By Chris Valerio
It had been a rather cold, wet and typical NW winter here in Washington State and I was dreaming of planting my 10 toes (I know a fellow who only has 7 toes now- long story!) into some warm Caribbean beach sand, in search of treasure with my trusty metal detectors! So when invited to join George Streeter of Streeter Electronics, and good friends Martin Miffed and Mr. Ron Morlino on an Antiguan adventure, I signed right up! Why, I had never been to Antigua and read this Island had 365 beaches, a beach for each day of the year! Besides, this would be a great opportunity to put my new Minelab CTX 3030 to the test! Additionally, I had accumulated enough air miles for a free ticket! Well nearly free, as they still charge around $100 tax.
It became my responsibility to find suitable lodging for our group. Ron rented us a van, but I had to find 5 beds! A task much easier said than done. Turns out Antigua is a popular destination, as most every place to stay I inquired at, was already booked. My objective was to reserve something nice, yet affordable for the group. We were only staying a week and most places ran from $800 to $1,600. Then too, there were places that rented for $13,000.00 a night! At that price one got a palace with a private swimming pool. Should I ever win the lottery, Iíll secretly rent such a place for us and video the guyís reaction upon arrival! What fun! But for this trip I was having a tough time just finding any place for us. Everything was booked even weeks in advance, except this one place called Ellen Bay Inn. I bumped into Ellen Bay searching the internet and had some reservations, because this place was a bit different. But it was available and in our upper price range. To tell the truth Ellen Bay appealed to me because I kind of enjoy odd places when traveling. Ellen Bay was recently constructed and has 4 rooms and a small restaurant below, where a chef prepared local cuisine to order. To me that sounded great, despite Ellen Bay being right in the middle of nowhere! Yet even so, Ellen Bay was very close to a secret beach George had previously scooped lots of gold from on his last trip to Antigua! So I reserved the 4 rooms for the 5 of us. Yes, I said 5 because originally there was a fifth treasure hunter going on this trip. But unfortunately on the morning of his departure, he forgot to set his alarm clock and missed his flight. Bummer! Too bad, oh well. Can you believe that? Poor fellow, and for some reason he could not fly out the next day? Thatís why I always set 2 alarms when I have an important time to wake up! I recall once on another Caribbean trip, a fellow who drove early to the airport park-n-ride and missed his shuttle to the airport because he fell asleep in his car! He was able to join us late the next day, but ended up flying all around the Caribbean to do so. Fortunately Ellen Bay Inn understood this mishap and refunded the monies spent for his room no longer needed. Ron and I each had our own room, while George and Martin shared their room, the only room with 2 beds.
Antigua (An-tee-gah), Barbuda and Redonda form the independent nation of Antigua and Barbuda, within the Commonwealth of Nations. Antigua used to be run by the British, but I guess England set them free. Yet Antigua is still very Britt in many of its traditions. English is spoken there as well as US Dollars and East Caribbean Dollars. 1 Caribbean Dollar (Symbol XCD) equals .37 cents in US Dollars. Those visiting Antigua should bring both forms of currency in smaller denominations, and always confirm which Dollars are being quoted as prices. Antigua has become somewhat of a vacation destination. Cruise ships dock this Caribbean Port just about daily! Most of the tourists I met were visiting from England. Again Antigua claims to have 365 beaches, 1 for each day of the year. I lost count but did find several of the beaches in Antigua very nice! My favorite, Half Moon Bay is breathtaking and would be my pick to spend a full day frolicking in the surf and lounging around at in the sand and sun! This beautiful beach has more of a remote seascape atmosphere and is one of my favorite Caribbean beaches! Thatís a pretty bold statement to make! I miss Half Moon Bay, so it must be true? The beach at Dickenson Bay on the other side of the Island is far more commercialized yet beautiful none-the-less! Here lie the big resorts and typical Caribbean water-sports services. As for the rest of the beaches in Antigua, I would rate them average. I do like Antigua but sort of expected to see one fantastic beach after another. Perhaps their claim of 365 beaches led me to envision that? It really does not matter as I had wanted to visit and detect Antigua for years now, and was happy to get that opportunity! Well, Antigua is now off my Bucket-List!
The busy Capitol of this Island is St Johnís. Thereís some real action here as the streets are crowded with locals shopping and scurrying about! This city has your typical fast food places to eat and a smaller casino or two. A bright yellow painted building on Popeshead Street called Wendyís, which has nothing to do with hamburger Wendyís, is much more than a bar and grill. I hear this Wendyís gets very exciting around the Witching Hour with loud music and plenty of beautiful and lonely Island beauties! Well so I hear, and my advice would be for all single guys to steer far clear of Wendyís! Who knows if youíll ever want to leave the place? And donít Google it either! Come to think of it this reminds me of another place on the Island of Curacao. But thatís another story and Iím pushing my luck here as it is!
