As you read in the last blog, we finally got the port engine working again and Melek and I wanted to see a little bit of Antigua before we needed to sail to the next island. I must admit we were both bummed that we needed to work on the boat and did not have as much time to explore, but that is what cruising is about sometimes……boat repair in exotic locations! ????
With that said, we saw the best thing in Antigua from a historical perspective. You see the Nelson’s Dockyard is loaded with history, is a World Heritage Site, and is still in use as a marina, hotels, restaurants, shops, ect. To me that was the coolest thing was seeing this wonderful piece of history still actively being used.
The original purpose of Nelson’s Dockyard was to provide Britain’s Caribbean fleet a safe harbor for hurricanes and a place to make repairs on the vessels. The fact that Antigua was roughly in the middle of the Caribbean helped logistically and militarily.
There was a small careening wall (place where you lean boats over to work on their sides or bottom) started across the harbor in 1728, but it proved to be too small and construction on the current dockyard was started in the 1740. Three things that had to be built for this to be successful. First were the wharfs because the ships were tied side to the wall. They then had lines running from the masts to capstans, which were turned and pulled the ships onto their sides. The second thing needed were buildings to house the sailors and officers, store goods, and carry out the necessary repairs (sail loft, blacksmith, lumber mill). And third a defensive wall for protection. Most of the current dockyard was completed by the end of the 1700’s, although a few buildings (officer’s quarters, clerk house, etc) were built in the 1800’s.
The reason the dockyard is called Nelson’s Dockyard is because Admiral Horatio Nelson (Britain’s greatest naval officer was stationed here between 1784-87. By 1889 the British Navy abandoned the site and it began to fall apart. Luckily the Society of the Friends of English Harbour started restoring the dockyard in 1951 and had it opened to the public within a decade.
So, if you are in Antigua make sure you get to the south coast and take a couple hours to walk through this amazing piece of history. Trust me you will thank me later. ????