Antigua is the centre of yachting tourism in the Caribbean which all began after the end of World War 2 with the arrival of Cmdr. Desmond Nicholson RN and his family on the sailing yacht, Mollyhawk. Requests from the then very few visiting tourists for tours at sea around Antigua or visits to other nearby islands soon developed into a business. Embarking them from the derelict former Royal Navy dockyard now known as Nelson’s Dockyard, other adventurous skippers soon followed in Cmdr. Nicholson’s footsteps. Perhaps most notable of the Nicholson family’s achievements was the introduction of the Charter Yacht Show, now in its 58th year.
As yachting tourism grew so did the ancillary services and yachting tourism is now the second biggest revenue generator in Antigua, coming after hotels and representing around 25% of GDP.
Over the past 60+ years, Antigua has developed a worldwide reputation both for its magnificent harbours and for its supply, service, refit and repair industry and is known as ‘the centre of the Caribbean’ because of its geographical location and being the prime Caribbean destination for yachts, particularly for super yachts. Many of Antigua’s craftsmen head north to the US east coast to work the yachts based there in summer.
For many years the Marine Industry quietly operated on the southern end of the island, largely unnoticed by the rest of the country but with the growth of wealth internationally and the increase in yacht ownership, recognition and an awareness of the value of yachting tourism began to be realised and efforts were made by the industry in conjunction with the Government to facilitate the use of Antigua’s harbours by the yachting industry. The biggest single advance was the introduction of DUTY FREE for all goods, services and fuel supplied to yachts in transit regardless of where they are registered.
Two organisations exist in Antigua to represent the workers and businesses in the yachting industry and both were set up to improve the service being given to visiting yachts. The Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association was set up in the late 1980s and, more recently, in 2009, the Antigua & Barbuda Yacht Workers Association was formed to regulate and improve the standards of the marine industry self-employed workforce and to improve security by issuing passes to those permitted on the docks.
Many of the Royal Navy’s buildings
constructed in English Harbour as stores and workshops are now hotels and bars, boutiques and a museum. Perhaps most famous is the recently restored Clarence House, named after the Duke of Clarence, who, unexpectedly, after his two elder brothers died, became King William IV. Friend of and subordinate to Nelson, he was made Duke of Clarence 1789, the year he left Antigua, some fifteen years before the first stone of Clarence House was laid so, contrary to popular myth, he never lived there. The property was actually built to house the Dockyard Commissioner and subsequently, the Governor General’s country residence but now in the ownership of the National Park. Clarence House is available for private functions and weddings including catering by the staff of the Copper & Lumber Hotel.
The old Copper & Lumber store is a beautifully finished hotel very much in the style of 18th century ships’ cabins and the pitch and tar store has become the Admiral’s Inn and the Naval Clerk’s house, a classic colonial style, weather- boarded building, is the Dockyard Museum. Nelson’s Dockyard is now the world’s only working Georgian dockyard and recently received UNESCO World Heritage status.
Sailmakers were amongst the earliest skills in the old naval dockyard and are still present today but using the more modern materials of Dacron, Kevlar and carbon fibre. Companies such as A & F Sails based in the Dockyard with North Sails and Antigua Sails, just north of the Dockyard providing new sails and repairs, particularly essential during the regatta season. They will also make and repair canopies and awnings.
Nelson’s Dockyard is split in two parts, the original naval yard which is now Antigua Slipway, a repair and yacht storage yard which also houses a chandlery, a fuel dock and restaurants. On the other side of the water, the main part of the the Dockyard only contains a few marine related businesses, Caribbean Brokerage, Antigua’s main yacht sales broker, Signal Locker, a highly recommended electronics supply and maintenance company and the aforementioned A & F Sails.
