Today is Boxing Day, a national holiday here in BVI. Cutter Loose leaves the protection of North Sound to travel to the island of Anegada, some 12 miles to the north.
Moderate easterlies in the 12 to 15 knot range taken together with 2 to 3 foot seas make for a delightful close reach to Anegada. Today is the best sailing day thus far in our winter cruise. This makes the journey to Anegada worthwhile in and of itself.
Midway in the journey, a dinghy approaches. The operator is holding a camera with a long lens, shooting photos of Cutter Loose under full sail. The logo on the dinghy reads Yacht Shots, an unsolicited commercial photographer that is hopeful of selling action photos to vacationing sailors. This sales technique reminds us of commercial photographers on western ski slopes, shooting photos of downhill skiers as they whiz by.
Three miles from our destination, the shape of palm and pine trees becomes visible on the horizon. Unlike the volcanic islands of Tortola and Virgin Gorda, Anegada is a low-lying coral island. The highest elevation is 28 feet above sea level. The Spanish named the island “the drowned land”.
A marked channel through the coral reef leads to a ferry dock and a shallow anchorage on the southeast coast of Anegada. The small harbor is filled with cruising boats and a handful of charter boats. There is no solitude to be found here in the harbor, at least during the holidays. This area is known as Setting Point. Three restaurants, a few gift shops and a small hotel are located here. A wrap-around swell from the southeast creates rolly conditions in the anchorage. To add insult to injury, there is a Boxing Day party on the ferry dock at Setting Point tonight. The loud music finally comes to an end at 11 PM.
Since many of the roads on Anegada are unpaved paths, we opt to rent a motor scooter on Thursday to tour the island. There are about 200 residents that call Anegada home. There is very little development on the island. There is one school in the Settlement, covering pre-school, primary and secondary education. Other than tourism and fishing, there is no evidence of a local economy. Free range cows and goats roam the island (including the roads) at will. They appear to be undernourished. The landscape is sandy with scrub vegetation.
The gorgeous beaches on the north coast are the primary reason to visit Anegada. For those seeking to escape to a beautiful white sand beach with emerald water and no frills, this is certainly the place to be. Of all the beaches on the island, Loblolly Bay is reputed to be the most attractive. After a stroll on the beach, we pause for lunch at Big Bamboo, the local beach bar and restaurant at Loblolly. The technique is to arrive early, order lunch at the restaurant and reserve a table for a specific time. After swimming and snorkeling, your table and lunch are waiting for you. There is a dive shop and a few cottages on the beach at Loblolly that are available for rent.
A sandy trail along the north coast leads to three other picture perfect beaches. In places, the sea breeze has deposited loose sand from the dunes onto the trail, making it nearly impassable in our rented scooter. Now we understand why the rental shop in Setting Point recommended a four wheel drive vehicle.
Each beach offers a few rental cottages along with the requisite beach bar and restaurant. We are the sole visitors to the beach at Windlass Bight today. At Cow Wreck Bay, however, there are kite boarders, swimmers and several patrons at the bar. The origin of the name Cow Wreck refers to an incident involving a ship with a payload of cattle that sunk on the reef near this Bay. For many years thereafter, the bones of the deceased accumulated on the beach.
The evening in the harbor at Setting Point is quiet tonight, providing an opportunity to reflect on this unique place. Anegada is certainly not a glitzy resort destination. The beaches and sand dunes are relatively undisturbed, fulfilling their function in nature. It is difficult to understand how its residents can survive economically without tourism. A glimpse of Anegada 50 years in the future would be most interesting.