English Harbour Antigua
After a short but unforgettable stay in Barbuda we sail south back to Antigua in moderate east winds between 18 and 22 knots, and waves 4 to 6 feet. Fata is happy galloping with 6 to 7 knots on a beam reach surfing sideways on the North Atlantic swell.
After 4 hours we are back in Antigua rounding the island from the east. This time we anchor on the south side just outside English Harbours in front of Galeon Beach.
Both English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour, two side by side bays considered the yachting capital of Antigua and a major Caribbean yachting center populated by sailing megayachts , offer boaters some good and secure hurricane protection with a few winding channels among mangroves.
English Harbour, a main port of arrival for sailboats, also presents one of the most dramatic-looking still functioning old ports in the Caribbean. Built in 1723 and perfectly preserved, here was Britain’s main naval station in the 18th and 19th centuries known as Nelson’s Dockyard, a national heritage site. Its large complex of beautifully restored old buildings houses customs and immigration, a marina, a chandlery, a museum, hotels, restaurants and many businesses: a bakery, a sailmaker, a gift shop with impressive woodcarvings, and more.
As there are port charges per day per foot in both English and Falmouth Harbours, we anchor outside the main harbor in Free Man’s Bay in front of a nice all-inclusive beach resort off Galeon beach, for free.
Fort Barkley stands on the rocks to the north of our new anchorage, dramatic rock formations known as the Pillars of Hercules are to the south, Galleon Beach and the trail to Shirley Heights are only a short swim away from our boat, and Nelson’s Dockyard is across a small channel. Our kayak Agent Orange takes us there when we want to visit the town which, during this time of the year (hurricane season) has a very quiet village atmosphere.
Here we meet JB sweeping the sidewalk, to the sound of Elvis Presley, in front of a small stone shack he has built singlehandedly on the east bank of Falmouth Harbour. He is planning to start a little restaurant with a few tables on a small terrace overlooking the bay. JB invites us inside to show us his place and after half an hour of mutual confessions we are fascinated by each others’ stories.
JB used to have a sailboat and he has been sailing almost everywhere in the Caribbean. He knows much about boats, sailing and navigating, much more than us. He lost his boat but is hoping to get one again and sail to Cuba. Che Guevara is one of his heroes; the other two are Bob Marley and Jimmy Hendrix. We tell him all about our sailing adventures in Cuba last year.
JB also tells us about his hermit period. After his wife and two kids left he went to live in the forest. There he built a small cabin and lived removed from society and its consumerist ways, without running water and electricity, eating only vegetarian food.
He says there is a Rastafarian community in Antigua called One Luv, where people live off-grid, producing their own food (and cannabis), where the mothers give birth in their homes, the kids don’t go to school, everyone plays the tam-tams, and crying is not allowed.
– Comeback around 5 p.m., JB invites us for supper that day.
We bring beers and some vegetables: a few potatoes, carrots, a piece of pumpkin and some leeks, to throw in the stew he is cooking over a fire in an old clay pot. The tastiest healthiest vegan stew containing at least a dozen different local vegetables and herbs and the most important ingredient: coconut milk and grated coconut. It’s delicious, served in calabash dishes with coconut spoons.
Some of JB’s friends and extended family show up too and JB offers them a bowl of steaming goodness.
– I cook for the family every evening, he says.
Hopefully soon his restaurant will be finished and tourists too will be able to enjoy the authentic Antiguan atmosphere and JB’s coconut stew.
Maya and friends
At JB’s place Maya meets two girls her age, Lia and Raggaeney, JB’s nieces, great kids and she returns a few times to play with them at the beach near their house.
Maya also meets Keiki and Jay, a brother and a sister who live in Antigua not far from the anchorage where our boat is, and she spends entire days playing with them too, at the beach and at their house.
When Maya has new friends she is the happiest kid, and when Maya is happy we are happy.
A short pleasant walk from Galleon Beach is the famous Shirley Heights.
There are no tropical rainforests in Antigua, the vegetation on the island is dry with lots of different species of cactus plants best enjoyed along the footpath to Shirley Heights.
It’s only about a 15-minute easy hike to the top from where the view of English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour is magnificent. We see Fata Morgana quietly floating in her little bay facing the beach.
There is a restaurant and bar serving fresh mango smoothies and rum drinks, among other delights, awaiting us up on the hill.
It’s 9 a.m. We order a mango smoothie for Maya, and a rum punch for Evo and me. We usually wouldn’t drink alcoholic beverages so early in the morning but we promised April and Harley.
They told us, when you get to Shirley Heights tell the girls to mix you one of their famous rum-punch drinks. Cheers, April and Harley! Here we are up on Shirley Heights, slowly sipping rum punch, marveling at the view bellow, thinking about you. See you in New Zealand, guys!