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Tuesday 19th October 2010

Heading towards Antigua’s west coast late in the afternoon as the sun gradually lowers itself towards the sea is one of the most beautiful approaches to Antigua’s coastline.  The rocks of Five Islands Harbour with their varying shades of pink and red are visible from miles away and provide an excellent navigation tool to lead you directly and safely towards the Harbour.  Just south of Five Islands is Jolly Harbour which can easily be spotted from a few miles offshore.  Thanks to the wrath of recent Hurricanes Earl and Otto, however, the entrance channel markers into Jolly Harbour are currently missing.  Marina Manager, Festus Isaac, promised me though that replacements are on their way and should be in place soon!

Jolly Harbour is an official port of entry into Antigua and Barbuda.  To clear in you must tie up to the Customs and Immigration dock inside Jolly Harbour, if your draft allows, where officials are scheduled to be on duty from 7 am to 5:30 pm, seven days a week.  From experience, however, I would recommend arriving after 9 am or before 4 pm if you want to avoid possible delays.  You will likely find plenty of dockage space in the marina but anchoring outside of Jolly Harbour is becoming increasingly popular, particularly with regular cruisers.  This anchorage provides easy proximity to the Epicurean Supermarket as well as to the bars, restaurants and other services that are available at Jolly Harbour’s commercial centre.  Jolly Harbour tends to be true to its former name – Mosquito Cove – but if you anchor a reasonable distance from land where you can pick up the usual trade winds, you won’t be bothered by mosquitoes.

If you like exploring and bird watching and possess a canoe or kayak, there is a small salt pond adjacent to the anchorage waiting to be explored.  The entrance to the salt pond is in the northeast corner of the bay - just head in towards the beach and you will find it on the left.

A pelican flies over an excellent snorkelling area at Five Islands.

If you prefer a somewhat more remote anchorage, Five Islands Harbour is generally well protected except occasionally in the winter months when there is a groundswell present.  Even at those times, however, a quiet anchorage can often be found on either the north or south side of the Harbour, depending on the direction of the swell.

One of my favourite anchorages in Five Islands is close to the beach north-northwest of Maiden Island at 17° 06’ 00”N, 61° 53’ 34”W in about 12 feet of water and within swimming distance of the beach.  Be sure to navigate carefully when coming in here as there is a shallow area to the west of the anchorage.  There is plenty of natural firewood to be found ashore if you like to barbecue on the beach – just be sure to clean up after yourself to keep this beach in pristine condition.

An even better and much bigger salt pond is waiting to be explored not far from this anchorage.  The entrance is about a quarter of a mile east but when approaching, watch out for the nets of the local fishermen which they tend to string right across the bay outside the pond’s entrance from west to east.

On the south side of Five Islands Harbour is Hermitage Bay Resort, a gorgeous quiet hotel with cottages scattered across the hillside.  This anchorage is very popular with cruising sailors who prefer relative seclusion but still want the ability to surf the net.  There is generally a strong wireless internet signal available from the Resort when anchored here.  Between Hermitage Bay and Stony Horn are some delightfully small beaches that you can have all to yourself and between Stony Horn and Baker’s Cellar is another beautiful daytime anchorage.

Hermitage Bay Resort in Five Islands Harbour.

On a Saturday afternoon you will likely see the keen sailors of Jolly Harbour Yacht Club racing in Five Islands Harbour.  It is fun to watch but you would also be very welcome to participate.  JHYC has a club rating system that is very favourable for cruising yachts so everyone is encouraged to join in the fun!

JHYC racing in Five Islands Harbour.

And last but not least, the five islands themselves can be very interesting in suitable conditions.  The largest of the islands seems to have become a breeding ground for Frigatebirds, Booby birds and Pelicans.  It can get rather crowded with birds but is very interesting to watch.  If you approach slowly and quietly in your dinghy, you can get in quite close to the island for an excellent view, but be sure to keep a reasonable distance so as not to disturb the nesting birds.

Pelicans resting at one of the Five Islands.

Snorkeling around the islands can be excellent when the weather and sea conditions are favourable.  And while enjoying the nature and seclusion of Five Islands Harbour, you are still only a short dinghy ride away from all of the amenities that Jolly Harbour has to offer!


Article written by Hans Lammers.  Photos by Kathy Lammers.

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