Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Adventure Antigua - Sailing Part 1

Some of my earliest memories as a child are of a time when my mom and dad were living in the Bucket of Blood Apartments on the other end of Dutchman’s Bay here in Antigua. Our neighbor was Eddie Barreto who my cousins and I called “Eddie spaghetti with the meatball eyes”. I loved Eddie for two reasons: the first was because he has lots of little tortoises which we would feed hibiscus leaves and flowers to. They just loved those flowers. The other reason I loved Eddie was that he had a yacht. I was 5 years old when I joined him with my Dad on a 90 mile sail down to St. Barth. It was my first big crossing, and I remember that it was so much fun being out in the big ocean swells. Although going out on powerboats with my dad (see family pic above) was what we did almost every week, I think I have been sailing fairly regularly since then. My grandfather (seen in the pic above with my grandmother and all 7 of their kids somewhere here in Antigua in the 60's) had several yachts when I was very young as did my uncle Jim. In fact I was just speaking with Jim about St. Martin’s Heineken Regatta which he won on “First Run” back in the early 80s. We can’t remember the year but I do remember that it was very windy and rough. We sailed around the island beating everyone easily on that super fast Beneteau racing machine. I also sailed with Jim in many of the Antigua Sailing Week regattas here as well. I think he sailed in almost every Antigua Sailing Week until a few years ago winning cruising class on the classic English yacht “Torridge” about 5 times. I also sailed a few sailing weeks with Carlo Falcone, owner of the Antigua Yacht Club Marina, on his Caccia Alla Volpe. I would have raced more of these regattas as well as more of Antigua Classic Yacht Regattas held the week before, but ever since I started Adventure Antigua we have been driving boats for the press. Antigua Sailing Week hired me to drive the press boat for the first three years that I was in operation and we have done several private charters for press and others in the following years as well. I took this photo: during a regatta where Michael Kahn, a famous Classic Yacht photographer hired me to drive for him during Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. I drove for him several times, and in more recent times my friends Iain and Roddy of Acqua Films hired me to drive for them while they did the official videos of Antigua Classic Yacht regatta. This year wasnt as good as 06 when there was more wind. Here is a clip of that years vid:

This helped educate me on the more traditional side of sailing as well as spark interest in the whole classic yacht movement which gets more and more popular every year. Of course, my grandfather (Nick Fuller Sr.), Uncle Jim and Eddie Barreto all have been into Classic Yachts since the years when they may have not been considered classic, but my interest and the interest of the general public in these traditional beauties has taken some time to catch on. I would have never thought about hiring a classic yacht and sailing down the islands to windsurfing regattas that I attended for all those years, but the next time I sail down to the BVI will be on a classic for sure. I think I have chartered and skippered yachts back and forth to the BVI about 7 times and although most of my yachting experience has been here in the Caribbean on “plastic” (fiberglass) yachts I think those days are coming to an end. Here you see my bro Ali, after we arrived at the Bitter End in Virgin Gorda just before windsurfing the 100 mile week long HIHO regatta. They were all nice and shiny but none had character or a soulful feeling of tradition. Sailing on a classic and just being next to one is a whole different feel. For me it’s even more interesting when the classic has been traditionally built right here in the Caribbean. Every single piece of wood has a story to tell and the process if filled with amazing history and tradition.
The Grenadines are a group of islands belonging to both St. Vincent and Grenada and are situated between the two larger islands. The history of boat building there is incredibly interesting and I will have to blog about it another time, but Eddie was the first person to get a boat from there that I remember. He and my uncle had raced there in the old days against boats from Bequia and Carriacou. Bob Dylan had a boat built from there and Uncle Jim raced against him there. Anyway, Eddie sold his boat to Alexis Andrews who I have spoken about in my blogs before. I would see Alexis on his Caribbean sloop racing against the other Carriacou, Bequia and Petit Martinique boats during classic yacht regatta each year.
The yachts were so colourful and the crews all seemed to enjoy themselves so much. A few years ago Alexis turned up with a new yacht, Genesis and not only won his class in the regatta but won the title that year of most beautiful classic yacht. Genesis was build traditionally by Alwyn Enoe seen in this image below.

