Morne Diablotin. Lost in The Labyrinth of Hell

View from Morne Diablotin

View from Morne Diablotin

Dominica is the youngest of all the Caribbean islands, still being shaped by volcanic and geothermal activity. Rich with rivers and waterfalls, lush forested mountains teaming with wildlife, Dominica  offers miles and miles of hiking trails all around the island. The ultimate and most difficult hike is not The Boiling Lake, as many wrongly think, but the trail to the highest peak standing at 1,447 meters (4,747ft) above the sea: Morne Diablotin, The Devil’s Mountain.

Road to the trailhead

Road to the trailhead

After a night of abundant tropical rain, around 7:30 a.m., we take a bus from Plymouth direction Roseau to the intersection of the road leading up to the Morne Diablotin trail. The bus ride, 15-20 minutes, costs us 3 EC per person and the driver knows exactly where to drop us off. We start up the road, steep but paved, walking among farms and agricultural lands, stopping often to eat fruits.

Maya with grapefruit

Maya with grapefruit

There are mango, oranges, and grapefruit trees on the side of the road covered with ripe fruit, some of it lying on the ground under the trees.

Ivo and Maya near a fallen banana tree

Ivo and Maya near a fallen banana tree

Maya, the blue wizard,  saving bananas from rotting on the ground.

Maya, the blue wizard, saving bananas from rotting on the ground.

We have a fresh delicious fruit salad for breakfast right there on the road, and gather a few mangoes and grapefruits for later in a bag adding to the already heavy load Ivo is hauling on his back: water bottles, sandwiches, rain ponchos, and jackets for the three of us.

Mira with mango

Mira with mango

Fresh grapefruit

Fresh grapefruit

Maya and Ivo

Maya and Ivo

The higher we go the colder it gets and it drizzles every now and then, so we put on our blue rain ponchos. We meet people working on their lands, gathering fruits, planting trees, greeting us.

Planting a coconut palm tree

Planting a coconut palm tree

After 2 hours, already a bit tired of walking uphill, we reach the trailhead where a warning sign explains that the hike to the mountain summit is between 2 and 3 hours long in one direction and should not be attempted after 10:30 a.m. It’s 10:00 a.m. so we are good to go. There is no one here to present our one-week park permits to, so we simply enter the park and start walking.

Maya at Morne Diablotin trailhead

Maya at Morne Diablotin trailhead

“A certified guide is strongly recommended”, the sign advises. We don’t have a guide as they charge somewhere between 50 and 100 $US per person for this hike.

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In the beginning we walk slightly uphill on steps made of wood. Soon, the climb becomes steeper and the steps are replaced by roots. The forest is beautiful: giant wet ferns and tall trees covered with moss. The ground is very muddy from last night’s rain and our progress is slow, choosing where to step. After an hour I start thinking, this isn’t too bad. We can survive this terrain for 2 more hours.

Maya in the forest

Maya in the forest

Maya walking on roots

Maya walking on roots

The devil heard my though.

Just like that, the world transforms, like in a bad dream. Dark roots like monstrous intestines emerge from the ground to form an ugly twisted web all around us and above our heads.

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The tropical rainforest is replaced by nightmarish woods with trees that grow upside-down and sideways, twist and disappear in the swampy ground. Never seen anything like it, except maybe in horror films. The trail is no more.

Maya

Maya

We are now in a labyrinth of hell, painfully making our way up and up between these giant slippery moss-covered roots and branches, climbing on boulders, walking on trees, sinking in mud. If it was just a section that ends after 15 minutes it would be a fun experience, but this nightmare goes on forever, hour after hour. We wish we had superhuman powers, we wish we were ninjas, or lizards who can crawl, or birds who can fly, so that we could save ourselves. Even a certified guide wouldn’t be of any help here unless he can perform miracles.

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Three hours have passed and we are still in the infernal maze of roots and mud, still climbing up, still haven’t reach the summit. For the first time, I give up. I just don’t want to suffer anymore, and I know I have all this way, two hours of torture, to go back down. So I stop.

Mira

Mira

Ivo and Maya persist, determined to reach Dominica’s highest dome. I wait for them for one more hour, unable to sit anywhere, mud and roots covered with damp moss all around me. When they return, Ivo tells me it gets even worse further up and there is nothing really to see on top, especially with all those thick clouds. He had to carry Maya on his back a few times climbing up huge boulders and more of those hateful roots.

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I can’t believe they are calling this “a trail”. How is this a trail in a national park?

mud

mud

Maya

Maya

We have walked to a cave in Guatemala up the mountain through a jungle without trail, cutting vegetation and making steps in the steep ground with machetes in order to pass, walking across precipices and fallen trees. We have hiked for two days, across different climates and terrains, to the highest Caribbean peak with guides and mules, sleeping in mountain shelters. But we have never seen such an impossible “trail” as the Morne Diablotin one. We have never felt so defeated by mud and roots, so at the end of our strength.

Maya

Maya

Somehow we manage to get back down to the trailhead without any of us getting injured, even though we all fall in the mud over branches now and then.

Maya fell in the mud

Maya fell in the mud

Ivo fell over branches

Ivo fell over branches

It’s 5:00 p.m. and we haven’t had the chance to stop and eat anywhere. We are starving, tired, destroyed. We sit on the road for a while and eat our sandwiches, then we hitch a ride in the back of a pickup truck returning from a day’s work at the farms, loaded with avocados, pumpkins, oranges, and bananas. Then back on the bus, and back home, on the boat.

Maya at the end of the journey

Maya at the end of the journey

It has been a crazy hike in the most surreal terrain ever and Maya, 11-years-old, did really great. She remained positive and enthusiastic the entire time, leading the group, jumping from branch to branch. And even though at the end of the journey she cried a little bit, from exhaustion and pain in the legs, she was really happy she made it. I didn’t cry, but I also didn’t make it all the way to the top, and I felt miserable most of the time. Yet, now, looking back at this unique journey, I feel proud and glad we went there. One more incredible story to tell, one more unforgettable memory. (Just don’t ask me to go hike up to Morne Diablotin ever again…)

Maya

Maya

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Tall is Her Body

Tall is her body, her spirit young and independent. With devastating energy, she is fresh and attractive like no other: Dominica, „Isle of beauty Isle of splendor, Isle, to all so rich and rare…“(Dominica’s National Anthem)

Plymouth anchorage, Dominica

Plymouth anchorage, Dominica

The independent island-nation of Dominica stands out in the group of the Lesser Antilles Islands like a gorgeous young girl in a crowd. The youngest of all other islands in the region she is still being shaped by volcanic and geothermal activity making her the island with the most diverse, rich, unspoiled nature. Tall mountains and volcano craters covered with rainforest, home of rare plant and animal species, hundreds of lakes, rivers and waterfalls, hot springs, sandy beaches and reefs: land and waters teaming with life.

Dominica, East Coast

Dominica, East Coast

Here, we climbed the tallest of her peaks: Morne Diablotin standing at 1,447 meters (4,747 ft) above the sea level, the most unconceivable hike we have ever done, and we walked up to Boiling Lake, the second largest hot-water spring in the world, a lake inside a crater that is actually boiling!

Mira at Boiling Lake, Dominica

Mira at Boiling Lake, Dominica

We jumped in deep river-ponds, we bathed in geothermal pools, we showered under spectacular waterfalls, and we swam among hot bubbles coming out of coral reefs.
In the forests, where wild mango, grapefruit, and banana trees offered us snacks, we met the green Sisserou parrots, endangered endemic birds, which flew above our heads screaming like mad sorcerous some cacophonic warnings. And on the road, near a vast banana plantation, a shy agouti crossed our path.

Huge grasshopper, Dominica

Huge grasshopper, Dominica

During his second voyage, Columbus, his imagination stiff by the tropical heat, gave her the present name, Dominica, as it was Sunday when he passed by on November 3, 1493, and he had run out of saints for naming islands. But her original inhabitants, the Carib and Kalinago Indians used to call their island Wai‘tu kubuli, meaning “Tall is her body” for her many volcanoes and mountains with peaks lost inside clouds.

View of Dominica's West Coast from Morne Diablotin

View of Dominica’s West Coast from Morne Diablotin

As the neighboring islands were settled by the French and the British, their native populations decimated, their lands planted with sugarcane harvested by imported African slaves, Dominica remained unsettled, a neutral territory and a sanctuary for all remaining Caribs in the region until the 18th century. Today, Dominica is the only Eastern Caribbean island where about 3,000 pre-Columbian Caribs still live in a few small villages on the east coast: a designated Carib Territory.

Ivo at Trafalgar Fall, Dominica

Ivo at Trafalgar Fall, Dominica

As we went to visit them, we met Matilda Archibald selling woven baskets and hats by the road to passing tourists. She offered us guavas from her garden and a homemade ice cream from a large spiky fruit we’ve never seen before. It was fragrant and sweet.
“Comeback and visit me again”, she said. We would love to comeback, we thought as we kept going.

Matilda Archibald, descendant of the Carib Indians, Carib Territory, Dominica

Matilda Archibald, descendant of the Carib Indians, Carib Territory, Dominica

Further down the road we marveled at stunning vistas from tall cliffs: gorgeous bays with vegetation-covered rocks sticking out of the sea among reefs, another one of the many locations on the island providing the film set for The Pirates of The Caribbean.

