Waiting Out Winter Winds In Antigua

In mid January, the wind and swells were still high, making travel both north and south challenging. Some chose to slog on, but many boats at anchor in Jolly Harbour, us included, stayed put to wait it out. We passed time putting around in the dingy, up and down the many nearby canals and through the marina. Behind one of the many houses, Scott noticed a speed boat on a lift, with four motors hanging off the back; I was told to take several photos.

But what really caught Scott’s attention was this distant relative to the Aluminum Princess (or Aluminum Bruce, or Sharky or whatever we’re calling her these days). Needless to say, he was intrigued.

We spent time with friends on the beaches that lined Jolly Harbour. Allen and Francine’s dog, Mizzen, loved to feel the sand between her toes…and on her legs, chest and face as well.

On my visit to St. John’s, I noticed a Burger King just a block from the west bus station, so Scott and I headed to town for a fix. When we arrived, the fish market next to the bus station was open, with people at work cleaning and filleting piles of fresh-caught fish.

As we got closer, it became clear that most of the fish were in fact reef fish, which aren’t supposed to be caught or eaten, and many were very small.  The sight really upset Scott. He said it explained why he’d seen so few fish when snorkeling in the surrounding waters; the locals seemed to be catching anything and everything.

The upsetting fish market sight did not lessen Scott’s fast food craving, so we continued on to Burger King. Sadly, it was not nearly as good as our Cartagena McDonald’s experience, but it did the job.

Back at anchor, our friends Ian and Manuela, and Allen and Francine were preparing to visit nearby Montserrat.  We enjoyed a fun evening with them aboard Sea Life, and they set off the next morning.

Scott and I decided to be a bit less adventurous, and traveled a short distance up the coast to spend a few days in nearby Deep Bay. There were several boats at anchor when we arrived, but overall, the area was quiet, with views of an old fort, and the massive houses we’d become used to seeing on the hills of an Antigua.

We spent the evening in the cockpit, looking at stars, and watching cruise ships pass by, disappearing and reappearing behind rock islands at the far end of the bay.

The next morning, we went ashore to explore the fort.

From atop the hill, we had good views of the anchorage below, and the deserted resort at the far end of the beach. We could also see over to the cruise ships docked at the harbour in St. John’s.

As we wandered the grounds, looking down at the anchorage below, we realized that the boats at anchor near us had left….and we now had the bay to ourselves! After snapping a few more photos, we raced back down the hill, made a mad dash back to the boat and came back ready for some beach time. A couple had arrived by car, but there was more than enough room for us to share the long stretch of beach. We sat back and enjoyed the view of Sea Life at anchor alone in the bay….with not another boat in sight.

Except….for our friends, Alan and Francine, who we again spotted on the horizon, making their way back to Jolly Harbour.

With winds predicted to strengthen, it was time for us to head back as well. On the way, we decided to stop at Five Islands Bay for a night or two. It was right around the corner from Jolly, so getting back would be quick and easy, and it was protected and quiet. Unfortunately, the nearby landfill had set fire to some old tires, and when the wind shifted, a terrible smell filled the boat. The odor and smoke haze was so bad, we had to close up the entire boat. Not enjoyable for us at all, but even worse for the poor folks who lived in houses right next to the landfill. After two days of misery, we admitted defeat, and went back to Jolly.

In trying to find new things to fill our time, I’d read about a nearby restaurant with a 2-4-1 lobster deal, so we met Allen and Francine at the dinghy dock and walked over. The Big Head Lobster Reggae Bar was part of several restaurants built close together, in a small, village-like setting (I was disappointed we hadn’t found this place sooner). As usual, we had the place to ourselves, not being on island dinner time, which is closer to 8pm than 6pm. The price wasn’t quite as 2-4-1, as advertised, but the lobsters were tasty, and we had fun.

Several day later, the four of us rode the bus to St. John’s, and walked just a few blocks to In The Backyard Bar & Grill. Located on a residential street, the bar/restaurant is run out of a lot adjacent to the owner’s home, where he was born and raised.

