Friday, August 31, 2007

The "unique" Carlisle Bay Hotel

Well we are back in Jolly Harbour to our version of the "real world" after a lovely mini adventure to enjoy the luxury of the Carlisle Bay Resort.

Leni Miras and Bruno De'Oliveira are department managers at the lovely hotel and were kind enough to get a night there for us. Mykl also does environmental consulting for the hotel helping it to be recognized as "green" by the international organization Green Globe.
Carlisle Bay is the kind of modern five star hotel that tries to make sure that guests enjoy every second of their stay without them having to worry about a thing. As we approached the hotel, security called the front office and our bartender was even alerted. Can you imagine? Our own welcome drinks were being prepared as we got out of the car and our bags were being whisked away by hotel staff. Now i have had welcome drinks before many times, but this wasn't like the ones before. One of my good friends who i have travelled with just celebrated his 17th year as a recovering alcoholic and i remember him complaining about the alcoholic welcome drinks that many resorts shoved in your face. Anyway, this lovely refreshing cocktail was non alcoholic and delicious. Right there in reception our bar man welcomed us, told us what it was and was gone. Bruno showed us the hotel explaining everything as we walked towards our suite. Although i had been to the resort before, i had never seen Carlisle Bay's grounds during the day and was quite impressed with how nice they were. Our hotel room was 314 quite far up the beach in an area that had a lovely view of the bay and the volcanic island of Montserrat off in the distance. I was quite surprised by how massive the rooms were, and as you can imagine the layout was lovely.
I have seen the hotel described as being "new age" but as a friend remarked on my facebook page the other day....... "Carlisle Bay, sweet, asian minimalist. bold and refined." haha well i am not sure if they like it described that way but it isn't your typical Caribbean resort and although not what you would expect to find down here, its unique modern style and chic character enhances our tourism product without a doubt. If you think you have seen it all and done it all here in the Caribbean then a holiday at this place would change your mind. Antigua's hoteliers have been re-inventing the tourism product over the past ten years and couragous concepts like Carlisle Bay, Coco Bay, and Hermitage Hotel are helping Antigua attract a new generation of holiday makers. Anyway enough of that kinda writing. You guys may start to think that they are paying me.
One of the important genetic traits i have retained from my mother's side of the family is the physical need for a good cup of tea in the afternoon, and Carlisle Bay hotel not only provided for my tea craving but in their usual unique way, they enhanced the fix. Up until 5.30 pm you can order tea and have it anywhere you like. Now my good buddy Ed who worked on the Eco Tour with us during his gap year told me that if i really wanted to be proper i wouldn't "have tea", but would "take tea". So as if we were posh movie stars enjoying a luxurious "chic" holiday we "took" tea on the third floor suite with a view. It was magnificent. I bet you don't normally hear "taking tea" and magnificent in the same breath, but the little bites that they included with the tea made the whole experience while sitting in our robes.......quite unique. Just looking at the pic i took makes me want to go back tomorrow.

Now for all the regular would be tourists out there i am sorry to tell you that we didn't go for a sunset walk on the beach followed by a funky drink with the little umbrella. Being from here, we decided to enjoy the lovely room. Some BBC news, a bath in their huge tub, a complimentary sushi tray from the GM, and some more relaxing in the comfortable bed all nearly convinced us to miss out on everything else that evening that the carlisle bay had to offer.

However, dinner at East wasn't to be missed. At the main Pavillion bar, we met up with Bruno and Leni who was the MOD that evening. Of course we thanked them again for the lovely birthday gift and let Bruno pick a drink for us.

The bar man was the same young man who had come up with the lovely welcome drink and Bruno suggested that we try his specialty, The Barbuda Smile. This rum based drink had all sorts in it but the basil gave it a lovely unique flair. The bar man was talented and friendly and didn't just mix the usual suspects (or thats what it felt like anyway). I bet he invented new drinks as often as the check in and check outs came and went. Perfect!
East is described as an asian fusion restaurant and as the name suggests has a wonderful mix of all the delights one would expect with everything from Sushi to Pad Thai.
Lets not forget about the desserts with things like "the molten chocolate lava" or the "salty caramel ice cream"... lets move on shall we as i haven't had dinner yet tonight.
On the way back to the room from the lovely dinner we looked in their very fancy and unusual library with all kinds of photo "coffee table books", novels and masterpieces. There is something there for most people and they even had the book i am reading at the moment by Carl Hiaasen. We then passed by Carlisle Bay's huge pool for a few pics as the light from the almost full moon was breathtaking.

