A Little Piece Of Home On Anguilla

After passing The Kingdom of Redonda, we continued overnight, toward Anguilla. I went down for a short sleep before my night watch, and of course, missed another whale sighting..dammit!!

By dark, Howard was through with travel, and restless.

Giving up on sleep, he decided to check the radar, and help Scott keep watch.

Night watch soon became tiring, as it always does, and Howard settled back into his usual passage routine.

I relieved Scott at 9pm, and stayed on until just before dawn. During my early morning nap, the skyline of Sint Maarten came into view. We’d heard from friends that this Dutch side of the popular island had rebounded much better after Hurricane Irma than the French side, referred to as  St. Martin.

Even before its extensive damage from Hurricane Irma, we’d decided to skip St. Martin/St. Maarten. The island is popular with both cruising and charter boats, as well as tourists, and we didn’t want to deal with the crowded anchorages and busy streets. Our cruising time frame doesn’t allow for us to visit every Caribbean island, so some get dropped from the list, and this one just didn’t interest us.

I awoke to find us making our way along Anguilla’s rocky coast, where many huge, high-dollar houses lined the hills.

In the Eastern Caribbean chain, or the Lesser Antilles, there are two types of islands. Both are volcanic, but the “younger” islands, like Dominica and Grenada, are mountainous and steep, while “older” ones, which were once like the younger ones,  have eroded over time. These older, eroded islands became nearly flat, sinking below sea level, where they acquired limestone capping, before being uplifted and resurfacing.

Saint Martin, St. Barths and Anguilla are the older type, and are much more arid than their younger “cousins.” The shallow water surrounding these islands allowed for the growth of coral and shells, which over millions of years have become long, white, sandy beaches….huh!

Christopher Columbus named Anguilla after the Spanish word for eel, due to the shallow island’s low shape on the water. Today, the island is British, though self-governing, and is one of the most expensive in the Caribbean. In addition to pricey restaurants and shops, Anguilla’s cruising fees can add up quickly. Clearing into the island in general is fairly cheap, at approximately $50 U.S. dollars for us. Anchoring overnight is allowed in Road Bay and Crocus Bay. All other anchorages are for day-use only. To visit any anchorage other than Road Bay, day or overnight, a cruising permit is required…and it ain’t cheap.

Sea Life fell in the over 20 ton range for a cruising permint, at a fee of $150.00 a day, and $900 a week! As a result Anguilla isn’t a popular stop for most cruisers. The good news? Anguilla isn’t a popular stop for most cruisers, and the anchorages are generally quiet.

Elvis’ Beach Bar is located on Anguilla, and one of the owners, Brett Fetterolf, and I went to the same high school, so the island had been on my radar since the beginning of our journey as a must-stop. Like most cruisers, our budget didn’t allow for Anguilla’s steep cruising fees, but lucky for us, Elvis’ is located on the beach in Sandy Ground…along free-to-stay, Road Bay!

We dropped anchor in the bay, with Elvis’ in sight at one end of the long beach at Sandy Ground (Aerial online photo).

It was  mid-afternoon, and we were beat, so I left Brett a message that we had arrived, and would see him the following day. After a relaxing evening and a good night’s sleep, we did some boat chores during the day, and then headed in to Elvis’ for happy hour. It was fun to spend time with Brett, and see the bar he and his friend Elvis had built. It’s always good to be with “home folk,” as my mom would say.

After happy hour drinks, and dinner at Elvis’ (Man, it had been a long time since we’d had Mexican food..yay!) , we headed back to the boat to give Howard some fish light time. An insane amount of sizeable tarpon showed up, their eyes glowing creepy orange in the light..ick.

The next day, we decided to head over to Rendezvous Bay, on the south side of the island, and do a beach bar crawl. We landed the dinghy at Elvis’, and asked Brett about getting a cab. He warned us that a cab would most likely run close to $30 each way…welcome to Anguilla. As we mulled it over, a friendly expat who was waiting for take out food offered us a ride, saving us a one-way cab fare! We immediately took Jim up on the incredibly kind offer, climbed into his car and headed across the island.

Along the way, we chatted with Jim, who was deep in the process of fixing damage to his house caused by Hurricane Irma. He was nice enough to stop at the local Ace Hardware, so Scott could look for a part. With no luck, we were back on the road, and soon arrived at Rendezvous Bay. Thanks a bunch, Jim!

Jim dropped us at the Sunshine Shack, where we planned to have lunch and then walk the beach. The open-air, beachfront restaurant had recently re-opened after Irma’s damage, and sported fresh paint in bright, happy colors.

Eating lunch with our toes in the sand, we couldn’t believe how beautiful the beach was. It was a gorgeous day, and the colorful beach umbrellas popped against the clear-blue sky. The bright-white, powder-soft sand made the turquoise water seem even more brilliant in color. It was definitely one of the prettiest beaches we’d seen in the Caribbean.

We walked the beach, realizing that this area of the island was still visibly recovering from Hurricane Irma, and most of the beach bars we planned to visit were closed. Like Dominica with Maria, Anguilla received a direct hit from Hurricane Irma in September, ravaging the island. With help from the British government, and other countries, the island had recovered well by the time we visited. Aside from the bars resorts and homes along Rendezvous Bay, we saw little damage during our visit, and visual reconstruction was minimal.

We were especially hoping to visit a bar run by local reggae singer Bankie Banx , known as the “Anguillan Bob Dylan.” He formed his first band in 1967, taking inspiration from top 40 hits in the UK, that a local radio station transmitted from a frigate ship moored off the coast of Anguilla. Bankie released his first album, Roots and Herbs in 1978, pioneering reggae music in the Eastern Caribbean.

