What do you look for when choosing a charter destination for your next sailing trip? Is it lively bars and karaoke; or perhaps the complete opposite and a tranquil Caribbean getaway? Well, we’ve found the perfect tranquil getaway just for you – the Caribbean island of Barbuda.
As we didn’t have so much time (yes, we do work in the islands!), we took the FlyMontserrat flight from Antigua airport last Sunday morning and, 25 minutes later, we were landing at Codrington airstrip on Barbuda for a quick, overnight trip. It would take you around 4 hours to sail from Antigua (with the opportunity to spot turtles, dolphins and even whales). Here’s our friendly pilot below – drowning out the sounds of our “oohs” and “arghs” as we got closer to Barbuda; or perhaps listening to The Beach Boys Greatest Hits.
When you are sailing to Barbuda, the island is so flat that you only really see any land a few miles offshore; charts at the ready. With just a tiny population of humans (I think there’s more wild donkeys and horses!), the land is amazingly undeveloped. I took this picture below out of the window (it’s not appropriate to open doors on airplanes I’ve now discovered). It shows the large lagoon and you can just make out the tiny strip of land that borders Low Bay with the lagoon.
At the airstrip we met our great taxi driver called “Imra”. He sped (well, as fast as the roads would allow us to travel as they are pretty rough!) along to Bunny who jumped out of bed (clearly not early risers in sleepy Barbuda) and rented us a Rav4. She was not expecting company this early on a Sunday and, as the fuel station doesn’t open on a Sunday (Bunny was not impressed with this at all; but hey, it’s not New York), we had to go by her friend (also in bed) who was able to top up our fuel. The funnel, cleverly fashioned out of an old water bottle (recycling attempt 10/10), was hanging on the fence so I guessed he got called up quite a bit for this community service on a Sunday.
So now, full of fuel and enthusiasm, we set off to our guest house and checked in. We were lucky to have two teacups (things are looking up) but sadly no kettle. As it was a Sunday, we thought we should provision for water in the absence of a kettle and also as some stores are closed all day Sunday (make a note if you sail up on a Sunday). We couldn’t find one store in the maze that is the village of Codrington so we stopped and asked a lady passing by. She very kindly told us “I am the store” but told us she was closed – what’s the chance of stopping in this tiny village and finding the store owner on your first attempt! We said that we just needed water but her reply was a very cheery “me no hab no water!”. So off we went to the next store. The next store is owned by a character called Lionel Burton (many people are called Burton on Barbuda). We found water so we got over confident and asked if he had beer (OK, we know it’s only 9.30am but Barbuda is a bit like a parallel universe, so we figured to buy beer at 9.30am is a good thing and doesn’t count). He said no, he only had a bottle of white wine and a bottle of red wine (who only has two bottles with us in town?!). So we paid for our water and potato chips (well, we didn’t want to go hungry and all that fresh air increases your appetite) and he sent us “along the road a bit to the next store behind a wall”. These directions turned out to be hugely accurate and we soon found ourselves in store #2 and meeting store keeper #3 after only about 20 minutes on the island. Here we found beer! Well, Corona Extra to be precise and a fridge load of it. The top-loading fridge was interesting, instead of a traditional, real-world, formica cover it had planks of wood and a wooden handle. The store keeper asked us “Do you like Corona?” – which, for one second let me to believe he had a secret supply of Carib, but he was just making polite conversation. Of course, who doesn’t love Corona on Barbuda!?
Truly fortified with our supplies, we set off to find Uncle Roddy’s Lobster Shack and Bar in what we hoped was the right direction (there’s only one road, the locals tell us); clearly not considering the 42 small roads around Codrington as contenders for “road” status. Either we got lucky, or my co pilot was a great navigator, as we were soon shaking hands with Uncle Roddy after an 8 year absence from this quirky isle.
Now, when you fancy a lobster lunch or early dinner, Uncle Roddy is the ‘go-to’ man on the south of the island. He also serves garlic bread, BBQ plantain, chicken and locally caught fish – all cooked on his fancy grill on the deck. But, top tip, do remember to pre-book. This is simply because (a) he may be in bed (b) it may be Monday which is his day off and (c) everything is miles from anywhere so it’s not a case of nipping to the store and being remotely lucky to find what you need. We ordered a lobster lunch for 1pm. Now, it’s not going to be a hardship if you get there early as he has a well stocked bar – beer (different types), wine (drinkable for sure) and spirits.
The view is AMAZING. About 5 miles of white sand beach and NO PEOPLE! Just pull your dinghy up on the beach and tie to the nearest tree.
Having fortified ourselves with lobster and a glass of wine, we then hopped back in the Rav4 to explore further along the coast and make our way to Cocopoint. Now, as you’ll be sailing, this is far more straightforward by sea than road. We had to navigate families (herds/packs?) of donkeys, horses, salt ponds and some strange rustling sounds in the bushes. My brain told me that the noise was probably lizards having a Sunday afternoon dance, but who knows on Barbuda – this parallel universe!
Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of our 24 hour trip to Barbuda – a parallel sailing universe for those looking to get off the beaten track.