Redwings Round the World

Antigua

23 - 28 February 2001

 
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 Shirley Heights, English and Falmouth Harbors in Background

23 February - Deshaies to English Harbor, Antigua  

Aaron - After listening to the morning "Murder and Mayhem" (Caribbean Safety and Security) net and weather forecast on 8104, we hoisted the permanently double-reefed main and set sail for English Harbor, Antigua.

David Jones, the regionally loved and hated weather guru, was forecasting nice 15-20 knot trades today from the ENE, but is expecting the winds to strengthen and come North over the next few days.  Our course to English Harbor was 15 degrees East of North so good thing we went today.

The winds were luckily still pretty much from the East as forecast and we had a great tight reach at about 55 degrees apparent, covering the 40+ miles comfortably in seven hours.  The lofty (and very active) volcanic cones of Montserrat seemed to rise close to port as we slid towards Antigua, but in fact were some 30 miles away.  We tried hard to catch a fish, even chasing after flocks of birds mid-passage, but nary a strike.

Antigua is relatively flat in comparison to the other islands we have been on recently, and was not visible until we were 20 miles out.  Steep scrubby bluffs come down to the shore.  I sort of reminds me of Minorca (off Spain in the Med).

We stopped in the outermost bay of historic twisty-turney English Harbor - one of the major military and trading ports of The British Empire in these parts in the 1700's.  Dropped the hook in 15 feet, cleaned up the boat, and relaxed.

24 February - English Harbor, Antigua  

Aaron - We dingied in to the dock at Nelson's Dockyard around 10 for a check in and a day in town.  Wow.  This is something out of a Patrick O'Brian novel (I'm sure in fact some of his stories did take place here).  Nelson's Dockyard was a major provisioning / garrison station for the British ships that were based in Antigua.  Although it has been abandoned as a military installation since the late 1800's, it has been totally restored over the past 40 years and is really amazing.  Yachts can tie up to the old stone walls where Men of War used to tie, cannons everywhere, stone buildings, fortifications.

The customs guys were surly as warned by Far Niente, but we had all of the right papers and smiled and acted inferior and got out of there in reasonable time.  Not free though - cost us about US$50 to be here for a few days.

We walked through the old garrison section (now gentrified with old quarters housing yacht and charter brokers, internet cafes, and bars) to the more modern facilities at Falmouth Harbor which is only a 10 minute walk away.  There, we found a great internet cafe, a guy to fix our outboard (transmission is slipping - "Greg Outboard" will meet us on Monday at 9:00 to fix it), and some Boric Acid to attack our burgeoning cockroach problem (one small bugger per week has turned into one per night - we confided in Venla and Far Niente and it turns out they have the same exact strain as we do!  Must have picked them up in Las Palmas or St. Lucia - small, slow guys).

Antigua is not very interesting naturally or culturally as far as we can tell (scrubby hot landscape, and apart from the gentrified yachtie areas, pretty slummy and dusty), but English and Falmouth harbors are great natural harbors and the facilities are unmatched by anything we have seen in some time.

As we were leaving the supermarket where we found the boric acid, I asked "the lady" what we would have to pay for a taxi back to English Harbor.  A chap at the register next to ours said "I'm going that way and can give you a lift" so we piled in to his car.  He was buying cat food so we started off talking about cats - he has three "very special" cats ("well actually they are my wife's cats") - but could not remember all their names.  The conversation turned to yachting of course and he indicated that he sailed here in 1949.  "Oh" I said "You were here at the beginning.  You must know the Nicholson Family well who established the Caribbean charter industry and oversaw the re-development of Nelson's Dockyard".  "Actually", he said, "I am Rodney Nicholson"  I had read in our pilot guide that the Nicholson's came in 1948 so did not initially think he was one, but apparently the book was "almost right" which he pointed out when I told him this.  Rodney's parents were the founders of the business and he and his brother now run it.  He must be about 70.  Very nice guy driving a modest beat up Toyota or the like.  Brought us as close as possible to the dingy dock.  Our brush with local fame.

Back in the anchorage, new boats started coming in one by one by two by three.  It was really filling up with boats dropping the hook all around us and trying (often unsuccessfully) to get the anchor to stick on the hard bottom.   Scallywag got in reasonably early and got a good patch near us.  Far Niente also came over from Falmouth Harbor and was nearby.  We had the crews of both boats over for drinks and had a great time.

25 February - English Harbor, Antigua  

Aaron - An active day.  After finishing up the morning routine of radio skeds, coffee, and meditation (for Colleen), we loaded the diving equipment into the dingy and headed over to Far Niente to pick up Christine who was planning to snorkel while we dived.  She looked like a James Bond Girl in bikini top, sunglasses and folded down wet suit with spear gun in hand.

The crew of Venla also joined in their dingy and we putted out of the entrance to English Harbor and tied up to the dive boat mooring on the reef off the "Pillars of Hercules" (huge natural limestone pillars in the side of the cliffs guarding the entrance to the harbor).  While the others snorkeled above, Colleen and I descended and had a nice 20 minute dive in 20 to 35 feet of water.  I've had a hard time getting Colleen to go diving, but she had a good experience and now remembers how much better one can see the fish and coral down below 20 feet so hopefully we can get out there more often.

