After a week in Deep Bay and out of quarantine we decided to move up to North Sound, Antigua going around the west side, inside the reefs. We haven’t been up there in a few years and the weather forecast was for very mild trade winds for 3 days.
That is something that happens now and again in the winter. A strong cold front penetrating down to the Bahamas and a big low pressure storm forming in the Atlantic both kill the strong Trades here. It also portends that a few days later, large northerly swells from the storm will sweep thru the islands. All this was good news for a visit to North Sound and the Great Bird Island area. We would then sail south to Falmouth to ride out the swells when they arrive.
We haven’t been up to Great Bird in a number of years, the last time being when my daughter and son-in-law were aboard for a visit. It’s the most remote end of Antigua, mostly a nature park, with no developments, no beach bars and no services. A good place to “get away from it all”. The only problem is that it is on the north east corner of the island and not protected from the strong trades. Like Nonsuch Bay, it is protected by reefs from ocean swells and has a few small islands for wind protection. In calm winds the area reminds me of the Bahamas and that means shallow banks, reefs, and coral heads. Eyeball navigation is the name of the game but in good sunlight and clear water it is not that difficult. The pictures below look like the Bahamas. The other areas that look similar in the eastern Caribbean would be in the Grenadines. They have more coral reefs, but are like here, offer little protection from strong trade winds.
Kalunamoo first anchored off Guiana Island. It is ringed by mangroves and there are many walking trails on the island. The next morning, we moved Kalunamoo and anchored between Rabbit Island and Red Head. These small islands are just south of Great Bird.
We enjoyed dingy explorations around the mangrove and rock islands, snorkeling, swimming and even a kayak paddle. The nights were dark and star studded.
Ashore on Great Bird Is., where most of the birds are not (due to imported rats), the walk-way and stairs were being repaired so we couldn’t get up to the top. But it does have a great view. Maybe next time we are here. The sign said they have eliminated the rats so hopefully the birds will come back to their island.
In the meantime, we enjoyed the calm winds which allowed us to eat on our “Lido Deck”.
There are two ways out of North Sound and Great Bird. One is to back track west around Antigua through Boom Channel to Jolly Harbor. Since we didn’t want to go back to Deep Bay or Jolly Harbor, we chose to sail around the east coast down toward Nonsuch, English Harbor and Falmouth. We could hang out there when the winds pick up again and the northern swell comes down. All those areas are well protected from both. In addition, we could hit the restaurants in Falmouth, even though they are still only serving take-out.
So, the second way out of North Sound is via Great Bird Channel. I would never attempt that exit in anything but flat calm conditions. Since, we had flat calm conditions, why not?
The exit cut is very narrow with reefs on both sides. It’s not a straight path and with any seas, breakers are all around you. But the winds were calm, the seas were down, we decided it was doable. The only thing that was not perfect was that, although the sun was out, there was a bit of cloudiness. We left at 10AM. The sun was high but it was not a noon day sun. Well, ok, it was still calm. Off we went and here is a google photo and a screen shot of our GPS plotter. The red line is our actual course (the GPS antenna is on the stern). The width of the narrowest part of the channel could not be more than two boat lengths.
As can be seen on our plotter, we did a short S jog from one side of the channel to the other going north (bottom to top) . It was only a boat length wide but where the cross hair is, we bumped the reef on our starboard side. A little hair raising and heart pounding which brought thoughts of our adventure in St. Thomas a few years ago. This was much less and in less than a minute we were out in clear waters. The channel itself is about 25’ deep but the reefs are less than 5’ under. We draw 6”.
Well, when we were clear, I ran down to see if we were taking any water in the bilge. None! That was a relief. We may have a scratch but no hole! As I was checking the bilge, Maureen called down to me that someone was yelling at us? Really? Maybe to warn us of the reefs?
I came up and Maureen pointed to a guy in the water waving a spear gun and calling for help. Startled but, ok, let’s go to him. By this time, we were not far off the reef and so I was a little concerned as to how close we could get to him. Fortunately, we were able to come alongside. He said he lost his diving buoy and could he come aboard and be brought back inside the reef. He was being swept away.
The problem was that there was no way, I was going to go back thru that channel. Apparently he, Angus, was lobster diving and how he got out there I don’t know. He said his wife Julia was on their boat in the bay somewhere with engine trouble but could not say exactly say where she was. She didn’t know how to use the VHF either. There was not a single boat around us.
We lowered our boarding ladder and Angus hung on and gave us the telephone number of Julia. We called and he explained the situation. Apparently, she could see our boat but she could not tell us where she was. He climbed into our dinghy, which we were towing behind us. We took the outboard off when we left Great Bird as we don’t sail in the ocean with engine on the dinghy. If we had the engine, I could have dinghied him back behind the reefs. He decided that he could swim back (with the bag of lobsters he caught) and go over the reef. He assured us he would be fine.
We brought the boat back toward the reef as close as I dared and off he went. We circled around (see the red circles in the chart plotter) until he was out of sight (he had scuba gear on). Maureen decided we should call the coast guard and see if they can assist or at least be aware of the situation. I did, thru another boat relay and gave all the information including the wife’s telephone number. With nothing more we could do, we sailed south to Nonsuch Bay.
When we anchored, I dove on the hull and only saw one small scratch on the bottom of the keel, so all was good. We also called Julia and Angus answered and apparently got over the reef and back to Julia safely. As you can see in the photo, he caught a massive lobster and I wonder if that dragged him out. In any case, all turned out fine for everyone. Adventure comes when you least expect it, and fortuitous circumstances seems to save many days. A good shot of rum ended our day safely at anchor in Nonsuch Bay. I think I need a lobster dinner.