Budget Marine, which has branches in Jolly Harbour, English Harbour and North Sound Marina, provides the usual chandlery supplies & maintenance parts as well as outboard motors, marine electronics and snorkelling gear and is the Caribbean’s largest chandlery, operating in Antigua for over 25 years, with a 5,000 sq ft facility in Jolly Harbour which services the 1,600 sq ft chandlery in Falmouth and the branch at North Sound Marina just under 1000 sq. ft. Sophisticated inventory and forecasting software will ensure stock levels are maintained.
A branch of the Antigua Slipway Chandlery is located in Antigua Yacht Club Marina and is open during the yachting season. Just outside of Nelson’s Dockyard, A & A Rigging is one of Antigua’s two main rigging companies, the other being Antigua Rigging based at the Catamaran Marina and agent to many of the world’s best know rig manufacturers. Also adjacent to the Catamaran Marina is another of Antigua’s marine electronics company, Marionics who will both supply and repair all modern yacht electronics.
As the Caribbean’s main yacht service and repair-centre, specialities include woodworking, painting and varnishing and top amongst those are Woodstock Boatbuilders, Ultra Refit and Chippy. Antigua Boats & Carpentry are now more general carpenters than boat restorers. A young business, Anything Wood is based in Jolly Harbour. There are several companies which specialise only in varnishing and painting and their skills are renowned the world over with many spending Antigua’s low season, the summer, on the east coast of the US and in the Mediterranean. Top amongst Antigua’s painters and varnishers is Techniques Yacht Painter. Also well recommended are Antigua Yacht Painter and Exclusive Fine Finishers. Check with the Antigua Yacht Workers Association or the Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association for the names of approved yacht workers.
Stainless steel and aluminium fabricators
such as Marine Power Services, Mofab and H & W Welding offer a quality service and underwater welding can be provided by Maurice Underwater Services based in Antigua Yacht Club Marina along with anything else which requires a diver.
Many yachts these days have air conditioning and almost all have refrigeration and both need servicing and repair. Both Ultra Refit and Signal Locker maintain, repair and service refrigeration and HVAC systems.
Situated in an industrial complex on the Falmouth Main Road are Seagull Inflatables, suppliers and maintainers of RIB’s, liferafts and ancillary equipment, Carpet Care, industrial cleaners of yacht carpets and upholstery and Antigua Boats & Carpentry, Also based there are Dutchman Marine, yacht surveyor. Other yacht surveyors are Small Ships Consultants at Cobbs Cross, Richard Watson in Nelson’s Dockyard and Ken Stuart at Jolly Harbour.
Almost everything which enters the harbours of Antigua from overseas has an engine which will vary in size from 2hp to over 1,000hp and whilst many of the larger vessels now carry their own engineers they frequently need the services of the land based marine engineers as do most of the smaller yachts. Marine Power Services, agents for Caterpillar and other manufacturers, have the largest workshops in the area but a whole variety of other companies, large and small, employ competent engineers including Woodstock Boatbuilder, Mofab, Seagull Services and Ultra Refit, now located on the corner at Cobbs Cross.
Fuel supply is a big part of Antigua’s marine industry and with some large motor yachts with capacities of 250,000 gallons or more, there is a lot of money in fuel. There are two supply companies in Antigua, West Indies Oil and Rubis, West Indies Oil being the larger of the two having been established as an oil refinery in Antigua since 1965 and now supplying not only Ultra-Low Sulphur Diesel but also the complete range of petroleum based products from jet fuel to heavy fuel oil and RON 95 petrol to LPG cooking gas. West Indies Oil’s on- site laboratory ensures all its products meets international standards. As well as supplying the marine industry and roadside service stations, the company is the supplier to the country’s power generators and a regional fuel storage hub.
Large deliveries of fuel can be arranged with either West Indies Oil or Rubis. Smaller vessels can tie up alongside at Antigua Slipway or at the public dock in Falmouth. Fuel is also available in Jolly Harbour and Catamaran Marina in Falmouth Harbour. Visiting yachts are entitled to duty free fuel but only after a warrant has been obtained from Customs. Talk to the fuel company, marina or agent when ordering fuel. Special oils developed for use in the marine environment are also available from the oil supply companies. Marine engineering and supply businesses will keep specialised oils and hydraulic fluid, some of which can be difficult to ship by air. It is advisable to order any unusual fluids well in advance to ensure there are no shipping problems.
