30 March 2015

Saba - Dutch Living in the Caribbean

Getting to Saba is an adventure.




Our destination is a steep forbidding coast.
It feels more like an Atlantic outpost than Caribbean. 

A bit like the west of Ireland


See that tiny sailboat? 


Our ferry is the so-called Heineken ferry. 

The ad said it provided “on-board refreshment service”.

This turns out to be a cooler of Heineken.

We had to move our bags, since waves came across the floor.

It slides merrily across the bouncing metal deck with the waves.
The salty waves pour through, too. 

We have to lift our feet.

No beaches on Saba.

When we arrive on the island, (there are only 8 ferry passengers) the customs agent calls us by name. 

She knows who we are. 
Everyone is related. 



She’s also the property manager of the place we’ve rented. 




Saba is beautiful. 
Very different to anywhere we've been.




The road is ridiculously steep, even for the Caribbean.

Towns are perched WAY up.




Saba feels weirdly like being in the Alps. Tropical Alps.

I just didn’t expect people to be speaking Dutch.





The houses are incredibly tidy and freshly painted.
 Ours is over 150 years old,

It feels so - peculiarly - Dutch.




It's comfortable, but just so very...odd.





When we leave for St.Thomas, we take a tiny airplane from a tiny airport. 
The only airfield on the island is stretched out over the water. 

There's no other place to put it.

The runway is only 1200 feet - 300 m - long. 
As a pilot I know - this is a REALLY SHORT runway.




Somehow - it works. 
They've done it before.



And - off we go. Over the wild blue.


25 March 2015

Aboard the Windjammer "Sagitta"


In the spirit of research and adventure, we found ourselves on board a lovely old 122’ 3-masted “Windjammer”. 

The crew is from Guyana, the Galapagos, Ecuador, Nevis. 
There are 10 passengers. We sail out of St. Maarten.



Our cabin is luxurious compared to the smaller boats we’ve been on. 
Our private bathroom even has a separate shower! 
No spraying everything! 

Plus, someone else is shopping and cooking. 
It feels rather decadent. 
Two coolers are always filled with rum, beer and wine. 

We see double rainbows and even the elusive green flash at sunset. Twice.
Of course, that may be the rum. 

-Toss another umbrella in that drink, will you?





There are no power winches here. No bow thrusters. 
No self-furling sails. No automatic anything. 
These sails take muscle. (Good thing the crew provides most of that.) 
It’s a beautiful ship. 


At night, we dance on the teak deck below the stars.

This trip is through the Leeward Islands, larger and better known than the Windwards. At night, some of the sailing is rough enough to worry about falling out of bed.


-Just the right amount of adventure.

"Man the winches! Full speed ahead! Ahoy!"

23 March 2015

Sailing the The Leeward Islands


On board "Sagitta", we sail the Leeward Islands.

The Windjammer "Sagitta"


We've been traveling around the Caribbean for nearly 3 months. 

At the end of our trip, we decided to try something different.
Booking a last minute cabin, we set sail on a gorgeous "tall ship", the Windjammer "Sagitta".




The Leeward Islands lie between Puerto Rico and Dominica. 
Kind of in the middle of the Caribbean chain of islands. 

A few impressions:


St. Barts is posh. 

Yachts are jaw-droppingly sleek and expensive. 

People are aware of their looks and the impression they make on others. 
Our incredible ship fits right in, but by no means stands out. 

The St. Barts scene is about power and wealth. 
There’s plenty of both on display here. 

(I don't think I took any pictures - !)










Nevis is old-fashioned and comfortable. 

Behind Charlestown, cloud-covered Mount Nevis sends a cool breeze into town. 

Women wear hats and heels. 
Men’s shoes are polished, they walk with canes. 

Beach attire seems too casual. 

It feels sedate and attractive. A world away from St.Barts. 
I was here with my family in 1980, and liked it then. 

I still like it.



In St. Kitts, we discover the excellent 
“Historical Cultural & Educational Research Facility and Document University”.

The owner is “Doctor of Culture” Mr. Winston Nisbett. 

The museum is FULL: 
Birds, appliances, guitars, tools.
Documents, photographs, mongooses, monkeys.

All gathered and proudly displayed.

We LOVED this spot.

It's a one-of-a-kind museum, totally personal, totally quirky.
The collection is wild and chaotic.

And the personable owner - excellent.



On to - Anguilla - with the most glorious beaches! 

Otherwise, it’s pretty flat and dry. 



While sailing, we see whales.

While snorkeling, SQUID! 

Eight very cool synchronized color-changing squid.
All dancing in a row.

-One of my coolest snorkeling experiences ever.

Somewhere - in the Leeward Islands.





21 March 2015

Dominica, Pristine & Remote



Dominica. 
Another island that has been on my list for years.


In the 5 months we spent on the move in the Caribbean, THIS is one of my all-time favorite spots.



Not a soul in sight. 
Waves and birds the only sounds. 

Yet its full Friday morning. 

Okay, the sound of a dinghy.

Tidy little wooden cottage at the edge of the rainforest. 
The ocean just steps in front of me. 

Rain pounding onto the metal roof, sea flat and indigo. 

A 600 year old tree beside the cottage. 
That's before Columbus ever set eyes on the Americas.


The night guard brings us a bag of fruit from the gardens. 
His smile is wide and shy.

A rasta guy on the road calls out, "Welcome to Domenica!"

Everyone is so proud of their island.




The roads struggle to cross the steep mountains.
And these are mountains to be reckoned with. 

Men repairing large potholes wave. 

