a bit of a rolly night in Jumby Bay, we eased our way through the reefs off the
north coast of Antigua on Saturday morning, and set sail for Barbuda. After
about 40 minutes motoring between the reefs, and peering over the bow, we raised
the main and genoa, and had a fantastic sail in Force 4-5 winds from the east.
Never below 6 and usually around 8 knots (by virtue of a clean hull!), the boat
felt balanced and lively, and we had grins on our faces most of the way across
for this or other reason.
Lob Tailing and Slapping!
sailing renaissance was delightful, but even more lively and enjoyable was the
wildlife. We had been bemoaning the absence of cetacean creatures in the
Caribbean, since we have seen so few here. We did spot a “Billy no mates”
dolphin as we anchored in Heritage Bay the other day, coming towards us and
diving below to scoot off into deeper waters. He or she also appeared briefly the
following day, but was clearly a solitary beast. As we left Jumby, we gave a
little prayer to the appropriate gods, and they answered us
spotted the first Humpback whale about half a mile off, breaching and falling
back into the sea. Again, this animal seemed to be on its own, and it proceeded
to breach spectacularly again and again. There were occasional pauses, whilst it
surfaced and blew. This was presumably to catch its breath since it must take a
phenomenal amount of energy to launch that huge body (25-30 tonnes and up to 45
feet long) out of the water. At the same time, there was plenty of fin slapping,
and tail twitching just in case we were tempted to think it wasn’t worth waiting
for the next act. The show went on for about 25 minutes, before he had to go for
a lie down. I think Ali was relieved, since she had become concerned that he was
making his way towards us!
were still talking about it when approaching Barbuda. Then we saw another water
flurry and then had the pleasure of watching a pair of Humpbacks repeating the
performance. You would not call it synchronized swimming, by any manner of
means, but they did not half gave it laldy! After another 15 minutes of
extraordinary breaching, they stopped and then we had to go for a lie down!
Melville of Moby Dick fame apparently described the Humpback as “the most
gamesome and light hearted of all the whales, making more gay foam and white
water generally than any of them”. They certainly seemed to be having
were a bit hot and sweaty by the time we anchored off the stunning white beach
north west of Cocoa Point, so we followed the Humpback’s example and plunged
into the clear water with snorkels and masks, every bit a gracefully! .
Often the sea has been a bit milky in the bays around the islands, but here it
is easy to see starfish on the seabed, the fish swimming under and around the
hull. Ali swam ashore from the boat, whilst I looked around for the anchor, and
tried to clean a bit of light fouling from the waterline.
refreshed and showered, we suddenly spotted turtles sticking their heads up
around the boat – probably relieved that I had stopped polluting their space.
Whilst not as prolific as they were in Grande Anse d’Arlet on Martinique, there
is obviously quite a decent colony here too. There is a crusty old fellow, and a
couple of smaller turtles within a stone’s throw of the boat. We also see heads
popping up in the distance, so the population must be decently
are quite territorial creatures, cultivating their own “estates” very carefully,
so we are trying to work out where one patch ends and another starts, and how do
they know? When I swim with a snorkel on, I go round in circles, but I suppose
they have better sense of underwater direction than me…
Estates and States
have had a bit of a bad press over the years. You only have to think about those
little jibes –“feeling a bit sheepish” or “separating the sheep from the goats”
to understand how they have been fairly or unfairly maligned. Yet, they were so highly valued only a
couple of hundred years ago, that people were hung or sent to “the colonies” for
stealing one, or driven off crofts to the new world to give them room to graze.
guess ownership of even an allegedly stupid creature was more important than
letting the starving poor eat, or allowing crofters to eke out a living….and if
you did actually own a sheep, there was no end of fun you could have.
Codrington family, for example, leased the whole of Barbuda from England in the
17th century in exchange for one fat sheep, and used the island
mainly for hunting as one did if you were stinking rich in those days. They also
had lands in Antigua, so they probably felt that they needed a bit of a
playground in which to have fun when tired of exploiting the slaves.
land on Barbuda is now communally owned, and this means the small population
(<5000 souls) are able to manage it as they want. They have decided that they
do not want to become another Caribbean tourist trap, and are controlling
development very carefully.