In the afternoon, we went into Falmouth Harbor and I joined the Antigua Yacht Club's Sunday Laser Race.  The races were part of the Spring Series.  The people there were great and gave me a club boat to use for free, though I still had to pay the US$20 entry fee for the series.  The boat was ok, and the winds were excellent - 15 to 25 knots and relatively flat water.  Courses were triangle windward leeward finish and each of the three races took about 20 minutes.  My Laser handling skills were not, however, up to the wind strength and I managed multiple capsizes on the reaching mark jibes and downwind legs.  Other people capsized a lot too.  Even so, I pretty much finished at the back of the fleet every race (only beating boats that capsized one last time more than me or were thrown out for OCS or other rule infringements).  The competition was fierce with two Olympic competitors in the fleet of about 12 boats.  It was a lot of fun though and a great work out.

Colleen went out in the committee boat and helped raise the signal flags and record finishing orders.  Although from the water all appeared to be relatively well organized, apparently communication and professionalism were pretty much absent on the committee boat with wrong finishing orders recorded, flags flown, and almost no protest protocol.

We quickly returned to the boat, showered, and dingied in to the beach in Freeman's Bay where we are anchored.  We then walked up the hill and caught a taxi to Shirley Heights, the old officers quarters overlooking the bay, for the weekly Sunday Night Jump Up (read Party in Caribbean-speak).  Great spot and good BBQ food for sale, but loads of people and with the steel band playing Kenny G songs a la Caribbean, it really had a 75% tourist trap feel to it.  Cruise ship and hotel guests had been amply bussed in and although there were a few cruisers and professional boat people around, there was certainly no genuine local scene to speak of.  Anyway, great view.  We were pooped and so was the crew of Venla who we met up there so we walked back down just after dark and dingied home.

26 February - English Harbor, Antigua  

Aaron - HAPPY BIRTHDAY COLLEEN!  The first mate (hmmmm) is 33 years old as of today.  A party on Far Niente is planned for tomorrow night as there is a conflicting party tonight on Oddessy Canada and as.....

...Richard on Marbella (Marbella, Marbella...) called us on the SSB this morning and Richard confirmed that they will be in Antigua tomorrow making a 20 hour run or so all the way down from St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands.  We met Marbella, owned by ("F'in Irv) in the Maldives and traveled broadly the same course up the Red Sea and into the Med.  We spent a lot of time with enigmatic Captain Irv and crew Andrew, Jeff, Polly and Susan.  Very interesting group dynamics.  Richard was working on Malcat Singapore as crew for our friend Raffi, and then got a job skipering Marbella in the Med.  18 months later, he is still with the boat, though all of the old crew has moved on.  We've kept in touch with Richard via e-mail and will be psyched to see him.  So.. the old and new crew of Marbella will flesh out the party tomorrow.

Greg Outboard met us as promised at 0830 (earlier than promised in fact) at the dingy dock and quickly confirmed that the bushing on our outboard prop is slipping.  Normally, one needs to buy a new prop for this problem - according to the Evinrude people.  But Greg just took the prop, went to his machine shop, drilled and tapped in three threaded locks, cemented them in, and we were good to go 1/2 an hour later for 20 bucks!  Great job.  Great service.  Good value.

While we were waiting, Colleen and I toured the Dockyards Museum - pretty interesting account of the settlement, how they worked on the boats in the yard, military history, and recent history (lots of stuff on the Nicholsons and their boat the Molly Hawk which meant a lot more now that we have met Rodney Nicholson).  "Free" if you are a vessel in English Harbor (after paying your US$30 or so entry fee).

Back on the boat, Christine from Far Niente came over and we made up a new batch of ginger beer.  She is keen to start some of her own.  Problem is that key ingredient tartaric acid is hard to come by and we are running low...

Otherwise, a lazy day.

27 February - English Harbor, Antigua  

Aaron - I awoke at 0700, popped my head out the hatch and, saw a white yawl drifting towards the entrance to English Harbor in the early morning  light.  I voiced a groggy "Marbella, Marbella" on VHF 71 and Richard came back confirming they had arrived.    It's been three years since we last saw Richard and Irv in Ashkelon, Israel.

Most of the day was spent preparing for the big birthday party tonight on Far Niente.  I organized food, drinks and cake, Colleen had a re-fit at the beauty salon, Christine and Rob prepared Far Niente and Venla cooked up a sweet potato dish.

It turns out that tomorrow is Cheryl's 31st birthday so this turned into a double whammy!

The crews of Far Niente, Venla, Marbella, and Redwings convened at around 1900 and the festivities began.  Tall tales of Raffi the Sailorman were followed by a magic show performed by Irv the Magnificent.  "Champagne for everyone...." (in the voice of that Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous guy).

A really fun night such as this deserves its own special Birthday Photo Gallery.

28 February - English Harbor, Antigua  

Aaron - Low key day.  Spent the morning diddling around with this website - getting photos scanned in, updating, uploading etc. and did a bit of maintance in the afternoon (new filters and oil change for water maker).

Drinks and dinner on Marbella and then back to the boat to get a good night's rest ahead of a planned early departure tomorrow morning.

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Copyright 2001 All Rights Reserved by Aaron Henderson and Colleen Duggan