Yacht storage, particularly during the summer, has become a large part of Antigua’s marine industry and Jolly Harbour has one of the island’s biggest storage areas as well as having repair and maintenance yards. The summer storage of yachts enables companies to continue servicing vessels outside of the traditional season assisting many of the small marine business including woodworking, engine shops, electronics, yacht painting and varnishing to trade year round. Marine trades from Jolly Harbour will also service yachts in English and Falmouth Harbours, North Sound Marina and vice-versa.
Other storage facilities include the family run business, Bailey’s Boatyard at Catamaran Marina which has a number of keel holes for added security in the event of a hurricane, Antigua Slipway in Nelson’s Dockyard is a popular location and an improving new additionin Falmouth is Sammy’s Boatyard. Now a main storage and marine repair facility, North Sound Marina at Parham has the largest travel hoist and the largest storage shed in Antigua. The number of marine trades on the site is growing and most trades will also travel from the other marinas to service yachts ashore in this location.
With improved cradles, tie downs, some keel holes and greater acceptance from insurance companies, storage ashore is now available year round and it has become necessary to book early for the summer season.
Although less bureaucratic than in the past, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association, Antigua still does have several administrative layers and assistance around and through the various systems can be useful to visiting yachts particularly when time is of the essence.
Most yacht service agencies can act as an agent for yacht skippers and handle entry and exit procedures, meeting the skipper at the chosen marina, collecting passports and ships papers, processing them at the Port of Entry and returning the documents to the vessel. This service can save a substantial amount of time particularly if there are a large number of charter guests on board. Also, when charter guests are leaving the yacht and need to catch a flight, the agent can facilitate a swift clearance off yachts.
Suppliers to the marine industry are not restricted to the marine areas. There are a whole variety of services and workshops around the island. Gasses, gas fittings and hoses can be obtained from Lics in the middle of the island and if you need any length of drive belt, Three Enterprises in Ottos, St John’s, will probably supply it from the thousands they stock. Nearby is Fitzroy Engineering’s workshop which can rewind almost any motor and repair a lot more besides. In the same location is the island's biggest battery supplier, Battery Engineering, who will deliver and fit every type and size of battery which will be needed by a yacht and its ancillaries.
In Old Parham Road on the east side of St. John’s and located behind Antigua’s Honda dealer, is Paradise Boat Sales, specialists in motor and fishing boats. Further down the road is Outdoor World, supplier of RIBs, outboards yacht 'toys' like jet skis. Car parts are available from Automotive Art next door.
Many yachts carry a variety of goods on board for use by charter guests or have goods shipped in by container. Although these goods are imported free of all duties, items must be declared to Customs requiring the services of a Broker. Most yacht service agencies are either Customs Brokers in their own right or employ the services of a Customs Broker. Importing can be difficult without a broker although recent improvements to the Customs service have made it possible for individuals to do it themselves-check AntiguaASYCUDA
For yachts without a permanent crew, guardianage and management services, including during refit, repair, regular checks and preventive maintenance. and storage, are available. Guardianage is an investment where both the sun and the occasional severe storm can be quite damaging.
General yacht management is available with full chartering services or chartering assistance for individuals or companies organising their own guests. For those with less deep pockets, asking around the harbours will generally find a ‘live-aboard’ who will keep an eye on a boat for a few dollars a month.
Take a walk around Antigua’s leading supermarket, Epicurean, based in St. John’s, and you will, in season, encounter numerous yacht crew with trolleys piled high with provisions. With its on-site bakery, fresh bread and cakes have become a popular addition.