Dominica's East Coast

Dominica’s East Coast

Later, we went for a dip at Champagne Reef, near Roseau, the capital, where geothermal volcanic activity not far from the shore has transformed a large underwater area into a bowl of bubbling ticklish champagne. Snorkeling there is a magical fun experience with hot fuzzy bubbles bumping into your goggles.

GOPR1200
Yes, even though Dominica is the least popular of all the Caribbean destinations, getting half the amount of visitors per year than Haiti, even though her economy is very much struggling, as most independent Caribbean nations, with poverty and unemployment her biggest issues, and even though land and water pollution are threatening the health of her rivers and coastal areas, Dominica is still ‘The Nature Island’, very much self-sufficient, where agriculture is the main economy and the inhabitants produce and consume an impressive amount of local fruits and vegetables, with unlimited freshwater supplies, clean hydroelectric production, as well as a geothermal project developed by Iceland, and many effective social and healthcare resources available to the population.

Maya at Champagne Reef, Dominica

Maya at Champagne Reef, Dominica

This is the Caribbean island with the most rivers and nature trails, and we enjoyed every moment of our two week visit there. We fell deeply in love with Dominica. We even thought that if we had to choose only one island in the Caribbean where we would return and even live, it would be her.

Emerald Pond Waterfall, Dominica

Emerald Pond Waterfall, Dominica

 

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Фата Моргана: нашият плаващ дом

За тези от вас които се чудят как така е възможно да живеем на лодка и какво ли представлява тя, от какво е направена, колко е голяма, колко стаи има и т.н., написах следната статия.

Когато започнете да си търсите лодка ще забележите, че процесът много наподобява на ухажване и избиране на бъдещата ви съпруга. Понякога е любов от пръв поглед, понякога си е чиста пресметливост. Но винаги бъдете готови за огромни разхди по поддръжката, особено в началото, особено ако е някоя голяма красавица. С времето нещата се уталожват.

Щом си купите лодката започва вашият сложен съвместен живот, докато Нептун не ви раздели. Понякога чуствата се засилват след като се опознаете, понякога се разочаровате и се разделяте завинаги; намирате си друга, по-добра. Често, след години съвместен живот, има много неща които ви дразнят, но и много неща които все още ви свързват: заедно сте преживели толкова много щастливи и толкова много неприятни мигове. На моменти я мразите, на моменти я обичате, но в трудни ситуации винаги разчитате на нея. Така е с лодките.

Мира и Фата Моргана

Мира и Фата Моргана

В началото незнаехме нищо за яхти и още по-малко за катамарани (двукорпусни лодки), нямахме никакъв опит в мореплаването и ветроходството и ни беше страх да не купим някой неадекватен боклук, който на втория ден да се разпадне. Започнахме да четем всичко каквото ни попадне за лодки и да говорим с хора, които знаят повече от нас и постепенно научихме доста и си изградихме някаква представа за това какво бихме искали да представлява нашият плаващ дом.

Ivo

Ivo

На първо място искахме да е здрава, сигурна и устойчива на лошо време, способна да прекосява океани. На второ място искахме да е достатъчно голяма и комфортна за нашето четиричленно семейство, за да не се чустваме притеснени или мизерни. На трето място, искахме лодката ни да е способна да се движии само на платна, без да ползваме мотора, тъй като се оказа, че много яхти са направени да се движат на мотор повечето време. Наричат ги „моторни ветроходи“.
В крайна сметка купихме 12 метров катамаран „леопард“ построен през 2001 година в Южна Африка, защото решихме че отговаря на всички наши изисквания. Фата Моргана е тежка, стабилна и сигурна лодка, изглежда малка отвън, но е е обширна и комфортна отвътре и въпреки че има не един ами два мотора по 44 конски сили всеки, не ни се налага да ги ползваме често.

Фата Моргана

Фата Моргана

Направена е от фибростъкло, материала от който се произвеждат повечето яхти в днешно време. Фибростъклото е лека и изключително здрава сплав която не ръждясва за разлика от метала и не изгнива за разлика от дървото. Също така е лесна за почистване и поддръжка. Но различните модели и видове лодки в зависимост от предназначението им са построени с различни видове и количество фибростъкло.
Някои яхти са направени със съвсем малко материал и са много леки, със стени тънки като хартийки, френските Бенето и Жано например. Те изглеждат луксозни отвътре, с бели кожени дивани, но не са пригодени за прекосяване на океани и за лошо време, а само за няколко-часови екскурзийки край френската ривиера. Тези са така наречените „яхти за удоволствие“ и са сравнително евтини. Лодките които участват в състезания и регати също са леки, защото колкото са по-леки толкова са и по-бързи, но са много по-качествени от ефирните яхти за удоволствие. Презокеанските яхти са направени с повече и с по-здрав материал и са доста по-тежки, пригодени за големи вълни, но са и по-скъпи. Те са по-сигурни, но често (не винаги) са и по-бавни. Наричат ги „тухли“. Нашата Фата Моргана е от тухлите.

Иво

Иво

Също така държавата в която е построена лодката има значение. Около Южна Африка са едни от най-турболентните опасни води в света с безмилостни ветрове, огромни вълни и силни течения. Кой не е чувал за Нос Добра Надежда и неговата репутация? Затова, яхтите построени там са направени с цел да устоят на лоши метеорологични условия.

Фата Моргана

Фата Моргана

На второ място в списъка ни с изисквания беше пространството и разположението вътре в лодката. Не сме тръгнали на къмпинг за 1-2 месеца, нито на състезание. Смятаме да живеем на вода години наред. Затова лодката ни прилича на къща отвътре, а не на палатка, с всички удобства и комфорт. Имаме 3 идентични големи кабини всяка с двуместно легло и много място за дрехи, книги, играчки и т.н. Имаме си бели чаршафи и възглавници, също като в къща, само дето матраците са направени от специален бързо-съхнещ дунапрен за лодки.

Фата Моргана-Разположение

Фата Моргана-Разположение

1.-Кабина (склад)

2-Кабината на Мая

3-Кабината на Иво и Мира

4-Салон

5-кухня

6-тоалетна

7-тоалетна

8-баня

9-рулево

Кабината на Иво и Мира

Кабината на Иво и Мира

Кабината на Мая (вечен безпорядък)

Кабината на Мая (вечен безпорядък)

Стълбите от кухнята към левият корпус

Стълбите от кухнята към левият корпус

В левият корпус се намират двете кабини на Мая и на Виктор, с тесен коридор и тоалетна посредата. Сега когато Виктор вече не живее с нас на лодката, ползваме неговата кабина за склад. В десният корпус се намира нашата кабина, малка тоалетна и голяма баня с душ. По средата между двата корпуса има издигнато помещение разделено на две пространства. По-голямото е салона с 4-5-местен диван около трапезарна маса, която може да слиза надолу с механизъм и се превръща в думестно легло за гости, а по-малкото е кухнята където си имам мивка с две ванички, електрически хладилник и фризер с хоризонтално затваряне, фурна с двоен котлон на газ и няколко шкафчета и долапчета.

Леглото на Иво и Мира

Леглото на Иво и Мира (с прозерец към звездите)

кухнята

кухнята и хола

Печката, машината за хляб и др.

Печката, машината за хляб и др.

Всеки сантиметър на лодката е максимално уползотворен, няма нито едно неизползваемо място. В предната тясна част на корпусите, под леглата и под дивана има големи пространства за багажи и провизии. Двете тоалетнички са доста тесни, и ако си един много дебел човек няма да можеш да се събереш вътре. Дори „голямата баня с душа“ най-вероятно би ви се сторила малка, ако не сте живяли на лодка преди и ако я сравнявате с банята в къщи. Но имайте в предвид, че много лодки изобщо нямат нито бани нито тоалетни. Само една кофа с въже на дръжката…

Тоалетната до спалняата на Иво и Мира

Тоалетната до спалняата на Иво и Мира (електрическа, работи с копче, което помпа морска вода)

"Голямата" баня с душ

„Голямата“ баня с душ

Но най-обширното пространство на нашата яхта, където си прекарваме най-много време е „верандата“ в задната част където е руля. Там имаме втора маса с място за 6 човека и още 2 места срещу масата. В сравнение с повечето 12-метрови лодки, еднокарпусни и катамарани, нашата веранда е огромна. Когато имаме гости спокойно се събираме десетина човека. Тук се храним и гледаме филми вечерно време на ротиращ се телевизор, който Иво монтира и можем да гледаме в салона или на верандата.

Верандичката. В Гватемала на гости ни дойде цялото село индианци от племето Кекчи.

Верандичката. В Гватемала на гости ни дойде цялото село индианци от племето Кекчи.

Когато бяхме в Гватемала платихме да ни ушият от специален прозрачен материал заграждение, нещо като „опаковка“ на верандата. Прилича малко на оранжерия или на остъклен балкон, само че има ципове и може да се отваря напълно от всички страни за да не се запарваме вътре като доматчета в горещините на тропиците. Но ако стане студено, по време на дъжд или когато плаваме и вода хвърчи от всякъде, затваряме „оранжерията“ и така нищо вътре не се мокри.