In Antigua one drives on the wrong side of the road- on the left! This can be confusing at first for those of us who drive on the right! Iíve done this before a time or 3, so it was not too difficult for me to acclimate. Only, round-a-bouts can be somewhat confusing! Anyway, I ended up being the chauffeur and did most of the driving, while Ron performed the duties of multi-lingual Navigator. Ron had the maps and directions and guided us to all the beaches. He did a great job directing ďrightÖ leftÖ right here!Ē We got around and even though we are men, every now and then we stopped for directions to save time. Yup, we actually asked for directions and found the peoples of Antigua to be most friendly and helpful! All we had to do was ask where the beach was and everybody asked knew how to get there. Well, get to some beach. On one particular hot day of the trip we had stopped for a bucket of chicken and cool refreshment. With some smart planning we stowed several cases of ice cold Coke in the van to keep us quenched on the road for the rest of the day! Why Iíve never drank that much Coke ever in a single day and clearly we had more than we needed. To make a short story long, it was while asking for directions to a particular beach, when I declared to the back-seat occupants, ďgive that helpful man a cold beer!Ē Oops, I mean cold Coke! With some reluctance at first, finally a cold drink was passed through the window. The manís eyes lit up and he smiled from ear to ear! Before we knew it someone else who had witnessed this transaction came running in for a free coke too. Then another, like kids in a candy store they swarmed out of nowhere! Clearly free cold drinks made their day, and we had plenty to share with the world. So every time we stopped and asked for directions, we passed out cold drinks just like The Coke Claus. I recall in one case while asking for directions, 2 very dear older ladies with several missing teeth and big smiles, invited us back to their abode for dinner later that night. They made clear to us men folk, there would be lots of food if we showed up! They almost hooked us, but we got away clean and ended up eating cheese burgers in Paradise that night instead. While these ladies may have had certain plans for us, they were good natured and friendly. I kind of wished we had taken them up on their offer, as surely we would have partaken in a true and adventurous Island feast! When on such an expedition, why do things normal? Who wants to eat at Mickey-Ds when one can sample the local fares? Well perhaps some choose the Big Mac, buy not me. I want to experience the Spice of Life!
We had all arrived together at V.C. Bird Airport and were met by Louie of Ellen Bay Inn, to guide us to the Inn. All we had to do was follow his car. It turns out Louie, his wife, son and daughter managed the Inn as well as nearby Ellen Bay Cottages. Louie does all the outside work and his wife the inside work. Louie said so. Well, thatís what Louie said! Currently his wife does all the cooking at the small restaurant below our rooms. The food here was hit and misses. Some meals were great, while others just about inedible! They tried to please us, but we unfortunately could not eat there too often. I suspect they had recently lost their top chef and the Misses took over. I liked Louie and his family as they accepted us as friends. They shared drink with us on 2 occasions and I really felt welcome.
As for Ellen Bay Inn, while in a somewhat remote location, the rooms were large and clean. My room was decorated with cheerful Island colors and I had a bed big enough to sleep 3! Ellen Bay Inn kind of grew on me and was a comfortable home after a long day of metal detecting for gold in the sea. It was pretty quiet there except for a few local barking dogs and a neighbor lady who apparently had to yell to get her kids ready for school every morning. Staying at Ellen Bay was kind of like living with the locals and I enjoyed the experience of that. There was a decent view of a saltwater bay and a cool off-shore breeze blew most of the time. If one expects to be pampered here, forget Ellen Bay. For those who seek privacy and the sense of Island Time, I would recommend a stay at Ellen Bay. Ellen Bay Inn definitely grew on me. Just Google Ellen Bay Inn Antigua for more information.
Even though finding places to eat near Ellen Bay Inn was a challenge, I never went hungry. Few restaurants were on this side of the Island, but we still found chow. One place, a tiny shack of a store served fries, chicken and burgers at decent prices out of a kitchen in a small closet! We ate there several times. We also ate at a pizza joint right on a hill overlooking a beach and sea where we detected several times. I liked this open-air eat with a wonderful view. A very blond Italian lady and her husband ran the place. The thin crust pizza served was very good and if one closed oneís eyes for a moment, and listened to the surf below while taking in the other sounds and smells, then opened them again, one could almost envision being somewhere on the rocky coast of Italy. The fact that they had their TV on an Italian speaking station, helped with that fantasy! For those interested in visiting Antigua I recommend eating chicken and red snapper! Oh, there is a very modern super market with a great deli in Jolly Harbor. Good prices here too! Just about everything one could want or need, including cold Coke!
