Saturday, March 31, 2012

And Round Anguilla We Go

Customs and Immigration in Anguilla permits you to check out up to 24 hours prior to departure, so our first order of the day was a visit to the charming ladies in the office to complete our paperwork. This would avoid us having to launch the dinghy and make the trip in on Saturday morning before heading off to St. Martin.

Prior to actually leaving though we have the rest of an island to explore and the wheels with which to do it. Having been a little disappointed the day before by limited access to the beaches we set our final destination as Shoal Bay on the north east end of the island. On the way however, we headed up to The Valley where the St. Gregory RC church is quite an eyeful. I guess having outgrown the first church the parish decided they had at least a conversation piece going for them so they copied the facade for the new church.

We were diverted in The Valley at the round-about due to a road-race but this fortuitous redirection gave us a fabulous view of the north coast of Anguilla – the colours were absolutely stunning.

After taking this photo of Henry and the rental car, we were amused that it looks a little like we came to a skidding halt and wrapped the front end round the phone pole. Rest assured there were no 'additional' scratches, dents or dings added by the end of the day.

Carrying on along the north shore we came across a number of gorgeous little bays with the surf crashing on the coral shoreline and then once we'd had our fill of the rugged beauty we headed inland across the rolling landscape. We criss-crossed the island and now feel that we can recognize most junctions by the landscaping of the various round-abouts; and, they're proper English ones that rotate in a clock-wise direction! However, some roads were debatable on how public they really were...

We visited a very interesting little museum on the history of Anguilla all lovingly put together by a local scholar and author. The museum was established in his mother's house where he had grown up and he had some wonderful artifacts on display. On inside information from Ted and Louise we stopped at a Lolo in the middle of nowhere for some delicious wings and ribs. We took them to go and found a parking spot at Scilly Bay overlooking the local fishing fleet.

We wrapped up with a visit to Shoal Bay and a walk along the beach – finally a beach with a nice blend of tourism and nature, lots of open, accessible space, a few beach bars but not invasive and plenty of incredible beauty.

Back on Mowzer for the evening and we are preparing to head off to Marigot in the morning.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Anguilla Highs and Lows

The day dawned windy and overcast and that's pretty much what was dished up until later in the afternoon. Undaunted we decided to head out to the cays with a forecast of 15 knots and knowing that we'd been told if the winds were over 20 not to bother going. Well it turns out they were right – but not the forecast. We had a fabulous sail over and back but with winds in the 20-25 knot range and the waves crashing through the protective reef we decided not to risk a dinghy ride round to the beach. We took an exploratory ride around the anchorage and were soon soaked through so that was about all we saw of Prickly Pear. 

Commercial excursion on a bouncy ride between reef and beach on the other side of the Cay.

On the sail back to Road Bay, we peeked in at Sandy Cay since from the distance it like everyone's favourite Caribbean screen saver; you know the one, with a little sandy island and a lone one or two palm trees, surrounded by turquoise and azure waters. Unfortunately, while that is pretty much what Sandy Cay is, it has also had the addition of a beach shack serving as a bar and purveyor of loud music. The local service to run tourists from the resorts out to the cay involves high-speed motor launches who can navigate inside the reef and anchor stern-to on the beach, rather like the Puerto Ricans in the Spanish Islands. Needless to say, with the swell running and facing a soaking ride in the dinghy to arrive at something we weren't all that keen on, we took a miss and headed back to our anchorage in Road Bay. Lunch in a beach bar with a beautiful view of the anchorage was much preferred.

We came to the conclusion that Ted and Louise's decision to rent a car to see the island was definitely the way to go so we walked back up the hill to The Valley and not only found the same car rental agency but ended up renting the same car that they had given us a ride in yesterday. At a rate of $35 for 24 hours this is a much better deal than the cruising permit even if you can't get out to the cays. With the car we'll be able to see Shoal Bay which is a difficult navigation anyway.

