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Friday, December 17, 2021

November 26th: Coco Point, Barbados to Deep Bay, Antigua

Despite not needing an early start this day, we woke up early anyway, in time to see the glorious sunrise from Coco point. The beach, the water, and the sun came together to create magical lighting for us as we ate a leisurely breakfast, and then prepared to get into the water.
We elected to all swim into the beach. But the visibility had gotten much worse overnight, and we saw next to nothing on the swim. We left the kids to play on the beach while Arturo and I went to scout the south side of Barbados, hoping for something better.
 It was indeed better after we got past the rocky section near the beach which was just as murky as the West coast. It would have been better if we had snorkeled there yesterday, however. I got a few pictures and then after that we went back and I swapped with Xiaoqin while Arturo led Xiaoqin on another snorkel.
The two kids were happy to play on the beach, and with conditions as murky as this I didn't bother trying to sell them on getting into the water except to return to the boat. By the time both Xiaoqin and Bowen were done it was 8:30am, and we swam back to the boat, ready to head to Deep Bay and try the Andes.

The wind was once again too weak to sail, and as we approached the Diamond Reef passage a storm blew through, tricking us into raising the sails only to discover moments later, that we were back to sailing at 1.5 knots, which was unsatisfying. The reason we were headed to Deep Bay was that my family needed PCR tests to fly back to the USA through Canada, and a doctor had agreed to come out to meet us and take PCR tests so we wouldn't have to take a taxi to a hospital

Arriving in Deep Bay, we spotted the buoy marking the mast of the Andes, and two Catamarans, clearly tourist boats, beached on the Bay. It turned out that not one, but two cruise ships were visiting Antigua that day. We anchor'd close to the beach in about 3 meters of depth, and to my dismay, when we did the dive check for the anchor, we couldn't see much. In fact, Arturo had to follow the anchor chain down so I could spot where it was!

We lowered the dinghy. The guidebook had a section marked on the other side of the Bay marked as "dinghy entrance", and it had the bridge that the doctor had wanted to meet us at. Just in case it was a better entrance, we decided to check it out, after determining that visibility at the Andes was no better than at the Chinook. The bridge was there, but there was no way we were going to steer the dinghy into the entrance in those conditions. "Why is there such a north swell? Why is the visibility so bad? Is there a storm?" Arturo looked at his phone. "Oh yeah. There's a tropical storm West of here down South." Our hopes for doing a good snorkel at the Andes, which was famous throughout Antigua was shot.

I received a text via WhatsApp from the doctor that he was headed our way. We got everyone into the dinghy, and got ashore, tying the dinghy to a tree. We raised the outboard, but neglected to pull the dinghy all the way out above the waterline, something we would pay for later. Walking over to the bridge, we had to wait a few minutes but sure enough the doctor showed up to give the 4 of us our PCR tests.

Mario had told us to hike Fort Barington at sunset, so we dutifully went back over the bridge, up the other side, and climbed up to the fort.
Far in the distance, we could see Mont Serrat's volcano erupting! People living near the volcano were evacuated even as we witnessed the smoke coming out of it.

At the fort, we finally got a group picture for the first time on our trip. Past that, we could keep going all the way to the point where the North Swell had flooded the channel that apparently in calmer times would let you walk or wade over to the headland guarding the Bay entrance.
It was approaching sunset when we returned to the dinghy when to our horror the surge and incoming tide had repeatedly dumped sand into the dinghy. We didn't have anything to bail with, so there was nothing to do but place everyone into the boat, but in the ensuing confusion and chaos (as the tide was relentlessly pounding away at us as we loaded the boat) Arturo got the rope in his hand at the wrong moment and pulled in it just a bit too hard and got rope burn. Nevertheless we got everyone back onboard the Chinook, and ice out of the fridge for Arturo's hand. I was a bit shaken: the memories of that trip in St. Vincent when a dinghy capsized and threw me overboard returned to me. We got away with just rope burn on Arturo's hand. Fortunately, all our important documents  (needed for our PCR test) were in a waterproof backpack that had stayed dry and secure in all the antics. In retrospect the non-waterproof camera should have also gone into that backpack.

Over a somber dinner, we debated what to do the next day. We were too exhausted to deal with the dinghy, so just tied it to the Chinook overnight. Being familiar with North Swell conditions, I proposed that we return to the South end of the island to Carlisle Bay and English Harbor for our last night aboard the Chinook. I revealed my agenda, which was that tomorrow was Xiaoqin's birthday, and going to English Harbor would allow us to get cake at the Tank Bay supermarket. Arturo shrugged. We really wanted to do the Andes snorkel, but I was pessimistic about it.

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