The photo is nice but it was way nicer that night. After several bottles of champagne that day and all the other luxuries that one would expect from a five star resort, room 314 didn't have to try very hard to send us off to a comfortable sleep.

Although the room was dark with the thick curtains drawn closed, behind the wall which separates the main room from the bathroom, the light coming in over the tub got me up fairly early. The view of the healthy mangrove estuary and farms nestled between hills in the distance was a nice contrast from the colourful bay and coconut trees on the other end of Room 314. As Mykl ordered breakfast and more tea from room service i watched a white heron feeding from a red mangrove root below. Green Globe would have been so proud. Thanks to the people who run Carlisle Bay and through mykl's expert advice, important steps have been taken to ensure that the resort's evrivonmental imact is kept to a minimum. I am sure that there are few hotels in Antigua that are trying harder than this one to be eco friendly. If you stay there you may not notice all the green aspects to the whole operation as many are behind the sceens, but things like eco friendly soaps and lotions in the bathrooms are things that you will notice. It was very interesting reading the eco friendly body wash label while i ran the bath for a second time. The quality of it all was very high end indeed. Recycling is big in this hotel as well as eco friendly lighting, water systems, and careful waste management which even involves local pig farmers! Our time came and went so quickly that we didn't have time to have lunch at the Indigo beach side restaurant which i hear is very nice. Next time!

By the end of it all we felt very relaxed and grateful to have been given the chance to stay at this very luxurious resort even if it was down the road.

The hotel closes this weekend for the usual end of season "fix up" and Leni and Bruno will be leaving the island after four years of service. They move on to more of the Campbell Gray properties abroad and Mykl and i will not be the only people on Antigua that will miss them. The rest of the management and staff at the luxury Carlisle Bay resort will miss them for sure too.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Carlisle Bay Hotel for a night....

Last week Thursday August 23rd was my 35th birthday and we ended up having some family and friends over for a little dinner party at my mom's house. Its a beautiful place above Dutchmans Bay and the former Lord Nelson Beach Hotel. I think i got more pressies than i have gotten in years and felt pretty spoiled afterwards. One of the lovely presents i received was a one night stay at the five star Carlisle Bay hotel. Hoteliers Leni Miras and Bruno D'Oliveira who have been working at Carlisle Bay since it opened up four years ago gave me the lovely gift with certain conditions. A gift with conditions is something new, but at 35 i will take whatever i can get. One of the conditions is that i take lots of photos and post them on my flickr photo site and another is that i take a certain woman with me. This actually sounds like another gift and not a condition. Anyway, we tell our guests on Xtreme as we zoom past the Carlisle hotel that it's a lovely hotel which is not all inclusive and is over $1200 a night. I don't know that much about it but will fill in all the blanks after i get back. I have eaten at their East restaurant which was lovely so all in all i am very excited about being a tourist. I am not that worried about the weather though.....:) I don't have any photos of Carlisle bay at the moment for this blog, but that will change soon.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Sunscreen: preventative care or poison?

Since spending all that time on my last blog entry...i have had a major dilemma on the whole sunscreen issue. It was my girlfriend who helped me find some of the interesting info on the importance of certain chemicals inside Sunscreens. She had read that there were only so many that helped block harmful UVA rays and that of these chemicals, only one or two were naturally occurring physical UVA barriers. Now i have known for years and years that many people thought that high SPF sunscreens did more harm than good and since writing about sunscreens i became troubled that i didn't include info on this side of the topic. After all, is it better to block out the damaging UVB and UVA rays with all sorts of chemicals that could cause health problems, or just cover up and avoid these chemicals and the possible health risks involved?
This has been bothering me for a few days now and i have looked online quite a bit to get a better idea on how dangerous the average bottle of sunscreen is. What a bunch of garbage there is written about the possible health effects of sunscreen and their chemical ingredients....OMG. BUT.... if you pick your way through the garbage there are some sensible articles which help to clear up the down side of protecting your skin with the average sunscreen. Many of the most common chemical sunscreen ingredients are "possible" carcinogens. "POSSIBLE"....... ingredient in the stuff that i cover my face in may give me cancer. GREAT!!!! Read this article to find out more: or this one too:

One thing that i did notice from other articles is that many of the chemicals are absorbed by your skin which is why they possibly may do more damage to your body overall. One of the articles above speak about common chemicals in the sunscreen causing more ROS to occur in our own we are supposed to know what ROS is. Anyway that's why wikipedia was invented. According to wiki, "ROS are generally very small molecules......that form as a natural byproduct of the normal metabolism of oxygen and have important roles in cell signaling. However, during times of environmental stress ROS levels can increase dramatically, which can result in significant damage to cell structures." Sooooo i guess you don't have to be a rocket scientist to see that this isn't that great for you. Its a dilemma though because getting burnt from the sun not only hurts but is sure to help send you on your way to the skin cancer doc....
Although very simple in its approach and quite old, this BBC article is quite interesting From googling left and right and all over the web i think that i am going to make a few suggestions.
1. Do your own research on the subject as i think there will be more and more info on the whole sun and sunscreen health effects.
2. Try to get as little sun as you can.
3. When in the sun, cover up rather than lather up.
4. IF you can't cover up then put on some high factor "broad spectrum" UVA and UVB blocker that is sweat/water proof. You don't want to keep putting that stuff on over and over again.

