Antigua 1By Mark Stevens


English Harbour, Antigua and Barbuda. 


Just before the weekly party at Shirley HeightsSunsail staffer Chris Donahue conducts our chart briefing inthe cockpit of our chartered Jeanneau 41, lashed stern-to on a cobblestone pier where two Royal Navy officers once fought a fatal duel, hard by Sunsail’s base office housed in a stone building, circa 1795.

Briefing done, we can dance the night away high above the Caribbean Sea, nosh on the world’s best jerk chicken and imbibe all the rum punch we want and still get up next morning to cast off, to make for the open waters awaiting just outside English Harbour.

Antigua 4The sun’s barely cleared the cactus-studded slopes of Shirley Heights when we start the engine and let go the lines.It gilds the waters in gold as we maneuver “Blue Voyage” into the bay, steering around other boats, some anchored, some on mooring balls. It pinpoints the cedar shake roof of the Galley Bar, a popular local watering hole, like a theatre spotlight.

We clear the harbour opening, gliding past an eighteenth-century fort to our starboard, the ramparts of a Royal Army base frowning down from a hundred metres to our port side and now the sun sparkles on whitecaps racing for our transom, indigo waters a vivid contrast to emerald hills strollingacross Antigua’s south coast. We steer a westerly course, trimming for a broad reach, cutting inside Cades Reef, passing an elegant beach resort we’ll visit later in the week, rounding a tiny island and cutting in off Turner’s Beach, snow-white sand and the best conch fritters on Antigua, green hills off the starboard beam.

Antigua 7Now we trim sails, slicing flat heaven-painted waters dead ahead with nary another boat, nary any hazard or impediment to our north-pointing passage (though Sunsail staffer Chris Donahue’s pointed out a couple of spots on this coast where we have to be careful), winds roaring down mountain slopes and rushing for our sails like friendly dogs.

It’s winter back home in Canada. Not here.

In his Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands Chris Doyle suggests that Antigua and her shy sister Barbuda boast a greater scope and variety of anchorages than any other Leeward Islands destination.

He’s not wrong, I think, but he might be missing the point. It’s all about the sailing.

It’s thirty degrees Celsius, the winds are steady at fifteen knots and we’re breaking eight once we set the sails for a beam reach.

A beam reach for paradise.

Antigua 2I let mythoughts wander as “Blue Voyage” races north. I further reflect on Doyle and this whole question.

Anchorages or passages?

We pass Ffryes Beach and Jolly Beach, glowing sand fronting neon waters. We safely skirt Ffryes Shoal.

It’s getting downright metaphysical, this issue: ying and yang.

Then we drop sails and pull into Deep Bay for the night. Wavelets nuzzle the boat as the sun nose-dives toward the horizon like a hungry pelican, setting the skies on fire, a spectacle we watch from the cockpit, nursing cocktails made from English Harbour Rum.

Next day we dinghy ashore to a beach withsand like brown sugar, rainbow-dyed wraps flapping and flogging on a clothesline beside a vendor’s hut. A couple running an excursion tour for cruise passengers invites us to share in jerk chicken and rum punchthen wescramble up a trail through scrub forest, climbing to the heights where the ruins of Fort Barrington squat implacably, where – on this clear day – we can see forever, where we bond with sure-footed goats on the lips of precipitous cliffs, while turquoise waters nuzzle the rocks far below, morphing to teal farther out, cobalt in the farthest distance.

Antigua 3Maybe Doyle’s right, I think, there above Deep Bay: St. John’s reclines in the distance, the resorts of Dickenson Bay with their kaleidoscopebroken up by bursts of green foliage line the shore, the white triangle and characteristic red-wrapped forestay of another Sunsail boat makes for points north.

We weigh anchor and come out of the lee of Fort Barrington. White spindrift marbles the water in the opening off St. John’s like the fat in a prime steak, wind skipping across the water like a kid throwing stones, boat heeled, coursing forward in fifteen steady knots, eight knots VMG, happy as a filly on the first day of spring.

One point for “passages”.

Antigua 6Then we get to Great Bird Island. Another perfect sunset, a tall treed island in North Sound, night falling and Antigua’s distant lights shimmering, “Blue Voyage”rotating on the hook gentle as a maple key in a mud puddle. We share the anchorage with only one other boat.