The cockpit with its new enclosure

The cockpit with its new enclosure

Много от нещата на нашата лодка построихме и променихме след като я купихме. Например, Иво напълно промени механизма за вдигане на дингито от водата, който преграждаше достъпа към задната част на лодката и сега там спокойно си минаваме и даже си монтирахме барбекю на парапетчето. Често си печем рибка, пилешки крилца, пържолки, каквото изпадне. Освен това, махнахме мекия покрив над верандичката и построихме твърд покрив от фибростъкло върху който монтирахме поле от слънчеви батерии. Произвеждаме повече ток от колкото имаме нужда и захранваме всички електронни уреди на борда: хладилника, компютрите, телевизора, лампите, машината за превръщане на морска вода в сладка и т.н. Колегите-мореплаватели навсякъде ни завиждат за слънчевите батерии и литиумните акумулатори, а ние по цели вечери светим като коледна елхичка, правим си лед, аз даже си ползвам машината за правене на хляб и изобщо не пестим ток, имаме прекалено много.

Най-задната част на Фата Моргана

Най-задната част на Фата Моргана

Иво и Виктор монтират слънчевите батерии

Иво и Виктор монтират слънчевите батерии

Повечето хора имат дизелови или бензинови генератори и периодично ги пускат да си зареждат акумулатроните батерии, които им зареждат електрониките. Ако нямат генератор, направо пускат двигтеля на лодката който върши същата работа, но харчи още повече гориво. Често това им е оправданието защо не плават на платна дори когато имат благоприятен вятър, ами се придвижват на мотори. Да заредим батериите, казват. Ние сме едни от малкото, които нямат генератор и нямат нужда от генератор, нито ни се налага да включваме двигателите за да зареждаме акумулаторите. Слънчевите батерии са ни предостатъчни, с 1500 вата зареждащи литиумни акумулатори, които Иво след дълго четене в интернет намери много евтини, купи и инсталира сам. Всъщност, до сега не сме срещнали нито сме чували за друга лодка с литиумни акумулаторни батерии, произвеждаща подобно количство слънчева енергия, която няма нужда да купува гориво за правене на ток. Нито ни трябва гориво да се придвижваме, защото използваме изключително само платната и вятъра.

Поле от слънчеви батерии (снимка от мачтата)

Поле от слънчеви батерии (снимка от мачтата)

И както споменах, с безплатната слънчева енергия си произвеждаме безплатна питейна вода с помощта на десалинаторна машина, която инсталирахме още в началото. Машината има капацитет да прави 50 литра вода на час и харчи 11-12 ампера ток на час. За да поддържаме пълни до дупка водните резервоари на лодката които побират 800 литра вода, пускаме десалинаторната машина за по 1-2 часа на всеки 2-3 дена. Тя работи на принципа на обратната осмоза, или прекарване на морската вода чрез много високо налягане през филтри. Резултата е прясна вода лишена от всякакви соли и минерали, чиста течност, напълно годна за пиене и не по-малко „вкусна“ от обикновенната сладка вода, само че без хлор и без минерали. Чиста Н2О която ползваме не само за пиене, но и за миене, за къпане и за пране, без да пестим много. Къпем се всеки ден по 1-2 пъти и перем на ръка в кофи само със сладка вода. Когато е облачно и дъждовно, правим по-малко ток, но и харчим по-малко защото не се налага да пускаме машината за вода, ами събираме дъждовна вода посредством маркучи, които се спускат от двете страни на големият твърд покрив към кофи или директоно към резервоарите за вода.

Пране на лодката

Пране на лодката

И така, оборудвахме лодката и я превърнахме в напълно независим от всякакви горива кораб. Повечето хора ходят да зареждат дизел или бензин поне 1-2 пъти в месеца: за лодката, за дингито или за генератора. Ние изобщо не зареждаме. Това ни спестява не само огромно количество пари, но и ни позволява да пуснем котва в някой безлюден залив, където наблизо няма жива душа, и да си стоим там неограничено време, без да имаме нужда да зареждаме бензин, дизел или сладка вода. Освен това по този начин съвестта ни е чиста спрямо природата. Фата Моргана е напълно екологична и не замърсяаваме нито водата нито въздуха. Също така си имаме триместен каяк и само него си го ползваме да ходим до брега и навсякъде, дори на места където дингитата немогат да ходят. Каяка ни се казва Агент Оранжев (кръстен на химичното оръжие използвано от американската армия по време на войната във Виетнам) и си го обичаме като член от семейството. Подариха ни го едни приятели от флорида. Старичък и очукан е, ама ни върши неоценима работа.

Ivo pulling the boat with the kayak in deadcalm. The engines remained turned off...

Ivo pulling the boat with the kayak in deadcalm. The engines remained turned off…

Катамараните имат няколко много големи предимства пред еднокарпусните лодки и няколко много големи недостатъка.

С Иво не претендираме да сме експерти по въпроса, но ето какво сме научили:

Предимства:

1. катамараните газят по-плитко,
2. са по-бързи,
3. имат повече пространство вътре,
4. могат да излизат на плажа без да се килват на една страна,
5. когато са закотвени и има вълни не се клатушкат,
6. не се накланят по време на преходи,
7. ако случайно се преобърнат не потъват.

Недостатъци:

1. вероятноста да се преобърнат е по-голяма,
2. веднъж като се обърнат е почти невъзможно да се изправят с мачтата нагоре,
3. минималният ъгъл срещу вятъра е по-голям (това само хора с лодки могат да го разберат)
4. по време на преходи вълните се удрят в „коремчето“ им,
5. и са по-скъпи.

Фата Моргана, Антигуа

Фата Моргана, Антигуа

Катамараните газят плитко

Еднокорпусните лодки имат дълбоки тежки килове, които им дават стабилност. Катамараните нямат нужда от килове, защото тяхната сабилност идва от факта, че имат два корпуса, все едно са широко разкрачени на два крака, а не балансират на един. Разликата в дълбочината на газене между катамараните и еднокорпусните лодки е не повече от метър-метър и половина, но е от голямо значение. На много места по света, на Бахамите например, около рифовете и малките островчета, само плитко газещи лодки имат достъп. Веднъж ни се наложи да минаваме през едно много плитко местенце между два острова и десният ни корпус леко опря пясъка. Но минахме и си спестихме огромна заобиколка. Ако бяхме с еднокорпусна лодка, нямаше да успеем, щяхме да се забием в пясъка и да се килнем на една страна. Също така, факта че газим плитко ни позволява да пуснем котва на две крачки от брега и да си плуваме до плажа. Еднокорпусните винаги са по-назад, в по-дълбокото.

На котва, Форт д' Франс, Мартиника

На котва, Форт д’ Франс, Мартиника

Катамараните са по-бързи

Защото нямат дълбоки килове а стоят на повърхността, катамараните и тримараните са принципно доста по-бързи от еднокорпусните лодки. Скоростта на всяка еднокорпусна яхта зависи от дължината на корпуса. Колкото са по-дълги, толкова са по-бързи. Има си математическа формула по която може да се изчисли колко е максималната скорост на дадена лодка спрямо дължината и тежестта и, независимо от скоростта на вятъра. Цяла наука е. Скоростта на катамараните е теоритически неограничена и зависи от тежестта на лодката и скоростта на вятъра.

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Катамараните имат повече пространство

12-метров катамаран има почти двойно повече пространство вътре от 12-метрова еднокорпусна лодка. Квадраурата на нашата 12-метрова (38 фута) лодка: количеството каюти, тоалетни, бани, размера на „верандата“, салона и кухнята, се равнява на повече от 18-метрова (50 фута)еднокорпусна лодка. Ние искахме да купим просторна яхта с място за четири човека вътре но не много голяма, защото колкото е по-дълга лодката, толкова е по-трудна за управляване, има нужда от по-голям екипаж и е с по-скъпа поддръжка. Пристанищните такси или таксите за ремонт се изчисляват спрямо дължина на лодката, не квадратура. Това означава, че нашата Фата Моргана, въпреки че вътре има пространство като за 18-метрова лодка, плаща почти навсякъде цената за 12-метрова лодка. Някои по-луксозни пристанища в Европа таксуват катамараните двойно, но в повечето места по света все още ги таксуват според линейна дължина, независимо дали са еднокорпусни или дву-корпусни.

Кухня и салон, Фата Моргана

Кухня и салон, Фата Моргана

 

 

Катамараните могат да излизат на сушата

Еднокорпусните лодки не могат да се засилят и да излязат на плажа без това да има фатални последствия. Катамараните могат, защото имат два корпуса и нямат килове.

Fata Morgana at anchor in Barbuda

Fata Morgana at anchor in Barbuda

Катамараните не се клатушкат

Не само докато плават, но и в някои пристанища където се образуват вълни, катамараните, разкрачени и стабилни, нито се накланят нито се клатушкат, докато еднокорпусните танцуват наяво-надясно, чаши и чинии падат по земята и хората се оплакват от морска болест.

Катамарани в Мартиника

Катамарани в Мартиника

Катамараните не се накланят

Ако сте на еднокорпусна лодка, преди да тръгнете на плаване, трябва да приберете всичко което евентуално може да падне, защото ви предстоят часове или дни наклонени на ляво или на дясно, под ъгъл между 10 и 45 градуса. Леглото ви е под 45 градуса, масата ви е под 45 градуса, тоалетната ви е под 45 градуса. Защото вятъра винаги напъва от едната страна и еднокорпусната яхта се накланя на другата. Не и катамарана. Катамарана си стои вертикално изправен стъпал на двата си корпуса и можете да си готвите, спите, и вървите без да балансирате по наклонени повърхности. Аз често правя палачинки докато плаваме. Ако сте на еднокорпусна лодка, забравете за палачинки.