5. Grow a beard.....and let it take the worked for the cave men.

6. Don't use PABA based products, or products with OXYBENZONE (BENZOPHENONE).
SH%T....there goes my favorite sunscreen Bullfrog since it has oxybenzone in it. Now i know i don't get sunburnt using Bullfrog, but is not getting sunburnt worth a little Oxybenzone on my nose? Jeez, i dunno......what do you think?

I have never worried about any of this health stuff before, and even after seeing that movie "Super Size" i would have gladly gone out and eaten a big mac. That's just me, but this does make ya think though. Why are there not more studies about the health risks of sunscreens? Do you think that the multi billion dollar cosmetics industry has anything to do with it? Maybe the FDA and other organizations are just too slow. Who knows?...for now its a hat and long sleeve t-shirt when i am out boating.....nothing new for many of us i guess. Please post any good links on the subject on the comments section. This sunscreen is now on my new wish list too: (wink)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

The most dangerous thing on your Antigua holiday....

Ever since I can remember, our visitors have been asking questions about dangerous things that you may meet while out on the water. I started competing in regional windsurfing events when I was twelve and that was after years already spent out fishing and messing about on small boats. So many people would worry about sharks and other “nasties” out there in the unknown.
When I started my tour company Adventure Antigua the questions or worries were even more common about “nasties” in the sea. People would ask about sharks and jellyfish, stingrays, moray eels, barracuda, fire coral, urchins, currents, waves, pirates, poisonous plants…and the list keeps going on an on. You name the worry and I have heard of it or been asked about it. The Italian guests that visit Antigua seem to be the biggest worriers with “squalo?” and “medusa?” being words that I learned very quickly through constant repetition. When working in this business you sometimes are challenged to reply to common questions in different ways just to keep it interesting and not annoying. I know that if you had to answer the same squalo question every week in the same way, you would get tired pretty quick. I mean how would you answer the question; “Do you have sharks in Antigua?”
I have at least 10 versions of answers to that one just so the crew doesn’t get annoyed with the same answer each day. One of them may be silly like “there are loads of sharks, but they are all walking around on two legs in St. Johns.” The answer could be more serious like… “Yes, but there has never been a shark attack in Antigua’s recorded history.”
Most of the time if someone is asking about unknown nasties that may attack them and ruin their eco tour or xtreme tour…I tell them that the most dangerous thing that they will encounter today is the sunshine.
It’s not a joke at all and is the core of today’s blog. Each year in the USA over one million people get skin cancer with over eight thousand deaths a year because of the disease. This crazy statistic is something that worrys me more than any thoughts of the other "nasties" that i may encounter while out on the boat. In the USA there are on average 60 shark attacks a year with 4 being fatal. Antigua gets none. In fact most of the Caribbean is shark attack free. With over 8000 dead with skin cancer and 4 from shark attacks you can see what the main “nasty” is.
This past week the USA has finally followed Europe’s lead when it comes to sunscreen regulations. Apparently the actual new classification and labeling of sunscreens which is the same that they have in England and in Europe will not come into effect until 2009. I don’t know why it’s going to take so long to show people that their sunscreen isn’t protecting them against possible skin cancer death, but at least the new labels will come in 2009. Europe and Canada has been using it since 1993. If you live in the USA now I guess you can always just remember a few things spoken about on this blog when buying sunscreen.
For a long time it was mistakenly thought that UVB rays were the harmful rays radiated from our sun which is why the SPF classification came into being. The FDA used the SPF as a measure to show how well you were being protected against these harmful UVB rays which undoubtedly can cause skin cancer. Anyway, long after many studies proved that the other UVA rays are also dangerous and can cause skin cancer the FDA has decided that they should let the general public know. The new classification will have the SPF rating as well as the UVA rating which will be a 5 star rating system like Europe’s system. A great article on it all is:
I think if you really want to be a geek (aka “smart”) you could check the chemicals that are in your sunscreen. In order to block both UVA and UVB sun rays there are certain ingredients that you should look for in your high SPF factor sunscreen keeping in mind that the SPF by itself is just blocking the UVB rays. These UVA blocking chemicals are avobenzone (also called Parsol 1789), titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or Mexoryl SX (or Tinosorb outside the U.S.).
Now I am no scientist so I don’t know which of these chemicals are better for you than the other, but there are loads of articles on the net that you can research the topic more. I know that many people think that some of these chemicals may do more harm than good. A good start explaining the benefits is found on this link where i took the quote below from: :
"Dermatologists say that Mexoryl SX is the most effective UVA-blocking ingredient currently available. It has been used in Canada and Europe since 1993, but was just approved by the FDA for use in the U.S. in July 2006. However, sunscreen products containing Mexoryl SX (a trademark of L'Oreal) have been slow to enter the U.S. market. Right now, only a handful of products are available containing Mexoryl in the U.S. LaRoche-Posay Anthelios SX (*est. $30 for 3.4 ounces) is a facial moisturizer that contains Mexoryl SX. More widely available is Lancôme UV Expert 20 (*est. $35 for 3.4 ounces), a face and body lotion with Mexoryl SX. If you want the best possible protection, Lancôme UV Expert 20 an ideal mix of ingredients, but it's very expensive.
Helioplex is another advance in sun protection. Developed by Neutrogena, Helioplex boosts the UVA-blocking power of avobenzone, which otherwise begins to degrade after a couple of hours. (Mexoryl SX doesn't degrade in sunlight -- another reason why reviews say it's such a good ingredient.) There are actually two kinds of UVA rays -- short and long waves. Avobenzone protects against long-wave rays. Several ingredients, including the commonly used oxybenzone, can protect against short-wave UVA rays. Many sunscreens contain oxybenzone, but don't contain anything to protect against long-wave UVA. By including oxybenzone, companies are allowed to say their product protects against UVA, but unless it also contains avobenzone, zinc oxide, titanium dioxide or Mexoryl SX, you are not protected against long-wave UVA rays. That's why skin-care experts say you should look for "broad spectrum" UVA and UVB protection. "

