Unlike most of the islands in the Caribbean, Antigua did not go through the Spanish/Dutch/French/English/Portugal battle for control. She remained British until her independence in 1981.
The British used English Harbour on the southern coast of Antigua as a hurricane hole and a repair yard thus allowing the British to keep a squadron of ships in the Caribbean. This allowed the British to maintain naval superiority over its enemy and enforce Navigation Acts especially against those insurgents in the 13 American colonies.
Boat House Pillars
Nelson’s Dockyard was named after a young Captain Nelson that was temporary Commander of the Leeward Islands (1784-1787). Other well known British admirals who used the harbour were Rodney, Hood and Lewis.
Many of the bricks used in construction were brought over from England as ballast in the ships.
The Officer’s Quarters
Most of the buildings seen today were built between 1785 and 1792. Steam-powered ships and waning interest in the area caused the dockyard to fall into disuse and it was officially closed in 1889. In 1951 an effort was started to save the dockyards, and in 1961 the Dockyard officially reopened after much restoration work. Most of the buildings have “adaptive uses,” and house hotels, restaurants and gift shops.
The Dockyard has retained a decidedly English feel. At 6:00 PM on Wednesdays, a group of English expatriates celebrates with “Tots to the Queen” The ceremony includes a reading of an English naval factoid that occurred on that date in history.
(used to careen over ships for bottom cleaning)
Admiral Lord Nelson’s ships have been replaced by private sailing yachts (and the occasional trawler).
We just missed Antigua Sailing Week and Antigua’s Classic Yacht Regatta, but luckily some of the yachts remained.
Entering English Harbour is impressive with Ft. Berkeley on one side and the Pillars of Hercules on the other.
English Harbour was heavily fortified with Ft. Berkeley on one side and Ft. Charlotte on the other point.
Hiking up to Ft. Berkeley was fun;
But we probably should not have picked the hottest part of the day.
Pollie rocking out to the steel band
Above the forts Shirley Heights was built to provide a lookout station and early warning for the forts. Today Shirley Heights is a popular entertainment venue with a great view of both the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
We did venture into St. John’s, the capital of Antigua and the home of their cruise ship docks. After the serenity and beauty of English Harbour St. John’s was a little hard to take.
St. John’s Cathedral
Their main draw was closed for much needed restoration.
And, their infrastructure left a lot to be desired.
So, we hurried back to English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard where along with Izzy R we are waiting for calmer seas before continuing our journey south.