After a total of 17 days sailing with Lindblad travelers across the Atlantic Ocean, the elegant barque Sea Cloud II pulled into its final destination, the bustling port town of St John’s in Antigua, ready to begin a season of fine sailing in the steady winds of the Lesser Antilles.
The first trip of our Caribbean season was about to begin through the Leeward Islands of the group. The six English-speaking Leeward Islands head up the chain of the Lesser Antilles, mingling with the Dutch Windward Islands and various French possessions. Antigua is the main gateway to this corner of the Caribbean, and has been since the British established their chief Caribbean naval base here in the 18th century; this British influence could be felt directly on arrival at the airport as we drove past a large cricket ground, the most beloved sport in the area. We arrived at the Heritage Quay to board our vessel, quietly docked next to a monster of a cruise ship and looking dormant with all the sails doused and tucked away, to the background of a loud steel pan session. This steel pan music is originally from Trinidad and originated in the dockyards of Port-of-Spain during WWII when oil drums were recycled for makeshift drums.
Once we were all aboard, and the mandatory safety drill was performed, our crew cast off from the dock. The winds were suitable and when we were a safe distance from the dock we sailed away from Antigua – to the delight and amazement of the thousands aboard the neighbouring ship. We all tried very hard not to look too smug, to varying degrees of success!
After a magical night sailing in a northwesterly direction under a filling moon, we awoke to Caribbean skies and warmth, with some nice strong gusts of wind and the occasional rapid yet strong squall to freshen us up. We spent our first full day entirely at sail, learning from our captain and expedition leader about the ship and her rigging, and feeling ourselves transported back to another century – a time before noisy engines were invented and we were entirely dependant on these sails.