4th March - 13th March
We arrived into Jolly Harbour in Antigua shortly after dark on the 3rd March after a long, lively and hot sail from Deshaies. We covered 40nm in just under 8 hours with winds between approx.15 and 22kts and a rather large swell which made it a bouncy trip but we were excited to be out in the open Atlantic again and very excited to be bouncing our way to Antigua.
The anchorage at Jolly Harbour was very busy and we spent some time picking a suitable spot and getting the anchor set by torch light which attracted some absolutely enormous fish to cruise up to us and see what we were up to. Their size and the sinister way they moved made them appear very shark-like which you might argue was the result of an over-active imagination but we saw them several times in the inner harbour here at Jolly over the next few weeks and they really do look like small sharks the way they circle around with their fins just above the water!
Once we finally got ourselves set it was time for dinner and we ran our yellow "Q" flag up alongside my homemade Antiguan courtesy flag (the first of the three I have made that has actually been used - it seems my handmaking courtesy flags jinxed us actually visiting the Cape Verdes or Barbados!) Clearing in would have to wait until the customs dock opened the following day.
The next day we lifted our anchor and motored in through the main channel to Jolly and took a berth on the customs dock alongside our fellow yachties that we'd met in the queue for the pharmacy at Deshaies! We completed the health check formalities and then presented all our paperwork to the customs official who asked if we had any animals on-board. We had done much research in advance to make sure we had the correct paperwork for Meep and had all of the relevant stamps and certificates that he needed to clear in. We never managed to obtain the "import permit" that we'd read about but having submitted all of the documents for scrutiny in advance we never knew if that had been issued for us already. At this stage the customs official called out the vet who arrived within the hour and checked Meeps documents and gave him a little look over. We paid her $50USD and she stamped our papers to clear Meep in and we were all set to enjoy our stay in Antigua!
Whilst waiting for our paperwork to be completed we got chatting to a couple from a neighbouring boat who were very friendly. Later when we returned to re-set in the anchorage another neighbour called over and it turned out they were also visiting with a cat on-board and we had already chatted with them on one of the sailing with pets Facebook groups when I had been canvassing people's experiences of arriving with a cat. We joined them for a drink and a chat and these turned out to be the first of many friendships we formed in our time in Antigua.
We spent the next couple of days exploring Jolly Harbour and making arrangements for the upcoming week of test cricket that we planned to watch at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in the north of the island. Originally we had intended to sail north and set ourselves in an anchorage within walking distance of the stadium but a chance encounter changed our minds. We were on our way to check out the big "Epicurean" supermarket and see what treats Antigua had in her aisles when we got chatting to a couple of guys in "Barmy Army" t shirts coming out of the store. We were asking where abouts the barmy army had based themselves for the tour and it turned out these 2 guys ran the merchandise and social media operations. They were fascinated by the story that we had sailed all the way across the Atlantic for Jamie to celebrate his 40th birthday watching England play Cricket in the West Indies and posted our trip on their Facebook and Instagram pages. It transpired most of them were staying in or around Jolly Harbour and had set up their official HQ at a bar in the harbour so we decided we would stay in this area and we were adopted by the Barmy Army as honorary members - albeit most deemed sailing thousands of miles for a cricket match "too barmy" even by their standards!
We got chatting to some of the taxi drivers around the harbour and were introduced to a lovely man by the name of Garfield or "Lunch" to his friends. He arranged for us to have transport to and from the cricket ground each day for the next week at a very reasonable price and during that week we found ourselves being driven by many of his family members - all as friendly and loveable as Lunch himself!
The morning of the first day of the test match dawned and we were up early organising ourselves to make sure we had hats and sun cream and whatever else we needed.... Jamie rowed us the 25 minutes trip from our spot out in the anchorage to the dinghy dock in the harbour. This was a trip we were going to make many many times over the next few weeks but it was the ONLY time we were going to make this mistake; we unloaded ourselves and our bags from the dinghy and then both shrieked in despair at the exact same moment as we both realised we had left our shoes on-board!!!!! So much for having "everything we needed"...I went to break the news to Lunch's lovely cousin who was driving us and he was typically relaxed and unconcerned meanwhile Jamie was rowing back to the boat as fast as his arms could take him and arrived back sweaty and exhausted in record time with our shoes before we set off across the island for our first day of cricket. It wasn't an ideal start but it was a magical week that we will both remember for the rest of our lives.
Incredibly I have never been to a cricket match before. This is despite having a grandfather who played for Yorkshire and also despite having worked for Channel 4 for years during which time they broadcast the cricket and tickets to entertain our media buyers at the cricket were frequently available. I had never really understood cricket and not taken much of an interest despite it being one of Jamie's passions. Well I have to say I absolutely loved it, and, of course; whilst sitting in the sunshine with a cold beer or a large rum and coke asking Jamie questions I began to understand it quite quickly. We had bought ourselves the cheapest tickets available - ground passes which allowed access to the ground without an allocated seat. As it turned out there were plenty of seats available should we wish to go and sit in one but most of the time we preferred to sit on the grassy banks of the party stand where we could enjoy the match and the party atmosphere of the dancers and music between overs.
Each day we enjoyed food from the various stalls selling barbecued ribs; stewed pork, curried goat, chicken wings, rice and pea... all kinds of delicious local treats. I don't think we have ever eaten so well! Each night we were dropped off in Jolly Harbour and would visit our favourite bar "West Point" where we carried on partying until either the bar shut or we deemed ourselves to have imbibed more Rum than was really appropriate for a 25min row home!! During those evenings we made a number of friends - some local and others visiting; sailing and non-sailing both but all made for special times and special memories.
After 5 days the test match ended in a draw; the Barmy Army de-camped to Barbados ready for the second match of the series and Jolly Harbour felt very quiet all of a sudden!
With a few days to go until it was Jamie's actual 40th birthday we decided to depart Jolly Harbour and spend a few days in a quiet anchorage to recover from the excitement of the cricket - away from the temptation of West Point Bar and away from Indy & Damian's epic rum measures!