Jolly Jolly Harbour

12th April 2018

In complete contrast to the near-secret location of Montserrat’s Customs office, buried away in the depths of Little Bay’s dockyard, Antigua’s Jolly Harbour Customs building shines like a beacon from afar: A huge yellow Q flag flutters away outside the building to advertise its presence. And the best thing is – they have two berths available for arriving yachts just outside their doors.

We parked on one of the customs berths early afternoon after another lumpy sail, from Montserrat, glad to be in the protective embrace of Jolly Harbour. Before arriving, we read the stories of how keenly officials police the customs and immigration procedures. And we learned of substantial fines imposed for failing to adhere to regulations, with crew leaving the boat before clearance picking up a bill of $5,000, and yachts speeding into the harbour over five knots attracting a fine of $1,000 for a first offence. So, leaving nothing to chance, we motored sloth-like into the harbour and carefully tied up in front of a waiting audience at the customs dock. And to ensure that the $5,000 remained in our bank account, as soon as Maria had secured the lines to the dock, she leapt back on the boat, and I grabbed the boat papers and stepped off.

Despite the legends of strict officialdom and heavy fines, the officers at each of the agencies here are welcoming and friendly. Like in many places in the Caribbean, the clearance process is a three-door shuffle between Customs, Immigration and Port Office where we picked up a one-month cruising permit and handed over $40 EC. With clearance complete, we cast off our lines and headed back out to the anchorage at the worryingly-named Mosquito Cove.

Jolly Harbour Customs

Nudists in Mosquito Cove

There aren’t many mosquitos here, but its a fun place for flies. They appear during daylight full of energy we’d rather they didn’t have, then most of them disappear at night. It’s weird but strangely considerate. What isn’t considerate is the nudist. As you may know, nudists have been following us around the Caribbean. But our previous exposure to sans-clothed people has only been a warm up to this hardcore individual on the boat no more than 100 metres away.

The display starts every evening before sunset. While we are sipping our piña coladas in the cockpit, he emerges on deck with his willy swinging in the breeze to do something on his boat. Usually, this involves bending over on the deck with arse in the air. And twice a week he will climb off the boat to inflate his dinghy with a hand-pump. Don’t look you might say. But when the boat swings with the breeze towards the port, and our stern aligns towards the side of nudie’s boat, we are not looking at the sun shining on the horizon anymore.

Mosquito Cove with Lady Jane facing the sunset

Chris is here

Our friend, Chris, on Akouavi arrived from St Martin the day after us and we caught up with him in the marina later that day. We last met in the Careenage in Barbados, so it was great to be reunited. He endured an even more lumpy sail than we experienced, and over a longer distance, so we left him to get some much-needed rest and arranged to meet the next day.

Chris makes the best t-punch that we have ever tasted. He claims that it’s his home-made sugar syrup that makes the difference. I have no reason to doubt it. But whatever the real recipe is, it’s likely to remain a secret. After two of those drinks, it’s near impossible to remember a thing.

A Day Trip to St John’s

The last time we came to Antigua our mode of transport was Arcadia, the P&O cruise ship, that we sailed on from Southampton. Arcadia docked at St John’s, so we thought it would be nice to see the place again as non-cruise-ship-passengers and to test our memories. A fare of $3.25 EC per person takes you on the bus from Jolly Harbour to St John’s and after a 20-minute ride together with our fellow friendly passengers, we arrived at St John’s bus station.

The cruise ship terminal is easy to find – just follow the ships – and it is just as we remembered it. The whole complex is designed to maximise the blood-letting from arriving passengers with an array of gift and duty-free shops. Even we weren’t immune. This last few months have been hard on the shorts, so we had to visit the Levi’s store to restock. And Maria bought some pegs from one of the street sellers to make sure that we keep a grip on the rest of our clothes when they are hanging out to dry.

Although arriving by cruise ship is a relaxing experience, you don’t get much time to explore. We opted to go on a snorkelling and beach tour the last time we were here, so missed out on seeing the town. Keen to put that right, we blundered around the streets, then off to the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda. Trip Advisor doesn’t seem to rate the museum highly enough. Granted, the exhibits might be a bit light, but it is one of the best-organised museums we have visited and it tells the story of Antigua and Barbuda very well. Then, to balance our cultural experience, we had lunch at Burger King.

New Power

There’s been a couple of occasions when a more substantial outboard motor would have been handy. Having one in Martinique, for example, would have reduced the dinghy ride from St Anne to Le Marin to just 15 minutes from 50. And with our tiny 3.3 HP outboard, if the sea state is rough, we feel every lump and roll of the waves.

So we decided to bite the bank account and buy a 9.8 HP Tohatsu engine. This not only has enough power to bounce over the waves, but it also gets the dinghy on the plane for the first time since we have owned it. Being used to speeds on the water not exceeding eight knots, travelling at planning speeds in the dinghy (outside the harbour limits of course as we don’t want that $1,000 fine) feels like being on a speedboat.

Jolly Harbour has a lovely feel, it’s very relaxed, there are plenty of bars and restaurants, and a beautiful white beach nearby. It’s the sort of place where it is possible to stay for weeks and enjoy doing very little. I think the nudie fella has been doing that for months and has run out of clothes, so perhaps I shouldn’t be too hard on the man.

As much as we might have wanted to stay, Antigua Classics week was on. So, we decided to head south to English Harbour to watch the show.