Antigua – English Harbour

Sunset 1st Night in Antigua
Sunset 1st Night in Antigua

Early Rise

The annoying alarm went off early (but aren’t all alarms are annoying early morning?). At 5:30 it’s still dark and I think to myself ‘Why am I getting up this early if I don’t have to go to work?’ Today’a destination, Antigua, is a 56 nautical mile sail from Nevis and Captain Al, likes to get an early start. Setting out early gives us adequate time to cover the miles, find an anchorage and get settled in before dark.

I begrudgingly shook off my dreams of flying (they’re the best ones!) and walked the 10 feet into the galley to make coffee. The day was warm and windy, offering the perfect sailing conditions. As we dropped the mooring ball, the sun came out, more like sprang up from behind Nevis’s peak and warmed the fabric of everything it touched.

No longer grumpy about being awoken so early, I pulled myself up into the cockpit and embraced the spectacular day around me. Impossible to be grumpy out here kids! As the winds were perfect, we sailed for most of the voyage with a reefed main. We dodged between squalls and did not get rained on once. TiSento were also sailing to Antigua that day as well and we could see them in the distance.

Filly has a great snooze on the way
Filly has a great snooze on the way
The Bakery
The Bakery
Nelson's Yard
Nelson’s Yard

Antigua

Antigua is one of the largest islands in the Leeward chain, attracting travellers of all sorts because of its spectacular beaches, shopping and history. None of the above drew us to its welcoming shores, rather the plethora of protected anchorages favourable to the cruiser. We opted to sail to English Harbour, a check-in point for customs, and a secluded anchorage to protect us from the north easterly winds and swells that were heading our way. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who had this thought as the three anchorages around English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour were chock-a-block full of boats. It took some time to find a spot but we finally put our anchor down in Freeman’s Bay, just outside English Harbour.

English Harbour is old. It seeps history from every crack and seam. For hundreds of years it has attracted boats. In the 1700’s it brought the British navy. Today it attracts yachties of all sorts. Little boats and big boats, classic boats and mega yachts. Antigua Sailing Week, the premier racing event for sailing super yachts takes place here. Oysters were also in abundance, the sailing variety, as the Oyster Word Rally was starting off from English Harbour in a couple of days.

We didn’t make customs the day we arrived but not a problem, we hoisted our yellow flag which symbolizes quarantine, and had an anchor beer. Regulations stipulate you cannot leave your boat until you clear customs but I didn’t think a swim counted so I jumped in, checked our anchor and swam over to check out a nearby submerged wreck. Our anchor looked good but the guidebook said that boats tend to do 360 turns so we deployed our second anchor.

Freeman’s Bay indeed lived up to the description with boats turning all night on their anchors, and sterns coming precipitously close to one another. We decided to reset the next morning before heading into customs, moving to a spacier location. Better safe than sorry and after I dove to ensure we had a good hold, we dinghied into English Harbour.

History
History
Sail Makers Loft - original
Sail Makers Loft – original
The Pillars
The Pillars
Wifi Beers
Wifi Beers
Selfie #27
Selfie #27
The Maltese Falcon and Al
The Maltese Falcon and Al
Classics
Classics
Moi
Moi

History and Ghosts

The Check-in at customs was more detailed than other customs offices but we got through it. The officials were a little testy but it was busy and they must tire of getting asked the same question over and over. We were in The Nelson Dockyard, a UNESCO world heritage site, which comprises a significant part of English Harbour. It’s incredibly interesting and well presented. It’s claim to fame – one of the finest examples of a Georgian naval dockyard in its original form. British naval forces arrived in the 1700’s, using it as a base to maintain British control of the trade-oriented colonies around the Caribbean. The infrastructure has been restored and today is utilized for modern day needs. The bakery we visited is the original bakery however they added a modern kitchen.

The Admirals Inn hotel, located next to the Pillars which was the loading loft for large sailing vessels is now a hotel and restaurant. We sat there for an afternoon accessing the wifi. You could practically feel the ghosts walking around in there. I sat and imagined what it was like in the 1700’s. I played a game while waiting for my video to load. The young Italian in front of me smoking and face-timing on his mobile would have been the visiting dignitary from Italy, seeking alliances with the British Navy but he would have been writing a letter rather than talking on his mobile. The two older couples, one man smoking a pipe, the other a cigar, were naval officers and their wives, who sipped on fancy drinks, chatted and snapped pics, were over to visit the colonies for the summer. The black man doing the gardening was a slave who had been brought here from a far away land. It was easy to imagine and I swear if you sat there long enough you’d see ghosts.

Al and I walked over to Falmouth Harbour, a short jaunt across from English Harbour . Falmouth is another protected harbour with a huge anchoring field and mega yachts galore. The Falcon was there and a bunch of of other shiny new yachts but next to the classic sailing yachts, they weren’t as striking. They were trying too hard while these fabulous sailing yachts with wooden masts and expansive decks look cool and classic. Queen Anne tarps draped over the boom, butterfly doors and gleaming masts, they were the epitome of class.

Blue and White
Blue and White
The Fort with a view
The Fort with a view
Hiking at the Fort
Hiking at the Fort
Get Yer Guns
Get Yer Guns
ON the Edge
ON the Edge

Exploring

Heading back to our boat we saw Tisento and arranged a hike the next day with Agnes and Bas. The fort at the mouth of English Harbour. is a short walk but gives a killer view. It still has original canons in place and a couple of buildings that were designed to defend the city from pirates and foreigner invaders. The hike extended over to Falmouth and we passed several flocks of goats who were smart enough to have figured out that when they eat all the greenery on the lower branches, standing works well (sadly, no pics). We ended the day sharing pizza, baked by an Italian.