Фата Моргана плава покрай Мартиника, Диамантената Скала

Фата Моргана плава покрай Мартиника, Диамантената Скала

Катамараните не потъват

Всички лодки потъват, дори и катамараните, ако се натрошат на малки парченца. Но ако само се преобърнат при буря например, няма да потънат ами ще си останат на повърхността, защото в конструкцията им има много въздушни пространства, като термуси са. Еднокорпусните лодки, ако се преобърнат, се пълнят с вода и потъват за няколко часа или за няколко минути…

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Фата Моргана, Бахамите

Катамараните се преобръщат по-често

Поради липсата на тежък кил който да ги дърпа надолу, опасността да се превъртят е по-голяма при катамараните. За това трябва много да се внимава, особено при силни внезапни странични пориви на вятъра. Но ако капитана знае какво прави и внимава, ако не се състезава с други лодки и намаля повърхността на платната, не ги държи натегнати и ги наглася правилно спрямо силата и посоката на вятъра, вероятността да се преобърне катамаран намаля значително. Най-често това се случва при състезания.

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Регата, Джордж Таун, Бахамите

Катамараните не могат да се изправят ако се преобърнат

Понякога, по време на буря, се е случвало еднокорпусни лодки да се преобърнат и да се изправят отново с мачтата нагоре. Казва се „поворот овърборд“ ако не се лъжа. Първата вълна ги събаря, следващата ги завърта още повече и те се изправят, благодарение на кила. Катамараните, ако се катурнат, така си остават, освен ако не дойде специален кран да ги вдигне… Дано не се случва, нито на катамараните, нито на еднокорпусните…Не ми се иска да попадаме в нито една от двете ситуации…

 

Мая

Мая

Катамараните се движат с по-голям ъгъл срещу вятъра

Нито една платноходка не може да се движи срещу вятъра на платна, физически е невъзможно. Затова, когато вятърът духа точно от посоката в която искаме да отидем, се налага да караме в зиг-заг, така че вятърът да идва под минималния възможен ъгъл. Този ъгъл е по-малък при еднокорпусните лодки и е по-голям при катамараните. Колкото е по-малък ъгълът, толкова по-добре, защото отклонението е по-малко. И така, катамараните имамт по-голям ъгъл, но пък са по-бързи, така че загубата откъм ъгъла се компенсира откъм скоростта.

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Катамараните имат „коремчета“ в които се блъскат вълните

По време на преход, когато вълните са насрещни и по-големи, се удрят от време на време в средната повдигната част на катамараните между двата корпуса и не е приятно. Бум-бум, но не е опасно и се свиква, а и не се случва много често, само при определени условия.

Fata Morgana, Barbuda

Fata Morgana, Barbuda

Катамараните са по-скъпи

Цените на яхтите, за разлика от цените на дрехите и обувките които често са нелогични, са почти без изключение пропрционални с качеството. Колкото е по-скъпа една лодка, толквоа е по-добра. Ако намерите евтина, нова, здрава, луксозна яхта, значи сънувате. Или е евтина или е качествена. Ако е качествена и евтина, значи е много стара и най-вероятно има нужда от огромен ремонт, който може да ви излезе още по-солен. Катамараните са новото поколение лодки направени с по-добри материали и технологии и предлагат много повече пространство и комфорт, по време на преход и на котва. Затова са и принципно по-скъпи. Един катамаран като Фата Моргана струва колкото къщата ни в Канада, а често може и да е по-скъп.

Mira suntanning and enjoying the view on board Fata Morgana

Mira suntanning and enjoying the view on board Fata Morgana

 

Като цяло сме много доволни от нашият избор на лодка. Беше любов от пръв поглед, която се засилва с времето. Разчитаме много на Фата Моргана и се надяваме връзката ни да е дълготрайна.

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Надявам се, че от този изчерпателен доклад сте добили по-ясна представа за нашата лодка и за лодките по принцип. Може би дори вече знаете какъв бихте искали да е вашият бъдещ плаващ дом? Така както за всеки влак, така и за всяка лодка си има пътници. Отговорите на следните въпроси ще ви помогнат да определите коя е идеалната лодка за вас: с колко пари разполагате, къде смятате да плавате, как смятате да плавате (платна?мотори?), колко време, с колко човека на борда, с какво сте готови да правите компромиси и с каво не сте(пространство, лукс, мизерия, естетика).
Успех!

Фата Моргана, Мартиника

Фата Моргана, Мартиника

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Предишни статии на български език можете да намерите тук.

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Plastic Calypso

Full Moon Rising over Plymouth anchorage, Dominica

Full Moon Rising over Portsmouth anchorage, Dominica

Our journey in Dominica begins with a nice little boat party in the Portsmouth anchorage aboard Fata Morgana in honor of the big fish we caught on the way. I prepare yummy fried fish-fillets breaded with egg-and-flour mixture and we invite our boat-friends: Tina and Mark from s/v Rainbow, Bev from s/v Aseka, and Mel and Caryn from s/v Passages with whom we’ve been sailing together since Guadeloupe.

Mira with a King Fish

Mira with a King Fish

That evening we make plans to organize some activities together on the island. We decide to visit Indian River the next day. Bev has already arranged a “boat –boy” for all of us. His name is Albert and he will be our Indian River guide for 50 EC ($18 US) per person.

In Dominica, when a yacht arrives in an anchorage, a bunch of small wooden powerboats race to offer all sorts of services: organized guided excursions, small boat-works, transportation, local fruits and vegetables, fish and lobster, and anything else that the cruiser might need, for a fee. These are the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services (PAYS) known as boat-boys and they and their families depend on the visiting cruisers, who, from their part, are very conscious about their role for supporting the local economy.

Albert

Albert

For Ivo and me $18 US per person ($50 US for the three of us with Maya) for a small tourist activity is a huge expense we would normally avoid. Most cruisers who are for the most part either retired and receive a monthly pension or wealthier couples on a year or two sabbatical vacation have a bigger budget than us. They buy souvenirs, go to restaurants, hire guides, cars, and in general enjoy themselves spending money like tourists do. Which is great, but it is just not our case. Our journey is all about simplicity, minimalism, self-sufficiency, off-the-grid way of life, and finding ways of traveling and exploring the world outside of the system with minimal spending. Plus, we have no regular income, and we are not planning to return to a land-based life and work any time soon, so the longer our savings last, the longer our journey will be. For us $50 US equals the amount of money we normally spend for food for the entire family for a week. But in Dominica we decide to participate, at least this once, in supporting the local economy, and so we sign up for the Indian River expedition.

Dominica, The Nature Island

Dominica, The Nature Island

Dominica, nicknamed The Nature Island, is a 750 square kilometers (290 square miles) island famous for its unspoiled natural beauty, lush rainforest mountains, abundant wildlife, and many rivers, 365 to be exact, “one for each day of the year” as they like to say. A guided expedition to Indian River is a must for the cruisers arriving in Portsmouth, the number one destination, featured in cruising guides again and again as “an amazing experience, unlike anything else you find in the Eastern Caribbean.” (Chris Doyle, The Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands, 12th edition, p.455)

 Indian River, Dominica

Indian River, Dominica

Our guide Albert picks us up at 8 a.m. the next morning and we ride in his motorboat from the anchorage to the entrance of the park. It costs $5 per person to enter, but we buy $12 park permits good for a week for all of the national parks on the island as we are planning to explore Dominica’s interior thoroughly. Beyond the bridge, Albert stops the engine and starts rowing up a wide green river.

Maya enjoying the ride, Indian River, Dominica

Maya enjoying the ride, Indian River, Dominica

Soon the river splits in two channels and we enter the narrow one on the left amidst thick swamp vegetation and bloodwood trees with tangled roots like monstrous intestines above the damp ground, home of giant blue crabs. Albert tells us all sort of interesting and curious facts about the nature here, the trees and the ferns, the animal life, and the history and traditions of the island. He explains that if you cut the bark of the bloodwood tree a thick red sap will start oozing, like blood.

Albert showing Bev and Caryn some interesting plant

Albert showing Bev and Caryn some interesting plant

We reach a spot where a small creepy shack stands on the shore: Calypso’s house. Johnny Depp has been here as well as in many other locations throughout the island during the filming of The Pirates of the Caribbean. We are thrilled. Indian River with its bloodwood trees and mysterious swamp vegetation crawling with huge crabs is definitely the perfect set for the eerie Calypso scene.

Calypso's Forest Shack

Calypso’s Forest Shack

But we also start noticing trash here and there on the sides of the river, foam cups and plastic bottles. I ask Albert who is supposed to clean the river and he says it’s the park’s job.

Trash in Indian River, Dominica

Trash in Indian River, Dominica

We continue on our tour and get to the Bush Bar further upriver. It’s a nice little bar and restaurant, built for the tourists, among a forest-garden with beautiful trees and flowers, populated by birds, lizards, and butterflies.

