Friday, February 22nd to Monday, February 25th – weekend in Anguilla

 

Friday morning begins with a visit to the Captanerie in Marina Port Royale.  Having cleared Customs, we are prepared for another Friday escape from Simpson Bay Lagoon.  Obviously, other boats have a similar idea in mind.  There are more than a dozen boats circling the entrance to the canal in anticipation of the 2:30 PM bridge opening on the French side.  Once in Marigot Bay, the sails fill with 15 knots of breeze.  Cutter Loose responds enthusiastically, pleased to be back in her element. 

Our destination for the weekend is the island of Anguilla, just 10 miles north of Marigot.  We are rewarded with an exhilarating beam reach to Anguillita, a tiny coral outcropping off the western coast of Anguilla.  From here, it is a beat towards Prickly Pear Island to the north, then southeast on the opposite tack to our anchorage at Road Bay. 

The anchor is down in Road Bay at 5:45 PM.  The yellow Q flag is hoisted to the spreader.  Since it is late in the day, the customs office is closed.  We will clear customs in the morning.  Cutter Loose is in good company this weekend.  We are joined by Island Packet friends Ray and Donna aboard IP 440 Lenna Mae and Tom and Cary aboard IP 37 Dragon’s Toy

The harbor at Road Bay is protected from the east but exposed to the north.  There is a slight swell from the north that is barely noticeable to the human eye.  But the effects of the swell are unmistakable.  All of the boats in the harbor are rolling from side-to-side.  The rolling motion seems out of proportion to the miniscule size of the swell.  Living in the flat water of the Lagoon in recent weeks, we have grown unaccustomed to ocean swells.  Sleep is interrupted by the rolly motion and the squeaking of the mainsheet and boom as it swings from side to side.

Unlike St. Martin, Anguilla is a flat island, some 16 miles in length and 3 miles in width.  With a population of 13,500, Anguilla is an Overseas Territory (formerly referred to as a Crown Colony) of the United Kingdom.  In 1967, Britain combined Anguilla, Nevis and St. Kitts into a single autonomous state.  Anguillans were outraged by this consolidation, preferring instead to remain part of Britain.  In 1980, Anguilla seceded from St. Kitts and Nevis to become a British Crown colony.

Resorts and white sand beaches dot the northern coastline of the island.  Road Bay is the primary port of entry and one of two harbors in Anguilla where overnight anchoring is permitted.  Anguilla strictly regulates the use of its harbors and off-lying islands by cruising yachts.  Special permits are required for the use of day moorings in marine parks. 

Ray and Donna know the territory.  They have been cruising the Caribbean for 13 successive winters.  They graciously invite us to join them on a Saturday morning taxi excursion to the CuisinArt Resort and Spa on the south side of the island.  The architecture faithfully recreates a Mediterranean seacoast resort. Here we are treated to a tour of the resort’s soilless hydroponic greenhouse.  Under the direction of Dr. Howard Resh, all of the lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, eggplant and herbs for the resort’s restaurant are cultivated in the greenhouse.

Following the tour, an impromptu Island Packet bocce tournament generates an appetite for lunch, including salads created with fresh ingredients from the greenhouse.  We while away the afternoon lounging by the pool, taking walks on the beach and gathering at the resort’s upscale beach bar for cocktails at sunset.  It has been a relaxing and delightful day at Cuisinart…a welcome and dramatic departure from our normal cruising routine.

Shortly after noon on Sunday, a jazz brunch begins at Johno’s restaurant on the beach near the dinghy dock.  This is a popular event as evidenced by the fact that many of the tables are adorned with reserved signs when we arrive.  Once the music begins, a standing room only crowd spills onto the beach.  As a finale to the four hour performance, the final act involves a 20 something female singer with jazz quartet that energizes the house with her voice and stage antics.  Everybody is relaxed, enjoying a meal, the view of the water and grooving to the music. 

On Monday morning, the north swell has risen to the point where four foot waves are breaking on the beach.  Accordingly, we have decided to clear Customs, cutting our visit to Anguilla short.  The swell is now pounding the dinghy dock, making access to the Customs office a real challenge. 

With our clearance in hand, the anchor is up in Road Bay at 11 AM for the short 14 mile sail back to the Lagoon.  Another exhilarating sail is in store for us today.  Huge waves are now breaking on rock formations along the northern coast of Anguilla, sending spray high into the air.  We arrive in Marigot Bay in time for the 2:30 PM bridge opening.  Boats waiting for the opening are being lifted by the north swell, momentarily surfing towards the entrance to the narrow canal.  This is a daunting sight, creating visions of boats surfing down on top of one another in the confines of the canal.  Conditions do not seem to have deterred other vessels from entering the canal from the sea side.  Cutter Loose joins the cue and carefully transits the canal with a generous allotment of space between our bow and the stern of the boat directly in front of us. 

By 3 PM, the anchor is down in the Lagoon.  There is just enough time to deliver our dirty laundry to Shrimpy’s and clear customs before the office of the Captanerie closes for the day.  Later in the evening, Tom and Cary join us aboard Cutter Loose for a game of Mexican train dominoes.  It is comforting to be back in flat water with a good night’s sleep virtually guaranteed.   We will remain here for a few days before heading east to St. Barths when the north swell subsides.

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