The pizza made an excellent breakfast the following day. Afterwards, we headed into the dock to see the lovely Oysters depart all in a row and then hiked up to Shirley Heights to see the start of their around the world race.

Antigua is lovely and we decided to hang around the island and explore but why does English bread have to suck so much (the French islands have spoiled us)? Aside from the bread, we like Antigua and look forward to exploring more of the history and its ghosts.

Table Leg
Table Leg
Filly Bear in his tent
Filly Bear in his tent
Oyster Rally Start
Oyster Rally Start
Oysters Start of World Rally
Oysters Start of World Rally
Headed down after Rally Start
Headed down after Rally Start

Author: tess

A full-time adventurer, I am sailing our 37-foot Tartan with my husband and kitty, to the Caribbean from Newfoundland while documenting it on our blog, greatbigsail.com

14 thoughts on “Antigua – English Harbour”

  1. “In a castle dark or a fortress strong
    With chains upon my feet
    You know that ghost is me
    And I will never be set free
    As long as I’m a ghost you can see”
    Gordon

    An extremely well put out blog sister! (Nicely written)

    Fortuitous as well! I have been thinking or maybe experiencing ghosts myself this last little while. Dream induced I believe or maybe the latest book I’m reading. The author believes our pets can see ghosts and when they stare at you for prolonged periods this is why. Lovely thought.

    The yellow quarentine flag is right up my alley. Every Friday evening I come home to my little flat, crack a vin rouge and hoist my yellow flag. Goin’ nowhere and happy to boot!

    I agree the English are not world class in the bread category but ya gotta give them props in the area of history.

    So ya ya really enjoyable read. Look forward to more updates.

    Xxoo from me and the familiar…❤️

    1. That’s an awesome way to create quarantine in an otherwise busy world Jac! Hmm, the ghost idea and pets is cool. I’ve run out of books to read and am desperate for anything. I can’t find an exchange or bookstore but something will hopefully pop up soon. The Brits don’t make good bread but are not all attitude like the French. So pluses and minuses all around. Kisses to you and Murph from the crew! ❤️

      1. Dl a kindle app and purchase a few books from amazon for kindle relatively cheap and takes up none of the precious little space you have. Donna Tartt writes gloriuos tomes. Goldfinch, history of secrets and the little friend. Each book more than 600 pgs. That should do you for a while. I believe u can do the same if you have a library card. Check it out! ❤️

  2. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum Sea People

    Here in sunny (and HOT) Rio de Janerio, Brazil and figured I check in on the other adventurers that I know to see how their world is going. Looking good howeverthank you for no more shirtless pics of Al…..me eyes were starting to burn.

    Glad to see all is well and that you don’t miss us too much….although a little is acceptable…..once in a while……….ahhh this is Brian and Mel by the way……you know we met in Newfoundland?!?!?…..that other island up north in a far far and away place…..ahhhh forget it. It’s cold there now anyway!!

    So I’ve been reading the comments from everyone else and they all talk about how great your trip is going BUT I can see through the fascade….you guys look absolutely miserable. Probably thinking when is this ‘trip-from-hell’ gonna end. Like I said before….hang in there. It’s only a short four month trip back home and then you’ll happy like the rest of us! But for now, while suffering through it, have another Killer Bee and remember………
    Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
    There’s a land that I’ve heard of once in a lullaby.
    Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
    And the dreams that you dare to dream,
    Really do come true.

    Cheers my friends!! We love you both (ahhh that’s Mel & Brian….you know we met in Newfoundland…..ahh never mind)

    1. Well hello dear friends! Of course we remember your cherry faces and look forward to seeing them again soon. I’ll have to check up on your blog and see what exciting things you’re at in sunny Brazil! Hope you’re having fun (I know you are) and taking pics. We can have a slide show when we get together (fun eh?). We love you too!❤️

  3. AFT,

    thanks for sharing another tale of travel,including ghosts this time, loved the comparisons.
    Antigua sounds like a delightful island, with an amazing history, capturing the heart of many historians, I’m sure.

    How fortunate and exciting that your visit occurred the same time as the Oyster World Rally.

    PS: I’ve never seen you grumpy. ha,ha
    Love to Ingomar crew. Stay safe and happy.

    1. Hey Ger! I am less grumpy down here 😋. The history aspect of the island’s is interesting and some of them have done a great job preserving the architecture etc. The Rally was so cool to see, it got us thinking. 😛

  4. Again such amazing pictures and blog posts. Dearly love reading about your adventures. You both look so happy and relaxed. I have to ask if the Ted Murphy who posts on this blog is the Ted Murphy from Nova Scotia. My cousin, Odette Murphy and her husband Andrew have a son Ted who is very much into sailing and I can’t help but to wonder if it is the same person. If it is, what a small world.

  5. Another great read, my favourite part was history and ghosts…..great writing, I could even feel them.
    I’m willing to bet your parking woes at English and Falmouth Harbour wasn’t as frustrating as downtown St John’s, trust me, I was there on Saturday.
    As for being annoyed by your 5:30 alarm…..give it up, I really feel bad for you, it’s a hard life BUT……..
    Stay safe, love you guys.

    1. 😜I know but I got over the alarm early. We’re usually up at 6:30 everyday. Yeah, I totally agree with the parking woes. Anchoring can be a pain but there’s always somewhere else to move. Love ya!

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