Monday, August 13, 2007

close call with Xtreme while camping in barbuda

This blog is sponsored by From the last proper blog i wrote: "We decided to start walking back to the boat after seeing how massive this squall appeared to be. We were going to be in for a strong one and as the winds started to howl I began to worry about my camera….and more importantly the boat 90 minutes away."

OK so finally I get back to the story. OMG last week got a little crazy towards the end as this one is looking like it may too. Anyway, back to the story:
We walked back in the crazy winds and rain that just wouldn’t let up. Luckily for us the wind direction changed to come more out of the North, so we had winds pushing against our backs making the walk faster and quicker towards the boat which we could see getting tossed around like a green salad. The anchor lines were taught and were under great strain as the boat bounced up and down just a few meters from the beach. If one pulled then I was sure the other would too and in seconds the boat would be on the beach. Actually now that the wind direction had changed the boat was pointing towards the rocks along the shore. Mykl went first so that I could hold the camera bag above the choppy waves and pass it to her. I was so worried about the boat that I left my shirt, hat and sun glasses on the beach with our beachcombing prizes. As soon as I was on the boat I fired up the engines and moved closer to the anchors. Mykl took in the slack anchor lines and when we were next to the anchors I ran up to pull them into the boat. In a flash the strong winds pushed us dangerously close to the beach before I got back to the controls. Anyway, I slowly powered out to the lee of the barrier reef and re-set the anchors there. There was no way I could navigate back around to Spanish Point in these conditions as the narrow channel was closing out with huge waves and another rain squall was just about to hit too. I knew we were safe behind the reef and far enough from the shore, so we just decided to wait it out in the cabin with my trusty portable DVD player. What else could we do?
As the terrible movie (License to Wed) finished the winds seemed to ease as well. Upwind it looked like there could be more on the way as it all looked very dark. My mom confirmed that the satellite imagery for the islands on the internet looked like there was a chance we would get more, so after calling her we opted to make a move through the channel in the barrier reef. The seas were big and we narrowly made it past the breakers into deeper water before we turned back to the safety of our camping spot from the night before. We got back, set anchors, and put the kettle on to boil. All would be good once we had our starbucks mugs full of nice hot tea. The sunset was wonderful with all the crazy cloud that seemed to be dissipating.
That night we had no more trouble with rain and were able to have some lovely T-Bone steaks on the back of the boat. IT was the end of out meat and we would have catch fish of some sort the next day.
We were up early the next morning and in no time were ready to make a move back to the beach where Xtreme nearly came to rest to collect my sunglasses and the rest of our stuff. What a different place it looked like now!
Anyway, we didn’t stay long and once out the channel again we turned north towards a special fishing spot I knew about five miles away. We put the three rods out to “soak” and nothing happened for some time. Just when we were about to give up we had a double hookup. Mykl fought her fish on the back seat and I fought mine from the port side. Hers came up first and after I put my rod in the holder I tried to get the fish off the hook. The electric blues from the Little Tunnie were dazzling and as we marveled at its beauty the fish managed to free itself and shot off into the dark blue depths. Mine was still on and I didn’t make the mistake of being seduced by its colours this time. In fact the poor fish didn’t have a chance once I had it within grabbing range. We didn’t have to worry about eating canned tuna……we had the real stuff in the boat now. While all this action was taking place we didn’t notice the squall that had quickly crept up upon us. We were not in a good place at all as we were outside some of the most treacherous reef in the entire Caribbean which has been claiming boats for hundreds of years. Nobody ever gets through this section of reef unless they have good light and that was going to disappear pretty quickly if we didn’t act fast. I knew of a tiny channel at a place called Hog Hole and after speaking on the VHF radio to my Dad and Steve Mendes who were just pulling up there on the inside of the reef, I gunned the engines towards the channel. I slowed down once we got into the channel and immediately saw a pod of spotted dolphins. They had been surfing the waves in the channel and I would have loved to stay and watch them but it was way too dangerous with the squall only minutes away. With reef and breaking waves on either side of the boat we crept in carefully making it behind the last bit of reef right as the winds started to pick up. We rushed over to the other boat and dropped the anchor in the sand behind the reef as the rain started to fall. I was in the water with my snorkeling gear before I could get wet from the rains. If you are ever snorkeling when it rains be sure to swim down a bit and look back up at the surface. I took a pic while it was happening but even this doesn’t do it justice.
Stevie’s boat had been full of campers who were all now in the water snorkeling. I guess the winds and waves had gotten up in the squall making the waters close to the barrier reef very cloudy with tiny bubbles. We did manage to see three stingrays and two spotted eagle rays as well as quite a few small fish.
IT was nice and colourful once the sun covered us again.
Roddy and Stevie caught a few snappers for their lunch and they all left Mykl and I there. We would meet up with them later in the afternoon at their camping spot.
Once we had finished snorkeling and finished lunch while at anchor as seen above, we slowly cruised down the coast inside the barrier reef fishing and spotting rays and turtles. It was a lovely cruise.
Up ahead we could see the other boat pulling two of their divers who were looking for conch. I had seen some nice ones when were in the water earlier and had thought about keeping one for an appetizer. These guys were taking some for their dinner. Steve Mendes makes lovely meals with conch and later we couldn’t possible turn down the dinner invitation with that in mind. Before sunset, we all rafted up together with Steve’s “Megalops” on the left side, Dad’s “Blue Rapid”, in the middle and Xtreme on the right. We were in a good anchorage outside the entrance to Barbuda’s wonderful lagoon, and after most of the guys went off fishing, Mykl and I decided to go on a kayaking mission into the “creek mouth” as it is known. The mangrove habitat there is like none other in the Eastern Caribbean and it was lovely paddling through this wondrous habitat. If you have ever been on our eco tour then you will know what this area looks like. The mangrove narrows at Guiana Island look very similar. I took this photo in the "creek mouth" on another camping trip i did with my uncle Nick and Dr Charles.
We got back just before it got dark and just in time for a massive and deliciously tasty conch pasta. It was our last night in Barbuda and the calm gentle conditions that had been forecast never materialized. It looked like it would be a rough ride back home the next day. Will talk about that tomorrow. As a side note…..if you are here on island or coming here this week keep checking for info on the approaching tropical weather.