12 March - Jolly Harbour and back to Blighty

Escapade of Rame
Richard & Julie Farrington
Sun 17 Mar 2019 22:16

On 22 February, we moved a few miles east to anchor between Rabbit and Red Head islands.  There are some mooring buoys to the north, off Great Bird island, but we liked the seclusion of our chosen spot.  We motored from Jumbly Bay, partly because the fresh easterly wind was on the nose, but also because the chart showed an interesting rash of coral reefs, the pilot book talked about the need to eyeball the navigation and the weather wasn’t ideal for spotting those nasty shallow bits.  In the event, it was surprisingly easy to see the dangerous shoals and coral heads and, as is so often the case, the reality of the ground revealed more useable water than the references implied.  Still, with just a week of our adventure to go, now was not the time to run aground – so the flexibility of Perkins power won out over the joy of sailing a sailing boat!


Escapade anchored in North Sound, Antigua


We anchored in about 4m of beautifully clear water on a sandy bottom with some turtle grass scattered around.  Mr Doyle’s book promised great snorkelling, but we saw very little to compare with the BVIs or Guadeloupe and I opted out of the exploratory element and went to look at how my keel repairs were holding up after a month at sea.  Good news on that front: no signs of movement at all in any of the work we did at Nanny Cay.


Our trusty rubber boat beached at Great Bird Island, North Sound, Antigua


In between surges of activity to prepare for the flights home – digging out travel bags, finding some winter clothing, deciding what to leave onboard, starting the ‘deep clean’… we visited Great Bird Island.  It’s beautiful: two very fine sandy beaches fringed with mangroves and palms and sheltered from the prevailing winds, nobody about (except when the tourist boats turn up for lunch) and a small colony of red-billed tropicbirds who were nesting on the cliffs.   They were enjoying themselves in the fresh easterly breeze, doing a spot of fishing to support a couple of young chicks or simply performing aerobatics and flypasts for my benefit (or so it seemed!).  We went up there twice to see them: it was very difficult to photograph them using a mobile phone or the ‘boat camera’ (a waterproof Panasonic device with a big screen but no viewfinder) so on our second visit I took my trusty Olympus OM-D and a zoom lens.  I don’t really know what I’m doing with seabird photography – whether to try to include background and context or just capture the bird in flight – so I’m experimenting with a few options.  To be honest, just getting a shot in focus is a bit of a win at the moment!  Julie went snorkelling again, but found little to entice me away from the task of cleaning off baby barnacles before we leave the boat in the Jolly Harbour Barnacle Soup for a month…



The red-billed tropicbird, with his amazing tail…


On Sunday we moved westwards and around the corner into Five Island Bay. We slid downwind through the reefs under genoa only, making over seven knots without really trying. We had done some racing here a couple of weeks earlier and thought the bay looked promising.  There were a cluster of boats anchored on the south side in Hermitage Bay near a posh hotel, but the more attractive beach is on the north side, inside Fullerton Point and inshore of Maiden Island, so we stopped there for lunch and some routine maintenance.   The views are lovely and the beach is perfect for an afternoon walk, but there was a bit of a whiff from the household recycling plant further into the bay underneath Boggy Peak.  Perhaps that was why there were more boats in Hermitage Bay?


We had a busy few days planned, so later that afternoon we weighed anchor (pulling up some really gloopy mud and somebody’s old clothes in the process) and then spent our last hour under sail together on this part of our two year Atlantic Adventure as we sailed around Pearns Point and came to anchor off the southern side of the entrance to Jolly Harbour.  Our good friends Andrew and Kate in Wildside, Paul and Babs in Lyra Magna and Des and Chris in Cloud 9 of Kingwear were there or inside the marina, so we enjoyed a riotous last few days trying to lighten Escapade’s alcohol stocks and emptying the fridges.  Wildside were supposed to have departed for Panama a week earlier, but the weather systems in the central Caribbean were quite unfriendly and they were considering other options.  Paul, aboard Lyra Magna, was fitting a new set of floorboards below decks and in the way of all things marine, the project was over-running.       


Part of the Jolly Harbour complex


We took ourselves out to lunch at Sheer Rocks, on the beach just south of Jolly Harbour, where they have good tapas for lunch and a world-beating view of the bay.  I think that lunch out in the Caribbean can be a much better bet than dinner, if only because you get to enjoy the view (unless, like our American cousins, you prefer to eat at 5pm… I’m sorry but I think that eating at that time is ‘high tea’, not ‘haute cuisine’, don’t you?).


