Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta
From Guadeloupe to Antigua is over 40 miles and we left Deshaies at 7am to allow enough time to arrive in daylight. The forecast was for 15-20 knots so we were hopeful of a fast sail. Often the wind was strong enough to have a reef in the main but at other times not. With quite a lot of swell and sometimes tide against current the seas were lumpy.
At 7.30am we turned on our HF radio. Since being the Indian Ocean we've only turned it on occasionally, to listen to the BBC. The OCC run a Caribbean net and we wanted to enquire about the anchorage we were headed for, Falmouth Harbour. Although we could hear the net chatter, when we tried to transmit no one could hear us. (Obviously we need to check it out but a replacement mike bought on Ebay is prime suspect.)
It didn't matter because when we reached Falmouth Harbour there was plenty of room and we were soon anchored in the calm, if cloudy, waters near the north of the bay. The following morning we went ashore and walked the short distance to English Harbour and Nelson's Dockyard, where the Customs and Immigration offices are located. When visiting Antigua it's possible to fill in all the forms online, which makes the process more streamlined. All you have to do is pay the various check-in and cruising fees - which are not vast - and have passports stamped.
Nelson's Dockyard - just around the corner for customs, immigration and harbourmaster
Nelson's Dockyard is charming. The restored buildings are used for boat services as well as tourist shops. The quayside was busy with mostly large yachts. The small anchorage was full with yachts of all sizes.
The Pillars, in Nelson's Dockyard
After a quick look around we went back to Falmouth Harbour where the Antigua Yacht Club and Marina are located. They were a hive of activity with classic yachts arriving and preparing for the regatta. We were pleasantly surprised to find the atmosphere very friendly and relaxed: liveaboard cruisers anchored in the bay are welcome to join in. The following evening we went to the regatta opening party, meeting up with a number of other Caribbean cruisers, including Jeanne, of "N'Oubliez Jamais", who we'd last met in French Guiana.
With Lynn Rival in a secure anchorage and light winds forecast we hired a car for a couple of days to explore the island. We started at the capital, St John's, which doesn't have a lot to offer other than a small museum and fresh produce market. The harbour is ugly but the quayside has been turned into a shopping complex that successfully attracts hoards of cruise ship passengers. We drove north of the city and got our gas bottle refilled at the main gas depot but gave the rest of the touristy northwest of the island a miss.
Paul's loco, Paul, at the National Museum.
An important guy, in downtown St Johns
Antigua is a relatively low-lying island and often suffers from droughts. It's hard to imagine that it was once a major sugar cane producer and there are now few signs of intensive agricultural production. There is some rainforest in the southern hills and the road that follows some of the south coast is pretty. However, our favourite spot was the famous Shirley Heights where the views of the southeast coast are wonderful.
View from Shirley Heights - English harbour, Nelson's Dockyard central, and Falmouth harbour beyond the isthmus
The problem with Antigua is that much of the coastline has been sold to private development and is inaccessible. We drove out to Proctors Point on the west side of Falmouth Harbour in hope of watching the classic yacht racing from there but as we approached the viewpoint the road was barred by a gate and there was no way in, not even by foot. When we drove to the east coast in hope of seeing some of the bays we might visit with Lynn Rival, we were similarly restricted, apart from at Devil's Bridge.
To view the racing we climbed up a hill, which is still open to the public, on the east side of Falmouth Harbour entrance. Unfortunately for the racers, the winds continued to be light but the spectacle was still glorious.
A reaching start on day 2 for the middle size class in the Classic Yacht Regatta
Followed by the biggies (the yacht beyond will start later in the 'fake' - or 'Spirit of Tradition' - class!)