For the remainder of the afternoon and now that we had wheels, we explored the west end of the island. Anguilla has a very gentle charm, neat and tended homes and guest houses with the occasional 'work in progress' that could be just started or have been sitting there unfinanced for five years. The first big difference we noticed from many of the other islands is the speed of driving since there are no major elevation changes, very few blind hills and no hairpin turns to climb to the top of the mountain. The next and most profound difference is a direct result of Anguilla's search for financial stability. As a result we don't begrudge them at all, but it means that Anguilla is not really a cruiser's destination other than Road Bay. We already discovered the commerciallity of the 'Cruising Permit' and with driving down to various beautiful beaches we found that most of them are ringed by very private and most likely very expensive guest villas and resorts. Other than Cove Bay, we had the definite impression that we (the riff-raff) were intruding on the space of the elite.

The two faces of Anguilla (rustic charm and foreign $$ development)

Back to Mowzer we went, and then over to Golden Dawn to share a sun-downer (or two) with Ted and Louise. We shared back and forth our tales and experiences on our boats and it was particularly interesting to hear of their time in the Med and also when they drove their camper van and golfed across Canada (one of our other dreams/plans). Thanks for the hospitality and hopefully we'll see more of you out here!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Haul-outs and Coincidences

Let's see, it seems like so much has happened in the few days but I will try to summarize and not make this post too long.

Monday night at Leinster Bay was completely calm and uneventful, and I when I say calm, it was rather like early morning up on the Ottawa River - we've never seen the conditions like this before down here.

Tuesday morning we checked in at Soper's Hole and then headed up to Nanny Cay to have Mowzer hauled out for a measurement to complete our Transport Canada registration.  All went according to plan and schedule, the yard was extremely efficient and the measurements were all taken over the lunch period so we were back in the water and on our way by 1:30.

During our haul-out we also had the bottom pressure washed so she is all clean and in 'go-fast' shape.  We did find a few blisters appeared immediately once Mowzer was out of the water and they quickly disappeared once she dried so this is a little concerning but we'll have to see what can be done.

The yard was super hot so it was great to get back out on the water and so we headed over to Cooper Island where we hooked up to a mooring for a bit of R&R and the preparation for making the big jump.  We had food and drinks for the night ready, we rigged up jack-lines to attach ourselves to the boat and made sure we had all our charts, navigation and time calculations completed.

We departed from Cooper Island at 5:30pm and after buzzing the backside of Ginger Island, headed east across the Anegada Passage towards Anguilla. The sun slowly set behind us and it wasn't long before darkness encapsulated us aboard the boat. On one hand the world really shrinks to just the space you can see – the boat, but on the other your focus is so external trying to assess the lights around you and with the most amazing star-show going on, you feel infinitely small. We had our first freighter cross in front of us fairly early on and after that it was a parade of cruise ships heading for St. Martin (all behind us). The sliver of a moon set around 9:30pm but even so we could still pick out the horizon as a different darkness between sea and sky. At no point were we ever without being able to see four or five other sailboats heading for Anguilla or St. Martin – you can tell by their lights whether they are under power or sail. Given the conditions which were extremely flat seas and winds of only 6 – 10 knots, I'm assuming most were motor sailing as were we.
Auto helm was doing his stuff while Henry kept a lookout behind?

By 5:30am and a number of 2-hour exchanged shifts, the sky was brightening and we made the decision to slow down just a bit to be able to enter the area north of Anguilla under daylight conditions. From our time here before we knew we would encounter many floats from the lobster posts in the passage and sure enough it was a game of dodge-em all the way up to Road Bay.

This is what we were hunting for so we wouldn't get a line wrapped on our prop:

This all felt like such an accomplishment to us and we're very happy to have our first overnight passage under our belts. Of course, the wind and seas were very kind to us but at least we now know what it is like to be out there in the darkness, that is really not that dark.

