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Antigua Sailing Journal by Helen, Nautilus Yachting

Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

We’re in Antigua on the edge of Caribbean season. The winds predicted for the week are between 20-30kn with some rain from the squalls off the Atlantic and 1-1.5m swell, but also plenty of sunshine and temps of around 27-30deg.

On arrival at the base we received a briefing re the boat, a 41ft Oceanis, and then a briefing on the area from staff. We double checked all of our provisioning that we had pre-ordered and then we were able to get underway!


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 1 - Jolly Harbour to Carlisle Bay

The first day makes for a great sail down to Carlisle Bay. We ensure we have reefs in the sails and eyes on the plotter and sea to avoid the coral reefs. We’re sailing along on a beam to close reach at about 7kn learning what the boat can handle and getting a few tacks in with the crew.

As we’re travelling in a S/SW direction it means ensuring we stay in Goathead channel so all eyes on deck. Then, as we come round the point to see Carlisle bay, we catch our first glimpse of the stereotypical Caribbean image - bright white sands, palm trees, mangroves and luxury resorts.

We ensure we keep well over to the eastern side of the bay as we navigate in because of the shallow depths and then we drop the hook in around 4m of water. Time for some snorkelling around the rocks and then tender in to shore to feel the white sand beneath our feet, explore the mangroves and assess dinner options. As it’s the first night, we treat ourselves to a table at the adults only Jetty Grill for a fantastic dinner in the famous Carlisle Bay resort.


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 2 - Carlisle Bay to Nelson's Dockyard

Today we continue sailing south/south west, following in Horatio Nelson's footsteps, sailing into a Unesco World Heritage Site to moor up on a historic dock. Nelson's Dockyard is a must when sailing in Antigua.

A concentrated approach is needed as there is a reef just outside the entrance and you must follow the buoyed channel (remembering its IALA B). The first glimpse of the harbour is the 18th century Fort Berkeley up on the hill to the western side of the entrance, taking you back in time to when Nelson's troops would have been keeping a lookout over Guadeloupe and the Atlantic.

As we come into the harbour it is empty. We are on the edge of the season and it's too early for any Atlantic crossings to come in or for the visiting superyachts, so we have the historic quay to ourselves. Since it's mainly set up for the big boats there aren’t lazy lines for us, so we need to med moor and lay an anchor in some very slippy mud and 20kn of side wind. With three attempts to get the anchor in, with a very helpful marina staff member assistance, we’re moored up right in front of the rum bar and in prime position on the 18th century quay.  We’re just in time to hop off the boat, explore the national park and have a sundowner by the water at the old Copper and Lumber store.


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 3 - Nelson's Dockyard to Falmouth Harbour

We wake up early to go for a hike up the hill to see Fort Berkely and then climb up to the top to the Jubilee path for the stunning 360 degree views. Whilst enjoying the sunshine, the strong breeze, the sound of the crashing waves and the goats’ bells, we could look out over the Atlantic to Guadeloupe and beyond and take in an aerial view of Falmouth Harbour, English Harbour and Nelsons Dockyard. We continued through the hundreds of newly hatched butterflies and the brightly coloured local fauna to Fort Cuyler to take in some more of the views, before starting our descent back to the boat.

There is a lot of wind and swell predicted for today so we gingerly head out with our reefs in and again eyes on the rocks and reefs. We spend a bit of time out sailing but as the swell gets up above 2m and the wind keeps coming round on the nose we decide to change our plans and use it to our advantage. We change tack and have a good downwind sail, enjoy surfing the waves and head to the renowned shelter of Falmouth Harbour.

We anchor up in Falmouth harbour and after a quick and refreshing tropical downpour we head to Pigeon beach for a swim. Luckily there is time to enjoy a few rum punches sat on the pure white sand watching the sun go down over the boats. For dinner we head to a tiny restaurant that we had received a local recommendation for. It’s off the main road, hidden in one of the residential streets and is essentially located in one of the local's front porch! It offers a small menu of local Caribbean food cooked by a lovely 60+ year old Antiguan lady and her husband. We had a wonderful evening and it was definitely worth the hunt to find it.


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 3 - Nelson's Dockyard to Falmouth Harbour

We wake up early to go for a hike up the hill to see Fort Berkely and then climb up to the top to the Jubilee path for the stunning 360 degree views. Whilst enjoying the sunshine, the strong breeze, the sound of the crashing waves and the goats’ bells, we could look out over the Atlantic to Guadeloupe and beyond and take in an aerial view of Falmouth Harbour, English Harbour and Nelsons Dockyard. We continued through the hundreds of newly hatched butterflies and the brightly coloured local fauna to Fort Cuyler to take in some more of the views, before starting our descent back to the boat.

