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Anguilla

Wednesday May 26, 2010

What a great time we have been having in sweet Anguilla. This tropical island port is a perfect first stop on a long voyage out to the Pacific and around the world – nice and relaxing after a North Atlantic passage. Ashore, nothing for the off-watch to do but swim, snorkel, sit on the beach, listen to reggae music and calypso and meet folks and play dominos. A lot of people from the bay here at Sandy Ground, Anguilla remember Picton Castle from her visit here just over a year ago, and the welcome back for the ship and her crew has been enchantingly warm.

The duty watch have also been having a good time, working on ship projects in the morning, maybe a swim call at lunch break, more projects in the afternoon, then wrapping up in time for another swim call and maybe some time on the rope swing off the fore yard-arm before supper. And we have been practicing in rowing as a team in the long-boat at the end of the days. The first day here the 8-12 watch got lots of rustbusting done, so each day since then we’ve been layering on coats of primer before final painting. Footropes aloft on the yards are getting tarred, the overhead in the breezeway is being painted tropical blue. It has rained briefly each evening during our stay, meaning that we’ve had to dry the cotton canvas sails. We do this by loosing them to let the canvas hang from the yards so the sun can do its work. This also means that we have to stow the sails at the end of the day, which takes a bit of time for one watch, which is one third of the crew, to do. But it is good practice aloft, too.

The currency in Anguilla is the Eastern Caribbean dollar, or EC for short. On the $10EC bill, there is a picture of a schooner called the Warspite, which was the last of Anguilla’s wooden schooners. Warspite was used to transport people and goods between islands in the Caribbean, including moving salt from Anguilla’s salt ponds to Trinidad. Unfortunately, Warspite was destroyed in a hurricane in 1984. We were very pleased to meet Sir Emile Gumbs in Anguilla, former Master of the Warspite and have him aboard. Our Captain remembers the Warspite well when he was a kid and the schooner was trading regularly to St. Thomas and Roadtown, Tortola. He says she was the prettiest and best sailing working schooner in the Caribbean when he was young.

We finally caught up with shipmate Deb, who sailed on the Atlantic Voyage, Wednesday evening. She now lives in Anguilla and, together with her partner Laurie, owns the Carriacou sloop Tradition. We thought we would miss seeing them as they were in Canada when we arrived, but they returned home just in time. Deb was telling us all about her latest adventures, including five weeks in Carriacou while Tradition was hauled out of the water for maintenance.

Next Monday is Anguilla Day, the biggest holiday of the year in Anguilla. Round the island boat races, carnival in the streets, Sandy Ground filled with people and music, even a reggae festival. We won’t be able to stay to celebrate this year, but perhaps we’ll be back for Anguilla Day next year…

Michael, Logan and Meredith relax on the beach at Sandy Ground
PICTON CASTLE at anchor in Anguilla
WARSPITE on the 10 EC bill

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