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23rd December, 2015

St. John’s, Antigua

We are back on schedule, and arrived at St. John’s bang on time. In fact it was an interesting approach not made any easier by the relatively shallow water off Heritage Pier where we docked. Ships tend to do the unexpected when berthing in such circumstances so the trainee pilot appeared to be slightly concerned when he believed I hadn’t realised there was a ferry terminal just underneath the port bow. A ‘controlled’ approach ensured we neither became a fixture at the former nor a permanent attachment in the large jewellery shop that has been built just ahead of where the forward mooring lines are placed. The photograph below tells it all I believe.

Antigua is a great little island, and St. John’s is a very interesting town, as yet relatively unspoilt by the numerous large cruise vessels that cruise there regularly during the winter. The old cathedral completed in 1848 is an imposing structure with a pitch pine interior that dominates the view from the ship.

Plenty of tours were on offer, including taking a helicopter to view the island of Montserrat seventeen miles away and which was seriously affected by the volcano eruption of 1995. Catamaran sailing, mangrove kayaking and swimming with stingrays were all available, as well as the usual leisurely ‘Tour of the Island’.

With a few hours available, a few of us went ashore, had an entertaining conversation with a charming taxi driver who, despite obviously not being in the first flush of youth, was very enthusiastic as well as knowledgeable. We had decided to go off to Turners Beach on the south west coast, but ended up on his recommendation at Darkwood Beach, which turned out to be just perfect for a few hours relaxation and what was probably going to be my only swim in the Caribbean this time.

We sailed just as the sun was setting over the low western hills, made the 180 degree turn off the end of the pier and proceeded through the narrow buoyed channel. Behind us the lights of St. John’s gradually illuminated the encroaching darkness.

Captain Philip Rentell

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