Friday, May 11, 2012

Anegada (da Vita Baby)

The Island of Anegada

We had a great overnight sail under the super full moon when we left St. Martin.  We sailed on a beam reach and enjoyed the night, with the exception of a few thunderstorms in the distance, we didn’t encounter any problems. We made it to North Sound, Virgin Gorda early Sunday morning and spent the day getting caught up on our rest and getting the boat sorted back out after the overnight passage.  That evening we decided to sail to Anegada the next morning since it is an island that we had not yet visited.  

Anegada is a little different from the other Virgin Islands because the entire island is only 28 feet above sea level.  It is called The Drowned Island.  It is made up of coral and limestone and was created by the movement between the Atlantic and Caribbean plates, which meet to the northeast of the island.  Anegada is 11 miles long and has mile after mile of beautiful white sandy beaches.  It reminded us of the Bahamas, which is a big difference from the mountainous Virgin Islands.

One interesting thing about the island:  I guess because they are a remote island, we should expect things to cost a little more.  The prices we found were staggering, at least to us “value centered” cruisers.  A beer at the local beach bar will cost you five dollars, a lobster dinner, $50.00.  That’s not so bad for lobster you might think, but even the ribs and BBQ Chicken dinner was $28.00 per person.  Not in our budget.  We did end up at the beach bar on Cow Wreck Beach and found of the of “serve yourself” honor bars.  You make your drink and mark it down on your own tab.  It’s a good thing Troy and I only had one rum & coke each, because we discovered upon paying our tab that they were $8.00 each.  That was a drink made in one of the little plastic solo type cups (no, not the big red ones either).  We were shocked because usually that type of drink can be found at some bars for $1.00 - $2.50 at happy hour.  We also discovered that Anegada does not believe in happy hours at the bars.  They just say “every hour is happy hour”.  Too bad that’s not reflected in the prices!

The salt pond in the middle of the island is home to a flock of flamingoes which were reintroduced to Anegada.  They brought eighteen birds from the Bermuda Zoo in 2002 and the birds are thriving with a flock that far exceeds 100 birds because the habitat is prefect for them.  At least that’s what the guide books tell us.  We went looking and only found 2 birds.  We did see pictures of great flocks of them though.  Maybe we just didn’t look in the right spots.

The 8 of us decided to rent a vehicle for the day and tour the island and beaches.  We checked on motorcycles, bicycles and cars.  The best deal we found was a truck with bench seating in the back.  It was a perfect way to see the beautiful beaches and look for flamingoes.  As usual, Rene was voted as driver, this time Troy was navigator (I suspect that they were running the A/C while we were baking in the back of the truck!).  Anyway, what a fun day we had.  Driving around, taking in the scenery and eating lunch on a perfect beautiful beach.  What a life we are living.  I’ll let the pictures tell the story:

Stay seated until the vehicle comes to a complete stop

The word through John's eyes!

Rene has a glass of wine at the beach - why not?
"The desire to build a house is the tired wish of a man content thenceforward with a single anchorage. The desire to build a boat is the desire of youth, unwilling yet to accept the idea of a final resting place." -Arthur Ransome

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

St. Martin / Sint Maarten – The Friendly Island

Storyville is out there somewhere
The island of St. Martin is about 7 miles wide in each direction. It is divided across the middle, the northern part is French, the southern part Dutch. The story (completely unsupported by historical fact) is that the French and Dutch were so civilized that rather than fight over the island, they had a Frenchman armed with a bottle of wine walk in one direction and a Dutchman equipped with a flask of gin take the other. Where they met became the boundary. The French ended up with a bit more because the gin was stronger than the wine! In the early days the Dutch mined the salt ponds and the French produced tobacco and sugar.

In 1939 when the island became duty free a whole new industry was born. St. Martin became the Caribbean’s number one shopping mall. Hotels, casinos, cruise ships, mega-yachts, duty free shops (We’ve never seen so many jewelry shops on one street). All of this sounds like the opposite of what we are looking for as cruisers, but the island also has beautiful beaches, a protected lagoon (where Storyville was anchored) and nice grocery stores and two chandleries (boat stores).

