28 February 2017
Antigua is most famous for its international yacht racing and historic English Harbour. We managed to combine both watching the 2017 Super Yacht Challenge perched above English Harbour sat in the shade of the ruins of an old fort.
The waters around Antigua are shoal with plenty of reefs to catch sailors out but polarised sunglasses helped greatly. Watching the depths drop to just a few metres, still quite a way from our anchorage, made for heart in your mouth stuff until we got used to it. We draw 2m and had never anchored in just 2.5m before! We had been advised to check in to the country in Jolly Harbour on the west coast, as it was simple and straightforward there, and these were wise words. After a great re-provisioning at the Epicurean supermarket, we headed round to the south of the island and anchored in Falmouth Harbour, next door to English Harbour.
Wow, were we in grand company! Super and mega yachts of all shapes and sizes glittered along the pontoons by day and provided a light show by night, each one seemingly trying to out-do the next. We recognised the names of many yachts that we had only read about in magazines but it was a treat to see Kialoa III, a classic sailing boat from the '60's that Chris's brother Ben had skippered many years before.
Work began in English Harbour Dockyard in 1745 and was completed around 1789. It was Britain's main naval base in the Lesser Antilles, with Nelson stationed here in 1784, where he became Naval Commander. Today, the restored Georgian-era dockyard attracts many visitors and is best visited either when there are no cruise-ships in or around lunchtime, after the morning busloads of cruise-ship passengers have departed. There are plenty of story-boards around explaining the original function of each building and walking around you are transported back in time both by some classic yachts moored on the quay and by the hotels such as the Copper & Lumber Store, where afternoon tea on the lawn is a must. It was also here that the Atlantic Challenge rowers arrived to the sounds of boat horns being blasted around the harbour to herald each new arrival. Having seen the start of the 2016 race when in La Gomera, it was great to see the finish line of the 2017 race.
Falmouth Harbour was an ideal placed to be based; the holding was good, the white-sand Pigeon Beach was a dinghy-ride away and the Happy Hour at one of the many bars was the place to meet up with friends. It was also a great place to follow the trail behind Pigeon Beach and climb towards Fort Berkeley from where we had a panoramic viewing spot to watch some of the 3 days of racing during the Super Yacht Challenge. We'd seen some of the boats coming in and out of Falmouth to practise but to see them on the water together was a treat, especially the downwind leg when huge colourful spinnakers billowed in the skies. In complete contrast, the 2017 Wobbly Boat Race, a charity race to raise funds for the local Search & Rescue services, provided lots of laughs.
Whether a super yacht or cruiser, rich and famous or a liveaboard like us, English and Falmouth Harbours made us all feel welcome, sharing a part of British naval history.
Supermarket in Falmouth Harbour
Laundry in Falmouth Harbour or call Beverly's Laundry on 268 724 6563. 40EC$ for wash/dry/iron
Jackie's Kwik Stop restaurant, opposite Falmouth Harbour, serves Mexican food in the evening and local dishes. Inexpensive and good.
Cloggy's, upstairs at Yacht Club, with views of Falmouth. Good for lunch, for views. Reservations needed.
Budget Marine chandlery, left from Falmouth Harbour
ICE Ltd - English couple with communication and electronic business in English Harbour. Gave us free cabling to fix our VHF. Great service.