How big's your King Fish, Mate?
We had a great sail today, all the way from Barbuda back down the East coast of Antigua and up to the entrance to Nonsuch Bay where we're now bobbing around on a buoy.
We all got up early to get underway at 0800. We retraced our track out through the reefs and soon headed South. Initially, we could just make out Antigua in the mist but it soon became distinct as Barbuda dropped away astern. We were hard on the wind on port tack straight away and stayed like that all day, trying to make some ground to the East inspite of our leeway and the current pushing us westward all the time. The swell was bigger than on our outward passage so there was a bit of spray flying about and it was a spirited sail in about 15 knots of true wind so good fun altogether. Saxon Blue seemed to be enjoying herself shouldering the waves aside and keeping up a good 7 knots.
I was sad to see the amazing beach of Barbuda slip away. When I stood on it yesterday, waiting for Alden, it seemed to be one of the most distinctly island-like of the places we've been. The feeling of standing on that strip of sand, looking out at the horizon of water really summed up this voyage - we've been following that line where the land meets the ocean all the way around the North Atlantic. The land, the sea and the sky really felt like parts of a planet - I could sense the roundness and the limits of our isolated island home. Funny that we've had to come all this way to get an impression of that but there you are.
Andrea and Alden soon had the fishing gear out astern and it wasn't long before we got our first bite. The reel screamed, Cind and I hove to and we all got excited only for Alden to announce that the fish had got off. They put the line straight back out but we went a long time before we got another bite. In the meantime, we kept on course, trying to pinch to windward and miss Antigua. Gradually, the island got nearer until we could make out warehouses, then houses and finally we could see Great Bird Island and the other places in North Sound where we'd spent the days before our trip to Barbuda. We were in ocean swells and it was odd to think that there were such sheltered anchorages only a short distance away - the reefs are amazing at calming the waves.
We had some lunch, even Christine although she was starting to feel the effects of a hard beat to windward. She's pretty stoical, though, and I certainly appreciate how much effort it takes to stay cheerful when you're starting to feel a bit rough. Then we had another fish strike. Again we hove to while Andrea wound away on the rod. She almost got the fish alongside before she just ran out of puff and handed the rod to Alden. He soon had the fish all the way in and it was a whopper, flashing silver as it spun in the water. Andrea tried to net it but couldn't reach down far enough so I had a go but got the net on the second set of hooks so, in the end, we got it onboard with a mixture of net and just pulling it up with the line.
It was by far the biggest fish we've had so far - at least two feet long and heavily built. She was brilliant silver with strong fins and a series of impressive bumps along her back. Alden recognised it straight away as a King Fish and announced that it was one of the best to eat so he was very excited. He bled it on the lee side while I fetched buckets of water to wash the deck and sluice the blood overboard. Andrea then gutted it with Alden's advice, finding a couple of sacks of eggs in the process. They had to cut the fish into two halves so we could get it into the fridge.
Once that was all done, we got underway again with the rod out. We soon had another strike and got that fish onboard as well but it was a Barracuda so Alden just got the hook out of its mouth and let it go. It's a shame we can't eat them as they look like serious predators but that's the problem. They eat fish which have eaten toxic reef algae and the Barracuda ends up poisonous. Soon after that excitement, we had to tack onto starboard briefly to avoid an offlying reef and then we were back onto port tack and heading for the waypoint outside the channel leading into Nonsuch Bay.
We got the sails furled, the motor on and headed in to pick up the channel. It's charted as right alongside some drying reefs but, in fact, it's further away so it was good that we had Alden on the bow spotting the changes in the water. He had polarised sunglasses which help to see what's beneath the water surface so he guided us in until we were well inside the reefs. As we came around the tiny Bird Island, we could see a dozen or so yachts, some anchored and others moored onto buoys. It's kinder to the reefs to use buoys so we chose one very close to the island and Andrea picked up the line while Alden tied us on. Fantastic - the end of a great day's sailing.
We all had a drink and I took the chance to have a power-nap to recover from all the concentration. Then it was time for a snorkel over to a nearby reef and then on to the island. There's a lot of old stags-horn coral around, all of it dead. In between are some live brain corals and lots of sea fans. Plenty of fish to look at, too. We got back onboard, had a shower and a snack and then all just sat around in the cockpit admiring the view. The bay here is totally open to the Atlantic on the eastern side so it's just the reef which keeps it calm enough to anchor. Inland, there are a series of bays and inlets which we'll go and explore over the next few days. Gradually, most of our neighbours left to head back to English Harbour so there are just a few of us here now, bobbing around in our little bit of paradise.
Alden got stuck into preparing the fish. In the end, he had enough steaks for us all to have two big bits for our dinner plus three whole other dinners worth in the freezer so that really was some fish. We've just eaten our fill and it was lovely. Delicate, soft and light, just fried with a bit of butter and garlic. Superb.
So that's it for another day. Probably our last long sail on Saxon Blue for some time. We've still got to get back around to Nelson's Dockyard and then Falmouth but they're very close now. This area looks great to explore so we'll be enjoying our floating home for a while yet, though.
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