Saturday, June 27, 2009

Off-season in Antigua

Things have been quiet here in Antigua. We've spent a month between here and Barbuda and it's time to head south. Hurricane season officially started June 1st and it's time to get ourselves a little closer to our destination, 12 degrees latitude or Grenada.
Before we left the anchorage outside Jolly Harbor, we were treated to the sight of these boats heading out for a day of racing. It was a beautiful sight to see them sailing wing-on-wing. Things got a little hairy when one of the boats got their spinnaker tangled up with the boom of the boat next to them. They recovered quickly and were on there way.
We left Jolly for the sail around the southwest corner of the island to Falmouth Harbour. You can see by the chart that we chose the route inside Middle Reef down the Goat Head channel. This make for calmer waters to sail in and involves lots of short tacks as you keep your eye on the reef to starboard and the shoreline to port. Don't rely on your GPS or chartplotters here. You need good, old fashioned eyeball navigation!

We've been enjoying the quiet and uncrowded feeling of sailing in Antigua in the off-season. There usually hasn't been more than 3 or 4 boats anywhere and most of the time it was our friends on Wildcat and Metalia. But it's been kind of strange being in Falmouth Harbour for the past week. We've never been here in the high season but we've seen pictures and read about the hundreds of boats that can be found here, especially during race week and the Classic Yacht Regatta. So to be here with very few boats ( there are probably only a handful of cruising boats in Falmouth, even less in English Harbour) is kind of eerie. There is absolutely nothing going on in the harbor. You rarely hear a dinghy or see anyone during the day. On-shore is the same story. Many of the businesses and restaurants are closed for the season. We are here because it's a good place for us to stage ourselves while we wait for the right weather to head to Guadeloupe. It will be interesting to come back in the high season when things are bustling.

These are the completely empty docks for the mega-yachts.
They are long gone, headed for their summer cruising grounds in the United States and the Mediterranean.

We've really enjoyed Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua boasts that they have 365 beaches, a different one for every day of the year! I don't doubt it. Beautiful beaches are everywhere. We only got to experience a few. Guess we'll have to come back!

Tomorrow we head south. We'll overnight in Guadeloupe before heading to the Saints. We can already smell the fresh-baked baguettes!

Monday, June 22, 2009


Well, we finally completed our tour from St. Martin to Barbuda and are back in Antigua. This chart shows the route we took from St. Martin to Nevis, St. Kitt's, back to Nevis, Montserrat, Antigua and Barbuda. I know for you non-sailers you're looking at this and thinking, "Why didn't they just go from St. Martin to Barbuda. It looks like you took the long way." Well, we did but by sailing this route we had a better point of sail making for more sailing, less motoring and more comfortable conditions. We also wanted to visit all these islands. Now when we leave Antigua we'll have a good point of sail to head to Guadeloupe.
The sail from Barbuda to Antigua was a good one but eventful. We had good wind and seas and were cruising along at over 6 knots. A squall formed between the islands but we managed to cross just in front of it getting 28 knot winds but none of the rain. About an hour into the trip Jim went below deck for something and yelled , "there's a porthole open down here." I have always been afraid that I would forget to close one someday and well, someday came. Of course it had to be the forward porthole, over the bed and on the windward side. We had been taken spay in for the last hour. The corner of the bed was soaked, the spray was hitting the teak wall and door to the head and running down and puddling in front of the starboard settee. What a mess! I had my work cut out for me when we arrived in Antigua.
Then when we arrived outside Deep Bay, Antigua and went to furl the genoa the line jammed. No amount of coaxing would free it so we fall off and drop the genoa and lash it down.
Here's Jim maneuvering around the genoa as he sets the anchor.
Deep Bay is a pretty anchorage on the west shore. There is a resort there but at this time of year it was almost empty. On the hill between Deep Bay and the entrance to St. John's are the ruins of Fort Barrington.

That's Merengue all by herself in Deep Bay.
That's all we have to show for the past two weeks in Antigua. A few days later, I came down with a bad bout of flu. I spent a week in bed with a fever, chills, cough, well you get the idea. Jim hung the quarantine flag on me! It was good that we had moved to Jolly Harbor the day I got sick because there are all the conveniences we needed like a pharmacy and nice grocery. We've now moved to Falmouth Harbour where we'll do some exploring while we wait for good weather to head south.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Beautiful Barbuda!