He and his sons had build several boats now calling Antigua their home, and Alexis had spend months each summer in the Grenadines with them and with other traditional boat building families taking photos and learning about this ancient trade. Alexis wanted a larger and faster boat than the one he got from Eddie and Alwyn built Genesis to be the fastest of them all. Back on dock having a drink at Skulldugery with all the Grenadine boats stern to, Alexis sat there glowing with pride after just winning the first race convincingly. Two of Alwyn’s sons who had built the boat were there racing as well. Alexis said “you should get one of these”. I am sure he has said that to about 5000 people so far, but I immediately took up the offer to have a closer look. Sitting on the floor down below while Alexis explained a bit about the process involved I dreamed about sailing around the Caribbean on one of these boats. I told the boys that I would get one but not for a few years. It took a few years before I saw them again down in Carriacou last November, but to my surprise they remembered me and it seemed as though they had been expecting me. As I said in my “Tide is changing” blog back then, I paid Alwyn and his family a deposit for my own Carriacou classic sloop, before Christmas they had already made the journey into the forest to find the perfect trees. This first stage of the boat building process hasn’t changed in thousands of years here in the Caribbean and although the tradition has all but died out, I am as delighted to be part of it as were Bob Dylan, Eddie Barreto, and Alexis Andrews and many more before me. I am going to write a whole bunch more about it in the future, and I have to tell you that I haven’t been this excited in years. The photos taken in the jungle above were shot by Alexis Andrews who has two books coming out soon about the whole process including loads of photos and info on these lovely caribbean classic yachts. Check here for more info on that. We are collecting White Cedar saplings to replant in Carriacou which has never been done in this process before which i think will add another element to these boats built from a precious but renuable resource. On another note, I haven’t raced on my windsurfing board since I limped back to the beach after the 2007 HIHO regatta, but Sunsail is having a little regatta tonight and I think I may enter. Speak tomorrow if I make it back to the beach. Eli

Monday, February 25, 2008

Trinidad and Tobago wins 20 20 Cricket

Wow, what a fantastic weekend of cricket! First Trinidad struggled to beat Barbados on Friday in what was a very close match. Then on Saturday Jamaica and Guyana was an incredibly important clash with massive numbers of both country folk living here in Antigua. Tony, originally from Guyana, watched the match hoping that his Country would pass on to the final again this time. IT was the closest battle you can imagine with it all coming down to the final ball thrown. If the Guyana batsman had hit a boundary then it would have all be over and the Jamaicans would have been beaten again. It wasn’t to be and the Jamaican fans went crazy. Their celebrations were short lived though because the blistering bowling of the Trinidad and Tobago team last night in the final changed their mood very quickly. Jamaica’s run rate was kept extremely low and it wasn’t long before all wickets were taken in dramatic style. When one of the Jamaican wickets were taken by Dave Mohammed, who ended up being man of the match, he pulled off his shoe and used it as if a telephone as his team mates ran around behind him celebrating like mad. When asked what he was doing…he said that there was a call for the wicket he was trying to answer. It was loads of fun for the huge number of Trinidad and Tobago fans who had flown in for the final. Food at the Sticky Wicket was exceptional and we enjoyed our front row seats. Not bad for less than US $50 per person. Afterwards when the checks totaling over US $1.5 million were handed out, the fireworks began. I used to like fireworks but I think after seeing hours of Stanford fireworks over the past few years I think I have lost interest. In fact, I hope he never uses them again. Mr. Stanford if you are listening…why not do something more original next time. 45 minutes of continuous fireworks every time you have an event is so 2006, and the environmental impact must be terrible. Why not parachute a bunch of people in, or have Cirque du Soleil come and perform or something else. You have soooo overdone fireworks. My poor dogs don’t like them either. Ok, apart from that the variety of entertainers was great and I am sure that the entire crowd had a wonderful time. Despite many people being very against some of Stanford’s business practices and environmental impacts, its hard not to be impressed and excited about what the Stanford 20 20 has done for West Indian cricket. I wish him and the rest of the region all the luck and success in their effort to bring the region’s game back to the top of international cricket.

