Antigua for Dummies



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Antigua is hilly. It is not tall and majestic as it's neighbours to the south. It is green  but drier than the islands south and west of it as less rain is attracted by the hills than the mountains. What sets Antigua apart is the many beaches and it's rich history. The English fleet had it's main west Indian fleet here from 1723 and to the end of the Napoleon wars. This was way back when control of the trade from these islands was vital to international politics. English Harbour was the perfect hurricane hole. Admiral Nelson hid a whole fleet in here out of sight of the French and out of harms way from the hurricanes. English Harbour was re-discovered by Vernon Nicholson just after the second world war, in 1947. He sailed into English Harbour and found a complete Georgian dockyard, completely over grown and in ruins. It is a tribute to this mans vision and strength that the whole dockyard is today restored and the main centre for large yachts in the Caribbean. This is where all the charter boats hang out, where repairs are made and charters sold.

A view of English Harbour. Coconut to the left closest to the beach

The dockyard is in itself a heaven of peace and tranquillity. It is very pretty nested at the end of a long meandering bay. All the old buildings are still here but now converted into hotels, restaurants and shops. The Victorian charm is kept and the dockyard is a living historical monument.  It is interesting that many of the buildings today have the same function as all those years ago. The sail loft and the bakery are but two examples.

Nelsons Dockyard - entrance, Copper and lumber store and the museum

The dockyards not so peaceful past is evident in all the canons scattered around, the gun powder house and fortifications. Even the sea floor is littered with cannon balls, anchors and cannons that makes for great diving. After all the main purpose of the dockyard was to shoot at the French and keep them in order. This is also visible in other more subtle ways. The x-mas regatta is called Nelsons pursuit. The slowest boat after one lap hoist the French flag, and the others are to catch it! Still, French yachts actually do come to visit....

Today much has changed since the early days now the harbour is dominated by the charter fleet. Sunsail bareboat in the cheap do-it-yourself category and the Gold plated super luxury yachts of 100 ft in the expensive do-nothing category. This is also evident when you order Pizza. The Italian chef delivers them straight from his wood burning oven to your boat on a water scooter! To order you call on VHF Ch 68 and provide your coordinates in the harbour. VHF is still the main mode of communication. All businesses use them and the crew on the boats have them hanging smartly in their belts when they are off doing errands.

We are anchored at the entrance to English Harbour. In Freeman bay in 3 meter of water. The sea is crystal clear. It is a truly spectacular setting. We wake up every morning to a view of green hills and a beautiful white beach. Our garden is full of Turtles and Rays. Sometimes, early in the morning, the dolphins come in to feed of fish that has taken refuge here. Every evening the sun sets over the island of Montserrat in a distance. The active Volcano on the island still sending smoke into the blue Caribbean sky. The sound of tree frogs and the waves licking the white sand lulls us to sleep. The days are always hot and the evening pleasantly cool.

Our back yard

The bay we are anchored in is not large. Non the less a few boats have found a more or less permanent mooring her. These "live abords" only  leave the bay for the odd shopping trip to Guadeloupe 40 nm away or tucking up into the mangrove forest when a hurricane is threatening. Our neighbour has a boy that has become Colin's best friend. Jasper is 9 and has already lived on the boat in Antigua for 5 years. When the kids want to play they quite simply jump over the side and swim across to their friends boat.

Antigua is famous for it's beaches. It is said to be 365 of them, one for each day of the year. Many of them still quite untouched since most of the tourists are American and not used to venturing out into the wilderness on their own. Randezvous beach is one such place. Here you can be alone on one of the most beautiful beaches you can imagine. Just one hour walk from the bus stop through a forest of palms, cactus and bush. Walking is hot but the rewards are great. The beach is half-moon shaped, the sand is white and soft. Gentle waves break on the beach. It is quite idyllic.

On the beach

View of Rendezvous

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This site was last updated 16-01-2006 16:50:43