We settled at a table, and enjoyed some snacks and drinks. John, the owner, came over to welcome us, and when he heard that we were cruisers, he waived over another John. This John, a Canadian, had spent the last ten winters in Antigua on his boat. He had relatives on the island, and recently purchased a house in Jolly Harbour. After chatting with several more regulars, we left feeling like locals.

The wind and swell were finally predicted to ease a bit, but traveling to the northern islands on our list would still be pretty lumpy. While waiting for weather to calm further for that direction, we decided to turn south, and visit Iles des Saintes, off of Guadeloupe, and then Dominica. After two months, our time in Antigua was over. We said goodbye to Allen and Francine, who would wait in Jolly Harbour for calmer seas, before continuing on their journey back to New England, and turned Sea Life south. Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Barbuda

The low-lying island of Barbuda, with its highest point only 125 feet above sea level, is surrounded by miles of shallow, turquoise water, dotted with coral reefs. Miles of pink sand beaches frame the island, and it is home to the largest colony of frigatebirds in the Eastern Caribbean (surpassing any in the Galapagos).

The island was devastated by Hurricane Irma in September, and all of its residents were evacuated to Antigua. They began to return after the new year, and cruisers soon followed. In late January, there was a short lull in the wind, making travel north favorable for us to continue on to Anguilla or St. Barths. However, cruisers who had recently visited Barbuda reported that the water and coral were in great shape, and the birds were returning. The upcoming weather window would give us enough time to comfortably travel to the island, stay a few days and return to the protection of Jolly Harbour in time for the next blow. We felt that if we missed the chance to visit the island, we’d regret it, so we set our sights on Barbuda.

Although it is over half the size of Antigua, only 2,000 local residents live on Barbuda, in and around Codrington, the island’s only village. The Barbudan people were originally slaves for the Codrington family, who leased the island from England…wait for it…for one, fat sheep. The family used the island as a hunting ground, and also grew livestock and root vegetables for their estates on nearby Antigua.

The Barbudan slaves were not closely supervised, and worked together to hunt, fish and grow their food. Once emancipated, they stayed on the island, and continued to live cooperatively. Land on Barbuda is held communally, and this has been key to the residents keeping control over their own island. Since there is no individual ownership, land can not be sold to outsiders.

Barbuda reluctantly agreed to join Antigua, when the two islands became independent from England in 1981. Since then, there have been numerous attempts to develop the island, which has been met with strong resistance from the local residents. Case in point, the Antiguan government allowed a huge hotel project to begin on the island, and mobile offices were erected, in preparation for construction to begin. Wanting to keep the land in question as a park, the Barbudan people gathered at the site, and pushed the offices over a cliff; the land remains a park.

The island survives, in part, by selling sand, but continues to struggle against those who would love to get their hand’s on its beachfront real estate. After forcing its residents to evacuate after Hurricane Irma, Antigua again tried to allow hotel development on the island. At the final hour, the Barbudans won their latest fight, and the island remains under community land ownership. Power to the people!

We left Jolly Harbour for an eight hour run to an anchorage on the west side of Barbuda. Just off of St. John’s Harbour, a Disney cruise ship intersected our path, not seeming to care that we had the right of way.

Scott hailed the mouse-ship on the radio, asking if they intended to give way. The response, “We’re in a hurry to get into St. John’s.” Translation: “I’m bigger than you, and I’ll do what I want.” Much as Scott wanted to play chicken with the floating theme park, we slowed our speed, and waited until Donald Duck had cleared our path.

As Barbuda came into view, we could see Irma had left her calling card along the island’s shoreline.

 

We anchored off of the eleven mile beach, on the island’s west side. Hurricane Irma had blown a cut through it, shrinking it’s former, continuous length. Once anchored, we took the dingy ashore for happy hour. Our friends on s/v Mr. X, and s/v Christine had come to Barbuda as well, and were anchored near us.

The next morning, we went exploring. Since the island had very little development, mostly centered around Codrington, there wasn’t visual, shocking damage along our stretch of coastline. Trees and shrubs were still stripped bare in places, from their salt-water wind pounding, but in many places, green growth was coming back nicely.

