Wednesday, 17 February 2010
Cruise - Antigua #6
Look what greeted us on the dockside when we arrived in Antigua, the 'island with a beach in the middle'! What's more it was SUNNY!!!!!
We berthed in St. John's Harbour and after breakfast we disembarked and went to the taxi dispatch centre on the quay, where we joined one of the many tour buses for a trip round the island.
Our bus headed to Antigua's National Park and Shirley Heights. This military complex, within a short distance of the Dockyard, is not named after the fairer sex, but after Sir Thomas Shirley, Governor of the Leeward Islands, who strengthened Antigua's defences in 1781. Britain had lost all her West Indian colonies (including North America) at the time, except for Antigua and Barbados. Much effort, therefore, was put into Antigua's defences, mainly because of the island's great sugar producing value and the important Dockyard. Shirley Heights may be divided into three sections:
1. The Ridge and Artillery Quarters, which we saw but did not stop.
2. Blockhouse, our first stop. This is the easternmost part of the military complex of Nelson's Dockyard, with the most magnificent views looking over the south-east coast, which you can see in the slide show below. It was designed as a place of last refuge, which is the meaning of the word. A moat opposing the vertical cliffs was originally planned but was never started. The Officer's Quarters is in ruin as are the out buildings, servants quarters, married quarters and stables.
3. The Lookout with views of English and Falmouth Harbours - this was our second stop.
Here's a little slide show of the views from Blockhouse.
Our guide pointed out two houses on the headland - Eric Clapton's and Whitney Houston's!
You will notice how Eric's house blends into it's surroundings, that's because he had it built that way. The guide also told us that Eric has built two drug rehabilitation centres on the island, for which celebrities pay a small fortune to use whereas the facility is free for native Antiguans - how comendable is that?
Our next stop was The Lookout from where we had excellent views of Nelson's Dockyard.
Nelson's Dockyard is the only remaining naval dockyard in the world designed to maintain wooden sailing warships of olden times. It was started as early as 1725, though it had been used as shelter from the mid 17th century. The first recorded ship at English Harbour, anchored to survive a hurricane, was a yacht. It was a naval ship chartered to the King for the use of his Governor of the Leeward Islands.
Nelson - the famous British hero of Trafalgar (1805), was here as Senior Captain (27 years old) in 1784. As a zealous Naval Officer, he enforced the Navigation Act, which stated only British ships could trade with British Islands. America had become independent, so Nelson severely upset the Antiguan merchants by suppressing their long standing trade with the former British American colonies. At one time, if he had left his ship ('Boreas'), he would have been arrested because the merchants were attempting to sue him. The Dockyard's main function was to maintain ships, thus saving the long voyage to America for docking. The yard was abandoned in 1889, then in 1930 restoration was half-heartedly started and it 1951 it went full ahead. The National Parks Authority took over from the Friends of English Harbour in 1984. It is a beautiful place with lots to see and plenty of private yachts moored there. I've put together a little slide show for you below.
We followed the coast road back to the boat and, although we didn't have time to stop at any, we saw some of the most beautiful beaches imaginable. On the way back our guide pointed out Antigua's highest point - Boggy Peak, which had been renamed Mount Obama for President Obama's birthday on 4th August 2009 - a much nicer name than Boggy Peak don't you think?
We'd had a wonderful day, especially as it was sunny, and had time to sunbathe on the balcony and a little snooze before getting ready for dinner. We didn't watch the show that evening but we did go to Connexions to watch the comedian Rudi Lickwood twice that evening he was just so funny. If you click on his name it will take you to Youtube where you can watch some clips. It was a bit annoying because in the ship's newspaper his act was billed as being aimed at an adult audience, but that didn't stop some irresponsible parents bringing their young children to watch, which meant he really had to tone it down.
Join me for our next stop - Dominica.