Wednesday in Road Bay: we checked in at customs and immigration and made plans for the next day to do some cruising in the Anguilla marine park. Back at the boat today we rested up and napped through a mid-day rain shower before heading out for a walk. As we wandered along we came across a couple of folks studying a map so of course we struck up a conversation. To make a long story short, they are also sailing a Mahe 36 and crossed over from the BVI last night as well. We trekked up the hill together into The Valley (funny topography on Anguilla what?) where they were looking to pick up a car rental. We wandered on for a bit and then heard the distant call of an old-fashioned ice cream truck. As we carried on Ted and Louise came by in their new-found car and gave us a lift over to Crocus Bay where we hoped to pick up the Heritage Trail to walk back to Road Bay. We found the Heritage Trail alright, but I think Anguilla is just a bit bigger than we really expected and after about 3 miles and an impromptu stop for more water, we were back at the anchorage. What a neat clean island, and as we have found so often people are so friendly if only you say “Good Afternoon”. The island is definitely making it's living off high-end tourism so we won't be staying too long, but will take this as an opportunity to enjoy it while we can.

Landfall in Anguilla

After a fabulous (and uneventful), and our first overnight passage we arrived in Anguilla this morning at 9am.  It took us 15 hours from the time we departed the BVIs with light winds and a flat, calm sea.  Given the weather conditions we decided to head to the northern-most island of our chosen destinations and we now have about a week and a half to play in the islands before we head back west.

We've checked in at Road Bay and are going to spend the day enjoying the beautiful anchorage (and maybe catching a nap or two) and given that we have been able to pick up this wifi signal on the boat, I will post more a bit later.  Just wanted to let you know we'd made it very happily.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dedicated to Caitlin

Our post today is dedicated to Caitlin for her birthday. Wish you were here with us but until we figure out the whole tele-transport thing we'll just have to celebrate long distance. Hope you have a fabulous day and excellent adventures in the coming year!

And now back in paradise, the adventure begins. We started of with a little taste of other beautiful places to explore as our flight was redirected down the east coast to avoid a low pressure out over the Atlantic. We crossed coast of Georgia and then proceeded down the coast of Florida until turning left at Cape Canavral and skirting north of the Bahamas. We flew over the Abacos, Marsh Harbor and Georgetown, could see the Exumas in the distance and then finally the Turks and Caicos to the south. The turquoise blue was so intense, highlighted by swirls of white sand on the banks; can't wait til our adventures take us there one day. The photos don't really do it justice but I was able to capture a glimpse with my iPad camera.

An evening of provisioning and a great little dinner in Red Hook for a change and then we settled in on Mowzer to make her feel like hime for the next 2.5 weeks. Monday morning saw me resurrecting the habit if an early morning walk through town and up the 99 steps with Jan - thanks Jan for only making me do the steps once! (Can you call it a habit when it is the second time-I sure hope so!) The weather forecast is as calm as we have ever seen it and a haze has set in so you actually can't see the surrounding islands. Don't know the cause (Sahara dust, humidity, volcanic activity) but hopefully a breeze will come up and clear it away soon.

We spent out first night out in Leinster Bay on St. John before crossing over to Soper's Hole to do our check in/out for the BVIs. The plan is to head for St. Martin tonight given that the weather forecast looks good. We may be motoring for the 90 miles but it sure beats 25 knots if wind straight out of the east! Before that we have a haul out planned at Nanny Cay, to complete a measurement for our Canadian registration so we should have an interesting post the next time we get a connection. Stay tuned, lots more to come...

Monday, March 12, 2012

Two Weeks to Go

On the countdown now until our departure for Mowzer and the planning and excitement is beginning to grow.  Its been a busy winter and recently with a fair bit of work travel, our upcoming three-week respite is much-anticipated.

Given that we will be aboard for almost a week longer than any of our previous trips, we have a few things planned, without trying to plan too much since of course weather rules and best laid plans stand the risk of getting doused.

Did you know:
  • We still haven't finished our Canadian registration of Mowzer so we hope to move this one step closer to completion.
  • It is approx. 90nm from the Virgin Islands to St. Martin/Sint Maarten,which involves an overnight sail to get there.
  • I have completed sewing courtesy flags for Saba, France, Netherlands and Sint Maarten.
  • We have purchased new vented walking/water shoes made by a French company, called Glagla's.  Not sure that the French really have a handle on what makes a memorable marketing name in North America but I am hopeful these shoes will really rock on the Caribbean trails and beaches.
  • Did I mention "3 weeks"?!