Sailing and Boating Near Antigua

Antigua's rich nautical history makes it a favorite location for sailing and yachting

Photo credit: © Gary Wood

Antigua's visitors do not have to imagine yachts, shops, and history all in one place; it is there in historic English Harbour. The harbor is a main draw for the island and a favorite of yachters.


Travelers should always keep nautical maps on board their ships, and take care to avoid coral reefs. The Barbuda area can be particularly hazardous because of coral growth. Always exercise caution and try to have someone on board who is familiar with local waters. Caution should also be taken when navigating the rugged terrain of offshore islets, especially on the island's east coast. As always, beware of harsh trade winds and stronger waves on the northern and eastern coasts of the island. Winter brings higher prices and less rain, while summer and fall bring more rain and hurricane season.

Coastal repair companies, taxis, and restaurants use VHF channel 68 and the use of this channel in Antiguan waters is not permitted. The Coast Guard use VHF Channel 68 and 16 and may search boats upon their arrival. Camouflage and illegal drugs are not permitted and firearms must be declared and safely stowed. Pets must remain on board at all times. ABSAR, the local search and rescue group can be reached at 268-562-1234 while the Coast Guard can be contacted at 462-3206, 462-0671, or on VHF Channel 16. The number for all other emergencies is 999 or 911.

If you're simply wanting to get out onto the water, without the complications and cost associated with renting a boat you can join an excursion. Check out the listing that follows to obtain names and phone numbers for area boating excursions.

Boat Excursions
Name Phone Location
Adventure Antigua Day Sails (268) 726-6355 Jolly Harbour Marina - Freeman's Village
Life's A Beach A Water Sports, Cruises & Taxis (268) 784-1406 Freeman's Village
Miramar Sailing (268) 721-3456 Jolly Harbour Marina - Jolly Harbour
On Deck (268) 532-6696 Dockyard Drive - Falmouth Harbour
Pirates Of Antigua (268) 562-7946 Freeman's Village
Treasure Island Cruises (268) 461-8675 Downtown St. John's
Wadadli Cats (268) 462-4792 Upper Fort Road - St. John's
West Coast Tours Antigua (268) 728-5239 Golf Course Way - Jolly Harbour

Boat Rentals and Charters

Regardless of your sailing experience, cruising through the waters of the Caribbean make chartering a boat an appealing option for the untrained novice or the elite skipper. Options include bareboats, skippered bareboats, and fully crewed charters.

Bareboats are for the sailing elite and put the person in charge of the charter in full responsibility for the sailing and use of the boat. These boats will often be without extra amenities, such as kayaks and scuba gear, but give people the opportunity to experience the adventure of exploring the waters of the Caribbean by themselves. Those who undertake this challenge should have significant sailing experience, as well as some knowledge of the Caribbean and its waters. Charter companies will ask to see proof of sailing experience before allowing you on the challenging waters of the Caribbean. Be sure to thoroughly prepare a list of supplies, as well as any other desired amenities you may have, so as not to forget anything in your preparation.

If a charter company believes you are a competent sailor, but need some introduction to the Caribbean, they will often recommend a skippered bareboat. Charter companies will assign a skipper for a few days or for the duration of the journey to assist in the sailing of the boat. Travelers taking this option will find it is a great way to educate themselves about sailing in the Caribbean while still having a bareboat. Freelance skippers do charge by the day, however, and their food must be provided by the person responsible for the charter.

Fully crewed charters will have a knowledgeable captain and cook and will often include amenities such as kayaks or scuba equipment. A good crew can make your experience of sailing through the Caribbean an unforgettable one, and if lounging on open waters is not enough, will sometimes allow you to assist in some sailing chores under direct supervision. The captain of a crewed charter is in full control of the journey from the care of the ship to the itinerary, and will not put the safety of the crew, ship, or passengers at risk. Passengers have input in routes and activities, but should safety concerns merit a change of itinerary, the captain will have the final word.

