February 20, 2014
|Work in progress? Or not...|
When we began cruising full time, the magic of escaping to our private world afloat became commonplace. The early days were grand, but some time during the last 14 years, we lost sight of that magic. Today, we found it again.
We've been anchored on the Dutch side of St. Martin for the last three months. For the first two months of our stay, we were busy with long-delayed maintenance projects on the boat. We also measured for and ordered a new mainsail – something that we had put off for too long. Most sailors replace their sails every few years, but ours was 35 years old. It was never convenient to replace it, so we kept having it patched, and it continued to move us from place to place. Finally, at the end of last winter, we were caught in a storm off Antigua and the sail blew out. We could probably have repaired it one more time, but we decided to treat ourselves to a new one to celebrate the success of my Bluewater Thrillers. I let Dani and Liz buy a million dollar yacht in Bluewater Vengeance – surely they could pay for a new sail for the man who made them up out of thin air.
We ordered the new sail, and it arrived in the midst of our major refit, somewhere between the new bowsprit and the new interior cushions and upholstery. We gave the old sail to a friend and bent the new one on to get it out of our way, almost forgetting about it. After spending all that money on the boat, I owed Dani and Liz and my faithful readers a new Bluewater Thriller, so we settled back into our favorite winter anchorage in the lagoon in St. Martin and I started writing.
|Headed for the suburbs, Road Bay, Anguilla|
We asked the Dutch authorities if we could move to the French side for a day and then come back to the Dutch side for another three months. The response was a masterful piece of bureaucratic nonsense. In theory, we could, since the French side is indeed part of France, which the Dutch recognize as a separate country. As a practical matter, though, the way the Dutch immigration people check these things is by looking for an entrance stamp in your passport. They told us, “The French, they are too disorganized to stamp the passports. You can go there, but you can't clear back into the Dutch side until you go somewhere that stamps passports.”
“How about St. Barths?” I asked, thinking that it was only 15 miles, and we could try out the new mainsail.
“They're French,” the lady said, shaking her head in pity for them. “You could go to Anguilla. Anguilla will stamp your passport; they're British. The British are proper in these things.”
|Downtown Road Bay, Anguilla, on a busy afternoon.|
We considered just moving over to the French side, where they're too disorganized to even care how long we stay, but then we started thinking that it might be fun to go for a short sail, even though we didn't have to. We'd never been to Anguilla, and we always thought we would go someday. It's a very short sail from St. Martin – just right for checking out the new mainsail and taking a break from my writing regimen. So tonight we're at anchor in Road Bay, Anguilla, where they've already done the proper thing and stamped our passports to show we were here, unlike those French people just a few miles away who couldn't care less about propriety.
The Sail to Anguilla
We had a higher than normal level of pre-departure anxiety as we prepared to leave St. Martin this morning. We hadn't been sailing since November, and we had a new, untried mainsail and a new bowsprit, as well. We've learned over the years that this angst is normal, and that once we're under way, we'll settle down. We sat in the cockpit drinking a last cup of coffee and watching the clock, waiting until 8:10 a.m to start the engine and raise the anchor. The drawbridge through which we would have to pass to get to sea didn't open until 8:30.
When we finished the coffee, we started the engine and I began retrieving the anchor chain. When about half of the chain was aboard, the windlass began to labor. After a few seconds, it ground to a stop, the safety clutch slipping. The momentum of the 30,000 pound boat carried us forward, and the chain began slipping back out. Our anchor chain was fouled, wrapped around a submerged rock or a wreck of some sort. This happens, but not usually St. Martin's lagoon, where the bottom is relatively clear. Worried that we would miss the scheduled opening of the drawbridge, I let out a bit of chain and jockeyed the boat around in several different directions until the chain came clear of the obstruction. I went forward to the windlass and finished retrieving the anchor. We made it through the bridge with a minute or two to spare, our anxiety forgotten in the heat of the moment.
Out in Simpson Bay, we raised the new sail and admired it for a moment. We had not been able to examine it fully deployed since we bent it on back in January. We made a few minor adjustments, shut down the diesel, trimmed the main, and set out on the first leg of our 16-mile course.
After three miles running downwind under just the new mainsail, we cleared the west corner of St. Martin and turned north, putting the wind on our beam. We studied how the main behaved on this point of sail. Satisfied after a moment, we raised the staysail and crossed the Anguilla Channel at better than six knots. We considered raising the Yankee jib just to see how fast we could go, but we decided to concentrate on the behavior of the new mainsail. Although it was essentially identical to the old one it replaced, the old one had long since lost its shape and therefore was quite inefficient. Had we been using it under these conditions, we would have had to take a reef to keep the boat from putting her rail under, and we would have probably lost about a knot of boat speed. We realized that we would need to learn a new regimen for sailing our old boat.
Soon, we rounded the western end of Anguilla and turned onto the next leg of our course. We would be following the shoreline for about seven miles, straight into the wind, to Road Bay, where we would anchor and check in with the authorities.
We sheeted in the main and the staysail as tightly as we could, expecting to have to reduce sail by reefing the main to beat into the wind, but we were pleasantly surprised. We were able to sail at a 45 degree angle to the true wind in 20 knots without a reef in the main, something that Play Actor had never done in the 25 years we've owned her. Of course, that old mainsail was 10 years old when we bought the boat. We're so excited and surprised that we're planning to replace the Yankee and the staysail next year.
Bay at the back of the pack of anchored boats. There's really not much here but clear water and a beautiful white sand beach. We put the outboard on the dinghy and went ashore to check in.
February 21, 2014
Limin'. That's what they call it in the islands. We idled away our day in Anguilla, jus' limin', mon. We had no internet access, so the time that I would normally have spent keeping up with my book business was spent over coffee and breakfast with Leslie. I spent the rest of the morning making a few notes, and we read for a couple of hours after lunch.
One of the houses that we had admired
|Home of the former Chief Minister|
A short walk up the road we found the goat that we saw yesterday. It was tethered to a gatepost, and someone had tied a bundle of leafy green branches to the post at about head-height for the goat. It had been snacking away when we saw it the first time, but today, it was resting.
A hundred yards or so in the other direction, near the other edge of the village, were the Methodist Church and another house that we thought worth a photograph.
Back in St. Martin
Saturday, February 22, 2014
We found Road Bay an attractive spot to escape the hustle and bustle of St. Martin. There is an abundance of restaurants along the clean, uncrowded white sand beach, and there's a convenience store in the village. Based on the map we found in the Customs and Immigration office, there are two grocery stores, each a little over a mile from Sandy Ground. Anguilla has a population of around 13,000 people and an economy based on tourism and international banking. Taxes are almost nonexistent, but the island has the reputation among the yachting community of being an expensive place to visit. We didn't find it to be so; our stay cost us exactly nothing. There are no fees for vessels under 20 tons to anchor in Road Bay. A cruising permit to visit the other bays along the coast is relatively expensive, at $100 E.C. per day, but we were content to stay in Road Bay.
We had a quick sail back to St. Martin, and tomorrow we'll settle back into our routine. I have to finish that next book so that Dani and Liz can fund two more new sails.