Having sailed the islands for many years, there is no doubt that Antigua is blessed with an amazing number of fabulous places to drop your anchor. In the winter months, when far away storms in the North Atlantic often cause groundswell making anchorages in the Leeward Islands uncomfortable, Antigua is the place to be! In the summer, with the potential of tropical storms, our island has many places in which you can hide. Since we are now well into the tropical storm season, I will elaborate here on some of Antigua’s best hurricane holes.
English Harbour is traditionally the place to be. The British Navy apparently never lost a ship to bad weather in this Harbour. Considering that weather forecasts weren’t all that great in Nelson’s time, that is not a bad feat! The Harbour is still littered with old hurricane anchors and chains which were used to secure the ships in the early days. If you’re planning to ride out the storm in English Harbour, push your bow into the mangroves with as many stern anchors as you can come up with but beware of your neighbours – make sure they are also properly secured. Note! Fenders tend to blow onto your deck in a storm – car tires are the answer!
Falmouth Harbour can give some protection in minor hurricanes. In the past, lighter boats have survived storms using John Bentley’s moorings but you should check with him before tying up – just call Sea Pony on VHF channel 68. Use a long line to connect to the mooring and then add some extra weight to your line for added flexibility. There is a good protected anchorage in the north of the bay, east of Bailey’s Boat Yard between the mangroves and the shoal to its south. Use multiple anchors to reduce your swing and check the positioning of your neighbours to make sure you won’t swing into each other and that they are securely anchored.
Last but not least, Jolly Harbour is my preferred place to be. No boats received serious damage during the hurricanes that plagued Antigua in the 1990s. Find yourself a spot in the marina – D dock is the most protected - and coordinate with your neighbours and Dock Master to create a web of lines to protect each other. If you plan to hide in Jolly Harbour, go early. Boats from as far away as Nevis and St. Kitts and local fishing boats will seek refuge here. One of the great things about being in Jolly Harbour is that shops and restaurants are close at hand. The project has its own power and water desalination plants which are very handy when government services may not be available after a bad storm. After the horrendous Hurricane Luis in 1995, Peter of Peter’s Steakhouse was open and serving coffee and breakfast “the morning after”.
Antigua has several other hurricane holes but you’ll have to read about them in the next issue of Antigua’s Yachting Insider.
“Where you have been determines where you are.” Anonymous.