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Lying approximately 25 nm SSW of St. Martin is the small volcanic island of Saba. That name sometimes causes a bit of confusion amongst cruisers as the BVI have a similarly named spot, Saba Rock. As best we can tell, the spot in the BVI is pronounced with a short ‘A’ sound while the island near us is spoken with a long ‘A’ sound, Say-Ba. Regardless of how you say it, we want to go there. Saba Island that is.

Although we’ve been in this area two different times, we have yet to visit Saba. The hiking on the island is reported to be excellent and thus we did plan on going there last year. As I wrote in our blog though, Rebecca had a small injury which caused us to change our plans at the last moment and give the island a pass. This year we are determined to go there, and thus have been keeping a weather eye to see when it would be good to leave the shelter of our protected anchorage.

As I was reviewing the forecasted wind and sea conditions this morning, it started me thinking about the different types of anchorages that we come across. I think I could break them down into four different categories, each offering various levels of protection from the elements.

The four types of anchorages:

  1. Fully enclosed lagoon or harbor. Ex. Simpson Bar Lagoon – St. Martin, Marigot Bay – St. Lucia, Port Egmont – Grenada. Places such as these that offer near 360 degree protection obviously provide the best shelter from bad weather. While the wind may still affect the boats at anchor, waves would typically be limited to the chop generated by that breeze.
  2. Deep sheltered bay on the lee side of an island. Ex. Deep Bay – Antigua, Admiralty Bay – Bequia, Tyrrel Bay – Carriacou. Under normal trade wind conditions these bays provide good protection although certain ones can still sometimes be affected by a swell wrapping around the island. In storm conditions, when the winds often blow from somewhere other than their normal direction, the protection offered by these bays disappears..
  3. Anchoring anywhere on the lee side of an island. Ex. Saba Island, Roseau – Dominica, Basse-Terre – Guadeloupe. Spots such as these are the easiest to locate. If the wind is blowing from the east, simply find a spot of suitable depth with a good bottom behind an island that can provide a break from the wind and seas and drop your hook. The downside to this type of anchorage is that they are most susceptible to swell and/or wind shifts.
  4. Anchoring behind a reef.. Ex. Horseshoe Reef – Tobago Cays, Bird Island Reef – Antigua, Ensenada Dakity – Culebra. In settled conditions, anchoring behind reefs such as the ones I have listed can be amazing. While you still receive the full affect of the cooling breeze, the uncomfortable affect of the waves is largely broken up by the reef in front of you. In times of less than ideal conditions though, I think we’d seek better shelter.

You’ll note that I included Saba Island in category 3. We have read that even in settled conditions the anchorage can be rolly. With the Christmas Winds continuing to blow here, and the swell forecast to once again start rolling in from the north, it’s pretty much putting our trip to Saba in a holding pattern. Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to enjoy ourselves in St. Martin a bit longer. We know that Saba isn’t going anywhere. It’ll still be there when the weather improves.


Saba on Google Earth — as close as we have yet to come.

Note: We have anchored in all of the spots that I used as examples in the above text. For more info on these places and photos, enter their names in the search box here on our blog. Look in the right hand sidebar for the search box.


  1. Awesome diving at Saba Island as well.

    Rebecca I hope the bum toe heals quickly. Soaking it in salt water is my recommendation!

  2. Hi Mike, I’d also like to hear your thoughts on hurricane holes too sometime (if it hasn’t already been covered :o) ~Scott

  3. Saba was great for us. We picked up a mooring there 3 years ago and stayed 4-5 days. Hiking was excellent and we filmed an episode of “Distant Shores”.

    We moored and then ran around in the dinghy to the protected harbour to go ashore. We did once visit the beach near the anchorage and climb up the amazing steps but the beach landing is tough even on settled days. Enjoy!!

    SV Distant Shores II

  4. Steve and Gloria Stanforth - Reply

    I went to Saba on a Barefoot cruise it is very nice and the hiking and photo ops were great. Make sure you try the Saba spice it is a local made drink. I do remember thinking not a great place to anchor.

  5. I’m no expert but the people at Saba Rock in the BVIs pronounce it say-buh.

  6. Hey guys, we’re anchored (moored, actually) behind Bird Island Reef in Antigua. Its nice. Saba is on our short list too, although not for a few weeks or more. We need to get back to Barbuda (although don’t tell anyone how good it is up there).

  7. You have to goto Saba. It’s awesome, and totally different than other Caribbean islands. I think that there are some mooring balls on the leeward side of the island. There are these old diesel taxis that can drive you up the hand made road, or you could hike… The road is an amazing feat of engineering.

  8. We hope that you enjoy Saba as much as we did. We stayed on the mooring until the winds started to pick up. Pretty exciting taking your dinghy around the “corner” where the waves build up.

    We did hiking and diving while there. Do your hiking first, as the altitude is an issue if you go diving first.

    D & Don Wogaman

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