Friday, February 26, 2016

Paradise Found

We would all probably put Antigua & Barbuda on our short list of favorites. Antigua has all the action. We loved it for the interesting and well-preserved history, nice people, pretty beaches, water activities, cool sailing vibe, fun things to do, beautiful sailing yachts, and donkeys! And Barbuda has all the quiet and seclusion you would want after all that activity. We stayed twice as long in both places as we had originally meant to. Partly because we had to (waiting for a parts delivery) and largely because we just wanted to.

We anchored in Falmouth Harbour and based ourselves out of that spot. Our first outing was a visit to Nelson's Dockyard in English Harbour. We learned that we were there for the arrival of some of the teams that participated in a rowing challenge across the Atlantic. There are solo rowers, teams of pairs and teams of four. Rowing. Across the Atlantic. In this little boat. Whoa.

Another recreation of a pic from Makai's blog. What was Eric pointing out?

We always enjoy a visit to a museum. Especially one with a nice breeze blowing through it. 

The buildings throughout Nelson's Dockyard have been fully restored and, of course, are now used for different purposes than their original use. But the repurposing of the buildings has allowed it to become a working boatyard for modern mariners.

Practicing knots. It's always futile.

A figurehead from a ship.

Before we went to the museum we were talking about how amazing it must have been to leave gloomy England as a young man, cross a vast  ocean and arrive in a tropical paradise of palm trees and coconuts. Such a romantic image until we read this. 

Sounds like Pliny's excuse to look at boobies.

The heroic and much revered Lord Nelson!

There are so many beautiful and very large sailing yachts in Antigua. St. Martin was all about power and Antigua is more about sails.

Here's a pairs team unloading their boat.

There's a bakery behind the museum building with nice breads and refreshments. Some of Andy's errands meant a run to the Dockyard and he'd always pick up a loaf of fresh bread. 
One of the hoses for our watermaker burst not long after we arrived. This was a major issue since Antigua is experiencing a bad drought so we couldn't even buy water. We ordered new hoses right away and knew we'd be waiting for at least a week for them to arrive. So Andy bought a week membership at the yacht club which meant $20 sailing lessons for Cubby and free use of the dinghys any time. Here's Cubby before her first lesson.

Her instructor, Spliff, teaching her how to attach the rudder.

It was funny to see her out there amongst the mega yachts.

When we heard tons of boat horns blaring we knew the Antigua & Barbuda rowing team had arrived. So we raced over to the Dockyard to take part in all the excitement.

The Prime Minister and a bunch of other heads of this and that gave some very exuberant speeches. The minister of tourism got so ahead of himself that he had an adrenaline induced speech impediment and referred to the event as the "Tawiskey Whiskey Wowing Chawwenge." For some reason it made us laugh for days. But the excitement was understandable because these beloved guys set two world records: one for oldest combined team age and another for oldest individual rower. We can't wait to see them in the Guinness Book of Records 2017!

Andy, our own personal cruise director, spearheaded a ziplining outing. We were back in gung ho sightseeing and cash spending mode! We love it when he gets inspired. Drew ended up opting out and we really didn't blame him. When the heights thing gets you, there's no fighting it. 

And some of the platforms were really tiny and high up! We couldn't take a camera with us but took this one before we put everything in the locker. 

Hang on, Cubby!!

Drew had a better time hanging out with Blue anyway. It's nice when you get a cuddly kitty all to yourself.

We had a nice lunch and swim at OJ's on the west side of Antigua before doing our least favorite activity: provisioning. 

For some reason it doesn't look like much but this was a ton of food. Maybe it just seems like a ton when you have to load and unload it by dinghy at the end of a very long day.

On one of his errands to town Andy met a very sweet little donkey. So he and the kids went on a mission to find him again and even brought carrots and a stuffed donkey with them. That's Bray sitting on the donkey's mane. 

So sweet!

