A friend of mine organized a circumnavigation cruise onboard her uncle's boat for her birthday, and I was thrilled at the opportunity to see the island from the sea. We were to meet up at the Jolly Harbour jetty where we would clamber onboard and head North.
It was a beautiful sunny day, so the water was an unbelievable hue of blue, and white frothy spray doused us as we cut through the waves as a remarkable pace. Soon a weird shaped island came into view, and I was told that this was Hawksbill Island. The island received it's name due to the uncanny resemblance of a turle breaching the waves for a breath of air.
We continued to sail further North where we could see the large Sandals resort resting near the shores of Dickenson Bay. There were a few small boats flying across the water, while several windsurfers enjoyed the same wind which propelled us forward, their colourful windsails creating a stark contrast frpm the bright blue sky and iridescent sea.
The indented coastline forms an abundance of beaches and hidden coves, with tall coconut trees swaying gently in the breeze. The green unkempt vegetation dotted the undulating rough terrain and cliffs and the overall beauty of the scene before me was staggering.
The land would sometimes suddenly change friom flat terrain to towering peaks rising from the sea as if to pierce the sky. Waves broke on the rocks at the bottom of the precipices, sea gulls coasted on the soft breeze and time seemed to slow down.
Soon we approached the tiny offshore islands located to the North of Antigua. We sailed past Green Island, Long Island and Bird Island. Bird Island is an important part of Antigua's heritage, as it's the home of the Antiguan Racer Snake which is an endangered species.
On the Eastern part of the island, the winds died so we started to run the engine. Puttering by at a much slower pace, it allowed me to hang my legs off the side of the boat and snap photographs of the everchanging landscape. Before I knew it, the landscape became really strange, and I was told that the carved cliffsides which I observed were known as the Pillars of Hercules.
The rock surface was eroded by the sea to form 'pillar's and above this fascinating natural wonder was a ruined colonial fort known as Fort Charlotte. Seeing all these landmarks from the sea was a wonderful experience.
Due to the number of marinas and harbours in the area, the Southern section of the island was great for boat watching. Yachts bobbed on the sea swells and small rubber dinghies wove between them, transporting sailors and passengers from their vessels to the mainland.
Finally, it was time to head back to Jolly Beach to end our sailing adventure. On the way, we drank champagne, cut the cake and wished my friend a splendid birthday and thanked her for the amazing opportunity. Everyone had a grand time, and agreed that it was worth doing a second time.
For future visitors who are interested in having this experience for themselves, there are several tour operators in Antigua who offer boat tours around the island. Wadadli Cats and Excellence are two of the better options, and expect to pay $100 to $140, but these trips include a more detailed itinerary and lunch onboard.
Exploring by sea gave me a totally different perspective of Antigua, and one that was stunning enough to stick with me for a lifetime. I hope this article encourages others to hit the waves and set sail themselves!