Sint Maarten, Anguilla, BVI.

Graham Shaw
Sat 18 Apr 2009 21:43
Sint Maarten was only only a couple of hours' sail from St.Barts, so even after rescuing that other yacht from certain disaster, we still made it to Simpson Bay in time for tea. We anchored for the night outside the lagoon, and went in in the morning - there is a lifting bridge which allows access to the lagoon, a large inland lake which is very sheltered and is normally home to many enormous superyachts. However most of them had gone to Antigua to be there in time for Race Week, which is a big event there (the Caribbean equivalent of Cowes Week). This, combined with the fact that it was Easter weekend (the whole of which seemed to be a public holiday), made Sint Maarten very quiet indeed - a bit of a ghost town in fact. After a couple of nights there, we set off again, to Anguilla.

Anguilla is one of the few remaining former Crown Colonies which is still a British Dependent Territory. It still has a bit of a British feel to it - there are lots of "Royal" things, the Royal Anguilla Police Force, for example - and they drive on the left, fequently in Land Rovers. We were anchored in a bay called Road Bay, which had the purest white sand and the clearest water I think we've seen so far. Lucas loved playing on the beach, and is now getting quite comfortable / confident in the water, though still can't swim yet, despite my best efforts to teach him! He is keener to mess about and splash lots rather than do anything constructive. He's having a good time though!

We arrived in Anguilla on Easter Monday, and there was a big party on the beach. At one of the bars there was a large gathering of musicians, mostly local and American, so there was a big jamming session which everyone enjoyed. There was also local boat racing. The boats were not dissimilar to the ones we saw in Martinique, with huge mainsails and lots of crew to compensate for that(see photo). The race starts were quite unique though - a bit of a Le Mans style start: The boats were all lined up on the beach (how they decided who got the windward end, I don't know), with full sail up, and an anchor out up the beach. Each boat had one crewman at the anchor, and then at the starting gun, this crewman picked up the anchor, ran down the beach with it, leapt aboard, and they were off. Quite entertaining!

After a couple of nights there we set off very early (0400) in company with another British boat "Libertad" bound for the British Virgin Islands. Libertad headed a bit further north, being bound for Virgin Gorda. We continued on to Road Town in Tortola, where we arrived in time to clear in, and dinghy round to Village Cay marina for dinner. The last time we were in the BVI was twelve years ago, and I had been a couple of times before that as well (the first being with Gareth, after my first Atlantic crossing back in '94).

I don't know whether I was remembering it through rose tinted specs or what, but it seems to have lost some of its charm, or at least lost most of its Britishness. The place is as beautiful as ever - yesterday we spent the day at The Baths on Virgin Gorda - a spectacular rock formation (see photo), with caves and wonderful snorkelling, which was lovely, but we have found things to be far more Americanised than ever before. That and the fact that the officials we have to deal with being the surliest we have encountered, have left me a little disappointed. The place now seems to be at saturation point with charter yachts (I know that is like sitting in your car complaining about the amount of traffic on the road!). There is almost nowhere to anchor - all the space in every anchorage is taken up with mooring buoys which you have to pay $25 a night for, making it an expensive place to stop. Mooring fees apart, it seems to be the most expensive place in the whole Caribbean for everything. Little wonder there seem to be hardly any genuine cruising boats here.

Anyway, enough of my whinging. We have headed north today to Anegada, somewhere we've never been. The sail here was a bit of an adventure - first off we got the cruising chute up for the first time in ages (but then the wind backed, so we had to get it down again!).Then we some interesting navigation getting in here - it is reef navigation to be done by eye - the charts are obviously based on old source data, as the entrance channel is about a quarter of mile different between the GPS position and the lat and long on both the paper chart and the electronic one. Tricky, when the entrance is only about 50 metres wide! No wonder the charter companies generally won't let their customers bring their boats here!

So far Anguilla is very peaceful. Only one boatboy has been round, to give us a menu for one of the restaurants on the beach. This is very useful, as it has saved us the bother of going to look. Without leaving the boat we know we can't afford to eat there! The plan now is to head down to Jost Van Dyke tomorrow (west of Tortola) and set off from there on Monday, bound for the Turks and Caicos islands. This will be our longest trip for some time - we reckon on arriving there on Thursday, so I'm sure there will be more to report then.

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