In the way of all remote tropical isles, getting to Saba is a multi-connection affair. The final and only commercially scheduled flight is via the 19 seat DeHavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter on Windward Airways (WinAir). The more squeamish flyers might have issues with this flight–the planes, though well maintained, have duct tape on the handles, the teeny seats barely fitting my big Hawaiian self in two of them. A normal carryon for regular jets is not allowed – only what can actually fit under those seats: maybe a flat tablet or Kindle or a purse. The cockpit is fully in view, and the pilots warn the passengers not to be worried as they rev each propeller separately, then both before you take off. The good news: since flights began in 1963, WinAir has never crashed on Saba AND the flight is a hop-skip-3000 foot jump of 15 minutes from St. Maarten (the ferries are 90 min in potentially rough seas). You’re barely up
in the air when the island that served as the opening scene in the original 1939 version of King Kong looms large in the front windows of the plane, the ominous fog clinging to the top of Mt. Scenery. As you come closer and begin descending, you’re straining to see…wait, is that tiny little strip on the left the airport. Of course it is. I don’t have enough bandwidth yet to post my video of the landing, but let’s just say the plane banks in by high cliffs and descends very rapidly, the pilot reaches up and effectively stalls the plane to drop perfectly onto the front of the runway, they hit the reverse prop hard, and in moments…not even half the runway (The Twin Otter is a Short Takeoff and Landing [STOL] plane), you’re already taxiing to the tiny toy airport. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport – a grand name for this 1300 foot tarmac buttressed front and back by 50 foot cliffs. Ostensibly, they tell you that if the pilot doesn’t quite hit the front of the runway, he guns it off the cliff and comes around for round 2. Yee-ha! To be honest with you, the Saba landing is polished compared to St. Bart’s: a much scarier landing…diving between a cliff and plummeting over a beach.
Look at that teeny l’il toy airport! so perky and cute. Whatever…you’ve landed safely, you grab your bags and walk over to the building, up to a window where a Dutch customs fellow asks you how long you’re staying, passport, etc. Pretty sure he was a Johnson, a descendant of one of the two major founding Saban families, the other being Hassell.
I BE A SCUBA DIVER
The past week has been focused on me getting my Open Water scuba diving certification. After a somewhat bad first day/first dive where I had challenges equalizing the sinus pressure as I descended into a reef called Hole In the Corner, surfaced and promptly hurled all around the boat due to swallowing sea water and seasickness from the dive boat, and resolved to come back strong the next 2 days, which I did, using better living through seasickness medication (yay!) and proper equalization help from my most excellent Sea Saba diving instructors. My final 3 dives were excellente, and because the whole island is effectively a protected marine park, the diving is outstanding. Of course, no pictures yet, still need to get comfortable being a hovering floating giant of a dude. No wetsuits for Chaz; the water down here is 80-82 degrees – bathwater by my SFO standards. I’m signed up for more dives–night diving, deep diving…wahoo!
THE INCIDENT (Final Chapter)
Tricia wanted to have a conversation with Cisco about respecting private property and to stay away from my St. John’s cottage; they began yelling at each other, next thing I know, Tricia gets smacked back into the car, and I come around and insert myself into the middle of them. I send Cisco up the road, get Tricia back in the car, where we see the walnut size blue lump on her knuckle. Uh-oh. Tricia drops me off at the St John’s cottage, swears she’s ok, and heads down to the hospital where the police are waiting to check out her injury and take her report. Two days later, I’m in the little police station in Windwardside, making my statement in English to Susan as she types it in Dutch, then reads it back to me in English. C’est la vie. Anti-climactic, eh?
Let’s be clear – this was an exception in all respects: Saba is insanely safe by any standard, women who’ve been here for a while all told me that they have no fear or issues walking in the dark alone here. Major felonies just don’t happen here, folks. Where else can you say that about?
Which makes Saba the perfect place to set my murder mystery, the reason I’m here. I’m talking with as many people as I can, getting the stories, smells, sights, sounds down…above and below the water to figure out where exactly the body or bodies will end up. ‘Til then….see you on the flip side. Thanks SO much for the great comments….I love’em.