 

As we stepped off of the dinghy, our feet sunk down several inches into soft, pillow-like sand. We assumed that the hurricane winds had blown much more of it up onto the beach, making the level higher than normal. Along the water’s edge were piles of small, bright pink shells. Obviously, over time, they break down and become the pink sand that normally colors Barbuda’s beaches.

 

The mass of shells still provided a beautiful hue along the coastline, and the vibrant pink was easily visible as we approached the beach, and up close as we walked the shore.

We were anchored off of a very narrow strip of land, framed by the Caribbean on one side, and a salt pond on the other.

At the far end of the pond, we caught site of the many, many frigatebirds that live on the island. Countless birds flew in the air, and the mangroves below were full of black dots from the frigates nesting in their branches.

Although we didn’t take a tour, to get closer these birds, here’s a bit of info. on them, as well as a few online photos:

Frigatebirds have a greater wing span to body weight ratio than any other bird. This makes them top heavy, and their small feet and short legs makes it nearly impossible for them to walk on land. They are also unable to take off if submerged in water, and immediately struggle (I read that a Barbudan local once saw a frigatebird fall into the water, and two others came immediately, one on each side, to lift it back into the air).

Image result for frigatebirds

Image result for frigatebirds on barbuda

Frigates scoop food from the surface, and are masters at waiting for other birds to catch a meal, and then harassing them until they drop their catch.

Image result for frigatebirds

They return to their nesting sites each year, and during mating season, males inflate their red throat sac like a balloon and clatter their bills, waving their heads back and forth, calling at females flying overhead (doesn’t sound like they play hard to get).

Image result for frigatebirds

Related image

Our friends, Blue and Perry, had vacationed on Barbuda the previous winter, and asked us to put eyes on the resort where they’d stayed if we were nearby. The Barbuda Belle location wasn’t too far, but water’s off shore were too shallow for us to anchor close to it, so we set off in the inflatable dinghy.

Despite the hurricane damage, the island was still very scenic. We stopped several times along the way, to wander the beach and admire the clear, turquoise water.

 

At the final point before Barbuda Belle, a lone palm tree had survived Irma’s devastating winds.

After 90 minutes, Barbuda Belle came into view. The resort had taken quite a beating, but we could see that reconstruction had already begun.

Before:

After:

After thorough documentation, we made the journey back to Sea Life. Our friends had relocated further south, and we now had the entire area to ourselves. The only sign of life we could see, was a dot on the horizon; a catamaran anchored miles away. Bliss.

We spent the rest of the day, and that evening, enjoying the solitude, and raised anchor the next morning to head for Antigua. As usual, Howard slept through much of the passage. I got some writing done, while hiding from the brisk wind coming in through the open pilothouse door.

We settled back into Jolly Harbour, and prepared to wait out the next batch of relentless, winter wind. Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Princess Bruce

During our days anchored near Great Bird Island, Scott again found himself with a drink in hand and time to kill. Settled up on the flybridge, he surveyed his surroundings, and as is usual in this situation, the wheels began to turn. Before long he was back inside the boat, rummaging in the storage compartments under our master berth.

Me: “What are you doing?!?” (in response to the rummaging)

Scott: “I have an idea.” (more rummaging)

Me: “Good Lord…what is it?” (imagining the many possible outcomes from this current idea)

Scott: “Just wait.”

He passed by me in the saloon, carrying several spray paint cans, and headed back up to the flybridge. I still had no idea what he was up to, and hoped it was not cause for concern….or, a marital “conversation.”

As we traveled the Western Caribbean, there was much round and round about Scott’s idea to spray-paint rust stains down either side of Sea Life, in hopes of making her less appealing to possible theft or attack. I’d stood firm against this “creative” idea. Although I appreciated Scott’s thought for our safety, I felt that marinas, and most future cruising friends would find us equally less appealing.