Lunch at Sheer Rocks


Jolly Harbour is a good location for sailing stuff.  They have a well equipped boatyard, a reasonable chandlery, some good engineers (apparently), one of the better supermarkets on the island (Waitrose soups at £10 a pop, awful tomatoes…), some nice restaurants and cafes and a well-maintained marina.  It reminds us a bit of Port Solent.  Whilst we were there, we ran into Brad and Ewa who we met in Three Mile Harbor on Long Island last summer. Escapade had an AIS problem at the time and they had a newly-acquired J42 with a working AIS system but some ‘human interface’ unknowns.  We got on well back then and solved some boat problems, so it was a delight to get a call as they passed through JH on holiday and have the chance to talk about our Great Adventure to somebody planning to do the same.  I have a feeling we’ll be dining off these two years for a while!


The biggest challenge of the last few days was getting the laundry done.  Echoes of ‘Leixoes Laundry Blues’; here though, the problem was the water supply.  Antigua relies on a series of desalination plants, but the one closest to Jolly Harbour is not always working.  Stories vary: apparently the suction pipe is too close to the shore and suffers from silting in poor weather; or else the storage tank has a crack in it; or perhaps the pipes are leaking?  The locals blame the government for everything…  When we were here a year ago we came into Jolly Harbour Marina to clean the boat after several weeks at sea and were told that there wasn’t any water at all, so we left.  A year on, they have installed some tanks to provide some backup for the unreliable desalinator, but demand outstrips supply, the water is an unappetising colour and the laundry takes three days.  We got it back on the morning we flew out, so at least we didn’t have to ask Cloud 9 to collect it for us!


Wildside escaped to Guadeloupe, then on to Bonaire in the Dutch Antilles and west to Colombia and the Canal.  Lyra Magna finally got away on Tuesday, bound for St Martin and eventually Nova Scotia.  We went alongside in the marina for the night to wash the boat, do some admin and have dinner with Cloud 9 before relocating to a dock around the corner.  It was an odd feeling lowering the ensign and walking ashore in long trousers, heading for the airport on Wednesday lunchtime.  We had a last Roti for lunch (Caribbean ‘fast food’ equivalent of a Cornish Pasty) and climbed into a taxi.



Flying home (tropicbird style)


We woke up in Manchester.  It was grey and damp, but the travel arrangements went like clockwork and we were soon heading south to Julie’s sister Susan near Reading.  They made us really welcome and we spent a couple of days looking at beds and things, heading into London to see our younger daughter Lizzie, then down to Gosport to check on our house and on up to Scotland to see Granny and Julie’s younger sister Meriel and her family.


I headed south a day early to find a car (we have now bought into the Land Rover owners world) and take over our house in Gosport from the tenants.  I finally walked in the door on Saturday 9 March to team up with the cleaners and try to get ready for Julie’s return.  Her flight was delayed, but it didn’t matter and we spent a couple of days with our close friends Nick and Beverly Lambert whilst we got the house ready for the arrival of the furniture on Tuesday 12th.


It seems slightly strange being ‘home’ after two such momentous years on the Ocean Wave.  Lots of people ask us how it feels… I think we always knew that we would only be away for two years this time, so in a way bringing things to a close wasn’t as hard as it might have been had we had an unexpected change of plan.  We have had the best of adventures together.  We have met some truly wonderful people everywhere we’ve gone.  Whether rich or poor, the people we have met have been generous, friendly, curious, vibrant and incredibly life-affirming.  We all have Governments to complain about, health and money to worry about, issues that hold us back, but Julie and I have found that a hugely positive ‘vibe’ transcends all of that and if you just show a little bit of interest, trust, humour and respect, everyone you meet reciprocates tenfold.  How brilliant.


And we’ve seen some wonderful places.  This is a magnificent world, despite our best attempts to concrete it over or pollute it to death.  The natural world is magical, the geography inspiring and where Man has made his mark, on the whole he has made a pretty good job of it.  Not every city is a UNESCO World heritage site, but I found myself wondering surprisingly frequently ‘I think I could live here’…


What next?  We’re back in the house and meeting our friends.  Most of the boxes are unpacked and the immediate ‘repairs’ are complete, allowing a more leisurely redecoration to take place over the coming months.  Julie returns to work shortly and I will fly back to Antigua at the end of March, aiming to bring Escapade home to Gosport in mid-May, two years almost to the day since we sailed away on this Great Atlantic Adventure.


So the blog will have a couple of weeks off and then return to your breakfast table in April, when we set out for the Azores and then on home…   


Where next?