Antigua & Barbuda

Oh boy it felt good to be in the Caribbean at last with its warm sunshine and warm waters caressing us. The hard edges of the boat yard memories seemed a long time and distance away. We were all quickly back into the summer time living of lots of water play and enjoying the reward for all our work.

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A quick explore of the local area on arrival day found some local rum to sample. Bit of a must do really.

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Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour is a world heritage site with beautifully manicured grounds surrounding the lovely old buildings and skirted by some ostentatious wealth displays. Quite a lot of history here and I am happy to be exploring with my family in these days rather than during its strategic heyday when life was cheaper and more brutal. A little flogging of a conscript for your morning entertainment anyone?

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Somewhat horrified at the food prices in the little local convenience stores we headed out on a mission to the largest and cheapest local “supermarket.” The day was scorching hot, but it did not seem too far on the map… Walking out of the Dockyard area we were immediately struck by the contrasts of the area. Literally a 5min walk down the main road away from the superyachts and expensive restaurants there were run down little shacks of people living in poverty. We managed to buy a local SIM from a rather gungy convenience store that was on the way. Think a very run down and dark and expensive 4 Square where the locals seemed to buy only in very small quantities. How long will one roll of toilet paper last? The kids were fading out a little and even Shannon and I were finding it hard going. Come on, it can’t be that much further… It became a ridiculously long walk to the fabled supermarket and hopes were high for a large air conditioned supermarket with Ice Cream. Imagine our disappointment to find only a slightly larger version of the same overpriced convenience store, no air con and even worse, no ice cream. Oh Dear. The kids were not happy but held up so well we were impressed. There was no way we were going to walk home, so clutching our shopping we hailed a local bus. Shannon’s smile says it all really. For a few EC$ we had a ride door to door and met a few of the locals. Back on board the boat, and where is the blue backpack? Oh No! So back I go in the dinghy, walk through the dockyard to the security. The guys on the gates where very helpful but no sign of it. So wise to the local transport I caught a bus all the way back to the store. Not as much interest there and no sign of the bag. Bugga. All the way home again and a bit tired now. The gate guys were amazing though, the following day they had the backpack returned complete! Lovely!

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Chris hired a very expensive death trap of a scooter and explored some of the island. It is a beautiful if unforgiving place to live. It is hard for us to imagine what it would be like growing up with the history of slavery and trying to break out of poverty with limited opportunities. Some of the places he was very happy the scooter did not break down! No photos of these unfortunately for self-preservation so only the people who read the blog carefully will notice this buried in the text next to the tourist photos. It really reinforced how lucky we are to be born into the land of plenty in New Zealand and have been able to create the opportunity to cruise some of the world on two year sabbatical with our friends and family. The scooter was a surprisingly capable off-road machine and I am sure his police pursuit and riding skills were often called on to keep him in the saddle…

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Stunning view of English Harbour and the neighbouring Falmouth. Made even more special for me as it is another view shot with Drakkar nestled at anchor.

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We met the lovely Dalen family who are on a 2 year circumnavigation on their 37’ Prout cat with three kids. Just when we thought we were crowded and rushed along, they came with their infectious enthusiasm and bucked up our ideas of what is comfortable and possible. The kids had such fun with the rambunctious water play.

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And lizard training…

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A celebratory dinner at a very nice waterfront Italian eatery was made even better with the greeting by the proprietor. Rest of the crew hiding out of shot for the romantic angle. I hate the think how much it cost, thank you Cesare for picking up the bill before we could get there!!!!

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A provisioning jaunt was run to the large supermarket in the colourful capital St Johns. Only a four hour mission involving a cross island bus ride followed by a taxi to get there and reverse lugging the shopping home. Prices were better although still make my eyes water. The kids do not need chips at NZD7 per bag. Thankfully the aspiring rally driver and his huge security guard side-kick got us home safely well after dark on their ‘jammed to the gunnels and reggae jamming bus.’ But even with Cesare and Edwardo’s help the mission took so long we were very late for the farewell homemade cake on the Dalen’s boat. It was inspiring to see the maturity and freedoms of the Dalen children. Here they are coming over to our boat for a last swim with us. Our kids hardly drive the dinghy let alone take it away off round the corner by themselves. Fair Winds for your voyage guys.

