We circumnavigated St. Martin. We spent some time in chic Marigot, had a couple of lovely nights and a fabulous meal in gastronomic Grand Case, spent an evening on a mooring off the deserted island of Tintamarre, and ended up in famous Orient Beach for a night. Reinhart took the photos below in one of the anchorages. We’ve both often said “what green flash…you guys are just imagining it”, but now that we caught it on camera, we have to apologize to you (for instance, Cara).
|Les Voiles de Saint-Barth, Day 2 start|
We heard there was a race in St. Barth, so we sailed over a day early hoping to catch it. We were so glad we got in early enough to get a good spot in the outer anchorage, because it filled up over the next several days. The race is called the Les Voiles de Saint-Barth, and there were many classes of race boat represented. The boats ranged from 22’ with 6-8 crew members all the way up to over 100’ with 20-25 crewmembers (mostly rail meat). It was a lot of fun climbing up to Fort Carl and watching the boats waiting together in the start area with their main sails up. We’d listen to the VHF radio announcement of each race start and try to figure out which class would be hoisting their headsails and taking off. The wind was very light for the whole week, so they weren’t particularly fast races. The time passed quickly in St. Barth though, and before we knew it a week had passed.
|During the race, a few different classes represented|
We were eager to get back to St. Martin for a gathering of northbound sailors on Saturday afternoon. We checked-out of St. Barth customs/immigration/port control on Saturday morning, weighed anchor, had a lovely 3 hour sail back to Simpson Bay, anchored outside of the bridge, checked-in with Dutch St. Maarten customs/immigration/port control, and were at Lagoonies in time for a good seat for the presentation! We stayed in town a few more days to do a couple thousand dollars of upgrades to the boat (St. Martin is good and bad that way). We checked-out and weighed anchor before we could do any more improvements to the boat (or damage to the bank account) and headed for Saba.
Click here to look at our sailmaia blog from May of 2007 where we talk about our similar experiences in the Leeward Islands.
|The Bottom, Saba|
Saba was one of our favorite islands in 2007. That year, we had anchored in Ladder Bay, beached the dinghy every day and walked up hundreds of steps to visit the island. We had a magical broad reach down to Saba, and due to a late start came into Fort Bay on the south side of the island a little later than expected. The park moorings were all taken and we anchored in the extremely rough port to check-in and speak with the marine park representative. He discouraged us from going to Ladder Bay to pick up any of those empty moorings because of the large swell, and he said we shouldn’t ever try to land a dinghy there, and seemed a bit shocked that we had in the past.
The next morning we switched over to a vacated mooring and headed in to walk the steep volcanic island. First, we walked up the steep road from the port to the village of The Bottom. The town was just as clean, quiet, and pretty as we remembered. We went over to the west side and walked down The Ladder. The beach at the bottom of The Ladder is no longer there; all of the sand has washed away and left a thin strip of rocky land. We understand why no one lands dinghies anymore! We had lunch in town and felt shabby compared to all of the business folks dressed up for work in suits and dresses. One of the things we loved about Saba that hasn’t changed is their wonderful trail system. Until the 1950s, these tracks were the only way to get around the island, so they are mature and well maintained. This time, rather than hiking to the top of Mt Scenic (at 3000’ is the highest point in the Netherlands!), we hiked up and across the island to the town of Windwardside. Windwardside is similar to The Bottom, almost as charming but with a better view of the ocean, and a bit more of a touristy feel…no suits and dresses on this side! We headed back over the trail and realized we might have been overambitious with our walking. I had no problem with the uphill portion, but the 2000’ back down to the boat was very hard for me and I had to take it pretty slow, getting us back to the dinghy just after sunset. The winds and waves had not calmed at all and we spent one of our roughest nights ever in a harbor – it felt like we were on passage. In calmer conditions we probably would have spent another night or two in Saba, but it was just too much, so we decided to sail over to St. Eustatius (Statia) and hope Oranjestad was a bit calmer.
|Rockhopper in the line of fire at Oranje Baai|
The sail over to Orangestad was not nearly as nice as our broad reach to Saba a couple days before. We were close hauled in choppy conditions and those few hours seemed longer than they actually were. We were thrilled to pull into Oranjestad and find the anchorage was unusually calm…for one night. The harbor got progressively rolly over the next couple of nights and we ended up setting a stern anchor, which successfully kept us pointed into the swell. We walked up the cobbled path to the upper town. When we were here in 2007 they were doing a lot of restoration, and those efforts have come a long way.
|Reinhart in The Quill, Statia|
Another day we hiked up and into the dormant Volcano known as The Quill, and another day we snorkeled the old port ruins in the harbor. Statia has a very interesting past to consider as you walk the historic streets. There is a population of ~3500 people, but it has come down considerably since the 1700s, when it was a major Caribbean port. Like Saba, it is very clean and friendly, and unemployment is low, giving the island an authentic feeling rather than seeming like it is only a tourist destination. Both islands are known for their extensive diving opportunities and good hiking, but they don’t have great beaches or ports suitable for cruise ships, so they are somewhat overlooked by the tourism industry. I could spend weeks in these quiet Dutch islands, but after three nights, it was time to start making our way back north.
|Mindy at the top of The Ladder, Saba|
We are now back in St. Barth. We decided it would more fun to do some preparations and provisioning for our passage here in addition to St. Martin. We arrived yesterday afternoon and found out there is yet another race (the finish line of the Transatlantic race, Transat Ag2r) and the St. Barth Film Festival, so we’ll see how much work we managed to get done. We’ll still spend a few more days in St. Martin to fuel up and wait for a good weather window to Bermuda. I’ll update the blog one more time next week before we leave with details of the passage.
18°04.059N 063°05.565W; Marigot, St. Martin; 05Apr16
18°06.253N 063°03.420W; Grand Case, St. Martin; 06-07Apr16
18°07.056N 062°59.313W; Tintamarre Island mooring, St. Martin; 08Apr16
18°05.138N 063°00.885W; Orient Bay, St. Martin; 09Apr16
17°53.923N 062°51.444W; Gustavia Outer Harbor, St. Barth 10-15Apr16
18°01.964N 063°05.829W; Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten; 16-19Apr16
17°36.816N 063°14.769W; Fort Bay mooring, Saba 20-21Apr16
17°28.838N 062°59.346W; Oranje Baai, St. Eustatius 22-24Apr16
17°54.011N 062°51.469W; Gustavia Outer Harbor, St. Barth 25Apr16…