Friends Afloat

We love sharing our somewhat strange lifestyle with friends.  While it’s clearly a vacation from their normal lives, it’s also a break from the cruising routine for us.  We were recently privileged to welcome Phil and Holly, our neighbors from Orient, NY aboard Neko.

IMG_6122

Orient comes to L’Orient

We had a lovely tour of St. Barths and a circumnavigation of St. Martin, experiencing both the Dutch and French sides of the island.  They were GENIUS to buy travel insurance because the week they first planned to visit we were pinned down in the lagoon due to extreme winds and squalls.  They were able to push their trip back a week and we were all blessed with clear sunny skies.  These two are the king and queen of chill, which makes them a pleasure to have as guests.  It was a joy to catch up with them and the goings on back east.

Next up were Dave and Eileen for a long weekend in the BVI’s.  Flexible travelers make the best cruising guests, and these two are masters at last minute bookings.  It was fantastic to give them a short respite from the long NYC winter and work grind.  We got in some spectacular snorkeling and sailing during their quick visit.  After 20+ years of knowing Dave we only  just learned about his obsession with coiling lines.  A trait that is always welcomed on Neko.  With both, it was of course always a party with great meals and good wine.

Along with the joy of land visitors we had reunions with long lost cruising pals.

We met Mike and Robin from s/v Mermaid back on the Pacific side of Mexico, we haven’t seen them since Panama 2014.  And of course our comrades Charlotte & James on m/y Pegasus can’t get rid of us 😉   What a treat to all be together again in St Martin.

And we were delighted to run into m/y Tropical Blend & s/v Symbiosis and spend a day exploring the island of Anegada together.

Our latest buddy boat is s/v Nightingale Tune. We’ve been together on and off all season and are so proud of them for adopting not 1 BUT 2 island dogs.  Fur friends are always welcome on Neko.

Finally, we were excited to catch up with Torben and Judy from s/v Tivoli.  They had just finished a transatlantic sail from the Canaries to the BVI’s and we were there to welcome them to their first landfall in three weeks.

DSC_0769

Tivoli arriving in Virgin Gorda looking fresh as daisies after 3 weeks transAtlantic crossing.

If you are a regular reader of our blog, you will see that Torben and Judy were with us for our first significant trip on Neko – sailing her from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  They taught us so much in that weeklong trip that we consider them our cruising godparents.  It was 4 years since we had last seen them, but the time melted away instantly into perfect camaraderie.

It is wonderful to catch up with friends old and new and to share our salt water life with them, even if it’s just for a short time.

Advertisements

Double Dutch

Saba and St. Eustatius, aka Statia, are two large rocks passing as islands in the Netherlands Antilles.  Sandwiched between St Martin & St. Kitts, many bypass these island because of their questionable and often times rolly anchorages, both of which have a decidedly “industrial” feel.  However, don’t judge a book by its cover should be the motto of these Dutch islands – and we would hate to see them not get their share of cruisers because of the marginal anchorages and homely surroundings that greet you. Sounds great doesn’t it 😉   But I (Mary) got a bee in my bonnet that we had to go to them because we’d read the scuba diving was some of the best in the Caribbean.   So we waited and waited and finally got calm weather to visit these Dutch delights and we are thankful we did.

oil barges Statia

oil barges Statia

The less than green side of Saba

The less than green side of Saba

OK landlubbers, the next couple paragraphs are for our fellow cruisers to help them enjoy a stop in these islands. You see, the anchorages are exposed to ocean swell that wraps around the island (remember they are essentially just rocks in the ocean) and can make boats at anchor or mooring roll gunwale to gunwale.  While we were at Statia we saw two monohulls come in only to spend one miserable night and leave at first light, not getting to explore the cute little island.  It doesn’t have to be like that.  We spent three days in Statia and another three in Saba and it was not bad at all.  You just have to RIG YOUR GROUND TACKLE TO PUT THE BOAT’S BOW INTO THE SWELL.

