John & Susan Simpson
Tue 8 Mar 2022 17:36
|The island of Antigua has 95 miles of shoreline and 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. In the few weeks we’ve been here we’ve only scratched the surface but we’ve been struck by the contrasts of what Antigua has to offer.
We checked in to Antigua in English Harbour where the Customs office occupies an 18th century building where there’s a feeling of stepping back in time - and not just because the checking in processes are verging on the archaic!! In the early 18th century the British Royal Navy recognised that the Harbour offered protection against hurricanes and that its position at the south of the island was ideal for monitoring French naval activity. The dockyard established there grew in importance as it was the only place in the Eastern Caribbean large enough for British naval ship repairs. From 1784 to 1787 Horatio Nelson served as the captain of HMS Boreas, which was sent to Antigua to enforce British laws in the colonies. When the dockyard was restored in the 1950’s - it is now a national park - it was named Nelson’s Dockyard in honour of the time Nelson spent here. The dockyard buildings have been restored and the result is a mixture of maritime history museum and operational tourist attraction. The dockyard is run as a marina and boats are able to tie alongside the dock where Nelson’s ships would have berthed. A hotel operates in the former Copper and Lumber store, and there are cafes, restaurants and gift shops in some of the other buildings.
A headland separates English Harbour from Falmouth Harbour and both are a magnet for super yachts. Those in English Harbour tend to be of the giant sailing yacht variety, whereas Falmouth Harbour is larger and has more motor yachts. By day the super yachts dominate the skyline and the crews work hard to have the shiniest topsides and the brightest polished chrome. By night the harbour is lit up with thousands upon thousands of lights illuminating the masts and decks. It’s an impressive sight.
Falmouth Harbour Marina and the super yacht docks
There’s been much in the press recently about Russian oligarchs and their status symbol super yachts. Russian-owned vessels have been confiscated in ports in the Mediterranean and the Baltic Sea. We haven’t heard of anything like that happening here, although there was a story this morning that a Russian super yacht refuelled with 40,000 litres of diesel in St Martin, no doubt preparing to flee to somewhere where the boat can’t be seized. It makes for interesting conversation, as we sit at anchor, to watch the super yachts pass by and to Google them to find out more information. How many guests can they take, how many crew, what’s the value of the boat and the cost to charter it for a week?
In the light of current events we were interested to see that one of the vessels, Moonrise, is owned by Jan Koum, the Ukrainian-American businessman who founded WhatsApp. Jan Koum’s story is a real rags to riches tale, from growing up in a small village outside Kyiv to fending for himself and his Mother after they emigrated to the USA when he was 16, and his eventual financial success with the sale of WhatsApp to Facebook for $19bn. He is said to have designed the security aspects of the WhatsApp messaging system in the light of his experiences of covert surveillance as he grew up in Ukraine. Moonrise is a relatively new vessel, having been completed in 2020 with a value of $220M. Moonrise is 100 m in length (Casamara is 17 m) and can accommodate up to 16 guests and 32 crew members. Sitting in the bar in Falmouth yesterday evening we were musing on the life of the super yacht crews and how this has grown up as a career only in the last 10-20 years. It certainly wasn’t on offer as an option when we were having career counselling at University. It’s difficult to say whether we would have taken the opportunity if it had been available then. We weren’t even into sailing at the time!
In contrast to the relative bustle of English and Falmouth Harbours, we have spent many nights in quiet anchorages off picture postcard deserted sandy beaches. Alex, Josh and Xavier flew out from the UK to join us for a week and we enjoyed some great beach time in Falmouth and Jolly Harbours. Nothing seems to please a 2 year old more than sand and water play!
Xavier in full beach play mode
After our family had gone home we also had a fabulous few days anchored behind Green Island on Antigua’s northern coast. A reef separates the bay between Green Island and the mainland to create a huge area of water that is both windy and flat. We had been tipped off that it was the place to go for kiteboarding and wing foiling, and so it proved to be. We tucked Casamara into a relatively sheltered spot just behind Green Island and from there John had the time of his life.
Our anchorage on Green Island and our ‘sundowners’ beach where we met new friends from the anchorage.
Snorkelling to see coral and tropical fish. We saw a turtle surface but nothing seen under water this time
John preparing to launch from the sidedeck.
And returning….how cool is that!!