We had a great time during our visit to this beautiful island and we also got to check off many items on a long boat to-do list. I re-stitched our dinghy chaps (cover) and main sail cover, Troy got our bright work done, installed LED lights throughout the boat, removed a 75 gallon water tank that we can now use for storage. That was quite a big job that required lots of sawing, which produced lots of sawdust and tools scattered over every surface. Fun times while living on the boat. We spent so much time working on boat projects that it seems strange to me that we can sum it up in this small paragraph. Like childbirth – you forget the pain so quickly. LOL
Troy singing at open mic

We discovered plenty of cruiser happy hours with some of the cheapest drinks to be found in the Caribbean. Our favorite was Barnacles Greek Bar. Just a short dinghy ride from Storyville, they hosted cruiser happy hours on Wednesdays and open mic where Troy played on Fridays. We made good friends with Cali, the owner and the two bartenders, Stina and Ilona. It’s always so sad to make friends and then have to say goodbye so soon.

We signed the wall at Barnacles
There are plenty of nice restaurants there. One day we had a decadent lunch of cappuccino and pastries from a fabulous French restaurant. It was amazing (and so much fun to have chocolate for lunch!). We also discovered our new favorite food. We fell in love with lamb shoarmas from a small out-door restaurant called Little Jerusalem. The restaurant is a family affair, cooking takes place in a railroad car with a covered deck attached for dining. The owners, Abraham and Kathy, are wonderful. Abraham always made sure that he gave us a little something extra each time that we visited, a piece of cake, samples of different dishes or a free beer. Rene was his favorite, so Abraham always made sure that he got extra lamb on his shoarma. That was fine with the rest of us because it was all that we could do to eat a regular one. And all of that for only $6.00, what a bargain! We made it a habit to see them a couple of times a week.

We have continued to travel with Rene and Stacy on s/v Pipe Muh Bligh and with Patrick and Darnell on s/v Island Dream. We also met John and Jolanda on s/v Joho while we were in St. Martin. They have circumnavigated the world so check out their web site by clicking here: syjohoWe consider them lifelong friends and are already making plans to meet up with them next year since their plans will take them south soon and we will be heading back to Luperon for hurricane season. It is always amazing to me how you meet some people along the way that you connect with and know that you will always remember them and that, somehow, even though you sail away to different part of the world, you will see them again someday. The funny thing about it is, we may be from different parts of the world, have different backgrounds, different political and religious views, but the cruising life that we love makes all of that just disappear. We are so blessed to have made so many new friends during this cruising adventure.

I mentioned mega yachts earlier. We have seen our fair share of them, especially in the Virgin Islands, but we were amazed at the size and number that we saw in St. Martin. There are many businesses there that cater to the mega yachts and with the protected lagoon and the duty free shopping, what’s not to love if you are a multi-millionaire that happens to own a yacht? We saw sailing yachts that were hundreds of feet long and giant mega yachts with crew that spent all day, every day, shining, polishing, cleaning, varnishing, until the yacht is so sparkly that you need sunglasses on just to look at it. It is mind boggling, the amount of money that is spent on these yachts, just the upkeep and the cost of full time crew for a year would take more money than I will earn in my lifetime.

Darnell and Pat on s/v Island Dream

Yummy Yummy Lamb Shoarma (Sworma)

Jolanda and John on s/v JoHo

Troy, Deana and Patrick

Darnell, Deana and Stacy - Island Girls

Rene and his mom, Tini (she visited from the Netherlands)

Wild Card - We met Capn Fatty!


Lekkerbek - That Dutch! LOL

Rene is jealous - John got his Shoarma first.

Mega sailing yacht

Island of the Spices

Yet another mega yacht

Queens Day Parade
"I just steer the boat…don’t really navigate. ‘sides, if you do get lost, you just pull in somewheres and ask directions." -Captain Ron