"Some of the doors were chained shut. We walked round, peering through one of the panes. Then a figure flashed past. Was it a ghost?"
Matusadona has visitors. My mum, stepdad and aunt are staying onboard and we are having a great time - they are especially pleased to escape the English winter. To accommodate the water and power needs of five people we have moved to a marina in English Harbour - the historic Nelson’s Dockyard, which is the only continuously working Georgian era dockyard in the world and is a UNESCO world heritage site. We tried a new mooring technique here and amazingly managed it quite well. We had to reverse in. Then Luciano had to drop an anchor. We then had to reverse a bit more and then Luciano had to run to the back of the boat to throw the mooring lines to the dock workers. As we have a centre cockpit (rather than a cockpit at the very back of the boat like most people) the person on the helm (me) can’t do anything other than be on the helm controlling the speed of entry and direction. We can only control our anchor from the front of the boat and we had to let out enough chain to enable us to get all the way back.
We are docked right on the harbour walls and there are lots of tourists visiting here and it has been nice to meet curious people who want to know about how our Southampton registered boat got to the Caribbean and what that was like. Sailing the Atlantic is nothing compared to rowing the Atlantic though. Antigua is the end destination for the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge - boats of four rowers who have crossed the Atlantic and are deservedly welcomed with fireworks and large crowds and ships sounding their horns at such an impressive achievement. One mother was here to welcome all four of her sons - two sets of twins who rowed together in the same boat. An all women team first cycled to Spain, then rowed across the Atlantic and are planning to sail back! Antigua is a yachting centre with lots of rallies and we have seen lots of fully crewed enormous superyachts and giant sailing ships to awe at. Some of the masts are eye wincingly tall - I wouldn’t want to climb up one of those!
We’ve spent the last couple of days relaxing. We paddleboarded over to Galleon Beach in English Harbour where we are staying, while my family took the dinghy. We spent a lovely day swimming and reading on the beach, snorkelling and paddleboarding. On Friday we walked up over the headland to a lovely viewpoint via some eighteenth century forts and over to Pigeon Beach. It was quite a scramble and when we arrived, we were rewarded by a refreshing swim. Antigua apparently has 365 beaches, so we still have quite a few left to visit!
Yesterday we took the bus to visit Antigua’s capital of St John’s. It has lovely bright pastel coloured buildings. There is a huge fruit and vegetable market and my family are enjoying trying out new Caribbean fruits and vegetables and have loved seeing breadfruit hanging from the the trees after reading about it in Treasure Island and imagining something rather different. We walked up to the cathedral in St John’s. From the outside we weren’t sure if it was still open. Parts of the marble were lying abandoned on the floor and a few window panes were broken. Some of the doors were chained shut. We walked round, peering through one of the panes. Then a figure flashed past. Was it a ghost? Then we heard a beautiful singing sound. We carried on walking round and were amazed. Inside the cathedral was covered in beautiful warm wood which gave excellent acoustics to enhance the voices of the singing children who were practising in there with their singing teachers. They beckoned us inside and we sat in a pew looking at the lovely stained glass, the perfect wooden interior and listened to Kumbaya sung to a completely different and lovelier tune.
So far the family have acclimatised very well to the boat - they like the warm weather, outdoor life, stargazing and the way the boat rocks you to sleep. We’ve had some near misses getting in and out of the dinghy - two people were luckily caught on the mooring lines, so they avoided ending up in the water. Two slips coming off the boat onto the dock and numerous falls off the paddleboard, but all in all they’ve adapted like pros and everyone is still enjoying themselves.
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