Return to Barbuda: Part 1


Coming Ashore

Swimming towards the shoreline from our yacht, my toes touched down in the shallow water near the same spot as 10 years earlier when we first “landed” at Coco Point.  The impossibly soft powdery sand has a distinct feel, especially when wet-  squishy yet supportive.  Walking out of the water, the air wrapped around me like a warm towel. With the sun’s waning light behind me, the shoreline appeared pinkish gold- the idyllic Caribbean moment one dreams of- The moment before sunset, timeless and unchanging, except of course in poor weather.

Dripping and a bit breathless, both for being out of shape as well as in anticipation of the moments ahead, I began my walk up the beach.  While the sand and beach were unchanged, when my gaze lifted to where the greenery meets the beach, the view was ominous and despairing. Buildings lifted and tossed over, cinder blocks snapped, wood beams splintered, brown dead leaves seemingly vacuumed off the trees, palm trees downed as if by a giant rolling pin and debris everywhere. This deeply beautiful spot rendered dead, stopped in a moment of time.


Photo credit Bill Springer


The dissonance was crazy making. Amongst the ruins before my eyes, came the memories, the joy, and the love cloud created by our guests and the staff of Coco Point Lodge. I am living two realities at once—Irma’s fury and joyful memories of our wedding 10 years prior.


Glancing over, I see that my husband has swum ashore and is making his way up the beach.  We walk side by side for a moment, unspeaking and then we separate. Both drawn in different directions, unclear where we would go next.  In my mind is the repeating thought, and here we are at our 10th anniversary-  We felt the pull to travel back. We have chosen to witness the tremendous loss and to travel through the moments and days ahead.

The beach 10 years before Irma.   Photo Credit Bill Springer

Eventually our eyes land upon the same object-  a Coco Point Umbrella, strewn across the rubble and open.  We walk further on, Bill along the edges, me along the dry sand, eyes focused on the ground.  We were not ready to return to “our cottage”, or to go near the club house or buildings.  Stumbling upon the tracks left by a recently hatched nest of sea turtles, a small object catches my eye.  A dead three inch baby sea turtle  was not as lucky as his siblings. The death of this infant upset me, and yet it seemed appropriate. The smell of death was everywhere—as was the smell of donkey. Having grown up with two donkeys, their scent is unmistakable. Left without fresh water, the donkeys and other animals were at risk and many had already perished. Thankfully we did not stumble on any of them.

Part 2- Journey to the point will be published shortly.  In the interim, the Barbudan’s are working hard to restore life on their island.  Please consider helping out if you can.


5 thoughts on “Return to Barbuda: Part 1

  1. Thank you for the update. ALL terribly sad. Mostly for the charming Barbudans & also for the Kelly family who own Coco Point. 😢

  2. We were on the island recently – the volunteers are doing an amazing job but it is being made much harder by the fact that the Government of Antigua is not actively supporting their efforts as they have a rather different agenda – housing contractors left because they hadn’t been paid since they’d arrived, fuel and other bills aren’t being settled on time, although work on the new International Airport was progressing 24×7 and now there are secretive teams of surveyors all over the place. The new Land Act has been introduced (with a view to removing communal ownership) and now a snap election has been called and the Barbudans are being told they all have to travel to Antigua to vote, shameful……

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