Thursday, October 25, 2007

Quiet October days…

If you live in Antigua, and you are planning a trip abroad, October definitely seems to be the month to do it. I’m one of the few people in my circle of friends on island right now, and as circumstances have it, I’m filling in for Eli while he’s away.

I like to think I’m not one to sit at home and complain about the quiet times. In fact, when things get quiet here, I tend to look deeper into Antigua to find adventures that in busy times, I would not get to do.

Along with a friend, I’ve taken myself to Windward beach in English Harbour for the past two Sundays. It’s lush down there right now, inaccessible to anyone wanting a quick dip. Like many beaches in Antigua, there is a marshy mangrove swamp behind the beach, and with all the rain we’ve been getting recently, the usual route to the beach is underwater.

This didn’t matter though; it just confirmed to us that we would most likely have the beach to ourselves. Determined, we walked through a bush trail to the left of the swamp. The trail meanders initially through gnarled cassi trees but in no time, a thick wall of sea grape trees form, creating the back drop behind the southerly facing, secluded bay.

It’s something mystical; to wander through a shaded, tunnel-like sandy path, surrounded by sea grapes, and eventually burst out through a key-hole opening onto an empty beach, to see Montserrat on the horizon and the deep cobalt of the sea, contrasting the rocky hues of the left point.

Needless to say, time was of the essence, and I was overheating. We had come to snorkel this bay for the first time. I was hoping to find life under the calm water, something that these days, is hard to find in Antigua.

Instant relief!! It felt like I was downing a cold glass of water as I submerged myself into the water just off the left point. Finally I was underwater, and to my surprise, there were fish, lots of fish. There was even live reef and lots of live sponges. The water was crystal clear and the clatter of fish and sea life was really refreshing.

It is beaches like these I search for these days, at a time when our local beaches are succumbing to the pressure of our tourist industry and the negative impact of development, which is slowly but most definitely depleting our tropical beach ecosystems. It is hard to find a beach in Antigua these days, which feels untouched. Despite the state of our beaches and reefs, and the dwindling fish populations, this time, on this quiet Sunday I felt a glimmer of hope, as I snorkeled around the point.

Back to the beach, satisfied and with a few shells in hand, it was time to make a move. What could be better after a snorkel then a fresh tall latte, or two, at Sea Breeze! These days, with work, I try to squeeze as much as possible into my days off, and this Sunday was no exception.

Who knows what surprises the next quiet October Sunday will hold!

Annabel Fuller

Monday, October 22, 2007

not the best end to a fishing tournament

The black smoke we saw as i powered up to head into Nevis was not good at all. My engines don't smoke and i knew immediately that we were in for problems. Upon opening the engine hatch we saw oil in the bilge and quite a bit on the air filter. Out there in the rough sea and no cell phone communication with my mechanics, i knew that we would have to make do with the one engine. We had 90 minutes to be back in Nevis which was going to be impossible, so we pondered the choices. If we limped into Nevis on the one engine we would be disqualified from the competition for coming in too late. We would then have to limp even further back to Antigua the next day. Since the customs and immigration had cleared us in and out the night before we didn't have to return to Nevis at all. This wasn't what we wanted at all, but was probably the most sensible thing to do.
I walked back the helm and made a 90 degree turn towards my GPS point at Jolly Harbour. I didn't want to push the starboard engine in these seas and kept the RPMs at a moderate level. We were doing 7.5 knots and would be in Port in about four hours. Its funny how things can turn out sometimes. Simple things we worry about so much like the lost wahoo earlier in the day can end up being of no real consequence. The seas seemed to get rougher and we took a few over the bow sending torrents of water over the deck and out the stern. Poor Chris was not feeling well at all and as the water poured over the deck and his lifeless body, i couldn't help feel bad for him.
We finally got back into Jolly Harbour in the dark and set about cleaning the boat and getting rid of our fish. Cocos Hotel wanted the fish that had been sitting on ice since we had caught it. The total weight was over 100 lbs and we would have won the Dolphin (mahi mahi) prize and finished in the top 5 in the wahoo division.
The next morning Val, one of our newest crew members, started preparing the engine to be taken out first thing Monday morning. We had a spare engine and just needed to swap some parts over before we put it into the boat. Thanks to some very long hours put in by Tony, Val and Tom and his crew at Antigua Marine Services we were able to be back up and running on Wednesday. We had some cruise ship guests on our tours that day who wouldn't have been able to re-schedule so it all worked out very well. Tom said that the other engine looked as if it had an issue with a piston ring or something. Anyway, that one will be fixed now and ready for the next problem. There is one thing that is as sure as sunshine in Antigua and that is the reality of boat problems. Its not a matter of if a boat will have problems... its a matter of when. Having boats with more than one engine is essential and then having spare engines (which we have for both the Eco boat and the Xtreme boat) is a huge benefit.

For now, tours are running well and although i am off on holiday at the moment myself, i am already thinking of a strategy for our next fishing adventure. When i get back to Antigua we will have a week before our next tournament this time from our home port of Jolly Harbour.