I went and looked at all my sunscreens and was happy to find that they all had chemicals which blocked both types of rays. I have had quite a few skin cancers burnt off and a few cut off all of which I am sure came as a result of burns I got as a kid. Back then the sunscreens were not that strong and none were waterproof which is another thing that I think is essential when you are coming on holiday. This is even more important for kids too since they are always in the water and never reapply on their own.
You want to find high factor, broad spectrum UVA and UVB sunscreens that say something like “all day waterproof” or even “6 hour waterproof”. This is where I think the USA does a better job that the UK. Most of the UK stuff washes off as soon as you get in the sea and unless you are always putting the stuff back on you will get burnt.
My sunscreen of choice for years has been Bullfrog since I can put it on once in the morning as I am leaving the harbour and that’s it for the day. The stuff stays on after loads of snorkeling too. Epicurean in Jolly Harbour has it for sale.
There are more and more waterproof sunscreens on the market and recently someone left us some Coppertone kids 50 waterproof spray which is so good that I think you only need to apply it once a holiday!! My mom and brother have had more serious skin cancers than I have had and it’s no joke at all. Buy the right stuff and put it on. Even the people with nice dark skin can get skin cancer so be prepared. It’s a lovely place to be and it can be safe with the right preparations. I think that good education about sharks, stingrays and the same sunshine that many ancient civilizations (who are no longer with us) have worshiped is key to a happy trip to Antigua and the Caribbean. I hope you enjoyed the words or at least my photos. c ya!

Friday, August 24, 2007

hot and sunny....whats the weather like where you are?