Friday, February 22, 2008


In under a week i have been up and down the Caribbean on two seperate advenures. First it was a trip using Xtreme as the mode of transportation to take 7 of us on a weekend of kitesurfing, fishing, beachcombing and other fun activities in Barbuda. We all stayed at North Beach Cottages which is the little isolated hotel i am helping Reuben with in Barbuda.
The purpose of the trip was to relax and enjoy the boating in a non work environment as well as to write an article and take photos for some kitesurfing magazines. The seven strog crew were, eli, mykl, JD, Ross, Kate, Olly, and Andre who is a world famous kitesurfer and our long time friend.
We left on Friday morning at the crack of dawn in extremely rough and windy conditions. In fact, some of the crew wanted to turn back as soon as we got into the Atlantic. Xtreme is designed to handle rough water and although the seas were rougher than i would allow a tour to go into the Atlantic with, these guys were not paying guests. heheehe
We had to push on through the rough seas and once i got into the grove the passage wasnt too bad. We were in the lee of Barbuda's amazing 14 mile beach within an hour even though it was a wet and bumpy hour. For the next 60 hours we enjoyed the best of what Barbuda had to offer. JD and Olly did plenty of kitesurfing after recently learning with I took loads of photos. Dre dazzled us with acrobatic shows. We found messages in bottles, fished, ate, drank rum, played dominos and enjoyed every second of our little holiday. (except when in this photo taken my mykl below a rain squall caught us while fishing in the mangroves).I cant show all the photos as they probably will be published in the near future, but i took hundreds. We would have stayed longer as Xtreme was free on monday too, but our country Antigua and Barbuda were playing Guyana at the Stanford 20 20 and we had to get back in time to see the cricket. Despite just ever so slightly being beaten by Guyana, we enjoyed the game tremendously. All of the Adventure Antigua team as well as many friends were on hand including Tony (originally from Guyana). Tonight its Trinidad and Tobago against Barbados. My lovely girlfirend is from Tobago, so we will be there supporting TT. Tomorrow i will blog about the most exciting part of my week...... the trip to Carriacou to see Adventure Antigua's new boat. Actually we had commissioned a boat back before christmas, but recently we took over production of another one. All exciting stuff and loads of content for my blog. Enjoy the weekend.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The famous Eli (Manning)

