From our bay overlooking Grand Case, Anguilla was just across the water. A mere half day’s sail away, we were sometimes tricked us into thinking we could see white horses on the horizon when in fact it was the long, slim coastline of Anguilla, the flattest Caribbean island I have every visited.
We couldn’t resist and in company with Free Cloud, we sailed across the shallow expanse of water between Saint Martin and Anguilla for a bit of an explore.
Anguilla is the perfect get away for those whose idea of heaven is white, sandy beaches with hardly any development. I am always amazed at what a contrast can be found on two adjacent islands in the chain. Anguilla couldn’t be more different from Saint Martin and certainly from the busy Sint Maarten. To sum up the island in two words, it is laid back.
On the downside, Anguilla can be ferociously expensive. The bars and restaurants are double the price of those in SXM and a taxi tour of the island would have cost us $80 for a couple of hours. Anguilla owns some small sandy islands less than a mile offshore with nothing but a boutique hotel or a couple of palm trees on them. These little islands are constantly beset by motor boats from SXM bringing day visitors. Although there was supposedly a shuttle that left from Sandy Ground, we never saw signs for it and didn’t notice it all week. These little sandy outcrop islands are out of bounds for cruisers. It would have cost us over $200 US a night to anchor there! The result of this is that all sailing boats come to Road Bay and stay there. This is a little bit of a shame in some ways, as Saint Martin seems to be cashing in on Anguilla’s assets more than Anguilla does! On the other hand, if you love the quiet life, the charm of the island is that it appears to have no ambition to pander to tourists and have them arriving in hoards on the island.
We were lucky twice in Anguilla. First, we happened to be there during one of their local sail racing days. We saw some small sailing boats with enormous mainsails, full of crew, racing in and out of the bay on Easter Monday. From a distance it was difficult to imagine how they could balance in the water and not tip over. Later that evening on shore, we got the explanation. All the boats finished up in Road Bay and their crews were unloading lead weights from them. We got talking to a local skipper who explained to us that they were traditional fishing boats that are now used exclusively for racing and that to counterbalance the giant mainsails, each boat needed a ton and a half of ballast plus a crew of 25 men! What’s more, the solid wooden masts have to be lowered by hand which is done with men using lines to the shore. It was quite a spectacle to watch and all the island had come to see it and to party on the beach in honour of the race! So although Anguilla is laid back in the face of tourism (or maybe doesn’t to want to become Sint Maarten), I would certainly not accuse the Anguillans of being lazy after seeing how some of them spend their bank holidays! The next time that I had to tie the fenders up after a good day’s sail, I remembered the efforts of the Anguillan racing crews and thought myself lucky! It was great to take in the atmosphere on the beach, for once not peopled by tourists but almost entirely by locals, celebrating.
The second time that we were lucky in Anguilla was when our neighbour on the boat anchored next to us in the bay shouted over to invite us to her wedding on the beach. It is the first time that I have ever been to a wedding where I didn’t know the names of either bride or groom (and actually, not having seen them close up before the ceremony, wasn’t entirely sure what they looked like, either)! It was an incredibly generous and spontaneous gesture on the part of Tigger (the bride) after we simply let them know that a charter boat had lifted their anchor. It didn’t seem to matter that we hadn’t met Nick (the groom) or Tigger before the actual wedding. It was a small affair but a really fun evening with dancing, drinking and general partying where everyone made us feel really welcome. Certainly a night to remember. We met some great people, some of whom live in Anguilla and some who spend part of the year there, and their love of the island started to rub off on us after a couple of Proseccos!
Lee, who runs the local bike hire shop in Sandy Ground with his wife, Ingrid, offered to take us on a tour of the island on Saturday afternoon after work and was as good as his word. This impromptu generosity is something I really associate with the island now! He took us to some of the greatest beaches around the island and into the smartest places as well as the best places to buy beer! Born in Bristol, he has lived for many years on Anguilla and loves the freedom of life there. I kept asking where all the tourists were! Such incredibly gorgeous beaches with hardly a soul on them! Anguilla seems to be a well kept secret. We swam and drank beer in one of the cutest bays just underneath one of the most exclusive hotels in the Caribbean (which we also visited as Lee knew the receptionist) and had it all to ourselves. Finishing the evening on board the stunning Luna Mar, Nick’s boat, was a real treat as well.
So a special thanks to Nick and Tigger for inviting us to their beautiful wedding, to Lee and Ingrid for their amazing generosity in showing us the island and giving us a souvenir of our stay, and to Genevieve, Monty, Nancy and Andy for leaving us with such great memories of our time here.