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Then we row back to the entrance and back on the boats. The whole tour takes about 1- 1.5 hours thanks to Albert who takes his time talking about the nature and all sorts of things. Otherwise, the area we covered is not big at all, and we could have done the trip with our kayak in 10 minutes. It was a wonderful experience nevertheless, but both Ivo and I think it was not worth $50. We realize, too late, that we could have gone in the park with our kayak without a guide, saving the 50 bucks. The only rule there is not to use engines upriver (in order not to pollute the waters!?). Guides are not compulsory in any of Dominica’s National Parks. But the most disappointing part was all the garbage around and the park’s official’s attitude towards it.

Maya and Ivo

Maya and Ivo

The Indian River guides and personal sit near the park’s entrance all day waiting for tourists, and during the hurricane season they don’t have much work. But instead of spending some of their time cleaning the river which is their source of income, they just sit around all day, smoking and drinking, doing nothing.

Indian River, Dominica

Indian River, Dominica

The trash-in-the-river situation started bothering us more and more and a few days after our Indian River expedition Ivo and I comeback there with our kayak and with a big garbage bag. We spend about 1-1.5 hours, the same amount of time like last time, cleaning the area. But we realize we need much more than one garbage bags.

Mira collecting trash in Indian River, Dominica

Mira collecting trash in Indian River, Dominica

As we get further upriver where Albert didn’t take us last time, we see more and more trash floating around or stuck in the roots of the bloodwood trees. We get to a point where this channel borders a road and a residential area.

Plastic trash in Indian River, Dominica

Plastic trash in Indian River, Dominica

Apparently, people use the river to dump their trash from the road and the trash slowly makes its way down to the park. We are appalled. We will need a crew with shovels and lots of garbage bags or a truck if we want to clean up all this.

A bag full of trash, Calypso's house in the background, Indian River, Dominica

A bag full of trash, Calypso’s house in the background, Indian River, Dominica

Very disappointed, we turn back with our garbage bag full since a long time and we head home, to the boat. At the park’s exit where we go to deposit the river garbage, one of the guides tells us that we are supposed to pay a fee if we want to dispose of garbage. He thinks it’s our boat garbage! Both Ivo and I are about the explode, but I calmly explain that this is not our garbage but theirs, and leave.

Ivo with trash, Indian River, Dominica

Ivo with trash, Indian River, Dominica

We feel sorry for “The Nature Island” and its “365 rivers, one for each day of the year”. Who knows how many of these rivers are still flowing, and how many are dry, clogged with litter, extinct.
It is up to the local people and its government to address the issue of land and water pollution in Dominica, to protect their natural resources, and educate the inhabitants of the island about all this, before it is too late.
But also, what can we, the visitors, do to help restore nature’s unspoiled beauty, besides “supporting the local economy” with unrealistic guide fees, which according to Chris Doyle’s guide, are supposed to go towards the maintenance of the parks?

Indian River, Dominica

Indian River, Dominica

*This article by Mira Nencheva has been publish in www.caribbeancompass.com

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Cruising Guadeloupe

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Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe

With many bays, marinas, and anchorages, snorkeling and diving spots, small and big cities offering relaxing atmosphere, good shopping, restaurants and boulangeries (bakeries) with French and Creole delicacies, and lots of unique and exciting natural sites, Guadeloupe, one of the biggest island groups in the region and territory of France, is a main destination for the Caribbean cruiser.

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Sainte Anne, Guadeloupe

If you start at daybreak sailing in moderate tradewinds on starboard tack from English Harbour, Antigua, 40 nautical miles to the north, you will reach the first anchorage on the northwest side of Basse-Terre, the western island of Guadeloupe, by early afternoon and grab one of a few free mooring balls in front of the charming fishing village of Deshaies.

Desaies

Desaies, Guadeloupe

From Monday to Friday you can clear customs at the Pelican souvenir shop by filing in a custom’s form on the computer there, for which small service you have to pay a small fee of 3 euro per boat. Otherwise, there are no customs or any other fees, and, it appears, you can remain in Guadeloupe indefinitely.

Fish Market, Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe

Fish Market, Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe

If you like hiking and waterfalls, you can walk from Deshaies along a shallow river, jumping over rocks and fallen trees, up to a small waterfall. The one-hour hike can be challenging and you will need good shoes, best if waterproof. You can also visit the Jardin Botanique de Desahaies, a kilometer and a half from the village, for 15 Eu per person (10 Eu for kids).
For more detailed account of our experience at the Deshaies waterfall read Island of Beautiful Waters.

Mira at Deshaie Waterfall

Mira at Deshaies Waterfall

If you continue sailing south from Deshaies for about 10 nautical miles, which can be slow as you are behind tall mountains acting as wind-stoppers on the lee side of Basse-Terre, you will get to another small bay home of hundreds of sea turtles, Pigeon Island.

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The Aquarium, Cousteau Marine Park, Guadeloupe

You can anchor there in front of the beach and take your dinghy or kayak across to the tiny Pigeon Island where mooring balls for diver are available. This used to be one of Jacque Cousteau’s favorite underwater exploration sites, and today it is a national park, Cousteau Underwater Park, with some excellent scuba diving and snorkeling sites, like The Aquarium on the north side of Pigeon Island.

Scuba Divers at Pigeon Island, Guadeloupe

Scuba Divers at Pigeon Island, Guadeloupe

If snorkeling makes you hungry, you can enjoy a grilled lobster or another excellent fish-dish at the waterfront restaurant La Tuna, a place with cozy atmosphere, friendly service, free Wi Fi, and reasonable prices. When you order a rum punch there, as I did, do not be surprised when they bring you a full 1.5-litre bottle of rum…(Also, do not bring your computer charger if it is not 220 volts.)

Shop at Sainte Anne, Guadeloupe

Shop at Sainte Anne, Guadeloupe

Further south, there are a few more options to drop anchor, including in front of the capital of Guadeloupe, Basse-Terre, from where you are the closest to La Soufriere volcano. It is an active volcano with craters still steaming and bubbling, emitting deep industrial sounds and heavy poisonous sulfuric gases. The hike there is about 1.5 hours starting in rainforest and then steep climbing up the barren slopes of the mountain. The view from the top is spectacular, and the nature up there is out of this world. La Soufriere is the best and most popular tourist destination in Guadeloupe. For the hike, bring sandwiches, water, good shoes, and a small jacket.

For more detailed account of our experience at Soufriere Volcano read Mountain of Magic.

.Io and Maya climbing up La Grande Soufriere

.Io and Maya climbing up La Grande Soufriere

Next, you can sail south-southeast to Îles des Saintes, 20 nautical miles across the channel where you might have to tack against tradewinds and current in order to get to one of the world’s most beautiful bays in front of Terre-de-Haut. The mooring balls here are not free, 9-10 Eu per boat per night (for 38-40 feet boats). But you can also anchor on the other side of the island in Baie du Marigot, for free, and walk 10 minutes to the main village. For 4 Eu per person you can visit Fort Napoleon, or you can just walk or rent a scooter to the top of the hill and from there enjoy the free-million-dollar view of the bay and adjacent islands.

For more detailed account of our experience in Îles des Saintes, read Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe

Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe

Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe

From Îles des Saintes you can sail back north to Pointe-a-Pitre, the biggest city on the Grande Terre island, as there is a lot more to see and do in Guadeloupe. It is another 20 nautical miles, and in east to southeast winds you should get there on a port tack in 4-5 hours. There you have many options for anchoring, off Ilet a Cochons or on the other side off the town docks, or you can go to the marina in the Lagon Bleu, but be ready for extremely dirty stinking waters there.

Marina and bay, Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe

Marina and bay, Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe

From Pointe-a-Pitre you can rent a car for about 35 Eu per day and drive to some of the island’s many waterfalls. The Ecrevisses Falls is a popular destination with easy access from the road, no entrance fee, where locals and tourists come in great numbers to chill in the small shallow natural pools formed between the rocks of the river. A more hard-to-get-to and secluded falls are the Cabret Falls, a series of 3 waterfalls, 3 Eu per person entrance fee, and about 1 to 1.5 hours hike to the second and most spectacular waterfall with a 110 meters drop descending from the Soufriere volcano.

For more detailed account of our experience at the waterfalls, read Island of Beautiful Waters.

Cabret, First Cascade, Guadeloupe

Cabret, First Cascade, Guadeloupe

If you start early in the morning and rent a car from Pointe-a-Pitre, you will have time to visit the Cabret Falls on the island of Basse Terre, and then drive back and visit Sainte Anne in the afternoon, if you are not planning sailing there. Saint Anne is a picturesque little town, very touristy, with a nice beach and fun shopping.

Sainte Anne, Guadeloupe

Sainte Anne, Guadeloupe

If you are sailing to Dominica next, you can check out in Pointe-a-Pitre and get going, or you can sail to Marie Galante first, another small island 20 nautical miles south-southeast of Pointe-a-Pitre, part of Guadeloupe. You can check out from Grand Bourg anchoring in the tiny anchorage in front of the docks if there is any space. The custom’s officer there is very friendly.

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Named after one of Columbus’s boats, Marie Galante is a quiet unspoiled island with a few rural fishing and agricultural communities, not a popular tourist destination. Here you can relax and enjoy the island-time atmosphere, visit the old windmill Le Moulin de Bezard, or just go for a walk or a scooter ride among cottages and pastures where you will encounter an occasional cow or a pig staring at you.