Ok the real famous Eli (super bowl winner, Eli Manning) has been here this week chilling out at the 5 star Jumby Bay i guess before going to Disney Land. I had heard about it when a close friend at called me up all excited telling me I should offer a free charter. I thought that was funny. I also thought that like most Celebes coming to Antigua, he was doing it on the "low pro" until I saw him being interviewed on TV during the Stanford 2020 cricket last night. "Uncle Stan" (R. Allen Stanford) was next to him watching Trinidad murder St. Vincent. I had a hard time eating my sweet and sour Chinese chicken at Delightful Restaurant as the flat screen kept on interrupting me with smashing fours, sixes and wickets like crazy. Anyway, Eli seemed to be enjoying himself at the cricket game thanks to the Texan / Antiguan hospitality. They say that there are a billion viewers seeing this tournament live all the way from the USA to India. Cricket is a major passion all over the world and is even being played these days in China. According to Wiki, "Cricket has been an established team sport for hundreds of years and is thought to be the second most popular sport in the world.[2] More than 100 countries are affiliated to the International Cricket Council, cricket's international governing body. The sport's modern form originated in England, and is most popular in the present and former members of the Commonwealth. In many countries including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Australia, cricket is the most popular sport. It is also a major sport in England, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe and the English-speaking countries of the Caribbean, which are collectively known in cricketing parlance as the West Indies. Many countries also have well-established amateur club competitions, including the Netherlands, Kenya, Nepal and Argentina." I know that the live TV coverage in the little USA city of Ft. Collins will have spiked a bit last night after word got around that Eli was on TV there.
The Stanford 20 20 is being marketed heavily there. I can't imagine US sports bars full of people having to watch cricket. Funny, but money can buy anything some of the time.
The other Eli, a lanky one from Antigua, has been at several of the matches to date (without being noticed by the cameras he he). The last two I went to were pretty amazing events. Antigua vs. the USVI was quite a match and sitting in the Sticky Wicket we were able to have a lovely meal and sit comfortably. Antigua didn't convincingly beat the USVI though which was a shame, but the "lime" was loads of fun anyway. Two of my blog readers gave me a hard time for not writing enough these days. If I am not writing much it generally means I am having too much fun.... (Good for me... not so good for the blog and its readers). Thank you for reading though and I will try to be a better blogger ;)
The last match I saw live was with some of the Adventure Antigua crew on the grounds. The current Stanford 2020 champs Guyana played the ICC world cup team Bermuda. Experience in the world cup wasn't enough and the well oiled machine that is Guyana Cricket demolished the Bermuda side. With at the very least ten thousand Guyana nationals living full time in Antigua, their support at 2020 is staggering. Antiguans can almost end up feeling like tourists at a Guyana match and there were some not so friendly young GT supporters set up in front of us when we first got into the grounds. I knew that Guantiguan's are usually friendly people so I got up and looked around for somewhere else to watch the game which was about to start. Sure enough I met up with some of Tony's friends and fellow Guantiguans in another spot. This is Tony with a few of the same guys from the last 20 20 in 2006 just after Guyana won the championship. I said that I was looking for a place to sit and watch the game. All together they said bring your people and sit where ever you want around us. Trevor, Mykl, Olly and I quickly set up next to them with our cooler, chicken, and seats. We offered them some of our Rum but they had their own stash of something I think was called Extra Mature Rum from the mother land. Tony finally got there and we watched the match enthusiastically as a group. The Extra Mature GT rum finished first but they had another ration of Demarara rum tucked away. Unfortunately for us all Team Guyana opted to bowl first after winning the toss. I say unfortunately because, we never got to see Guyana's awesome batting. They outed all of the Bermuda side fairly quickly and before the Antigua rum could be finished they had chased down and passed their runs too. It was all over too soon. A win is a win, and that was enough for the GT fans who outnumbered Bermuda fans by about 500 to 1. Just before the action was over, our friendly Gauntiguans started handing out small rotis. That was very nice of them and the food was lovely. Anyway, after a quick weekend adventure at North Beach Barbuda this weekend we will be back to see Antigua vs. Guyana from the grounds again. I still think that even in Antigua there will be more GT flags there than Antiguan. It will be very difficult for Antigua to defeat the champs but cricket is a funny game and anything can happen. Either way, it will be massive and tickets have been sold out for ages. All of the Adventure Antigua crew will be there with this Eli. Don’t know about the other Eli...... doesn't he have to go to Disney World?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Weekend cruises