I must tell about how we were driving a long narrow curvy road up a steep hillside in search of a back road leading to a particular beach, we might have to sneak in because it was in a National Park. As we nearly reached the top of this hill and as we rounded a bend with a view of a harbor way below, I saw something that really amazed me. I simply could not believe what I was seeing, a most jaw-dropping yacht anchored below! It was some sort of sleek sailboat with several huge masts rigged for what looked like square sales. The masts looked like towers and this boat gleamed black from bow to stern! Iíve never seen a yacht that futuristic and it looked like it came from outer space! Few things shock me these days but this boat had immense shock value. It made other very expensive yachts nearby look like toys! Think James Bond movie, then take it up a notch or 3! I doubt Iíll ever get the vision of that yacht out of my mind. Unbelievable! Ron did some research back home and discovered this yacht was called Maltese Falcon. It is 289 feet long! This luxury yacht was built in Turkey and is fully computerized! I understand that the next and improved model is under construction now! This is one amazing yacht and photos of it online do not do it justice! For those interested, just Google Maltese Falcon sailing yacht. FYI, we found that beach in the park but were promptly removed, detectors and all!
Speaking of the future, my new Minelab CTX 3030 looks almost as futuristic as the Falcon! Heck, the CTX sort of looks like a spacecraft. But itís not. Instead the CTX 3030 is a treasure finder for both land and sea! I just love nearly everything about this metal detector I purchased from George of Streeter Electronics. So I brought the 3030 to Antigua as a test to see how it compared to my Minelab Excalibur in the sea. Oh, I had played with and learned the CTX at home and in my test garden, but this would be the first underwater trial. I knew it would not take long for me to discover how well I liked the CTX in the sea, plus an Excalibur is a tough machine to beat! With both apprehension and high expectations, the CTX and I took our first and only plunge at a secret beach in Antigua. Finally after weeks of anticipation I would find out! Much to my delight, everything seemed to work great! The 3030 ran very smooth and hit coin targets very deep! Then as I started getting serious about finding treasure and only after some 15 minutes of use in shallow water, the CTX died without warning. Turns out a gasket was missing, which I should have noticed but didnít, and my CTX leaked saltwater causing instant corrosion beyond simple repair. The CTX was out of commission for the rest of the trip. Thankfully upon his return home, George made a few phone calls and Minelab agreed to fix my CTX and cover the repair under warrantee. So I shipped the CTX to Minelab, and just got it back today in perfect working order, including a new red gasket! Minelabís repair service was first rate! Speedy too! Thank you Minelab! While this was very disappointing to have happen in Antigua, the CTX has a lot of promise as a treasure finder. It ran smooth and hit targets deep! I will continue to practice with my CTX here at home, but can hardly wait to try the 3030 on my next Caribbean adventure with George. I have very high expectations of this machine and hope to find more gold with the CTX than with my Excalibur. That may or may not pan out? While the Excalibur is the best metal detector for use in the sea, I believe the CTX 3030 is a bit more sensitive to gold range targets. The CTX may never replace my Excalibur, but I just love the versatility of the CTX for use from mountains to sea. There is no doubt the CTX is one of the most capable and easy to use detectors available today! Also the CTX 3030 is a great beach machine! You bet Iíll be giving the CTX another go! Nothing beats an Excalibur or CTX 3030 for beach and shallow water treasure hunting- nothing! The Minelab detectors just love the gold! Anyone interested in a new Excalibur or CTX 3030 should give George Streeter of Streeter Electronics a call for great deals and much detecting information. Those becoming customers of George may also be invited along on a Caribbean treasure hunt. Give Streeter a call at (603) - 876-4443 and chat with him! Tell him Seattle Chris sent you!
OK, OKÖ What about the Antiguan gold? The what, where, when and how much of that yellow stuff did we find? Itís time to talk about the loot! Well, gold is where you find it. We detected hard hitting beach after beach and spent most of the daylight hours in the sea, yet scooped little gold to show for our efforts. Yes we found some gold, but the Gold Gods were not smiling much on this trip. The sand was in and targets were deep and perhaps out of range? I wish I could report on a chest of riches, but this was not to be. Thatís the way it is. Sometimes we hit it big and sometimes a bust, and thatís OK because we had a wonderful time. I found 3 pieces of gold jewelry. George scooped gold and also a platinum ring! Martin found the most pieces and is very good with his Excalibur II 1000, as he digs every target he hears and has very good hearing! Ron got some too. So while this trip produced some treasure it was not as much as we hoped for. Perhaps next time Antigua? Despite this I fully enjoyed our adventure. It was just what the doctor ordered for me! We shared good times and together made fond treasure hunting memories. Thanks guys for a wonderful and safe trip. To all reading these words, may the Gold Gods always be with you, Chris. email@example.com