Fruit Market, Guadeloupe

Fruit Market, Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe

 

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Îles des Saintes, Guadeloupe

 

Iles-des-Saintes, Guadeloupe

Iles-des-Saintes, Guadeloupe

Îles des Saintes is a beautiful small archipelago consisting of two inhabited and seven smaller uninhabited islands south of Guadeloupe. Its territory is about 12 sq km (less than 5 sq mi).

Like Guadeloupe, it is a French overseas department, a part of France. The official language is French and English is rarely spoken, and the euro is the only currency accepted.

Iles-des-Saintes, Guadeloupe

Iles-des-Saintes, Guadeloupe

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We sail there after spending a week in Deshais, and a few more days anchored off Pigeon Island, just at the edge of Cousteau National Marine Park where we go for some great snorkeling.

Sailing south along Guadeloupe’s west coast can be challenging as the mountains create eddies of calm and with our luck we spend 7 hours drifting in becalmed waters with less than 1 knot speed. I know Ivo is a crazy purist and will not turn on the engines in such a no-wind situation, but I think he should at least have peace of mind and enjoy the slow ride. Instead he is freaking out, cursing the entire world, suffocating with rage, unable to do anything except deploying the kayak in front of the boat and paddle.

We even get completely stuck in a thick field of Sargasso weed. A terrible. terrible day of sailing for us.

Fata Morgana stuck in Sargasso weed

Fata Morgana stuck in Sargasso weed

Finally we exit the ‘deadcalm zone’ and the east winds fill the sails carrying us towards destination. 16 to 20 kt tradewinds. Ivo is happy as if nothing has happened.

Ivo, approaching Les Saintes

Ivo, approaching Les Saintes

Just after dark, after 14 hours of torturous sailing (distance of 25 NM with a few tacks in the Les Saintes channel), we enter the north anchorage of Iles-des-Saintes, Baie du Marigot, where we are happy to find our good friends, s/v Passages already settled and waiting for us.

The next morning we wake up in a little enchanted fisherman’s bay. We are in Iles des Saintes.

Baie du Marigot, Iles des Saintes

Baie du Marigot, Iles des Saintes

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Iles-des-Saintes are surrounded by corral reefs and its turquoise waters are teaming with fish. The main industry here has always been fishing.

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But since a few decades now tourists and especially cruisers have made Terre du Haut one of their favorite spot contributing greatly to the local economy.

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The bay of Les Saintes is one of the most beautiful bays in the world attracting luxury yachts, cruise ships and sailboats. The locals have realized the importance of tourism and in recent times new hotels, holiday homes, and charming guest houses have sprouted without disturbing the archipelago’s wild natural allure.

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Crystal waters with coral gardens surrounded by green hills, colorful fishing boats and charming little houses and restaurants, a delightful French atmosphere…It doesn’t get better than that.

Terre du Haut and its bay is also one of the most photogenic places I have ever been to. You can take pictures like post cards in every direction with your eyes closed.

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The most popular anchorage is the one to the west of Terre-de-Haut under Pain-de-Sucre (Sugar Bread) hill. There are many mooring balls available the per foot per night, about 10 EU for our size boat (38feet), and anchoring is not permitted.

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But, for those of us who avoid paid mooring balls there is a wonderful free-of-charge option across, on the other side of the island. Baie du Marigot.

 

Baie du Marigot, Iles des Saintes

Baie du Marigot, Iles des Saintes

Almost no one knows about this anchorage, some charts don’t even show it, and most cruisers don’t consider it, but it is a well protected deep enough anchorage with easy free of reefs access and good holding, and we approached it and dropped anchor at night.

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It is a small bay in front of a tiny fishermen village, secluded and quiet. A short dinghy or kayak ride from the boat to the shore and then 10 minutes walk will take you to the main village on the other side of the island, Terre du Haut. Another 20 minutes up hill and you will visit the old Fort Napoleon des Saintes. Moreover, the best seafood restaurant featured in Chris Doyle’s cruising guide is right on the shore on this side.

You can stay in this anchorage for as long as you like, for free. Here, near the beach, you may even meet the sexiest goat alive.

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Deep Bay, St Johns, and Carnival in Antigua

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Deep Bay, Antigua

From Montserrat we sail 25 nautical miles north to Antigua, one of the two larger islands forming the independent nation of Antigua and Barbuda, the other one being Barbuda, some 25 NM north of Antigua. We sail on a beam reach in moderate tradewinds, the waves long and gentle, making beautiful progress. It is the last time we sail together with Viktor.

We arrive in the early afternoon and check in Jolly Harbour on the west side of the island. Checking in Antigua and Barbuda is quick, easy, and only costs about 12 $US, but there is a 30 dollars departure fee on the way out.

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Jolly Harbour, Antigua

Jolly Harbour is a popular boating spot with a big handsome marina, many dredged channels surrounded by some 500 waterfront private two-story houses with docks for yachts, and a shopping center with over 30 shops and some excellent restaurants, among which a Greek restaurant with a beautiful view serving, among other delicatessens, spanakopita (or banitza, as we call it in Bulgaria) and lamb cooked for 6 hours.

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Jolly Harbour Marina, Antigua

 

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Greek Restaurant, Jolly Harbour Marina, Antigua

Evo kayaking in Jolly Harbour

Evo kayaking in Jolly Harbour

But the anchorage is outside the bay and kayaking to the docks to go on shore takes forever, so after shopping for some fresh vegetables, eggs, milk, and beer (the essentials) we move to the next little anchorage a couple of miles further north, Deep Bay, in order to be closer to land and closer to St Johns, the capital and biggest city on the island where the international airport is.

Deep Bay beach and anchorage

Deep Bay beach and anchorage

Deep Bay is a lovely little anchorage tucked between rocky shores, nicely protected from the trades and very secluded, with some interesting sites right there.

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View of Deep Bay anchorage from Fort Barrington

On the north shore, up on the dark rocks, stands Fort Barrington offering a spectacular view of the bay, and at the entrance to the anchorage the wreck of the Andes breaks the water surface and provides an exciting snorkeling spot.

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The shipwreck of the Andes’ history

The Grand Royal Antiguan resort is not far from the south end of the beach but the huge multi story hotel, vacant at this time of the year, is not even visible from the bay.

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Grand Royal Resort, Antigua, pool

We drop anchor a few feet away from the long sandy beach in deliciously blue waters.

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Deep Bay, Antigua

The holding here is excellent and the water remain calm with zero swell even when tropical storm Bertha passes through. Deep Bay became one of our all-time favorite anchorages and a very special place for us, the place where we say good bye to Viktor who decided to return back to Canada and continue his studies.

Viktor and Evo kayaking to shore on the way to the airport

Viktor and Evo kayaking to shore on the way to the airport

In Deep Bay we spend one unforgettable week, which happens to be Carnival Week in Antigua. Which means loud music and crazy partying day and night nonstop.

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Going to town from Deep Bay takes time as St John is a few miles away and even getting to the main road where the public bus passes is quite a hike. So we hitchhike. And every time we are lucky and someone really nice picks us up. Thus, thanks to hitchhiking, we meet Shelly, Ido and their cute one-year-old baby-genius Aviv.

Shelly and Aviv at their pool

Shelly and Aviv at their pool

Ido covered with mud from the Dead Sea and Aviv unsure why her dad is suddenly black...

Ido covered with mud from the Dead Sea and Aviv unsure why her dad is suddenly black…

They invite us to their place which is very close to Deep Bay and really cool, with a huge pool, and we invite them to ours (the beach and the boat), and they even let us use their car to go shopping in town.

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Maya

Maya

Aviv

Aviv

Our friends coming for a visit aboard Fata Morgana

Our friends coming for a visit aboard Fata Morgana

But the greatest thing is going to carnival together, to Jouvert Morning.

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Jouvert Morning is one of the many activities during Carnival Week and it is the most fun we had in a while.

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“You have to come to our place at 4 in the morning, and we will drive to town from there” says Ido and he is not joking. The event starts even before that, at about 3 a.m. and at 4 a.m. the festivities are already in full swing.

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We can hear the mad music all the way from our anchorage, miles away.

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So we go to our friends’ place in the middle of the night. Maya, Shelly and the baby decide to stay in the apartment, while Evo, Ido and I to go to town where the party is on.

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Ido brings a big shiny bottle of rum along.

Evo, Ido and...yo-ho-ho, a bottle of rum

Evo, Ido and…yo-ho-ho, a bottle of rum early in the morning

Drinking is an inevitable part of this particular event, and we are not here to watch from the sidewalk. We participate.

Ido and Evo getting warmed up.

Ido and Evo getting warmed up.

Means, we mingle with a crowd of young people with wild hairs, sexy girls with very minimal clothing shaking their booties, everyone drinking and jumping up and down on the streets behind a procession of trucks with platforms loaded with the biggest loudspeakers on earth booming some insane island music, the rhythm so fast gets your heartbeat accelerating just by listening to it. Antiguans gone wild.

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Carnival Week continues for almost two weeks, the whole time we are in Deep Bay, and we can see the glow and we can hear the music far in the distance day and night not stopping for a second, the entire town pulsating. And when it is over and the music suddenly stops, we wake up disturbed by the unexpected unusual silence and wonder what’s wrong.

