With so many Caribbean options closed to us due to COVID, we have decided to stay in Antigua for a few weeks as its one of the least affected places. We spent a few more days in Jolly harbour sorting out some of the things that got broken whilst sailing here and catching up with Pepe and Bear again. It’s not as hot here as we thought so I’m not in the water as much as I should be but some of the beaches are just gorgeous, so we take the dinghy in and wander along the waters edge.
After a couple of weeks in Antigua, we decided to visit Barbuda- which is Antigua’s other island. Much smaller and with only 2,000 inhabitants all living in the tiny little town of Codrington, Barbuda seems to have stopped in time. There are two huge bays and we arrived at the southern bay – Cocoa Bay in time for sundowners.
Cocoa Bay is stunning, with enough room for about 50 boats. The beach is gorgeous, with soft white sand and a couple of beach bars to keep us from dying of thirst… No tourist boats, no cruise ships ever dock here and there are no hotels. We spent a fun day playing Bongo ball on the beach with Proud Cat and Adventure sipping on our rum punches.
A couple days later we were a bit surprised to feel a thud as something hit us. We all ran outside to see a Bali Catamaran wedged up beam to against our bowsprit (the prodder at the front of the boat that we attach our Code Zero sail to) Two Americans were on board trying to detach themselves, and promptly announced that it wasn’t them that had dragged so it wasn’t their fault. I pointed out that the side of their boat was up against the bow of ours and that it couldn’t be us because……. boats don’t drag forwards! It took them a couple of seconds to compute but they soon realised they were definitely dragging and that it was certainly their fault. Ian gave them instructions as to which engines to put into reverse and which to put into forward to move away without causing any more problems and then we had the worry of them pulling up our anchor. By now the anchorage was all looking, and Matt from Trifecta came over in his dinghy to help. It all became clear when they pulled away and on hauling their anchor saw to their surprise that they didn’t have one attached anymore. This is every cruisers nightmare, that your anchor or chain will fail – but on this case it was the shackle that connects the two which had rusted through and their anchor was still set in the ocean floor. Matt then took Ian and Angel off to look for their anchor and Ian freedived and found it for them. It was well dug in. He tied a rope to it got it into the dinghy and took it back to the unfortunate charterers who were looking a bit embarrassed. Matt had a spare shackle and Ian reconnected it for them. They apologised and that they had hit us and luckily there was no damage as they only hit our bowsprit. They generously gave us a bottle of gin for our help and left immediately. This was a charter boat and these poor guys could have been in real trouble had it happened at night with all the reefs around these islands. It’s the second time we have seen really shoddy maintenance on a charter boat. In Greece, charter friends had their outboard conk out at night in their way back to their boat and very nearly got taken out to sea. It does worry us as we are surrounded by them and the people on board expect a certain level of safety measures to be in place.
A day or so later we decided to go to the north of Barbuda to the small township there. Hurricane Irma destroyed this island a couple of years ago and decimated Codrington with no house left undamaged. We took the dinghy over to some beach houses that looked awful, but it wasn’t the actual houses that had been destroyed, rather the sand they were sitting on had literally been washed away. Still, they were a sad sight.
We went into Codrington and were surprised to see most of the houses roofs had been replaced and the rubble cleared away. It was a very sleepy little town with no main centre but we did find the take-away shop, the supermarket and of course the tavern.
In the tavern we were welcomed like long lost friends, and as it had the cheapest beer we had yet found in the Caribbean, we ended up there for most of the day! The local policeman came round and chatted to us, the customs officer came over, locals who have been overseas wanted to chat with us and we found ourselves falling for this lovely little place.
There’s little crime here but some ingenious person had married security with art to prevent people jumping into his property- only in Barbuda!
We spent about a week in Barbuda and then sailed back to Antigua. We all ended up in Falmouth Harbour and spent the next week or so lazing around the beach, wandering around the dockyard and had some fun evenings on each other’s boats.