I went back to whatever I was doing, and before long Scott reappeared, asking me to come see what he’d done. His huge smile had me a bit apprehensive, as I followed him up to the flybride. At the top of the ladder, I followed his proud gaze…over to the Aluminum Princess, who undergone yet another transformation. This latest look was quite different from her past structural changes:

I actually felt a bit of pity for the poor boat. It was as if a younger sibling, not old enough to protest, or too enamored, had allowed their older sibling to cut their hair…or maybe dye it in this case.

Scott was pleased as punch with himself, and his boat’s new appearance; the result of spontaneous, artistic genius. I was informed that we would be lowering her into the water to debut the new look. Once she was floating, I was to ready the camera for in-water video footage, and a photo shoot.

As the boat sped back and forth around the mother ship, I snapped photos.

Here’s a short video, capturing the Aluminum Princess in action, and the big grin on Scott’s face:

We’re conflicted about to what to call her now, as those teeth aren’t very “princess-like.” She is often referred to as Sharky, and our friend Rob named her Bruce, after the shark in the movie, Finding Nemo.

Whatever the name, Sea Life now gets even more attention as we travel (I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing). When people in dinghys and on boats slow to point, and snap photos as they pass by, Scott will exclaim, “Why does everyone stare at my boat?!?” “I can’t imagine,” I reply, “Maybe because we have the only boat in the anchorage without a sail, that has long poles coming out from either side…and an aluminum pilothouse boat up on the flybridge…with shark teeth clearly visible on it!”

I think Scott secretly loves the attention, and is proud of his “Princess,” who now has a face only a father could love.

 

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

A Visit To Antigua’s Capital City, And Nearby Great Bird Island

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!”

Celebrating The Holidays On Antigua

We had come to spend the holidays on Antigua for one reason, Nelson’s Dockyard’s annual Christmas Day champagne party . Our friends Jeff and Di first told us about the event, while we were all still in Grenada. Champagne, sunshine and cruising friends?!? I was immediately sold.

Shortly after we settled into Falmouth Harbour, Howard went into the water…possibly an attempt at a holiday bath? At our latest count, he’d been in the water six times, in four countries.

Scott trimmed Sea Life in her holiday finest, we snapped a Christmas photo and were ready for the holidays to begin.

On Christmas Day, we walked over to the Nelson’s Dockyard to meet our friends. A crowd of people were already gathering in the midday sun when we arrived.

Under a huge tent, a large, old wooden dinghy was filled with champagne bottles on ice. The process was simple: buy a bottle, and grab some cups for sharing. Prices ranged from $15.00 usd, up to $95.00 a bottle, with proceeds going toward the fight against breast cancer.

I’d brought along two insulated drink thermoses, with a splash of mango juice in each one. I divided my champagne between the two, and voila!…chilled mimosas ready to go! Scott, not being a champagne drinker, had come armed with his own thermoses, filled with vodka and Orangina; let the merriment begin!

As we walked the grounds, I snapped some photos of some people in their holiday garb.

An odd-looking boat was on display, outside one of the buildings. We went for a closer look, and learned that James “Tiny” Little had used it to row 3,000 miles from the Canary Islands to Antigua, in 2005.

Little left the Canaries in January, and arrived on Antigua four months later…looking much lighter. Notice his interesting, daily schedule.

We spent the day in the company of good friends, enjoying the champagne, sunshine….and silliness.

Di and I posed for a photos with one of the many Santas in attendance. This particular Santa was sitting by a case of Heineken beer; it must have been a stressful Christmas Eve.

Our friend Ian was a dancing machine, performing a one-man show as the band played nearby.

Eventually, he took his moves closer to the band, dancing with several partners.

And he still had energy left to take his wife, Manuela, for a twirl as well.

It was a great Christmas Day.

Next up, New Year’s Eve., and our friend Karen (our official cruising visitor), flew in to celebrate with us. As we prepared her room, Howard firmly claimed the pull-down bunk. We thought she wouldn’t mind sharing with him, and officially made them roommates.