 

Picture St Johns, Antigua

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The fish market, Antigua

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Mira

Mira

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Maya and Evo

Maya and Evo

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Antigua Beach Resort

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Maya and Evo

Maya and Evo

The Nomadiks at the beach

The Nomadiks at the beach

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Maya with coconuts

Maya with coconuts

Maya

Maya

Maya and Evo

Maya and Evo

Evo and Maya

Evo and Maya

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Stefanie, representing USA in the Miss Caribbean Beauty Pageant

Stefanie, representing USA in the Miss Caribbean Beauty Pageant

Stefanie and Maya

Stefanie and Maya

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Antigua Carnival

Photos by Mell Ebstein s/v Passages

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Journey to the Lost Waterfall

Like those in the valley behind us, most people stand in sight of the mountains all their lives and never enter them, being content to listen to others who have been there and thus avoid the hardships. Some travel into the mountain accompanied by experienced guides who know the best and least dangerous routes by which they arrive at their destination. Still others, inexperienced and untrusting, attempt to make their own routes. Few of these are successful, but occasionally some, by sheer will and luck and grace, do make it. Once there they become more aware than any of the others that there’s no single fixed number of routes. There are as many routes as there are individual souls.

 

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsing

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The island of St Kitts is of volcanic origin with tall steep mountain hills covered in tropical rainforest. There, in the mountains, rivers of cool delicious water cascade down carving small canyons among centennial trees, and then through the valleys they reach the sea.

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A waterfall is hidden in these forests, high in the hills home of shy vervet monkeys and spirits, far away from people and towns, at the edge of a river canyon.
There is no path leading to this waterfall and to reach it you have to walk parcour style for three hours up a river, climb over rocks, big and small, and fallen trees, until you are all soaked wet from the river and the sudden rain, and your hair is covered with gentle spider webs full of tiny disoriented spiders.

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It is not a famous, big, roaring waterfall, like the ones that pop up in your imagination when you think about waterfalls. It is rather a very small, very gentle, almost transparent, almost silent trickle of water hidden among green shadows, and many people wouldn’t go through all the trouble to reach it. They would be disappointed. They would say: Is this the waterfall, after three hours of walking inside a river, climbing across boulders and fallen trees?

Oh, but is worth it. Both the journey and the destination.

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We needed someone who knew the way to lead us to the waterfall, and of course our friend Sejah Joseph came along as our guide. He said he knew how to get there, even though he only went once a few years ago.

Sejah Joseph

Sejah Joseph

The first attempt to reach our goal failed. We start unprepared, wearing flip-flops , thinking that the place is not far away and the path to get there is easy. We start up a dry riverbed and soon it becomes not only difficult but dangerous climbing over huge boulders. We don’t know how far away the fall is, and even though Maya wants to continue and not admit failure, we have to turn back.

Maya

Maya

The second time, a few days later, we put on our serious climbing shoes and chose a different path walking inside a river with the water rushing against us.
Chances to find a waterfall up a river are much bigger.

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– Are we almost there, Sejah?, we ask after some time.
– Maybe.

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We walk inside the river which is knee-deep most of the time and the water is cold and refreshing ‘like water from the fridge’, Sejah says.

When it rains we hide under trees and eat the sandwiches I made and the mangos we found along the way.

We drink the water from the river-fridge, it is cool and sweet and precious.

 

Sandwich break under the rain

Sandwich break under the rain

– These trees are four or five hundred years old, Sejah says.
– Oh, so they were here at the time when Columbus found the island?
– The island was never lost…

Evo and Sejah

Evo and Sejah

Nor is our waterfall.

We have reached our destination, the point in time where we stop for a while and turn back. At the end of the river, the end of our journey, from a rock covered with eternal moss: a silent waterfall.

Mira

Mira

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A Visit to Brimstone Hill Fortress

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Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site of historical, cultural and architectural significance: a monument to the ingenuity of the British military engineers who designed it and to the skill, strength and endurance of the African slaves who built and maintained it. One of the best preserved historical fortifications in the Americas, it is located on the island of St. Kitts in the Federation of St. Christopher (St. Kitts) and Nevis in the Eastern Caribbean.

From Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park

The Nomadiks in St Kitts

Waiting for a few days at the dock near Sandy Point where St Kitts Marine Works boatyard is to be hauled out for „a quick bottom job“, we fill our nothing-to-do days with chilling on the small beach near by, jumping from the pier and meeting new friends. Right where we are Brimstone Hill is looming above us so close we can see the Fortress form the boat.

St Kitts Marine Works boatyard. Brimstone Hill Fortress on the background

St Kitts Marine Works boatyard. Brimstone Hill Fortress on the background

We decide to go for a visit. It is a 20 minute walk from the boatyard to the foot of the hill and another 30-40 minutes hike up the hill to the Fortress. Tourists have to pay 10 dollars per person to visit the Brimstone Hill Fortress, expensive but worth it.

View from Brimstone Hill. Boatyard and dock in the distance

View from Brimstone Hill. Boatyard and dock in the distance

 

St Kitts. Historical Background

St. Christopher is the first Caribbean island to be permanently settled by both the English and the French shared between the two nations throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Africans were brought as slaves and a massive sugar production begun which together with the slave trade yielded a great wealth well worth defending. The construction of a vast network of fortified coastal defenses on the island of St Kitts started in 1690 and continued until 1790.

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The ideal site for the fortress was chosen atop a volcanic hill 800 feet high with steep and precipitous slopes standing near the southwest shore of the island, Brimstone Hill, often referred to as „the Gibraltar of the Caribbean“. The location of the Fortress presents panoramic vistas of forested mountains to the north, cultivated fields and picturesque small villages to the west, the historical township of Sandy Point to the south, and neighbouring Dutch, English and French islands across the Caribbean Sea.

Brimstone Hill

Brimstone Hill

The fortress was built using entirely local materials found on site. The walls of the structures were made from the hard volcanic rocks of the hill itself and the mortar to cement the stones was produced from the limestone covering much of the middle and lower slopes. The Fortress is virtually a man-made out growth of the natural hill.

 

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The Fortress

We are stunned at the scale and level of preservation of the Fortress designed by British Army engineers. It is an entire complex, like a small military village built on 38 acres of land on the flat top of the hill, one of the largest Caribbean fortresses, with many buildings, officer’s quarters, soldiers’ barracks, a citadel, two places of arms, and a cemetery.

Brimstone Hill Fortress

Brimstone Hill Fortress

This is the site of the historical battle between the British and French fighting over control of the sugar island. In January 1782 8,000 French troops attacked the island and besieged the Fortress. For one month 1,000 defenders from the Royal Scots and East Yorkshire Regiment fought valiantly before surrendering, allowed by the French to march out of the Fortress with full honor. Only a year later, the island was returned to the British after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1965 The Society for the Restoration of Brimstone Hill Fortress was found and major works contributed for the restoration and rebuilding of the Fortress, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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As we walk down the hill we come across a troupe of about 20 vervet monkeys. Brought to the island as pets during the slave trade period, they are now populating the hills and forests of St Kitts&Navis in great numbers. One of their popular hangouts is the Brimstone Hill Fortress.

Vervet monkeys St Kitts, Brimstone Hill

Vervet monkeys St Kitts, Brimstone Hill

Verevet Monkey, St Kitts

Verevet Monkey, St Kitts

 

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Saba The Impossible

Anegada Passage

Early in the morning we set sail from Virgin Gorda’s east anchorage at Saba Rock to St Maarten, an 85 nautical miles passage against Trade Winds and Atlantic swells. Most cruisers motor or motor-sail heading east across the Anegada passage to get it over with as soon as possible. Not us, we are purists, strictly sailing, no engines for us.

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We head northeast. Then tack southeast. Our progress is so slow. In the afternoon we can still see the round belly of Virgin Gorda (The Fat Virgin) floating on the horizon behind us. We estimate it will take us about two days and nights of tacking, about 48 hours. 80 NM from point A to point B can become 160 NM, even more, when zigzagging. With about 20 kt winds and 4 to 6 foot waves stopping us, Fata barely goes with 4 knots. And there are some weird currents, as if always against us.

In the evening small storm cells start floating our direction, a string of dark clouds that come with sudden puffs and rain we’d rather avoid. We watch them closely on the radar and tack north to run away from one tacking back southeast when the danger has passed. We manage to cross the string of squalls without hitting any.

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The sunset is spectacular that day. The sky and sea look smeared with blood, Viktor says ominously. And then the night, thick disorienting blackness, takes over. Since that storm in the Yucatán Channel, we dread the night. We take turns on the helm, short naps in the cockpit. The wind is steady from east, but the currents are messing with us. We get pushed south and by midnight another island looks closer to us on the charts. We change course for Saba, 25 NM south of St Marten.

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We have gained enough height the previous day tacking north, so now sailing southeast on a starboard tack takes us quickly to Saba, an island we know nothing about. On the charts it looks round with no bays and no anchorages on the east and south lee sides. We read what the cruising guide has to say about approaching the island, anchoring, and any other information that will prepare us for what to expect. But there is nothing that can prepare you for Saba. Saba you have to see and experience.

The morning reveals the lonely shadow of a small mountain sticking out of the sea, like an epiphany.

Saba, The Impossible

You must imagine a sleeping volcano, about 5 square miles (13 square kilometers) in territory, rising vertically from the sea, reaching 3,000 feet (1,000 meters), its inaccessible perilous cliffs like the dark back of a sea monster, its green peak where mountain goats roam, always wearing a fashionable white cloud.

