Last June when we visited Antigua we loved it. We felt like we barely saw the island and it has such a variety of anchorages that we wanted to come back and spend more time here.
The view from our boat as 2016 arrived.
Specifically we wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in English Harbour where we would be surrounded by the history of Nelson’s Dockyard as 2015 became history and we ushered in 2016.
Nelson’s Dockyard, a National Park, is the only continually working Georgian Shipyard in the world. The first recorded ship to enter English Harbour was “Dover Castle” in 1671 and by 1707, English navel ships used the harbor regularly. The first dockyard, St. Helena, was constructed around 1728. Building of what currently exists and is Nelson’s Dockyard began around 1740 by enslaved labor from nearby plantations.
Approaching Nelson’s from the inland street. Photobomb by Captain.
The dockyard was named after Admiral Horatio Nelson who lived there from 1784-1787. According to our tour guide “Q,” Nelson was not well liked and actually lived on his boat in the harbor rather than in the dockyard as he was afraid he would be killed by local workers.
The buildings have been restored and are open for business today. Often the buildings house businesses that are similar to the original, just modernized.
This canal was used to bring sails to the loft for repair.
Rules on the guard house included, “avoid being out at improper hours.”
Quaint streets lead to the docks.
Landscaping outside what was once the hospital and is now a hotel.
Today Customs and Immigration is in the buildings to the left.
The building on the right in the above picture once housed officers on the second floor on the right side. The left side of the second floor held dead bodies until they were buried.
It wasn’t all history and fireworks in English Harbour. We also rode bikes up to Shirley Heights, the former military signal station where soldiers would use signal flags to communicate information about approaching ships to forts as far away as St. John.
It was a steep bike ride to the highest point on this part of Antigua.
Shirley Heights, a bird’s eye view of English and Falmouth Harbours.
We also walked to Falmouth Harbour for a visit to West Marine and a bit of exercise. Beautiful views popped out along the road way.
Along the main road in Falmouth.
Salt and pepper shakers at the Yacht Club
These were the salt and pepper shakers at our breakfast spot. I guess even the condiments find love in Falmouth Harbour.
In addition to all this history and sight seeing, we met and talked to a lot of cruisers. It was great getting to know so many new people. A special thanks to Roger and Lynne aboard Schatzi who gave us excellent information concerning pet entry into countries south of here.
The final and most unique aspect to our English Harbour visit was the invitation to join a family for dinner on their yacht. This family was incredibly generous and shared their table and their religious traditions with us. It was an evening we will remember and cherish forever.
After spending about a week in the less developed northern parts of Antigua where the kiteboarding was excellent and restaurants non-existent, we sailed to the southern part of Antigua and entered English Harbour. One cannot visit English Harbour without becoming cognizant of it’s importance in the history of Antigua and the surrounding area. The first thing you observe when arriving at the port is Fort Berkeley, which still stands on the western entrance to English Harbour.
Looking out toward the entrance to English Harbour.
The construction of Fort Berkeley began in 1704 and after several additions was completed in 1745. It was a pivotal sentry against attack since the British Navy housed it’s fleet at Nelson’s Dockyard which was landlocked within the harbor. All told, Ft. Berkeley had 29 large cannons. Antigua was considered such an important location that a total of 40 forts were built on it.
A commanding view and position to protect the harbor.
We took time to walk to Ft. Berkeley and follow the trail to some additional, smaller outposts that led all the way to Falmouth Harbour. This sounds like a long walk, and it was hilly, arid and rocky, but the distance is actually not great. You can see in the picture below that there is only a small section of land that separates English and Falmouth Harbours.
English Harbour to the right and Falmouth to the left.
While we enjoyed the views and exercise, Captain kept a close watch for her new nemesis, the goat!
Goats are the only remaining sentries at the forts.
Captain has decided that it is very important to chase any and all goats far from us, so we have to keep her on leash if we know they are around. Unfortunately on this walk, she spotted a goat while off lead….the chase ensued and within seconds Captain and said goat were careening down the side of the hills. We saw Captain still running full out about 200 yards below us and we were not sure what to do. Fortunately her sense of direction is excellent and within a few minutes she came trotting right back to where she had left the trail. Her tail was high and she wore a huge grin, absolutely confident that she had just saved us from a fearsome goat!
You will note Captain is back on leash, but she is vigilantly watching those goats!
I wish it was possible to share the aura and history of Nelson’s Dockyard. The buildings have been beautifully restored and are now used to house restaurants, shops, hotels, art galleries and more. As we walked the cobblestone streets the sense of past spirits was present. Of course, I imagined dashing navel officers and ladies in heavy dresses while Frank’s imagination leaned more toward drunken brawls and pirates!
We would both like to return to English Harbour and learn more about the history as we only touched the surface!
Frank lighting the fuse….. Ummm, this looks like a cartoon about to go wrong!
Knots are important in the life of a sailor.
The calm water and pleasant breeze over the hills made English Harbour the perfect place for us to reline the trampoline on Let It Be. Glad we did as the old line looked worse than expected when we replaced it.