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Nelson's Dockyard at Night

Nelson's Dockyard at Night

They say planning is the key to success. But life has taught me that a good raincoat and a goodnight’s sleep are far more important to deal with life’s surprises. Life is full of surprises. That was certainly true for this trip. I had brought a good raincoat, but a good night’s sleep eluded me until the third night.

The marina base was in Nelson’s Dockyard, an Antigua National Historic Park, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Antigua has preserved and restored the history of their British association from years past. The grounds are very well maintained and the buildings impressive.

We boarded the boats on Sunday, February 4th, as planned. First, however, boat checks and chart review with Sunsail and Moorings staff needed to occur for skippers and first mates. That was planned for 9 AM. It was a reasonable assumption that the chart briefing plus individual boat checkouts would take an hour or two. Wrong. Skippers arrived at 8:30 AM and when crews arrived a little after 9:30 AM, the chart review was underway but only one boat was having a boat checkout with charter company staff. The other two skippers waited, remembering that they were now on island time. They had skipped breakfast under the assumption they could grab an early lunch. When lunchtime rolled by, with the heat and humidity of a tropical climate, everyone’s energy and attitude was flagging. As staff started to board and work with skippers and first mates, a few crew members headed down the road for the hot walk to the local grocery stores, Crab Hole and Covent Garden. Others in the crews volunteered to get something to eat for the beleaguered and hungry skippers and first mates.

Covent Garden was very well air conditioned and adequate to our needs, but required some substitutions or additions to the “Get it in Jolly Harbour” list. Crab Hole was less so, but sufficed for provisioning the two days before we’d reach the big store in Jolly Harbour.

By the time our provisions and gear were loaded and we were ready, all three boats seemed filled with hot and tired crews. Attitudes improved as soon as we left the harbor and raised the sails. We anchored in Carlisle Bay nearby each other, as planned, a couple of hours later. As we started to prepare our evening meal, the wind and waves increased. Carlisle Bay is known as a safe and comfortable anchorage when the prevailing winds, east or northeast, are blowing. Unfortunately the wind was from the west/southwest and it was a rolly night. The heat and humidity below deck drove a few up on deck.

On Naomi, the cacophony of noise from the anchor chain, the mast, the boom, the very hull of the boat groaning with the confused seas, provided a beat by an almost harp-like sound. When I investigated at 4 AM, I learned it was the utensil drawer inadvertently left unlocked. Each wave was hard enough to drag it open, rattle the contents and then shove it back into place providing, to my hearing, a totally unnecessary sound. I locked it securely and checked each night afterward. Onboard each boat, there was someone at various hours of the night checking that the anchor wasn’t dragging. No anchors dragged, but nobody got a good night’s sleep.

The Columns at Nelson's Bob and Joel Five Island Harbour Dave Lee In Charge of Things

Our boats headed with hope to Jolly Harbour Marina for our Monday marina tie-up and any additional provisioning. This was still part of the original plan, heading north up the coast towards Dickenson Bay, our departure point for Barbuda. Jolly Harbour was indeed jolly, and all crews were provided an opportunity to shower, eat on shore and an unofficial survey reported that all slept well. All the boats were equipped with air conditioning and a shore power cord, an unexpected treat for a Caribbean charter, contributing greatly to our comfort.

By Tuesday morning, the weather reports informed us that the prevailing wind would not change, and in fact we could expect some heavy rain right about the time we planned to sail to Barbuda. That plan was rapidly looking impossible. Trying to remain hopeful, we sailed to Deep Bay arriving about 2:30 PM. There is a shipwreck in Deep Bay and a few folks swam over to snorkel, but reported the water was very murky and only a very few fish were spotted. The large waves and swells had churned up the bottom. Deep Bay proved almost as rolly as Carlisle had been, so sleep was once again a limited commodity.

The weather forecast deteriorated Wednesday morning: heavy rains, wind, and possible thunderstorms were forecast to start late afternoon and last all day Thursday. The skippers decided upon the safest plan: return to Jolly Harbour and get slips. We would not attempt the sail to Barbuda. Steve’s C’s the Day was off anchor early as he had some crew that wanted to get on land to explore other possibilities. All three boats were among the crowd milling around at the entrance to Jolly Harbour Marina that afternoon. We were not the only boaters seeking a safe haven, and the wait for a slip assignment was as much as three hours. Fortunately, we did all get in before the rain started.

It rained A LOT!

John B., Hallie, Cherie and Mary Ann

It rained an entire day and a half! The local folks rejoiced - their cisterns were full! Our crews made the most of the shore amenities and restaurants and played some Farkel. Some even took a swim in the marina pool. The sun did come out briefly late in the day Thursday, but returned again in the evening. I noted in my journal that I slept well to the sound of air conditioning and rain.

Five Island Harbour

Friday we headed to Five Island Harbour, and although snorkeling still wasn’t good, this was a decent anchorage. Except Island Time III, had a bent anchor shaft. They anchored, slipped, and re-anchored about seven times before just putting out far more chain than ought to have been necessary and called it a day. Mia at the helm, and Cherie on the bow, and the rest of the crew, were very glad to have the walkie-talkies Mia had brought.

Having abandoned our plan for Dickenson Bay and Barbuda, we headed back south on Saturday in a strong east/northeast trade wind, and sailed down the coast and around. Naomi and Island Time III tacked outside of the reef on Antigua’s south west shore while C’s the Day took the inside passage. Despite the rough first night there, we returned to Carlisle Bay and found it much calmer because of the wind shift. There was a resort ashore with a few restaurants. Most of the crew from Naomi went ashore. We enjoyed dinner at the Jetty Bar & Grill and a few even did a little beachcombing for shells. The food was excellent and the service very personable. The lambi roti was fantastic!

On the dinghy ride back to the boat, there were some large flying fish bursting from the water as we powered ahead with the flashlight guiding our way. It was like fireworks, the way the fish exploded out of the water ahead of the dingy.

The final sail back to English Harbour will remain in my memory as the very best! Blue skies, white puffy clouds and great wind! The Pillars of Hercules were impressive as we headed into the harbor. Nelson’s Dockyard is gorgeous, and the work done to restore the old stone buildings from the 1700s was very much appreciated by everyone.

It was not the trip we planned. It was, however, a sailing trip in Antigua, a tropical paradise to be sure. Sunsail and Moorings provided, as promised, help and support for the boat problems we encountered and although not all were resolved, there were successful workarounds.

Mary Ann Gordon - Trip Leader

Pillars of Hercules at English Harbour Jerry at the Wheel


C's the Day Island Time III Naomi
Steve Krakauer (Skipper) Mia McCroskey (Skipper) Bob Rainey (Skipper)
Jan Cornelius (First Mate) John Francischetti (First Mate) Joel Mack (First Mate)
Z Huang John Burke Linda Baker
Victoria Kennedy Cherie Comly Mary Ann Gordon
Don Schlenger David Lee Virginia Malik
Viky Schlenger Hallie Lee Jerry Peck


Mia, John B., John F., Cherie, Hallie, Dave

Jolly Harbour - The Calm After the Storm


Joel, John F. and Mia


Photo Contributors: Mary Ann Gordon, Joel Mack and Mia McCroskey



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