Island Notes 74
The final episode of the Anguillan Trilogy
I had not figured the whole thing through. All I knew is that a day of R&R was needed after three full days of work on Sint Maarten, and the next day I had a 6pm flight to catch home from Princess Juliana Airport to Bonaire’s flamingo pink terminal.
So when I arrive at the ferry dock to make arrangements to get from Anguilla to Sint Maarten, I am pleasantly surprised. For 35 bucks I can take a one-way boat trip that includes a shuttle to the airport. Sold.
I arrive early at the docks before my 3:15 departure. Docks are always interesting places to hang out on small islands. The Anguillan taxi drivers surround a vertical chalk board in front of the GB Express ticket office. There is a constant shuffle of numbers being marked in chalk. Each cipher represents a cab. It is their ‘old school’ way to distribute rides evenly to the drivers. Well done.
My ticket agent, Lydon Connor shows up as promised. Earlier that day, I had paid him for the ticket, but he didn’t have the proper receipt for cash. “I’ll remember you when you come back,” he said. I trusted him, but what if he couldn’t show for some reason and someone else showed up at 3:15? Lydon improvised and wrote me a cash receipt on a VISA credit card paper.
I passed through customs and boarded the GB Express with four other men, all from the islands. This is a small boat, perhaps 25-feet long with a maximum capacity of twelve.
“That’s only the legal passenger limit,” says Lydon smiling. “We can fit more. Sometimes we even transport animals—people’s dogs and cats.”
Lydon’s older brother, Capt. Lyle Connor welcomes everyone aboard, fires up the two, 225 HP Yamahas and we leave the dock. “Hang on,” warns Capt. Lyle. “We have some seas today.”
I am impressed how the GB Express handled the waves. It is smooth cruising with little roll. I ask Lydon about the boat. “It’s a fiberglass hull with wood uppers covered with fiberglass. We even made the seat coverings.”
Capt. Lyle tells me later that the GB Express is a Rebel Marine boat. I have heard about these craft on Sint Maarten. Built on Anguilla, they are stout, sea worthy, and reliable. The GB Express lives up to the reputation. Anguilla has always been known for boatbuilding. Back in the day, they crafted fine wooden sailboats that were used for fishing and transportation. It is good to see that Rebel is continuing that tradition of fine boat building.
The trip goes smooth and soon we are entering the French entrance to Simpson Bay, the largest lagoon on the island and a major center for visiting yachts in this northeast corner of the Caribbean. Once through the bridge, the waters calm down appreciably and I go forward to talk to Captain Lyle. I compliment him on his boat and ask him if the conditions today were typical. “That’s about average for this time of year. Soon we will be getting the Christmas winds and it will be a bit rougher.”
“Yeah, I know how those are,” I reply. “I sailed them down in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines during a December years ago. That can be big water. What has been your worst day on the water with the GB Express?”
“We left Simpson Bay at 1am with two other boats taking 90 people total,” explained Capt. Lyle. “The swells in Simpson Bay were 4-5 feet high. Out in the sea, they were 15-feet! We couldn’t see each other. The bow looked like it was smokin’ from all the white water foamin’ over. We lost some baggage coming over on that one.”
We arrive on the other shore of the lagoon in minutes. Now on the Dutch side, we depart the boat to go through customs and on to the airport shuttle. I bid farewell to Capt. Lyle and stop to talk to my newfound friend, Lydon Connor.
“By the way, Lydon. What does the “G.B.” in GB Express stand for?