Antigua: A Yachting & Sailing Haven



Antigua: A Yachting & Sailing Haven

By Candace Boggan

Global Living – Issue 9 | Nov/Dec 2013

The extravagant traveler is always in pursuit of the next opulent excursion. If yachting and fine cuisine are what you savor, Antigua is an international haven for the adventurous and well-seasoned palate.

As one-half of a dynamic duo located in the eastern Caribbean, Antigua is a crown jewel of a destination. This Leeward gemstone is sister to neighboring island, Barbuda, and is the larger of the two.  The island boasts of powdered beaches and coral reefs that attract divers from all over the globe. The capital of the island is St. John’s, which is a bustling city full of history, shopping and fine dining. Antigua is also a sailing mecca and yachter’s playground throughout the year. Visitors come from all parts of the world to indulge in all that this elegant paradise has to offer.

Antigua provides the perfect nautical experience because the coast has ideal weather conditions, with remarkable trade winds and berths at harbors for the finest vessels to enter in. As a result, the island hosts numerous sailing and yachting activities between January and December. Some of the local events consist of the Round the Island Race, Yacht Cup, Jolly Harbour Yacht Club Regatta, Antigua Charter Yacht Show (at the start of Caribbean yachting season), and the two largest races of the year: the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and Antigua Sailing Week. Both take place in April and draw participants and bystanders from across the nations. The Classic is an adventure-packed, weeklong extravaganza, complete with prizes for the best private and professional yacht, as well as celebrations and acknowledgements, followed by three full days of racing – all concluding with a fundraising tea party.

Sailing Week is a six-day premier adventure that includes a number of sailing races, accompanied by festivities and awards. This lavish week has become a staple on international sailing calendars, and would serve as a great post-holiday present for the avid boater. (Hint: here’s my recommendation to someone pondering over what to give your husband or father for the upcoming holiday season. This is a great way to win “spouse or daughter/son of the year”… trust me!) Many elect to sail their own vessels across the open sea to Antigua, in hopes of taking home a prize upon conclusion of one these action-packed weeks. However, for the less courageous, participants also have the opportunity to charter vessels with local companies upon arrival via air. Yacht sizes vary, as well as the charter companies to choose from. The regattas are open to both the accomplished sailor and yachter, as well as to the less-experienced. The idea is for visitors and participants to have an exceptional time, despite their depth of boating knowledge. Certainly the more skilled participants attend with the goal of beating out the best.

The energy on the island during this time is indescribable. It’s lively, vivid and erupting with color. Onlookers canvas the island, rooting on their favorite team, celebrating, and taking in all the splendor of Antigua. If you’ve not had the chance to savor the experience of one of these two weeks, you are in for a treat.

My mother and I had the pleasure of being in Antigua previously, during Sailing Week. The electricity that filled the air gave me an intense feeling of euphoria, as I witnessed all the activity. There were visitors from several countries, and yachts of all sizes and makes in tow. After engaging in the ground-level activities, we stood atop Shirley Heights Lookout and gazed below. We were in awe at the spread of vessels stretched across the ocean. They appeared as miniature toys from on high. We were able to capture a bird’s-eye view and take in scenery that one can only dream of waking up to each day. The backdrop of the blue ocean against the mountains made for a picture-perfect moment.

Naturally, after beholding such remarkable scenery, we worked up an appetite. Fortunately, Shirley Heights offers authentic Antiguan food, music and great company, comprised of both locals and tourists. They also host a Sunday beach barbecue that you will not want to miss. After a long day of boating, your palate will surely yearn to be aroused. If local cuisine is what you fancy, ready your taste buds for West Indian delicacies. Antigua’s most popular native dishes include fungi, which is similar to polenta and made primarily from cornmeal, callaloo, which is often served as a soup consisting of (callaloo) leaves, which are similar to spinach, along with chicken broth, salt beef, herbs, okra and crabmeat; and then there is pepperpot stew, which can include tripe, bacon, vegetables, herbs and stock. If you prefer pescatarian or vegetarian dishes like me, there are such options on the menu as well. Feel free to order the fresh catch of the day, or indulge in local fresh fruit and vegetables.

There are a number of restaurants in Antigua that present a wide range of fine-dining options. Many overlook breathtaking views, as you delight in artistically designed plates of cuisine, with exquisite tastes. The island also has more familiar American and European dishes for those that are less adventurous in their dining experiences. Antigua, after all, is a hub for yachting, sailing and fine dining. If luxury is what you want, then Antigua (which means ‘Ancient’), will graciously cater to your every need.

Antigua happens to be my favorite holiday destination. There is something about the island that welcomes you and immediately draws you in. You will find pristine waters for boating, an explosion of local cuisine and friendly residents, and a stunning landscape drenched in rich history. If you are in the market for a unique experience – or a vacation home – be sure to place Antigua on your list.

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