Saba
Saba

It’s impossible for ships to access the island. Where would the ships drop anchor if there isn’t a single bay, a single anchorage, a single beach?(Even Columbus who sighted the island in 1493 didn’t attempt to stop.)

It’s impossible for people to live here. Only ships bring people and supplies.

It’s impossible to build towns. The terrain is too steep.

It’s impossible to build a road connecting the towns. The terrain is really too steep.

Most of all, it’s impossible to build an airport. A plane cannot land on a mountain.

There are so many things deemed ‘impossible’ which actually happened on Saba.

Once uninhabited, the island became a territory of The Netherlands in 1816. People and goods arrived on the island via the leeward west shore which, even though there is no harbor, offered some shelter from ocean swells, but boats could only land in calm seas. There the Sabans cut steep steps in the rock to be able to climb on land, a stone ladder so vertical it looks surreal when seen from the sea. All cargo, including a piano once, and a bishop, was unloaded by men standing in the water waist deep and then hauled up the ladder. During invasions it was easy to protect the island with piles of boulder let loose when the attackers were climbing the hills.  

The Ladder

The Ladder

Little by little Dutch, Scottish, and English settlers along with Africans brought as slaves built two villages. One on the bottom of the south side, called “The Bottom” and another on the windward east side called “Windwardside” with houses perched on the edge of cliffs and atop hills up and down the slopes of the island. Even though evidently they did not have much imagination for naming places, the settlers became farmers and fishermen, cobblers and boat builders, creating a unique strong-willed community based on hard work and mutual help. But they had no road linking the two villages.

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In the 1940s Dutch engineers arrived on Saba to look into ‘the road problem’. They came, measured and calculated, and then they declared “It’s impossible to build a road here, the terrain is too steep.” And they left. But one Saban didn’t believe them. Joseph Lambert Hassel, Lambee, born in 1906 took a correspondence course in road building from the International School of Correspondence in the U.S. and with no formal training he designed and supervised the impossible building of the impossible 9-mile long road which they named “The Road”.

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It took a crew of local farmers and fishermen 20 years, using no machinery, only wheelbarrows to finish The Road. For the support walls they used volcanic stones and for the road itself they used cement imported from Puerto Rico. And, as government funding was refused, a local merchant eager to see the road finished paid for the cement. No one could guarantee that the building of the road would be successful, yet the first car arrived on the island in 1947, ten years before the completion of the project. The Road, Lambee’s road, inconceivably steep at places and with drastic 8-curves, was finished in 1958.

The Road

The Road

The Road

The Road

 

The Road

The Road

 

Now, how about an airport, the Sabans asked.

The Dutch engineers returned on Saba once again. And once again the experts declared “It’s impossible to build an airport runway, there is no space.” And they left!

You might have guessed (and as I’m writing this I have tears in my eyes), but the Sabans, once again, didn’t believe them and proved them wrong. They found the flattest spot on the island, called “Flat Point” and cleared it by hand. In 1959 French pilot Remi de Haenen from St. Barth’s became the first man to land an aircraft on the dirt strip at Flat Point proving it’s possible. In 1963 the airport was a fact with a 400-meter (1,300 ft) landing strip, the shortest commercial runway in the world, where only specially trained pilots flying small aircrafts may land.

It must be quite an experience arriving on Saba by plane. We watched one landing, and it was incredible. The plane started slowing down long before approaching the airstrip and miraculously stopped almost immediately after hitting the ground. If the pilot cannot stop because the speed is too fast, they touch down and then lift off on the other side to try a second time.

Our Saba

We approach Saba at noon on the second day of our passage, sooner than we expected, but then, we expected to get to St Marten, not Saba. On the west lee side, which in east Trade winds should be the most weather-protected side, an anchorage is indicated on the charts called Wells Bay, even though it isn’t exactly a bay.

Fata Morgana moored at Wells Bay

Fata Morgana moored at Wells Bay

There isn’t an anchorage, there isn’t a beach. All we see is rocks, rugged black magma towers, sharp and broken, and the red vertical cliffs of the island. There is a row of 9 mooring balls all vacant and not at all close to the island. We grab one. The depth is 60 feet, the water is dark blue. It feels as if you are stopped out in the open sea, holding on to a small mooring ball. Accelerated puffs turn around the island all the time and the boat violently pulls on its mooring ball. Really hard to sleep peacefully here at night. Saba’s shores and waters are so harsh and unforgiving that not many boaters venture this way. Saba is also off-limits for most charter boats; they are not allowed here.

Rocks in Wells Bay, and stone beach, Saba

Rocks in Wells Bay, and stone beach, Saba

From where we are we see only one house up on the green hill and the beginning of a road at the foot of the island. We also see The Ladder which no one uses anymore. There isn’t a marina, not even a dinghy dock, and the shore is rocky. The only way to access the forbidden land from this side is by kayak, a dinghy won’t do.

We kayak to shore and begin climbing the steepest cement road in the world surrounded by thick tropical vegetation, huge elephant ears and ferns, fragrant flowers and tamarind trees. There are no cars, no people, only shy mountain goats grazing on the steep hillsides. The place looks deserted. It takes us an hour to reach the top of the hill, all sweaty, legs hurting, hearts exploding. We have climbed up to The Bottom.

 

View of The Bottom from The Road

View of The Bottom from The Road

The Bottom, even though on top of a hill, is still in the foot of the volcano, Mount Scenery, about 3,000 feet tall. It is a fairy tale village, hard to believe real people live here and not elves. All houses etched against the dark mountain are painted white with green rims around the windows and doors, and red roofs, white picket fences, tropical flower, and mango trees. Each house has its own rainwater collection system, some almost two hundred years old made of stone, as there is no freshwater on the island.

House and rainwater rock cistern on the slope of the hill.

House and rainwater rock cistern on the slope of the hill.

We decide to go to the other village, Windwordside. Every car passing us on the road stops and people offer us a ride, and we have to explain that, in order to see and experience the place, we rather walk the 9-mile road, The Road.

House in Windwardside, Saba

House in Windwardside, Saba

We pass by the Saba University School of Medicine, established by American expatriates, whose international students make up a fifth of the entire population on the island, which is about 2,000 residents (and probably about 2,000 wild goats roaming freely in the forests, villages, crossing the roads, and eating the mangoes that fall from the trees every now and then). Thanks to the university, there is an excellent hospital in Saba providing residents with medical care. Most Sabans are in fact born on the island and some have never ever left it.

Saba University School of Medicine

Saba University School of Medicine

Half the Sabans are white, the other half are black, and when I asked if there is any racism, they told me: “We have lived together for many generations in this tightly-knitted community, isolated from the rest of the world, helping each other. So, no, there isn’t a trace of racism in Saba; in fact we have many mixed-race families.”

Church and graveyard, Saba

Church and graveyard, Saba

The Windwardside, much like The Bottom, is another fairytale place with white red-roofed houses perched on the slopes of hills overlooking the sea. Santa Claus summer retreat. There is an art gallery displaying local artists’ paintings and crafts, a few restaurants and shops. From here begins the long steep but pleasant trail to the top of Mount Scenery, a 90-minute hike up among pristine tropical rainforest, referred to as “The Elfin Forest”. And it is not the only trail, there are many around the island, all maintained by the park service.

View from the trail

View from the trail

We spend 5 unforgettable days in Saba, snorkeling near the volcanic shores, hiking up Mount Scenery, the highest point in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and The Ladder, walking the steep road to The Bottom every morning, trying tropical fruits we never seen before thanks to Paul, the owner of The Bean Coffee Shop in The Bottom, hitchhiking between the two villages, drinking beer in Scout’s Place bar with the most stunning view.

Scout's Place Restaurant

Scout’s Place Restaurant

View form the restaurant

View form the restaurant

 

And if I tell you it’s impossible to meet other Bulgarians in such a remote Caribbean island, almost inaccessible, with barely 800 households, you must know by now, it isn’t true. Everything is possible in Saba! We meet Ilian and his girlfriend Bisi the day after we arrive, and we learned that one of the professors in the Medical University as well as one of the international students there are from Bulgaria too.

Ilian and Evo (we met again in St Maarten)

Ilian and Evo (we met again in St Maarten)

Ilian is a professional diver born and raised in the same Bulgarian city Evo and me were born and raised, Varna. He has come to work as diving instructor at the dive shop, Saba Deep, for a short period of time, as Saba is one of the world’s best diving sites with underwater magma towers, coral fields, and over 150 thousand species of fish. And although we didn’t have much time to spend together, our bond based on common interests and worldviews became as strong as the one linking good old friends. We hope our paths will cross again.

Views of Saba

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The Ladder

The Ladder

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Steps up the Ladder

Steps and path up the Ladder

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Paul at The Bean Coffee Shop, best on the island.

Paul at The Bean Coffee Shop, best on the island.

Mira, trying cashew fruit for a first time

Mira, trying cashew fruit for a first time

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Trail to Mount Scenery

Trail to Mount Scenery

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Mira on top of Mount Scenary

Mira on top of Mount Scenery

Maya and Mira, eating crackers on Mount Scenery, Saba

Maya and Mira, eating crackers on Mount Scenery, Saba

 

Evo getting 3 ripe papayas. There are many fruit trees in the wild on Saba and usually animals eat the fruit.

Evo getting 3 ripe papayas. There are many fruit trees in the wild on Saba and usually animals eat the fruit. We also got some bananas and lemons.

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