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Antigua –

May 28, 2017

Antigua is probably best known for the annual sailing week and the classic regatta.  Both these are held during the last few weeks of April. The two events attract vessels from around the world.

 Lots of maintenance on this beauty

Just another toy!

I thought we would never see another zebra after leaving South Africa                                                    but…

It also coincides with the season where boats heading across the Atlantic gather before pushing off; either direct to the Azores or first head up to Bermuda then across. This year the big attraction for the Bermuda route is the Americas Cup which is being held in June – a perfect layover for those boats heading further east.

Historically, Antigua, was, and remains a key Caribbean harbour, held by the British for a few centuries and now a hurricane hole for all types of sailing and power vessels.  The most famous of all the harbours in Antigua is English Harbour, for many years the headquarters for the British fleet. It’s a beautifully protected harbour albeit a little small. The remains of the English fortifications provide a tourist attraction, especially for the cruise ship passengers.  For sailors it’s one more Caribbean harbour, and expensive at that.

English Harbour in the foreground with Falmouth Harbour in the                                                             background

I’ll be honest – Antigua is not my favourite island. Although the sparkling waters and the beaches provide the idyllic picture of a tropical paradise the island and population that inhabits it has to make do with poor and crumbling infrastructure, potable water shortages (ie. buy water from Nestles!), incredibly expensive imported foods (eg a lettuce seen at a cost of US$14) and an overwhelmingly short tourist season – about 4 months.

Yes, the EC dollar price posted for the lettuce indicates CDN equivalent of about $12. Just one island south they have island grown lettuce for €1!

By overwhelming tourist industry I refer mostly to the cruise ship industry which, before you read on, I have come to doubt their positive economic influence on places they visit.. I come from a city, Victoria BC, that has 265 cruise ships/6 months season.  I’ve seen the negative sides of that industry first hand and I see it here in Antigua.

                    Towering, overpowering and overwhelming

Our first visit to Antigua’s capital, St. Johns, coincided with 4 cruise ships at the docks. Considering each cruise ship holds on average 4,000+ passengers that makes for 16,000 passengers descending on a small town with a total population of 22,000. Can you imagine living in a place where there are more tourists on the street than people who live in that town? It doesn’t bring the best out in the town and it demonstrates the worst aspects of the tourism industry.

I am sure there are some of you have arguments that this is good for the economy and thus the community. The problem with this argument is that most of the money spent is in the downtown areas and the stores are mostly owned by a small business elites that don’t live in town or, if they do, live there for only a short period of time and then live the rest of the times in a more congenial place that isn’t overrun by tourists.  Also, the money the cruise ship charges to its passengers stays with an international company that has no economic connection to the places they visit other than the harbour charges they pay. Even at that, I know, in Victoria BC, the ships leave at 2359hrs just to avoid the overnight charges the local authorities would impose. Having dropped off their passengers for a 6-8hr visit, filled their water tanks, dumped their sewage to the local system (at least in Victoria – am not sure where it goes in the Caribbean) and paid for the electricity they use then off they go to the next anchorage  (where they pay nothing) or minimal harbour dues.

Cruise ship tourism is hard to escape in the Caribbean as towns are forced to build larger and more expensive ports to accommodate even larger ships that will bring even more tourists at the expense of badly needed infrastructure such as a potable water supply, improved roads and much needed educational and meaningful occupational opportunities.

Enough said on that rant! There are a few special moments to be had in Antigua. There is the old fort in English Harbour, a visit to the 300 some odd beaches, the colour of the surrounding sea, offshore fishing, music and the friendly population (outside of the most heavily visited tourist areas).

We have been lucky in that two groups have visited us from Canada here in Antigua. The first visitors were Connie’s sister and family from Calgary.

Trying to fit the family in the dinghy for an outing to Green Island –                                   Debi, Cliff, Connie and Nick

Escaping the blowing snow and ice Debbie, Cliff and Nick flew out of the blizzard and down to Antigua for a week staying at an all inclusive called The Verandah Resort and Spa which is close to one of the favoured kite boarding beaches on Green Island.

The other visitors came from Edmonton to escape the great north’s climate. Sandi and Sylvia flew down from Edmonton and rented a 2 bedroom town house in Jolly Harbour where we could tie up Sage at the dock outside the living room.

Sandy and Sylvia – treasured friends escaping Edmonton’s winter fury

Now, this was luxury for us. I think by the time we left town house everything will had been transferred out of Sage and into the house as we kept thinking of things we needed in the kitchen.

View from the townhouse bedroom balcony. Perfect place to work on                                            the boat! But, did we!

Just an added quick note to say access to power and internet has been very limited thus the lack of postings. Also, on a particularly rough sailing segment the camera ended up being flung from its 6 year placement and ended up in the shower stall covered in salt water. It’s functioned for a while and until I can make it to New York I will be stuck using my Galaxy 4 smart phone camera. Hence quality of photos will de downgraded!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Wayno permalink
    May 28, 2017 14:11

    Good posting Tony. You are blessed with friends, mate. Look forward to the next…

  2. May 28, 2017 15:46

    Nothing wrong with the quality of your images! good to know where you are. Your price of lettuce there puts the cost of our local compost in perspective.

  3. cpbl permalink
    May 28, 2017 21:05

    Nice to hear an update, and I always enjoy your social commentary!
    Vicarious Chris

  4. Pam Bryden permalink
    May 28, 2017 21:44

    hey right there with you on the scourge of tourism and by no means not only the cruise line industry.

  5. Donald Innes permalink
    May 29, 2017 11:56

    Tony G’Day Old Mate…as always a joy to read your posts. Enjoy and be well much Peace Don

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