We arrived Antigua from St. Barth’s after an aggressive bashing into the wind and found Jolly Harbor to be a very large and blissfully calm anchorage. Lowering the dinghy I headed into Customs and Immigration where check-in is very efficient via their online E Sea Clear service. Yes, I could have prefilled out the information but I completed the information in the office. After all the paperwork was signed and the entrance fee was paid, we were free to enjoy the country.
This is a very nice place to sail into and there are many services in this harbor. The marina and fuel dock at Jolly Harbor Marina are really fantastic with a protected approach and full marine haulout. Danny, the yard manager will even take your propane tanks to town and fill them, returning them the next day. At the head of the harbor is THE CROWS NEST, the primary cruiser hang out and wonderful happy hour spot. Across the street is the large grocery store which has anything you need. You could easily re-provision here. We really enjoyed the calm harbor, non-rolling anchorage, and the Crows Nest. I can see coming back here for more time in the future.
Lets go to “Town”
We like boating into towns, so we decided to head up to St. Johns. the capital of Antigua. It was an easy 6 nm run and we motored right into town and dropped anchor off the cruise ship dock. We lowered the dinghy and motored in and could not find the dinghy dock. Well, this should have been our first clue. We tied up to a random dock, climbed up and off to town we went. Typical of all cruise ship towns there were the usual duty-free items and pubs and t-shirt shops and jewelry stores and more. Luckily, there was only had one cruise ship in port that day. As we walked around we could see that it would be a ghost town after the ship pulled out. We were beginning to question how safe it would be to stay here on anchor off this town. After ice cream in freshly made waffle cones, we decided that it was not that safe and that we would be far better back at Jolly Harbor. So, back out to the mothership, up anchor, roll out a jib and sail south. This is what we are looking forward to, the discovery of all these new places and where to go. We later heard that no cruisers sail to St. Johns. Well, now we know….
Onward to Falmouth
Safely back in Jolly we decided it was time to move on to the hub of Antigua, Falmouth and English Harbors. This was a simple trip around the SW corner of Antigua. As most will figure out, the East trades of 25 knots come whipping around the SW corner and so it is yet another beat into the winds and seas. Lucky for us this was only a two-hour trip and soon we were entering Falmouth harbor for our first time. Tall ships have been sailing into here since the 1600s and we can see why. The harbor entrance is to the north, the winds are from the east, and once inside, the harbor opens up to a large bay where we dropped the anchor.
Why Leave here?
We fell in love with Antigua now, as we began our discovery of the harbor side and the many services found here. The dinghy dock is at the head of the harbor along with coffee shops, pubs, chandleries, groceries stores and of course, the Antigua Yacht Club. This is our kind of harbor. It reminded me of what Annapolis Maryland must have been like 50 years ago. We could tell this was really going to be a fun place.
Across the street is “THE DOCKYARD”
What Dockyard? The one and only Nelson’s Dockyard where the British Fleet of the 1700 and 1800s serviced and managed their powerhouse of ships. Lord Nelson himself was here for 4 years. Today this is a World UNESCO site preserved forever and restored for all of us to enjoy. The most photographed placed is the PILLARS where the remains of the sail loft building of the 1800s still stands. On top of these pillars once stood a massive sail loft building where they would repair the sails of tall ships. The sails were rowed in via workboats under this building, between the pillars and then lifted up into the building overhead. The tall ships would be stationed out in the harbor. The remaining pillars are so interesting and very well preserved.
Today, Yacht Races and More
The month of April IS the month to be here as the Classic Yachts arrive for their races and then after that event, the Antigua Race Week kicks off the last week of April. Hundreds of yachts from around the world come here to participate in the race. We have been here a week already and the races start in another week and last for two more weeks, so we decided to return next season for Race Week. We will be sailing on to Guadeloupe and continuing south. We have 6 more weeks until haul out and so many more places to discover. The yachts here are massive, 100 to 150 feet seems average and 50 to 60 feet most common. Out little 35 footer feels likes a dinghy down here. But, we are proud to be here!
Boat Buddies Make it all MORE fun
While here at Antigua, we bumped into sv TEMERITY owned by Chris and Laura whom we meet years ago in the Exumas. They stored in Puerto Rico as well and were lucky to not take damages from IRMA or MARIA. Our first night here, we all headed up to SHIRLEY HEIGHTS for the Sunday Fun Day event. What a great time with good friends!
Denmark meets the United States
For many years, we have been following Judith and Haakon on sv TOUCHE, an Island Packet 380. Haakon is from Norway and Judith is from Denmark and they have sailed all over Norway, Scotland and even north to the island of Svalbard above the Arctic Circle. A few years ago, we hosted them on our boat at the Coconut Grove Sailing Center to give a presentation to the club about sailing to Svalbard. That same year, Judith presented at the Miami and Chicago Boatshows. In Dec 2018, they crossed the Atlantic and arrived in the Caribbean at Barbados. We departed Annapolis after the Boat Show and now we both have arrived at Antigua, with TOUCHE sailing north and ISLAND SPIRIT sailing south. We actually SHARED A HARBOR together! They are very serious sailors and we were honored to spend time with them.
We toured Nelson’s Dockyard and enjoyed meals and of course a few celebratory drinks together. We attended Shirley Heights on Thursday night for a good time, with rum punches, steel drum music and a raggae band. Now, they are sailing north to Annapolis where they will store the boat by end of May and we will sail south, storing in Grenada. We all will be at the Annapolis Boat Show together for our IPYOA Noon Lunches, so Judith and Haakon look forward to meeting many IP owners there.
Our final bottle of Bubbly
After three days of fun, we popped one more bottle of bubbly on sv TOUCHE and we shared our charts and navigation information for heading thru the Exumas and up the USA east coast. We are excited to see them in our home waters of the Chesapeake Bay this fall.
We depart tomorrow, Monday for a 45 nm beam reach south to Guadeloupe and then onto Iles de Saintes. The French Islands await. Our course finally is 180 (south) on a wind of 090 (east) so this should be a real JOY. Yes, the winds are 22-27 knots gusting 30 knots, but we will sail, finally. Oui Oui 🙂