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LOOKING FOR MORE THAN JUST A CARIBBEAN BEACH HOLIDAY?
Friday 7th September 2018

Article by Yvette Caster, freelance journalist and podcaster - Metro.co.uk.

‘You’re the best sailor I’ve ever taught,’ said my instructor.

Frankly, I found this hard to believe.

During the course of our outing on an overcast Antiguan day in English Harbour, I managed to crash our two-man Laser dinghy into another rookie, bump into a buoy and quite spectacularly almost capsized us by flipping the boat on its side – a perfect 90 degree angle to the water. I was out in the Caribbean learning to sail with Ryan Tonge of Antigua’s National Sailing Academy – a teenage athlete straight out of an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue. During our morning lesson, we covered trimming the sails (how to adjust them to the wind), how to turn, and lots of slightly confusing terminology (a rope isn’t a rope, it’s a sheet or a line).


Ryan, my instructor, with the boat we somehow avoided capsizing (Picture: Yvette Caster)

I managed not to hit myself in the face with the boom or fall out, but that’s about it – our aforementioned 90 degree situation was only improved by Ryan dramatically flinging his entire body on the top side of the boat, legs dangling down, nonchalant expression still on his face when we’re back to rights.

Later, at lunch, we met the Academy’s owner, Elizabeth Jordan, her husband Peter Smith and their dogs Muffet and Trouble. They are serious #couplegoals.

Elizabeth was the commodore of Antigua’s yacht club before deciding to set up the Academy for local kids, teaching them to swim and sail for free.

Mornings are usually dedicated to sailing lessons for disabled people, and in the afternoon, school children are dropped off after class. Celebrity backers of the Academy include locals like Timothy Dalton and the band The Who – it needs its sponsors as it runs off donations. Lessons like the one I had also help keep the Academy afloat, costing £77 for an informal course of three. You can also take RYA certified courses – £193 for dinghy and £270 for keelboat.


At least if you do fall in the water it’s warm (Picture: Yvette Caster)

In terms of her aims for the Academy and the children who attend, Elizabeth said: ‘My vision is threefold – recreational sailing, and if you’re competitive, then racing.

‘To me the most important part of my job is employment. ‘It’s a great potential employment opportunity for them. There is employment to be had on super yachts and as qualified instructors.’

As for her husband Peter, he started sailing in England aged 14, built his own boats, sailed out to the Caribbean aged 26, rowed across the Atlantic, picked up a world record and didn’t get married til he was 69. ‘I’ve lived on boats all my life. It’s only when I met Elizabeth that I came ashore,’ he said, which may be the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard.


Some of the yachts moored in English Harbour, Nelson’s Dockyard (Picture: Getty)

It’s nice to meet such experts and to know my messing about in boats helps to support the community – who knows which kid could be the next Olympic gold medallist? Although there are clearly no medals on the horizon for me, I had a whale of a time. ‘You’re the best sailor I’ve ever taught,’ said Ryan. ‘And how many others have you taught exactly?’ I asked. ‘A few,’ he replied. ‘Mostly nine-year-olds.’

Other fun stuff to do in Antigua


Head here, to Shirley Heights, for fine views, BBQ and steel band music (Picture: Yvette Caster)

For more ship-shape larks on bigger boats, try Ondeck Sailing. I had a go at the helm of a Beneteau yacht, again with Ryan and teacher/captain Sadique Nathaniel, who did all the hard work while I basically just turned a wheel. Half a day’s yacht charter costs £347, while a two-and-a-half hour trip costs £85. You can also take a RYA Competent Crew course, sleeping onboard for four nights and receiving breakfast and lunch, for £730.

Other highlights were our visit to Nelson’s Dockyard to learn of its hellish history and a lovely dinner at the charming and Instagrammable Ana’s Restaurant and Art Gallery.

Where to stay in Antigua and how to get there:


The main pool at Sugar Ridge Resort (Picture: Yvette Caster)

I stayed at Sugar Ridge Resort, South Point Antigua and Blue Waters Resort & Spa. Sugar Ridge was a friendly and stylish boutique hotel with beautiful pools and plenty to keep guests busy, including attractive nightlife. During my stay there, I attended a lovely night called Bliss, which included live music, poetry readings and freshly-cooked local dishes high up in the hills. Rooms at Sugar Ridge Resort cost from £116 per night. South Point Antigua was the epitome of modern luxury, with spacious suites in muted tones, enormous bathrooms and expensive sheets.


South Point Antigua (Picture: Yvette Caster)

The accommodation included pretty verandas and large kitchens – very handy if, like me, you get a bit over-excited about buying exotic fruit abroad. The restaurant food was as simple, elegant and excellent as the suites, with perfectly cooked eggs Benedict for breakfast and fresh fish for dinner, not to mention gorgeous views of Falmouth Harbour. Suites at South Point Antigua cost from £245 per night (£1,321 per week). Blue Waters Resort & Spa was a more traditional resort hotel, with a more American feel to the rooms and general decor.


Blue Waters Resort & Spa (Picture: Yvette Caster)

An extremely popular option, the hotel offers a range of restaurants and many inviting pools. Boasting a team of friendly staff in general, the highlight of my stay here was a visit to the hotel spa with its kind and chatty technicians. Rooms at Blue Waters Resort & Spa cost from £317 per night, while a Cove Suite costs from £569 per night.

Read the full article here.


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