Oh man we have been here over 20 days now. This is the type of cruising that POF likes to do best. I call it the “Sticky Anchor”. We get somewhere we really like and just have trouble pulling that anchor up. We are just more about the destination and adventure then the trip or sailing. However, this time was different, our anchor is sticky for a different reason (no we didn’t meet a Crackin that got fresh with it…… OH YA, I WENT THERE)!
First, we pounded our way to Antigua in anticipation of the “Christmas Winds”. The Christmas Winds are a phenomenon that happens most years due to global weather patterns. You will often see them described as “trade wind freshening”. That’s gentlemen speak for “Holy hell, its blowing like stink out there”. Of course they change year to year and some years are worse than others (some years they don’t materialize). Well this year they materialized in a BIG WAY, and shortly after we arrived. It blew hard…. So hard it actually broke our anchor bridle in a protected bay (1/2” braided line, sounded like a shotgun blast). That day we saw 40 knot gusts (100km/h) in a protected harbor behind the ENTIRE island of Antigua…. Seriously.. It blew so hard that the seas built to 5M between the islands just 7 days after we arrived (for you old fogies, or yanks, thats 16ft on top of a 1.5M swell, yup, like 20 ft). Our intuition had paid off and we made Antigua before all that nastiness!
Second, we have guests a commin! Unknown to most of POF, our very first guests were coming to visit and we needed to be in Antigua to meet them. Of course our guests aren’t due to arrive until January 15th, but since we were racing the Christmas Winds we wanted to ensure we made it here with plenty of time. As with all weather phenomenon, the winds are only partially predictable. Some years they kick in in early December and last till middle of January, other years not so much. Our plan was to get to Antigua and then watch those super smart computer models to see if we could “cruise” around the area. So we got here, but shit, those models said “Sit tight, until, damn… we don’t know”. So as of this writing we are still “sitting tight”. Most days it blows like hell for a few hours and rains (like turn your nose down or you will drown rain) for about 10 min every 2 hours. It even does this at night, so keeping the hatches open is not an option. Thankfully, its winter and has cooled at night. Hatches can stay closed as its only +26 these days at night .
Now I can hear you ask “What the hell have you been doing for 20 days””? That is a fantastic question, and I’m not sure I can answer it sufficiently. In true cruising style, there are days I can’t actually remember. Maybe we swam on the beach, maybe we fished, maybe we stayed aboard and watched movies, hell I don’t know, maybe we napped 3 times that day. When you have no real plan or jobs that NEED to be done, then days fly by and you don’t notice them. Let see if I can wrack my brain for the memorable days.
I will start with our arrival to Antigua. I already detailed our “Cracking” sail up, so I will start with our check-in process. After arrival and setting the hook, the entire family jumped into the dingy had headed to customs, immigration and port authority. We had been warned that compared to the other islands it was going to be much more formal and rigid. Of course this turned out to be spot on. The process was very similar to entering the USA with the agents being cold, formal and unpleasant. However, I played a hunch at the end of the process and engaged the immigration people (one lady, one guy) in a discussion of fishing. As I suspected, the entire process was an act (I suspect they are American trained) and once the “formalities” were complete their personalities changed. We had a kickass discussion about fishing and the information they gave me that day I’m still using to catch fish! They then pointed me to all the amenities in Jolly Harbor and even came out of the office to point things out. As I have learned time and time again, patience, kindness and understanding can lead to awesome experiences!
After leaving the check in process we headed over to the direction of the super market. We needed some food, beer and more importantly money (I had to borrow $10EC from Bob and Cheryl to check in). We were absolutely astounded when we found the Epicurean supermarket (an Antiguan brand name) . Damn, although it was smaller, it rivaled anything we had access to in Canada. It was like we have arrived back in the “First World”. However, as with most shopping we do here in the Caribbean we are initially sticker shocked (damn $18 for 1L to Clamato). Part of this is due to the money conversion (remember cut everything in 1/2 for the Canadian price), and part is due to the fact that shit is expensive in islands with only 85,000 people and no income tax! We would need to go back to Grenada style of living to stay within our budget here!
After the Epicurean experience (did I mention they have a Scotia Bank and CIBC cash machine in the entrance, us Canadians have the Caribbean banking market cornered), we just wandered around. Within minutes we found the swimming pool and of course the kids started screaming to swim. On a hunch we went up to the lady working behind the counter and she informed us it would be $15EC per (ya, times 5). However as I was walking away shaking my head, she says, “but sir, we have a monthly family deal, its $120EC per month for the whole family”. Whoaa, ok now you have my attention.. Rhonda and I looked at each other and quickly did the math, that’s like %3 of our monthly budget. We let the nice lady know we would be back the following week to buy a pass (stupid Scotia Bank machine had run out of money, the CIBC machine wanted $5 USD service charge, greedy Canadian Bastards).
