Sunday, March 10, 2013

Caribbean Catamaran Cruise - Day 1 & 2

We just returned from an amazing sailing adventure in the Caribbean!!  It is going to take me some time to post all of the pictures and I am going to describe the trip in more detail than is probably necessary but I want to remember every minute of it!

Days 1 and 2 - Departure and Arrival
We (Wes, Em, Matt and Scharman)  departed in the middle of a cold, dark, winter's night on February 21st. With such a long layover in Atlanta - the guys couldn't resist taking advantage of the showers in the Delta Sky Lounge!  They were refreshed and ready to go!   
We landed at the Princess Juliana Airport in Sint Maarten - one of the top 10 most dangerous landing strips - 2400 meters long.  I stole this picture off the internet just to show how low the plane has to get in order to land.
This island is half French (St. Martin) and half Dutch (Sint Maarten).  It is about 8 miles long and 9 miles wide with a population of 75,000.  We landed on the Dutch side and then took a taxi to Marigot which is located on the Northern half of the island - the French side.  While we waited for the ferry to take us to the British island of Anguilla - we discovered the yummiest fresh juice bar!  We sipped our fresh mango juice and coconut shakes (made with fresh coconut, honey, coconut milk and cinnamon) as the cold, dirty, February snows of Utah were becoming a distant memory.

We boarded the ferry and said farewell to St. Martin.

I wasn't sure if this rusty screwdriver securing the life jackets should make me feel more safe or not...
A quick 20 minute ferry ride later...welcome to Anguilla!
We took a taxi to our resort - Paradise Cove.

It was very strange because we felt like we were the only ones at our resort - almost the only ones on the island!  It was recommended to us to have dinner at Smokeys - a restaurant on the beach.  For a while we were the only ones there!!!  We enjoyed some delicious fresh seafood and waded a bit in the water.
The next day we were anxious to discover the island only to realize that other than the beach resorts - there isn't much for tourists to see on the interior of the island.  Anguilla is a British Overseas Territory - approximately 13 miles long and 3 miles wide - with a population of 13,000 (most of them descendants of the slaves brought from Africa hundreds of years ago).  One thing we noticed throughout the island was a common building trend.  Most of the buildings we saw appeared to be under construction.  A local woman at the front desk of our hotel explained to us that this type of "phase" construction is typical of Anguilla.  People build what they can afford at the time allowing for the possibility of adding on another room or floor at a later time.  She told us they called this their "dreams."  It sounded very charming until it was explained to us later that another reason they left the homes unfinished was to avoid taxes.
Our taxi driver was prepared to give us a (very expensive) island tour but we decided instead to do our own exploring.  Other than a handful of other tourists and locals going about their business - again - we felt like we had the island all to ourselves!  We were especially attracted to a small compound where there was a historical house and two Catholic churches.  Wes discovered this tail-less lizard on the way.

We were admiring the Wallblake house when we were fortunate enough to run into Steve - a British man, moved to Anguilla from London to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.  The historical house was actually his office.  We didn't know this at the time but as it turns out, he is the CEO of the Anguillan Financial Services Commission!  It has something to do with captive insurance and domiciles and things I don't understand.  But I know it is has to do with Anguilla being a tax haven (so if you need to do some offshore banking...we can hook you up! ;-).  He was more than happy to give us a tour of the home and outbuildings.  He was funny, witty and knowledgeable and we couldn't have been more delighted!
He told us the home was built in 1787 out of Guyanese hardwood - a wood even harder than oak.
Which is quite remarkable looking at the intricate moldings - also made of Guyanese hardwood.
Anguilla did not have electricity until the 1970's!  Amazing.  The architecture was always designed to utilize light and wind.  When this home was built there was no glass in the windows.  Instead - they would use louvers (shutters).  This would also be safer in a hurricane where they would just open up the louvers and let the wind and rain blow through. 
Steve.  Loved him.
Rain water is the only source of fresh water on the island.  This is the cistern.

Steve is living on Anguilla with his wife and two daughters.  His wife and one of his daughters are attending the Ani Art Academy on Anguilla where they are studying photorealism.  He showed us some of their charcoal art pieces.  Very cool!  He then showed us around the Catholic churches.  

They are open air structures - meaning the side walls look like this:
Like Steve's all about light and wind.
This chapel is built like an upside down boat.

Steve was a wonderful tour guide and gave us a unique perspective into some of the more quirky aspects of the islanders.  One of my favorite quotes was, "Never give an Anguillan an angle grinder!"  He then showed us the consequences of this action!
He said the Anguillan attempts at making a "natural" looking rock wall bothers him so much - he can't stand to go to church anymore. He pointed out how they cut the square stones into triangles only to put them back together again!
Or how they tried to make natural looking angles...only to create very unnatural looking angles.  There were even some circles!!
Taxis are very expensive on Anguilla so Steve offered to give us a ride in his jeep to a restaurant he recommended.  We gladly accepted and offered to buy him lunch but he declined.  
I loved the sticker above the rear view mirror.  It is a British territory after all!
My shrimp salad at the beachside restaurant da'Vidas.
Chickens scurrying at our feet.

Apparently we visited Anguilla in the middle of their big Moonsplash festival - but we didn't really see any action.
Later that afternoon we headed back to the ferry for St. Martin.  As we were leaving we noticed this sign.  Steve had already given us an idea of the Anguillan relationship style.  This confirmed it.
We arrived on St. Martin and headed directly to our favorite juice bar for fresh coconut and banana shakes.  I stole this picture off the internet just to show the open air markets in Marigot where we bought some souvenirs.
This time we had a little friend join us.

He was fascinated with our phones.  That is all he wanted to see.  I never did see who he belonged to!
We met up at the hotel with our friends that arrived that afternoon (Jason and Vanessa, and Reid and Elise). We had a lovely dinner at the Big Fish and then decided to walk back to the hotel.  As we were walking we turned around to see that the restaurant and the surrounding neighborhood had just experienced a power outage!  Apparently this type of thing is quite frequent on St. Martin - where their power grids haven't been able to keep up with the growth.  
We were anxious to begin our adventure the next day - on board the VIP ONE!!


Julie said...

Okay, so I'm waiting for the next post...I love to read about ALL of it and the photos too, of course!! Thanks for sharing!!

Mike, Haylie and Anna Jane said...

I LOVE this vacation!! Looks like you guys had a blast! You all deserved it- such hard working Mommies!