ANTIGUA: A DESTINATION UNTO ITSELF
By opening a base in Antigua in late 2017, not only has The Moorings covered the Caribbean chain from north to south, but it’s also given vacation sailors an island that’s a destination unto itself.
With 54 miles of coastline and a reputed 365 beaches to choose among, you can spend from seven to 10 days circumnavigating the island and surrounding cays alone. Of course, most charter sailors at the very least head north the 30-something nautical miles to Barbuda, whose beaches have rebounded in the aftermath of the 2017 hurricane season. That’s just one waypoint on an itinerary that can include Nevis and St. Kitts to the west or Guadeloupe to the southeast.
“Antigua’s ripe for expansion,” explained base manager Lovena Bailey during a December 2017 visit at the historic Antigua Naval Dockyard, also known as Nelson’s Dockyard, at English Harbour. Bailey handles operations for The Moorings as well as for Sunsail at this location. The sister charter companies, owned by Travelopia, offer a mixed fleet of 20 to 25 monohulls and sail and power catamarans for bareboat and skippered charters. One-way charters to other Moorings Caribbean bases, which include St. Lucia, Grenada, St. Martin, the BVI and Puerto Rico, are possible, for an extra fee.
Restoration and improvements at the dockyard, which was granted World Heritage status in 2016 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, is ongoing. “This dockyard is locked in the age of sail,” explained Reg Murphy, a native Antiguan and archaeologist, as he recounted the role of the British navy in construction of the original site as a base in the 1700s.
Murphy, director of Heritage Resources for National Parks Antigua, oversees research at the dockyard for the island government and UNESCO. Completed projects include restoration of the historic officers quarters, and improvements at customs and immigration offices and Clarence House, one-time home to the Britishappointed governor. Ongoing projects include recovery of human remains at nearby Galleon Beach, hydrographic surveys of shipwrecks in English Harbour, and a dig at a prehistoric Amerindian site in the area.
Besides sailing charters, The Moorings is also planning to create a land itinerary so visitors can explore the dockyard and other areas of interest on the island before or after charters. For details, contact the company (moorings.com).
Looking for a different charter location? Antigua has much to offer, from beautiful anchorages, like Ffryes Bay (above) to hikes around English Harbour (top).