This is Day 2 and 3 of our sailing vacation in Antigua with Dream Yacht Charter on two catamarans – four families and 8 kids.
Sailing in Antigua
Freemans Bay beach at the entrance to English Harbour is definitely a must stop.
After another swim and play on the Freemans Bay beach at the entrance to English Harbour we moved on to Mamora Bay only about 2 miles to the east. Reportedly there are lots of water toys including little Hobie cats to play on in the bay the very nice Saint James Club resort there.
Unfortunately, once we got there, we discovered a weird aberration and combination of sargassum seaweed and current which stirred up the bay into very muddy water and piles of stinky seaweed washed up on the west shore. A shame because we are told this is a not to miss spot especially for the kids. Our recommendation then is to call ahead although we were told that this is highly unusual and normally the water is crystal clear.
The seaweed was another issue – everywhere on the east side of Antigua was streams and sometimes islands of floating seaweed so any bay that was open to the east was piled. This also made fishing off the boat underway impossible on the east side because the seaweed would slide down the line and snarl on the hook.
Fact Time: Sargassum seaweed comes from the Sargasso sea in the North Atlantic.
It is the only sea body in the world not bordered by land. Instead, a gyre, which is a series of currents creating a circulating vortex, embody the massive area. There the Sargassum seaweed grows on the surface and is held in place by the circulating currents. At times, storm patterns can upset the surface flow and this allows the sargassum seaweed to escape the vortex. It thus ends up on Caribbean Beaches. Here is a good reference article on Wikipedia. Thus it is not limited to Antigua. The good thing however, is that the entire west side of Antigua is spared and the beaches there remain pristine from nature (but never immune from human plastic).
Herein the lesson on chartering – flexibility of your itinerary and an attitude of go with the flow is a must.
So at this point (3:30 pm) we have a decision, move on to Green Island which is the next place on the itinerary about 6 miles into the easterly wind or back to English Harbour. Hmmm, 6 nautical miles at say 5 knots motoring including 1 mile of say 3 knots navigating the reef then mucking around finding a good anchorage that hopefully is protected from the east … or English 2 miles downwind given that sunset is around 6:30. Hmmm, easy and safe choice – English it is – yay time to discover and walk Fort Berkely at the entrance to English.
Here is a pic from Fort Berkely looking this way …
The Fort Berkely garrison was built in the 1750’s by the English with 5 foot thick walls and many embrasures through which to fire cannons. A stone hut structure is still intact (probably easily for the next 1000 years because of its thickness of stone) in which 300 barrels of gunpowder was stored (not now silly – then). A walk to the top of Fort Berkely gives a nice view over the harbour.
And here is a slideshow of some of the fun in and around the harbour. Plan on spending some time in English Harbour.
Nelson’s Dockyard, developed in the 1700’s. is also in English Harbour and there are some great restaurants, bars, sites and a museum there.
Moving backward in time a little; virtually every bay we anchored in, we rafted the two catamarans together for both families to enjoy the evening. Really a chance for the adults to get adult time – Adults on one boat and kids on the other.
Here is an animation of how to raft two boats together using two anchors. Sometimes in light winds (and light wind forecasted), you can get away with one anchor. But since we were 15 knots all week we had each boat drop its own anchor.
Speaking of competence and doing things right, we came across a shipyard in English Harbour and found this boat up on a stand getting fixed after an unfortunate meeting of boat and bottom.
The other good thing about heading back to English Harbour was a chance to fill up with water and a few groceries and to get some local recon on the east side considering the sargassum seaweed. Accordingly, we learned that Green island area and Nunsuch bay was not the prettiest at this time because of the seaweed. Time to reroute again, not a hard decision actually because during our chart briefing we were shown so many great places on the west side to stay that we couldn’t possibly have visited them all in a week anyway. So simply, we reset the remaining itinerary to the west side of Antigua of which there is plenty to do and see. (First dinghy stop – another chocolate croissant from La Brasserie Restaurant)
We did a really nice downwind run across the south of the island then a great broad reach up the west side.
Here’s a little action shot on the flybridge of the Bali 45 ft Catamaran.
When reaching with a Catarmaran, you can use the width of the cat to pull the headsail out. Whereas, on a monohull you have to use a pole.
First stop was a lunch visit to Ffryes Bay where there is a crazy fun water park for kids 8 to 80 and a bar for kids 21 to infinity. This is not to be missed. OMG, I couldn’t stop laughing as I slipped and slid all over the bouncy watery thingy.
Then, over a really nice (best ever) Pina Colada in Ffreyes Bay beach bar, we decided the evening anchorage should be Hermitage Bay. “Shine”, our other fleet boat headed off first. Upon arrival, they reported that the easterly wind was just a wee tiny bit enough across the bay to make it was a wee tiny bit uncomfortable. No worries, a wee tiny bit to the north is Pinching Bay with a really nice deserted beach and good protection from the easterly wind.
The sail from Ffreyes Bay to the north to Pinching Bay was awesome – 15 knots of easterly wind and flat seas protected from the east shore. 8.5 knots of smooth boat speed – yay.
If you want to take a sailing vacation to Antigua, check out the prices and availability of boats on our NauticEd Sailing Vacations page.