The holidays were over, and it was back to “normal” cruising life in Antigua. We had packages being sent to Antigua from home, and copies of our clearance papers were required, in order to waive the duty. Ezone, the shipping company we used, was located just outside of St. John’s, Antigua’s capital city, so my friend Di and I decided to make a day of it.
Buses in Antigua are similar to Grenada, in the fact that the price is right, and you can get on and off at any time. The amusing conductors are missing, as is the heart-pounding party music, but it’s still a crowded, hot go. Buses don’t travel through the narrow streets of St. John’s. Instead, there is a station on either side of town, and the routes fan out to the east and west from each station (online photo).
Di and I were lucky enough to board an air conditioned bus in Falmouth, for our 45 minute ride to town…yahoo! Once at the west bus station, we made a ten minute walk across town to the east bus station, where we boarded a bus going toward the shipping company. After a ten minute ride, we got off at the nearest intersection, and walked about five minutes down the road to the shipping company.
Got that? A 45 minute ride, in a/c, thank goodness; a ten minute, hot walk; a ten minute, hot ride and a five minute, hot walk, then reveres…now go hug your air conditioned car.
In less than five minutes, we we finished at the shipping company, and asked how long our wait might be to get a bus back into St. John’s. Di and I lucked out again, as the owner of the company was heading into town, and offered us a ride back.
We spent the next few hours wandering the streets of St. John, perusing the many local shops and stores, as well as the duty-free, but still plenty-expensive stores leading to the cruise ship terminal. There were at least two large ships docked in St. John’s at any given time, sometimes as many as four. The streets were still decorated for the holidays (I borrowed another photo).
We poked our heads into St. John’s Cathedral, which is on a high point in town, offering views back down the city streets, and out to the cruise ship docks.
The building was undergoing a major renovation, and Di and I assumed it was due to recent damage from hurricane Irma or Maria. Once inside, we learned that the church had instead been completely devastated by termites. As a result, the entire interior was being redone. The monumental task was almost complete, and a grand reopening was scheduled for March.
After conquering the city, we cooled off with some gelato, and then made our way over to the west station, to board the number 17 bus back to Falmouth Harbour. Buses wait at the station until they are full. Full means that every seat is taken, including the fold-down jump seats, and the third seat up front, between the driver and passenger. Ten minutes after we boarded the bus, it was cattle-car full, and we were off.
Just before we arrived at the station, Di and I both realized that neither one of us had remembered to bring a vhf radio. Di’s husband, Jeff, had dropped us off at the dingy dock, and we now had no way to call either husband for a return ride to our boats. Back at Falmouth Harbour, we walked over to the yacht club, where the office staff was nice enough to let us use their radio. I was able to reach Scott, and a few minutes later, he arrive to fetch us, ending our long, hot, but enjoyable day in town.
With time to kill before our care package arrived, we decided to visit nearby Great Bird Island, located off of Antigua’s north side. Surprisingly, after only two weeks, we raised the anchor to find some thick sea grass had taken root in our anchor chain.
Scott patiently scrubbed the stuff loose, and we left crowded Falmouth Harbor, with Howard already comfortably settled in for the ride.
Traveling up the coast, we passed off of Long Island, where upscale Jumby Bay Resort is located, as well as several massive private homes.
Just past Long Island, we spotted Dboat, an old freighter that now acts as a floating adult-entertainment barge. Dboat offers a bar, with both covered and full-sun seating, a large slide off of the top deck and several trampolines and floats, to pass the time.
We dropped anchor at Great Bird Island, surrounded by several other cruiser and charter boats. Scott noticed an inviting spot off of our starboard side, with only one boat at anchor. After checking the chart, he realized that there were several coral heads surrounding the area, which may have deterred other boats from entering.
Coral heads can definitely be intimidating, but after our time in the Western Caribbean, we are far more comfortable navigating them than most, so when the lone boat left the next morning, we raised anchor and claimed the spot for ourselves. A sizable reef stretched out ahead of us, and off of our bow was an island full of birds. It was peaceful, a nice change from busy Falmouth Harbour and the water was rippled in shades of blue….awesome.
Scott explored his surroundings, and took our friends Ian and Manuela to their own private visit at nearby Stingray City. It saved paying the fee to come by tour boat, and there were no crowds. However, Manuela was a bit freaked out by the idea of being alone, with the many rays brushing against her. She retreated back to the Aluminum Princess after only a few minutes, leaving Ian to enjoy the rays by himself. Scott was just happy for any excuse to take a boat ride.
After a few days at anchor, enjoying brunch on board with friends, fish-watching at night and quiet time in general, we traveled back down the coast. Our packages had arrived, and the forecast called for increased wind, so we headed for Jolly Harbour. It offered protection from the weather, and easy access to shore, and a rental car office just steps from the dinghy dock(and Howard thought it smelled good).
I must have drawn the short stick, and was unlucky enough to drive the rental…on the “wrong” side of the car, on the “wrong” side of the street and on unfamiliar roads (this was Scott’s payback, for doing all the driving when we visited England). For the most part, I did pretty well remembering to keep the yellow line on my right, as opposed to my left, and only turned on the wipers instead of the turn signal (wrong side of the car), a handful of times.
However, the whole day was like a real-time video game. I had to swerve the many potholes that threatened to swallow the car, and Scott was like a broken record, telling me that I was too far to the left. What was most challenging, is that drivers in Antigua seemed seemed to enjoy playing a constant game of chicken, traveling right down the center of the road, and only moving off to their respective side at the last second.
We picked up our boxes at Ezone, and then made a stop at the much larger Epicurean grocery store outside of town, filling three shopping carts full of things we needed, and others we hadn’t seen in months and wanted. After perusing a large home store, and several local hardware stores, the car was stuffed full and we made our way back to Jolly Harbour.
We’d taken a mooring ball for two nights, putting us right off the boat yard. The guard at the gate gave us permission to bring our car in to unload, and we parked at the far end of the yard. After five trips back and forth, with the dinghy at full capacity, the car was empty and the saloon was full. I took the rest of the day to put everything in its place, with help and supervision from Howard, and our big provision was done.
With the “winter winds” firmly in place (I don’t know why they’re referred to as the “Christmas” winds, since they don’t seem to know when the holidays begin, or end), weather wasn’t favorable for travel, and most of the anchorages at nearby islands didn’t provide the protection of our location at Jolly Harbour.
For an escape from the crowded anchorage, we literally went around the corner, to Five Islands Bay. Our only neighbor? A 48 foot Kadey Krogen! Ken and Slyvianne escape Canada each year, and spend their winters aboard Silken Sea. We spent an evening on board their beautiful boat, getting to know them better, and swapping cruising and Krogen stories.
Scott explored one of the nearby islands, stomping around a salt pond and old sugar mill. It was a challenging go, as the paths were lined with tenacious bushes full of long thorns, whose branches were resistant to his efforts with a machete.
After a few days of quiet, and a change of scene, we made our way back to Jolly Harbour. Ken and Slyvianne were trying to make Trinidad for carnival, so after taking on fuel, they chose to take their licks and head further south.
We settled back into life at anchor in Jolly, and waited for better travel weather, as we seem to do so often. Here are more photos.
“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”