An international aisle with items from numerous countries adds to the variety of products and a ‘Big Sizes’ aisle is particularly useful to provisioning yachts. For major self-provisioning, it is worth the trip to Epicurean.
In Falmouth Harbour there is a small supermarket literally on the dock. A few minutes drive from English and Falmouth Harbours is the area’s main local supermarket refurbished in 2019, Bailey’s, popular with yachts and locals. It is also within walking distance of the Catamaran Marina.
In English Harbour is Cork & Basket, a quality wines, spirits and gourmet foods emporium. Also in English Harbour is Covent Garden, a supplier of more specialised general provisions which incorporates Lobster Runner, a seafood supplier with an emphasis on lobster freshly packed in Antigua and delivered to yachts. Chef’s World, a store in St. John’s stocking an extensive product range of utensils and equipment for the galley can supply a replacement for the occasional breakage or a complete galley refit. Flowers are a popular line on board and quite a number of florists supply the visiting yachts.
The hiring of private aircraft and helicopters is available through most agencies. Short range aircraft and helicopters are are available from Antiguan based companies with jets to be had from the US. A returning jet can sometimes be relatively cheap to charter. Bizjet-to-Yacht is a full concierge service that offers VIP ‘Meet & Greet’ assistance at the Airport, tours and ‘What’s Happening in Antigua’. Signature Flight Support is also an FBO based in Antigua.
Being adjacent to the airport, Shell Beach Marina makes transfers to yachts easy and simple and the nearby Runway 10 bar and restaurant is a convenient place to relax.
For over 50 years Antigua has been a major yachting destination for those transiting the Caribbean. Antigua is often the first port of call for yachts crossing the Atlantic and many yachts from the US eastern seaboard find Antigua to be the pivotal point for exploring the Caribbean. By far the biggest user of Antigua's marine services are the charter yachts, many these days extending to around 300 feet in length but the island is also popular with small cruising vessels either berthing in Jolly Harbour or anchoring in the National Park’s Flamouth and English Harbours where there are also some private buoys to rent.
Having developed as the premier marine and yachting centre in the Caribbean, Antigua has a very capable service supplying and provisioning yachts. Annually Antigua has received hundreds of large charter yachts as well as numerous family cruisers. As a result, all levels of provisioning are catered for by a variety of small and large provisioning companies together with supermarkets, liquor stores, shops and a selection of specialist stores. Long established is Horizons just outside English Harbour whose warehouse supplies the local restaurant business as well as yachts.
Most provisioning companies and major supermarkets stock or have access to both local and imported foods similar to those found in supermarkets worldwide. Many first time visitors often enquire as to what they might need to bring as they presume certain items will not be available in Antigua. On arrival, they are surprised to discover that goods available in supermarkets in the US, U.K. and Europe are also available in Antigua, often in greater variety, as supplies come from both continents. Suppliers have access to the provisions to cater for both charter guests and crew throughout a stay in Antigua or for a long cruise including Atlantic crossings. Although only necessary in rare circumstances, if your special brand of caviar is not available on the island, it can be flown in to order.
There is always at least one supplier within walking distance of all marinas and provisioning companies will deliver direct to the yacht. Whether placing an order with a provisioning company or shopping for yourself, it couldn't be easier however, if you prefer to order by telephone, email or fax, all provisioning suppliers are happy to use the method which is most suited to you.
For visiting yachts all goods and services purchased in Antigua & Barbuda including fuel, repairs, imported chandlery items (items purchased over the counter do not qualify), victuals and other provisions are free of all duties but you must comply with Customs regulations to qualify for duty free status. A Customs Warrant must be produced when purchasing goods duty free. Failing to follow the rules prejudices the duty free status for others.
Marina staff or Customs will always help you with advice on duty free goods and services or contact a representative of Antigua & Barbuda Marine Association on +1 268 734 6366 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website www.abma.ag also contains useful information on marine related subjects, provisioning suppliers are happy to use the method which is most suited to you.