of this flight of steps up the cliffs of Ladder Bay. Ships would anchor offshore and all cargo had to be carried by foot p the nearly vertical stairway to the village of The Bottom. The stone masonry steps were the only way to get from the sea to the island villages for many years. Now hikers can descend the ladder to the water, enjoying magnificent scenery along the way. A former customs house two thirds of the way down is an excellent lookout point to enjoy the beautiful views of the sea and shore.

° We made our way up The Ladder…

And up The Ladder…

° Finally we reached the old customs house

° Now overgrown and covered in graffiti, it nonetheless provided a welcome resting spot.

° There was even an outhouse next door!
After climbing the rest of the stairs, we finally reached…

° The Bottom… Just one of the many awesome things about Saba: you have to climb thousands of steps just to reach the bottom. It was a really cool town: lots of Dutch colonial architecture, chickens running around, and friendly people. Fun Fact: Apparently Saba boasts the highest per-capita consumption of Heineken in the world.

Eric, Zane, Chris E. and I split off from the rest of the group and hiked from the bottom up a beautiful jungle trail toward Mt. Scenery
Another cool thing about Saba: It’s an island in the Carribean, but its highest point is higher than any in the Netherlands

The trail up Mt. Scenery was an all out Jungle. It was hot but the shade and humidity offered welcome relief from the sun.

° Even so, my back got sooooo sweaty.

My hiking companions: Captain Eric, Chris E. and Zane.
To reach the summit we had to slither up through the middle of this pile of rocks.

It was a great feeling to summit, even though it was so cloudy that we really couldn’t see anything. We were supposed to get certificates for successfully making the climb, but some jerk group of kids had just come through and cleaned out the park office.
The jungle mud really did a number on our shoes. Eric (in the middle) kept losing his flip flops in the muck.

After leaving the summit, we made our way to a secondary peak…

… the home of an abandoned radio tower
It reminded me of a scene from Jurassic Park, minus the velociraptors. We climbed up most of the way, but didn’t make it through the cloud cover. On a clear day we probably could’ve seen for hundreds of miles from the top.
After a lunch of Goldfish and peanut butter and jelly, we descended the other side of the mountain and arrived at the other major town in Saba: Windward Side. We stopped at a little grocery store and I bought the best ginger beer of my life. I don’t remember what kind it was, but the combination of me being totally exhausted and a cold, fizzy, ginger-clouded drink was simply amazing.
From Windward Side we hitched rides back to The Bottom.
Hitch-hiking is a pretty common practice on Saba, and Zane and I were able to score a ride in the back of an empty pickup

° These guys were considerably more cramped.

° The ride back to the Bottom was beautiful, but very quick. If Saba has speed limits, you’d never know from the way the locals drive.

° From The Bottom, we made our way back down the ladder, and back to Ocean Star.

Back on board, I wrote this entry in my journal:

I did it! I summited the highest mountain in the kingdom of holland! It was pretty hard for a while but one I got in the groove of it it was actually not bad at all. I definitely could be in better shape though. I just ate a wild mango that I brought back from he island and it was so good! A little stringy but mad juicy and great flavor. I saved the seed and I’m gonna try to brin it back to the us and plant some mango trees. As if I don’t already have enough plants haha. It’s ok though, I’d rather fill my house with plants as suivoniers than random stuff right! I hope the seeds sprout. Seba is a cool cool island. It’s so badass that you have to go up like 100000 stairs just to get to the bottom haha, and you can hitch hike anywhere. It was cool and I’d like to stay there and see some more stuff, but were leaving tonight for the BVIs. Last long sail of the trip dannnnngggggg.

(Unfortunately I was too afraid to try to get that seed through customs. It was a damn good mango though.)

(Photos marked with ° were taken by other crew members)

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