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Friday, April 8, 2011

BARBUDA ....... BUOYS, BIRDS AND BEACHES ...



Thirty miles from ANTIGUA is its sister island BARBUDA ........ A low flat reef-infested island with limestone cliffs on one side, and the 'Mother of all Beaches' on the other, and in the middle is a lagoon measuring six miles long and two miles wide ............ And very, very shallow ........... Outboard motor shallow, unless you know where to go ....... We took on the services of George Jeffrey and his flat-bottomed boat to do the grand tour to the frigate bird sanctuary ............ 60,000 of the most peaceful birds you are ever likely to encounter, despite the name of "Man-o-War" birds ........ We were within a metre of the nests and they just looked at us with a " What's up" ....... But first we had a beautiful broad reach sail to BARBUDA's west side, which doesn't show itself until you are within four miles of the shore, while on the Atlantic Ocean side of the island there is a virtual graveyard of ships from the days before GPS ........ And yes, it is true, the water really is this colour ........



And this is George Jeffrey, himself ........ Tour guide and storyteller, and one of his stories is about this large metal buoy AM 52, now floating in the Barbuda lagoon, in about three feet of water ........ Originally it was a flashing marker on the GRANPAS BANKS, off the East coast of CANADA, where it broke free, then went on a journey of its own across the ATLANTIC OCEAN with the prevailing Gulf Stream current all the way to Spain and Portugal, then down again past the Canary Islands, back again across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean, and then was spotted and brought ashore at BARBUDA ............ It only has one serious dent where "something" collided with it......... Good reason to keep a sharp lookout at all times........ Not sure what you would do in the dark ....... Just imagine though, that it has been drifting out there for more than 6000 miles, presumably unseen, for nobody resorted to sinking it .............



At one end of the lagoon is an incredible nesting and mating area for the 'Man-O-War' birds, also known as 'Frigate' birds, for they rarely catch fish themselves and are usually seen attacking other birds forcing them to regurgitate their catch, which the frigate birds sweep to catch just before it hits the water ...... A bird version of "insider trading" .......



'Moms' and 'Dads' everywhere, and a whole bunch of fledglings in various stages of growth ....... Cute as could be ..........Females have a little white patch under their beaks and the males have a red patch, and this gets well and truly inflated to let the whole world know that "He" is in need of a mate for the season ......... Talk about making it a really obvious ........ As in "Red-hot to go" .........



"What do you know" ........ "One day you open your eyes, and there you are, bare-assed, blue from the cold, bunched up on some rough-looking mangrove twigs and the kid next door is screaming in your ear, something about " When I grow up and get real feathers, I am going to support Breast Cancer Awareness Week " .......... "Now isn't life just great" ....... "Someone please call my mother" ......



And it may take a little encouragement on her part before he discovers that 'she tickles his fancy' ................ The brown BOOBY looks on and nobody seems to mind him hanging around in the nesting area .......



We joined Neil and Kerry from Sydney on this excursion ..... They are sailing on their beautiful brand-new Catamaran "YOU NEVA KNOW" ........... And for hours we watched the interaction of this bird colony ......... All of it within just a few feet of us ..... Front row seats .... Thanks George ...........



The shallow lagoon is the breeding ground for jellyfish and lobsters whose spawn is washed in with the tide and whose juveniles eventually leave the lagoon for the open ocean and the coral reefs .......... Lunch anyone? ..... As long as you hold them flat in your palm they do not sting you, but don't let the blue tentacles catch your arm ....... Best to leave them alone in the water where there were thousands of them ........



Twelve years ago I took the photo (above on the left) of what was on old fisherman's hut and a deserted 11-mile beach of pink sand with not a footprint on it ....... Well, that's all changed .... There is now a nine-room hotel in the same spot and flags every quarter mile along the beachfront with 'Property for sale' ....... Trouble is, the sand strip is only six feet high and about thirty yards wide in places, and most hurricanes go straight over the bushes and into the lagoon, so we are not sure how that works ........ The Hotel is brand new ....... We went to ask about coffee and were told it would be $8.00 US per cup ....... We opted for one on board ..... Imagine paying $ 32.00 for four cups of coffee, plus service charge and tax ....... That's a caffeine and joy killer right there .........



After four wonderful days in BARBUDA we had a glorious sail back to ANTIGUA ........ 7.5 knots on a broad reach with winds about 15-20 knots ....... And home-baked bread ready for the oven ..........Living large again in Paradise .... Check out the short video clips ............



Despite the awesome beauty of the Frigate bird colony, even with all the screeching and the droppings, you still have to have order and settle all the disputes amongst the males, even if they do have 'big red hearts' ...... These, we think are the self appointed 'constabulary' or maybe they are someone's field study ......... We will just stick with the 'policewoman' theory, for Officer 09L and 14H are both females ..... Good choice ........ That'll sort the boys out ..............

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