Monday, November 14, 2011

Landfall: Anguilla!

We cruised to Anguilla after we cleared out of Sint Maarten -- we had good weather, and thought we’d explore a new island! We had a very easy passage from St. Maarten -- Anguilla is only 6 miles away -- but we had to go a bit farther than that, around to the east side of the island to Road Bay, Anguilla’s port of entry.

One of many colorful local boats in Road Bay
Anguilla is a rather low-lying island in contrast to St. Martin towering just to its south, and its beaches are among the most beautiful we’ve seen. Anguilla has turquoise waters to rival those of Grace Bay, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos, and 33 beaches with unbelievably soft, powdery white sand. The sand, unfortunately, has an amazing ability to get everywhere, even though we’ve been diligent about rinsing off our shoes, sandals and feet on the back deck. It just keeps showing up, time and again, no matter how often we rinse off the deck. Of course, I can't seem to resist walking barefoot in such glorious sand, so that may be part of the problem!

Along Shoal Bay, Anguilla
While Anguilla relies on tourism as its major industry, the country has resisted a lot of development so the island is low-key, relaxed and very serene. There are no duty-free shops, no huge cruise ship port -- and no marinas, either, for that matter. We didn’t visit Anguilla last year, mostly because the Anguillans are rather restrictive about visiting yachts: their rates for a cruising permit are somewhat on the high side (over $330 per week for a vessel our size) and there are only two anchorages where overnight anchoring is allowed: Road Bay and Crocus Bay, both on the west side. All other anchorages are for day-use only…and you need a cruising permit even if you are only using your dinghy to explore, and not your larger boat!! Yes, these regulations make Anguilla the most restrictive in the Eastern Caribbean.

But the restrictions have their benefits. Because of them, Anguilla is pristine: her anchorages are quiet and uncrowded, her beaches and her reefs well protected and preserved. Anguilla has five large marine park areas, designated to protect the fragile coral reefs and delicate sea grass beds from boat and anchor damage. All good!! There are additional daily fees if you want to boat in these areas, and there are mooring buoys for dive boats only (plus fees per dive) – all designed to keep traffic and use at a minimum. It means the reef is in excellent shape, as delicate coral, fish life and the marine environment in general are all protected. Diving is reputed to be good -- we hope to find out tomorrow, when we dive with Douglas Carty, out of the local dive shop at Sandy Ground!

As for a bit of history: Anguilla was first colonized by English settlers from St. Kitts around 1650. Britain administered the island until the early 19th century, when it was incorporated into a single British dependency along with St. Kitts and Nevis. While this was a tidy solution for the British Foreign Office, it totally went against geography and the wishes of the Anguillan people. After a few armed skirmishes and protests (no one was hurt or killed, thankfully), the island became a separate British dependency  -- termed a “British Overseas Territory”  -- all its own in 1969.

And, Anguillans have determinedly protected their interests ever since! Lucky for us that they do, because Anguilla is a gem!

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