From Saba we set off for Anguilla in rain, but it soon cleared as we left the spectacular heights of Saba island astern. It was a lovely sail to Anguilla, some 30 miles distant, with a steady 15 knots of wind slightly forward of the beam. Rounding the islet of Anguillita, we motored up the SW side of Anguilla, past low cliffs and beautiful tourist beaches, to anchor in Road bay.
The beach in Road Bay
During the evening it became apparent that the toilet tank drain was blocked – it was full to the brim with consequences that are best left to the imagination. Next morning we rigged a spare electric pump and hose, then went some miles out to sea. A colourful stream gushed over the side until the tank was empty and salt water flushed through to clear the blockage! Back in the bay we had a much-needed swim, then went ashore to the long beach. R had to face the ordeal of customs and immigration, then joined the others at Roy’s bar which was serving Fish & Chips and had useable wifi for Whatsapp chats with home.
At Roy’s bar
We walked up the road beside the salt pond behind the beach and up the escarpment, and eventually found a supermarket where we filled a rucksack and more. Walking back, we completed our circumnavigation of the salt pond which had several wading birds, including one Yellow-legs, and a few ducks.
Road Bay Salt Pond
We had three more days in Road Bay, swimming and walking along the shore. We explored the ships wrecked on the West side of the bay and found extensive beds of fossil coral in the cliffs.
Wreck of a ship in Road Bay
Fresh shells and fossil coral in Road Bay
The hurricane had brought ruin to most properties in the bay, yet above on the surrounding escarpment stand many substantial modern houses, clearly built of hurricane-proof concrete and glass.
One of many beachside houses damaged by Hurricane Irma
The nearby dock was very busy unloading containers from local cargo vessels, including one substantial ship which was skilfully turned on its anchor to present the stern to the end of the jetty. As well as basic imports such as food and consumer goods, a lot of building materials were coming ashore, some no doubt to repair the hurricane damage but also we think to support extensive new tourist developments on the island.
A large shallow-draft freighter docks in Road Bay
Several visits were paid to Roy’s bar, which takes care over the quality of its service and ingredients, with entertainment provided by the local lizards and on one occasion by live music. Another evening we ate at Johno’s further along the beach. Most evenings the Elvis bar at the far end had music of varying quality and taste, but loud enough to hear from the boat!
Another fine sunset
Lizard at Roy’s bar
We only saw this small part of Anguilla, but Road bay seemed a pleasant and safe anchorage, if a little run down and lacking in facilities especially after Irma. From the scale of imported goods, and the size of properties along the coast, there is apparently a good deal of private money on the island. We wanted to spend our last day visiting one of the offshore cays, but the required permit from Customs was $75 US which was more than we had (and no ATM near). After queueing for almost an hour, R checked out and we headed out of the bay and West about to the Dutch side of St Martins, some 10 miles to the South.
The main purpose for our visit to St Martins was to prepare the boat and provision for the voyage to the Azores, which we expected to take 3 weeks. So on the way there, we made a list wich included items such as:
- Grease steering cables
- Complete 250-hour engine service
- Check standing rigging (including top of mast)
- Sew up torn seam in mainsail cover
- Practise setting spinnaker poles
- Re-stow sail locker to include inflatable dinghy
- Clean and paint rust spots
- Fit speed log paddle
- Visit supermarkets to stock up on food for 3 weeks plus
- Fill fresh water tanks
- Repair or replace main electric autohelm control (recently failed)
- Repair main plotter (screen freezes frequently)
Passing south of the airport runway (where big planes famously come in low over the beach), we arrived in Simpsons Bay at 4:30pm and anchored with other boats near the bridge into the lagoon, which was scheduled to open at 5pm. However the time came, and it did not open. We called up on VHF and the keeper claimed he saw no boats waiting! So we had to stay in the bay overnight, on a rolly anchorage. R went under the bridge in the dinghy to find us a marina berth for the next day, and booked us for a week alongside the concrete quay at Lagoon Marina.
Simpsons Bay bridge opening (lagoon side)
Customs were out early in their boat next morning, and two yachts near us were boarded. But they left us alone and we caught the 8:30am bridge opening, and proceeded round Snoopy Island to our berth at Lagoon Marina. Moored in the lagoon, and scattered on its shores, are the hulks of many yachts and fishing boats that were smashed or sunk by Hurricane Irma. Some have been raised and patched up enough to float, but lie covered in mud at their moorings. Many of the marinas had their pontoons destroyed, including some substantial concrete superyacht quays. Around the shores, the buildings show extensive damage too. The local people that we met were proud of how beautiful their island had been before the hurricane struck and distraught at the damage it caused.
Boats wrecked by the hurricane in the lagoon
R took the dinghy back to the bridge to check in with Customs and Immigration, then paid a visit to the Marine Electronics company next to the marina, and was put in touch with an engineer. After a few emails, Frederic visited a couple of days later and effectively fixed the plotter screen issue by installing the latest Raymarine Lighthouse software, and resetting the unit. He confirmed our diagnosis that the autopilot control head was broken, and went looking for a second-hand replacement. He later returned with a set of autopilot components which we bought for a reasonable price, so we now had a working system with a good stock of spares.
Meanwhile SN checked out nearby Budget Marine, a big warehouse chandlery which would prove useful. We also used Island Water World chandlery. A quick visit by dinghy to the Market Garden supermarket, near the bridge, replenished our immediate food supplies.
At sunset we convened for a drink at Lagoonies bar, just by our pontoon. We had just missed Happy Hour (rum punch $2), but did not make the same mistake again!
Lagoon Marina and the handy Lagoonies bar
One day SN hired a car and we set off to the French town of Marigot to the Super U supermarket, taking a drive around the lagoon along the way. St Martins is half French and half Dutch, the smallest island in the world to be divided into two countries. There are no border controls, and how the separate economies work was a mystery to us. The French side uses Euros and the Dutch side officially has its own Guilder currency, but effectively the US dollar is used here.
After bringing our haul of tins and other preserved goods back to the boat and enjoying a lunch of French bread with pâte, we drove to a Carrefour supermarket on the Dutch side, and loaded up again, with fresh fruit and vegetables, a large pack of beef, another 24-pack of Carib beer, preserved sausages, cheeses and more. From the road back we had a fine view over the lagoon, then back in time for Happy Hour!
View over the lagoon
Statue with amazing flares
One by one the tasks on our list were ticked off, with parts obtainable from the well-stocked local stores. The pack of beef was cooked up and poured hot into a sterilised sealable container, cooled and stored in the fridge. This would keep vacuum sealed for a week. A pack of frozen chicken was added for cooking over the first few days.
On our drive, J had spotted a curry house, so one night after a drink at Lagoonies we dinghied across to the bridge and walked towards the airport. We found the place (Maya) and they served a very good selection of food and freshly pressed drinks with a home-cooked flavour and atmosphere.
So on Sunday 29th April we were ready to go. R had checked out the day before, and all was stowed and lashed for the ocean crossing. We called up the bridge keeper to be sure he knew we’d be coming through, and at 4pm it lifted for us to exit the lagoon.