Jolly Harbour on the west of Antigua was an easy landfall and we anchored outside the channel, along with perhaps 14 other yachts and the next morning took the dinghy to clear in and do some shopping. Development along the coastline is first world and substantial; palatial homes, guest accommodation and hotels. We later learnt that much of the coastline is private property above the high tide level, which includes most of the beach, as the tide only rises about half a metre in the Caribbean.
Replacement of our sail being a top priority, I sent out some email enquiries and we later motored around the coast to nearby St. John’s, from where we could get transport. Here we found the anchor holding very poor, eventuating in the need to motor back out a kilometre to Side Hill Bay, where, after several more attempts, the anchor finally held.
We made the neatest possible a bundle of our genoa, loaded it onto the dinghy and motored all the way back to the passenger liner dock. There we loaded it onto one of our much abused shopping trolleys amidst an untimely rain shower. From there it was a short walk to the bus terminal.
From St. John’s we could take a bus to English Harbour at the southern end of the island to see Franklin at A & F Sails whom I had earlier called for an appointment. During our discussion about a possible sail repair, the deep, rich timbre to his voice and the measured cadence of his speech was a delight to my ear.
The taxis, like much else on the island are ridiculously expensive (lettuce costs US$8 and tomatoes US$1.2 each) for us South Africans. Coincidentally one of the passengers on the bus knew Franklin. ‘Where does he get that amazing voice?’ I asked her in jest. ‘From Jesus’ came the immediate matter of fact reply.
Franklin’s integrity lived up to the calibre of his voice, and presenting me with a quote to repair the sail, he said ‘I’d love your business, but I really recommend that you put the funds into a new sail.’ Knowing that he wouldn’t benefit from this, I was grateful for the advice.
Picking up Marguerite and Jaco
Antigua is an interesting island with a convoluted coastline, making for fascinating cruising. With the imminent arrival of Marguerite and Jaco, Karin’s daughter and her boyfriend, we moved to the north east, where the calm surface of the blue waters belies the many hazards that lie just below. Threading our way through the reefs we anchored off Large Island a day prior to their arrival, before taking Moondust across the channel the next morning and anchoring near Winthropes Bay. From there we could walk to and from the airport and thus easily get them aboard.
For them it was an experience of a lifetime and for Jaco doubly so, as it was his first trip outside South Africa. We went back to Large Island, which is privately owned, and well developed with exclusive, luxury accommodation and a golf course.
We went ashore for a walk, and were generously informed by a polite but firm security officer that the island was ours below the high tide line; effectively a narrow width of sand along the beach. Nevertheless the youngsters were happy and got to walk past wealthy tourists lounging in their chairs on the beach or sitting in the gentle surf of ‘millionaires’ beach.
Being keen to expose them to as much as possible during their three week visit, we sailed out between a narrow pass in the reefs from Great Bird Island and into the Atlantic swells for a couple of hours before reaching Green Island on the east coast.
Green Island is popular for kite surfing and snorkeling and is a playground for the rich, judging by the many super yachts that passed us in Nonsuch Bay. Some of these had helipads and dinghies almost the size of Moondust!
We briefly anchored in Nonsuch Bay from where we explored, either on foot or by hitch hiking as the buses don’t run to the most eastern end of the island which consists mostly of private estates for the rich.
During this time the Ullman Sails representative from Sint Maarten flew in and measured up Moondust for a suit of new sails, as we had decided to replace the main sail as well. I was impressed by how much time and trouble he took and the level of detail required. It was only at the end of this process that I discovered that the sails would be made in Cape Town and flown out to the Caribbean!
We next moved south west around the island to English Harbour, home to the picturesque Nelson’s Dockyard. It was built in the mid 1700’s as a base to supply the British Royal Navy and was restored to its previous glory in recent times.
The anchorage off Galleon Beach was quite full, but after a few abortive attempts we anchored quite near the beach and put out a stern anchor to limit our swing radius. Here we peacefully spent the next three weeks or so.
The bay is endowed with turtle grass, so named as turtles love the soft, green leaves. They would feed on the grass, delicately biting off a shoot at a time and chewing, whilst swimming on and eventually rising for air. Turtle heads peeping out for air was a common sight from Moondust.
English Harbour offered a variety of activities. We hiked up the surrounding hills along delightful, shaded paths to an eastern bluff from where we gazed out over the Atlantic and were cooled by the trade winds. The drier climate fostered the growth of interesting succulents and a more hardy forest type to that which we had become accustomed.
For our gift and souvenir needy youngsters, Nelson’s Dockyard was home to interesting shops offering a good variety. Arriving there by dinghy we saw a man cleaning a large Wahoo, whilst a dozen huge, ravenous Tarpon patrolled the shallow water, greedy in their competition to snap up scraps.
At the stroke of New Year the sky above Fort Berkeley, just across the bay, erupted in a magnificent blaze of fireworks. The thunderbolts soared skywards, blooming into spectacularly coloured fireballs, their cannon-like detonations booming between the surrounding hills. We had ring side seats on Moondust and watched enthralled.
The younger family members had departed for home shores on the last day of 2018 and now we had a full month until our sails would be ready. We found English Harbour an extremely convenient stop; good internet, great snorkeling, beautiful hikes and a supermarket a mere dinghy ride away.
We started the New Year researching vital information regarding weather and marine charts for our future passages. The Pacific Ocean is simply huge and sailing off the beaten track, where there is little commercial shipping, often means that chart information is inaccurate. This factor, coupled with the continual growth of coral reefs since the charts were created has required ingenuity on the part of cruisers. They’ve learned to reap the harvest of Google Earth satellite images and convert them into charts. In fact, in addition to eyeball navigation from up in the rigging with the sun overhead, it’s the only sure way in which to correctly geo-reference an inaccurate coastal chart to prevent a boat from running onto a reef, as many do each year.
We’ll be heading for the dual nationality French/Dutch island of Saint Martin/Sint Maarten within the next few days after clearing out at Jolly Harbour. Once there and with new sails installed we then plan to sail to the Dominican Republic to pick up my daughter Megan in early February, and meander along the islands towards Panama for a March transit.