Posted by: rosyroadsadventures | March 17, 2012

Breathtaking Barbuda

N 17° 39.3′   W 61° 51.58′

Low Bay, near Codrington, Barbuda

11-mile beach: the high sandbar separates the sea from the lagoon and helps to protect the island from storm and wind driven waves

The shoreline of Barbuda offers exquisite beauty, lined with spectacular pink-tinged beaches. It is a flat coral island and unlike its neighbors Antigua and Montserrat to the South and St. Barts and St. Martin/Sint Maarten to the west, the highest point of land is a mere 125 feet above sea level. Reefs surround much of the island and a large pristine lagoon – bigger than the one in St. Martin – lies in the western interior. Sparkling clear turquoise waters lapping on wide sandy beaches reminded us of the Bahamas.

Our first stop was in Low Bay, along a lengthy stretch of picturesque beach. About half a dozen sailboats were anchored along the coast, spread far apart to allow the privacy one might be seeking in this remote place. There was a lone small resort on this side of the island and it did not appear to have guests.

Customs check-in required a visit to the village of Codrington, located on the eastern side of the lagoon. Getting there was no easy task. One option was to dinghy to the skinnest part of the sandbar beach called Louis Mouth, where Hurricane Louis had once forged a temporary pass into the lagoon. The guide-book suggested one could drag a light dinghy over the sandbar to the lagoon and then continue across to Codrington. This was not feasible for our 350-pound dinghy and one of the few occasions in which we have wished for a light weight dinghy or perhaps dinghy wheels.

Water taxis were available from Louis Mouth for about $40, the stiff rate said to be fixed by the Barbuda Council. Bob suggested that I could be captain for a day and pull the kayak over the sandbar then paddle to town to handle check-in. I was not going to fall for that one. One of the few crew perks is being able to relax aboard in most destinations while the captain handles customs and immigration hassles. An upwind 3-mile trek to town across choppier waters than I had ever dared tackle then visiting the port authority, customs and immigration offices, located in different parts of the village, while my “crew” spent a leisurely day reading and napping aboard was not what I had in mind. Besides, the kayak was available to the Captain if he felt so inclined.

Another option suggested in the cruising guide was to arrange a tour of the not-to-be-missed frigatebird colony combined with the customs trip to town. A local guide is required to enter the bird sanctuary and Chris Doyle recommended George Jeffries as the most knowledgeable guide on the island.

George was waiting at Louis Mouth at the appointed time. It was all the three of us could do to haul the dinghy above the high tide mark and get it secured. Then we walked over the sandbar to the shallow Lagoon and jumped into George’s Boston Whaler for the trip to Codrington. He dropped us off while we took care of the government formalities and we met him back at the dock.

The tour was fascinating and we learned about the history of Barbuda, the habitat and culture of the island as well as the magnificent frigatebirds.

Over the sandbar and through the Lagoon to the Village of Codrington

 

With the Whaler's motor tilted up, George quietly poled the flat-bottomed boat into the mangroves for a close-up view of the frigatebirds

 

The homely frigatebird is known for its ability to sustain flight for weeks at a time. It cannot become airborne if it should end up in the sea. It has outstanding homing skills, returning to the same nesting grounds over time.

 

In mating season the male inflates his red throat to attract a mate. The white-headed birds are juveniles. It takes 2 years for a frigate baby to become independent. The frigate name comes from its war-like manner of beating up on other birds to turn over their prey.

A reminder to mariners to keep a good watch as you never know what might be floating in the seas. This buoy came loose in Canada and made its way to Barbuda, presumably following the currents across the Atlantic and then south and back to the Caribbean. It was found offshore and towed into the Lagoon.

We often opt to do our own thing, but this tip from the guide-book was a gem. George's tour was a highlight of our visit and a great introduction to the island.

On Tuesday we decided the weather conditions were right to explore the southern anchorages since the north swell was increasing and starting to impact our anchorage. The boat was rolling more and beach dinghy landings would be difficult.

We headed south to Palmetto Point, southeast to Coco Point, then turned east toward Spanish Point, working our way between the reefs. The guide-book sternly warns “only experienced reef navigators should consider [going here]. Unless you proceed with your heart in your mouth, you may be getting overconfident. It should be approached with the utmost caution.” Even though we are somewhat experienced reef navigators I was not sure I was up for this coast.

I read somewhere that every boat needs an optimist and a pessimist. Without the optimist the boat would never leave the dock and without the pessimist it would surely fall into harm’s way. On our boat that makes me the pessimist, I suppose. I prefer to think of it as being a prudent risk manager. The captain felt comfortable, citing the two separate chart plotters were in agreement on the lay of the land and reefs, we had detailed guidance and additional maps in the cruising guide and good overhead sunlight to help us see any rocks or shoals that might be uncharted. I agreed to proceed. The electronic navigation tools were excellent but we found a few small reefs with coral heads just below the waterline that were not charted. Strong overhead sunlight was essential for this trip.

We settled for the night into a small harbor in Gravenor Bay, a beautiful but a little unnerving spot surrounded by reefs. I lobbied to set a second anchor as extra insurance in case the primary anchor dragged. Since we don’t have a double anchor roller that requires a lot of physical effort, and as the captain pointed out, we have never dragged with our Manson anchor once we have gone through the process for determining it is well set. Both of us declined to dive down to verify the set, another recommended practice. I don’t dive and the water was too cold for Bob. Technology to the rescue. We set the GPS alarm on the Ipad’s free DragQueen app (I am not making this up) to sound if the anchor so much as thought about skipping and agreed on a plan as to how we would handle that unlikely scenario if it occurred at night when we couldn’t see the reefs.

Another breathtaking experience (at least for me) landing us in another breathtaking spot.

Nestled between the reefs in Gravenor Bay

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Responses

  1. Sounds exciting Elaine. I am sitting here reading your post on my iPad and when you mentioned DragQueen I downloaded it immediately. Will try it out next month at Rodreguiz Key. Lord willing we leave St. Pete for the Exumas on April 7th. Dad, Hampton and I are running Small World to Nassau. Dad and I will fly home and some friends of Hampton will join him there. Holly and I and our our new Yorkie, Mimi, will join the boat in Staniel Cay a few weeks later. Looking forward to the time I can stay aboard the whole trip.

    Take care and say hi to Bob.

    Brad

    • DragQueen does have some glitches and while we have found it useful Bob doesn’t give it glowing marks in its current stage of development. We like the portability aspect and not having to run the ship’s electronics all the time when we want the anchor alarm feature. One problem is that if the GPS is disconnected (oops- I did that once) the device will not alarm to let you know.

      Enjoy your time in the beautiful Bahamas!!!


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