English Harbour, Antigua

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.

English and Falmouth Harbours, Antigua View from Shirley Heights

English and Falmouth Harbours, Antigua
View from Shirley Heights

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.

Nelson’s Dockyard

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.

Nelson's Dockyard

Nelson’s Dockyard

Nelson's Dockyard

Nelson’s Dockyard

Nelson's Dockyard

Nelson’s Dockyard

Galleon Beach

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.

Galleon Beach, Antigua

Galleon Beach, Antigua

Fata Morgana at anchor in front of Galleon Beach, Antigua

Fata Morgana at anchor in front of Galleon Beach, Antigua

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Fort Barkley, Antigua

The Pillars of Hercules

The Pillars of Hercules

JB

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's place

JB’s place

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

JB

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.

Outside JB's restaurant

Outside JB’s restaurant

fire stove

fire stove

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.

Inside JB's restaurant

Inside JB’s restaurant

– 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.

Evo and JB

Evo and JB

Mira eating hot coconut stew

Mira eating hot coconut stew

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.

JB cooking

JB cooking

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, Lia and Reggaeney

Maya, Lia and Reggaeney

Maya, Lia, and Reggaeney

Maya, Lia, and Reggaeney

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.

Mia, Keiki, Maya, and Jay

Mia, Keiki, Maya, and Jay

Shirley Heights

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.

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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.

Free Man's Bay, English Harbur, and Falmouth Harbour View from Shirley Heights. Fata Morgana is one of the three boats in the first anchorage.

Free Man’s Bay, English Harbur, and Falmouth Harbour
View from Shirley Heights. Fata Morgana is one of the three boats in the first anchorage.

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.

Maya and Mira at Shirley Heights Bar

Maya and Mira at Shirley Heights Bar

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!

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Deep Bay, St Johns, and Carnival in Antigua

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Deep Bay, Antigua

From Montserrat we sail 25 nautical miles north to Antigua, one of the two larger islands forming the independent nation of Antigua and Barbuda, the other one being Barbuda, some 25 NM north of Antigua. We sail on a beam reach in moderate tradewinds, the waves long and gentle, making beautiful progress. It is the last time we sail together with Viktor.

We arrive in the early afternoon and check in Jolly Harbour on the west side of the island. Checking in Antigua and Barbuda is quick, easy, and only costs about 12 $US, but there is a 30 dollars departure fee on the way out.

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Jolly Harbour, Antigua

Jolly Harbour is a popular boating spot with a big handsome marina, many dredged channels surrounded by some 500 waterfront private two-story houses with docks for yachts, and a shopping center with over 30 shops and some excellent restaurants, among which a Greek restaurant with a beautiful view serving, among other delicatessens, spanakopita (or banitza, as we call it in Bulgaria) and lamb cooked for 6 hours.

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Jolly Harbour Marina, Antigua

 

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Greek Restaurant, Jolly Harbour Marina, Antigua

Evo kayaking in Jolly Harbour

Evo kayaking in Jolly Harbour

But the anchorage is outside the bay and kayaking to the docks to go on shore takes forever, so after shopping for some fresh vegetables, eggs, milk, and beer (the essentials) we move to the next little anchorage a couple of miles further north, Deep Bay, in order to be closer to land and closer to St Johns, the capital and biggest city on the island where the international airport is.

Deep Bay beach and anchorage

Deep Bay beach and anchorage

Deep Bay is a lovely little anchorage tucked between rocky shores, nicely protected from the trades and very secluded, with some interesting sites right there.

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View of Deep Bay anchorage from Fort Barrington

On the north shore, up on the dark rocks, stands Fort Barrington offering a spectacular view of the bay, and at the entrance to the anchorage the wreck of the Andes breaks the water surface and provides an exciting snorkeling spot.

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The shipwreck of the Andes’ history

The Grand Royal Antiguan resort is not far from the south end of the beach but the huge multi story hotel, vacant at this time of the year, is not even visible from the bay.

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Grand Royal Resort, Antigua, pool

We drop anchor a few feet away from the long sandy beach in deliciously blue waters.

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Deep Bay, Antigua

The holding here is excellent and the water remain calm with zero swell even when tropical storm Bertha passes through. Deep Bay became one of our all-time favorite anchorages and a very special place for us, the place where we say good bye to Viktor who decided to return back to Canada and continue his studies.

Viktor and Evo kayaking to shore on the way to the airport

Viktor and Evo kayaking to shore on the way to the airport

In Deep Bay we spend one unforgettable week, which happens to be Carnival Week in Antigua. Which means loud music and crazy partying day and night nonstop.

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Going to town from Deep Bay takes time as St John is a few miles away and even getting to the main road where the public bus passes is quite a hike. So we hitchhike. And every time we are lucky and someone really nice picks us up. Thus, thanks to hitchhiking, we meet Shelly, Ido and their cute one-year-old baby-genius Aviv.

Shelly and Aviv at their pool

Shelly and Aviv at their pool

Ido covered with mud from the Dead Sea and Aviv unsure why her dad is suddenly black...

Ido covered with mud from the Dead Sea and Aviv unsure why her dad is suddenly black…

They invite us to their place which is very close to Deep Bay and really cool, with a huge pool, and we invite them to ours (the beach and the boat), and they even let us use their car to go shopping in town.

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Maya

Maya

Aviv

Aviv

Our friends coming for a visit aboard Fata Morgana

Our friends coming for a visit aboard Fata Morgana

But the greatest thing is going to carnival together, to Jouvert Morning.

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Jouvert Morning is one of the many activities during Carnival Week and it is the most fun we had in a while.

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“You have to come to our place at 4 in the morning, and we will drive to town from there” says Ido and he is not joking. The event starts even before that, at about 3 a.m. and at 4 a.m. the festivities are already in full swing.

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We can hear the mad music all the way from our anchorage, miles away.

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So we go to our friends’ place in the middle of the night. Maya, Shelly and the baby decide to stay in the apartment, while Evo, Ido and I to go to town where the party is on.

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Ido brings a big shiny bottle of rum along.

Evo, Ido and...yo-ho-ho, a bottle of rum

Evo, Ido and…yo-ho-ho, a bottle of rum early in the morning

Drinking is an inevitable part of this particular event, and we are not here to watch from the sidewalk. We participate.

Ido and Evo getting warmed up.

Ido and Evo getting warmed up.

Means, we mingle with a crowd of young people with wild hairs, sexy girls with very minimal clothing shaking their booties, everyone drinking and jumping up and down on the streets behind a procession of trucks with platforms loaded with the biggest loudspeakers on earth booming some insane island music, the rhythm so fast gets your heartbeat accelerating just by listening to it. Antiguans gone wild.

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Carnival Week continues for almost two weeks, the whole time we are in Deep Bay, and we can see the glow and we can hear the music far in the distance day and night not stopping for a second, the entire town pulsating. And when it is over and the music suddenly stops, we wake up disturbed by the unexpected unusual silence and wonder what’s wrong.

 

Picture St Johns, Antigua

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The fish market, Antigua

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Mira

Mira

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Maya and Evo

Maya and Evo

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Antigua Beach Resort

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Maya and Evo

Maya and Evo

The Nomadiks at the beach

The Nomadiks at the beach

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Maya with coconuts

Maya with coconuts

Maya

Maya

Maya and Evo

Maya and Evo

Evo and Maya

Evo and Maya

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Stefanie, representing USA in the Miss Caribbean Beauty Pageant

Stefanie, representing USA in the Miss Caribbean Beauty Pageant

Stefanie and Maya

Stefanie and Maya

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Antigua Carnival

Photos by Mell Ebstein s/v Passages

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