3rd February 2004

We left the palatial ships and extravagant lifestyles of southern Antigua a few days ago, along with civilisation. First stop was Green Island , the absolute opposite of the frustrating trips to chandleries that had marked our previous stop.

Guarding the southern edge of a huge bay that is almost completely blocked by a coral reef, the island is surrounded by shallow sandy waters that reach up to golden beaches. As we approached the island we had to drop our sails and start the engines, our control of the wind not yet good enough to allow us to pick our way through the blobs of reef that protect the approaches to the island. The anchor dropped, we dived off the edge of the boat for the first time in weeks, all other recent anchorages being in water of dubious cleanliness. Will and I took the dinghy off in search of surf (something else that has been missing recently, but found only shallow coral that bought a halt to our explorations. Unfortunately time meant that we couldn’t stay long at the island, so early the next morning we set off again for Barbuda .

Picking our way through the reef was an exciting way to start the day, Rowan sat in the bow picking dark patches out with his eyes, while I jumped between charts and forward looking sonar, checking that Ro’s eyes agreed with the electronics. The low sun made it easy to confuse cloud with coral, but fortunately with three sets of eyes checking the way we made it through without problem. The rest of the trip to Barbuda was less eventful, but with good winds we had pleasant sailing.

Approachijg Barbuda was a little nervous again. The chart warned that it should only be attempted by experienced reef navigators, a level that we felt we had attained after doing it a couple of times before. Fortunately it appeared that this advice was purely to ensure that the island remained a hidden gem, almost deserted beaches stretching as far as the eye could see. We ended up anchored in about one and a half metres of water (an advantage of catamarans is that they float in very little water), with rays and other fish clearly visible swimming across the bottom. Waves breaking on the reef to our east looked surfable, so Ro and I set off for a walk along the beach.

Conditions were less than ideal, with the wind the wrong way and waves breaking unpredictably and the only entry point involving a sprint along weed covered rocks to jump into the water between breaking waves. After floundering in the messy surf for a bit it was time to get out, which involved paddling as hard as I could through a gap in the rock, to reach a shallow lagoon and get out before the next waves came through. An exhilarating afternoon.

The next day we moved round the island to a beach that many say is the best in the Caribbean . 14 miles of sand without a single building next to it, this was about as far from the tourist path as is possible to get. With no other boats in sight it was like having a private beach. That evening we braved rain showers and a cold wind to cook beans and sausages on a campfire. Pretty good way to spend time, although it did come to an abrupt end after Thom rearranged a log without checking whether it was on fire. Badly burnt fingers were the result, although after an hour in iced water, and drinking some whisky they seemed to be a bit better.

After another day in Barbuda it was time to head back to civilisation, to get work done on the boat (as ever). After an uneventful night passage we have now arrived in St Martin , a Dutch island. Doesn’t look too exciting from the boat, but I’ll give you another update once we’ve had a look around

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