Neko the only cruising boat in the harbor

Neko the only cruising boat in Oranje Baai, Statia

There are two ways you can do this:  First, like us – put a bridle on your anchor.  It works just as well on the moorings in the harbor.  Put one line to the bow and another to the stern.  Adjust the lines so the wind catches you broadsides and the swell comes at your bow.  It makes for more windage but you should have ground tackle that can handle it.  The other method is to pick out a mooring and motor out in the direction the swell is coming from.  Drop your anchor and back down and the wind will push you seaward from the mooring.  Take a line from your stern to the mooring and adjust to hold your bow into the swell.  This method has the benefit of keeping you in this attitude even if the wind dies. But either way, COME ON PEOPLE, give it a try.  In Saba, you also have the option of going to another side of the island to avoid the swell.  It’s got anchorages and moorings on the west and south side, so you can pick the location with the least swell.

statia-anchor

statia-anchor

A little more work than just tossing the hook as we all are accustomed to, but it is worth it.  Both islands have excellent diving.  On Statia, we went on dives with Golden Rock Dive Center to two wreck sites.  One consisted of two trading ships that went down in the harbor in the 1700’s, leaving today only two giant anchors and a line of coral where the ships once lay.  The other could not have been more different.  The Chien Tong sunk in 2004 and is largely intact.  It was eery to swim in and around it and see how the ocean life is slowly taking it over.  We hiked up the picture perfect volcano cone – it looks like they could have filmed King Kong here.  We inspected the ruins of warehouses and offices and other dockside structures built in the 18th century when Statia was a leading trading island, hosting dozens of ships at a time in its rolly anchorage.  

On land, Statia offers a charming and sleepy town with historic fort, hikes and some of the most literate goats we’ve met.  These guys were hanging out on the steps to the library waiting for it to open.  

Goats waiting for the library to open. Reading or eating the books is the question.

To help you on your next appearance on Jeopardy (you’ll have to split your winnings with us), note that Statia’s was the first government to officially recognize the United States as an independent nation by firing a signal cannon to recognize a ship from the newly declared republic entering its harbor.  

Next stop Saba

Next stop Saba

The other nearby Dutch island is Saba.  We were there during one of the rare calm spells, so we didn’t have to employ any special anchoring techniques, but the diving on Saba was just as unique.  The water is clear as … well, water and the sea life abundant and not afraid of divers.  There were more living huge corals than we’d seen in a long time.  Ben and Kato at Saba Divers run a great shop, and are highly recommended.

Saba’s two main towns are called “Bottom” (its at the bottom of a hill) and “Windwardside” (its on the windward side of the island).  Saba’s pioneers were apparently very literal people, or perhaps they didn’t have time to dream up fanciful names for their towns.  But what the towns lack in naming creativity, they make up in abundance in cuteness.  Imagine winding little stone paths, with gingerbread cottages and knee high white picket fences.  There was even a tame neighborhood rabbit living in the well-tended cemetery.  The red roof ordinance was in effect here, as most of the buildings sported clean red roofs, lending the town an appealing uniformity.

Red roof ordinance

Red roof ordinance

Stone pathways lead you through the village.

Stone pathways lead you through the village.

dsc_0608 dsc_0582 dsc_0610

dsc_0618 dsc_0592

Luckily Sabans moved their customs house to the more easily accessible Fort Bay. Until the 1940s everyone and everything entered Saba up “The Ladder”.  Walking waist deep in the breaking waves, up 800 steep steps to the customs house perched high above the rough seas.  Royals, commoners, medicine, furniture, food, etc. all used this route.  Think about that next time you are complaining about the wait at customs and immigrations.

The Ladder consists of 800 steep stairs up to the old customs house. Until the 1940s everyone and everything entered Saba this way.

The Ladder consists of 800 steep stairs up to the old customs house.

The road up from the harbor is a twisty set of hair-raising switchbacks leaning over the cliff, with a tiny stone guard rail that wouldn’t stop a runaway ten speed.

The long and winding road.

The long and winding road.

Mrs. Lollipop, our cab driver said they were all safe drivers on the island, but when Mary pressed she would not confirm that no locals had a drink before setting out on the road.  Indeed, when she picked us up after our dinner, she popped out of a bar to hop in her car.  The drive down was safe and slow, though, as she told us about her kids all scattered across the islands and America.  It was just as well, because a big swell was due the next day which would make our location uncomfortable.  So we battened down the hatches and set off on a quick overnight trip to the British Virgin Islands, and our planned meetup with friends.