At our last Stanford 2020 cricket match, the SUP Falmouth crew, Nikolai Bohachevsky, Robert "Rabbs" Hill said that we should have our first big downwinder.
OK for those of you who don't know what SUP stands for, it means Stand Up Paddle and it the latest watersport to have reached Antigua. So far there are four of us on island and we are all hooked on the fun of both cruising on these boards as well as paddling into and surfing waves. Nik and I have done every imaginable water sport there is here in Antigua and knew that SUP would be the sport for us when we started hearing about it. Nik was much more into following it on the net and was first to get one of these massive boards sent here all the way from Hawaii. At over ten feet long they are not easy to move around until they hit the water, and then it’s all different. Using a carbon fiber paddle you propel yourself over the water in search of adventure and that was exactly what we were planning to do on Saturday. Of course we had to do it early because Antigua was playing the United States Virgin Islands and we had to be at the Stanford Cricket Grounds early that afternoon. The plan was to leave Turtle Bay which is just at the entrance of Falmouth Harbour and cruise downwind riding the large Atlantic swell all the way to the start of the island's Caribbean side. According to Nik, it was a 6.5 nautical mile run and in the very windy conditions that we were experiencing on Saturday morning, I knew it was adventure!
We left from a friend's house just barely making it over his electric fence designed to make sure the garden isn't eaten by goats and make sure the goats are not eaten by his dogs. Man it would probably suck to forget that was there after a good surfing session. Anyway, on the beach I noticed a lovely large cowry shell and picked it up. I was balancing my 10 foot 10 inch board on my head and just slipped the shell into my back pocket. Immediately I could smell the stink. OMG the smell was bad and I had fallen for a trick that I had seen many of my guests fall for over the years. Shells on beaches are not always washed clean of the dead animals inside. This one needed quite a bit more time on the shore before it was ready to be handled. Once I put the board into the water I fished that stinking sucker out and hurled it back to the beach. Someone else will make the same mistake later. Anyway, it was rough and the shore break was pushing me close to some rocks. I didn't feel like having an adventure so early so I carefully made it past the reefy rocks out into the deeper waters. Rabbs and Nik came in after me and we were immediately part of the Atlantic ocean. The waves were big coming from east to west, but there was also some reverb coming off the land on our right making it extra choppy and difficult. Rabbs fell behind me and I knew this wasn't going to be easy. I found it less difficult when I was paddling hard and keeping my speed up, so I kept on going out away from the disturbed waters closer in to shore. From all my time spent fishing I knew that very close to us the waters dropped down past the continental shelf into depths of over one thousand feet deep and deeper still. There were big fish out here and with the waves and winds it was all very exciting. We had over six nautical miles to go and the thing that worried me most was the prospect of being too tired for Antigua's first 2020 battle later that evening. Our plan was to go down past Rendezvous Bay staying well off shore but coming back in to surf a few of the wave spots further down the coast. Our first one was near what we used to call "Farley Bay". In the "old days" we would windsurf the waves there which broke just over razor sharp coral reef. Although the reef wasn't in the same condition these days it still was pretty sharp. I had been sliced up pretty good several weeks ago while surfing some other reefy waves, but you can't think about that too much when you are out there. Nik was only thinking about doing it again when he was on this wave several weeks ago. (Please dont aske me where it was taken either). Shhh....If that's all that's on your mind, then you won't catch the good waves. Anyway, the waves were "blown" a term which means they were getting attacked by the winds and were not that smooth. Nevertheless, Nik and I surfed three or four good waves while Rabbs continued past them. On his last surfing session, his board had come unleashed and had ended up on the rocks only to be followed by him. His scratched up board and urchin needle filled feet didn't like that experience too much and with the pain still being felt under his feet, he kept well clear of the reef on this morning. The wave was longer than Nik and I had expected but it was so windy that getting back to the peak after surfing one was difficult. After getting totally breathless a few times we continued on. Nik went outside the barrier reef but I squeezed though a few coral heads and managed to cruise along the rocky shore for a few hundred meters before going out another channel into the Atlantic. This channel had some huge swells coming in and for a moment I thought I was way too close to the reef and had to paddle like a mad man to make it past the impact zone. Up ahead Nik and Rabbs were taking a break and were sitting on their boards. As large ocean swells rolled between them and me, they would disappear from view. The ever changing blue canvas that is the ocean is such an awesome sight and pleasure to behold up close. I looked for whales but knew it would be difficult in these winds to see much. There were "white horses" everywhere.
