Robin and Sue carter
Tue 14 Feb 2012 16:35
Halsway Grace is again in Jolly Harbour, Antigua, an island we have been in and around since 24th Jan so we feel we know it quite well. Unlike the other islands where most of the safe anchorages are on the west coasts, Antigua has coral reefs which give protection from the Atlantic so it is possible to circumnavigate the island although we hav’nt had the courage to cover more than half. The charts of the reefs make Bristol Max look like child play. We were lucky to have Paul and Penny Jackson to stay with us and as well laughing the whole week we toured the island visiting a partly restored sugar plantation and Nelson’s dockyard which has been beautifully renovated. We managed a sail to Nonsuch Bay on the east coast and hid behind a reef in calm waters, snorkelling and swimming. The recent yacht wreck left on the reef was a little disconcerting. There are lots of wonderful anchorages, usually with only 3 or 4 other boats in them but they are dependent on wind and wave swell, we are in a marina at the moment due to a 3 metre swell which manages to find it’s way in to even the most sheltered bay and can cause a lot of damage.
We have just returned from a trip to Antigua’s sister island, 25 miles to the north and off the beaten track. It is rarely visited by yachts as there is no marina or harbour for shelter and we spent 3 days at anchor on what feels like a very remote island. Although only slightly smaller than Antigua, much of it is covered by a lagoon and there are only 1500 inhabitants, most of whom live in the only village of Codrington. There are a handful of exclusive resorts dotted around the coast (too exclusive for mere yachties to be allowed in) It is surrounded by miles of white sandy beaches and lots of reefs. We were intrigued to visit because our friend, Mary Carpenter worked here with VSO many years ago and described it last time we met her with the Victoria Hash House Harriers. We are so glad we went. The island is very low lying and not visible until about 5 miles off. The highest point is 125 feet and called ‘the Highlands’! we first anchored off the west coast’s 11 mile long beach that is tinged with pink from the broken coral. From here we took a water taxi ride from the other side of the beach across the lagoon to Codrington, named after the English man who rented it from the British for the price of 1 fattened sheep per year in the 17 century. Sugar was not grown here but it was used to grow arable crops and keep livestock and used for hunting by Codrington and his mates. The slaves here were less supervised than on other islands and our guide proudly told us that slaves were bred here because they were tall and very strong, he is one of the descendants (a big guy) and apparently there are only about half a dozen surnames on the island, descendants of those original slaves. After Codrington, George Jeffries took us on a tour of the largest colony of Magnificent Frigate Birds. It was a fast water taxi ride up to the mangroves in the north of the lagoon and then a slow punt past them all at very close quarters. We were lucky to visit during the mating season when the males puff up their breasts into bright red balloon like pouches. These birds are huge with a wing span of 2.5 metres and cannot land on water because they would be unable to take off again. their diet is flying fish! There were many chicks who fledge at 5 months old and they were all totally unperturbed by our presence. They make a clicking noise but there is little other noise. There are 2-3, 000 pairs here all closely packed together.
After this wonderful trip with our inspiring guide we moved to the south coast and sat at anchor between reefs with lots of turtles swimming around in crystal clear water where we could see all the giant starfish on the seabed.
It is a rare unspoilt island and the locals are keen to keep it this way without the trappings of our modern lives, good for them.
We are now moving south again to meet Florence and Philly in Granada at the end of March. We will try to visit what is left of volcanic Montserrat on our way there.
We are attaching a couple of photos, there is one of the London made milling machinery at the sugar plantation for extracting sugar juice from the cane. the other is of the Frigate Bird Colony
Best wishes to you all
Sue and Robin