8th  - 28th February 2002

Freeman Bay, English Harbour, Antigua


We arrived on the morning of 8th February and slung our hook in this idyllic bay.   English Harbour is beautiful, sailing heaven.    One side is "Nelson's Dockyard" a national park containing buildings from the colonial times.   Our first trip was there to immigration, customs and the port authorities.   We had a weekend at anchor in Freeman Bay to relax and rest between our crossing and haul out on Monday morning.

On Sunday we were having a spot of lunch in the cockpit when a friendly chap came sailing by in his Optimist dinghy.   Turns out he'd seen our Welsh dragons.   His name is Gordon, he's from Swansea but has lived in Antigua on and off for five years.  He also happened to be a marine engineer working at one of the engineering companies here.   With our propshaft problems, it was as if someone had sent us an angel!   Within 10 minutes of his cup of tea, he was in the engine room with Phil giving advice!

Later the same day we went, as everyone does on a Sunday, to the party at Shirley Heights.   A barbecue on the hill overlooking the whole of English Harbour, where very, very strong rum punch is served and there's a steel band followed by a reggae band.   Its a great atmosphere.    We took the difficult option walking up the hill but it was great to be walking in the countryside again after 25 days of seeing nothing but sea.   At the party we met some new friends, Brad a Canadian pilot, who's married to Melanie from Tobago and Tyler their little boy.   We got on really well with them and also an American couple here on vacation and had a very enjoyable evening.

Despite the rum punches we had to get up early the next morning for our haul out and back to work.......

Shirley Heights Party with our new friends.

James checking the positioning of the boat on the trailer.


We were hauled out on Monday morning on a slipway, which was a new experience for us but far less nerve-wracking that a travel hoist.  You don't have that moment when you think the slings might break under the strain!    They did have some trouble with the weight of the boat, their tractor couldn't pull her up the steep part of the ramp.   Eventually they found a solution by hooking a cable up to the railway type slipway they use for big boats and using that to take some of the strain.   Within a couple of hours we were safely settled ashore and ready to start work.   


First priority was to sort out the propshaft.   First we had to get the propeller off and then try to find a way to get the propshaft out past the redesigned rudder.   We had to cut out the rudder stop on one side, take up the wood on the diving platform and cut out a piece of steel there too before we could turn the rudder enough to get out the propshaft.   Luckily though we managed it without craning off the rudder.    Then the propshaft wouldn't come out of the coupling on the engine.   This took more ingenuity and some brute force but finally was loosened after half a day.
Once the propshaft was out, the problem was clear.   As suspected the problem was with the cutlass bearing (a round bearing with a brass outer and rubber inner which is around the propshaft to stop the shaft moving up and down and keep it straight).   Somehow the brass and rubber on ours had parted company.  The brass was still in position but the rubber had wriggled out and right up the propshaft inside the boat, leaving the propshaft free to move and rattle about.   How this happened is a mystery but at least the rubber hadn't worn away which would have meant something was out of alignment on the engine and would have been much more difficult to solve.  Anyway Phil got it fixed quickly and a new bearing in place, then we set to work on the underwater paintwork, whilst the boat was out of the water.   Some sanding was required on bad patches and of course the antifouling paint we used wasn't available here as they only use the banned in the UK and USA types which are far more effective, so we needed a barrier coat before the two coats of antifouling paint.   A lot of work but it all got done and a few other jobs too in eight days and we're now back in the water.   The people at Antigua Slipway were very helpful.

Work in progress.  At least the floor has stopped rocking now!

View of English Harbour and Falmouth (in the background) from Shirley Heights

We took half a day off from working to catch the bus to St. Johns, the capital.   The bus was an adventure, started off as a 10 seater but on the way folding seats kept appearing and more and more people piled on.   The only problem was if the person at the back of the bus wanted to get off, everybody else had to get off and get back on again.  St. Johns was very busy with everybody out shopping.   We headed to the big supermarket for some supplies as the shops in English Harbour and Falmouth have a very limited selection and very high prices specially for rich boat owners.    

We left English Harbour on 26th February and headed to the west coast of Antigua, where we found a deserted anchorage in Five Islands Bay.  One or two boats came in to stay overnight but mostly we had the place to ourselves.   

Five Islands Bay

The bay had several beaches and we made expeditions to a couple in our dinghy on the first day.   The swell made landing on the beach in the dinghy very exciting and we decided not to stay long before moving to a different one.

The boat which arrived a little later and dropped off the naked honeymooners on the same beach didn't seem to have the same problem.   I wonder what they were up to behind that big rock!

We called into Jolly Harbour to clear immigration and pick up water and then headed off on overnight passage to St. Barts on Thursday 28th February, after a couple of restful days at anchor.


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