Saba – Island kingdom in the Clouds

Mira sailed next from Nevis to island of Saba – about 44 nm or a 7 hour sail to the north, around the middle of March.

Saba is a magnificent volcanic island that rises straight up from the sea floor with very deep water on all sides and appears to extend straight up into the clouds. Only 5 square miles, it reaches 3084 feet.

As you sail past Saba, the ruggedness of the island strikes you. Huge jagged brown mountains litter the island. Saba sits isolated and unprotected from the swells and wind of the Atlantic Ocean, which creates this stark topography.  Despite the forbidding perimeter of the island, we discovered that the interior of Saba is a hidden paradise, a Caribbean Shangri-la.

Like all good hidden kingdoms, Saba doesn’t come easily to visitors.  Saba only has one harbor for entry of all boats and people. Many sailors have been known to sail by this harbor and just keep going. It can have wild waves crashing against the concrete piers – making it very difficult to land a dinghy or small boat.  Glenn studied the weather and felt that the swells from the previous week should have diminished, since the winds had been lessening for days. When we sailed up to Fort Bay – the only anchorage on the island – we were met with huge waves crashing against the rocks surrounding the harbor and no discernible dinghy dock or place for us to tie up to clear customs. By VHF radio the harbormaster informed us that we should pick up a mooring in Ladder Bay about 2 miles away and dinghy in! As we motored around the west side of Saba, the winds miraculously dropped, and we were secure in a beautifully calm, picturesque anchorage. But, we still needed to dinghy around to customs. We steeled ourselves for the rambunctious ride – donned foul weather gear and PFD’s – and proceeded through the waves to Fort Bay. The ride was indeed a wild one, and all of our subsequent trips to the island were by larger tenders owned by Saba. 😦  Once ashore, we arranged an island tour for the next day, and also planned to do some hiking on our own.

Saba’s history is fascinating. Until the 1940’s the island was almost completely inaccessible. Some 800 steps up a sheer cliff in Ladder Bay was the only way for people and goods to come onto Saba. You can see the original steps if you look closely in the photo above – just beyond where we were anchored.

The 2000 full-time residents of Saba are descendants of hardy Dutch, Scottish and English settlers. The original settlers fought hard in the 1950s to hand-build a series of winding roads throughout the island – after being repeatedly told that it was impossible. Today the island is a wonder – beautiful white houses trimmed in green with red roofs, clean roads, happy and helpful Sabans welcome all visitors with open arms. We were charmed by both the people and the island of Saba.


Fascinated by the lush interior of Saba, we were anxious to hike up into the mountains and explore. We hiked a very steep, windy trail for several hours into the mountains of Saba.

The trail started out very lush but rugged.

The trail wound its way up into the mountains – for some startling views of the coastline below.

Even got a glimpse of Mira far, far below.
Exhausted by our long day of exploration, we were treated to another beautiful sunset to end the day.  We would have loved to spend more time on Saba, but it was time to press North to our next island.  Saba, we’ll be back for sure!

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