Ok, Mami! they call as we pass. 
People are excited to see us.

In places, the track is barely wide enough for our little car.

But the scenery! 

 Deep vales of huge tropical plants. 
Massive walls of ferns and bamboo! 

Bananas, papayas, breadfruit.
All growing wild along the side of the road.  

Bougainvillea, hibiscus, plumeria and a dozen others reach for the sky. 

The wealthy haven't claimed the oceanfront in Domenica. 
Here, some of the most spectacular views are fronted by an old wooden cabin.

Or nothing. 
Maybe a few curious goats.



Incredible pristine beauty. And not a soul around.


There simply arent many visitors to Dominica. 
We have the coastline and rivers to ourselves. 

Shared with a crab or a funny little agouti. 

Maybe a curious iguana.



Found these all in the same garden.




Deep in the rain forest, we find another tiny wooden cottage to rent.

Outdoor shower, hammock, balcony. 
Everything just perfect. 

The owners are young and French. 
I can smell dinner. 

They bake their own bread. 
Make their own pâté

Use the local ingredients to design incredible meals. 

Even a fresh grapefruit meringue pie. 
- Grapefruit meringue!




Our 2-wheel drive car wouldn’t make it up here. 

The road is daunting. 

The gardener said we could park it at his fathers house, down the road, so we did.
Then all of us walked up the steep hill.





Drove along the north coast and through various mountains.
Stopped at Number One Beach, where Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. 

Yes, another world. 
An abundance of nature - beautiful and remote.

If you ever get the chance - Domenica - don't hesitate.

Iguanas are waiting...



14 March 2015

Sailing the Turquoise Grenadines

St. Vincent “Vincy” and the Turquoise Grenadines


View of the Grenadines by air. Splendid - looks like snorkeling is a definite possibility.


I don’t think anyone could help liking the Grenadines
The people are warm and friendly. 

They enjoy life. 

The islands are mountainous, beautiful.
Surrounded by warm seas.
And the most amazing shades of turquoise blue and aqua.

I've always wanted to explore the Grenadines. 
It's been on my list for years. 

I'm pretty excited about it. 

We charter a 45' monohull, with a captain, to spend a week sailing the islands. 
It's still very windy, and I'm ready for adventures!


The plastic step stool is a nice touch.


We take a very small plane and a very green jeep to find our boat.



The only taxi driver on the island.
He gave us the island tour. It only lasted a few minutes. It's a small island.




Colorful reefs, clear water. 
Handmade wooden boats and fresh lobster.





The whole place has the atmosphere of a small friendly village. 
Everyone knows each other. 
I have the feeling that we'd feel almost like locals after a couple of weeks. 

These islands are further apart than in the Virgin Islands. 

Lots of ocean in between.




These waves are larger, the winds stronger. 
Our 45’ boat heels so much we can barely hang on. 

All a bit scary.

 I’m glad we chose to take a boat with a captain, a great local guy named Gary.




Not only is he ultimately responsible for the sailing, but - through him, we find the best anchor spots, street BBQs, jeep taxis and lobster when we get to the various islands. 

He knows everyone. 
It’s obvious they like and respect him. 

The "boat boys" know him, which - makes our life easier, too.

(With him, we got to visit a killer local BBQ scene-!
NOT one I was going to pull a camera out at.)




When the sailing gets too intense or tiring, he takes over. 

And we just - hang on and enjoy.




If this isn't heaven, then - I don't know what is. 

13 March 2015

Mostly Harmless in the Tobago Cays

“Mostly Harmless” 




We took Dave’s wooden boat, “Mostly Harmless”, out to the Tobago Cays, along with 4 young Grenadian students, an Italian visitor, and an English family of 3. 

And several GALLONS of rum punch and a cooler FULL of local beer. 

Oh, the COLORS of that water!! 
I’ve never SEEN shades of aqua and turquoise like that!

The winds were high. The seas were rough. 

There were a few tense moments as the powerful motor coughed and failed for a spell as the waves knocked the boat around. But we survived. 
And wound up snorkeling - in water a color I’ve truly never seen before. 

Fish and corals and turtles and rays. 
As we neared a pristine beach on a narrow island, a fellow in a small bright red boat asked if we wanted lobsters or fish for lunch.

Off on a lobster mission.

He took our order, and buzzed off to catch the lobsters. 
An hour later, we had the most delicious lunch on tables on the sand.

The local lobsters don't have big claws - they're spiny.
Apart from us, the island was deserted. 

It's one of the many beautiful and deserted islands in the amazing Tobago Cays. 

The Tobago Cays belongs to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, but it's a short trip from Carriacou. 
A bit rough, but - totally worth it.

"Scaramouche" from the film "Pirates of the Caribbean" sails by us. How fitting.


While we are waiting for our lobster, our captain finds a few conch snacks.
The water is so clear, he can reach down and pick them out.


Cleaning the conch.


The only downside to this paradise is the incredibly strong wind. 
Each time we visited the Cays, it was blowing.  

But, once you get underwater - who cares? 
The snorkeling - among the turtles, too - is amazing.  


The lone palapa.

One of the islands has only one lone palapa umbrella. 
That's the only existing structure. 

When we visited, there was a rasta-type couple under the umbrella. 
Off a nearby anchored sailboat.

Just came over with their boat for a snorkel and a smoke.

Mostly Harmless Captain and First Mate chill on Happy Island


On the way, we stopped at "Happy Island". 

The only building on the tiny rock island is a bar.


Fresh lobster, rice and plantains. Delicious.


Bon appetit!