The Pirates of Anguila

From Anguila

How could we fail to fall in love with an island whose national sport is racing wildly overcanvassed wooden sailing sloops, and whose inhabitants “invaded “nearby St Kitts because they preferred to remain part of Britain rather than be ruled by another Caribbean island! The whole episode had an air of “Pirates of Penzance” about it; nobody was hurt and a number of Metropolitan police were sent out from London to restore order. I vaguely remember the pictures of the Bobbies in the newspapers at the time, in shirtsleeves and complete with traditional police helmets, and it is fascinating to visit the scene some 40 years later. If the locals were as laid back and friendly then as they are now – the perlicemans lot must have been a VERY ‘appy one!

It is not the most attractive island we have visited. It doesn’t have the picture post card views of the Windward islands, the myriad anchorages of Antigua or the chic sophistication of St Barts ( our taxi driver on Anguila proudly pointed out all 6 sets of traffic lights!) Neither, thank God, does it have the hotels and high rise and cruise ships of St Martin, which we passed under kite at 7.5 knots, wondering whether to add the engine to get clear even quicker. What it does have is a general air of good humour that makes up for all that – and more. Mind you, it was expensive. It cost us about £80 to explore the bays and offshore islands, but Britain treated the Anguillans rather shoddily by attempting to palm them off on to neighbouring St Kitts, and maybe this was our contribution to redress that balance. Also, they asked so nicely that we paid up without demur.

Then there was the cricket factor. Quite simply I like places where they play cricket. The game is surreal and completely bonkers. Nobody who plays it, watches it or even just likes it can ever take themselves or their country too seriously. If they played it in France, the place would be perfect. They play cricket in Anguilla.

We didn’t get to see any cricket, nor yet the sloops racing, although I did have a look over a few ashore and spotted many more looking very smart in garages and sheds dotted around the island. There are two classes, 23 and 28 feet long. They are completely open and remarkably similar in shape to the Vela Latina racers of Gran Canaria, being beamy with very flat floors and a full length keel raked towards the stern. The rig is different, being Bermudan sloop rigged with a huge mast. Racing takes place on public holidays and especially during a week in August when the whole island turns out to watch the racing during the day and carnival at night.

From Anguila

It’s hot these days – 32 degrees C in the shade. It would be even hotter but for a considerable haze from upper level dust that has come all the way over from the Sahara. Somehow I like that fact; it makes the Atlantic feel a bit smaller. We anchored off a little desert island called Prickly Pear Cay and after a morning of exploring and snorkelling and a snooze in the midday heat, we set off at dusk for a gentle overnight sail (much cooler) to our final destination before the crossing, the British Virgin Islands. First impressions are of a spectacular archipelago which is heaving with charter boats. I’m already missing the peace and solitude of Anguila.

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