As the sun dies in the west, toasted by that evening’s libation, my wife, Sharon and our friends, Ed and Kim North, seem to be leaning toward Doyle’s “anchorage theory.”

I’m ready to be convinced.For two days and nights we stay right here.

There is great snorkeling just off one tiny island lying south of Great Bird, a beach there that, once the daily cruise excursions leave, is populated by the four of us and a pleasant local lady selling souvenirs, hot dogs and cold Wadadli beers. When her husband picks her up in a big wooden outboard the island belongs to us.

Antigua 9

Next morning my wife and I hit the beach on the far side early. A weathered picnic table squatsbeside the water, the only sign of humanity we can see in any direction.Ed and Kim have commandeered the other side of the island.
At some point that afternoon, after dinghying out and doing some snorkeling, Ed and I head back to the south beach. Ed looks out at our Sunsail boat, he looks back at me.

“Might have to move,” he says solemnly.

“Why?” I say, wondering if we’re dragging, if he sees something I’m missing.

He takes a swallow of Wadadli and grins. “Way too beautiful here.”

So maybe Doyle’s right.

Antigua 8Next day we head west through Boon Passage. We catch a mooring ball in Jolly Harbour, do dinner ashore, stock up on provisions at an air-conditioned supermarket.Tomorrow we’ll drop the hook off Carlisle Bay Resort with its rainforest backdrop and snorkel off a rocky beach at the base of a towering cliff. The day after that we do lunch in a quirky purple beachside called “Bumpkins” before that last close reach romp back into English Harbour.

But right now we’ve got following seas. Rolling waves that rush under the transom of “Blue Voyage”, sending her forward, on a broad reach, cavorting overthe blue waters of Boon Passage like a teenaged dolphin.

Now we clear St. John’s harbour, now we turn south, winds race toward our beam from the slopes of those omnipresent green hills, promontories a procession of nobles marching into the distance, turning blue-green, grey like campfire smoke.

And now we have flat waters and fifteen knots steady.

I yell to Ed, who’s trimming sheets, who’s enjoying both the views and the romp.

Doyle (and Sunsail staffer, Chris Donahue, for that matter) knows a lot about the appeals of Antigua and Barbuda, I’ll give him that. So maybe it’s a tie.

Or maybe not.

“Trim for a beam reach,” I yell over the hum of the wind in the rigging.I pause for dramatic effect.

“A beam reach for paradise!”

 

 

FLOAT PLAN

• Sunsail maintains a fleet of monohulls from 41’ to 51’ as well as Sunsail 444 catamarans out of their Antigua base in Nelson’s Dockyard – perfect spot to explore and hang out at the beginning or end of your charter. Options range from bareboat to skippered to partly skippered – book a captain for a day or two until you’ve got your sea legs. www.sunsail.com

• For more information on this little piece of paradise log on to www.visitantiguabarbuda.com.

Lifestyle

  • Prev
With old boats every repair seems to uncover something else needing attention.  Removing the ...
We admit it, this Photo of the Week shot was just too cute to resist even though it was blatant ...
Reader Lorraine Gentleman took some liberty with our request for Photo of the Week shots from the ...
This afternoon portrait of her son enjoying a snooze in a pretty unlikely spot comes to us from ...
I've been cleaning dresser drawers for space and came across this 1979 LYRA t-shirt. This was my ...
Our Photo of the Week comes from one of our CY team members who writes “This is my son and his best ...
This boat carries the distinction as the last boat to leave the C&C Custom shop in Oakville ...
We crossed Lake Ontario from Oswego with a minimum of fuss and did a little happy dance when we ...
Our Photo of the Week comes from Mark and Lisa Harris who winter in Vancouver, Washington and spend ...
I am new to boating. Bought a 2019 Ranger Tug in April followed by taking a short boating course ...

