The Home of English History in the Caribbean
Eventually the strong winds that had kept us in Guadeloupe abated and the anchorage at Deshaies emptied out. We farewelled Harmony who were bound for Jolly Harbour on Antigua, we pointed Balvenies bow a little further to the east and headed into Falmouth Harbour mid afternoon. After 3 seasons in the Caribbean we had finally made it to Antigua.
The huge natural harbour of Falmouth sits on the south coast of Antigua, a small headland separates it from English Harbour, home to historical Nelsons Dockyard, and the check in offices so it was an afternoon excursion ashore to clear in, sightsee and then relax with a chilled rum punch overlooking the very grand array of superyachts lining the dock.
Off To Explore the East Coast
We moved on the next morning as we had a lull in the trade winds which enabled us to spend a few days around on the east coast of Antigua, the opportunity was too good to miss. So we headed out and around the southeastern coast to Nonsuch Bay and anchored in behind Bird Island Reef.
It was an amazing spot, the reef just a couple of hundred metres away stopping the Atlantic rollers and the swell. We could hear and see the waves crashing – ending their long journey from Africa. Even in the calmer conditions the water boiled as it hit an invisible barrier and there we were tucked up comfortably in flat water, just perfect.
We explored underwater, the visibility was a little cloudy caused by the surge of the waves but there was a good collection of large brain coral and a few other colourful pieces bloomed in the shallows. A small selection of colourful fish darted about in the shadows.
Above the surface an occasional kite surfer would whizz by, some even were up foiling- we would hear them coming before we saw them. This is a world renown site but it wasn’t busy as there was so little wind, bad for them but great for us!
We moved on a couple of miles to Ricketts Harbour, a beautiful small bay with a horseshoe shaped deserted white sandy beach. A thriving turtle population kept us company for a couple of nights, another top spot.
Sunday Night @ Shirley Heights
Everyone that comes to Antigua “does” the Sunday night Sunset and Steel Drums gathering at Shirley Heights, and so would we! We enjoyed a leisurely downwind sail under headsail and returned to the south coast, slipping into the extremely tight anchorage in English Harbour, rendezvousing with our Canadian friends Jeff & Janet on Truant 3. Then much to our surprise a catamaran came in sporting a Silver Fern, after a double take we welcomed Panthera into the anchorage, last seen in La Grazie, Italy in 2010 – the world of us cruisers is a small one. Plans were made to do the steep hike up to Shirley Heights around 4pm, after the exercise we could then enjoy the sunset, steel band, views, food and drinks – and that is precisely what we did.
The conditions were the best you could ever hope for, clear skies across to the smouldering volcano on Montserrat in the west, glassy waters shimmering far below us, the city of superyacht lights twinkling in the harbours and the brilliant full moon rising in the east, the vista could not have been more perfect.
We watched the sun set and moon rise, enjoyed the steel drums until they ended, then danced away the evening to calypso and reggae tunes. When the band stopped and the”doufdouf” started it was time for us oldies to head on home.
The sensible option was to walk down the long road instead of returning down the cross country track we had climbed up. Before we had even left the carpark (all 6 of us) we were offered a lift by a rather drunken Englishman. We all know the saying “beggars can’t be choosers”, well cruisers can’t be choosers either so we squeezed ourselves in while Neil Diamond blasted out of the speakers then headed off down the hill, luckily at snails pace. On the sharper corners Janet coaxed the steering wheel to avoid a close encounter with a tree or two, and after 4 of Neil Diamonds finest we were deposited alive back at sea level. What a night !!.
Enjoying English Harbour
The annual Superyacht Charter Show was on and both English and Falmouth Harbours were bursting at the seams with fine displays of decadence and wealth. The crews were constantly working at polishing every surface in sight, the whole harbour gleamed with money; it was a fun time to be there. We did some more hikes, read more snippets of history and drooled at our favourite superyachts. But we couldn’t stay forever and the light winds were continuing for a few more days so we decided to move on an explore more of Antigua.