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!

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