Friday, December 26, 2008

Antiguan Christmas

English Harbour, Antigua
17 00.3'N 61 45.7'W

We arrived here on the 13th and have had a wonderful 2 weeks enjoying some of the many pleasures on the island. English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour are right next door to one another, two hurricane holes with deep water and as a result home to the British Fleet in the 17th & 18th Centuries a lot of history. Today there is tourism and super yachts, and given the credit crunch who knows what tomorrow will bring!

English Harbour is home to Nelson's Dockyard, for many years this helped Brittania rule the waves, the Navy could bring ships into harbour here, be protected by nature from the elements and by 3 forts from the filthy foreigners while they scrubbed, repaired and restocked the fleet.

A clean boat is a fast boat, and a fast boat used to win the battles. Nelson was commander of the dockyard for many years earlier in his career and pursued the Spaniards and French later on from this base. Astonishingly the Georgian ship yard was left to decay for 200 years before being "found" in the 1950's and restored by an English expat, today there is a museum, shops, restaurants and some yachting facilities among the old buildings.

Around the corner in Falmouth is where the super yachts congregate, millions if not billions of dollars worth were tied up there over Christmas and New Year, including Tom Perkins 250ft plus long Maltese Falcon, currently on the market for US$165m if anyone is feeling flush. She is a modern take on the clipper ships, the sails furl intot he mast and it is all computer controlled. We watched in amazement as the crew unfurled the sails and sailed off the dock at the yacht club and off down the channel that we had motored carefully down in Matsu a few days before!

Many other stunning yachts were there with their crews polishing and cleaning absolutely everything on board to make them gleam, not quite as glamorous a job as it appears from outside!

The main reason we had come to English Harbour was to celebrate Christmas, we had arranged with 5 other boats that we have known and cruised with for many months to tie up to the dock at Nelson's Dockyard and have the full turkey dinner.

The dockyard has a party of its own in the morning so as we cooked we walked around watching everyone dressed in their Christmas best and sipping champagne, even getting to face a couple of overs of hostile West Indian fast bowling.

Linda cooked a turkey, as did Donna from Magic, while Offline, A2C, Keesje II and Imagine brought all the trimmings - home made cranberry relish, roast potatoes, sprouts, stuffing etc etc possibly the biggest Christmas feast I have ever had all on tables under the trees in a 200 year old historic monument. The atmosphere, the cheap French wine and the great company made for an excellent day and night, lot's of laughter and food to be danced off.
Sadly we are all going different ways now with most of the boats heading for the USA while we stay in the islands, so it was also a farewell meal too - you spend a lot of time together while cruising and make great friendships very quickly, we are sad to see these boats go and send our best to you all for your future travels.

As well as our new cruising friends we got to spend some time with Sarah, Manfred and the kids who were holidaying in Antigua over Christmas. They joined us for fishing, snorkeling and maybe a couple of drinks, Lukie put me to shame by catching a fish in about 30 seconds after my recent disasters!


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