Whadda you do with your charter guests who are on their fourth charter and want a unique island to explore? If you are in the Dutch Antilles, take them to Saba. Saba is a unique island, as it almost seems like it should be in the Mediterranean rather than the Caribbean. In early times, once inhabited predominantly by white settlers, it appeared more European. Quite a few made their way as sea captains of large ships.
There’s only one problem: there are no good anchorages. Saba is a stratovolcano and its highest mountain is Mt. Scenery at 2,828 feet, a lava dome. Saba last erupted in 1640 and one of its little towns, known as The Bottom, lies in its crater.
With seasoned charterers Dan and Joellen Hagge aboard in 1972, we all vetoed anchoring at the usually very rolly Ladder Bay, where the only close access to civilization was almost straight up 800 hand-hewed stone steps to the town of The Bottom. This was before the ship dock was built.
Instead we flew there in a very small plane with an ex fighter pilot who decided to show us Saba by ear, that is, on your ear. It’s always a necessity to fly over the runway first to clear the goats off, but our cheerful pilot also flew us sideways along all the hand-made stone roads built by the locals. This amazing feat, which the Dutch engineers adamantly argued couldn’t be done, took up to twelve back-aching years.
Fortunately we met Elmer Hassell who took us up and down these incredibly steep roads in his red jeep, through spotless narrow streets in the charming, flower-decked villages of Hell’s Gate, Windwardside and The Bottom. Elmer welcomed us into his home to meet his wife Estelle and his neighbors, who introduced us to their unique, delicate drawn work called Spanish Lace which has become one of Saba’s “industries.”
Today Saba is an ecological magnet for those who enjoy its particularly challenging hikes and for scuba divers who like to go to the edge, or in this case, down the steep sides of Saba which plunge hundreds of feet.
Jeannie Kuich, once a long-time charter chef in the Virgin Islands, has been writing monthly columns for the Daily News since 1985 and periodic columns for Caribbean Boating, Nautical Scene, St. Thomas This Week and Cruising World magazines. Jeannie is the author of “Soap Operas of the Sky,” the only stargazing sky guide for the Caribbean.