A month ago, tropical storm Philippe made landfall in Antigua with powerful lightning storms. It is speculated that one of these bolts of lightning hit what was the on-water commercial building of the Antigua Yacht Club Marina in English Harbour, on the southern point of the island.
During the early morning hours of Tuesday 3rd October 2023 and a blaze of fire ensued, completely gutting the landmark building that has been the main hub of the sailing and yachting community during the high season months of December to April each year.
With only a few weeks remaining before the iconic boat show that typically signals the yachting session at the start of December, the yacht club marina has rapidly acted to ensure the yachting season continues without many disruptions and displacements.
The marina office for example, shifted its headquarters to a nearby building space that wasn’t affected by the fire. Cloggy's, the restaurant on top floor of the affected building, has moved its 30+ year business to the Catamaran Hotel in Falmouth Harbour, a mere few miles away. Axxess Marine, whose business serves the boats coming into the harbour with their communication and connectivity services while docked on island, was also affected with one of their offices burnt in the fire. However, as the waterways into and out of the marina were kept intact, they are able to still service vessels coming into and out of the English Harbour, Falmouth Harbour and Nelson’s Dockyard Marina areas.
But what of the other businesses housed in the affected building? Other businesses housed in the building included BWA Yaching, the Dockside supermarket and the Marina gym. It also hosted two restaurants, Skullduggery’s Cafe and Seabreeze Cafe, as well as Ari’s Fish Shop and Turtle’s Surf Shop. A statement by Skullduggery’s Cafe indicates that the management and staff “would like to thank everyone for all the heartfelt messages” and to “stay tuned for any updates” via their social media pages. Likewise, Ari of Ari’s Fish Shop indicates persons can still order fresh fish from her via her social media pages or phone contact listed on her pages.
As for Turtles’s Surf Shop, they have put up a GoFundMe page to raise funds to rebuild the shop from the ashes of the devastating fire. Operational since 2011 and founded by Adrian C. Kirby with the “last penny” he had to his name, the shop provided eco-friendly clothing and accessories as a way to help protect the environment. The Turtle Surf Shop story is one that is particularly heartbreaking as at the time of the fire, all the new stock for the upcoming season was already in the shop. The surf shop has been a way for Kirby to support himself financially having suffered a spinal cord injury when he was 21 years old. Reliant on a wheelchair for mobility, he has worked with his family and friends to make the Turtle Surf Shop a success over the last 13 years.
The businesses affected by the fire intend to return stronger than before but need the public’s help to do so. That comes with patronising their businesses and offering financial and in-kind support where needed. In the case of Turtle’s Surf Shop, you can contribute to the fundraising effort here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/rebuilding-turtles-surf-shop-from-the-ashes