AN­GUILLA

Sup­ported by a quar­tet of lux­ury ho­tels, a cadre of vol­un­teers is lead­ing a re­cov­ery ef­fort as ex­pan­sive and beau­ti­ful as the is­land’s leg­endary beaches

Coastal Living - - NAVIGATOR -

THE SWELLS ARE BIG TO­DAY; the winds, big­ger. But on May 30—An­guilla Day—lo­cals still take to the ocean for their an­nual around-the-is­land sail­ing race that cel­e­brates their home­land’s in­de­pen­dence from St. Kitts in 1967.

In rus­tic, shal­low-draft schooners with over­size sails (the tra­di­tional, hand-built wa­ter­craft An­guil­lans have used for cen­turies in trade and some­times smug­gling), crews of as many as 25 work in the tight­est quar­ters to keep their boats up­right and tack­ing. All around them bobs a wild barge-and-boat party of lo­cals who’ve come out to watch the ac­tion and cheer on their friends. On shore, hun­dreds more is­lan­ders clus­ter in spots to pic­nic and watch, many spend­ing the whole day mir­ror­ing the route from land.

It’s a re­ally rough day on the water this year, and one boat—a fa­vorite to win—cap­sizes. But af­ter the crew swims quickly to safety, the post-race party at the funky out­post of Sandy Ground feels like the best night ever.

That’s be­cause this is the first An­guilla Day since the north­ern eye wall of Hur­ri­cane Irma passed over the low-ly­ing, 35-squaremile is­land, de­stroy­ing most of its homes and schools, up­root­ing

trees and power poles, mak­ing 90 per­cent of its roads im­pass­able, leav­ing dam­ages ex­ceed­ing $190 mil­lion, and killing one res­i­dent.

But what Irma took away, this feisty, warm-hearted is­land took back—and fast. Ringed by 33 beaches of fine white sand, An­guilla has at­tracted a com­mu­nity of high-end re­sorts and real es­tate own­ers who dug deep and fast to move the tourism base back into ac­tion. Star­wood Cap­i­tal Group, the vast ho­tel hold­ing com­pany, formed An­guilla Stronger, a con­sor­tium of real es­tate own­ers and four of the is­land’s largest ho­tels. Their com­bined pur­chas­ing power and in­fra­struc­ture brought in food and sup­plies for is­lan­ders, pro­cured re­build­ing ma­te­ri­als for homes, and sup­ported or­ga­ni­za­tions in­volved in hu­man ser­vices on the is­land.

The base camp for An­guilla Stronger—a trailer of­fice and a trio of re­fash­ioned ship­ping con­tain­ers on the prop­erty of the Star­wood’s Four Sea­sons Re­sort—is a model of ef­fi­ciency and good­will; em­ploy­ees and vol­un­teers wear match­ing T-shirts while they sort prod­ucts, pack up bags of ne­ces­si­ties for weekly dis­tri­bu­tion, and make de­liv­er­ies to is­lan­ders. They help load new doors and win­dows into a truck for a cou­ple re­build­ing their house. They hit the road for the af­ter­noon, check­ing in on el­derly is­lan­ders liv­ing in dam­aged homes, pop­ping by a day care cen­ter, and de­liv­er­ing tote bags full of new books to an af­ter­school pro­gram and then hang­ing around to lis­ten to the kids read some of them aloud.

When the main rounds are done for the day, Four Sea­sons em­ployee and An­guilla Stronger or­ga­nizer Travis Simp­son heads to the beach to check in on his friend Gar­vey Lake. The young men grew up to­gether; Simp­son went to work in ho­tels, and Lake opened the Sun­Shine Shack, one of a clus­ter of beloved beach bars and restau­rants on Ren­dezvous Bay. Irma wiped the whole beach clean, tak­ing away Lake’s liveli­hood as well as the Dune Pre­serve Beach Bar, the renowned hang­out of An­guilla’s best-known mu­si­cian, Bankie Banx.

