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We arrived in Antigua December 20th, after 26 hours at sea from St Martin. As you can see, we aimed NE and then made our turn towards Antigua. We arrived to pick up our family and go sailing in Antigua for a week
Antigua is an island in the nation of Antigua & Barbuda. They are part of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. The English settled in Antigua in 1632, and in 1981 Antigua and Barbuda became commonwealth nations under the British crown.
Most of Antigua’s industry is in tourism, and because of that, the island is well developed with vacation homes, hotels, and tourist activities.
Transport and Accommodations
V C Bird International Airport is serviced by many airlines. Don’t let its location fool you; even though the airport is clear across the island from English Harbour, it’s only 40 minutes by car between the two. Transport to Jolly Harbour from the airport was 30 minutes and cost $26.
7-Day Sailboat Charter in Antigua
Dream Yacht Charters has a base in Jolly Harbour, a great place to start out. The provisioning is easy in this small town, and they have a 7-day charter itinerary that is very different from what we did, although we both agree that English Harbour is a do-not-miss! Our spots are in blue, DYC spots are in purple:
We cleared into Jolly Harbour, which is a sleepy little town, full of vacation homes and condos. Clearing in was easy and cost us $16 US. We spent the next day (the 21st) cleaning the boat and getting the lay of the land – got a sim card and scoped out the grocery store.
On the 22nd, we got some special guests aboard! My parents and my Uncle Phil arrived to stay with us for Christmas. They took a cab from the airport to Castaways ($26) where we kicked off their vacation with a beach view and tropical cocktails.
One big thing we noticed is that although the water is beautiful colors, it is NOT clear. In fact, we didn’t see clear water anywhere in Antigua. We aren’t sure why – is it the time of year or is it always like this?
On the 23rd, we left Jolly Harbour to sail north and up into the Boon Channel. That meant an upwind sail, which was rough so we tucked into Dickenson Bay for an evening. Dickenson Bay is the location of the Sandals Resort (and thus we had free fast wifi!). Mom and I swam in the water with our pool noodles to cool off. The view of the sunset was gorgeous!
On the 24th, we motored over to Jumby Bay on Long Island. Jumby Bay is a high-end resort, and the bay was fairly busy with all the water sports going on. We shared the bay with Paolyre, a very sexy motor yacht. There were some reefs just to the north of us, so we went for a quick snorkel. It was not near a top-10 for us, but our guests enjoyed it. There were a few shallower coral heads that we could check out. Mom enjoyed being in the water again with a pool noodle!
Great Bird Island
Christmas morning we awoke to have our tradition – cinnamon rolls! We also got treated to watching a water skiing Santa zoom passed and wave at us. We used the free internet at Jumby Bay to call David’s parents and wish them a Merry Christmas, and then we moved over to Great Bird Island, where we picked up a NEMMA mooring. Behind us was S/V Ellen, anchored and tucked in for the night. We watched a few sea turtles poke their heads up in front of us for a while. Mom and I went off to snorkel around the island. We had lamb chops for dinner, and a great night laughing and enjoying each other’s company.
On the 26th we woke up early to get a snorkel in. Although the water was clearer than in Jumby Bay, it was still not on the same level as the virgin islands. We took the dinghy to the north beach and then swam out to enjoy the reef. The snorkeling here was much better than in Jumby Bay. We saw large fields of staghorn coral and beautiful specimens of brain coral. The fish were often small, although we did see an angelfish and I saw two spotted eagle rays. Our family really enjoyed the snorkel, which made me very happy!
We left mid-morning for Falmouth Harbour. Falmouth Harbour shares a peninsula with English Harbour, so it’s an easy walk between the two. We sailed downwind on the west side of Antigua, even pulling out our spinnaker. On the south side, we had to turn into the wind to make our way east, and it did get much rougher. We arrived in Falmouth in the afternoon.
We were very excited to get to catch up with Ryan and Tasha, of S/V Cheeky Monkey, who arrived in Antigua Christmas Eve after their 20-day Atlantic Crossing. Meeting at a bar, we got to chat ALOT about their passage and what has been going on with both our Helias! We also met their two remaining crew members – Morgan and Xavier. From there, we went to Cap Horn for pizza and drinks!
Sunday morning we dropped Mom, Bob, and Phil at the dock so they could walk around town a little bit, while David and I took Starry Horizons over to English Harbour. In English Harbour, we had to med moor (stern to the dock) using our own anchor as the moor. We had never done that before but I think we did a great job. We’ve discovered that we wish we had cleats on the insides of our transoms so that we could put spring lines across. Maybe some future project…
Awaiting us at English Harbour were 6 more family members – my Great Uncle Jim and Great Aunt Lois, their son Bill (my Dad’s first cousin), his wife Christie, and their two girls Sarah and Carolyn. They were staying at the Copper and Lumber Store Hotel – literally spitting distance of our slip. Everyone came aboard to say hello, and we decided to head to Pigeon Beach for a short swim (six off us – Mom, me, Christie, Bill, and the girls). It was about a 20-minutes walk over and we got a great view of Falmouth Harbour from the hills. The water at the beach was cold and refreshing.
For our evening entertainment, we went to Shirley’s Heights, a historic fort-turned party spot every Sunday night. It was packed, with reggae bands and BBQ. We were able to see the crew of Cheeky Monkey again and enjoy fresh Antiguan ginger beer.
Zip Lining in the Rainforest
Monday we gathered together in the morning and 8 of us went off to enjoy a zip line! We zip-lined with Antigua Rainforest. It was very busy, there were probably 30 people in our group and for a while, there was a lot of waiting in line and being herded. But the zip line course itself was awesome! We did at 12 lines and an obstacle course. On the way back we stopped for lunch at Caribbean Taste. The food was very good – roti, stewed goat, funge, and ducana. All very authentic to the Caribbean. Dinner took place with all 11 of us on Starry Horizons to eat the mackerel we caught on the way to Antigua.
Tuesday morning we enjoyed a hike up the fort on the point of English Harbour. The view is spectacular.
Tuesday afternoon my parents and Phil had to leave. We had such a great time with them!! We all sent them off with hugs and kisses in front of the Copper & Lumber Store Hotel.
In prep for the swap, I paid $40 US for all our sheets and towels to get washed. It was well worth the money. The remaining 8 of us went to the Pillars restaurant for drinks and then back to Caribbean Taste for dinner. David and I had one night with just the 2 of us sleeping on the boat.
This morning, Bill, Christie, Sarah, and Carolyn moved aboard Starry Horizons. We’re working on final prep to sail to Guadeloupe. We plan on sailing directly to Deshaies, where Aunt Lois and Uncle Jim will fly this afternoon. We will stay in Deshaies until Jim, Lois, Bill, Christie, and Carolyn fly home on the 3rd. Got any tips for us in Guadeloupe?