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Date: 22 Mar 2011 00:13:00
Title: Threading through the reefs

17:08.965N 61:45.349W Long Island, Antigua, Monday night

We're anchored up now in a well-sheltered bay in among some very exclusive villas just off the private Long Island. The villa nearest us has an infinity pool - very nice and very attractive to the birds which live on the beach. We saw them all troop up there for a swim earlier, only to be shooed away by the irate villa dweller.

Andrea and I were still in bed this morning when I heard "Are you awake" from the hatch above our heads. Cind had seen some dolphins in our harbour and wanted to let us know. I got up straight away and the pod were still there, some distance away but clear enough in the calm water. They were very black with large dorsal fins - we looked in our book but there are lots of species matching the description and none of them specifically mentioned as being seen inshore.

We got ourselves sorted out from there and headed out to sea again with Andrea filming the ruined windmill in among the mangroves. We had out sails out before we got out of the bay and Andrea's fishing rod trailing the magic space-alien lure again. The wind was still well north of east so we were hard on it and still getting set slightly offshore. It was lovely sailing, though, so we carried on and then tacked to bring us back inside the reefs that fringe the northern coast of Antigua. I'd set some waypoints up before we left so I could see where we had to go. The coastline is set about with rocks and reefs and there's a chain of them offshore as well, visible with the waves crashing onto them.

Inside, where we were, the sea was pretty calm and we still had good wind so I carried on tacking towards our destination. As we got nearer to the place that I thought we may end up, there is a very narrow and poorly marked channel so we put the sails away and got the motor on just in case I needed to change my mind in a hurry. With Alden on the bow and Cind keeping her eyes glued to the forward-looking sonar, we negotiated the channel fine and into an area of slightly deeper water. >From there, we could see the bay where I wanted to anchor and also see that it was fringed with buildings.

It was too late to change our minds anyway so we carried on in and dropped the anchor in pristine sand. On one side of the bay, there's a golf course with a small dock next to it. A small catamaran ferry visits the dock about every hour. The rest of the shoreline is lined with smart-looking villas which comprise a resort which owns the whole island. They don't own the bay, though, so we just carried on. After all, Saxon Blue would improve everyone's view and I wasn't intending to charge them extra for the privilege of looking at her. Pretty well as soon as we got settled, another boat came in and anchored and there are now four yachts in the bay and a big powerboat outside.

Just after we arrived, a barge came in pushed by a tiny tug. On the barge were two big tipper trucks full of sand. That made me laugh. The whole island is made of sand and here they were bringing in more of it. The trucks trundled off to dump their loads somewhere and then returned to be taken away again on the same barge.

It wasn't long before we got ourselves ready for a snorkelling trip. The girls went ashore with Alden in the tender and I swam in. On the way, I could see loads of massive star-fish. I dived down to check them out and found a hermit crab inhabiting a huge conch shell so that was good to see. By the time I got ashore, the girls were all swimming about above the seagrass and looking at starfish, conchs and all the other life. We swam along the shore together and I found a whole family of lobsters hiding in a hole in the sand. We all had a look at them and then I carried on to the point. When I got there, Christine called out from the shore that she could see a large ray ahead of me.

I carried on swimming against the current and I could see a cloud of sand ahead. I swam up alongside it until I could see a big ray excavating something and wafting the sand behind himself. He wasn't aware that I was there so I got a good long look at him as he went about his work. He was thicker than I expected, perhaps a meter across with a long, whiplike tail. I reckon he was as long as I am tall. Eventually, he finished digging and swam off with such slow flaps that it looked as though he was hardly moving. He left me way behind, though. I swam on, met Cind and we swam back together and both saw the ray again so it must be his favourite spot.

After all that excitement, I swam back to Saxon Blue again while Alden fetched the girls and we got some washing done, made some water and did other domestic stuff. Christine cooked a delicious chili-prawn dinner for us all as the sun set with the whole sky lit up red. I think we're going to watch a film about Scott's last expedition to the Antarctic in a minute so that'll seem strange in such a hot place.

Harvey

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