It was dark when we pulled away from Simpson Bay. Dre was in bed and Dex on his way; we had let him stay awake a little late to watch the sails go up. When they did, he cheered. My stomach churned – kids are wicked resilient. Me, not so much. I had steeled myself for the trip. I think I grit my teeth all the way to the south side of the island, waiting for the swell. No swell came.
The sail to Antigua was so freaking awesome that I decided I loved sailing again. The sea was mostly flat but we had wind and hauled ass. My watch at 3 am was serene – tons of moonlight and bioluminescence in our wake. It was kind of like I imagine it’d be to plough through a pile of fairy dust. There’s something special about being on your own on deck a sailboat in the middle of the night. Don’t doubt that I was in an inflatable life jacket outfit with flares, glow-sticks and a whistle, with our waterproof SOS-capable GPS around my neck. But feeling like I had a decent chance of survival in case I went overboard allowed me to relax and enjoy the gently undulating seas. I watched the sun rise over the coast of Antigua then woke Trev in case he wanted to fish on the way in (and because after 4 hours I had had enough of the night’s magic and wanted to go to bed). When I woke up I thought we might be at anchor. No engine noise and the boat was barely moving. Turned out that we were still sailing, albeit very slowly, through super flat water, straight into Jolly Harbour. The kids had slept the whole night through, I’d gotten a bit of sleep, the boat was in good shape… yesssssssssss.
We checked in to Jolly Harbour, a very pretty bay, then drove into St. John (town) to run some errands and people watch. I love the Caribbean style… it is at times like returning to the 80’s but rocked with way more attitude. Gold jeans, half-shirts, skin-tight shirts and pants with a bunch of rips, fringe, beads, bedazzling…. all the good stuff. What I really love is the confidence of the women, no matter their body type.
Back from town, we headed out to what, on the way in, had looked like a killer little beach. Little it was, killer, nah. But we were in Antigua, my faith in sailing was renewed and Terry, I was FINALLY in a mood to crack that pink champagne from Tortola. You could have rest easy; there was again room in the fridge for three more beers.
The next morning we had breakfast and I went for a paddle out to the point. It was lovely, except for paddling by some poop. Whoever had had themselves an early morning ocean poop is doing fine with their fiber, because that thing was still holding shape when i padded back past it. Good for you.
When I got back to the boat the Ives came by to say that they were planning on doing some wake boarding and would we like to join? Hmmm… I’ve only done it once before, with the Ives while we were visiting them in the FL Keys two years ago. It took me a few tries to get up, then I rode a little ways, then I spent the next four days feeling like I’d been drawn and quartered. It was a decent amount of pain relative to a small amount of fun. But I wasn’t getting any better sitting on my ass so I figured sure, I’ll give it another go. No wakeboard this time, just Trev’s kiting surfboard. I got up the second try, started gaining some serious speed, chickened out and let go. Busted the third try. Couldn’t quit on a fail so tried again. Got up, rode a bit, realized I was supposed to be kiting in a few days and decided to quit while I was still in one piece.
We decided to do some day-tripping on our way to Green Island.
Don’t eat the forbidden fruit… We cruised from the entrance of Jolly Harbour to the north. We first stopped by Stoney Horn, a rocky outcrop in the next bay. The beach here was totally killer and it looked like there was a small cave in the rocks to snorkel. Sarah and Jon very kindly volunteered to watch the kids so Trev and I could have a snorkel together. The cave was small but cool (and a little spooky) but there wasn’t too much else to see so we cruised up to the beach to walk around. On the beach I found what looked like a little crab-apple. I peeled the skin back and had a sniff; it smelled delicious, somewhat guava-y. Trev had a sniff, then postured “who’s it going to be?” Not I, I replied. I wasn’t eating some strange fruit off the ground no matter how good it smelled. Trev gave me an “oh you are so uptight and unadventurous” look and took a bite. I grabbed one to show the Ives, Trev tossed his on the ground (I guess it didn’t taste very nice) and we swam back to KK to check on the kids. When we told Jon about the fruit his response was something along the lines of his having just read that there were fruits on the beaches here that looked like crap-apples, but were poisonous. Hm.
