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!”