17° 38’ 60 N, 61° 51’ 0 W (published February 2012)
Think of your favorite picturesque anchorage with a gorgeous beach, beautiful water and few people. Now replace that image with one of Low Bay, Barbuda. If pictures of Low Bay are not used as tourist propaganda for Antigua–Barbuda, they should be. I say this with serious trepidation, as I am frightened I’ll find myself on the hook with hoards of other boats next time I visit.
During a recent trip to Antigua, we decided to add Barbuda to our itinerary as we heard lack of crowds and stunning beaches lay in wait. Couple that with a forecasted beam reach, and we were sold. Our passage from Antigua to Barbuda originated from Nonsuch Bay just after daybreak and a hot cup of coffee. Local knowledge recommended an early departure in order to identify the shoal/reef waters south of Cocoa Bay in good light. In a warm 15 to 20 knot breeze, our spry Jeanneau 44 made quick work of beam reaching the 30-mile jaunt to Cocoa Bay, and the shoal water was just as advertised.
Barbuda is unlike most other Caribbean islands in the area—completely flat with its highest point only reaching 125 feet above sea level—so we didn’t spot the island until we were five miles out. Barbuda is not volcanically created like most neighboring islands; rather, it is formed of coral and limestone surrounded by reefs and mangrove. Because of this, the sandy bottom gives the water an amazing hue and the beaches have a beautiful pinkish tint.
Cocoa Bay is on the southwestern shore of Barbuda, boasting a quaint beach and few services, including a hotel near the anchorage. But after one night there, we awoke with Low Bay on the mind. The gorgeous 10-mile sail up the western shore of Barbuda put stunning 11 Mile Beach on our starboard side and culminated in awe-inspiring Low Bay. The anchorage is well protected from the northeast through the southeast, but could potentially see some residual northerly swell around the northern portion of the island during the Christmas winds. We were there in mid-January and had no issues.
Joining us at anchor were three other boats, though there’s space for many more. Low Bay is fronted by a strip of pink beach, which separates it from Codrington Lagoon. When we were there, a small hotel was being built, but it does not seem like it will detract from the overall scene. Once ashore, you can hail a water taxi to ferry you across the lagoon to the town of Codrington, where you will find a customs and immigration office, as well as some smaller services. One of the main activities involves hiring a guide to take you through the frigate bird sanctuary on the northern side of the island.
If cruising away from the crowd is what you and your crew are after, add Barbuda to your list. Low Bay is an off-the-radar destination, now permanently affixed as a waypoint in my mental GPS.