Phil's Logs


The Boat

The Crew


DATE: February 6, 2007

Antigua is a big island with an English heritage and a yachting tradition. Prized for its strategic location and well-protected harbors, the English came to control the island and constructed a dockyard in what is now know as Old English Harbor. The dockyard is named Nelson's dockyard after the famed English admiral who was once its naval commander and has not only been well kept and restored but is now utilized as an active marina and the various old buildings are home to an Inn, restaurants, a museum and even a sail makers loft. Old English harbor wraps around the old dockyard and to my mind, is as picturesque an anchorage as can be found in the Caribbean. . Antigua and Barbuda are now an independent nation but the sailing tradition has continued to this day, where a fast sailing boat with a pleasing sheer is much appreciated. Antigua race week is held in late April and attracts sailing's rock stars and hottest boats from all over the world. This, and the transatlantic Route du Rhum, which finishes in Pointe- A-Pitre Guadeloupe are the Caribbean's premiere sailing events. When we sailed in I hoped to anchor in English Harbor but couldn't find a spot I was comfortable with. So I sailed out of the harbor to the adjoining Falmouth Harbor, a huge harbor with plenty of room. It's a good thing, as Antigua is the destination for the world's mega sailing yachts and these bad boys take up a lot of room. During my stay, the large mega motor yachts actually outnumbered the sailing yachts although there was plenty of both. One mega motor yacht named “Old Bleu” was particularly gigantic. One of the crew told me the 15th largest in the world and perhaps the largest presently in the Caribbean. I haven't seen larger, it looked like a small cruise ship with a crew of 40 and passengers of 12. Falmouth I found was the place for the young crew of these megas to hang out. I wished my son were along for this trip as most of the crew from these yachts wasn't much older. A multinational lot, there were as many girls as there were guys. They made the numerous bars and restaurants of Falmouth a rocking place until the wee hours.

I could have easily stayed two weeks in Antigua. The shoreline is replete with anchorages and enticing spots and the people friendly. I did take a bus into the main city of St Johns (bus trips are my favorite means of transportation if I can figure it out) and this one was no exception, the route was well worn and the passengers except for me “regulars”. At one stop, one poor guy was met at the door by a young woman who spent the next two or three minutes haranguing this guy in the local patios dialect. The guy wouldn't leave the bus (I wouldn't have either) until finally the bus driver put an end to it and made the poor guy disembark. We were all craning are necks to see if he would survive. There was a quite on the bus so I remarked that I couldn't understand a word of that but I didn't think any of it was good. Much laughter. We were all friends by the time the bus arrived in St Johns. I was given much instruction on bus numbers and routes, which was much appreciated. Without a little guidance, you can certainly find yourself somewhere you didn't plan on after the buses have stopped running. St Johns was a bustling place; by no means quaint, but neither was it decrepit. The cruise ships had made their mark along the water front but up and down the street there were all manner of vendors and little shops frequented mainly by the locals plus a fantastic indoor fresh market. I had a little something to eat in the restaurant “Hemmingway's” in the balcony of an old restored building. But alas my camera battery was kaput and I could take no pictures.

This last day in Antigua, I met the Bosun for the 3 masted “pirate” ship that was magnificently at anchor in the back of the harbor. The ship had sailed from England and was bound for Dominica where the ship according to Bosun would be turned over to the people who produce the survivor program to be the focal point of a new adventure series. The ship had met with tragedy on the crossing where it had tangled with a notorious North Atlantic storm and one of the crew was washed over and lost. The Bosun had rigged the life raft in what would most certainly have been a futile and quite possibly a fatal rescue attempt but the seas were so large that they snatched the boat out of its rigging before it could be lowered. The Bosun who was fabulously experienced in old square rigged sailing vessels and actually owned an old square rigger himself, spoke quietly of the passage and the loss, a sailor's sailor, maybe we will meet again in Dominica. On the sail out of the harbor I took a picture of this old Pirate ship and wondered if I would see it on the television screen and whether the story of its Atlantic crossing would ever be told.

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