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Sunday, March 27, 2011

OUR SUNDAY ' WALKABOUT ' .............



We took the dinghy ashore on Sunday morning and found the path that leads to the end of FREEMAN'S BAY in ENGLISH HARBOUR, ANTIGUA ........... The name 'Freeman's Bay' speaks for itself .......... And in no time at all, we are climbing the cliff face that overlooks the deep blue ocean and some very deep water ....... We are surrounded by a vista of splendor ......... All around us is a rich variation of flora and the most striking of which are these smooth-leaved century plants that are now in full bloom ............. Brilliant yellow flowers, alive with finches and humming birds ......... It's the humming birds that seem so much faster than the eye .......... In and gone, in a flash ........ Should have been called 'Flashbirds' ........ And in places where nothing ought to grow, there are 'Turk's head' cacti with babies ...... God's own cactus garden ......



The coastline has that 'jigsaw' look, as though someone has layered the island by putting a stack of loose pieces on top of one another ........... Oh, that's right ...... The volcanoes did all that ...... Almost forgot .......



The trail that we are following along the cliff edge is a perfect path sculptured to the contours of the hillside and breath-takingly beautiful ........... The kind of walking that makes you feel " GRATEFUL TO BE ALIVE " in capitals ........



And out at sea, and far below us the yachts slide past .......... And as we walk on we notice that 'new' yellow growth on the spiky cactus plants ..... 'New' growth since the last hurricane season, when this exposed coastline would have had a 'thrashing' .......



Just do a double-click on this panorama shot .......... Or any other photo for that matter ...



And despite the apparent smoothness of the ocean, there is still a five-foot swell running, that makes going to windward a real 'slamming affair' ............



Back in the anchorage, we take the dinghy 'oceanside' for a quick ride and see the century plants and their yellow flowers from a whole new perspective........... MAJESTIC is the only way to describe the view ..... Sheer Majestic ...... O.K., Now that was our morning walk, and by the middle of the afternoon we are once again ready to do it all again, this time by climbing the hillside to SHIRLEY HEIGHTS along a different bush trail .........



We think our dinghy is pretty well 'anchored' with a stainless steel chain and a padlock ...... Anchored just like these bromiliads to a cactus ......... No-one is going to mess with them, now are they? ......



The mountain trail winds through the foliage ever upwards like a tunnel, until finally you emerge to this 'grand view' overlooking Freeman's Bay, with its anchored yachts ............ Ours is in there somewhere ........ We take our time looking down upon this magical world and marvel at our good fortunes ........... For we are surrounded by lush growth and a beautiful temperature in the 80's ........ And nobody is fighting anybody here ............. How nice ....



We finally emerge from the tunnel path at SHIRLEY HEIGHTS, where we dine on chicken, drink several pink rum drinks, and dance our little hearts out well into the night, all the while being serenaded by this marvelous pan band ...........Indescribable, the music, that is ........ You have to be there to hear it ........ Imagine the "William Tell Overture" being played with fifteen pans .... Or just listen to a little video clip at the end ........ And so for a 'finale' for our Sunday 'walkabout' we took on the best challenge of all ...... Go down that mountain trail in the dark, fully fed, fully rum enhanced, and pan music ringing in our ears all the way down ........... "THE HILLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC" ....... Considering we only had one of those $4.00 LED flashlights, the type ladies carry in their purse, we did incredibly well by only falling down twice ......... The second time was in our bunks back on board ....... So ... Goodnight... We will pay for all that activity, tomorrow ......



Oh, and in case you didn't know ....... You can feed hibiscus flowers to baby tortoises, for they seem to love it ....... And the cricket players here in ANTIGUA dress up in yellow and green as camouflage, we think ...........

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Friday, March 25, 2011

THAT LITTLE CORNER OF PARADISE ........



And out of nowhere this morning came this launch towing a couple of dinghies and right in front of us proceeded to install a series of moorings .............. AND JUST LIKE THAT, PARADISE AND FREEDOM HAS BEEN USURPED IN THE NAME OF PROGRESS AND MAKING MONEY ...... The best we could do was to sit and watch how they did it ........... Certainly was a very professional operation ........ More about that later ..... The launch Captain said the project had been funded by a grant from the EU and the project was under the jurisdiction of the Antigua Department of Fisheries, ......... And that yes, eventually you will have to pay to pick up a mooring ......... Now up until this morning, our entertainment had been to see the aerobatics of the Danish single-handed sailor who said he sailed 3000 miles to come here for kiteboarding ..........



There are resorts all round the bay and their guests, together with numerous yachts, arrive all day long to swim and snorkel in this beautiful water .........



So here is how these moorings are put in ............ The launch has a separate engine onboard driving a hydraulic pump with hoses connected to that reddish-rusty hydraulic motor suspended over the stern of the vessel........ That long galvanised almost horizontal square rod you see has a welded sand screw on one end, and a galvanised loose shackle at the other end ......... Are we good so far? .......O.K. ..... The attached sand screw, together with the hydraulic motor are now lowered to the sandy bottom, using that little derrick on the back of the launch, and a diver with his own air supply coming from a little compressor in his dinghy, goes down there and by openiig the hydraulic valve, sets the motor in motion and that screws the square rod into the sandy bottom for about nine feet .......... That 'anchor' is not coming out ....... That underwater red-rusty motor is powered by hydraulic oil flowing under pressure through the orange hoses ......



To stop the whole pump from spinning around underwater by itself, the diver grabs hold of a long extension on the motor and plants his feet firmly on the bottom ......... Meantime the surface crew drop a float with a long chain into the water and the diver attaches it to the shackle while he is down there ........... Hopefully those shackles are seized with stainless steel wire, and not just finger-tightened ................. I said " HOPE SO " .....



I was trying to concentrate on what tools and seizing wire the diver took down there with him, but I kept being distracted .............. That happens a lot ....... After five days in this beautiful corner of 'paradise' we finally made our move to leave ...... It will be so different when we return, for already the moorings are being taken up as though they were always there ......



Back to English Harbour..... Back to Pandanus palms and burnt-orange bouganvillea, back to an artist and a potter, and a traditionally built Antiguan sloop .....




And before the sun sets on yet another incredible sky and another beautiful day comes to an end, we visit the wood carver who produces a phenominal range of large mahogany carvings, with suitably large tags attached ............ And there is progress too, with the main mast for that 1928 schooner "ASTOR" in the ANTIGUA Shipyard ........... The split piece has been removed, and a new piece called 'a dutchman' is to be added with epoxy glue ............. So again we say " HOPE SO " ... For the stress on this mast with its huge gaff sail is enormous ............