Sailing has been a central part of Antigua's culture for centuries, ever since the British under Horatio Nelson made English Harbour their Caribbean base. Today, the stately Georgian architecture of Nelson's Dockyard hosts a more pleasure-seeking fleet usually the international racing boats, recreational yachts, and classic sailboats of Antigua's annual Sailing Week.
The coasts of Antigua are ideal for yacht cruising and racing, with constant trade-winds, and many harbors for exploration. Easily a week could be spent cruising around this picturesque island of the Caribbean. The sister island of Barbuda has shell laden beaches so long that they dip below the horizon.
There are good airline connections with North America and Europe and Antigua is centrally situated for Caribbean cruising. On top of that, the weather in Antigua is almost always nice. The temperature remains fairly constant year round.
During the winter, Antigua's temperatures hover between 74 to 78 degrees (F), and during the summer time, the temperatures stay in the mid to upper 80s.
The coolest hours are after the sun has gone down, when the temperature can drop two to four degrees. With the steady trade winds blowing from the northeast, this can make evenings a little chilly for some visitors. The warmest hours on the island are midday during the summer time. And like the other nearby islands, there is little rain and very low humidity year round. December is when it rains and even then just a little.
Here is a classic, ten-day sail through these islands that you might enjoy:
Just to the North of Jolly Harbour (a mere half-hour's sail if you go direct) you will find Deep Bay. If you head here you can drop your anchor and dive or snorkel on the wreck of the 'Andes', a three-masted barque that lies in just 20 feet of water. The day will fly by as you explore this old wreck and the sea life that surrounds it. Later, head to the shore where you can find a lovely meal, often served on the beach, and there is always a good band.
Set sail to North Sound as there is much to explore and appreciate here from Jumby Bay on exclusive Long Island to nearby Maiden Island or Great Bird Island on the inner edge of the protective reef. The many beautiful, sheltered bays are not accessible by yacht so explore them by dinghy. Bring a picnic and make a day of it!
This area is really lovely and you can easily spend a second day exploring its many charms. We recommend dropping anchor late in the afternoon in Dickenson Bay. This long beach fronts several hotels, with all the nightlife you could wish for right along the beach. During the afternoon, there are places offering a variety of water sports, casinos and many restaurants.
After two days of easy exploring, you will need to get an early start to make it to Barbuda. This invigorating sail features lots of open sea. The island itself is only visible from within just a few miles. Still, you will have plenty of time to pick your anchorage. We recommend dropping anchor just off the beach Northwest of Cocoa Point. This is a great spot to enjoy the sound of waves, the calm sea and the night sky by having dinner on the yacht.
After your day sail, you will enjoy spending time exploring and swimming here. Barbuda has an abundance of colorful coral reefs and amazing beaches. And there is even a special treat: visit one of the world's largest Frigate Bird sanctuaries. We always make sure to recommend that you take a long walk along Eleven Mile Beach with its pink, powdery sand. If you inclined, you can have dinner in the village of Codrington where the food is simple but good. Local lobsters are reasonably priced year round. (A note here, if you are thinking of the same lobsters as you have had from along the Northeast Coast of the United States, adjust your taste buds to appreciate the smaller, more subtle tasting island lobster.)
Set sail from Barbuda early in order to make it back to Antigua. The sailing is great fun as you 'power reach' southwards to Nonesuch Bay on the East Coast of Antigua. We recommend you drop anchor at West Bay on the uninhabited Green Island. Here, you can swim and BBQ from the yacht with a glass of something cold in your hand. After an early dinner, take the dinghy and explore Nonesuch Bay. Inside its protective reef, you will find some of the best snorkeling in the area - a place most folks find hard to leave. Visit Harmony Hall, a converted Sugar Mill, which houses an excellent, Italian-owned bar and restaurant, together with an art gallery.
Today, take a brisk two-to-three hour sail along the rugged Southeast coastline, past the unusual rock formation of the Pillars of Hercules, and into English Harbour. Moor stern-to at the famous Nelson's Dockyard, the only remaining working Georgian Dockyard in the world. There are beautifully restored buildings dating back to the early 18th Century to appreciate and you can put the island's history into perspective by visiting the local museum. Go ahead and splurge and take the short - and inexpensive - taxi ride up to Shirley Heights for a magnificent view of the Southeast corner of the island. The view calls for something cold and you can enjoy your refreshment while watching the sun set if you time this just right! When you finally pull yourself away from these views, you will want to head into town for dinner at one of the many very good restaurants.
You will leave English Harbour and sail downwind to picturesque Carlisle Bay on this day with the aim of getting away from it all! Once you arrive at Carlisle Bay you will see a calm bay with palm trees lining the beach. This is a very quiet spot all about enjoying the world from the point of view of the locals. A nearby beach bar serves West Indian food and is filled with locals. You can't miss it; this is a simple place rich with natural beauty.
Keep heading downwind and sail inside Cades Reef with its turquoise waters. Keep an eye out for turtles here as they are amazing to watch as they dive and play in the waters. Drop you r anchor behind the reef so that you can snorkel and have lunch afterwards. When you are ready, continue North along the beach-studded West Coast, past Jolly Harbour and anchor off Hermitage Beach in the beautiful, protected bay of Five Islands Harbour.
Today it is but a short sail back to port, so enjoy yourself by making it a leisurely cruise. Take a swim and think about how life has remained unchanged here for a very long time. It will wait for you to come back again.
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