One of the many reasons we had for turning our trip around early was to try to seek out more kiteboarding spots for Andy. Green Island in Antigua was one of the spots he was really looking forward to. But with the watermaker out of commission we had to stay close to our only source of water - 5 gallon water cooler jug refills that Andy had to lug back and forth from the store every day. We were really rationing. With the disappointment of missing Green Island hanging over him, he researched a different spot and we made an expedition to Jabberwock Beach. It was a pretty good day for it and there he is up and going between the kids and the anchored boat.

Time for a picnic and a break from the sun.

And some play time in the water. 

Then another attempt. The wind was right but the water was rough and Andy found the waves tough to negotiate on top of everything else. But he had fun. 

Face plant! He was pretty tired at this point.

After the beach we tried to get to the Donkey Sanctuary before it closed. We were able to get the attention of a guy working there but he explained he had to close up a little early. The drought is so bad that the donkeys hadn't had water in two days. The man was busy trying to get some of those 5 gallon water cooler bottles to the donkeys. The hotels get the water first and a desalination plant has been in the works for a while. Two more weeks. Apparently that's been the promise for a year now. We fed the donkeys what green grass we could find and this one was so nippy and pushy that we had to distract him to make sure everyone got some.

Poor things. There was a huge rain overnight the next night so we were hoping some of their buckets were filling.

Back at the boat we watched as a peregrine falcon had an in-flight battle with an osprey. The falcon then landed on our wind instrument and proceeded to attack it. 

Maybe the spinning was annoying him. I let Drew take his picture before shooing him away. We just didn't need another project. 

Back at the yacht club for more sailing lessons and kitty friends. See the wet paint on her paws? 

When Valentine's Day came around the kids actually volunteered to stay home so we could have a date night! That is truly unheard of. The only thing they like less than going out for dinner is staying alone on the boat after dark. But that's changing as they get older and they were very comfortable in Antigua. I don't think they even noticed we were gone and we had a nice sushi dinner.

Andy and Drew went to town for some reason and came across the sweet donkey again. This time his owner was with him and offered Drew a ride on little Selassie. Cubby was beyond upset that she didn't get a turn.

So during another walk to the Dockyard for a planned hike we luckily ran into them again and she had a turn. Guess what pet she's after now. 

Andy and Drew hiked up the hill overlooking English and Falmouth Harbours. Isn't it pretty? The girls went around by dinghy and picked them up at the beach on the other side.

Falmouth Harbour is much bigger.

Drew whipping up a pancake breakfast.

After Cubby's 3rd lesson they let her go out alone. She did great tacking back and forth. 

Coming about. Watch the boom! Now let's wrap this up so we can go to Barbuda!

Andy installed our new watermaker hose and, following a weather check, we got ready to go. We planned to go all the way to Barbuda from Falmouth Harbour but as we stuck our noses out just past the north end of Antigua the wind was howling and it was ROUGH. So I made the call to turn around. I could not face another dreadful day of bashing. So we spent a really lovely day and night anchored in Deep Bay. There's a bacteria that's been infecting palm trees throughout the Caribbean and we meant to research it. So everywhere we go we see palm trees with their heads lopped off. Maybe this is one way to stop the spread.

Andy was pretty disappointed about turning around because he thought we'd have to motor all the way to Barbuda the next day. But we ended up having plenty of wind from a better direction to sail the entire way in much more comfortable seas. So much for forecasts. Seriously. We've lost count now of the number of times the weather router we really rely on has been significantly off in the past couple months.

With a large north swell forecast we decided to anchor off Spanish Point in Gravenor's bay on the remote south side of Barbuda. It's really secluded so we celebrated our arrival with a family skinny dip. We saw so much general boat nudity in Antigua that modesty wentby the wayside. But I still do not understand how men can raise anchor chain in the buff. I don't even like getting my fingers anywhere near the windlass! 

On a walk in search of wild donkeys Cubby got fed up with the heat and started marching back to the dinghy without us. So of course we hid from her and took her picture just before she started panicking. So nice of us.

Tangent at anchor behind the reef. It was so cool watching the waves roll in and crash on the reef while we were in flat calm water. Too bad we arrived here with no money and no phone and the VHF didn't reach anyone on shore. Awesome planning, as usual. 

Stormy weather rolling in.