Back on SL Trev and I were getting ready to head to the next spot while Dexter was busy studying a starfish named Patrick that I’d picked up and stuck in a bucket for him to observe. This is when Trev said that he felt like he’d eaten something very peppery and that his throat felt strange. As we cruised along the coastline I started searching for “poisonous crab apple caribbean” on the iPad. We had gotten a hold of manchineel tree…. or as the Spanish call it, manzanilla de la muerte (little apple of death). What I was finding online is that eating the fruit hasn’t killed anyone in a long time, but it has made quite a few people extremely uncomfortable. This also isn’t the tree you want to use as shelter from the rain; they used to torture people by tying them to the base of the tree in a rainstorm as the runoff causes blistering and burns. Burning the tree’s wood can make you go blind and it is rumored to have provided the poison that tipped the arrow that killed Ponce de León in Florida. Yikes. We decided it’d be wise for Trev to have a quick spew just in case. Then it started raining something serious. I took the kids inside but kept checking on Trev to make sure he hadn’t keeled over. His pain wasn’t getting worse so we decided he was good… or at least better than this guy:
Next on the agenda was Deep Bay, to snorkel the wreck of the Andes.
From http://anbanet.com/antigua-historical-sites.html : The name of the ship was the barque “Andes”, a three masted steel merchant sailing ship, that sailed from Trinidad on 5th June 1905 with a cargo of 1,330 barrels of pitch to be used for the paving of roads in Chile. As there had been no Panama canal yet built, the route around the tip of South America was to sail first north-east over the Atlantic, thence across the South Atlantic with the trade winds to Cape Horn.
As the cargo had been stowed badly, it seems heat had developed through friction caused by rubbing, enough to cause smoldering. Capt. Rees Griffiths decided to put into Antigua, but the Harbour Master made the “Andes” anchor in Deep Bay, since she would have been a danger to shipping in St. John’s Harbour. When the hatches were opened to unload and inspect the cargo, the added air caused a conflagration. Her decks fell in and her rigging was consumed. The “Andes” sank bow first on June 9th and there she still lies.
Trev had a look, then Dex and I swam over to take our turn. I was pretty damn proud that my 3.5 year old was snorkeling a ship wreck. You don’t see that every day. Visibility wasn’t amazing but you could see a lot from the bow to the first mast as the front of the ship lies in fairly shallow water (not so Deep Bay). The thing was huge, but I didn’t realize exactly how big until I saw this picture that the Ives posted on their blog.
Back from the snorkel, we headed to Dickenson Bay, where there’s a long beach, some bars and a Sandal’s resort. It turned out to be a fun place so we spent a couple nights there. There is a winner of a bar there called (I think) Peppers and Lime, that has swings instead of bar stools and hosts a weekly party replete with a WATER TRAMPOLINE. Oh, did we have some fun. We also met Sasha, the sweetest little island girl that quickly became besties with Dex. He was in heaven, I think. Here’s a short clip of some of the mayhem.
We celebrated Dre’s seventh month birthday with the Ives over dinner and chocolate brownies (that she wasn’t allowed to have). Josh and Nate even made her a card!
We left Dickenson Bay to travel to Great Bird Island (last stop before Green Island!). A short hike ashore here brings you to a set of blow holes that (as Trev says) make your feet sweat.
I, meanwhile, got pooped on by a seagull. Right in the face. Ah! There were some nice beaches on the island; we even found a bar set up on one of them. It was unattended, but Jon had come prepared so we had some Red Stripe by the sea. It was a good day (aside from the seagull poop).
Know what’s the opposite of awesome? Our sail from GBI to Green Island. I decided I hated sailing again.