Steady rain poured the entire morning of Karen’s arrival, so I sent Scott to the dinghy dock armed with a raincoat for her, and trash bags for her luggage. Thankfully, by the time Scott picked her up at the dock, the rain had stopped.

We spent the first part of our evening up at Shirley Heights. A reggae band played, the crowd was festive, and the view was beautiful.

Karen broke her flip flop on the historical site’s uneven surface, but not to fear…”MacGyver” got right to work with his knife and some cocktail straws. In no time…presto!, she was back in business.

As the night grew later, we left Shirley Heights, and made our way back down the hill to Nelson’s Dockyard, where a large crowd was gathering for the countdown to midnight, and continued our celebration.

As a DJ played music for the crowd, Ian shared some dance move tips with Scott, who caught on pretty well.

Before we knew it, midnight arrived, and 2018 was ushered in with cheers and a colorful fireworks display.

Our journey back to Sea Life was full of acrobatics. Scott fell on the uneven sidewalk, and rolled his way into some nearby grass, and shockingly came up unscathed. I fell soon after, but did not roll, and instead came up with one of my toes bent sideways. A friendly local gave me a  hand off the ground, asking….”Do you people need help?”

We arrived at the dock, where Karen promptly fell into the dinghy. After managing to all acrobats seated, and the motor started, we sped off and ran over a bouy. As he cut away the tangled mass of line from the prop, Scott barked at Karen and me to row. Eventually, we made it back to Sea Life without further issue, and safely climbed aboard. Maybe a bit too much celebrating.

On New Year’s Day, Karen and I spent the afternoon at Boom, a nearby restaurant with a pool on site. We walked the drive leading up to the property, past colorful tropical plants and flowers, and settled into a poolside daybed.

We enjoyed lunch, drinks and some pool time, before making our way back to Scott, who’d spent the day napping.

On Karen’s final day, she and I walked the street leading to Nelson’s Dockyard, chatting with locals and perusing shops as we went.

When we were all shopped out, the two of us made our way out of the dockyard, but not before getting a final glimpse of Boom across the water, while trying not to disturb one of the resident iguanas.

We took a short cab ride to nearby Papa’s for some lunch, before she left for the airport. Scott arrived at the waterfront restaurant by dinghy, with Karen’s bags in tow.

We enjoyed a relaxing lunch, said goodbye to our friend and put her into a cab, bound for the airport.

It had been a wonderful Antigua holiday, as we spent time with cruising friends, and our good friend from home. We wonder what 2018 has in store for the crew of Sea Life?? Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

On to Antigua

From Deshaies, it was just a short day’s ride to Antigua, where we would celebrate Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Scott caught a mahi along the way, but it broke free just as he was preparing to scoop it into the cockpit…skunked again.

He reset the lines, and went back to..ahem…”fishing.”

We planned to anchor in Falmouth Harbour for the holidays, but first headed for Jolly Harbour, further north. Falmouth is part of a national park, and boats are charged daily anchoring fees, in addition to clearance fees, when checking in. Clearing in at Jolly Harbour would save us the anchoring fees, and there was also a large grocery store across the street from the dinghy dock. Our plan was to clear in, hit the grocery store and then immediately continue on to Falmouth Harbour. The winds were predicted to increase in the next day or so, and we wanted to be in place when they did.

Scott had used Sea Clear, an online service offered in many of the Eastern Caribbean islands, that allowed him to fill out our clearance paperwork ahead of time. In most islands we’ve visited, officials are quite happy with this system, as it saves time, and avoids having to decipher handwritten forms. As has happened several times before, Scott was waived to the front of the line, past cruisers who hadn’t pre-cleared. Howard wasn’t an issue for the officials, and Scott soon returned to the boat.

Next up…groceries. On our way across the street to the store, we said hello to the many cats who have made a home in the large, abandoned casino building along the waterfront. They came in all colors, and had usually slanted eyes.

Most were pretty timid, except this guy, who took a liking to Scott.

The Epicurean grocery store at Jolly Harbour was large, stocked with good produce and had many familiar items. Behind it was a home store, run by the same company.. one stop shopping.