Rainy days are for fishing. Team effort here.

Nice little jack.

A mom from another cruising family we met asked if our kids had started texting yet. Um, no. We're still in the cup phones stage.

Nice little snorkel on the reefs in Gravenor's Bay.

We had a full to full-ish moon the whole time we were there. It was beautiful to be in this remote anchorage listening to the waves crashing with everything lit up by nothing but moonlight. It was so bright that I could see the sandy bottom underneath the boat in the middle of the night. 

We borrowed a phone from our neighbors on Lazy Bones and made arrangements for a tour of the frigate bird colony.

Our tour guide, George Jeffrey, is featured in the Doyle Guide and was proud to show the latest edition. 

We saw all ages of birds and witnessed a lot of their behaviors including mating displays and fights over nesting materials. There were fluffy babies everywhere and they weren't afraid at all.  

We got right up close.

The ones with the red throats are the males showing off for the ladies. 

When we told George we'd like to have lunch in town he took us to the local place called Ten Cent. There's no sign and you'd have no idea it's there if you didn't ask around. Because it's not really an eating establishment so much as it is a lady in her house who will make you lunch if you place your order in the morning. It was SO GOOD!! And a real treat after walking all over dusty, sweltering Codrington trying to get cash and clear out of customs. I think that's where the word "rigmarole" comes from.

On our ride back to the dinghy George showed us a piece of land where he had started building a little hotel. There's no private land ownership in Barbuda so he can just put up a fence and start building. Maybe there's a tax to pay for it but no ownership. We think he should rent 4x4s instead to get around on these "roads."

We saw this ray from the boat. Drew jumped in and got this really amazing photo.

On our last day we went for a walk in search of salt ponds and wild donkeys. We first saw mom and baby. Baby was so fuzzy and curious!

Then we found these three who Cubby dubbed "The Parade Group" because they always walked in formation.

So people just build little sheds anywhere for camping out in the rough. 

Ugh. There's so much garbage on the windward beaches.

This must have floated across the ocean.  A real "Michael Jodan" signature edition.

Andy was hoping to shake off the disappointment of missing out on Green Island by kiteboarding in this perfect spot. But of course the day he wanted to go I hurt my toe so badly that I had to stay off my feet most of the day. He can't catch a kiteboarding break! But when we came back from the donkey walk the conditions were looking good. So I helped him launch and then followed him in the dinghy. Here he is setting up on the beach.

Doing great!

Heading out to sea.

Showing off.

Kablam! That's what you get for showing off!

In the evening two fishermen came by selling freshly caught mahi. We bought some since it's been so long since we've had fresh fish. It would be nice to catch some of our own but this is the next best thing. They were kind enough to give us the head for making soup. Ew. We tied it off the back instead hoping to attract a shark. No luck.

The next day we came around to Cocoa Point to get ready for a dark-ish departure to St. Barth's. Gravenor's Bay is surrounded by reefs so you have to go in and out in good light. Cocoa Point has a clear line out. The kids had fun playing on the beautiful pink sand beach.

The K-Club up the beach was once a nice resort that Princess Diana apparently loved. It went out of business and now Robert De Niro is trying to develop it. It's a pretty strange arrangement and many of the locals are very against development.

Drew noticed some big fish feeding around the boat that night. He threw a line in and had an exhilarating fight with this horse-eyed jack. We haven't seen him this thrilled in a long time. It's like fishing is in his blood or something.

We left Barbuda at first light for the sixty or so miles to St. Barth's. It was pretty obvious right away that the conditions were just right for a spinnaker sail. The only problem was we had only used it twice. Once on our 3rd day on the boat and one other failed attempt on our way to Montauk from Atlantic City. After one false start Andy got it set up just right and we had a super sail the whole way! We even saw a humpback whale breaching. Andy said it felt like Christmas. Look how happy! 


  1. Nothing like a full spinnaker to bring a smile to your face! Whales dont hurt...

  2. Andy, went looking for you today on LinkedIn (hadn't seen you in a long time) and came across your voyage. Enjoy it. Amazing. All the best.
    Steve Keating