Beautiful Barbuda!
Somehow that seems like an understatement. You have to see this pristine, unspoiled island to believe it. I suggest you mix yourself a rum punch, put on some island music and sit back in a comfortable chair. We're taking you to Barbuda!
We first heard about Barbuda, oh about 25 years ago. We were watching "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous" and they were featuring a new resort called The K Club that had recently opened on Barbuda. The resort looked beautiful but it was the long stretches of undeveloped, pink sand beaches that we remembered some 25 years later. We were excited to finally get here!

I think that when most people dream about going cruising, they picture themselves anchored off of a pristine, unpopulated beach with nothing but waves lapping on the shore, the sounds of the sea birds, the beauty and the solitude. The reality is there aren't too many places left like that. We found all of that in Barbuda.

Pink Beach north of Coco Point on the west shore of Barbuda.
This picture is not color-enhanced. The sand is a soft pink color and feels like powdered sugar.

No, there wasn't anyone around to take this picture. Prop the camera up on something and set the timer.

The beach in front of the Coco Point Lodge which was already closed for the season.

The K Club which was featured on that show all those years ago is now closed, the once beautiful resort falling into disrepair.

The only other living things we saw all day. Oh yes, there were some wild horses that roamed down the beach around sunset.

After Pink Beach, we moved a few miles to the north to anchor near Low Bay. A few days later the sailing vessels "Metalia" and "Wildcat" pulled in. We met John & Marie and Chris & Pam in Grenada last year. The 6 of us decided to take a tour of the Frigate Bird Rookery, the town of Codrington and do a hike to some caves on the east coast.
First a little bit about Barbuda. Lying 30 miles north of her sister island of Antigua, Barbuda is 14 miles long by 8 miles wide. Unlike the more mountainous islands that surround her, Barbuda is flat. It is difficult to see from offshore until you are very close. The population of about 1,600 seem to fiercely protect their island from development.

Inside the Codrington Lagoon is the Nature Reserve of the Frigate Bird. According to our guide, Clifford Joseph, Frigate birds come from all over the Caribbean to nest here. The Magnificent Frigate Bird can have a wingspan of up to 8 feet. They can fly at speeds of up to 22 mph and at heights of 2,000 ft. But oddly enough they can neither walk or swim. Clifford told us that if a bird accidentally lands in the water, 2 others will swoop down and clip it's wings lifting it out of the water. They are aggressive birds that we often see stealing the catch from other sea birds. Clifford says he sometimes has to fight them off when they try to steal fish from him as he empties his traps. But they have earned their name as they are a magnificent sight to see gliding through the sky.

This is a type of jellyfish found in the lagoon, one that doesn't sting.

Because the males leave after mating, all these pictures are of females and their young.

Marie, Chris, Pam & John with Clifford and Wendy in the background.
The photographer, thoroughly enjoying himself. It was a beautiful place!

Next, we were off to see caves on the east coast of the island.

Jim, Wendy and Chris grabbed the seats with the view. Wheeeeeeeee!

Our guide, Calvin Gore telling us a little about the area. A naturalist, elected official on the Barbuda Council, tour guide and owner of thoroughbred racehorses, Calvin was a very interesting guy.

Back in the town of Codrington we stopped for a lunch of fresh Barbuda lobster and goat stew at Jackie's restaurant. Jackie lived in New York for awhile but home kept calling to her. Barbuda seems like it would be an expensive place to live but as Calvin told us, "What we make, stays in our pocket. We don't have all the temptations of things to spend our money on."

A waterspout forming out to sea.
Another beautiful beach. Are you tired of it yet?

This is the narrow strip of sand between the ocean and the lagoon. The fence was put in to help hold the sand, which washed away during a bad storm.

Clifford (our guide in the lagoon) applied to the government for this piece of ocean front property 30 years ago. Smart guy! No one but a Barbudian can own land here and it gets passed from one generation to the next.

If you are cruising the Caribbean, Barbuda shouldn't be missed!