Busy busy in Antigua. Usually August is a fairly slow month for us in Antigua with nice weather in general in North American and in Europe. This August has been very busy here on the island with many of the hotels being quite full. I know after speaking to my Grandmother who lives in England, that the weather there has been terrible. She said its been the worst summer that she can remember up there which is why so many people have been coming here looking for sun. We took a group of people out on a private birthday charter and so many were moaning about how awful the British weather had been. And apart from a few days in August it has been an incredibly sunny summer here in Antigua and Barbuda with drought on the islands being a big problem until recently. People all over the world are so obsessed with weather and when you have put up with rain, snow, cold and clouds for most of the year I guess you would be kinda worried that your Antigua holiday may not be sunny. I always see people on the internet forums worrying about the possibility of rain and clouds ruining their upcoming Antigua and Barbuda vacation. Way way way too many people look at the animated forecasts which I have spoken so much about on other blogs (here). I often wonder how many people cancel their travel plans because of these misleading low tech forecasts and keep telling people to look at satellite photos in motion to see where the clouds will be coming from. A good link is:
For hurricane info there is or for reports, but for general weather a good link is always
I have a web tracker on my Antigua blog and look at it often to see where the hits are coming from, which sites referred the hit to mine, and which key words were used in searches. After Hurricane Dean passed by missing Antigua and Barbuda I had hundreds of hits a day. The busiest day was nearly 700 hits and so many of the hits came from google or other search engine queries. The typical search on google was “Did hurricane Dean damage Antigua” or simply “hurricane Dean Antigua”. There were quite a few specific hotel requests like “jumby bay damage Hurricane Dean”. Anyway, I am so happy that my little blog could show people that we had no hurricane damage other than some beach erosion on the south of Antigua and set them at ease. Funny how things work with these blogs but with the web tracker I can see how Antigua internet searches in times of uncertainty can be of great help.
This week has been a busy one for me with work on the boats and many birthday parties including my own little one last night. I took this photo at the end of a very good friend's 40th on sunday night. That was a lovely one on the beach which as a matter of fact got more sand on it during the storm.

I think this weekend will be a chilled out one with possibly a little fishing and windsurfing. I am thinking of doing several blog reports with photos about learning how to windsurf so that people can almost have a lesson during their lunch brake back in the big city office.
Keep checking for updates and have a good weekend.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Turtles and summer threats

Things are totally back to normal here as if Dean’s threat never existed. Let’s hope that was the last one of the season to be forecast close to us. Even passing 150 miles to our south Dean managed to give us some strong (35 mph) winds and big waves up to 15 feet in unsheltered areas. There was no damage from hurricane Dean here in Antigua apart from beach erosion. This erosion couldn’t come at a worse time though as it is peak turtle nesting season.
Of course the beaches will get back to normal in no time, but many Hawksbill turtle nests have been washed into the sea. At 1 in 10000 eggs reaching maturity this species could do without hurricane season. My sister Francis Fuller just started working with Antigua's Environment Division and called me yesterday telling me about a nest they found partially washed into the sea at Jabberwock Beach. She said it had recently hatched out so the little guys had already got into the sea. Turtles have evolved in ways which help them in so many situations, but for some reason they haven’t figured out that hurricane season isn’t a good time for beach nesting. I dunno there are other factors possibly which make hurricane season good for nesting. After all, this type of beach erosion from storms only happens once in a blue moon. In fact, the seas are way rougher in the winter months than they are on average in the summer. As long as a hurricane doesn’t pass that close the little eggs will be fine while they sit tight in that sandy nest for 60 nights. If the females are the lucky ones of the season they will return to nest on these beaches twenty years later. With all the changes mankind is bringing upon planet earth there is much uncertainty about what they may find when they come back to nest. For now though, the turtles coming in to nest this next week will be fine on many of our 365 beaches.
Last week while doing an Xtreme Circumnav I found a freshly hatched out Leatherback turtle nest on Rendezvous bay.
I was doing a walk on the beach checking for fresh nests as we are part of the Antigua Turtle Study run by the EAG and Mykl Clovis, when I came across the nest. The usual tell tale signs of the recent hatch were on the surface. Little white folded over egg shells were scattered around a small indentation in the sand. We were running a bit late, but I quickly started digging up the old nest to check for stragglers. It was slow as the sand on Rendezvous is so fine and it kept falling back into my excavation. I found many successfully opened shells and two or three that seemed to have been unfertilized. I found one that contained what felt like a turtle that didn’t make it. Leatherback turtles are the largest of all turtles and incredibly endangered. Of course there are some beaches on the planet where they come up to nest in large numbers, but in general their numbers are dangerously low. Anyway, the egg was half way between a golf and tennis ball in size and was fairly soft. I opened it worried about the possible smell. To my surprise the dead baby leatherback inside was very fresh and had no smell at all. The nest must have just hatched the night before and the poor little fella looked as if it were just sleeping. It was curled up as if still inside the eggs protection. I guess that’s the turtle fetal position, but it was holding the egg yoke which never got a chance to be its final sustenance before it began its journey into the Atlantic.
I know the odds are such that it’s very common to find little unfortunates like this but it still was sad to see it like that. Time was running out for our time at Rendezvous and I had to get back to drive the boat back along the remainder of the tour. The rum punch stop, our last stop was at an end. I took the turtle to show the guests and Mykl as well. The photo shows the poor thing in my hand. I guess the good news is that although I didn’t dig up the entire nest, it seemed as though most of the eggs had successfully hatched out. The next day I had a private charter which went to Rendezvous on its first stop. I decided to go and finish digging up the nest with Tony. Some of the guests came along with me and within minutes we pulled out a hatchling. To my surprise is moved, but I could tell immediately that it wasn’t in good shape at all. Its soft shell looked a little out of shape and the movements were so slow that I was sure it was about to die and even said so. The two guests said that we should put it in the water and it did seem to get a little more active once in the sea where it belonged. IT wasn’t strong enough to swim though and I wasn’t sure about its chances. The guests kept it trying to see if it would get stronger and while Tony and I finished digging up the nest and another one near it the little straggler appeared to waken up a bit more. We took it back to the boat putting it into a dark bucket with a little water so that it would be wet but relaxed in the darkness. I got on the phone with Mykl and then Sarah at the Jumby Bay turtle project. They agreed that we should keep it for Jebson a turtle volunteer who has had quite a bit of luck rehabilitating turtles that didn’t make it out of their nests. By the time the sun set, the turtle was looking much better and although I still wasn’t convinced the weak creature would pull through I was beginning to think that against all the odds, it just may be ok. Later we delivered it to Jebson who said that he thought it looked pretty good and thought that he could release it in a few days. He had some special food that he would give it the next day. Unfortunately as if destined to become part of the statistics, the baby leatherback took its last breath that night. Sitting alone in that nest out of the protection of its egg for days was just too much for Rene as we ended up calling her. Her brothers and sisters are now out in the Atlantic trying to be the lucky few that make it back to Rendezvous bay in the distant future. The study that I spoke about which is taking place here in Antigua is finding out so many things about Antigua’s nesting turtle population and the threats that it faces on a daily basis. There is plenty more to find out and although there is currently only funding for this summers study, I hope that it may continue next year. Turtles around the world need all the help they can get. Maybe I will try to set up some sort of donation thing on this blog so that the EAG’s study may continue. The one over at Jumby Bay has been going on for over 20 years and is now one of the world’s leading studies.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

