Friday 13th January - Chilling in Antigua

Jon & Carol Dutton
Sat 14 Jan 2012 10:55

17:00.83N 61:46.54W


13th January 2012 - Falmouth Harbour Antigua


We left Guadeloupe – more or less as planned - at 0725 on Sunday 8th, heading for English Harbour in Antigua, some 55NM away.  It was a brisk close reach in Force 5-6 and a bit of swell.  We took a reef in the main from the outset and had a thoroughly nice time.  We arrived in English Harbour at around 1600.  Fortunately we’d paid a bit of attention to Doyle’s Cruising Guide and were prepared to drop an anchor out from the bow as we backed in to our stern-to berth.  It was our first crack at this technique and it has to be said that with the quite serious cross-winds here it does take a bit of mastering.  That anchor chain just has to pay out quickly because we’re going back quite quickly.  Because if we’re not, we’ll get blown downwind of the slot.  No bow thrusters or any of that nonsense on this boat.  If it doesn’t pay out quickly enough, the bow gets pinned to windward which means the stern goes smartly to leeward.  Moreover, the anchor must go significantly upwind of the slot and quite some way forward of it.  We let out 60m of chain to get to where we needed to go.  But, of course, if you put your anchor too far to windward you’ll probably drop your chain over the top of the chain of the boat to windward of you.  Which means he can’t get out.  So, lots to think about and try to get right.  We pretty well did get it right but it has to be said that this sort of berthing arrangement has massive potential for producing all sorts of fun and games whenever anyone arrives or leaves. And, you’ll be pleased to hear that it did.  It’s the on-shore entertainment included in the price of your berthing fee.  


English Harbour is a lovely marina.  But it’s pricy.  There are always some very serious looking bits of sea-going stuff tied up there which dwarf a piddling little Swan 46. Although, when I say sea-going, I think I’m really referring to their potential rather than the activity they get up to.  The majority seem to spend an inordinate amount of time tied up and being polished by the permanent crew employed by their owners.  We were tied up anchored in Nelson’s Dockyard which has been very pleasantly restored, some would perhaps say “twee”!  It was a treat to leap ashore (Arnamentia’s transom, does not allow for a gang plank) walk a few steps to have lunch or go to the hairdresser.




                                    St George’s Barracks, Gosport?!!




                                    The Copper & Lumber Store


We had bits and pieces to attend to and spent three days doing just that.  On Thursday 12th we took a bus ride to and from St John’s – the capital of the island.  That was a hoot.  In any of the villages the bus stops seem to be at about 200 yard intervals.  Outside the villages they are more widely spaced but nobody pays any attention to them anyway.  You flag the bus down where you like and tell it to stop whenever you wish.  When we left St John’s on the way back to English Harbour the bus was crammed to capacity – 30 people in a largish minibus.  At every stop there was a bit of a shuffle around as those sitting on the central ‘occasional’ seats (which when folded up created the aisle) had to get up to let those behind out and a few more in.  If you were an ‘occasional’ seat occupant, your principal short term ambition was to become the occupant of a fixed seat.   Ally this thought to the piped reggae music aboard and the woman behind us who clearly fancied herself as something of an overlooked reggae artiste – but not willing to let that persist for much longer – and you get the picture.   


We had a quick buzz around St John’s - the pictures tell the story.  Close to the cruise ship terminal, restaurant prices are predictably nonsensical.  In the centre of town we found a very decent place for lunch with a balcony overlooking the activity below.  Pretty good scoff too.  St John’s isn’t exactly pretty.  It’s a bit shabby in plenty of places but it’s workaday, functional and appears to get on with life with a bit of zest. 



                                                Market Street, St John’s



                                    Storm drain – much needed in Antigua





                        The first president of independent Antigua – Sir Vere Cornwall Bird


Having got back to English Harbour we caught a taxi to Shirley Heights, overlooking English Harbour and Falmouth, to attend the regular Thursday and Sunday BBQ and steel band then reggae party and watch the sun set over Montserrat.  The views are spectacular.  The party was OK but it’s early in the season and Sunday is much the better day to go, apparently, if you want to shoot the breeze with like-minded people. De rom ponch was more than OK.






                           English Harbour from Shirley Heights.  Falmouth in the background




                                    Sunset over Montserrat



Having been in English Harbour for rather longer than we’d intended, we were in danger of contracting harbour rot.  So, around lunchtime on Friday 13th (terrible day to go to sea we know but we planned to keep it short), we motored the very short distance around from English Harbour to Falmouth and anchored.  We nipped ashore to re-stock with a few groceries and pick up yet another courtesy flag (for non-sailors, when in a foreign country you fly a small ensign of that country from your mast spreaders as a courtesy and to indicate that you acknowledge that these are their waters).  You need a locker full of these things out here.  Interesting, incidentally, to see one yacht in English Harbour flying the Anguilla flag rather than the Antigua one.  The skipper (might have been dyslexic) was nowhere to be seen – might be in jail.


Up betimes au matin.  We’re off to St Kitts – sixty something NM.  Plan is to hitch at anchor for the night and press on to St Martin on Sunday.  There we need a man who knows to look at the auxiliary generator, replace the dud oil temperature sensor and give us whatever stuff we need to enable us to repair it in the South Pacific – where, talented though the people may be, they are not noted for mechanical expertise.