DIY & How to

  • Prev
Since the late 19th century, a debate has raged on the relative merits of diesel fuel over ...
This bag does more than hold your anchor and rode in one tidy little pile. After you’ve anchored ...
Purchase your copy of the BRAND NEW Ports Georgian Bay 2020 Edition at the Toronto International ...
The boat was put on the hard for this winter and were going to follow along with Graham as he ...
In this part, we’ll delve deeper into the other parts of the boat found below the water line: the ...
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve told my children to wash their hands. I remind them ...
The new editions of PORTS Cruising Guides, from the publishers of Canadian Yachting will be ...
As the seasons change and we move from warm summer into cooler fall, many fanatic boaters ...
On the Friday before a weekend with a gorgeous forecast, I heard on the news that a boat had ...
A reader suggested we take a look at anchors. Anchoring seems simple enough. A weighted hook with a ...

Diesel Fuel MaintenanceSince the late 19th century, a debate has raged on the relative merits of diesel fuel over gasoline. In more recent decades, that argument has included boat manufacturers, and increasingly, individual boaters. As I pass through boat yards in the spring or fall, I’m sure to hear a comment or two (sometimes ruefully, other times with great joy) of the merit of a particular engine or fuel source.

Increasingly, diesel engines are praised for their long-life, ease of maintenance, compact design, reliability and safety, and rate of combustion. As well as cruisers and trawlers, many sailboat manufacturers in particular have chosen to install diesel engines. 

Read more about Diesel Fuel Maintenance........................

 

  

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
With a philosophy of quality and 'doing things right Ranger Tugs launches the all new R-25 at the ...
The new Beneteau Swift Trawler 41 renews the spirit of the practical seaworthy cruiser. The ...
The Canadian Yachting test crew last week had the opportunity to run the Bavaria S36 HT at St ...

Beneteau Flyer 32By Andy Adams

Summer sun boat! The handsome new Beneteau Flyer 32 is all about entertaining and the bow area is one of the main attractions. It's a wide shape forward with a huge anchor locker and opening centre section in the railing that invites you to beach the boat and go swimming. The bow is really one giant sun bed area with armrests that fold down and head rests too, for fall-asleep comfort. 

 

 

Read more about the Beneteau Flyer 32....................

 

Dufour 460By Katherine Stone

When one does an October yacht review on the Great Lakes you can never be sure of what kind of weather you will get…. and did we ever luck out! A beautiful sunny day with a high of 31 degrees and a perfect 8-10 knot breeze with light chop made for a champagne sailing day. Lucky for me we were at Swans Yacht Sales located in the Whitby Marina on Lake Ontario, trying out the Dufour 460 Grand Large, a flag ship for the midrange Dufour boats. With an overall length of 46’5” and a hull length of 44 ‘, this boat is majestic, not only in size, but also in elegance with timeless and contemporary style. 

Read More about Dufour 460..................

Belize: Sailing SolitudeBy Mark Stevens

We’ve just weighed anchor off Thatch Caye, a tiny island nuzzled by Caribbean waters flowing between the world’s second longest barrier reef and the mountainous coast of Belize to our west, and now we’re navigating a serpentine course through a crowded congregation of coral heads.

Once safely in deep water we raise sail. I spin the wheel of “Kavok” (a Lagoon 421 catamaran we’ve booked for our weeklong Belize bareboat adventure from Dream Yacht Charter) until we’re pointed south – steady on a lazy beam reach.

Read more about Belize......................

 

Marine Products

  • Prev
Since the days of the astrolabe, sailors have looked to the skies to determine the weather. If only ...
Since 1984 PORTS Cruising Guides have been the cruising boater's essential companion. But now PORTS ...
Canada’s largest independent fiberglass boat builder, Campion, has launched Muskoka, The M26 is 8.4 ...
It is not often I get to drive the newer model of something I own. Most of the time the model I own ...
Good news cruisers, it’s coming in early Summer 2020 – PORTS Rideau Canal and Lower Ottawa River ...
Few things are as frustrating to a boat owner as being becalmed or running out of fuel—or both. If ...
One of the biggest complaints we hear from our readers is ‘why we don’t run more new products’. ...
Every cruiser in the region has used it for years, but now there’s a brand new edition of the ...
When you visit the Toronto Boat Show, come to the Canadian Yachting booth (#1741), trial a pair of ...
With the Davis Scrubbis Underwater Hull Cleaning Kit it's easy to rid a boat of algae, grass, and ...