The bag boys were happy to help wheel our many bags, bottles and cases across the street and onto the dinghy dock, a service that was well worth the tip.

With a full dinghy, we headed back through the marina, and were reminded that Christmas was just around the corner.

Back at the boat, we unloaded our provisions, raised anchor and left Jolly Harbour to head for Falmouth.

Along the way, we passed some large houses on the cliffs above the shoreline. You could definitely smell the money on this island.

Just two hours later, we made the turn into Falmouth Harbour, and were smacked in the face by a mass of fiberglass and stainless.

The marina was at the back of the harbour, but the huge wall of yachts was visible clear across the large bay.

Scott was trying to focus on navigating, while eyeballing the unusual boats at anchor, as we made our way further into the harbour.

I snapped photos as we traveled closer to the mass of behemoths. My head was on a swivel, as I shouted to Scott, “Good Lord, look at that!”

And, s@#t!, do you see that one?!?” It was so much to take in, that I completely missed our friends, Jeff and Di, waving to us as we went by them.

Howard was intrigued as well.

In the 1700s, it was hard to find secure ports that were easily defensible, with immediate access to the trade winds. Falmouth and nearby English Harbour, side by side and almost touching at the closest point, met all these requirements.

In the early eighteenth century, the British Royal Navy recognized the strategic importance of English Harbour for protecting ships from hurricanes, and its position at the south of the island for monitoring French naval activity. Throughout the century, the dockyard grew in importance, as it was the only harbour in the Eastern Caribbean large enough for safe, naval ship repairs.

From 1784 through 1787, Horatio Nelson, was sent to Antigua to enforce British laws in the colonies (Considered a British hero, he was noted for his inspirational leadership, superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics, which together resulted in a number of decisive British naval victories). During his time on the island, work was begun on the English Harbour Dockyard, and was completed, looking much as it does today, by 1789.

The Dockyard was abandoned by the Royal Navy in 1889, and by 1947, it was in ruins. A massive restoration began in 1949, and the area was turned into a beautiful, but functional monument. When complete, the area was renamed Nelson’s Dockyard in honor of the years Nelson spent in Antigua, and in 2016, it was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. I found this small photo online, that offers a good overview of the property.

Today, the restored buildings in Nelson’s Dockyard house hotels, restaurants and businesses, and both harbours are part of Antigua’s National Parks Authority.

 

 

Not only is it Antigua’s yachting capital, but English Harbour is also a major Caribbean yachting center and destination.

 

The harbours attract hundreds of cruising yachts each year. English Harbour is more scenic, but small, with less room for boats at anchor, and has become the Caribbean’s main base for beautiful, sailing superyachts. Falmouth Harbour is considerably larger, surrounded by hills and offers more facilities than English Harbour. Because of this, it’s favored by most charter yachts, superyachts and larger cruising yachts. With more room to anchor, an easy ride to shore and many conveniences within easy walking distance, we chose to anchor in Falmouth as well (located at the top of this online photo).

There were three grocery stores not far from the dinghy dock, as well as several restaurants on the marina grounds. The short stretch of road between Falmouth and English harbour was lined with many more restaurants and shops.

 

High up on a hill above Nelson’s Dockyard, Shirley Heights is a restored military lookout and gun battery. The military complex, within a short distance of the Dockyard, is not named after the fairer sex, but after Sir Thomas Shirley, Governor of the Leeward Islands, who strengthened Antigua’s defenses in 1781. At approximately 490 feet, it offers amazing views of English and Falmouth Harbours below. The buildings on site have been adapted to function as a restaurant and bar, and it hosts a famous, Sunday evening sunset party each week.

We hopped in a taxi with our friend, David Smylie, and headed up the hill for drinks and sunset views, arriving to music in the air, and a crowd full of people.

We wandered over to the nearby picnic grounds, which allowed more open views of the harbours below.

As the  sun set, English Harbour and Falmouth Harbours lit up below us. We looked forward to spending the upcoming holidays in this historic and beautiful place.

Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”