Monday 25th January to Tuesday 16th February
“Welcome to Paradise” we have been told many times; boarding a bus, in a restaurant or a shop. The people here are lovely; warm, friendly and welcoming although initially somewhat reserved.
We are still in Antigua having arrived over three weeks ago and are just about ready now to move on. Steve left for home a couple of days after we arrived in Antigua and clearly was desolate to leave us (see photos) but had managed to bring forward his return flight muttering something about missing the wife. We have since been waiting for the riggers to finish replacing the main halyard and a reefing line which broke on the crossing. They are very busy it seems. They turn up for a few hours, climb up the mast (they told Hugh that they didn’t believe in safety lines but photographic evidence indicates otherwise), thread a mousing line (some kind of guide line….I am learning so much on the fascinating subject of rigging) or do some other job, have a beer and vanish off again for a few days. We wait keenly for their reappearance. The days here seem to merge into each other and time passes. It is warm, sometimes hot, usually sunny with some heavy but brief rain showers to keep things green and lush. We have just about caught up on cleaning and various repair jobs around the boat.
There are worse places to be stuck. Hugh has lots of other keen sailors around to talk boats. I can be lazy and read lots. There is a swimming pool to do some lengths in an attempt to get a bit fitter. We found the beach nearby with silver sand and warm water. The supermarket on the marina stocks Waitrose products (I cannot put into words how wonderful that is after almost 3 months of deprivation of decent supermarket shopping.. sad but true).
We have managed to escape the marina on the odd occasion. Last weekend (when the riggers don’t work) we sailed along the coast to Deep Bay where we anchored overnight. A two foot green turtle popped up to inspect us soon after we arrived. We spent the night at anchor with supper on deck by candlelight and the next morning we snorkelled to the wreck of the ship Andes sunk 100 years ago in the entrance to the bay when its cargo of pitch from Trinidad caught fire. It is encrusted in coral and anemones with schools of striped fish swimming around it.
One afternoon we caught a bus again to Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour on the south of the island. Nelson spent the early years of his career here at the British naval base, which is now restored and full of super yachts belonging to the super rich. One particularly beautiful schooner there named Gloria is, like Vega, registered in Bristol and we got chatting to the crew, all Cornish lads. We later found out that Gloria belongs to Pete Townshend and although we hung around hoping to see the rock legend, he was keeping a low profile. We had come over to see one of the boats of the Talisker Atlantic Rowing challenge and saw the pair Oarsome Buoys arrive after 45 days at sea to be met by family, friends and photographers. We also got chatting to Bella, one of the team of four women on the boat ‘Row Like a Girl’ and the second team to finish. So impressive! They had, like us, met a mother and baby Minke whale en route and they had almost been overturned when one of the whales tangled in their sea anchor line, which fortunately broke before they were sunk.
We also took the bus to the capital, St Johns, where huge cruise liners arrive most days disgorging their passengers to look round the duty-free shops of Heritage Quay. The museum had just shut as we arrived so we had a wander round town, loud with reggae blasting from decks of speakers and decked out in St Valentine’s Day red, looking for a hardware shop. By the fish market there was a rather Disney-esq statue of Vere Cornwall Bird, the first Prime Minister after Antigua achieved independence from Britain in 1981 after over 300 years of colonial rule. Despite this a rather youthful looking Elizabeth II appears on the Antiguan currency, the East Caribbean Dollar (referred to as an EC, pronounced “Easy”, to differentiate it from the US dollar).
Along the main road the homes of locals are colourful. The economy of Antigua is very dependent on tourism and although prices are high as the island is largely reliant on imports, we did not see any signs of the deep poverty that we are told does exist. The main attraction of Antigua is the beautiful beaches and there are numerous resorts and also the residences of the more wealthy, usually on a hilltop overlooking the ocean. Eric Clapton owns a 45 acre estate on a headland overlooking a quiet bay. One can rent out his place for US$ 50,000 a week.
We have managed a couple of refresher scuba dives on coral reefs here, with schools of little bright blue chromis, colourful parrot fish and angel fish, and the occasional lobster hiding in a crevasse in the rocks.
Most days, however, follow a predictable routine of cleaning and a few chores, maybe a swim, a trip to the laundrette, supermarket or chandlery, supper on the boat, watching a film on the laptop, then perhaps a final visit to a bar on the marina where a band is playing. Bob Marley features heavily in the repertoire of most bands and is played incessantly in bars.
When we get away, hopefully tomorrow, we will be heading initially north to Barbuda, then west to St Kitts and Nevis, to Montserrat, with its live volcano, then south to Guadeloupe and eventually to Grenada.