A PERIPATETIC JOURNEY
not all who wander are lost
We dropped our mooring in Leverick Bay around 5:00 in the afternoon on February 17 to begin the overnight passage to Anguilla. Reaching Anguilla would be a milestone on our trip: we would be officially 'turning the corner', that is, being able to use the prevailing easterlies to our advantage rather than having to fight them head on. With most of our travel to the south after this passage, the winds would be on our beam instead of right in front of us. We were looking forward to less bashing into the wind and waves and a reduced need for 3AM departures in order to take advantage of night lees. As we motored east (there wasn't enough wind to sail, and it was right on the nose anyway), we enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets yet.
The night passage was uneventful. We saw a couple of other sailboats making the same passage as us, as well as the brightly lit cruise ships lining up outside of Philipsburg, St. Maarten, for their early morning arrival. We reached Road Bay, Anguilla, at sunrise. After Brian cleared us in, we went to shore. It was a Saturday morning and although the beach bars were not yet open, people were beginning to arrive for the tour and dive boats or just to swim at the beach. Most of the restaurants in Road Bay were not stingy with their wifi, leaving it on whether the bar was open or not, so people often sat at the outdoor tables to get online early in the morning.
It is difficult to summarize our visit to Anguilla. We met some wonderful people, toured the island, did work work and school work, and had a very relaxing few days. Everyone knows about six degrees of separation: the idea that everyone in the world can be connected to everyone else by six links. But on Anguilla we found it was between just two and three links. On Saturday, we took a tour of the island with a taxi driver named Stephen. He showed us around the island and even took us to his house where we met his wife and saw the aviary of parrots and parakeets owned by one of his sons. We'd been invited to a party that evening so we asked if he'd be able to drive us. Stephen wasn't available, but one of his sons was and could meet us on the beach around 5:30. We only had a vague idea of where the party was but figured it was a small island and we'd find it. When we met our driver that afternoon, we provided our imprecise directions. He gave his dad a quick call for more info, and off we went. Unfortunately, the gathering was in an area where the houses were not close to the road, and we had trouble finding it. We told our driver that the party's host knew Johnno, who owned one of the beach bars. He called Johnno, who told him to call Doug (who runs a dive boat: Special D Diving). Well, it turned out Doug was at the party; he gave directions, and five minutes later were were there! We had a wonderful time that evening, meeting both local Anguillians and visitors, many of whom had been coming to Anguilla for decades.
On what was going to be our last night in Anguilla, we met up with the party's host and his 11 year old granddaughter for some miniature golf and pizza. We had a lot of fun, enjoying both the golf and the local-favorite pizza place - that is until we heard rain pounding on the restaurant roof and remembered that we had left the hatches open on the boat! When we returned, everything was wet and it wasn't easy to find places to hang sheets for four beds, pillows, and various other soaked items. Fortunately the mattresses were dry, thanks to waterproof covers, and we could sleep on our beds. We tried to see the good side of the situation: at least it was fresh water. That much salt water in our bedding would have been a very different matter! We spent the next day drying out, planning to head to St. Martin in the morning.
We stopped briefly in the British Virgin Islands. Very briefly. Our original plan was to go from St. John to Jost Van Dyke to check in, either spend the night there or move to a nearby anchorage and then make our way to either Virgin Gorda or Anegada before 'turning the corner' to Anguilla. We were one of many boats heading into Jost Van Dyke and as we got closer saw how crowded it was. The wind was perfect for sailing further east, so we turned to starboard, raised the sails, and headed to Virgin Gorda.
By mid afternoon we were on a mooring in Leverick Bay for the night of February 16. Brian went to customs and immigration to check both into and out of the country (the weather forecast was unusually favorable for an overnight passage to Anguilla the next day). The next morning, we did some exploring in the dinghy and noticed a boat belonging to a family we met in Florida in September 2015. They were a family of six just about to depart on an adventure similar to the one we were planning at the time. In fact, we saw them off, waving and taking photos from the dock as they sailed away. And after a year and a half, we were in the same anchorage. We stopped over for a visit. We caught up and compared both past and future travels while the kids played and swam together. Their next stop was St. Martin, and we were planning to be there after Anguilla, so we knew we'd catch up again soon. After our visit, we returned to Counting Stars and began preparations to leave for Anguilla, a place about which we knew little.
We were blown away by the natural beauty of St. John. The water was clear, with a lot of soft corals and fish. There is very little anchoring allowed in St. John because over half of the island is part of the Virgin Islands National Park. Most of the bays around the island have mooring balls attached to fixed anchors to protect the sea floor from anchor damage that can result over time from hundreds of sliding anchors. It is just like a National Park campsite, except the pay station is a floating platform in the middle of the mooring field. Some people complain about having to pay for moorings, but in our opinion, it was well worth the nightly fee to be able to experience such pristine and incredibly beautiful protected habitats.
We spent our first night in Caneel Bay, our second in Hawksnest Bay, and our third in Leinster Bay/Waterlemon Cay. The first day in Caneel, we looked around the mooring field and noticed two boats we had looked at before we purchased Counting Stars. Not the same kind of boat, but the actual boats. Pretty small world.
While moored in Hawksnest Bay, we dinghied over to explore Trunk Bay. There is a very busy beach there (cruise ship passengers are ferried over for day trips from St. Thomas) as well as an underwater 'hiking' trail, complete with interpretive signs.
Leinster Bay and Waterlemon Cay had been recommended to us by a cruiser we met in St. Thomas. Their boat's hailing port was Bozeman, Montana (small world, again!) so we had to stop and chat. They were on their way back north after an extended trip (6 years) and were planning to sell their boat and go back to Montana. Waterlemon Cay is a small island known for its excellent snorkeling. It is possible to swim all the way around the island, enjoying the underwater sights below. We LOVED it.
On February 10, we bade a fond farewell to Puerto Rico (we'll be back!) and set a course for St. Thomas. We decided to stay at a marina for the weekend so we could wash the very salty boat, top up the water tanks, and use wifi. We also had provisioning and a lot of laundry to do. Just as we were approaching our slip, the skies opened and drenched Kendall and Eoin who were on deck to pass the lines to the dockhand. It was the first rain we'd seen in weeks and we welcomed the freshwater rinse of both boat and crew.
We had a busy weekend. Kendall and the girls went to a laundromat to take care of the mountain of laundry (bedding, towels, and salty, smelly clothes). As she began to fold the first set of dry laundry, an elderly man approached and watched. In a heavily accented English, he told Kendall that if she was living on a boat, she needed to fold everything differently. At least she's pretty sure that's what he said, as it was very difficult to understand him. He took over the folding, showing Isla and Kendall a new way to fold the laundry. Most impressive was the way he folded and bundled the sheet sets into tidy packages, fitted sheet and all! Unfortunately, we do not think we'll be able to replicate it!
Over the weekend, we washed the boat and all the rugs, did a few other boat jobs, caught up on work, and did a little exploring.
Our last stop in Puerto Rico was the island of Culebrita to the east of Culebra. It is an uninhabited island that is part of the Culebra National Wildlife Refuge. After the short trip from Ensenada Honda, we arrived at Turtle Beach and picked up a mooring. We swam to shore to snorkel and play on the beach. Later, Kendall took a paddle board to shore and hiked up to the lighthouse. It was an incredibly idyllic spot and we found ourselves wishing that we'd come a day earlier so we could have stayed longer. However, the weather was favorable for a mellow trip to our next destination: St. Thomas.
McGlynn family 5 (Isla, Marin, Eoin, Kendall, and Brian) sailing Counting Stars