So, it's my last night here on board the fine ship
Swiftwing. I started with such good intentions of making sure I post a few blogs
per week, but with the fast pace of life out here it has taken to now for me to
sit down and blog, so my apologies. I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear that
normal blogging service will be resuming soon.
Never the less, let me get on with this blog.
Having arrived in the colourful VC Bird Airport we headed back to Falmouth
Harbour a lovely setting to arrive to after an 8 hour flight and sight seeing in
London the day before.
Falmouth harbour is full of yachts and
superyachts, where all the crews go around in white t-shirts emblazoned with the
yacht's name, long khaki shorts and a portable vhf radio in their back pocket.
We happened to see the boat that Prince Charles had been staying on the week
before, Leander, the biggest yacht here.
Anyway, after 7 months of not seeing mum (more
commonly know as Bev) and Doug, it was great to see that they are still loving
being out here. I personally was shocked by the change in Swiftwing. I have to
say from the last time I saw her she has totally changed and the woodwork on
board is just perfect with some lovely touches around the port holes. There are
also the best looking Ikea chairs I have ever seen fitted on the port side under
what used to referred to by our friend Kenny Gilchrist as the ejector
We spent a number of days in Falmouth visiting the
sites at Nelson's Dockyard, we also popped up the St Johns, the main town in
Antigua. On that day there were four cruise ships in so the place was packed out
with tourists. We walked around the local museum and St John’s Anglican
Cathedral, this twin spired Cathedral is the town’s dominant landmark. The
original church dated back to 1691, but the current baroque-style stone
structure was constructed in 1947, after a devastating earthquake. The Cathedral
interior is unusual in that it’s completely encased in pitch pine. It was a
short trip in to see the sights and make a quick stop at RadioShack to look at
new laptops, the ships one now being on the way out. We were soon back at the
bus station getting on the bus home. However it turned out that in fact we got
on the wrong bus and ended up on a magical mystery tour that ended back at the
We waited a few days in Falmouth as the swells
from the north were about 12-15 feet high caused by a low pressure system in the
Atlantic messing with the trade winds, or at least that’s what the old Etonian
chap on English Harbour Radio told us. One of the highlights of the stay in
Falmouth was indeed the English chap coming on at 9:00 am to tell us the
weather. It was a race to make sure we were the first to report that we could
hear him loud and clear. He then proceeded to give the forecast with what seemed
like an aviary competing in the background, with various squawks and cries from
a pet parrot. He then took the unusual step of asking if there were any
questions and spent the next five minutes advising which bays would be safe to
anchor in and the like.
Following our stop at Falmouth, Swiftwing and the
crew de camped to Jolly Harbour. Jolly Harbour is a really touristy resort with
no locals in site. It is a lovely harbour with houses on the water-side all
looking the same with their boats tied up in front. We enjoyed using the pool
and also again going swimming off the beautiful beaches that surround this area.
The really great part of this trip was a visit to Barbuda.
So what does the guide book tell us about Barbuda
it says: ‘Barbuda, 25 miles north of Antigua, remains one of the eastern
Caribbean’s least-visited places. Other than it's frigate-bird colony and its
beautiful beaches, most of which are best accessed by private boat… The only
village, Codrington, is home to most residents and is the site of the island’s
airport. Barbuda has three small, exclusive resorts on its southern coast,
although these club like places are so removed from the rest of the island that
they have their own landing strip and haven’t done much to upset Barbuda’s
isolation (Let's stop the guide book there as it is wrong. There is only one
very exclusive hotel now running as the rest are currently closed. Under the
Barbuda Land Act, these hotels in fact do not own the lands they are built on.
The whole island is communally owned by the Barbudan people and if anything
needs doing on the island then they have to have a town hall meeting. The owner
of a run down hotel is rumoured to want $40 - 50 million for it… anyway back to
the guide book) Interestingly, most of the 1250 islanders share half a dozen
surnames and can trace their linage to a small group of slaves brought to
Barbuda by Sir Codrington, who leased the island in 1685 from the British Crown.
The slaves raised livestock, grew food crops, turning Barbuda into a breadbasket
to feed the labourers working Antigua’s sugar plantations. The Codrington family
managed to keep their lease, which was negotiated at an annual rental payment of
‘one fattened sheep’ for nearly two centuries)
So once we landed we set off to explore. The taxi
we ordered to take us to the hire car arrived on time to everyone's amazement.
However, there seemed to be some kind of a problem, so through someone’s
friend's brother's wife's sister's cousin, we finally got a small 4x4. Though it
had, shall we say, very soft brakes and four wheel drive that turned out to be
more like 1 wheel drive, we set off down the main road in Codrington to find the
caves and the now ruined hunting lodge of the Codringtons. The road turned into
a rough dusty track about the same size as a motorway. One of the reasons for
this is the fact that Barbuda exports sand to Antigua so the large trucks tend
to rip up the roads. We past the so-called highlands, this we figure was someone
being ironic as Barbuda is totally flat and the ‘highlands’ are about 100 ft
high. Never-the-less, we found our way to the ruins of the Codrington hunting
lodge. It was very small and looked more like a traditional highland cottage on
Colonsay than the hunting lodge of a rich plantation owner. At the same time
every other tourist on the island seem to turn up( 10 people) so we learned a
bit of the history from a really friendly local tour guide.
It turns out that if you were a troublesome slave
you were sent to Betty's Hope in Antigua for much harder work and
closer supervision, Barbuda being visited rarely by the Codringtons and having
an easier regime. As we walked past the big Atlantic rollers towards the beach
we found a path that led up through a cave and on to the cliff tops. So up we
went. All you could see for miles around was the Atlantic rollers breaking
spectacularly on the coral reefs and in foreground was a lovely pink coral beach
with Pelicans all lined up on it enjoying the sun.
Feeling that it was time for lunch we went into
Codrington to look for some malta, a local non-alcoholic malt extract drink that
is enjoyed by Duggie but to mum's dismay it contains the equivalent of seven tea
spoons of sugar per bottle. However, this is where it all went wrong as the 4 x
4 went into one wheel drive and we got stuck in the sand at the harbour beside
the big sea lagoon. But thankfully the locals were all willing to help and we
pushed the car out. So, back on the road again to the Martello tower, an ancient
guard post, built during Napoleonic times and used to lookout for invading
French forces and as a stronghold. We passed on the road herds of wild
horses and donkeys. As we had a few hours left with the car we made the decision
to head for the castle at Spanish point. It was not much of a castle, but we did
see some of the many salt ponds on Barbuda. It was like being in the outback
rather than on a Caribbean island, well worth the stop. With that we went back
for a swim, saw a turtle next to the boat then dinner and a film.
Now this is were the fun starts with the
international rescue effort we got involved in to find Doug's wallet.
We were making the boat ship-shape for the voyage
back to Antigua when someone (Bev) was shaking the sand out of Doug's shoe and
was just in time to see his wallet fly out and drop into the sea. It sank like a
stone. After much hunting with a snorkel the rescue team turned it's attention
to the other yachts around and a messenger was dispatched to find out if they
had a diving tank. Luckily the Dutch did. So one of the sub-aqua experts of the
crew (John) got kitted up and in he went to hunt for it. However, an hour later
the search for the wallet was called off but we did get another night in Barbuda
and one the best days yet so not all was lost after all. (Just £50, driving
licence and credit cards...Douglas)
So here ends the blog for the visiting crew member
and what a great time it has been. My apologies to all those who have been
waiting so long to hear from Swiftwing and have been sending e-mails of
complaint. To make up for this we've put on loads of photographs.
As I say normal service should resume