weather back to normal in Antigua today (SATURDAY aug 18th)

Blog sponsored by
a lovely sunny day with about 18 knot of winds blowing at the moment. There still seems to be some wave action on the west and south coast, but nothing that big. Boats are out running around in Jolly Beach and with no damage reported from the outer rim of Hurricane Dean i think we were very lucky. My bad knee isn't even hurting that much after an awesome windsurfing session yesterday. This pic was taken this morning when i got up. We were lucky in Antigua but it sounds like many other islands to our south were not. Jamaica and other areas better be prepared for Dean which has grown and strengthened.
interesting site showing how little we actually get hit by storms:
Never knew about those people killed in 1960!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hurricane Dean misses Antigua.....

Well hurricane winds missed antigua and although i thought we wouldn't get much of anything, we ended up getting some very large swell on the East and South coasts with winds generally out of the east between 25 and 35 mph all day. Several people recorded higher gusts but in general it never was consistantly more than 35 mph. We had several heavy showers until about 4:30 when the rains seemed to kick into overdrive. It is raining cats and dogs outside at the moment but as you can see from the image below, the main core of the storm has passed. Hurricane Dean missed Antigua but over 150 miles to our south St. Lucia seemed to have gotten hit pretty hard. MArtinique and Dominica seemed to get quite a bit of Dean's wrath too. You can read reports on and i am sure there will be updates from the isalnds hardest hit and still in Dean's path over the next few days. The forecast shows a track towards the Dominican Republic's south coast, Haiti and directly for Jamaica. I hope it weakens but at the moment its been undergoing rapid growth and strengthening. I don't think Antigua had any damage from Dean at all except possibly some beach erosion. I drove around this morning and took a few photos. This one was Curtain Bluf's outer reef above Cades.
This link shows a sequence at Half moon bay. Next to that photo there are others from my drive. All good action and there seemed to be many people driving around looking for angry weather.
This afternoon i windsurfed with Ty who works with on our boats from time to time and with Xabier the owner of Wadadli Cats. The winds were pretty strong but it was loads of fun and we got some pretty cool jumps. My knee was very quickly protesting, but this kind of action only comes once in a blue moon and i had to get out there. Speaking about how seldom

we get crazy windsurfing conditions.....i always find it strange when people say that they thought we get this kinda stuff every year. Antigua has been directly hit by hurricanes 6 times since 1954 i think, and rarely gets these sort of conditions when they pass close by (150 miles). I dont think there was any damage and i know for a fact many people enjoyed the action here however strange that may be. We were lucky not to get hit, but the strong gusty winds made excellent windsurfing and some cool surfing for stevie and the gang. It should be warm and sunny by the end of the weekend. Speak later.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