Charter companies and brokers remain the easiest and most popular way to secure a boat and, if needed, a crew. With charter companies, there are divisions in size and tier. Charter brokers, meanwhile, act as agents, finding the best charter for your situation.

Charter companies are divided into both large and small sizes and first and second tiers. Large companies maintain large fleets of boats and can often offer customers guarantees such as boat replacement in the event of a certain type of boat being in shortage. Smaller companies usually choose to maintain smaller fleets, with the goal of providing the best customer service.

The tier of a company relates to the age of the boats they maintain in their fleet. First tier companies will have newer boats and the amenities that come with newer equipment such as cell phones and CD players. All boats used by these companies will be under 4 or 5 years old. Second tier companies usually buy boats off of the first tier companies as they age, and will provide their boats at a lower cost.

If you're contemplating chartering a boat, you can reserve one from these area firms:

Charter and Rental Services
Name Phone Location
Catch the Cat (268) 464-7113 Jolly Harbour
Cheke's Scooter & Car Rental (268) 562-4646 Freeman's Village
Day Yacht Charters (305) 515-4735 Falmouth Harbour Marina - 0.4 mi. (0.7 km) Northwest of English Harbour
Dream Yacht Charter (268) 717-3870 Jolly Harbour Marina - Jolly Harbour
Jabberwocky Yacht Charters (268) 764-0595 Woods Center - Downtown St. John's
Nicholson Yacht Charters (268) 460-1530 Nelsons Dockyard Marina - English Harbour
Ondeck Antigua (268) 562-6696 Nelsons Dockyard Marina - 0.5 mi. (0.8 km) Northwest of English Harbour
Sunsail Antigua (888) 350-3568 Nelsons Dockyard Marina - English Harbour
TradeWinds Antigua (855) 600-5821 Jolly Harbour Marina - Jolly Harbour
Virgin Island Sailing (268) 813-1230 Freeman's Village

Making your Decision

As always, when making important decisions about your vacation, it is wise to consider your needs and wishes for the trip. Rushing yourself into a selection of boat or crew, without first considering your options and needs, can result in changing the course and quality of your experience on the boat. Taking the time to consider your needs and wants will help ensure that when it is finally time to sail, you are getting the most out of your experience.

Be flexible and consider options for itinerary. Would you prefer to island hop or make a round trip, would you like to spend the days lounging on the water or getting to know an island, Snorkeling or kayaking, all of these things can be decided by you as you plan your sailing trip. Remember to also consider what kind of crew you would like and if you plan on trying to learn more about sailing while on the vessel.

While considering these general questions, also consider the time of year you plan to visit, the budget that you will have, and the number of people that you plan to have on the boat with you.

When choosing your boat, it is wise to consider your comfort level at sea and the number of other adults and children that you will have on board. Among the benefits provided by catamarans are that they typically provide more space in all areas of the boat and will not roll at anchor. For those who believe seasickness will be an issue, or for those who will have children running across the decks, this may be especially appealing. Rooms in catamarans provide more space and privacy as well, as the walls do not allow for conversations to be heard.

Consider the number of people you will have on board: it may be wise to select a boat with one more room than you will need. Generally, 45 foot catamarans will have 4 large ensuite rooms while a 38 to 42 foot catamaran will have 3 rooms and 2 to 3 bathrooms. Be sure to also think about any extra amenities you would like for the boat, such as a CD player, cell phone, or power windlass to assist in anchoring.

While catamarans provide comfort and space, sailing purists may desire the authentic sailing experience of rocking about in the water. The technique for tackling and anchoring will also be different, depending on which type of boat you choose.


Antigua remains a popular destination for ocean goers. The large Antigua Sailing Week and Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, both of which are held in April, are a huge draw. The island has options for both experienced and non-experienced yachters and sailors. Those with ocean experience will find Antigua's rugged east coast to be adventurous sailing, while others may stay close to the island's popular western coast. Due to its popularity, there are several ports of entry through which you can enter Antigua. The VHF channel for these ports is 16.

