Return to Paradise

“Dad, I’m glad we are not in a boat like that” was Boston’s comment as we passed this 40’ leaner-maran thrashing along on its side on the boisterous trade wind passage. Wind was 60° apparent and 20 knots as we romped along at mid to high 8 knots. There was quite an exodus in the early morning from Deshaies at the north end of Martinique headed up to Antigua to try and beat the worst of the wind. Not competitive or anything but I did enjoy passing everyone. Well, nearly everyone as we could not catch the 120’ superyacht… Pretty happy with our choice of boat! She does a lot at a very reasonable price and it’s always fun sailing faster than the other guy and on the level.

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So what got us moving out of the wonderland of Pigeon Is? The previous post ended with us running out of programme to rush around following. What do we do now? We can be lazy! The lazy bit lasted for a week before we got itchy and guilty. We need a plan. Modern society has us conditioned to always be rushing around being busy and although we had moved to boat life away from land life we carried all our paradigms and thought habits with us – it takes a conscious effort to evaluate and change these. What are we all so busy doing? What are we trying to achieve? Can we just sit and relax for a bit? This triggered some critical thinking, the results of which may come out later. One of the conclusions was that this sabbatical is a complete change for me from the office; lots of family time, big boat toy to play with, no regular hours bashing the brain for work and wasting time tangled in traffic. But not so much of a change for Shannon. Kids to still look after, domestic chores, and teaching added to the mix, sure with better scenery but less space and conveniences. So Respect to all the Mum’s out here. Successful cruises don’t just happen, it takes plenty of work to keep it on track.

So the plan became to explore the northern Caribbean islands and meet up with our friends before we have to head south to avoid the hurricane season. Three friend’s AIS traces were in Antigua so back we go. Seems we had hit upon the motherload of kids boats on arrival in Falmouth! I think the count got up to 8 kids boats with no one in a hurry to leave. Here is a model volcano about to erupt.

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A shot trying to capture the contrasts that make up Antigua. We are anchored off the superyacht docks centre left. The “main” road is just above Amelia’s head and we are one street back with modest little houses overlooking the opulent floating mansions. The run down shacks and poverty is just a 10min walk further inland. Not sure how I would feel to own one of the peninsular mansions and live here.

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Water play time. Great for making new friends.

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So good catching up with good friends again!

Bimini is away being re-stitched and holy heck it was Hot without it!

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A lagoon 450 cat is a pretty decent chunk of boat. Several friends have them and they are amazingly comfortable. But they are simply dwarfed by some of the floating mansions around here.

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Met this inspirational crazy guy Chris Bertish arriving in English Harbour after spending 93 days crossing the Atlantic on his paddle board. I don’t think I would chose to paddle board across an ocean and I know Shannon would not but this does not diminish the take away lesson of working to make your dreams into your reality. If you really want something, then go and make it happen. That is how we got out here to enjoy boat life in paradise. Chris regaled the crowds with some fantastic stories as he held court buzzing on the high of landfall after such an epic adventure. What an achievement mate!

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Windy day hike over the hill with friends. Hold on to your hats!

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Eagle eyed Amelia spots some goats with kids perched on the cliffs. No they do not need rescuing Amelia…

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Ruins of an old fort overlooking Falmouth harbour and panorama of the harbour.

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The reward for the hot hill hike, beach time!

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Another afternoon gathering of kids boats on the local beach –Pigeon Beach in Falmouth Harbour.

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Happy and colourful local who dropped by for a chat and to bludge a beer.

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Afternoon drifted into evening tiring the adults out.

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Somehow the kids are still full of go go playing in the water as the sun sets.

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Finally we tore ourselves away from the social whirl as a return to paradise was calling. First stop was just around the corner at Carlisle Bay. Swimming on the anchor is no chore in these waters amongst the turtles and stingrays.

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The hotel at the head of Carlisle Bay is dripping in luxury and happy to charge for it. I admit to a small smug satisfaction as we stroll past their pale and sunburnt bodies on their few days pricey “holiday.” The cheapest room for one week is our cruising costs for three months. The other end of the beach has tumble down houses and abandoned beach bars. I wonder how many hotel guests get that far away from the manicured hotel grounds?

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A little jump further around the corner to Jolly Harbour to provision and we are still hunting the green flash.

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Return To Paradise! We love Barbuda with its stunning beaches and few people or development.

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Lazing on the beach in the afternoon, (After a morning of school work and boat chores of course.) we were entertained by the crew of a mega yacht anchored well out in the bay. Several uniformed crew came in and set up marked off area and couple of chairs. Barely visible in the photo is a fire dancer performing for them. Shortly after this photo we had to restrain the kids to a semi respectable distance as we also enjoyed the show. Not sure how much the two guests enjoyed it as they just sat like limp frogs in their seats and headed back to the boat quickly afterwards. Perhaps the return on investment on such a mega yacht is not nearly as high as Drakkar.

