The pull of Antigua is real: boats are drawn here by the trade winds and currents which work their way across the Atlantic Ocean. The island is a popular destination for Trans-Atlantic vessels: after sailing for weeks across the ocean you will first lay eyes on the volcanic island of Montserrat which glows red before lush, mountainous Antigua appears, offering the first port of refuge from winds and waves which have gathered over 3000 of open ocean. This means there is always a welcome or leaving party going on and every sailor is encouraged to join. Antigua is an old haunt for generations of sailors, back from the days of Nelson, and for good reason. Regardless of whether or not you come to the island to sail, it has the air of a safe haven about it: verdant colours, white sand and an infectiously laid back atmosphere.
English Harbour, in particular the historic Nelson’s Dockyard is an iconic spot to visit, typically Caribbean with undertones of a bygone England. Take a stroll along the dock to see the stunning classic yachts who spend their winters here, bathing in the Caribbean sun shine. They gather annually for Antigua Classics Week, where the most impressive of the classic yachts compete against each other in a fabulous display of traditional sailing. Each morning of the regatta is signalled by canon fire, and every evening the rum flows and the steel band plays. Antigua is also the start and finish point of the race known as the Caribbean 600, where yachts follow a 600 nautical mile route which weaves round the Leeward Islands.
There is also plenty of cruising on offer. Antiguans are masters of relaxation and within minutes of being on the Antiguan shores you’ll find yourself in that very same mindset. In the Caribbean there are no worries and the Antiguan approach to hospitality means that you cannot help but slip in to this incredibly laid back way of life.
Falmouth is the neighbouring harbour, a little more cosmopolitan by Caribbean standards, it plays host to the newer super yachts who berth here for their annual trip to the West Indies, and it is also home to some of the best loved bars on the island, namely Skullduggery’s; a true sailor’s haunt, it is more of a shack than a bar, famous for serving turbo charged espresso martinis and rum punch. It’s difficult to walk past Skullduggery’s without being drawn in to the gentle afternoon chatter of the sailors, and before long you find that you are still sitting there and it is almost midnight.
There are also fabulous restaurants in the area of Falmouth, Cloggy’s is an ideal venue for a rose lunch which can easily stretch in to dinner and beyond, with incredible views of the harbour and expert Dutch service, it is an absolute must for all visitors. Exquisite food and an extensive wine menu makes this restaurant one of the finest on the island. Easily accessible by boat, just drop the anchor in a quiet spot in Falmouth Harbour and meander your way ashore through the maze of impressive super yachts. Local delicacies include dorado or dolphin fish and conch, anywhere serving either of these is worth calling in at.
Sheer Rocks restaurant is a short sail away up the West Coast of the island. Drop anchor in Jolly Harbour, hop in to your tender and stop at the Cocobay resort then work your way up the steep sided cliff to a fabulous venue overlooking the outstretched Caribbean sea. Under the shade of palm trees and white linen you dine on exquisite Caribbean inspired tapas, and once the sun begins to set, and the sky is alight with vibrant Caribbean colours, relax in the plunge pool with your favourite cocktail.
There are 365 beaches on Antigua, so you are guaranteed to find your own private spot regardless of where you to choose to anchor. All of the bays are teeming with wildlife, you will be sure to spot turtles and rays wherever you moor up.
When to visit
Antigua is best visited during the winter months in order to avoid the hurricane season: for sailors, there is usually a fresh breeze complemented by air and sea temperatures which mean that you only need shorts and T shirt when leaving the dock. It is the epitome of champagne sailing.
For experienced sailors a bareboat charter will allow you the freedom to explore this enchanting island, Sunsail has a range yachts on offer.
If you are looking for an exclusive experience on a fully crewed yacht, you can opt for a luxury yacht charter, Sublime Yachting can put together your perfect sailing holiday.