Antigua and Barbuda Page 2

I'd not been back to Antigua since I left in 1994. After graduating from college and spending three years skiing and surfing, I set off to see the world as a paid deck hand. My first gig was a delivery from subfreezing Newport, Rhode Island, to balmy English Harbour aboard a Swan 65. I had no money, nor a place to stay once we arrived, but how hard could it be, I thought, to find a job on one of
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Things calmed right down as we barreled into the protected waters of Barbuda’s western side. Our course brought us past a pristine pink-and-white sand beach that we paralleled for about an hour. Do the math. We sailed past this gorgeous undeveloped beach in flat water at 6 knots—6 miles of sheer bliss. There were a couple of cruising boats along the beach, but none were within 2 miles of us when the anchor went down and the dinghy was humming us in to shore.

The beach forms a narrow barrier between the open ocean and a large inland lagoon. The peace was palpable. Chris Doyle’s accurate and informative cruising guide promised that George Jefferies (who answers to Garden of Eden on VHF channel 16) would be available to take us on a tour of the island’s frigate-bird colony. Is this what the Garden of Eden looked like?

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George picked us up on the lagoon side of what we were already calling “our beach” at 0900 the next morning. He took us across to the colony in the large mangrove forest where thousands of frigate birds live and raise their young and talked about the island like he was talking about his own family. Quite a contrast to the buzz of Antigua. He then brought us into Codrington, Barbuda’s only village, but not before he stopped the boat in the middle of the lagoon. “I want to check something,” he said. Then he threw a Danforth anchor off to the side (seemingly at random) and started hauling in a trap that was teeming with lobsters. How did he know where it was? There was no buoy, no marker of any kind on a monochromatic stretch of water. After spending the better part of the day with George, it was obvious to me that the island and its surrounding waters are simply part of his DNA.

After lunch in the village, where we were treated like friends, George brought us back to our dinghy. “Man, I like it here,” I said. All Caroline did was smile as she drove the dinghy back to our boat. Of course, after a hard day of visiting the Garden of Eden, we needed to recover with a little snorkel, a long walk on a beach without footprints, and a quiet time of watching the sunset.

We didn’t want to leave, but we wanted to see more of the island too. So the next morning, after George had dropped off some fresh lobster, we decided to head to a new anchorage about 15 miles southeast. It would be upwind for part of the way, but we’d be sailing in protected waters. When the next beach came into view, we had no trouble getting excited about parking for a few more days and exploring a new private paradise. There was nobody there, all the way to the horizon. I didn’t want to get my shorts salty, so I just took them off and jumped in the water to check the hook. It was like we’d sailed into a movie. The few buildings on the shore belonged to Coco Point Lodge, one of Barbuda’s few hotels, but there was nobody in sight.

We spent a few more enchanted days here—dining on lobster in the cockpit, beach, soft sand, sun on the skin. But we knew there was still a rocking little passage back to Antigua waiting for us, and it was only when we could no longer put off leaving that the anchor finally came up and we pointed the boat back out into the open ocean. The trades had lessened a bit, and our angle back to Antigua was a little broader than it was on our trip over, so when Caroline flashed me a look of “Love” rather than “What have you gotten me into,” I knew we’d done good. Plus, we’ll be back in December. After several preemptive honeymoons, being engaged for over a year, and trying to figure out a wedding venue, we realized that Barbuda is the only place for us to get married.

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