So Mel did something that felt final today here in Jolly Harbor, Antigua. She turned off notifications for all of her Nemo foreign language iPad apps. Almost every day for the last year she has been reminded that “It’s time to learn!” Spanish, Greek, Arabic, Italian, or, most recently, French. You see, from here on out, the Burnetts will be sailing in primarily English-speaking countries. This means that Google Translate will no longer be employed while reading restaurant menus, and the crew will no longer have to puzzle over what “filet of reconnaise with blood clothes” really is. Weird.
Another unfamiliar thing they did was go grocery shopping in a store (The Epicurean here in Jolly Harbor) where they recognized at least 50% of the brands on the shelves and knew how to eat 75% of the meat. Pork shoulder! Sirloin! Brisket! Ham! Also noted was the absence of skinned rabbit, legs outstretched in mid-gallop, giant eyes staring up at you. There are also no cured pig legs here, dangling from the ceiling like stinky stalactites. Goat is still lurking near the ground beef, though, but good luck being eaten, goat, now that your label is in English, and says, “Goat.” Ah-ha!
The Burnetts arrived here at Antigua a little late for the party. In early May Antigua had its giant sailing week, and the harbors were choked with superyachts and sailboats of all kinds. Now we walk the docks of a ghost town, waitresses at marina restaurants wistfully staring at rows of empty slips and describing how just a week ago you could peer into the giant boats and spy on the owners filling out their applications for Antiguan citizenship (for only about $250,000 and some real estate investments.) The superyachts are now smartly on their way to where the hurricanes won’t come, and Mel suspects she won’t see as many as she did last year when they cruised these grounds earlier in the season. This fact makes Mel feel better about not shelling out $50 for the entire list of superyacht owners on superyachtfan.com. Oh, but it was tempting though…
Despite being on its way down from a giant party, Antigua is a fabulous place to visit. Mel figures this island would be a perfect introduction to the Caribbean for those less adventurous Americans, given its English language, nice grocery stores, white sand beaches, rainforests with ziplines, underwater wildlife, and polished tourism industry. Plus, unlike its unfortunate neighbors battling volcanic eruptions, floods, hurricanes, and earthquakes, the biggest natural disaster to have hit Antigua since 2000 seems to have been the 2008 recession.
The Burnetts spent a day here provisioning for the Bahamas, where food is notoriously expensive and fresh (non-fish) meat is hard to come by. It turns out food is only slightly less expensive here, so after the sticker shock they chose to ride the bus to visit Nelson’s Dockyards down south. This took one bus transfer and about an hour, but a cruiser is never bored riding the bus, especially during rush hour, because you get a sense of the economy by seeing half of the locals in their work clothes, and you get a sense of local fashion and music tastes from the other half. Also, in the Caribbean, you quickly find out who can actually sing, how many people the bus driver knows, and the local prevalence of Rastafarianism.
At Nelson’s Dockyards, which after restoration still functions for the marine industry, the Burnetts learned that young, 20-something Nelson was a stick-in-the-mud of the first order, pissing off the locals by refusing to bend British rules and trade with the rogue Americans. Looking at the ensigns and ports of call on the visiting yachts, Antigua has made up for that ever since. The next day we went swimming at the pool at the Jolly Harbor Sports Complex, and Mel and Allie got much-needed haircuts. All of a sudden we are off tomorrow for the BVI’s in our race to get to the Bahamas. We are leaving Antigua too soon, and we will probably be back someday to charter here and explore the beautiful harbors and beaches. How could we not return? After all, they have Bounty Select-A-Size!