We paddled past another nice reef break and knew that we would have to come back and give those a try another day. Winter Hill, the part of Antigua in my mind, closest to the "drop off" was coming up ahead. That point was also particularly choppy and was often a place where you could find calm seas once you got behind the bluff. We were doing what is called a "downwinder" and on downwinders you have to try to use the winds and waves to your advantage. When you feel or see a nice swell about to overtake you, a few hard paddle bursts sometimes make it possible to surf ahead on the wave even in the open ocean. We had been doing this the whole time and at Winter Hill the swells were especially steep. I managed to surf down a big one for what seemed like ages. I was super tired though and tucked into the lee side of Carlisle Bay to relax for a moment while the other guys caught up. I think all those years of having to read swells in windsurfing regattas was making me a little faster on this downwinder, but I am sure I didn't feel any less tired. This spot is excellent for spotting turtles and within seconds I was seeing them pop up for breaths. We continued on toward our destination. Johnson's Point was a few miles down the coast and despite Rabbs moaning (hahaha) we pushed on. As I said earlier Nik and I have spent our lives doing one watersport or another when we were not sailing or powerboating. The ocean is where we both feel most comfortable. This is the not the case with Rabbs who just recently left London. Riding a big motorbike across Europe is more what he is comfortable doing, so being out there in the big Atlantic swells on what sometimes feels like a tiny surf board was a bit threatening.
IT was calmer now and as we cruised past Curtain Bluff Hotel, Rabbs looked way more confident. I took a little wider angle going down the channel in between Cades Reef and Cades Bay while the other two were closer in. I was approaching an area where I occasionally see huge green turtles and sure enough up ahead I could see a monster. It must have been as big as greens get and by far the largest I had ever seen. As I watched in awe waving my paddle at the others trying to get them to come over, another came up just further ahead. Two massive green turtles lay on the surface getting some sun and taking a few deep breaths before going back down to the sea floor to feed. Nik and Rabbs missed them unfortunately and we paddled on. Only one hundred meters ahead I spotted two more slightly smaller greens on the surface. All three of us approached in them in awe unnoticed until the closest took a big breath. It almost did a double take upon seeing us and with a splash it zoomed off below. Another thirty meters ahead were three more green turtles and it was almost as if we had found a secret spot for the big endangered animals. Later I told JD to be careful when he was skippering Xtreme past this section of coastline. We only had a little more to go and came closer in to shore as we approached Pelican Island and Johnson's Point. Here we spotted several smaller hawksbill turtles which we speak about at length on the eco tour. These small turtles probably were around 5-10 years old and have another 10-15 before they would reach sexual maturity. Many people and fishermen make the mistake of saying "there are so many turtles out can they be endangered". The problem is that there are indeed many turtles, but most never make it to sexual maturity therefore not getting a chance to propagate the species. Hawksbills are critically endangered and still occasionally hunted illegally here in Antigua and Barbuda.
Up ahead I could see my pickup truck on the shelly shore just behind and overturned local fishing boat. I was thinking about the three bottles of water I had inside as I made my last paddle to the beach. My bad knee pained as I took my first steps on solid ground since we left Turtle Bay some two hours before. It had been a great adventure and surely many more would follow. As Nik and Rabbs loaded their boards into the back of my Ford, we joked about paddling to Nevis this time next year. It’s only seven times further than we had just done.......:)