We hoped that Bankie’s beach bar, The Dune Preserve, had rebounded as well, but no luck. Like many Caribbean beach bars, The Dune was built from pieces of scrap wood, and an old boat for a bar. Ever growing, it spread from the beach up into the palms.  The rustic bar was a staple on the beach at Rendezvous Bay, and we so wanted to spend time there.

Sadly, all that remained of the bar was a partial wooden structure. We could hear the sound of chain saws running in the palms, and knew that there was no chance of reggae music and a cold beer.

Bankie has been hard at work, and as of this spring, The Dune is beginning to take shape again. A new bar is in the works, with the addition of a full-service bar, and a re-opening is planned for November of 2018. I guess we’ll  have to return!

We turned to head back down the beach, passing the  five-star CuisinArt Golf Resort & Spa, which had temporarily closed due to significant hurricane damage to its grounds, and 98 luxury suites. Tidbit: Dan Brown, who wrote The Davinci Code, spends winters at the resort….but not this winter.

Back at the Sunshine Shack, the owner called us a cab, that took thirty minutes to arrive. The island’s not that big, so the wait was a bit frustrating, but we had a beer and took in the view of nearby St. Martin on the horizon.

Back at Sandy Ground, we walked down to the far end of the beach, past many bars and restaurants, most closed until dinnertime. Roy’s Bayside Grill was open, so we stopped in for some shade and a drink.

Our friendly bartender had visited much of the U.S., seeing many more states than we have!

The next evening, Scott picked Brett up in the dinghy, and brought him aboard for a tour of Sea Life and some happy hour drinks.

After chatting away for several hours, we headed back to shore and had a drink at Elvis’, before Scott and I walked down the beach for dinner at Sandbar. Our tapas meal was soo good, Like our meal at Elvis’, it was a nice change from the island-food choices we’d had of late: barbecue chicken, fried chicken, or fried fish. I was without a camera at dinner, but here’s a photo of Sandbar during the day, and an evening shot I borrowed online.

Anguilla would be the last island where we’d use the Eastern Caribbean dollar, but we still had a decent amount of it left on board. Brett graciously offered to exchange it for USD, so we headed to Elvis’s to do some “banking,” and I took the chance to snap some photos of the bar.

Brett arrived on Anguilla via Eldersburg, Maryland; Breckenridge, Colorado; Catalina Island, California; and St. Croix, U.S.V.I. (where he also owned a restaurant). He landed on the island, and soon realized he wanted to put down roots. After seeing an old boat on the side of a road, Brett and his friend, Elvis, hatched a plan to open a beach bar.

Elvis’ has grown from just a boat bar, serving beer from a cooler, to one of Anguilla’s hottest spots, popular with both tourists and locals. There are televisions throughout the bar, as well as a big screen right on the beach, so sports fans can settle in with their toes in the sand, and live music brings in a nightly crowd ready to dance.

Whether you choose to belly-up to the boat bar, sit at a table with your toes in the sand, lounge under an umbrella by the water or swing in a hammock, Elvis’ has it covered.

Brett’s commute to work is brutal….all of thirty steps. His tiny house sits just behind the bar!

When Hurricane Irma hit the island, Brett weathered the storm in a friend’s house with a higher elevation than his at-sea-level bungalow. Luckily, Brett had stored the boat bar in a container, and with donations from loyal customers, the bar is back up and running, better than ever. Elvis, Brett and his sand-digging, coconut-lovin’ dog Blu are back to providing visitors with the quintessential beach bar experience. (was so busy chatting and spending time with Brett, that I forgot a photo of Elvis! I included one from Brett’s Facebook page, and one of him in action, that I found online.)

The Travel Channel got wind of Elvis’, and recently featured Brett’s story, and the bar, on an episode of  “Life’s A Beach.”  It’s a great piece, with a cool story and beautiful scenery…check it out here! Ok, enough about my island-beach bar-owning friend (for now).

The next day, Scott and I were back on the water, taking the dinghy over to a beach at nearby Little Bay. Not far from our anchorage at Road Bay, we passed a resort nestled in the hills, with rows of white rooms and villas, surrounded by colorful, tropical foliage, that cascaded down to the water.

Houses of all sizes dotted the rocky cliffs.

Many had built stairs stretching down to the water, but one house in particular had quite the set up, with multiple small decks along the way down, maybe for a rest and a scenic view. At the bottom, a large, multi-level deck, just begging for a party.

We rounded the corner, and were met with an awesome view of the seventy-foot cliffs that surround Little Bay, and some swanky villas with amazing views.

Shades of black, gray, orange and white melded together on the rugged cliffs, highlighted by scraggly shrubs and several types of cacti.

The textured surface was full of holes, large crevices, and caves of all sizes at the waterline. And speaking of the water, it was a gorgeous, bright, turquoise-blue, that seemed even more brilliant in color against the cliffs.

The beach at Little Bay was “little” as well, but there was more than enough room for us to pull the dinghy up out of the water, and spread out a towel. Scott went for a snorkel, while I relaxed in the sand, and took in the view.

Before long, it was time to head back to Road Bay. It was our last day on Anguilla, so we wanted to visit Brett one more time. We set the dinghy afloat, climbed in and said goodbye to our little beach, and those beautiful cliffs at Little Bay.

All roads lead to Elvis’ on Anguilla, and we were back for a final happy hour. We met this awesome girl, who is also from Maryland, and was on the island attending medical school. It seems every Eastern Caribbean island has a bloody medical school, but why not?…who doesn’t want to learn in the sun?

It had been great to spend time with someone from home, and to see Elvis’ in person, but it was time for us to move on while the winds were in our favor. Ladies and gentlemen…..Sea Life has left the building (or should I say the island).

Here are some more photos from our visit to Anguilla.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”