11 Jan 2017:
St. John’s, Antigua:
Modern Piracy in a Place of Old Times

By Corey Sandler, Destination Consultant Silversea Cruises

Antigua is a mix of all things Caribbean, with a splash of celebrity and a tinge of scandal. Slavery, sugar, young Lord Nelson, superstars in remote palaces, and an American import who played a version of Bernie Madoff’s game on some very undeserving islanders and is now a long-term guest of the U.S. federal prison system.

It is the more substantial of a two-island nation; it is the capital of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

BLOG St Johns Antigua Catamaran 25Feb2015-0472

Antigua means old or ancient in Spanish, and that was the name bestowed upon the island by Christopher Columbus in 1493. He had in mind an icon in Seville Cathedral: Santa Maria de la Antigua (Saint Mary the Ancient.)

Antigua has some of the most interesting terrain amongst Caribbean islands: hills and valleys and deep bays. It is the largest of the Leeward Islands, about 108 square miles or 281 square kilometers.

Although it has its share of tourism income, it is also unusual in its development of other industries including Internet gambling services, offshore banking, and telemarketing centers. It also has two medical schools that aim at least in part to attract American and other foreign students.

Antigua, located on the major sailing route from Europe to the West Indies, was considered Britain’s “Gateway to the Caribbean.” And it was for that reason in the late 18th century the Admiralty decided to beef up its resources on the island.

Antigua English Harbor2

Young Horatio Nelson, later to become Britain’s most celebrated naval hero, was sent in 1784 to oversee the dockyards at English Harbour and enforce The Navigation Acts which dealt with commercial shipping.

The dockyard was originally called “His Majesty’s Antigua Naval Yard.” Boats coming in for repairs sailed into the boat house, and their sails were hoisted up to the loft through a trapdoor.

Antigua English Harbor1

The dockyard was abandoned by the British Navy in 1889. A first, unsuccessful effort to restore the yards began in 1932; the work resumed in 1951 and continues.

And for tourism purposes the place was renamed as Nelson’s Dockyard.

As we sailed away, Antigua graced us with a spectacular sunset of the sort I have rarely seen.

Text and images copyright 2017 by Corey Sandler. All rights reserved. If you would like to purchase a high-resolution image, please contact me.


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