Antigua 4-13 March 2016
Its seems that quite a few people I know have been to Antigua and that is probably because there are direct flights from the UK. Many of them have said how amazing it is and the pilot book we have says it has more anchorages than any other Caribbean island. There are the famous English and Falmouth Harbours where Lord Admiral Nelson spent some time and you can find Nelsons Dockyard, which was built in 1745 and restored to fully functional monument in 1949. Now it is one of the Caribbean’s yachting centres, so to say we had high expectations was an understatement.
We had an uncomfortable 8 hour sail, Simon having to reef the sails in and out the entire journey whilst I retched over the side. On arriving the water was the murkiest we’d seen since arriving to the Caribbean, ashore most of the people seemed unfriendly and it was not the most spectacular looking island, what a disappointment! It really felt this was our least favourite island.
We stayed in Jolly Harbour ready for the arrival of my parents and after a 24 hour delay they were finally greeted by a very over excited little dog with an over enthusiastic waggy tail who couldn’t be more pleased to see them. It was great to have them here in the flesh and they’d brought along lots of treats and goodies as is the tradition for all visitors to the Tudor Rose. Of course it didn’t last long as by the evening my parents were already arguing, despite being on the holiday of a lifetime. As a result of my frustrations I then started shouting and behaving irrationally because I just wanted everyone to enjoy themselves and be happy but this seems a big ask with my family….why change the habit of a lifetime. Its going to be an interesting week!!!!!
Keen to make the most of my parents holiday, we left the marina to head to Deep bay, where there is the wreck of an Iron Barge that sank in 1905 after catching fire. The mast stumps break the surface of the water and you can snorkel over the wreck. Unfortunately the weather changed and wind picked up creating a Northly swell making it rather uncomfortable and then the rain came so we aborted back to Jolly Harbour. It was a pretty unpleasant journey back as the waves were side on and my poor mum was terribly seasick. This really wasn’t a good start, she was already cynical about the hype regarding the Caribbean and I was going to have to convince her that having a baby on a boat was perfectly safe. This really wasn’t helping my cause at all.
The strong wind was forecast for the next 3 days so we figured we’d spend the next day getting the bus to the capital, St Johns. In the morning my mum had mentioned the sound of water sloshing and lapping around their bed making her feel rather disorientated during the night. Its funny how all these little absurdities are now normal to Simon and me, yet my mum is experiencing it for the first time. She even found it weird that the boat rocked and rolled at sea. She only though that happened thousands of miles off shore, I thought this rather odd as she often goes to the coast and can see how rough the sea gets, did she really think boats were perfectly still in the water. I guess she did after holidaying on those awful Tower block ‘Butlins’ style cruise ships.
We all got soaked in the dingy getting ashore thanks to wind, but soon dried off in the Caribbean heat. St John’s was a typical Caribbean style Capital it couldn’t be further from Paris, London and Rome. It was a big busy shanty town with odd brick ‘a’ brack shops selling all sorts of random stuff piled high on narrow isles, not dissimilar the Poundland stores you get back home expect nothing is as cheap as £1! As usual the cruise ship harbour side was quite the opposite to the rest of the town and was immaculate, clean and expensive looking with lots of posh shops selling clothes, sunglasses and jewellery which you can buy anywhere in the world. We enjoyed an overpriced lunch and it was good day out especially as it gave Simon and me the chance to secretly ‘recci’ the town ready for our baby scan in 6 days time. My parents still don’t know about the pregnancy as we’re not going to tell them until Simon’s mum arrives in 4 days time.
When back in Jolly Harbour we did stumble upon Jolly Beach which was actually gorgeous but we only got to enjoy briefly as we decided to move 5 miles down the island to a quiet little place called Carlisle Bay to enjoy some snorkelling and relaxing in the hope that it would be more protected from the wind. The sail down was lovely and we were surrounded by Turtles popping up for air all the way, which my dad loved experiencing, unfortunately my mum spent most of the sail sleeping, but at least she wasn’t being sick this time.
The water was lovely and clear here and there was a elegant strip of beach backed with palm trees and an expensive looking exclusive hotel, where we all enjoyed walking Scrumpy and watching the sunset. Although my mum still argued that Turkey and the Mediterranean were nicer and cheaper. She’s so stubborn, but I hate to admit I am just like her …grrrrrr. In some respects I agree the Caribbean has been amazing but it’s not the be all and end all as far as we are concerned. Much of it depends on your expectations and your mood, sometimes you want civilisation and sometimes you don’t which is why I have stopped asking people whether a particular place is worth visiting as its all personal and relative to them, you have to make your own mind up and also give it a second chance if you are first disappointed.
With the arrival of Simon’s mum and partner, Bev and Barry imminent we made our way down to Falmouth & English Harbour. We spent a night on the anchor in Falmouth which was huge and very busy, it had 3 marinas full of super yachts and power boats all light up like Christmas tree’s. We wondered how many amp hours they use to keep these illuminated while we are trying preserve as much power as possible with only our engine, solar panels & wind turbine as a way of generating electricity!
Again I was disappointed when we went ashore, when I read ‘yachting centre of the Caribbean’ I was expecting a picturesque, buzzing little town. Instead it was just clusters of restaurants with a few dirty old streets linking them together and seemed pretty quiet for a Saturday night.
The following day we motored out of Falmouth and around into Nelson’s Dockyard Marina, English Harbour to make live easier for Bev and Barry to get aboard with their cases. Fitting 3 people and suitcases in a 7 foot dingy and then attempting to haul them up the swim platform could no doubt end up in a ‘suitcase overboard’ situation. The nerves were starting to build up now as Simon and I had both agreed today would be the day we drop the ‘baby news bombshell’ to both our parents. I was absolutely petrified at my mother’s reaction, positive that she would kick off about our plans to continue sailing with a baby, calling me selfish and insist that I return to the UK to raise the child in the normal manner. It was something I had been working myself up about for weeks and today was judgement day.
Nelson’s Dockyard was enchanting and felt so very British since it had once been Britain’s main naval station in the Lesser Antilles. Having worked in many Naval Dockyards whilst being a land dweller I felt right at home and it was by far the most interesting and magnificent berth we’d ever had the pleasure of staying in. How amazing that something built between 1745 and 1789 could be restored to a modern day functional marina and just in good old Britannia style the heavens opened to welcome our arrival.
After a few hours delay Bev and Barry finally arrived, meaning that the pregnancy secret weighing me down like an anchor could at last be lifted. Simon was under strict instructions that he would be the one to make the announcement. I waited in anticipation for him to the make the first move and when I thought I was about to explode I kicked him under the table and told him to bloody get on with it. It was difficult to get everyone’s attention over numerous discussions about the menu but after some shouting and prizing a tablet from my mothers hands he was able to blurt out “We have something to tell you….” with all eye’s now locked on Simon he went on to say “the reason we are probably coming home for a little bit is because we are having a baby!”. For the first time in my entire 33 years of existence I saw my mum speechless, all the colour drained from her face and she looked white as sheet. After a few seconds where I can only assume she was trying to process the sheer magnitude of what had been declared, she said deadly serious “You are joking!” and we assured her it was genuine. She didn’t have anything negative to say and once it had sunk in she was really happy for us, what a relief. Everyone was over the moon. Up until this point I had been spent much of my life like Peter Pan, and quitting my job to live on a yacht and sail around the world had been no exception. Most of my family had figured I had no intensions of growing up and starting a family but after all these years I still manage to continually shock them.
Holly & Her Daddy in Falmouth Harbour
(More Photos to be added later when our wifi situation improves …..#FirstWorldBoatProblems)