Friday, October 19, 2007

nevis fishing part 2

Blackness was ended with some grey accented by tiny shreds of pink off to our right. Finally we could see how rough it actually was, but it was the end of our trip out to the fishing grounds. We slowed to put the lines into the water and the guys were happy to finally get the baits in the water instead of fouling the air. Unlike the past few Nevis tournaments the action started off slowly. We fished for over an hour without a strike and we were starting to get a little anxious when we saw some frigate birds feeding off ahead. As soon as we got close to the feeding birds, we had 3 good strikes. Two held and the boys sprang into action clearing the lines and bringing in the others. The first dolphin (mahi-mahi) came to the boat quickly while Acare's one fought extremely hard. We realised that it was a bull dolphin when it got close enough. It looked big and once on board we were all in a good mood. Surely nobody would get a dolphin larger than that one. Two fish in the box, but this was a wahoo tournament and we were still without the target fish. We found the birds again and went up on top of the shallow bank trying to see if we could catch more dolphin. Suddenly the ratchet from one of the top lines started screaming an i knew we had something good on the end. One of the boys had on the fighting belt and was locked into the fish in no time. As it got closer, Big John confirmed it was a nice wahoo which he gaffed and put in the box. We were on our way! It was a strange stike as wahoo usually hung out on the steep edge of the continental shelf. This was in about 400 feet of water way up on the bank away from the edge which made it difficult to locate the right spot. We fished and fished and didn't locate any more. We travelled for miles along the edge of the bank without any more action. IT was slow and the boys were getting sleepy. We had a few small strikes landing a few little tuna and barracuda which we released alive. No more wahoo though which sucked because this time last year we had about 8 good fish on board. There was a little sea mount 2 miles off where the water went from about 5 thousand feet deep up to a pinnacle of about 250 feet. We fished for a while there without any action and then had a tripple strike. All the crew jumped into gear, but unfortunately we only managed to save one fish. This was another nice wahoo. I marked the spot on my GPS plotter and retraced back over the exact area a few times. On our fourth pass Roddy's rod started making a hellish noise as line was stripped off at an amazing rate. Wahoos have to be the fastest animals in the world. They are the speed deamons of the deep and try to destroy your fishing gear when they make their first run. Roddy was strapped into the belt and was ready to fight this big wahoo. It slowed for just a second before changing gears for an even faster run. Line vanished from the reel and then.... it went slack.... We were all distraught as if our prize fighter had been beaten in the first round. I told the gang to get back into gear as there was another big one out there with our name on it. IT took another two hours before we had another strike. The fishing wasn't just slow for us. I was speaking with my Dad who wasn't catching much either. The other boats were having similar luck too and the VHF radio communication wasn't that active. In order to be back in port by 3:30 we had t leave the bank at about 2 pm to be safe. At 1:50 pm i told the crew we had 10 minutes left. A second later our 30 lb test rod (our weakest link) got a nice strike. Line was violently stripped and we knew we had a wahoo on the line. This was exciting as i knew the other boats didn't have much fish. This could put us in the winning circle. Big John had the gaff in his hand as the wahoo came to the back of the boat without much of a struggle. He reached out with his right hand to gaff it, his left hand holding the thin 30 lb test double line. As if the wahoo knew what was about to happen, it made a final sharp turn and darted away from the boat. The thin line in Johns hand broke before he had a chance to let it go, and we watched the happy wahoo vanish into the dark blue. This time next year it could be 40 lbs heavier as they are some of the fastest growing fish in the ocean. John was the most upset and sat alone at the back of the boat as the crew prepared the boat for the run back to Nevis for the weigh in. I powered up and took the RPMs up towards 3000 which is our typical cruise speed. I glanced back at John to give him a smile. "%^it happens". He was gonna be ok, but hold on a second.... what was that behind him? Black smoke! Something else wasn't going to be alright.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

overdue weekend fishing report part 1

As you know from reading my last blogs, we left Antigua for the Nevis Fishing Tournament after the eco tour on Friday.
Customs and Immigration in Nevis were stationed at the tournament headquarters to check in all the foreign boats up until 6 pm. I had emailed them the day before to let them know that we would be a little late, and had even given my Dad our clearance docs and passports to take down a few hours before on his boat Blue Rapid.
We were running later than expected and as the sun set half way between Antigua and Nevis with our rum and cokes slipping down as was the sun, i was a little worried about how late we were.