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Cesare’s brother Edwardo was with us for far too short a time. Somehow he had avoided getting too many photos taken. Here we are heading around the corner to Green Island as Cesare rounds up his uncle and friends on their charter boat to join them for a bit.

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Chris attempting to salve his windsurfing withdrawals as we sit in our first reef anchorage. The constant trade winds and sheltered water was tailor made for the kite surfing school but no windsurfers were available. During a paddle I found the only other boat I have see so far with a proper surf ski on board. He had been enjoying the kite surfing so much the weed was growing thick on his bridle and building up on his hull.

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Heading out to swim on the inside of the windward reef. Not as exciting as we hoped with turbid water, few interesting fish or structures and a long swim from the dinghy to avoid anchoring in the coral, putting the kids off a bit.

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Thumbs up for the first reef passage as we head north to Barbuda. Not much room for error as we threaded our way through.

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Another thumbs up as we worked our way up off the lee shore reefs in the boisterous trade wind conditions we caught a wave just right and everyone in the cockpit got a refreshing shower. Thankfully it was the only one and it became a romping sail to Barbuda complete with several boats to pass including a large cat. Drakkar sure loves to slide along.

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Anchor down in Paradise!

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We are pretty proud of New Zealand and we have some stunning beaches. But this place (behind Cocoa Point) is Amazing! The sand is as soft as flour. The warm water was brilliantly coloured and clear. And even better the kilometres long beach and bay are almost completely deserted. Wow!

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Movie time for tired bodies after a day well seized. No, my restoring tonic is not just juice.

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Exploring the next day found the local airport a little further up the beach. Yes, that sign says “Stop, Look both ways for aircraft.” And yes, there were several flights a day for the ‘well heeled’ at the exclusive Cocoa Point Lodge at the end of the island.

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The walk up the beach in the sun required several cooling dips.

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Sad to see the abandoned resort with it’s long row of cottages on the beachfront. We met an extremely hung over local who was supposed to be collecting coconuts but was instead nursing his head in the shade of a derelict porch. He told us it was 12 years since it last operated when he used to work in the kitchens as a lad. Apparently it was in the world’s top 10 resorts and Princess Diana was a regular. What a spot. I hope they can resolve some of the development tensions and issues in Barbuda. The island is communally owned land and has fended off obscene developments so far but with the potential commercial profits come some vultures.

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Yes, what a spot…

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Conveniently placed vertical cleat for coconut husking.

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We crept through the coral heads into the anchorage behind Spanish Point on the southern end of the island for an even more deserted anchorage. Stopping in just a few metres of crystal clear water it was easy to spot the rays and fish on the bottom.

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Good fun competition trying for the best moonwalk along the sand with the anchor chain. Hey, it’s another thumbs up!

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What a strange sight. A graveyard of shells and coral scattered everywhere. The highest point on the uplifted coral island is less than 200 feet and with the outlying reefs made quite a hazard to navigation in the olden days. Thank goodness for modern GPS and charting.

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The depressing detritus of modern society. In our land life it is easy to ignore, just chuck it in the bin and it magically disappears each week. After being in the outside environment for a year and seeing so much rubbish our eyes are opened. Single use plastic seems catastrophically silly to me from a whole life cycle point of view. Why make so much disposable stuff from poisonous materials that is almost indestructible? Sure it makes sense economically to produce it and it’s so convenient to use. But please consider the environmental cost to make it and then where it goes when you throw it away after it’s so brief use. Do you really need that cheap plastic toy/do-da/utensil/bottle that is rubbish so quickly?  Sure, in developed countries it may be recycled somehow. But guess what?… more new plastic has to be made to use the recycled junk and turned into more plastic junk to be thrown away… Make the changes you can, avoid buying it wherever you can. This will limit it’s production and pollution as less is used, limit how economic it is to make and encourage alternatives. I used to think banning plastic bags was a nanny state limited effect green wash. But now I consider it more of a leading piece to get people thinking and starting to change their habits. It’s not that hard to take carry bags when you go shopping and now it is such an ingrained habit it seems odd when occasionally supermarkets try to give us plastic bags we don’t want or need. It has been reinforced to us after sailing so far how small and precious the world is. We only have one of them…

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Rant over, hope it makes a few people think a moment before the tourist brochure pictures continue. Here we are exploring the windward side of the island and it’s unforgiving rugged rocky formations. Shortly after this we were joking about how bad a time this would be to have a jandal blow out and a few minutes later Chris’ trusty and long serving Teva’s gave up.

