Jolly Harbour, Antigua
Saturday 5th March 2011
Distance run: 53 nautical miles
Up bright and early with the alarm at 0530, we had to wait a while for the light to improve before setting off amongst the fishing marks. We had to disturb a sleeping Frenchman just after 0600 as we were taking up the anchor chain as he had parked his boat right over the top of our anchor. He was up on deck in seconds and quite happily moved forward out of our way. That made a total of three very nice French men in one place, which was a nice surprise! I forgot to mention that the fisherman who rescued us and went off without being thanked never reappeared and so when we went ashore on Monday we walked around to the fishing harbour and looked for his boat. We found it and its owner, and so were able to thank him properly, although the conversation was limited by our poor French and his non-existent English. He had to be pressed to take the money we offered him and only accepted as payment for his fuel. It made such a refreshing change from being viewed as a walking wallet.
Anyway, the anchor came up with no further problems and by 0615 we were motoring out of Deshaies bay, along with a large flotilla of other boats, all apparently heading in the same direction as us. It’s quite comforting to know that they had also judged this to be the weather window needed for a decent sail to Antigua! Among them were Nimue who had arrived in the bay late yesterday afternoon, wet and fed up after a not very pleasant sail up from the South of the island. They were aiming for Falmouth Harbour though, and would only come to Jolly if the wind made it necessary. At one point Michael called us up on the VHF and asked us to confirm that we were indeed sailing in the Caribbean and not crossing the English Channel at Easter time, the weather and seas were so unpleasant! However, this didn’t last for long as the wind became very light and fluky and in the end we had to motor for 20 miles in fairly flat seas, although in full oilies as the rain continued on and off the whole way.
The Guadeloupe Channel or the English Channel?! Monserrat – the white is steam escaping from the active volcano
We passed within 25 miles of Montserrat, and although visibility was poor, we were able to see the steam escaping from the still very active volcano. There was a major eruption in 1995 which destroyed the island’s capital. Plymouth, and more between 2006-8 which have made the entire Southern half of the island an exclusion zone. Under half of the population of the early ‘90’s still lives there, in the northern half, and an observatory monitors volcanic activity. It is possible to visit the island by sea or air, and we may do so if the opportunity arises.
After finding our way through the shallow water that surrounds the entire coast of Antigua, with sometimes only a couple of metres below the keel, we entered Jolly Harbour. As we were looking for the Customs dock, Steve noticed that the boat we had followed in, and who were currently involved in picking up a mooring buoy, were Resolute IV - relatives of a friend and colleague of his from Imperial. We, and they, had been told by said colleague to look out for each other, so we took a slight detour over to say ‘Hi’ and introduce ourselves. They were, at this point, somewhat preoccupied with mooring the boat, and said they would be coming into the marina in the morning and would seek us out then.
We made it to the Customs dock in time to check in (closes at 1600) and then made our way into Jolly Harbour Marina. We were met by Sylvester who led us in his rib to a berth and took our aft lines to the piles that are the mooring system here. It was great to see Rob & Sarah on the pontoon, and in age-old tradition they took our forward lines and secured us. They then disappeared rapidly to meet their guests from the UK who had arrived at exactly the same time as us from the airport!
We just had time to settle the boat before Rob & Sarah said they were going for a swim and sundowners at a nearby beach if we’d like to join them (is the Pope Catholic?!) and so we donned cozzies and set off in the direction they had indicated. After a longer than necessary walk to and along the beach (never trust directions from strangers!), we finally tracked them down and were introduced to their friends. The day’s exertions were well rewarded with a swim in cool, clear, calm water off a lovely beach, followed by a beer or two in the beach bar and an invitation to supper aboard Serafina. There followed an enjoyable evening of catching up on Rob & Sarah’s news and getting acquainted with their friends Mick and Dione, who had very kindly brought out our replacement binoculars and Steve’s new credit card (they assured us they had not completely maxed it out!)
Yesterday Steve set off for the boatyard to begin to organise the work on the boat that is the very reason for coming into the marina. Within a couple of hours it was all organised and we will move the boat to an alongside mooring at the boatyard on Monday morning in order for them to do the work. He had also located the laundry where they very helpfully explained that a small wash is when the small machine is full and a large wash is when the large machine is full – which is very useful indeed when trying to sort the washing into loads!
Di and Patrick from Resolute IV stopped by to say ‘Hi’ and we invited them for a drink on Scott-Free in the evening. Serafina slipped out of their berth late morning and set off for Falmouth harbour, saying they would see us back here in a week’s time. We went for a wander round the marina complex, and found it a little more run-down than expected. The supermarket, however, is large, modern and very well-stocked and we picked up a few items while we saw them (i.e. Heinz Ploughman’s Pickle and Assam tea) and will return again to stock up on basics before we leave.
We spent a very enjoyable couple of hours chatting with Di and Patrick over sundowners and were particularly interested in their tale of tying up to the mangroves in the hurricane hole in Le Marin while they sat out not one but three hurricanes. Fortunately only one came within 25 miles of them and they were fine, but Di suggested that they would not stay on the boat if it happened again!
Di and Patrick from Resolute IV.
We mentioned that we are planning to head up the US East Coast in the summer and were interested to hear that they had used the services of Chris Parker to help plan their passage down from the Bahamas. If you sign up with him and tell him where you’re going, he advises which route to take, and gives daily updates either by SSB or email, or both, during the passage. As we are not used to the weather systems around this side of the North Atlantic, we think this may be a useful option for us as we head North, but definitely as we head South again.