50 miles back to Antigua from North Beach

This blog sponsored by On our last morning in Barbuda was started properly with French toast and bacon on “Blue Rapid” with my dad and Sarah and their crew Kenny Kentish. After b’fast we got Xtreme ready for the trip back to Antigua. My uncle Jim and his crew who had been staying in the North Beach apartments with the mosquitoes and sand flies were getting packed up to leave as well. Altogether on the beach is was he and Alan Hart and his two kids as well as Steve Mearns. My good buddy, Roddy from, was staying on the beach as well with Stevie and my cousin Annabel who were in tents.
At first I was asked if I could take Steve Mearns back as he wasn’t feeling too well. This translated into “he didn’t feel like getting pounded for miles and miles in uncle Jim’s smaller boat”. That was fine though as it was just Mykl and I on Xtreme. Then Dad decided that he was staying another night for sure and asked if I could take Kenny. Again no problem at all as long as he didn’t mind getting a good wetting. These hot shot lawyers are not used to being as wet as us sea dogs, but I am sure the after a weekend camping in Barbuda Kenny was up for anything. Steve Mendes then decided to stay another night with his wife Robin and asked if I could take his other crew, Stevie, Bell and Roddy. Like I said, Xtreme could handle it no prob so I went around collecting everyone and all their camping stuff and by 11 am we were all ready to go….all seven of us. My plan was to hug the shore all the way towards Palmetto Point where the Beach House resort is and then head straight across, but the winds were way up there and I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. Let’s get there first I told myself. On the way to Palmetto, we counted 54 fresh turtle nests on the 14 miles of beach we just covered which was very cool indeed. We are in the peak of nesting season for the Hawksbill turtles. The waves looked awful out past palmetto and I made the decision to go up the coast a bit towards the Coco Point Lodge as this would give us a better angle in the sea back to Antigua’s Diamond Channel.
Also, most of my newly acquired passengers would much prefer a little more adventure before the crappy trip back home.
Coco Point hotel in Barbuda is closed during the summer months and we were able to sneak right up to their most beautiful point and relax for a bit while having some lunch.
Uncle Jim came up shortly afterwards and so did the other two boats that were staying the extra night at Spanish point further up the coast.
The waters were just too beautiful to leave like that so Roddy, Mykl, Stevie and Bell went for a quick snorkel just before we set off.
I took photos and within 30 minutes we were going out the reef into the Atlantic Channel. It was extremely rough but the better angle allowed us to maintain 25 knots the whole way home. Stevie sat up front by himself where is was a bit more bumpy and ended up falling asleep. Every other person on the boat was soaked with all the spray the high winds were jacking up. We were home in no time. As I pulled up to the dock in Jolly Harbour the GPS said we had done 118 miles that weekend and they were all worth the effort and drama. As usual it was a good carnival camping session but now it was time to get back to work.

Monday, August 13, 2007

close call with Xtreme while camping in barbuda

This blog is sponsored by From the last proper blog i wrote: "We decided to start walking back to the boat after seeing how massive this squall appeared to be. We were going to be in for a strong one and as the winds started to howl I began to worry about my camera….and more importantly the boat 90 minutes away."