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Getting ready for the island tour with our friends from SV Trismic. Love the Barbuda airport control tower and Stop, look both ways for aircraft sign. Not so much of a fan of the local caltrop prickles hence the rare use of shoes. Barefoot locals must have extra tough feet!

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Boat tour of the lagoon and frigate bird colony way very cool. Local guide George Jeffery is an island icon and a great host. This kids were fascinated getting so close to the birds and wildlife. Great to hear about the health of the lagoon and fascinating how it functions as a nursery for such a wide area of the Caribbean with tracked lobster and fish turning up at huge distances from Barbuda.

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Here is cheeky rascal pointing out the local mountain and highest point of the island at a whole 125‘ high… No wonder the Codrington’s did so well out of salvage in the old days.

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Our driver took us to the stunning Two Foot Bay on the windward side of the island.

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A climb up through a cave to the top of the uplifted coral shelf gave stunning views. Wow.

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What the heck is that under our boat?!… as a shark like profile was spotted. Dinner scraps tied to string brought the remoras to the surface as 4 decent sized ones competed for food.

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Three rescues in one day was a higher than usual pay it forward contribution and end up with us on the lovely 67’ Lagoon for drinks. It started with me watching a kite surfer learning. By himself. With no lee shore. Hmmm. He’s not looking too good as he cannot get his kite to fly for more than 30sec. And he is slowly heading out of the bay. I don’t think his partner on the beach can launch their dinghy as she is just going up and down the beach. When he was dragged over some reefs I thought I had better go and say hello. He was happy to see me despite saying “I was just about to do a self-rescue and palled back to shore” Not sure how well that works with a kite sail so I gave him a lift to the beach to face his partner who was by that stage swimming out to him?

Rescue #2 began when a young French lad paddled over to us. With very limited common language we worked out he was worried about his mum on a paddle board. Looking through the binoculars we spotted her paddling straight downwind and off out of the bay. Odd. Another dinghy run found a very grateful mum and daughter unable to turn the paddle board around and rapidly heading out to sea. Almost back at their boat and their dinghy comes over to chase them after realizing what was going on.

Rescue #3 was not as exciting. A fancy 65’ oyster yacht pulled into the bay and dropped their dinghy into the water where it promptly drifted off. I hollered at them and they waved back. A few more hollers and gestures and they got the message properly rather than thinking it was a greeting.

So we ended up with the French paddleboard family on board a beautiful big cat for a lovely evening while the other two boats laid low. Nice to be appreciated for helping although Terry was only a few minutes behind once he had finished working on a boat issue down below and noticed what was going on. The use of his marine shop discount account in St Martin was well appreciated too!

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Another sad goodbye to our Slice of Life friends. How long can we keep saying goodbye?

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With our friends heading off in different directions again we slipped around the corner under Spanish Point and threaded our way behind the inner reef. Just stunning water and only a few boats in the distance.

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Ahhhh, Paradise.

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Exploring ashore we found the remains of a tiny watchtower. Maybe staffed with midgets? Possibly one of the decoy lighthouses that was put on the island to lure mariners onto the reefs.

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The sandy bottom 1m under our keels was covered in a continuous carpet of peaks and where the anchor chain wiped them flat they were quickly rebuilt. You can make out a few of them under our rudder with the stingray snuffling along the bottom hunting out whatever is building them. The stingray would often stop and dig down into the sand completely ignoring us watching.

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The marine life around the reefs and in the open at night was good to see. Here the kids are scooping up all the creatures attracted to the light. They found some amazing transparent fish including some that looked like juvenile swordfish.

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We loved this place so much we stayed until we almost ran out of food. Darn, time to head on as I do not want to pay for more local groceries. The earlier little shop on island holds the record for the most expensive groceries we have ever bought. An escort of dolphins out through the reefs really topping off the beauty of the place.

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A couple of small delays and hiccups meant I missed the customs office on their Friday close by only a few minutes. Darn! I would not be surprised if they had closed early on a quiet Friday afternoon. So we spend a night anchored off the ferry dock, thankfully not in the way of the tug and barge that arrived in the morning.

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A few shots of downtown Codrington as I take a taxi back to clear out with the island flavoured friendly British beauracracy and three spread out offices. I wonder how long the inhabitants will retain the charm of the island with all the development pressures and money pouring into the island. A huge new recreation centre built by the Chinese was conspicuous on the edge of town. Kilometres of new concrete roads being built to the new airport and massive hotel development underway. Most of the locals seem happy with the changes and we wish them the best of luck to retain their island.

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On April Fools 2017 departing Barbuda, kite up in light conditions bound for St Martin.

Life is good.

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