Alan Franklin/Lynne Gane
Sat 27 Dec 2014 02:36
26th December 2014
Our feet had barely touched the dock in English Harbour than our friends from Sofia, Anne and Jonathan were welcoming us with emergency shopping they had offered to get for us over our radio chats whilst at sea and inviting us for an evening meal, what great guys they are!
English harbour built in the 18th and 19th centuries acted as the Caribbean naval base for the English fleet (in those days when we had one), and is a charming collection of functional Georgian buildings, everything a forward repair and supply base would need. It was apparently the only harbour on the island to ride out the hurricane season without loss of naval boats and even today boats are tied to the mangroves that line the waters edge to keep them secure. Nelson’s dockyard of course celebrates its most famous leader and has been partly restored and is quite charming. Bars, restaurants, art galleries, a bakers, the marina office, the customs and immigration are all housed in the old buildings. Some buildings have been left as ruins with vivid tropical flowers growing around them and even banana and coconut palms. Amazingly Jenny is moored in virtually the same spot as she was when Alan crewed her seven years ago!
Times of course move on and there are now super yacht docks both here and in Falmouth harbour just over the ismus. I had to laugh, a chap we were talking to said “you were brave to come across in a boat that size” I think it braver the chaps we passed in their 30’ rowing boat mid Atlantic! But size is relative and the super yachts are huge, Jenny looks quite a modest boat next to them! But then these boats have sizeable crews too. I spotted an enormous motor yacht with its own helicopter pad! For real class there are 2 new classic boats, one a J class for those of you sailing enthusiasts, beautiful lines, highly varnished wood top sides, 4 and 5 spreader masts, probably at least twice the height of Jenny’s at 21m if not more.
Christmas day in English harbour is a big thing here, so we were right next to the action. Visiting yachties and locals came to the bar and Caribbean food stalls, to listen to the local bands playing Caribbean music. Those in the swing of things arrived with Christmas themed outfits, 2 Santa’s elves in full tunics, leggings, red and white striped tights and elf hats were particularly impressive given the heat of the day! When I post the photos I will leave you to judge some of the other outfits, I’ll just say I think they were very brave! Look out for the photo of the decorated boats.
English harbour is very pretty, and quite cosy in size, as it meanders a little way inland. With a narrow entrance once guarded by Fort Berkley, and situated in the lee of the land to prevailing Atlantic winds, it is perfectly sheltered. Lush greenery comes down to the waters edge with modest hills rising steeply in places, so different to Lanzarote. With the barmy temperatures at night, sitting out in the cockpit having dinner and listening to the symphony of crickets and tree frogs it is quite blissful. The high notes of the tree frogs call are surprisingly loud given their small size, I mistook them for bird calls. Small exotic birds abound and we have sighted several pelicans too.
Freeman’s bay just inside the harbour has some elegant houses, their verandas over looking the bay, otherwise it is not until you move away from the harbour that you see both well tended and the ramshackle single storey houses, some little more than shacks but often brightly painted. There’s no colour hangups here, anything goes. But cars are the thing, whatever conclusions you might draw from the houses themselves it is quite common to see shiny motors beside them, clearly someones pride and joy.
Close to the dockyard, Caribbean men play cards, thumping the cards on the table in quick succession, there’s an intensity and good humour to it all but it must be seriously competitive as there’s a blackboard close by where the scores go up. The ladies sell their dresses, t shirts and souvenirs close by. They are so polite and greet strangers with an easy manner, it is easy to become infatuated with the place.
Tomorrow, after dealing with some repair business we have a hire car ready to tour the island. More tales of being lost with a tourist map to follow!
All our best,
Lynne Alan and James