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Monday, January 14, 2013

Worth A Puke


Perhaps the most magnificent sunset we’ve seen
on this trip.  It was certainly from the most beautiful spot
we’ve seen so far, Low Bay, Barbuda
.
 “You will find a wealth of anchorages… Unusual… and they stay this way because they are difficult to navigate, and only those proficient in reading the water colors are going to feel comfortable… sailing over to Barbuda.” –The Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands by Chris Doyle.

Yet, our cruising friends who explored Barbuda reminisced dreamily about its pristine beaches.  “They’re the most beautiful we’ve seen… and you may well be the only boat anchored there.”  In fact, one of Barbuda’s few exports is… its sand.  (click here to learn a bit more about Codrington, Barbuda)

A bit nervously, we tackled the sail, in a weather window that was supposed to be relatively light winds and calm seas.  Emphasis on supposed to be.  We spent a tense half hour or so, carefully picking our way through the very shallow, rocky area separating Antigua’s relatively placid Nonsuch Bay and the deeper waters beyond it, which eventually led to Barbuda.  Then we jostled through the bumpy ride, spurred by 20+ knot winds and 10-foot seas, that while not huge, hit our hull at a rough, rolly angle.

My stomach did not like it, and doing a few tasks in the strewn and lurching space below deck several times was most unwise.   I foolishly keep thinking it’s possible to just talk myself out of seasickness, though it’s worked sometimes.  This was not one of those times. It’s started with the “Are you okay?” shortly followed with “Noooooooo.” In one of my less proud moments, I was not quite able to neatly eject my stomach’s displeasure off the side of the boat.  My mind was taunted by the wry childhood ditty, “Hasten, Jason, bring the basin.  Whoops, too late.  Bring the mop.” Eventually, the Dramamine, taken probably a bit too late, knocked me out until the seas calmed, as we approached Barbuda.  I felt doubly bad for the extra burden my inability to help put on Wayne, who was reluctant to go to Barbuda, and went only because he knew I really wanted to.  Worse still, this was one of our longer day sails, nearly 30 miles and it took us 8 hours, anchor-to-anchor, from our 6:45 am start.  We saw only one boat, a power catamaran, the entire sail.

The last time I got that sick was catching some extreme conditions in the San Juan Islands (click here to learn more about that), and was snapped back to normalcy when we stumbled upon a pod of killer whales.  Barbuda’s calm and almost surreal beauty delivered an equally effective cure.

Looking across the water from the beach
at Coco Point, Barbuda.
We picked our way through the crystal-clear shallow turquoise water, skillfully avoiding the dark spots lest they make a close and unpleasant encounter with our boat’s hull.  We are fortunate the Pearson boasts a shallow, 4 ½ foot draft (for non-boaties, draft is how low the boat protrudes below the waterline and 4 ½ for a super-stable, full-keeled sailboat is pretty good -- most sailboats stick down much further – so we can get into much shallower areas, safely). 

Palapas on the beach at Coco Point, viewed from our boat.
Did we mention deserted?  If you look closely, you can see
our boat, Journey, in the background to the left of the
first palapa roof
.
We anchored, alone at Coco Point, an 8-or-so-mile stretch of powdery soft sand beach, across from a posh, completely deserted resort.  We were, quite simply, mesmerized by the beauty of the beach and the water, gazing out from our boat, and walking along the beach.  It was so amazing, we still felt it difficult to grasp that we were there, and able to experience and fully enjoy it.  You get the idea.
Notice the wet portion of the sand is pink? Ground coral
casts a pink glow on the sands at water from waves recede.
We then sailed to Barbuda’s Low Bay, anchoring near the supposedly yachtee-friendly Lighthouse resort, where we’d also heard WiFi was open.  The two other sailboats along that stretch also clustered in the report area.  Low Beach was part of an unbroken 11-mile stretch of pink sand beach.  Ground coral turned the sands pink as waved receded back into the ocean.  These beaches were also composed of powdery soft sand.  Out feet sunk deep in the soft sand.


Nice, but we’re not sure this Lighthouse dining view is worth
paying $19 USD for a beer.  It sure wasn’t in our budget
and thus far is at least double what we’ve seen charged
from even the most expensive places we’ve traveled thus far
in the Caribbean
Lighthouse’s $19 beers and $130 lamb dinners were way out of our pocketbook range.  No one was there, serving (or eating or drinking) that we saw.  Their  internet was not working (“server down”) and the manager said when it did come up, it was locked, “for guests only” and was unwilling to share the password for it, even if we paid for it.  We would not call that yachtee friendly.
his is Barbuda’s Codrington Lagoon; it’s the simplest cruiser
access to Barbuda’s only town.  We easily landed our dinghy and
dragged it across the ~ 1/8 mile of sand between Low Bay and the
lagoon. We’re betting this was blowing at about 30 knots.
Two to three miles of that in a dinghy was more than
we felt it was wise to tackle, even if we were out of bread and
Codrington was the only place on the island we could
buy it.  It did get me started baking bread on the boat though,
especially now since the weather cooled enough that using the
oven was no longer an action to consider as a last resort, such
as cooking a Thanksgiving turkey (and we have no BBQ).

We were still smarting from the cost of spending $1,300 USD in Guadaloupe to replace the majority of our standing rigging (click here to learn more about that) and $3,500 for a new dinghy and motor for it (click here to learn more about that).  We toyed with bucking up and paying the $100 US for a water taxi to Codrington and the guided frigate bird tour; but were too hesitant to loosen our purse strings.  Outside the Galapagos Islands, Barbuda offers the best place to learn firsthand about frigate birds, aggressive muscular feathered creatures with up to a 5’ wingspan, observe their extravagant mating rituals and see their nesting grounds and newborn chicks. 
Note the fine, powdery sand sticking to Wayne’s feet?
We wimped out on the water taxi and Frigate Bird tour, and visiting Codrington, known for its unique and affordable native food.  Instead, we enjoyed a long walk along Low Bay’s long luxurious, unbroken shore, where we did indeed see the sands turn pink.  As clouds passed, we watched a gorgeous gradation of beautiful blues wash across the clear water.

We were on Barbuda 3 days.  When the winds became sufficiently manageable to sail back to Falmouth Antigua, where we needed to pick up the autopilot Wayne bought via an online special (and was still cheap enough that it was worth paying an Antiguan broker to retrieve), we left.   We left changed, forever touched the “Oh my God, I cannot believe we are actually here in a place this gorgeous,” spiritual experience of Barbuda’s stunning beauty.

My friend Lili (click here to check out her excellent blog), who regularly sails to Barbuda with her husband Tomaz, just says, coyly, knowing we currently have not plans to double back, “That just means you’ll see it when you go back.”  We’re thinking about it, Lili, and maybe sooner rather than later.