So, where in the world do you sail in non-tidal waters whilst enjoying some of the freshest lobster around? It has to be the islands of Antigua & Barbuda in the heart of the Caribbean.
Antigua is a well known Caribbean destination sitting like a jewel in the Caribbean chain between BVI and the Grenadines; but how well do people really know it?
Sure, it’s famous for hosting Test Cricket, the Classic Yacht Regatta and Antigua Sailing Week (a bit like Cowes Week in the sunshine; and just add rum). But who would know that cruising Antigua and Barbuda offers some of the most idyllic coastal cruising AND passage making sailing. There’s really something for every level of sailor here. With just 12-14″ of tide and a constant steady breeze from the East (well, 364 days of the year anyway) it’s a far cry from sailing in the UK.
Antigua is an island with a meandering and interesting coastline comprising bays, harbours and inlets. There are also uninhabited offshore islands to explore, nestling to the North and the East of Antigua. The beauty of these islands is that they offer some of the best snorkelling spots and wildlife-watching opportunities. Barbuda is Antigua’s sister island – a 25nm sail from Antigua. The perfect passage to be entertained by breaching whales at certain times of the year.
A sail from Jolly Harbour Marina to Great Bird Island in the North Sound will take you around 3 hours. A perfect amount of time to work on the suntan and look out for dolphins and turtles playing around your hull. There’s nothing fancy about uninhabited Great Bird Island; it boasts a nice lady who is dropped off by boat in the morning by her husband, after which time she sets up her little bar and makes sure the local beer is nice and cold. She bobs around in the water until a boat shows up. It does put your desk job in Southampton somewhat in the shade!
A short sail will take you over to Long Island where you can drop the hook. Here you’ll find a host of exclusive properties owned by the rich and famous. It’s a perfect spot for a refreshing swim and celeb spotting (don’t worry, we all look the same in our Speedo’s).
The protected west coast of Antigua is perfect for coastal cruising and bay hopping; from Deep Bay with its sunken merchant ship (do watch the mast tip peeking out) to Carlisle Bay with it’s lush, green mountainside sweeping down to the white sand beach and turquoise water.
A blog about sailing Antigua would not be complete without a mention of English Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard. Hang out with the yachtie crowd at the Mag Mongoose and find a stool at one of the many bars; catch up with the locals talking about island politics, politics and probably more politics!
The local people have a unique ability to teach you the art of relaxation (or liming as we like to call it). Sit, talk, laugh, drink, eat a little food…. repeat!.
Green Island, just off Antigua’s east coast, can be as relaxing or as exhilarating as you choose. For those with enough energy after all that liming, try your hand at kite surfing in protected Nonsuch Bay – a huge bay that is home to a wonderful Italian, hillside restaurant and art gallery called Harmony Hall.
If you are looking to make a decent passage and island hop, then Barbuda fits the bill perfectly. It’s a flat island so you’ll only catch a glimpse when you are about a mile offshore. Good navigation is a pre-requisite. The beauty of the island is breathtaking. You won’t find fine dining or music bars, but you will find two of the most stunning beaches you will ever hope to stumble upon and the freshest lobster being served at a couple of shacks on the beach. Jala and Uncle Roddy will look after you.
The best way to get here is on the direct flights from either London Gatwick (Virgin and BA) or Manchester (in high season) on Thomas Cook Airlines. Most flights take around 7.5 hours so plenty of time to do your homework on where to get your first cocktail. With the 5 hour time difference at this time of year, you’ll be arriving around 3pm and you could be watching the sunset with a glass of something nice in your hand by 6!
A bit about the author: Jackie Ashford is the co-owner of Horizon Yacht Charters in Antigua. Having left her career in London some 12 years ago, Jackie and her husband now take pride in offering first class charters to sailors from all over the world. Their love of sailing and all things Antigua is evident in the passion they put into every aspect of the charter experience.
LateSail have 10 day charter offers in Antigua from just £1160. Click here to see more offers