We spent yesterday in Antigua. Headed straight for the Admiral Nelson Dockyard, which is a National Park here, at English Harbor. We've been before, but always on an organized tour, where we were crowded in for the rum punch freebie, and bellied up to the bar like a good tourist with our German, English and French friends from the ship. This time we hired our own driver, Winston James, and he was a hoot. When we left the ship, we had to make our way through the gauntlet of taxi and tour drivers looking to pick up a good customer. We made it clear, it was just a taxi ride, but in the end, we wound up with something sort of hybrid. He got us there, but we also took in some other sights he thought were important. Well, they were beautiful. And he's rightly proud of "his island."
Nelson's Shipyard was originally founded in 1740, but the great Admiral himself lived there only 3 years in the 1760's I believe. It was fascinating to read about this garrison, founded before the Revolutionary War, and England's plans to not only protect its interests in the Caribbean, but to establish a safe harbor from the hurricanes that would sometimes decimate a fleet in this region. They also were attempting to stop local pirates from having their way with merchant ships that frequented the Caribbean, loaded with money and other goods bound for England. I was fascinated by the accounts of family life, with "no women allowed" yet where evidence that the sailors and some of the workers they brought from overseas developed relationships with the local women, sometimes raising families, even though there was a wife and family at home. There was one account where a sailor's grave was repositioned, to find that he had been buried with an infant son on his chest, probably due to Yellow Fever. Very touching.
An unexpected miracle was the fact that there was a charter yacht convention going on. They are gearing up for a Sailing Week coming in 2 weeks, where the rich and richer gather with their "boats", will race, party and party harder. I'm sure it will be a wild time. I was in awe as I walked down the pier, passing probably fifty ships that cost more than I'll earn in 10 lifetimes. Some of these were for sale. Some prospective buyers were charter tour operators and people who liked to own a percentage share of a "boat" like owning part of a racehorse. New stuff for me. And fascinating.
The internet was spotty around the dockyard, where I'll definitely come back to again, so we took local advice and hopped on a dingy, a water taxi, and headed over to Galleon Beach, and had, yes, a cheeseburger in paradise at Roxy's Beach Bar. I was introduced to their version of rum punch, both the old fashioned kind and the standard variety. I got a nutmeg moustache, enjoyed the sun on the water, sat under the fronds and umbrellas, and checked my FB and internet messages. While there, a woman from one of those huge boats tied up her dingy, bringing her chocolate lab to the ocean for a swim. And she stood in the water while he had his fun, a romance novel clutched in her hand. I found this woman fascinating! She said she brought 75 romance novels with her on this trip. Good for her! Wish I'd had a spare book I could have given her, although she was into historicals.
I talked last week about going through doorways and unexpected turns. The trip on the water taxi was a whim for us, just to see something new. Now I feel like the whole trip, the whole cruise was created just so we could have this day at Galleon Beach. We met a group of prospective yacht buyers from the UK who were going home that day, a couple from South Africa, another handsome bartender from South Africa, and Joshua, originally from Guyana, but who came to Antigua when he was 15. I felt the westernized stiffness leave my bones as I relaxed, loved the sounds of the gentle waves, the music and light chatter, and just unwound. Found a part of myself there I didn't know I'd left behind. A new story developed, I'm itching to get to, but I lined it out briefly, shared it, and hope that I can keep the fire burning after I complete some edits I have to start working on tomorrow.
Wonder what Admiral Nelson would think of these boats that are probably worth more than the entire net worth of Antigua itself as a country. One thing is for sure, he probably sat on this beach and enjoyed the sounds of the bay and felt the warm breeze on his face, saw the blue sky and big billowy clouds, and knew that this was indeed paradise.
This day changed me in ways I cannot calculate at the moment. I had it all: romance, lazy Caribbean breeze, beach, stories and, of course, rum. I could get lost here, if I chose to. Perfect!