When Lord Nelson first sailed into English Harbour on HMS Boreas in 1784, he could never have imagined the sight of 200 or more professionally crewed yachts arriving for the start of each winter season! It was these same beautifully protected natural harbours that played host to the start of recreational yachting in the Caribbean in the 1950’s, which then became the Caribbean's prime base for professionally crewed yachts, over the past 40 years. Present times now see yachts based at a number of other islands also, though Antigua still remains the 'home port' for many... with the annual Charter Yacht Show - hosting the largest collection of Superyachts in the Caribbean - getting the season underway in December; followed by a selection of 'world renowned' and exciting new regattas; the Superyacht Challenge in January and the RORC in February… through to Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta and Sailing Week in April / May, then heralding the yachts departure for the East Coast US and Mediterranean waters. With yachting having been such an important industry in Antigua for so long, it is probably not so surprising to see the incredible depth and breadth of services on hand to look after visiting yachts. Besides having a fantastic selection of all the 'mainstream' services, Antigua somehow also manages to attract some of the most interesting 'sideline' yachting services and 'guest attractions' that one could wish for, anywhere... there are artists to create custom paintings, handmade ocean inspirational pottery, local mahogany wood carvings, custom ivory scrimshaw, and even locally roasted personally packaged Caribbean coffee!
More and more yachts are now doing extensive refit work in Antigua due to the expanded services coverage and their efficient geographical proximity around Falmouth / English Harbours. Here, there are a few high class project management / refit / repair companies who have done major works on some of the largest yachts around, and whose broad base of technical skills include interior joinery, topsides repainting, mechanical engineering, new teak decks, marble polishing, welding and lathe work... right through to gold plating a yacht's interior fittings. They also have some of the best respected paint refinishing services throughout the Caribbean, who have repainted numerous large and high profile yachts in the past few years. Duty-Free fuel is available for visiting yachts; the marina facilities in Falmouth Harbour are some of the best anywhere (for yachts of any size) and with the completion of the restoration works in English Harbour, Nelson's Dockyard continues to see a large increase in the number of major yachts visiting / basing themselves there... right through the season. Across the water at Antigua Slipway, their haul-out facilities give them the ability to haul yachts up to 200 tons (and up to 140ft LOA), with a further 150 ton Travelift available at North Sound Boatyard and smaller 70 ton lifts also available at Bailey’s Boatyard in Falmouth and 75 ton lift at Jolly Harbour Marina Boatyard (see ‘Boatyard / Haul Out’ section for details of all facilities).
When the work is done, Antigua offers a great selection of fun filled activities for all... visiting guests / crewmembers can enjoy jumping aboard a great sport-fishing boat in search of blue marlin; energise themselves with some exhilarating kitesurfing and windsurfing on the north coast; diving on the east coast; take part in the Friday evening 'round robin' Tennis Open at Temo Sports; jump on the high speed Ferry to Barbuda for a weekend 'get-away'; or go galloping along a beach followed by a swim on one of the horses from the Spring Hill Riding Stables. There are a great selection of bars and restaurants for all tastes and occasions, some great Crew Parties scheduled at Abracadabra's and a trip up to Shirley Heights for a 'sundowner' whilst enjoying the fine view and memorable steel band, is a 'must do' for all! For Antigua and Barbuda, it is the islands' wonderful natural beauty, history and culture, that still remains as their greatest tourist attraction... and with 365 superb beaches to explore, plus the endless beaches and pink sands of the sister island Barbuda, Antigua & Barbuda still holds heavyweight allure as an undiscovered gem for sun lovers.