When Lake re­turned to a com­pletely de­stroyed build­ing the day af­ter the storm, he put off re­pairs for two weeks to help a neigh­bor get his busi­ness re­built first. Now back in its op­u­lent yel­low glory, the re­born Sun­Shine Shack sports Lake’s mantra of “Live Up, Love Up, Live On” right above the bar. “Hang out! It’s a beau­ti­ful day!” he hollers at Simp­son, call­ing for a round of beach drinks and set­tling in at one of his pic­nic ta­bles in the sand. And Lake is right: The wild seas of An­guilla Day have sub­sided, and Ren­dezvous Bay is a tran­quil shim­mer of turquoise. It’s a day for talk, and laugh­ter, and plans for the fu­ture. It’s an An­guilla kind of day.

GET HERE

Clay­ton J. Lloyd In­ter­na­tional Air­port is eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble by air through Puerto Rico, St. Martin, An­tigua, and St. Kitts, as well as by ferry from St. Martin.

STAY HERE

Perched on a bluff be­tween Barnes and Meads bays, the bone-white, dra­matic Four Sea­sons Re­sort and Res­i­dences An­guilla (right) pos­sesses am­ple gifts: spa­cious rooms (80 per­cent of which have ocean views), beau­ti­fully ap­pointed vil­las (some of which are beach­front), three pools, ten­nis courts, and an el­e­gant spa. The open-air Sun­set Lounge more than lives up to its name, and Cobà, the most up­scale of the three restau­rants, may be one of the most ro­man­tic spots in the Caribbean. Rates start at $650; foursea­sons.com/an­guilla.

On Shoal Bay East, Zemi Beach House Re­sort & Spa is a lux­u­ri­ously bo­hemian bou­tique ho­tel with a spec­tac­u­lar spa that in­hab­its an 18th-cen­tury Thai es­tate im­ported to the prop­erty. There’s beach­front and fancier din­ing on-site, plus the en­dur­ing plea­sures of the Rhum Room, with a ros­ter of more than 100 small-batch, sin­gle-es­tate rums. Rates start at $358; zemibeach.com. The Reef by Cuisi­nArt, a sleek, mod­ern re­sort on Mer­ry­wing Bay, re­opened this spring with myr­iad up­dates, in­clud­ing a top-to-bot­tom in­te­rior re­fur­bish­ment, new restau­rant and bar con­cepts, and a re­fo­cus of its spa on whole-body well­ness. Rates start at $475; thereef­by­cuisi­nart.com. Just up the beach, the Cuisi­nArt Golf Re­sort & Spa re­opens in Novem­ber with re­designed rooms, new restau­rants, golf pro­grams, and a spa. Rates start at $550; cuisi­nartre­sort.com. WIMCO Vil­las pro­vides top-shelf concierge ser­vices for 55 lux­ury prop­er­ties—from de­light­fully per­sonal to ex­pan­sively mod­ern— across the is­land. In­quire about the select vil­las in the col­lec­tion that are par­tic­i­pat­ing in a “free night” pro­mo­tion this fall; wimco.com.

Al­ready re­opened late in 2017 with im­prove­ments in­clud­ing new win­dows and doors that opened up big­ger Caribbean Sea views, the pale pink Frangi­pani Beach Re­sort on Meads Bay will de­but a new rooftop lounge and Ba­li­nese spa in Novem­ber. Rates start at $500; frangi­panire­sort.com. Un­der new own­er­ship and re­open­ing in Novem­ber, Bel­mond Cap Ju­luca has emerged from a $121 mil­lion re­fresh. The re­sult—im­prov­ing its haute-ro­man­tic strand of beach­front guest rooms on Maun­days Bay, reimag­in­ing its stun­ning ope­nair restau­rant, and adding a new sea-edge in­fin­ity pool and spa com­plex—is breath­tak­ing ev­i­dence of An­guilla’s re­turn as a Caribbean get­away of the high­est or­der. Rates start at $904; bel­mond.com.

An­guilla Stronger vol­un­teers mind­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter

Famed An­guil­lan mu­si­cian Bankie Banx

Four Sea­sons Re­sort and Res­i­dences An­guilla

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