After that, we headed back to the boat and spent the next day settling in to the Jolly harbor life. However, that was short lived as 2 days later, Avanti informed us that a “Super Yacht” gathering was in progress on the other side of the island and we shouldn’t miss it. Not only that, but this gathering was taking place in the oldest operating dockyard and harbor in the Caribbean (from the 1600s). Not only would be be able to oogle all the rich and famous super yachts, we could do it while literally walking through a living museum. Well hell, its not every day you get an opportunity like that, so we pulled anchor and headed off.
The trip around the bottom of Antigua is an interesting one. The total distance between Jolly harbor and English Harbor is only about 12 miles, but some of it is exposed to the open Atlantic ocean. Unless the winds are really light, most people stay close to the bottom of Antigua. This puts you between the reef and the island in a fairly calm channel. Unfortunately the reef doesn’t extend the entire distance and eventually you skirt around a point and are exposed to the entire force of the Atlantic. Of course, we were exposed on our whole run from Guadeloupe to Antigua, but this is a little different as you are head on into the wind and seas. If you don’t pick a good day, then the 3 exposed miles can quickly become a hellish chuck trip as the boat teeter totters, slamming into the oncoming sea on every down totter! Thankfully we picked a good day and the seas were fairly benign. Even then the up and down motion at the bows in the biggest waves was easily 5-6ft, with blue water splashing over the bows. We had one kid on each bow seat and one kid on the tramps holding the cross stay. They would loose their shit when a big wave came and we dropped off the top of it. Within 1 mile there wasn’t a dry spot on any of them! I had a moment of “God Damn, I’m glad their grandparents aren’t here to see this!”. (quit yelling, yes the had lifejackets on)
The super cool thing about English and Falmouth harbors (they are right beside each other) is that once you are close the seas lay completely flat before the entrance. After the bouncy motor, we rounded the corner and motored past the Pillars of Hercules in completely flat water. We did a quick circuit of the entire bay and then we circled back and dropped our anchor just inside the entrance (behind the Pillars of Hercules). Once the hook was down we sat in the cockpit and had another, “This is why I’m here” moment. English harbor is “THAT” anchorage. The anchorage us landlubbers sit in our cubicles and dream about. The perfect turquois water, the white sand beach, with the cannon bristling fort in the background. The kind of place you could swear a man of war is sailing past in your periphery vision!
Since this post has gone on long enough, I’m not going to detail English harbor and the super yachts. I’m going to let the pictures tell that story. Understand that all the buildings, stonework and peripherals you see in these picture are original! I will also say, these pictures do not do justice to the size of some of these boats. They are truly “cruise ships” for a small number of guests. If you have ever been on a cruise ship, imagine being only 1 of 10 guests on that boat! Ya..
If I was paid $1000 per beautiful sunset I would be a pretty wealthy man by now.. However, this sunset was extra amazing (no flash dammit)!
Anyone who has read ANY sailing magazine (hell, pretty much anyone that has read a supermarket tabloid) should recognize that boat. Yes that is the Maltese Falcon. Rumor has it that she can sail so well she actually sails off docks.. Rumor no more, she does! This is the only “Super yacht” picture I included. Now take a deep breath…. In this picture alone, there is about 300 million worth of boats.. No bullshit!
Just a street in Nelson’s dockyard.. This same street has been walked since the 1600s!
No that’s not a decoration anchor.. Its an actual anchor off an old ship.. They didn’t know what to do with it, so they made a lawn ornament out of it. For the more nerdy of you, the building with the ramp used to be the “Saw House”. It was where they cut the wood to build and repair ships. Its now the sail loft. The building has been in continuous use since the 1700s.
This one is hard to describe as they had a whole plaque for it. This used to be the old sail loft. Ships would be winched up this channel and a 2 story building was built around this. Sails could be hoisted off the ships without ladders. Now it’s a high end restaurant (with kickass internet). Yes those bricks are original from the 1700s!
I doubt you can read all the little plaques…. However, this gives a general idea of the history of the boat yard. Nelson’s dockyard was a very important location for the British!
There are people reading this blog that would be genuinely disappointed if I was presented this opportunity and didn’t take this picture. (pretty sure she had work done, cause damn those babies were firm!)
Again, one of those, “Damn, we got all these cannons from the 1700s. What should we do with them? I know lets bury them and let kids climb on them!”
Oh ya… There are actually fish here in Antigua… We caught this mutton screwing around. I had caught a little bait fish and decided to hook him through the tail (80lb test) and throw him off our scoops (we actually laughed when Ken said he was going to do this on Moon River, sorry Ken). About 25 min later the Cuban Yoyo started clanking against the stainless. I almost shit my pants when we drug this guy over the scoop. This is a Mutton snapper and he was FANTASTIC eating (one of my favorite fish). We have since caught about 8 of these fish (well maybe 5 and 3 grey snapper). This was the biggest, but we caught one %80 this size on Christmas eve!
And I couldn’t forget Quincy! The little bugger is growing up so fast. He has anchored our boat 4 times now (I run the helm and he drops/sets the anchor).
As a funny aside, I have no idea if this is 6:23AM or PM.. Its very possible he got up and was playing with the camera!