In English Harbour- Antigua
Our trip up from Barbados to Antigua was better than we anticipated, the trade winds having more of an easterly component enabling us to sail the entire distance from Barbados on the outside of the windward islands. This would have been impossible for us with north-easterly trades together with the westward going current without wrecking the boat and ourselves. With the seas uninterrupted from 2000 miles across the Atlantic the sailing was rough at times but just about bearable, although frequently the boat would fly off the top of one wave into the air and land just as the next wave hit, making the boat shudder and the entire rig shake like loose washing lines. The wardrobe hanging rail on Phil's side of the forward cabin collapsed leaving the entire contents in a heap at the bottom of the locker to be discovered on our arrival. The fitting holding the rail in place had survived for 19 years since Ajaya was built which perhaps gave an indication of how much punishment the boat took on the reach up to Guadeloupe when we were finally able to bear away for Antigua.
English Harbour, home of Nelson's Dockyard where Nelson was based as a Captain in the late 1700's has been restored to as much of its former glory as possible after it was closed down circa 1815 when it was no longer required by the Admiralty. The Nicholson family sailed into the harbour in their yacht Mollyhawk many years after and commenced restoration work which has continued to this day. It is considered by yachties as one of the most desirable locations in the entire Caribbean, completely sheltered (See Google Earth) being a class one hurricane hole should you decide to risk cruising in that season. We arrived on Good Friday and tried to get fuel and water. Everything was closed of course and we ended up filling 6 jerrycans with water to get us through the weekend before going out to anchor. We were last here in 1995/96 with the Trade Winds Rally and little has changed in that time, except that it now seems busier than ever, with the anchorage full. Classic yacht racing starts this coming week which could explain the overcrowding and there are some of the most beautiful sailing classics in the world here and in Falmouth Harbour next door waiting for the racing to start.
There is much to see, apart from the Dockyard itself - a beautiful beach to walk, a visit to Shirley Heights with fabulous views across English and Falmouth Harbours, Berkeley Point which has views over the entrance to English Harbour and much more. Even sitting on your boat ensures a changing scenery of dinghies coming and going, anchoring mishaps galore, always a favourite pastime with yachtsmen (there but for the grace of god go I - it took us 3 attempts). Our favourite onboard pastime however is to watch the huge Pelicans, looking every part like prehistoric pterodactyls as they glide round the anchorage eyes fixed on the water below. Then suddenly diving 100' down into the water with a huge splash, all wings and beak flapping before heaving themselves airborne again for the next fish. Certainly not the most graceful of birds but for us the most entertaining by far. Yesterday two dolphins decided to inspect the anchored yachts in the harbour and could be seen casually swimming around causing great excitement to everyone watching their antics.
We ourselves could be seen snorkelling around the reef at the entrance to English Harbour yesterday, Nikki, having entered the water first from the dinghy could be heard uttering an exclamation through her snorkel tube as she furiously finned back at some speed having spotted what she thought was a sea snake in the reeds close by. Whether it was or not it had disappeared by the time we had finished snorkelling 30 mins later so we may never know. Yellow with black dots if there are any sea snake experts reading this blog!
View from Shirley Heights
Gardens at the Admirals Inn - Nelson's Dockyard
The hotel in Nelson's Dockyard
The Quay in Nelson's Dockyard
The Quay looking south
Phil looking out from Charlotte Point over the harbour
The beach at Freeman's Bay in English Harbour
Tending the big gun at Berkeley Point
Phil overlooking the harbour with Shirley Heights in the high background
Largest classic yacht taking part in the regatta 2009 - smallest catamaran in attendance!
The small beach and dinghy landing adjacent to the dockyard