OK so finally I get back to the story. OMG last week got a little crazy towards the end as this one is looking like it may too. Anyway, back to the story:
We walked back in the crazy winds and rain that just wouldn’t let up. Luckily for us the wind direction changed to come more out of the North, so we had winds pushing against our backs making the walk faster and quicker towards the boat which we could see getting tossed around like a green salad. The anchor lines were taught and were under great strain as the boat bounced up and down just a few meters from the beach. If one pulled then I was sure the other would too and in seconds the boat would be on the beach. Actually now that the wind direction had changed the boat was pointing towards the rocks along the shore. Mykl went first so that I could hold the camera bag above the choppy waves and pass it to her. I was so worried about the boat that I left my shirt, hat and sun glasses on the beach with our beachcombing prizes. As soon as I was on the boat I fired up the engines and moved closer to the anchors. Mykl took in the slack anchor lines and when we were next to the anchors I ran up to pull them into the boat. In a flash the strong winds pushed us dangerously close to the beach before I got back to the controls. Anyway, I slowly powered out to the lee of the barrier reef and re-set the anchors there. There was no way I could navigate back around to Spanish Point in these conditions as the narrow channel was closing out with huge waves and another rain squall was just about to hit too. I knew we were safe behind the reef and far enough from the shore, so we just decided to wait it out in the cabin with my trusty portable DVD player. What else could we do?
As the terrible movie (License to Wed) finished the winds seemed to ease as well. Upwind it looked like there could be more on the way as it all looked very dark. My mom confirmed that the satellite imagery for the islands on the internet looked like there was a chance we would get more, so after calling her we opted to make a move through the channel in the barrier reef. The seas were big and we narrowly made it past the breakers into deeper water before we turned back to the safety of our camping spot from the night before. We got back, set anchors, and put the kettle on to boil. All would be good once we had our starbucks mugs full of nice hot tea. The sunset was wonderful with all the crazy cloud that seemed to be dissipating.
That night we had no more trouble with rain and were able to have some lovely T-Bone steaks on the back of the boat. IT was the end of out meat and we would have catch fish of some sort the next day.
We were up early the next morning and in no time were ready to make a move back to the beach where Xtreme nearly came to rest to collect my sunglasses and the rest of our stuff. What a different place it looked like now!
Anyway, we didn’t stay long and once out the channel again we turned north towards a special fishing spot I knew about five miles away. We put the three rods out to “soak” and nothing happened for some time. Just when we were about to give up we had a double hookup. Mykl fought her fish on the back seat and I fought mine from the port side. Hers came up first and after I put my rod in the holder I tried to get the fish off the hook. The electric blues from the Little Tunnie were dazzling and as we marveled at its beauty the fish managed to free itself and shot off into the dark blue depths. Mine was still on and I didn’t make the mistake of being seduced by its colours this time. In fact the poor fish didn’t have a chance once I had it within grabbing range. We didn’t have to worry about eating canned tuna……we had the real stuff in the boat now. While all this action was taking place we didn’t notice the squall that had quickly crept up upon us. We were not in a good place at all as we were outside some of the most treacherous reef in the entire Caribbean which has been claiming boats for hundreds of years. Nobody ever gets through this section of reef unless they have good light and that was going to disappear pretty quickly if we didn’t act fast. I knew of a tiny channel at a place called Hog Hole and after speaking on the VHF radio to my Dad and Steve Mendes who were just pulling up there on the inside of the reef, I gunned the engines towards the channel. I slowed down once we got into the channel and immediately saw a pod of spotted dolphins. They had been surfing the waves in the channel and I would have loved to stay and watch them but it was way too dangerous with the squall only minutes away. With reef and breaking waves on either side of the boat we crept in carefully making it behind the last bit of reef right as the winds started to pick up. We rushed over to the other boat and dropped the anchor in the sand behind the reef as the rain started to fall. I was in the water with my snorkeling gear before I could get wet from the rains. If you are ever snorkeling when it rains be sure to swim down a bit and look back up at the surface. I took a pic while it was happening but even this doesn’t do it justice.
Stevie’s boat had been full of campers who were all now in the water snorkeling. I guess the winds and waves had gotten up in the squall making the waters close to the barrier reef very cloudy with tiny bubbles. We did manage to see three stingrays and two spotted eagle rays as well as quite a few small fish.
IT was nice and colourful once the sun covered us again.
Roddy and Stevie caught a few snappers for their lunch and they all left Mykl and I there. We would meet up with them later in the afternoon at their camping spot.
Once we had finished snorkeling and finished lunch while at anchor as seen above, we slowly cruised down the coast inside the barrier reef fishing and spotting rays and turtles. It was a lovely cruise.
Up ahead we could see the other boat pulling two of their divers who were looking for conch. I had seen some nice ones when were in the water earlier and had thought about keeping one for an appetizer. These guys were taking some for their dinner. Steve Mendes makes lovely meals with conch and later we couldn’t possible turn down the dinner invitation with that in mind. Before sunset, we all rafted up together with Steve’s “Megalops” on the left side, Dad’s “Blue Rapid”, in the middle and Xtreme on the right. We were in a good anchorage outside the entrance to Barbuda’s wonderful lagoon, and after most of the guys went off fishing, Mykl and I decided to go on a kayaking mission into the “creek mouth” as it is known. The mangrove habitat there is like none other in the Eastern Caribbean and it was lovely paddling through this wondrous habitat. If you have ever been on our eco tour then you will know what this area looks like. The mangrove narrows at Guiana Island look very similar. I took this photo in the "creek mouth" on another camping trip i did with my uncle Nick and Dr Charles.
We got back just before it got dark and just in time for a massive and deliciously tasty conch pasta. It was our last night in Barbuda and the calm gentle conditions that had been forecast never materialized. It looked like it would be a rough ride back home the next day. Will talk about that tomorrow. As a side note…..if you are here on island or coming here this week keep checking for info on the approaching tropical weather.