There is a lot of wind and swell predicted for today so we gingerly head out with our reefs in and again eyes on the rocks and reefs. We spend a bit of time out sailing but as the swell gets up above 2m and the wind keeps coming round on the nose we decide to change our plans and use it to our advantage. We change tack and have a good downwind sail, enjoy surfing the waves and head to the renowned shelter of Falmouth Harbour.

We anchor up in Falmouth harbour and after a quick and refreshing tropical downpour we head to Pigeon beach for a swim. Luckily there is time to enjoy a few rum punches sat on the pure white sand watching the sun go down over the boats. For dinner we head to a tiny restaurant that we had received a local recommendation for. It’s off the main road, hidden in one of the residential streets and is essentially located in one of the local's front porch! It offers a small menu of local Caribbean food cooked by a lovely 60+ year old Antiguan lady and her husband. We had a wonderful evening and it was definitely worth the hunt to find it.


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 4 - Falmouth Harbour to Deep Bay

With a change in the wind and the swell we decide to head northwest to Deep Bay anchorage. It’s a fantastic sail on a broad reach with a consistent 20-25kn blowing. We’re all enjoying the fact that our sails are out every day from the minute we leave harbour and we’re getting to know the boat and how she sails – she’s definitely quicker on a starboard tack.

As we come into Deep Bay its all eyes on deck again. We’re aware that there is an unmarked large wreck in the very centre of the bay’s entrance that we need to navigate around. Once safely round this we can head right into the centre of this large, sheltered bay. We feel the wind rapidly dissipate and drop the anchor in about 3-4m. Amazingly there is only one other boat anchored in here.

Another beautiful white beach with palm trees lies in front of us. Looking up, Fort Barrington looms over us on the top of Goat hill. We get the dingy ready and the snorkels out and head over to the mouth of the bay to see the English merchant ship ‘Andes’ wrecked under the water with her own unique marine world of colourful fish and coral. Then its on to the beach to enjoy the sunshine and a sneaky rum before dinner on board the boat whilst watching the sun slowly drop below the horizon with a few tunes.


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 5 - Deep Bay to Dickinson Bay

We are going North today, to the top of the island to explore some of the reefs up there. This means the wind is going to come round on to our nose (but with less of the swell experienced on the other side of the island) so it’s a beat up, tacking in between the reefs to keep within the channels. There’s another similar sized boat going the same way and we all know what that means! We bear in mind our boat favouring the starboard tack and make some gains on them. We’re hitting a steady 7.5-8kn and make it in good time to Jumby Bay anchorage for a lunch stop. We have to be careful on our entry as there are a lot of shallows and reefs here but manage to drop the hook in about 3m and then dingy over to some of the reefs on the northwest side of the bay. Here there is some beautiful coral with amazing brightly coloured shoals of fish which we get a little lost in, until we notice the large barracuda following us round – time to get back to the boat for a beer and lunch.

In the afternoon we sail south again. Nice and leisurely champagne sailing for us with the wind behind us and calm seas once we come into the shelter of the island. We head to Dickinson Bay and drop the anchor in 3m near the base of the sandy cliffs at the northern tip of the bay, watching the turtles swim around the sand we’ve just disturbed. We head to the floating rum bar we’ve heard about. The salty sea dog owner is waiting to take our painter at the ‘dingy parking’. Just in time for a couple of (very strong) local rum punches for sundowners. Then its over to ‘Anas’ on shore for dinner of local Caribbean curry and some fruity cocktails.


Sailing Journal - South Ionian, Sun Odyssey 440

Day 6 - Dickinson Bay to Jolly Harbour

Back to Jolly harbour today. The weather has changed a little and it feels like time to head back. First we need to clean up the duck board as it appears a local heron has been using it as a fishing spot during the night. Then after a leisurely morning enjoying the crystal-clear waters of the anchorage at Dickinson Bay we sail down to Jolly Harbour, navigating a couple of huge cruise ships heading into St Johns.

Again sails are out and we are averaging about 6.5-7kn on a broad reach. We can see a squall coming over so as we approach Jolly Harbour we anchor up in the large anchorage outside just as one breaks and the rain pours down. Once it has passed, it's time for some lunch on board and one last swim stop before heading into the harbour.

The charter staff are there to meet us at the fuel berth, which is an easy side too with no queuing, and then the staff take the boat back into her space in the harbour. Time for debriefs and check out and you guessed it one last final rum before a short transfer to the airport for a night flight back to the UK.