By Heather Hild-Atwater
We were very lucky to be here at this time! Our flotilla is sandwiched between the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and Antigua Race Week. So that means Yachts! Glorious Yachts! We begin our adventures at Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbor, a UNESECO World Heritage site, and so picturesque. There is a lot to see and do here as we set off for a week of what turned out to be excellent sailing and weather, lucky us.
Day 1 Boarding, then Meet and Greet
The boarding time is technically 6 p.m. but thankfully all our boats are ready early. This trip we have three monohulls: ‘Bright Idea’ skippered by Nate (Lead boat), Linda, Bill, Beth, Joe, and me aboard. Next, a Moorings 48.4, ‘Asterias,’ skippered by Rob Bell with Tom, Larry, and Christy aboard. Then a Sunsail 46.2, ‘Sweakybrat,’ skippered by Offshore Sailing School Captiva Island Branch Manager and instructor, Cheyenne Warner, with Steve, Rochelle, and James aboard. The benefit of this size group is we all get to know one another and that is nice. After water, provisions and gear are stored, we wander over to Trappas Restaurant for the Meet & Greet dinner. Rhum drinks were served followed by shared appetizers, Calamari with garlic dip, vegetable spring rolls, deep fried Brie, and Cajun Shrimp with dipping sauce. The food was good and after dessert we all ambled back to our boats at Nelson’s dockyard. Nate and I walked around and admired the yachts lit at night, several J-boats, the famous Ticonderoga, Fast Comanche, and many other amazing yachts. We are certainly in good company!
Day 2 Sail from English Harbor to Green Island
After the boat check outs, Navigation meeting, and usual boat fixes, such as last-minute towel grabs etc., we cast off the dock around 11a.m. to sail to Green Island. We left the harbor and put up the sails in an lively 15-20 knots of breeze with a 1.5-2-meter swell. We are now heading counterclockwise around Antigua to a natural anchorage off Green Island. We tack up the shore and out to sea. Luckily, I had made a pasta salad while in port so we could easily eat while sailing. It was a little bit of trial by fire as some on our boat had come from Lake sailing and we were definitely not lake sailing. The shore has a very rugged beauty and is dotted with large homes and resorts. We arrived and dropped sails in a sheltered area and proceeded to weave our way through the coral reefs to our pre-arranged spot. We saw that the moorings were not looking great, so we found the best of them and checked them out by backing down and diving on them. Shortly after arriving we all gathered for ‘Nate-A-Coladas’ aboard the lead boat…. time to tell our sea stories and relax after a busy day. We ate aboard that night and took in the gorgeous surroundings.
Day 3 Sail from Green Island to Jolly Harbor
After the morning Navigation meeting, breakfast, and yoga, we retraced our path out and set sail for a nice long sail clockwise past English and Falmouth Harbor to Jolly Harbor. The weather conditions were same as the day before but of course we were on a run today and did some jibing at first, then rounding up to a broad reach, then turning to beam reach through Goat Head Channel. Linda and Bill on our crew got their first experience with ocean rollers and practiced surfing. But I believe it was Joe who hit 9.5 knots surfing down a wave. It was a sunny, great sailing day. We arrived at Jolly Harbor and grabbed moorings close to the Government Dock. Mind you, we have not had a working dingy engine as yet, so it was at the government dock that we were to drop our dinghy to get a replacement engine. This worked out pretty smoothly as Cheyenne towed our dinghy to shore and Sunsail base personnel arrived to swap our engine. We were back in business in time to head to shore to have a look around and get to our dinner reservations at 6 p.m. at Al Porto’s Restaurant. Larry and Christy ate aboard that night and bragged about the Salmon salad they created, and our food at Al Porto’s was very good too.
Day 4 Jolly Harbor to Great Bird Island
Today we are Sailing upwind clockwise around the Northwest side of Antigua, which is dotted with reefs so we tack many times up Boon channel inside Salt Fish Tail Reef. ‘Asterias’ has a self-tacking jib…. we all agree this is unfair. We get our work out and plenty of releases and grinding in. Wind is 13-17 knots and we sail at 5-7.5 knots. The sky is clear and the wind is steady it is another great sailing day, I can see why Antigua Race Week is so popular! We furl genoa around 2pm and power through the dredged channel between Long Island and Antigua into North Sound across the shallows to our anchorage at Great Bird Island in plenty of time to enjoy. Immediately some swim, snorkel, or explore. It is beautiful and there is great snorkeling here.
Dinner aboard tonight is steak on the barbie, with potatoes and broccoli. Perfecto!
Day 5 Great Bird to Dickenson Bay
Sunrise off Great Bird is accompanied by a cacophony of gulls. Nate cooks up a frittata with bacon and cheese which we all fortify ourselves with before pulling up anchor and enjoying the relatively short sail for the day. Now we are sailing counterclockwise, back in the direction we had come. We arrive early at Dickenson Bay and make lunch aboard before exploring the beach and Sandals Resort. The floating Tiki Bar called to Beth and I, and later Tom, Linda, and Bill joined us to move to the music and enjoy a relaxing afternoon before heading to our lobster dinner at Anna’s.
Day 6 Dickenson to Deep Bay for a lunch stop and on to Carlisle Bay
After Navigation, breakfast, and yoga, we pick up anchor and motor the short distance to Deep Bay where there is a large wreck submerged in the center of the entrance to the bay. It was a good snorkel for those that did it. Lots of jet skis were circling the area so we picked up anchor after lunch and sailed downwind to Carlisle Bay. Another good sail and sparkling day. When we arrived in Carlisle Bay some went ashore to the resort in search of blender drinks while others relaxed on the boats. That night, we cooked our last meal aboard. We had softened brie and crackers followed by vegetable pasta.
Day 7 Carlisle Bay to English Harbor
Every flotilla must come to an end……we enjoy our last day on the water with 15-20 knots breeze, clear skies with signs of rain in the afternoon. Aboard ‘Bright Idea’ we take turns heaving to…. a good practice. We discuss man over-boards and sail up wind until we start to feel a rain shower, so we decided to head in to fuel before The Moorings base personal come aboard to Med-moor our boat which concludes our sailing adventures. That night, we gather one last time at Pillars restaurant for the Farewell dinner. We sit waterside at a long table in more beautiful surroundings. After a toast given by Tom Rankin and some roasting by Larry, we enjoyed a delicious meal of Seared Tuna or Rum-flavored Ribs followed by fancy bread pudding. All in all, we had great weather and excellent sailing conditions….and an interesting, varied itinerary. Most importantly, we had good folks aboard.
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