Written by Jon:
First stop sailing from Guadeloupe to Antigua was English Harbour. On the south coast of the island, Nelson’s lair is famous on the island for being the base of the English fleet around the 1700s. An amazingly well protected dog-leg natural harbour where you could (and he did) hide a fleet of boats.
We dropped anchor after over an hour of trying to find a suitable location (it was very busy) in Freeman Bay and were immediately greeted by the shrieks and cheers of welcome from the two girls of ‘Emerald Bay’ – Poppy and Phoebe who we’d met and last seen the Cape Verdes. “Itchy Foot are here!” – think carefully when picking a boat name. Within minutes all the kids were in the water swimming around, saying hi to old friends and meeting new.
The next morning Vincent and I took the dinghy and the boys into the shore to check-in, which was annoyingly expensive in English Harbour, and take a look around the old fort buildings. Unfortunately much of the charm was lost to tourists so we retreated the boats and our anchorage. Mia had started to come down with a cold back in Guadeloupe during our river walk and now it was out in full force so, leaving her bed ridden with books, movies and plenty to drink we spent the afternoon playing on the beach and between the boats. Between the eight kids and the four paddle-boards and kayaks it was hard to keep track of who was where, but we managed to keep at least one pair of adult eyes counting heads – also Teo spends his time in a buoyancy aid when playing ‘half-accompanied’ around the water as he isn’t quite swimming indefinitely yet.
The reason for this gathering of friends was a plan to celebrate Phoebe’s 10th birthday in Barbuda (an island near Antigua) but with the weather bad for Barbuda we changed plans and headed for Nonsuch Bay on the east coast of Antigua for part of the festivities. Anchoring behind Green Island we were well protected and had our own personal island and beach for a party. A spontaneous pot-luck created an excellent menu as the adults caught-up the kids played together happily.
The next afternoon saw the arrival of Dana de Mer, bringing Jage and Hope our wonderful guides from Dominica and a grand total of four more kids – including their visiting friends. Kids were dragged around on inflatable rings behind speeding tenders, there was fishing, swimming and general fun times followed by a fairly quiet evening.
After a morning of boat school, the next afternoon was another party on the beach. Food was cooked, a fire was built and the twelve kids divided themselves into two groups, four boys and eight girls. Green Island is coved in hermit crabs of all sizes, the boys spent their time building a giant sand ‘arena’ and collecting all the biggest crabs to ‘battle in the arena of doom!’ – thankfully the crabs didn’t seem very interested in this plan. The girls however spent their time building the perfect home, complete with bedroom, kitchen and living room for ‘Shelly’, ‘Hermy’ and ‘Tiny’ the smallest and cutest little crab they could find.
With a break in the weather it was finally a good day to sail to Barbuda. The fleet left early and most of us managed to get up our spinnaker for a downwind run in 8-10kns of wind.
Whenever a group of boats are together, especially kids boats, there is always a ‘working channel’ on the VHF which becomes a bit of a chat room for the fleet. Our channel 8 was full of talk of fishing: Jage (Dana de Mer) caught a 90cm Wahoo but only managed to get 50cm of it onboard – the tail being taken by a hungry shark! He also caught two Barracuda, but they aren’t always safe to eat this far north so were released back into the sea. Itchy Foot, changing our fishing technique to follow the advice of Jage also managed to catch a Barracuda but released it back.
Next stop Barbuda.