The Caribbean is full of beautiful islands, each with its own special allure. Antigua, however, is hard to beat. The local Indians called the island wadadli, which means “our own.” Today, many yachtsmen would agree that if they could call only one island their own, it would be Antigua.
At least one well-known sailor begged to differ. When Adm. Horatio Nelson (then the 26-year-old captain of the HMS Boreas) came to Antigua in 1784 to enforce the Navigation Act, he was said to have declared Antigua “a vile place” and “a dreadful hole.” On the other hand, this is the same guy who declared at the Battle of Copenhagen (2,000-plus killed), “It is warm work; and this day may be the last to any of us at a moment,” declared Nelson. “But mark you! I would not be elsewhere for thousands.” No surprise that Nelson didn’t win a lot of friends on Antigua and was said to have spent most of his time sequestered in his stateroom or at the dockyards.
Maybe he should have gotten out more. Or perhaps Nelson was just too driven and high-strung to appreciate this cruiser’s paradise. Reliable winds, a complex coastline with plenty of harbors, and a nearly unbroken ring of coral reef made Antigua an ideal base of operations for the British Navy, which built His Majesty’s Antigua Naval Yard here in 1725 to repair frigates, brig-sloops, schooners and cutters that plied the waters for the crown. Those same natural attributes continue to make Antigua a favorite of yachtsmen and tourists. The reliable winds are soft and warm. The complex coastline hosts 365 beautiful beaches, and the coral wall breaks the surf, sending gentle waves to lap the shore.
Several major yachting events take place here every year. In January, there’s the Round the Island Race at Antigua Yacht Club. In April, the world-famous annual Antigua Classic Regatta takes place, as well as Antigua Sailing Week. Each December brings the world’s finest large yachts to the annual Charter Yacht Show, and there are a handful of smaller boating events throughout the year. (Indeed, there are Travelifts, rigging shops, sailmakers, and other shipyard amenities on the island for those visiting yachtsmen in need of repairs.)
Any of these yachting events are great reasons to go to Antigua. But there may be no finer way to explore the island than aboard your own boat. Ports of entry are at English Harbour, Jolly Harbour, Falmouth Harbour and St. John’s Harbour.