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Antigua Welcomes Azamara Onward and the Talisker Atlantic Challenge

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

Azamara Onward - Talisker Atlantic Challenge Rowing Vessel

When we visited Antigua recently onboard Azamara Onward, we felt honoured and humbled to see boats of the Talisker challenge that had recently arrived in Nelson’s Dockyard having rowed across the Atlantic.

My first visit to Antigua was in 1974 when we called there on the ss. Oriana, l remembers at the time the beauty of the island and was also a little shocked by some of the poverty. In that respect little had changed in the 49 years since my first visit. The Island was still beautiful, but the divide between the rich and poor had widened even more.

Prior to arrival on Azamara Onward in St John we had decided to catch the local bus across the island to English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard. We thought it would be fairly straight forward, however it turned out not that easy. Having found the bus station only a short walk from the port. Following our research, we needed the Route 17 bus.

Which we were led to believe took just over an hour and departed every fifteen minutes.

We asked one of the drivers which was bus 17 and he informed us that it would not leave until there were enough people on the bus. It was Sunday so we guessed it might take a while to fill up as mid-morning most of the church services were in full swing and passengers were in short supply. We eventually negotiated with one of the drivers to take us there in his minibus for $30, The driver turned out to be very knowledgeable and explained the history of the island and pointed out various sites as we made our way across the island and the outbound trip was very enjoyable.

Pillars of Hercules at the Entrance to English Harbour Antigua

Nelson’s Dockyard was a complete contrast to the villages we had passed through on our trip. The entrance to English Harbour is guarded by the Pillars of Hercules, rock soldiers eroded by the relentless, wind rain and crashing waves. Luxury yachts docked in the harbour and fabulous homes dotted around the bay.


Along the dock were a small battalion of Talisker Atlantic Challenge rowing boats. Each year around 40 teams from all over the world are brought together to battle the elements and face the challenge of rowing over 3000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean from the Canary Islands to Antigua. The fastest row across the Atlantic was a four-man team The Four Oarsmen who finished in 29 days, 14 hours, and 34 minutes. The fastest solo across the Atlantic was Mark Slats who completed it in 30 days, 7 hours, and 49 minutes.

The Tiverton Crew - Jack, Hamish, Euan and Arthur

Four brothers, two sets of twins from Devon made the crossing this year and arrived in Antiqua on 14th January it took the Tiverton crew 32 days to complete the 3,000-mile row.

On the day of our visit, a welcome party was being set up on the lawn for a boat that was due in at 7.00pm that evening. Unfortunately, we had to depart Antigua at 6.00pm so were unable to enjoy the event.

Our ride back from English Harbour to St John was quite eventful our colourful taxi driver drove at breakneck speed, knocking the rattle trap out of gear and switching off the engine as he freewheeled down hills, narrowly avoiding the local goats as he went.

View from Azamara Onward overlooking St John Antigua

We got him to drop us off at St John’s cathedral which overlooks the town. Looking magnificent and majestic when viewed from the harbour, on closer inspection the building needed a lot of renovation. With a service in progress, we were unable to inspect the interior. The majority of Antiguans are Christians, and from the look of the many churches we spotted on our Island tour, they are a god-fearing lot, most churches had a very healthy congregation.

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