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Date: 24 Mar 2011 01:25:00
Title: Our own desert island

17:08.701N 61:43.827W Great Bird Island, Antigua, Wednesday night

We didn't go very far today but the difference between the island where we started and the one where we are now couldn't be clearer.

We got out anchor up after breakfast and headed out of the bay, leaving the exclusive villas with their infinity pools and manicured sand behind. Alden was stood on the bow again, looking out for coral patches while I watched the chart-plotter and the forward-looking sonar. Most of the shallow areas are marked accurately on the chart but we came a across several that were either missed by the surveyors or have grown since the charts were made. We went and had a look at one anchorage inside the reef which looked OK but felt very exposed as there weren't any islands nearby.

A bit further along, we came to the anchorage off Great Bird Island, did a survey around to check for unexpected rocks and then got the anchor down. Although it feels like we're in the middle of the sea, the island is only a couple of hundred meters away. It's got some low hills on it, covered with cacti and scrub and surrounded by rocks with the occasional sandy beach. There are some beautiful Tropic Birds around with their extraordinary tail streamers. They seem to have a hard time as they're always being pursued by a couple of Frigate Birds.

It was only 11:30 by the time we got settled but it was already really hot so we got ourselves sorted out quickly to get into the water. I took Cind and Christine over to the nearest sandy beach with all their gear and a VHF to call for evac when required. Alden set off to go lobster hunting with his new camera in his pocket. I took the tender over to the nearby reef, anchored it and went off to explore around from there. Andrea wasn't feeling too great so she had a quiet time on Saxon Blue (she's fine now, by the way).

The reef here has certainly been damaged but it's starting to recover. There are plenty of fish around and the large fan-shaped corals are back. The stags-horn corals have got some new growth on the ends. It's not the coral garden that it might be but not as depressing as some of the dead reefs that we've seen. By the time I got back to the tender, I thought I'd go straight over and see if Cind and Christine wanted a lift. Andrea waved to me to go straight over there and they had actually just got her on the VHF to see where I was so it all worked out well. They'd been having a lovely quiet time on their beach until a catamaran full of cruise-ship passengers turned up with the music blaring.

Back on Saxon Blue, the four of us had our lunch and wondered where Alden had got to. Even some time later, there was no sign of him and we were starting to get concerned when Andrea spotted him through the binoculars waving to us from the reef. He was only waving with one hand so we weren't sure whether he was being friendly or needed help but I decided to go over in the tender and see which it was. By the time I got there, he was obviously very cold but still proudly holding his blue bag with its cargo of lobsters - 5 in all. We threaded our way back out of the reefs and back home where Alden just sat on the transom drinking hot tea and eating triple-decker sandwiches made by Andrea until he warmed up. He'd been swimming for over three hours so no wonder he was cold.

We left him to enjoy his well-earned rest and headed back to the island in the tender. After a bit of mucking around trying to leave it somewhere safe, we went ashore to explore. We landed on a lovely sandy beach backed by low trees and populated by dozens of scuttling lizards. Inland, it was all dense bushes but we found a path over to the sandy beach on the other side. All the beaches are used by the catamarans and other boats bringing passengers here for the full Caribbean desert-island experience so there are benches and barbecues around but they're tucked out of sight so it's not too developed. We found a path up the biggest hill on the island and went up to see the view.

Although it wasn't that high, the view from the top was fantastic. We could see probably half the coastline of Antigua with all its offlying islands and reefs. The Atlantic swells were crashing on one side and the sheltered waters where we're anchored on the other. The island is limestone so it must be made from fossilised reefs from years ago. There are two massive holes through it with the sea crashing in the bottom of them. Andrea and I sat up there just looking for a while before heading down to the bay for a quick snorkel as it got dark then back into the tender and all back to the boat.

Alden had been busy preparing the lobsters - simply boiled this time - served with brown rice and salad. Cind made some fried plantains to go with it although they were so nice that we ate them before we got to the main course. After we'd finished our fantastic meal, Andrea, Alden and Christine got stuck into the legs and antennae of the lobsters so that we ended up with what looked like a the aftermath of a lobster massacre on the cockpit table. We had a look at Alden's underwater pictures and they're really good. We could even see the lobsters that would soon become our dinner enjoying their last few moments of freedom.

The wind has picked up a bit now so we're yawing around a bit. The swells are still being stopped by the reef but there's a bit of chop around so it's not going to be quite as peaceful as our bay amongst the villas. Still, the view is amazing and we're going to get back onto the island first thing to do some filming.

Harvey

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