Anchored in Antigua

Antigua is an island with English ties, and you can certainly feel it and see it at English Harbour, a beautifully restored British naval site first established in the 18th century. British naval hero Admiral Horatio Nelson was stationed here when this harbor (surprisingly small when viewed in person) was the base for British defense of its colonial isles. The historic harbor here, now called Nelson’s Dockyard, has been restored and contains many interesting relics and ruins showing what life was like in a colonial military outpost.

 

Nowadays English Harbour and neighboring Falmouth Harbour are a stopping point for some of the most impressive megayachts in the world.

 

This makes for good eye candy but renders the port a little lifeless for us simple cruisers. But hanging with Shelley and Johnny from s/v Planet Waves always brings life to any party. We spent a lot of high times with them including one hilarious night casually chatting on the dock when a guy rode up on a donkey and tried to sell him to us for $5.  Sorry I don’t have a photo of him but here is said donkey, Selassie named for Ethiopia’s Emperor, Haile Selassie.  If he would have fit on the boat, I’d have bought that sweet donkey.  DonkeyEnglish Harbour is well worth a visit for its historical importance and provides easy bus access around the island.  We rode across the island to see what’s what in the capital of St John’s (not much).

 

If you visit English Harbour everyone will tell you to go up to Shirley Heights Lookout for the view and Sunday night party. This may be the cynical curmudgeon in me talking, but I don’t see the big deal. Yes, the view is nice but it is jammed packed with every other sucker that believed the hype trying not to spill their overpriced drink as they attempt a clear view of the sunset. I say grab your flask and take the easier hike up to Fort Berkeley and get a spectacular view of the harbor and you’ll have the place to yourself.  Even with our old jaded attitudes we were able to connect with a younger generation of cruisers (how is that possible?) by meeting up again with Nightingale Tune and new friends on Disco Fish and Corpse Pounder (how about those names?).

Somewhere behind Mary are fellow cruisers from Disco Fish, Nightingale Tune and Planet Waves at Shirley Heights Lookout.

Antigua is pretty compact in size and has good anchorages all the way round, so we wanted to circumnavigate it, but as the Christmas winds kicked in, we were stuck in port as it howled a steady 20 – 25 knots outside. The winds aren’t so bad but when they are this strong for so long they kick up some impressive seas. We had no interest in bucking 9 – 10’ seas so we went around the leeward half of the island. Here we enjoyed the peaceful and more secluded 5 Islands, Jumby Bay and Great Bird for a holiday feast aboard Nightgale Tune, nice snorkeling and kite boarding.

 

Soon, though, we had had enough and set out on a squally, windy day for the short downwind run to Montserrat and its brooding volcano.

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Season 4, Episode 1

We are back on the boat and traveling again.  It feels good to be home and doing what is familiar to us.  It’s a whole new season with new friends and new places to explore.  We are excited to be underway again.

We left Neko on the hard in Clarke’s Court to get her bottom done and a few other bits and bobs.   Terry O’Connell and his crew did a great job removing all the old bottom paint and applying new stuff. We were happy to become friendly with Terry and trusted his work ethic implicitly. We highly recommend Terry (terenceoconnell3@gmail.com) for anyone needing bottom work – just bring the paint with you as you can get it more cheaply in the duty free islands.  Neko was not much worse for wear after sitting in the scalding sun for 3 months. We had two LCD screens burn out from the heat alone and a couple minor leaks, but it could have been much worse.

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Neko heading back to the water with her slick new black bottom paint.

We left Grenada and started our way up the islands. Finally, we aren’t fighting our way east, but are off the wind using those tradewinds to do what Neko was meant to do, sail. Ideal conditions along with her new bottom paint have us consistently sailing at 9 and 10 knots, making great time between islands. Winds are steady and brisk in the right direction and the boat handles the decent sized seas like a champ. We almost always have one or more reefs in and might as well pack away the gennaker as we can’t foresee needing it for a while. We realize this is what VPLP designed the Switch 51 to do.

We returned to some old stomping grounds in the Grenadines and delighted in their clear water and laid back Rasta feel.

But after about a few weeks and just as we were running low on provisions in those lesser-inhabited islands, we set course for one of our favorite islands, Martinique.

Here we could bask in the glory of French culture in an island setting, having great coffee and baguettes every day all while having a few boat teething pains worked on. Le Marin in Martinique is a major stop for French cruisers needing boat parts or work, so what better place for the French-designed and built Neko to put in a stop. It was an added bonus that the harbor in Le Marin is supremely protected because we had a full week of squally, windy, rainy weather. Oh, did we say that it rained a bit? When we have a lot of rain, we catch it and save it to give our water maker a rest. In Le Marin we had more rain than we knew what to do with. We filled our tanks, spare water jugs, buckets, tea kettles and anything else we could think of.   It was just a reminder that in all our lives a little rain must fall.  So we just waited for the sun to come back and the next adventure to begin.