The immigration department also lists V.C. Bird International Airport and High Point Crabbs Peninsula as official ports of entry. When approaching and docking in Antigua and any port in the Caribbean, it is important to be aware of the procedures for gaining authorized entry to the port. The entry fee for ports in Antigua and Barbuda is approximately $2.70(USD) per person. The local port authority grants permits to cruise local waters and must be obtained in order to travel to Barbuda. There are dues for both entering and harboring in Antigua.

Evaluating the option of traveling to Antigua in your own vessel, or a charter from a different area? Check out the table that follows for information on nearby marinas.

Name Phone Location
Antigua Slipway (268) 460-1056 English Harbour
Antigua Yacht Club Marina (268) 460-1544 Antigua Yacht Club Marina Resort - Falmouth Harbour
Catamaran Marina (268) 460-1036 The Catamaran Hotel - Falmouth Harbour
Crabb's Slipway Marina -- 4.3 mi. (6.9 km) Northwest of Willikies
Falmouth Harbour Marina (268) 460-6054 Falmouth Harbour
Jolly Harbour Marina (268) 462-6042 Jolly Harbour
Jordan's Pier Marina -- Parham
Nelsons Dockyard Marina (268) 481-5035 Nelson's Dockyard National Park - English Harbour
North Sound Marina (268) 562-3499 4.3 mi. (6.8 km) Northwest of Willikies
Shell Beach Marina (268) 562-0185 4.7 mi. (7.6 km) East-Northeast of St. John's
St. James Club Marina (268) 460-5000 St. James's Club - Mamora Bay

Rates and Fees

There are two fees that you must be aware of when sailing to Antigua; port dues and harbour fees. Port dues must be paid everytime you make port, and are based on the length of your ship. The fee structure is fairly simply, for every twenty feet in length, you must pay $2 (USD).

The Harbour Fees are a bit more complex, and are the cost of harboring your ship.

Harbour Fees: Regular
Rate PeriodLow Season Rates per Foot (May 31 - Nov 15)High Season Rates per Foot (Nov 16 - June 1)
Per day 0.03 0.05
Per week in advance 0.15 0.25
Per month in advance 0.50 0.09
Season in advance 2.50 4.20

There are alternative fees if you want to harbour with the stern facing inward (which is generally preferable)

Harbour Fees: Stern To
Rate PeriodLow Season Rates per Foot (May 31 - Nov 15)High Season Rates per Foot (Nov 16 - June 1)
Per day 0.25 0.45
Per week in advance 1.50 2.80
Per month in advance 5.00 9.30

Entry Procedures

  • Fly a yellow quarantine flag from a visible high point or bridge

  • All passengers and crew must remain on board at all times until entry procedures have been completed. This applies even for after hours arrivals.

  • Master must proceed ashore to customs and immigrations and takes full responsibility.

  • All regulations of the Antigua Port Authority and the National Parks Authority must be followed while in the waters of Antigua and Barbuda.

  • Passengers and crew who plan to leave a ship in Antigua must have valid airline ticket to a country where they can gain entry. Upon leaving the vessel, this ticket must be presented to an immigration officer.

  • Exchange of crew must take place in presence of immigration officer and in the presence of both masters.

While there is much to consider while sailing and yachting in Antigua, those who have sailed the waters of the Caribbean will tell you that there is no experience quite like it.

Nearby Anchorages
Location Latitude Longitude
Parham Harbour - 4.3 mi. (7.0 km) West-Northwest of Willikies 17.1143592512 -61.7641925812
Maiden Island Beach - Maiden Island 17.146119094 -61.7649382353
Deepwater Harbour - St. John's 17.1189468791 -61.8465793133
Falmouth Harbour - Falmouth Harbour 17.0141736566 -61.7741060205
Great Bird Island Beach - Great Bird Island 17.1462758725 -61.7254185677
Nonsuch Bay - Nonsuch Bay 17.0680517804 -61.6882538795
Five Islands Harbour - Five Islands 17.0994702026 -61.8809223175
Green Island Beach - Green Island 17.0696571656 -61.6710662842

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