JJMoon Diary
Barry and Margaret Wilmshurst
Mon 5 Mar 2007 20:49


English Harbour from Shirley Heights LookoutNelson's Dockyard


Here we are in Antigua, perhaps the centre of Caribbean yachting for those of us of British extraction.  We are anchored in English Harbour, opposite Nelson’s Dockyard.  It’s a very interesting spot with a lot going on; and some of it very swish.  The dockyard has been beautifully restored, with a little help from the EU, and most of the old buildings which still have architectural form are occupied by modern businesses. 


A few nights ago we came up from below to flares and horns welcoming a pair of Atlantic rowers as they moved ever so slowly up the harbour.  We gave them some enthusiastic toots.  The following day I spent twenty minutes under a shady tree chatting to the Director of the Ocean Rowing Society.  There are six or seven crews, two of which have arrived here already.  A French crew is going to Guadeloupe and a Spanish boat was coming here but has been blown off course to St Lucia  We are expecting some Hungarians tonight who might break the record.  They all left from La Gomera like us and in fact there was one of the boats on the hard still when we left.  The lads we saw took 63 days - it doesn't bear thinking about!  They usually reckon 30 miles a day, 1000 miles a month.  There's a chap setting off in about a month's time from Lima to Brisbane!  Oweee!  According to my informant the English crew ran out of food but the Dutchman who arrived here second put himself out considerably and rowed over to help them out.  It does the heart good!


One of the Atlantic row boats


Our days in Martinique were very different.  The island is a department of France and the inhabitants think of themselves as French rather than Caribbean.  It was Carnival time, which seemed to be taken very seriously - everything closed down from Saturday mid-day to Thursday, people dressed up all over town, bandsmen drumming and tooting every day and of course all the usual paraphernalia of Caribbean carnivals.  The best part of the experience was the bureaucracy.  To check in you go and see the very helpful French Canadian lady who runs the big chandlery, fill in the usual sort of form and she clears you in.  She can also clear you out with a three day period of grace.  Because it was Carnival, and she would be shut for four days, she made allowances so all was tidied up in one simple, easy visit.  A bit different here in Antigua!  Immigration and Customs officials fight a mountain of paperwork as megayacht charter skippers arrive with passports and forms for nineteen, which all have to be double checked carefully.  On arrival only the skipper is allowed ashore until clearance is given but each member of the party must sign a declaration that they haven't any firearms, pets or honey and the office shuts at 1600.  The officials really are very helpful but everyone gets pretty tired and hot by 4pm.


Carnival Anything goes!


Sunday night took us to Shirley Heights Lookout where a steel band played through until 7:00pm and you could drink and watch the Sun set over English Harbour.  Well not quite, as the weather was a bit unsettled but the ambiance was good and the band excellent.  Rather than wait for the reggae band to get fully into their stride Mags allowed us a taxi back to English Harbour where only one restaurant seemed to be open, the most expensive.  We went up to check the prices only to be told that supper was free that night you just paid for the drinks.  There had to be a catch.  We had pretty good paella, beer and wine and there was no catch.  Our lucky day!


The other day, while still at anchor, we were both lying awake at 0530 thinking of this and that, when there was a strange rumbling.  I thought it sounded as if the chain was dragging over a rough bottom, Mags thought it was a nearby engine.  In any event we were both on deck in pretty quick time but could find nothing amiss.  Later, on the local news we heard that it had been an earthquake, 5.1 on the Richter scale, with its epicentre about twenty five miles to the south-east.  No damage was reported.  The lady in the shop that supplies us with our fast internet connection says the volcano on the nearby island of Montserrat is very active and the authorities on the island have increased the extent of the exclusion zone.  We are living in unstable times.

A pelican who lives here.

We may be here for a bit. As ever we have a few bits and pieces to sort out.  We always have!  We have a problem with one of the fridge/freezers which it might be possible to get fixed and one or two other things.  Once we leave the Caribbean it is all going to get much more difficult.  On the other hand Mags has had her hair done very acceptably by an American missionary and has had a good session with a special sort of chiropractor who has had a very beneficial effect on a painful foot.


We are off to see Barbuda by plane on Saturday, particularly the spectacular frigate bird colony.


This blog has been delayed.  We went alongside the dock to be readily available for our trip to Barbuda, connected up to shorepower, and blew up the boat’s electrics.  Don’t ask!  I maintain that I was cruelly misinformed and it was not really my fault…….  More anon…..