I found Barbuda to be one of the most interesting islands in the Caribbean. We didn’t spend near enough time there to satisfy me. In fact, I was ready to stay long term and possibly even consider working towards a PhD onsite. But I’ll go into that in the next blog. My first impression of Barbuda: the Bahamas of the Caribbean! Beautiful sandy beaches, bright turquoise water, palm trees, and a mix of leafy plants and cacti. Beautiful. Rugged. Dotted with reefs. Lightly populated.
It was a great sail from Jolly Harbour to Coco Point, Barbuda. And it was made even better by all the fish activity! As we approached Deep Bay, we got our first bite. I set the hook and reeled in a small fish I think was in the jack family, maybe a pompano? It was too small to keep and we had no idea what to do with it, so we set it free.
We didn’t have to wait long for our next bite, which we also set free. It was a little tunny tuna, which needs to grow up a little more to be an appetizer. The grimace was for the fishy salt water the tunny was flipping all over my face.
Finally, fish number three was a keeper, another little tunny. Since Dave switched out the hook on our lucky lure I’m not losing anything anymore. Once I set the hook, the fish stay on. The problem before was that our hook corroded and lost the barb, so the fish could slide back off the hook. No sliding off the new hook!
Fish number four stumped me. I didn’t know what it was, but it was certainly big enough to keep. I thought it was in the mackerel/tuna family but wasn’t sure. Dan from Slow dancing helped me find the distinguishing features to identify it as a cero. All four fish were caught between Jolly Harbour and the northern end of Antigua. We didn’t get a single bite in the open water between islands…
…Until we were near Barbuda, where fish number FIVE made our day complete. What is a fishing day without catching at least one barracuda? This sucker was huge! But due to the bacteria ciguatera we let it go to live another day. Ciguatera causes really bad nausea, pain, cardiac, and neurological symptoms. We find it is not worth the risk. However, some more commonly eaten fish can also carry ciguatera: grouper, red snapper, eel, amberjack, sea bass, and Spanish mackerel. These are all predators of the reef fish that consume the dinoflagellates (toxin-producing algae).
The first thing we noticed as we arrived in Coco Point, Barbuda, was the bright turquoise color of the water. The sandy bottom glowed through the water, making it easy to spot the reefs in an early afternoon arrival. I would not want to arrive too early or too late, when the sun is glaring off the water and killing visibility! There were reefs everywhere, but the holding was excellent and our anchor caught immediately. The view was breathtaking! We were told that the beach sometimes appears pink, but it looked like normal sand to me. Islanders bottle the pink ‘sand’ to sell to tourists and it is actually tiny shells. Still, this beach would please sun worshippers and swimmers alike. We ended the sail day by having Dan and Melissa over to share the fish we caught. As it turns out cero mackerel is a dense white fish with a very delicate flavor and little tunny is a delicate red meat with more flavor. The cero was perfect in Melissa’s garlic-lemon marinade and the little tunny was amazing in her blackened seasoning. Neither tasted fishy. Now Dave wants to keep everything we catch of size and give it a try. The Sport fishing book said these were edible but not highly desirable. Don’t believe the book! I think if you eat the fish fresh, it’s going to be good.
We met up with friends Jeff and Izzy from Izzy R and Cam and Anne from Annecam. They arranged a plantation tour for the next day and we joined them. Christopher Codrington established Antigua’s first sugar plantation in 1674 on Barbuda and, within four years, half of Antigua and Barbuda’s population consisted of black slaves from Africa. As George Jeffries, our guide, told it, the relationship between slaves and owner was a good one and no one harbors any ill feelings towards the descendants of the Codrington family. “Those were different times and life was different then,” Jeffries said. The sugar plantation was extremely successful and Antigua became one of Britain’s most profitable colonies in the Caribbean.
After visiting the plantation, we hiked to a huge sink hole. We saw small tortoises all along the trail, pictured at top of page. Then we drove to another area and visited a cave. Barbuda is truly scenic with very different geology across the island. Once again, I took tons of photos and tried to narrow it down, but there are still enough to warrant a slideshow. I hope you enjoy it and I hope it piques your interest enough to visit this fascinating island some day: