The Leeward Islands of Antigua and Barbuda!
…..are the 2 major islands that make up the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, there being several outlying islands too. Independence was granted in November 1981 but it remains a member of the Commonwealth with our Queen Elizabeth 11 as head of state!
Antigua is best known for its many sandy beaches. Also for English Harbour and the newly restored Nelson’s Dockyard, which Admiral Horatio Nelson made his base in the 1780s, living there himself for three years! The dockyard these days includes a marina, restaurants and shops and the Dockyard Museum.
Historically after England acquired the colonies of Antigua and Barbuda in the 1600’s, English Harbour became a focal point for the establishment of a naval base. Its position on the south side of the island allowed the monitoring of the neighbouring French island of Guadeloupe! The harbour was naturally well-suited to protect ships and cargo from hurricanes especially into the furthest reaches of the harbour in the mangroves and of course remains so today!
7th April ~ English Harbour Antigua!
We, Petit Goustan and Musetta left Little Bay, Monserrat at around 9.30 am for the 40 nautical mile passage to English Harbour! Once we reached the top of Montserrat it soon became apparent that it would not be the best day’s sailing with a chopped up sea state and worst of all the wind blowing from the direction we wanted to go?! This meant that we would have to tack at some point which is a very dispiriting experience when you then appear to be heading away from your destination before tacking again!! But hey ho we were up for the challenge! Well were we?! We realised that one tack wasn’t going to be enough to set us on course for the entrance to English Harbour and so once we had made it up to a few miles off the coast we opted to motor the rest of the way! It wasn’t far and the late afternoon/early evening turned out to be sun drenched, it was an easy choice to make!!
Our French cruising companions were much more stoical! They sailed every inch of the way, Petit Goustan being faster under sail than under engine! They arrived some time after us, it was nearly dark, anchoring in front of us opposite Galleon Beach after a hard day out on the water!
We had suggested to Élise and Fabien that this is definitely one of the highlights of a visit to Antigua, especially for us sailors and so they jumped at the chance to come here with us!
We had been here on a number of other occasions, the last one being 10 years ago and so it was a real thrill to sail into the harbour on Musetta!
Since our last visit there had been much smartening up of the dockyard and it’s environs with the addition of a new super yacht dock!
Our visit this time coincided with conclusion of the Oyster Round the World Rally! There were parties galore in the evenings to which anyone seemed to be able to tag along, us included! Also with racing during the day to bring the whole event to a close!
The only downside of the tidying of the dockyard and the new dock was that we were unable to anchor where we had before. There was a buoy in the middle of it stating in no uncertain terms “No Anchoring”!!
We did see to our amazement a yacht at anchor with us off Galleon Beach which was at anchor when we were here 10 years ago?!! We could hardly believe it?
Here it is, identifiable by it’s painted zebra striped hull and ramshackle appearance! We thought then and still do now that it must be a ‘live aboard’, not that we saw any sign of life then or now!!
Musetta’s Fridge and Freezer Repair!
What a pain this was for the third time? The only system on board that has let us down!
We were recommended to a refrigeration company, reassuringly named Zero Degrees, who came to our rescue. We had to move Musetta onto the dock at The Slipway so that the technician could have easy access to the problem! It is all a long saga but in a nutshell we had to decamp from the boat into the Admiral’s Inn in the dockyard while the problem was sorted out!
The Admiral’s Inn, the former Pitch and Tar store of yesteryear was where Alan and I had spent a couple of nights at either end of our previous charter holiday from Antigua! It was no hardship at all to stay in this ancient Inn, full of history, even if it was only for one night!!
We also had company on the Slipway dock ~ Hugo Boss….!! I managed to ‘blag’ my way on board (as long as I didn’t take any photos) to see what life was like for an ocean racer!
It was fascinating and horrifying at the same time? The thought of spending several months on board as you charged round the world in 74 days was mind blowing in the extreme! For instance there are no comforts like an oven, just a hob to boil a kettle? A ‘loo’? Not chance – only a bucket, a carbon fibre one though!!! My admiration for Alex Thompson skipper of Hugo Boss and his fellow intrepid sailors hit new heights!
15th April ~ Jolly Harbour!
With the fridge and freezer repair complete, we waited for 24 hours to make sure that they were working properly, keeping everything crossed as we did so!! Fortunately all was well and so arranged to rendez-vous with Petit Goustan outside the entrance to the harbour the next day to sail round and up to Jolly Harbour on the northwest coast of Antigua. Petit Goustan appeared just as we nosed our way out of the harbour, what timing!
We wanted to go to the supermarket which we were told was ‘Waitrose’ in disguise as ‘Epicurian’. It was a great food store and that together with a good chandlery was just what we needed before heading off to Barbuda!
Jolly Harbour entrance ~ as pretty as a picture!
We restocked our fridge and left after two nights to go to the final destination of our cruise with Petit Goustan!?!
Barbuda ~ 17th to 19th April
We had an amazing sail to Barbuda! It was only 34 nautical miles but we had great conditions and we ‘flew’ Musetta relishing the conditions too, a very different experience from the sail to Antigua from Montserrat! The two boats converged at one point so that we could take photos of one another!!
The trip was over fairly quickly and because Barbuda is so low lying you don’t see it until you are very close!
Barbuda is known for its beautiful pink and white sand beaches, and the two exclusive resorts of Cocoa Point and the K-Club which attracted the rich and famous, most notably Princess Diana who took her two young boys there to get away from it all!?
On approach all seems to be well but the reality was very different… In September 2017 the island was virtually wiped out by the Category 5 Hurricane Irma, destroying 95% of the islands buildings and infrastructure! Most of the island’s residents who lived in Codrington were evacuated to Antigua!
Broken buildings, broken trees – it was heartbreaking to see it?!
Having said all that, Élise and Fabien thought it was the most heavenly place!! We do too because it is truly beautiful and if you didn’t look at the buildings, the sea and sand were unchanged!
We swam ashore, Alan took the dinghy with all our stuff and we walked to the end of Cocoa Point where they are trying to resurrect a resort with some very upmarket looking tents until it can all be rebuilt. The security remains the same as before, ie we were not allowed to encroach beyond a certain limit from the sea up the beach!
Here are our two boats at anchor, AMAZING!
We walked back along the beach right up to the far end to the K-Club, or at least what remained of it! It was hard to look at it without thinking of Diana?They are both no more? Perhaps one day the resort will be rebuilt but in the meantime the beach has been named Princess Diana Beach!
On our way back we were approached by a young man, Enoch who asked us if we would like to see Codrington, the only town on the island!? We hadn’t been before and so thought, why not? Luckily Élise and Fabien agreed and so arranged to be back in a while ready to get into a taxi!
It was quite a long drive into Codrington, I don’t think any of us realised how far it would be, the island seems so small? Just like the beach there was devastation everywhere we looked! It will take a long, long time to rebuild the town and the island for that matter. For us Barbuda is all about the sea and the beaches which are unchanged despite the best efforts of Irma!
Farewell to Élise and Fabien and Petit Goustan!
This was the end of our cruise in company with this delightful young couple who we had come to regard as firm friends! We so enjoyed their company, their vitality and Fabien’s humour had us in stitches!! We will miss them but we will see them again, next time in Paris!
After supper on board Musetta we bade them a teary farewell as the next day they had to turn south for Martinique and we would be continuing north to St. Barts!
Our journey continues….St. Barts to St. Martin!!
** In order to know exactly where Musetta and crew are currently, please check the Yellow Brick Tracker page on the website!**