My love affair with the Caribbean in general, and Antigua in particular, began during my misspent youth. That’s when I sailed from Newport, Rhode Island, into English Harbour, hoping to meet girls and see the world in December 1993. In fact, I’ve met many vagabond sailors who shared the exact same goals. But unlike those fortunate ones who ended up meeting girls and seeing the world, I ended up jobless, penniless, and living on an abandoned boat (in English Harbour to be exact) without enough money to get home. As you might have guessed, the girls I met at the time weren’t that interested either.
But thankfully, my circumstances have improved vastly since then. Actually, I’ve been back—with my gorgeous and amazingly patient wife—to Antigua many times. We even spent a glorious week with our family and friends getting married at Coco Point Lodge on Barbuda (sadly totally destroyed in Hurricane Irma) 10 years ago.
But I’ve always wanted to return as a guest aboard a large crewed yacht (that I’m still unqualified to get a job on) for two reasons: First, the best crewed yacht vacations combine five-star luxury, total privacy, unsurpassed ocean views, and the ability to visit remote and stunningly beautiful locations in what amounts to a fully staffed, five-star hotel suite. Even more importantly, something magical happens when you explore a tropical island aboard a yacht. It allows you to connect with your surroundings and loved ones in ways that a land-based resort trip simply can’t emulate.
And as we found out aboard the large crewed catamaran we chartered from The Moorings in English Harbour last December, nothing is more exclusive than living, eating, and swimming in luxury while anchored off a beach that few others ever get to see.
It was only after I’d sunk into the uber-comfy bean bag chairs on the catamaran’s bow (actually I was posting a “live bean bag cam” video to Ocean Home’s Facebook page) that the significance of the situation hit me. The sun was shining. The tropical breeze was blowing. Our captain was navigating out of English Harbour, and Caroline was pointing at all the gorgeous yachts we were passing. Things sure had changed for the better for me, a fact that grew clearer and clearer during our four-hour sail over to Barbuda.
Now, if you’re intrigued by the idea of a yachting vacation but are a bit scared of the actual sailing bit, please don’t be. Large crewed yachts, catamarans especially, are extremely stable in port, and most are extremely stable under way as well. When you add an experienced skipper who can tailor your trip to be as calm or adventurous as you want (and maybe add some motion sickness meds to be extra safe), there’s really nothing to worry about.
Our sail over to Barbuda was invigorating and relaxing at the same time. We caught some sun in the bean bags (my new happy place) and caught fish off the back. But we weren’t ready for what we found in Barbuda.
Our hearts broke when we saw the destruction at Coco Point Lodge from the boat, and it was even worse when we went ashore. But that’s really a story for another day. Thankfully, we were able to bring some sorely needed supplies and help get the word out about how people back in the States could help. But when the time came to leave Barbuda in the capable hands of the locals and NGOs, we were both relieved and incredibly grateful to return to the air-conditioned luxury of “our” yacht.
In spite of the sadness we felt on Barbuda, it didn’t take long for us to settle into the pleasantly simple and restorative rhythm of living on a yacht in the Caribbean. We jumped off the back into the impossibly clear blue water when we got hot. We ate gourmet food when we got hungry. We drank ice cold drinks when we got thirsty. We lounged in the bean bags when we felt lazy. And we (actually, Simon, our captain) pulled up the anchor so we could sail to our next destination when we were ready for a change.
When we sailed back over to Antigua and pulled up to the only available mooring in the impossibly beautiful (and cozy) Ten Pound Bay, I finally realized just how exclusive a yachting vacation is. We were sitting in the “porch area” in front of our large cabin. The only sounds were the birds and the breeze. There were no other boats (or people, or anything) in sight. The beach, the birds, and the red-gold sunset reflecting on the still water put on a show. Then the ultimate 10-year anniversary date night began—dinner for two followed by stargazing on deck. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Or maybe it does.
The Best of Both Worlds
When the time came to finally return to shore, we had one more stop to make. Instead of rushing back to the cold, we’d booked a three-day, two-night stay at Curtain Bluff resort. “We’ll need to unwind after being on the boat,” I said jokingly to Simon when we were doing last-day logistics, and his plan for us was pure genius.
“Instead of getting off in English Harbour and taking the half-hour taxi ride to Curtain Bluff, why don’t I drop you off right at the resort?” he suggested with a smile.
We were sad to say goodbye to Simon and our yacht life, but I must admit, we were both ready for a couple relaxing days onshore. Cruising the Caribbean on a yacht is without doubt a luxury vacation, but…there wasn’t a masseuse onboard. And as Caroline and I were soon to find out, the spa treatments at Curtain Bluff are world class.
Then all that was left to do was pack up and head into shore.
“Your bags are ready Mr. President,” said Simon with a twinkle in his eye. “A guy that jumps from the largest yacht we have to one of the best resorts on the island deserves the VIP treatment.”
We both knew he was joking. But if he only knew. The irony is: I’ve come a long way indeed.