Race around the clock
English Harbour and the neighbouring village of Falmouth are internationally known as a yachting and sailing destination. They host a plethora of races and regattas. In the time we were there the 600 miles took place and the Atlantic rowing contest arrived.
Beginning of February we would be woken up in the middle of the night, early morning, or in the middle of the day with lots of hooting and flares being shot each time one of the rowers on the Talisker Atlantic Challenge completed the more than 3000 miles from the Canaries to Nelson’s Dockyard. The race starts out in La Gomera early December with 30 teams from all over the world participating. We saw the young guy that won the race passed out on the beach. Gitane befriended his sister who told us he had been sleeping nonstop since his arrival…
The RORC 600 miles was interesting as some friends of us took part. Selim & Nadire from Keyif (whom we met in Martinique) were crewing for a cat and had a hell of an experience. The conditions were really bad and they were one of 30 boats that forfeited after 300 miles. That was after their captain broke his ribs and they saw a cat capsize. Rachel and her crew on NorX completed the race but had all sorts of problems and came in almost last…
Exclusive island shopping
We thought Dominica was pricy when it came to fresh produce, but Antigua seemed not one bit better. Basic food is horrendously expensive, making you contemplate each carrot, cucumber, onion you cut. It is not uncommon to find a whole chicken priced 90 ECU (over 30 Euro) or a big packet of bacon for 150 ECU (over 50 Euro). The closest shop to us was Covent garden, some type of supermarket catering mainly to sailors and other tourists. We cycled over the hills and far away, 7 km under the Caribbean sun, to the more local Bargain market, to discover that choices there were very limited and only slightly cheaper for some products. We went a few times with Peter & Viviane to the Epicurean in the capital, Saint John, which is more like a hypermarket. There you can find anything you need if you are not on a budget. They do have the annoying habit of (dis)organizing products on the shelves according to label name rather than type of product. You basically have to stroll through the whole shop and stay focused to discover tea, tomato cans, peanut butter in 5 different places. It is striking to see that most produce is imported from the States. We suspect some form of protectionism, chasing up the price for anyone.
We also visited Saint John and Jolly Harbour by minibus. Minibuses leave from the parking lot in front of Nelson’s Dockyard and are by far the easiest and most convenient way to travel if you are not in a hurry. They are 10 times less expensive than a taxi, allow for interaction with the locals, and always add a unique experience on top. To distinguish between a taxi and a minibus, it does not help to look at the type of car, the yellow light on top or any other known taxi signs. They all look the same. The easiest is to have a peek at the license plate: TX for taxi, R for Rental, and you’ll never guess: BUS for minibus. Note that all license plates state: ‘Antigua & Barbuda, land of sea and sun’.
Our first minibus had no shock absorbers, leaving us bouncing up and down in the back, catapulting us upwards at every pothole. At least the automatic ejection chair was included in the package. The door was left open for air conditioning. For a minute we thought we were back in Cape Town, but we soon realized Caribbean minibuses lack the Cape flats organization. There are no (p)ushers like in Cape Town. No signs ‘this bus is licensed for 12 people’ yet 16 heads are counted and another 4 are pushed in with ease. In Antigua, the driver organizes all. No one gets squeezed in, nor do you end up with a stranger on your lap. A gentle whisper ‘bus stop’ results in a careful halt in a safe spot. No need to take out your key ring to tap on the buses roof or shout ‘thank you driver’ on top of your voice followed by screeching tires and near-accidents. A much more spacious and relax way of traveling than its African counterpart…On our leisurely drive through the different areas colourful clapboard or cement houses could be observed, very often on stilts. They have the same building style as Dominica, and gave us a better idea what it would have looked like.
Saint John is very small, and just like Roseau does not feel like a capital. The cruiseline terminals are the main business. On the approach you see these tall cruiseliners sticking out over the low buildings, the whole ‘town’ dwarfed by their presence.
We also did a short stop in Jolly Harbour, which mainly has holiday houses or expats. It has a different vibe, marina feels a bit run down.
Snaring new friends
The anchorage seemed like a great place to attract new friends for Gitane. We made sure we spent some time every day, letting out our little bonobo.
The larger beach is popular with tweens, young people, and retirees. Our first week Gitane had great fun with two girls from New York, and two girls Hannah & Roxy working at Dream Yacht charters.
Several families were having holidays in the area. One afternoon was spent with two Canadian families and their 4 kids. Another day we met 5yr old Mandy from Boston.
But most fun was meeting other kiddies boats, inviting them over to our boat or being invited:
- Zoe, daughter of the Canadian zoologist Chantal and American Dave, skipper of an exploration vessel.
- Luis, Priscilla and toddler Luca (2) from Brazil, cruising 6mnths on 6 mnths off.
- Taking a mermaid class together with Lexie (8) and Maddie (8), given by Bonnie
- American twin girls also 5yrs old from sv Andromeda
- Learning to swim without floaties under peer pressure of the 6yr old Alexis from sv Sofia. The French father Bruno did a yachtmaster course in Falmouth, which gave the kids plenty of time to get to know each other. Alexis has a Slowak mom Dana and 2.5 yr old sister Thalia.
- French Oukiva, with Eric, Liba, 8yr old Victoria and 3yr old Clara. Eric regularly posts YouTube movies on their travels. You can find him by typing in Eric Billod. Check out post ‘288 Ballade sur Antigua’ at minute 6.12 and you might see Gitane playing with fire…
- French Vitavi, with 2 boys Elouen (3) and Ethan (5)
- Norwegian cat Vega with Sigri (11), Askil (9) and Viljar (4)
- New Zealand cat Gabian with Logan (10) and Baxter (8)
- English Troubadour with Molly (7) and her 9yr old sister