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Kiwi styles lash up with some scavenged string and the Teva was back in action. Chris and I headed off for a little more exploring as the kids and Shannon went back to the beach. The little more exploring became a 2 hour mission over the rugged coast and amazing beaches and long way home. Chris found his metal ‘Wilson’ and carted him to the island’s “castle” which was a 12 foot diameter mostly collapsed small tower. Bonus points for getting Drakkar in the background again.

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Meanwhile, Shannon was quietly fuming away, being left in the heat with the kids, and no idea of where we were for so long. Oops, not my birghtest idea for the day. The small mercy of the abandoned fishing hut to shelter in had not had much of a mollifying affect with wondering when the owners were returning. -That evening as it turned out.

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Under a full moon a significant shadow was spotted under the boat. The shallow water so clear it was easily seen by the moonlight. Ooooh, that’s a big fish. Chris was so keen to land a 2m barracuda that the line and lure were out in a flash. With Chris’s repeated attempts to cast a trolling reel out to tempt it foiled as the fish was gone in a flash after being spooked when touched by the line. But soon it was back to tease Chris again and eventually get away.

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And too soon again it was time to run back to Antigua. With a lot of north in the wind we took the opportunity to go inside the reef across northern Antigua as this is usually a beat into the westerly trade winds. We spent the night tucked into Davis Bay on the exclusive Long Island. So exclusive that landing ashore is strongly discouraged by security. We contented ourselves with admiring some very fancy houses around the shoreline with binoculars. I was amused to note the local workers arrived on a slow boat that had not heard of a muffler. Perhaps the obnoxiously loud exhaust was a passive aggressive protest at the opulence on the island?

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Chris continuing a favourite pastime from our childhood. I was a bit surprised to be asked the next day if I had tattooed Boston’s foot…

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Reunited with Cesare and Edwardo at Jolly Harbour we headed out to a recommended local restaurant only to find it closed. We did find some lovely local houses and gardens. We also found a retired mafia don rolling up to the local supermarket in his golf cart rocking boxer shorts, polo shirt and loafers and totally owning the look as he greeted a lot of people…

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We ended up at a local beach bar to the greatest Pina Colada and Jamaican Jerk chicken ever.

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Jolly Harbour is an interesting place. Super fancy houses on the beachfront complete with bikini’s lounging by the pool as the gardener lady worked away in front of them and a boat house over the road behind with the launch moored in the canal. Contrasting rather strongly with the uninspired architecture on the houses in the centre of the canals and retirement home aged inhabitants on golf carts everywhere. Some of the launches were pretty extravagant like this 60’ Perishing on its own hoist. A big plus was a decently priced supermarket and short trolley distance from the dinghy dock complete with packers who would not let you help them take your groceries to the dinghy. Nice!

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Although we look happy it was a sad time to say farewell for now to Cesare and his brother Edwardo. So good to have you guys on board and look forward to next time. Cesare was heading off to manage a stunning 55’ cat for the owner and Edwardo back to work in the Swiss winter. Brrrrr, hope your suntan holds out a while… I am in a rare collared shirt for the dance with Customs, Immigration and Harbourmaster to get clearance and Cesare off the crew list.

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Chris and his sense of humour strikes again…

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Running the boys ashore and the outboard’s sense of humour chooses now to strike and stall out. The 10min delay for the plug clean and fettle made it happy again, but meant we were absolutely pounded by two drenching tropical downpours. One on the way to shore, and one on the way back to the boat.

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Following morning of 15 Jan 2017 and we are headed for Guadeloupe.

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In another trade wind beam reach romping sail.

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6 thoughts on “Antigua & Barbuda

  1. Stunning photos – that beach looks incredible and I do hope they are able to return to the days of the resort. I love the “rant” – I’m so big on reduce, reuse, recycle and love the repair cafes popping up trying to combat the throw away, replace mentality we seem to have these days.

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  2. Hey what a terrific blog. You should have been a writer! Enjoyed meeting up with you and the family here at Pigeon Island and will keep following your adventures on your blog. Fair winds from a fellow Kiwi.
    Peter

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