Thursday 2 February 2017

Antigua - 28/1 - 2/2

After a fairly lively sail from Deshaies, Guadeloupe we anchored in Falmouth Harbour Antigua at around 1530 on 28/1/17.

The sailing guide refers to two marinas, Antigua Yacht Club Marina and Falmouth Harbour Marina that both specialise in Super Yachts. Too true. The amount of wealth afloat in Falmouth Harbour is quite mind-boggling as you can see from the photos.

We passed an old acquaintance from our earlier sailing years at anchor, 'The Malcolm Miller'. She used to be a sail training ship but is now a luxury yacht. She does look very splendid (no photo sorry).

We went ashore to explore the immediate area and walked round to the famous 'Nelson's Dockyard' at English Harbour just round the corner. We were too late to clear customs and immigration but established that despite the next day being a Sunday they would be open then.

We did a quick tour of Nelson's Dockyard. Many of the original buildings have been restored which is goo but unfortunately the price of so doing seems to be that nearly all have been converted to commercial premises. One exception is the Museum which we plan to visit when we have more time to browse. We gazed longingly at the quiet waters and short distances in English Harbour having had to take a 15 minute dinghy ride in from our anchorage to the nearest dinghy dock amongst the big boys and because of the large open space of Falmouth Harbour and the stiff breeze, we had got soaking wet. Our initial assumption was that we wouldn't be allowed in such an iconic place but thankfully as we discovered subsequently that turned out to be wrong.

After a reasonable meal at one of the eateries between English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour we returned to the boat.

The next day Sunday, we braved the long and wet dinghy ride ashore once again and our first task was to check in with the Authorities, of which there were three. Thankfully, but also slightly comically they were all located within the same 18th Century building with much of the original features remaining: Customs, Immigration and the Port Authority. Customs was first, but a short visit only because we had first to fill out forms with details of the boat and crew on the e-Clear computer system. Thankfully a terminal was free and after about 30 minutes we returned to the Customs Window again. The official printed off the forms, gave me two copies and asked me to go to the Immigration Window. There I was asked a number of questions – all of which I had answered on the forms – apart that is from his jokey one - “Is there fire in the Arctic?” His lovely accent threw me at first and I thought he said “is there fire in the attic?!” However, I caught on just in time to avoid embarrassing myself – we had a laugh, he stamped the forms and directed me … back to Customs! Back we went to Customs the chap there was engrossed in what sounded very much like a family conversation with a woman on his side of the counter. He broke off, looked at the forms, stamped them again and informed me I now had to go the 'Port Authority'. I looked a little puzzled and asked where that was, “just there” he said pointing at the women with whom he had been engrossed in conversation, who I then realised was sat behind a separate window. It was here that all the fees were calculated and paid. In all it was 110 EC$ or about £32 which included some one off and some recurring charges for the initial two nights we stipulated. As far as we have been able to work out, the recurring daily charges for our 10 metres are about £8.30. When one considers that muddy Queenborough charges £15 per night that's not at all bad. Even better we established there was nothing to stop us moving round the corner to English Harbour where the same feed apply.

We spent the rest of the day exploring the local area more and during the course of so doing we bumped into a familiar figure – Philip with his dog Maximus. We had last seen Philip in Mindelo Cape Verde. He left the day before us after having experienced a number of problems with locals working on his boat. We bumped into him later at one of the bars and spend a very pleasant evening yarning and swapping stories. It turned out that the workmanship on his engine in Mindelo was less than satisfactory and he got sea water into the engine on his crossing. He therefore arrived at Falmouth Harbour on the 23rd of December with no engine and no headsails which he blew out during the crossing. That made tacking in a little trick but he managed it and was able to get towed to a mooring. His engine is now out of the boat being repaired.

It turned out that Maximus is a big hit with all the girls and that as a consequence Philip has had no problem gate crashing the various parties thrown by the super yacht set here!

The boat's genoa roller reefing gear has continued to be occasionally stiff in operation and I had therefore made contact with the suppliers to order spare parts and had also been in touch with a local rigger (corroded screws had prevented us from being able to dismantle the gear which would be required if the halyard swivel is to be replaced and which is suspected as the cause of our difficulties) – who it turned out was based at English Harbour. The next day – Monday we therefore motored the 2-3 miles to English Harbour. A big swell and strong headwind meant we made only a couple of knots and so the very short trip lasted a couple of hours. Once in we found a sheltered spot and dropped the hook about 50 metres from the poshest restaurant – The Pillars – in the harbour.

On Tuesday we took the “bus” (a similar concept/service to that provided on Dominica) to the Capital St Johns. To us the town seemed a less attractive version of Roseau in Dominica. There were 4 cruise ships in when we were there and we learned that later in the day the number had swelled to 6. 

The whole water-front area was given over to the cruise ship trade and the old dockside areas had lost their original character. The strange thing was that even though the town was dominated by the cruise ships, the extra tourist traffic did not seem to have improved the lot of the locals that much. There was significantly greater poverty in evidence around the island than we saw in Dominica and of course a lot more wealth too.

On Wednesday we took to the buses again, this time to visit Terry and Fiona on Sisu whom we had first met in Mindelo in the Cape Verde and who were now anchored in Jolly Harbour, about 10 miles up the west coast from us. Before getting on the bus we dropped by at the Riggers to complete paperwork for importing the new Genoa swivel. The main man was not there and the subsequent email contact we have had has not yet completely re-assured me that all is in order. Importing seems a complicated business and there may well be some process issues I have missed. We will have to follow up again tomorrow. It's all a bit worrying because Richard and Rayelle join us on the 8th and we want to have the work finished by then. However, until the rigger actually has the parts he can't book us in and the longer the admin takes.....Fingers crossed.

Anyway we met Terry and Fiona and had a most enjoyable lunch catching up and sharing our accounts of the Atlantic crossing. It sounded like they had a tougher time than us. Amongst other things, Terry had to dismantle his wind vane self steering gear, make up new parts from nuts and bolts and re-assemble it all. I'm very glad I did not have to deal with that.

Tomorrow we plan to ascend the local must go to view spot - Shirley Heights, from where apparently there are magnificent views of the two harbours. Some of the Super Yachts are competing in the Super Yacht Challenge and we hope to see some of the action from that too.

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