The seas were rough but behind us though which was good and the setting sun relaxed us just a bit. Maybe it was the rum and cokes.
Using our chart plotter we flew through the barrier reef in the darkness on the North side of Nevis heading as fast as we could for the port. As we tied up I was ushered to finish clearing in. I expected sour unhappy officials, but was met with smiles and pleasant attitude bearing customs and immigration officials. An hour later we were having burgers and planning our early morning trip off-shore. It was windy and back on the boat we knew that we better get some good rest for the 24 mile trip which was going to start just after 3 am. In tournaments, we believe that we have to try our hardest. Lines were permitted to be in the water at 5 am and we wanted to be at the proper spot at that time. Going out through the reef in the darkness we could feel the waves beneath us pushing the boat up and down and from side to side. There were six of us and by the time Big John started baiting up four of the crew were green with "bad feeling". Getting sea sick is possible in the day when its rough out in the open ocean, but at night when you cant see the horizon or waves, and the boat just moves in all directions that you can't possible foresee its tough. Then when that lovely smell of ballyhoo is added to the equation with a slight exhaust fume here and there for good measure, someone is going to "goto new yourk" (a.k.a puke). Why "new yourk". Say it but with the "yourk" part elongated and a little loud and you can see why we call it going to "new yourk". Anyway, Acare and I were not feeling sick at all but the rough seas and infinite darkness were no fun. There comes a time when excitement can turn to fear and although i hadn't reached that far, the feeling would slip in now and again as we climbed a big wave heading out to the "Barbuda Bank" in the pre dawn darkness.

Friday, October 12, 2007

On our way to nevis

After, much preparation we are ready to power down to the Nevis Fishing Tournament later today. There seems to be about 4 or 5 boats from Antigua going down and our Arawak Odyssey will be the last to leave Jolly Harbour as its doing the Eco Tour today.
Just exactly as has been saying for the last week, the winds have picked up and its gonna be a rough weekend for the Adventure Antigua fishing team.
Its only a one day tournament so after we clear in customs and immigration, we will have a good sleep before leaving port in Nevis in the dark tomorrow morning. We are looking for big wahoo fish which will mostly be taken by The Four Seasons Hotel there after the tournament. One of our crew "cousin Ross" is seen here with a decent wahoo caught earlier in the week:

Oh boy the winds outside are blowing! There are one or two of the crew who will be popping sea sick pills later today. Anyway, we could use the chum tomorrow. (just kidding) I hope they are not sick out there between Nevis and Barbuda which is where we hope to be catching the big ones. Wish us luck. I will give a report when i get back on sunday or monday. Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Antigua Island Blog turns one year old!!!!!

yup, one year ago today i posted my first blog entry while sitting in Antigua bored out of my mind. Since then plenty has gone on and plenty has changed. ITs been a fun year for me and i hope for those of you who have kept up with reading the blog from time to time.
Some of the blog entries had so much interest that i was actually shocked by the response. For those of you that missed the story of Adventure Antigua you should go back and have a read. They are not in order in this link but just goto the bottom and read your way up. I think that they were the most eagerly read of all my entries. I don't have any plans to stop writing anytime soon, but hope to have guest writers ad some content from time to time over the next year which i think will be a busy one for me with many new adventures in store. This weekend we will be setting off as i said yesterday on an adventure over to St. Kitts and Nevis for a fishing tournament. More of the same i guess, but there are plans in the works for a new and exciting project which i hope to involve you all.
A new addition to our Adventure Antigua fleet is going to be built over the next 12 months and we will keep you up to date with that as i feel that it will be extremely exciting.
ITs not going to be like the yacht seen in the moonlight above but it will be nice. For now, i'd just like to thank all the regular readers. I wish you would say hi more often in the comments section this year. Dont be shy! Stay tuned for our nevis adventure coming soon.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Our fishing team is looking for some help.

Fishing team Adventure Antigua is once again planning a trip all the way down to Nevis to take part for the third time in their annual fishing tournament. Each year our team clears customs and immigration here in Antigua and sets off for the Nevis tournament with hopes of bringing the big trophy home. The first year we finished second there and last year we placed third missing second by 2 lbs.
Usually there are about 25 to 30 boats from the nearby islands, and for the past few years it has been St. Kitts and Nevis who have kept the winning trophy in their country. Its going to come to Antigua if Team Adventure Antigua has anything to do with it, but going to the event and representing Antigua and Barbuda is an expensive endeavour.

As its only a one day tournament the expenses are not going to be too terrible, but the fuel costs of getting there and back are significant. We are currently looking for sponsorship that could help cover our costs for this tournament. In our last tournament we were called Team Xtreme Caribbean Real Estate thanks to sponsorship from JHR Caribbean. We gave them a little banner ad on our blog for three months as a thank you for their support. I know that many referral hits went from our blog to their site, and trust that helping us worked well for them. We are looking for help once again, so if you are reading this and have any ideas of websites that could use a little extra traffic please put us in touch. On average we get 200 hits per day with all sorts of google searches reaching our blog pages. Remember we have one year of pages each with its own tags and content. A blog is unlike a typical website because each entry is a page of content that search engines can use. I check my stat counter info and see all the searches people google to get to us. Its not just on things related to Antigua either. Do a search for the famous hat company tilly by googling "tilly hats on boats" or maybe "Hurricanes and Jolly Harbour" or even "shark attacks in antigua". The list of key words that eventually bring people to our blog is growing and growing every time i write, and there is plenty opportunity of referral business for some of the traffic to be refereed your way. Anyway, if you are reading this and not interested in all this blatant business talk then come back tomorrow and something more like my other blogs will be back up, but if you are interested in getting some extra traffic to your site, please email me at elifuller (at) hotmail (dot) com . Thanks, eli.