While we had been enjoying Antigua, some very brave people instead of sailing over from the med like us, had been spending the last month and a half rowing across participating in the Row across the Atlantic. We missed the first guys in as we had been in Barbuda but now it was the day the first girls came in, and so we all headed over to English harbour to meet and greet them. They were a dutch team and it took them over 43 days, with a team of 4, rowing over 3,000nm. They had a roster of one hour rowing, 20 mins rest – day and night. They all shared one end of the rowing boat as a bed, and the other end was for eating, communications and food storage. They were totally exposed to the elements, and had no protection from either the sun or the wind. Having done that journey in the comfort of our boat, I cannot imagine what it must have been like for them, but I respect them enormously and think they are some of the most courageous and strong women I know.
There was a restriction to how many people could meet them coming in, but we made enough noise and their teams and families ensured they felt very special. Congratulations girls, we’re all proud of you.
The capital of Antigua is St John’s, which was just a day sail away, so we decided to go and explore. It’s a busy, ramshackled, colourful town with lots of wooden buildings. The people are desperate for the tourist dollar as there has not been a single cruise ship visit for a year now, and so many people rely on these ships for their income. We tried to spread the love by buying one thing from as many stores as we could but obviously we couldn’t buy from everyone. Laden with two caps for Ian, a t-shirt each and some jewellery we headed off for lunch at Hemingways, one of Antigua’s most popular restaurants. Sitting up on the verandah watching the world go round with a rum punch for company – we felt very lucky in our little cruising bubble away from all the hardships that people all over the world are going through.
With six boats all in Falmouth Harbour, 4 of us having sailed together from Malta, we are enjoying just spending our days on the beach and getting together for sundowners while we wait for news of what will happen with other islands. We are enjoying the various bars and restaurants around Falmouth, especially our favourite, Bumpkins otherwise known as the Purple Bar on Pigeon Bay beach.
One evening we were all having a drink at the bar Skullduggery, when it was suddenly announced that Antigua was going into another closure, not a full lockdown but from the next day all the bars and restaurants would be shutting, except for take away and the curfew would end at 8pm. This was not expected and has caused some worry about whether we all may get stranded here. When it happened like that in Turkey, we were told it was for 2 weeks and we were stranded there for 5 months! That’s not an option this time as in 4 months it will be hurricane season and we can’t be here then…
We decided we needed to go out to dinner to discuss our options as it would be the last time we could… so straight to the Antigua Yacht Club for a steak. Our options are limited. The French islands are now closed to all non EU boats – the British Virgin Islands and Trinidad and Tobago are closed completely, and things are changing daily. Back to the drawing board..
We decided the best option was to head back to Barbuda which was en route to St Martin. We left with Veni Vidi Vixi and Boogie Woogie to overnight at Green Island. It was really nice to be away from the main towns, and we spent a lovely relaxing evening wandering around the island.
The next day we headed off to Barbuda. It was a great sail where we averaged over 8 knots but the swell was so bad on arrival that we couldn’t get into the beach. We had arranged lobsters to be cooked and delivered to us, so Paul and Tom braved the wash onto the beach and collected the lobsters. It was VeVe’s 9th birthday (from Veni Vidi Vixi ) which we celebrated in style that night on board Boogie Woogie. With 7 kids under 9 on board, Ian and I were so impressed as they were just beautifully behaved. Boat kids tend to be very well adjusted to their environment and we loved having them around.
The next couple of days we spent on board as we had a huge swell which prevented us from landing the dinghy on the beach so we enjoyed the company of Paul & Robin, Tom & Dasha and all the kids on Boogie Woogie and Veni Vidi Vixi.
With all the changes happening, we are still not sure what we are doing. We arranged to have our new battens go to St Martin about 3 weeks ago and also have had our driving licences and new credit cards forwarded to the French side of St Martin. This was all fine until 2 days ago when France announced it was closing its borders including all overseas territories. This of course includes the french side of St Martin where our new cards are waiting. It also means that there is no guarantee we will now be able to get into Sint Maarten (the Dutch side) as they are the same country. If we leave, we may not be able to back into Antigua and also may not get into Sint Maarten – so we have to decide which risk is a better option. Should we forfeit our new battens and get new cards re-issued or take a punt that we will be allowed in… For now we have decided to go to St Martin and risk getting stuck there – not a bad place to be stuck we reckon!