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Wednesday, December 15, 2021

November 25th: Long Island to Coco Point, Barbuda

 We woke up at 5:50am, made breakfast, and got going just after sunrise, using dual lookouts to navigate the Prickly Pear Channel out into open water before engaging the auto-pilot. The Garmin auto-pilot on the Chinook was the most sophisticated panel I'd ever seen, capable of going around marked obstacles on the map! I didn't trust it though, and would still disengage it whenever I saw a reef or shallow water marking on the map, as it tended to behave as though you could sail right on the edge of a reef. I personally much prefer to give such objects a ton of leeway, seeing as neither GPS nor my old eyes are very accurate.

To my delight, the anchorage at Coco Bay had only a few boats, and none right on Coco Point, where I wanted to place my anchor. The guidebook makes a big deal out of how challenging entering Coco Point was, so I had all crew onboard go forward and help me work my way into the reef. It was worth it though, since once on the boat we could easily swim to all desirable destinations, and the snorkeling was great.
It is hard to over-estimate what day after day of continuous snorkeling does for your kids' skills. They were now completely comfortable exploring the reefs, and playing. Boen would stick to Arturo and play with him in the water, pretending punches, etc.

When we were all done with the snorkeling, we had lunch on the boat, and then decided to head to the beach. I opted to take both kids to the beach by paddleboard, and it didn't take very long before I realized it was a mistake! The last time I'd done this was 3 years ago, and the kids had grown substantially in that time, so the paddleboard was lopsided. Despite the kids staying as quiet and centered as possible, I still fell off the board as we approached the sand. Since everyone was at least wearing swim suits there was no damage (my camera was waterproof!).
The white sandy beaches of Princess Diana Beach was a sight to behold. The resorts which were under construction after Hurricane Irma were unoccupied, so we had the place mostly to ourselves, seeing no more than 8 other visitors during our entire visit. Arturo swam ashore, and told me Xiaoqin had asked me to go fetch her with the paddleboard. I demurred, reasoning that if the two kids were sufficient to overbalance me on that chintzy paddleboard, trying to get my wife ashore in that would be a disaster.
Instead, we played with the kids until Niniane swam ashore, and then asked her to watch the kids while Arturo and I went for a walk. It was a walk with a purpose, since Mario had told us that Enoch would provide with a lobster dinner that night. Arturo had called while we were in transit to make reservations for that evening at 5:00pm, but I was having second thoughts. The reefs were navigable by day, but trying to get back in the dinghy at night looked very questionable.
We walked past empty outdoor gyms, the unused airport, and the reefs didn't look any better. I suggested we do dinner at 4pm, but Arturo thought that was too early. We finally arrived at Enoch's Shak A Kai after a 20 minute walk, and Enoch told us that he'd seen us anchor. He then told us how dangerous the reef was, and suggested we drop by at 5pm to do takeout!
That sounds like a great idea, Arturo said.  We bought a couple of drinks from Enoch, who had a blackboard that said, "No wifi in paradise!"  We then walked back to the boys, where we discovered that Xiaoqin had swam to the beach and was dealing with them.
The sand did indeed look pink if you had the sun at the correct angle and there was a little bit of water to tint it, but otherwise it was a white sand beach. Xiaoqin would later say that was the best sand she'd ever had in her life, soft and spingy at the same time, and it was fun to walk on.
I then ferried the boys one at a time from the beach back to the Chinook with no problems, but when I got back to the boat and tied up the paddleboard, Arturo swam back and told me there was more snorkeling to be had and he saw substantially good stuff near the beach. So I got back in the water.

This time we saw a barracuda, a spotted ray, and conch snails, eating the seagrass. It truly was as good as Mario promised. The boys were excited about today, because it was Thanksgiving. A few years ago, Mark Brody had suggested making a veggie turkey, and this time they replicated it!
Arturo and I went on the dinghy to pick up the lobster. As promised, it was tricky going but at least I could see the reefs and help Arturo steer around them. Once ashore, we hooked up the dinghy anchor and visited Enoch again, picking up the lobster, buying a loaf of bread, and picking up a drink for Niniane. Seeing how full my hands were, Enoch came out to the dinghy to help us launch it. He stuck around until we had navigated the reefs near his shack before turning back, getting into his van, and driving off. We were his last customers of the day, it turned out.

Between the lobster, the turkey, and the sunset, we had ourselves a glorious time. We looked forward to doing more snorkeling the next morning before heading back to Antigua.

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