Yesterday it was the fourth SUP rider's turn.

Mykl did a paddle session by herself several miles from Darkwood Beach to CocoBay Hotel. Although the conditions were not as rough, the winds were not always behind her and while i took a few photos from the shore, i could see her having to work pretty hard against some pretty strong winds. She said it wasn't that difficult! Pretty good looking though. Anyway, there are four SUP riders now hooked on this new sport and we hope to have some more stories coming up on this journal.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Humpback Whales are passing thru again.

A week ago I had a stressful day and decided to take the invite from my Dad to go fishing instead of staying back to play mechanic. He doesn't always look so miserable. SMILE NEXT TIME DAD!
Thank goodness Tony can manage the engine work these days. Anyway, the seas were glassy and it was ideal fishing weather. We started very late as is usual with my Dad, and although Uncle Jim had caught a bunch of wahoo before we arrived the action seemed to stop as we pulled up to the North side of Guava Deep. We trolled and trolled and came up with only three barracuda which I had the displeasure of throwing back. Man do they smell bad. Whwew!

Anyway, Vance who had to be at work back at American Airlines for 6 pm needed to be back in Jolly Harbour for 5 pm, so we had to leave the area long before the late afternoon bite. We came up short with no wahoo for dinner, but you know the saying: "A bad day of fishing is better than a good day at work". Of course my work is fun, but just being out on the water when it’s calm is pleasurable enough even when you are not catching anything. On the way back in I glanced behind and to the port side for a split second and saw a spout. WHALE I shouted, and dad slowed down. If it were not for Vance, we would have gone back up to have a look at the whales, but we had to get in. The whales were about 4 miles due North of Sunsail Hotel and I saw them spout a few more times as we accelerated back towards Diamond Channel. About a minute further on I saw another spout, but this time it was much closer to the boat and I could see some of the dark colours of the whale break the surface.
The humpbacks were back, and this time they were earlier than normal. They pass through every year at about this time on their way North usually with young newborn calves playing alongside. Here is Captain Tony on the eco boat looking for whales with some guests on our way back from a private tour in Barbuda. There are no whale watching tours in Antigua for several reasons, but whenever our boats see them we immediately go over to them unless it’s too rough outside the reef. This shot was taken one day in the same area as the ones we have just seen. We had a group of Italians who snapped a few photos and then asked "Spiaggia?". It always amazes me how some people can avoid being totally fascinated by these huge rare animals. I find it hard to steer away and leave them even when I know I have to continue a tour. Of course what amazes me even more is that our government support Japanese slaughter of these fine creatures. When my dad represented our government at international whaling conventions Antigua and Barbuda were anti Japan. Then the money came pouring into Antigua from Japan and my Dad was replaced by people who see no problem with Japan's stance. This will pass too. For now we have to educate people about whales I guess. I hope to get some new fresh images this year. These ones are old and I have used here on this blog before. Captain JD above on Xtreme after we spotted some whales up ahead. Whales will be here until the end of April. If you will be here during that time then keep your eyes on the water. If not, then keep them here.


Sunday, February 03, 2008

Kids Birthday Party in Antigua

My old school friend from back when I was 10 years old called me a few weeks ago asking if I could help her with a party. Laila Hadeed, now has three children some 20 years later and her lovely daughter "Rax" had a birthday on Thursday. Yesterday we organized a party for her family and little friends. IT was quite an event. Tony and Chris collected the kids and a few parents from Dickenson Bay and cruises up the coast towards The North Sound where JD and I were waiting in his Boston Whaler with food and the Jumbo Dog. I think JD was more excited about the Jumbo Dog than the kids were. We had rented it from a watersports operator as it was one of the main things Rax wanted for her and her friends. Captain "J-Dog" dropped me off onto the Eco Tour boat, "Arawak Odyssey" in Great Bird Island channel and I was able to show the kids Magnificent Frigate Birds and Red Billed Tropic birds as they flew around the bluff of the island. I told the kids that the Tropic Birds needed caves to nest inside and that Bird Island was ideal for that. I also told them that caves were also used by pirates long ago to hide their loot. Tony steered us closer to a large cave at the base of Bird Island. As we approached, one of the kids screamed "there's a bottle in the water". Another quickly yelled "there's a message in it". I told Captain Tony to maneuver the boat closer so that I could grab it. Sure enough it was a message in a bottle. I told them we would anchor on the shore and then open it up. Rax read it and the rhyming message explained that there was a clue under a coconut tree on the North beach of Great Bird Island which would tell us where treasure would be found. The kids all began scrambling over the sides to make way for the beach on the other side. I had to yell at them to stop pretty quickly for two reasons. One was that none had shoes and another was that they had North and South mixed up. I asked Tony to check the compass and to tell the kids where North was. Chris brought down the shoes to the eager kids and was nearly swamped by them. We all rushed over to the nearest coconut tree on the North beach. No luck! We then moved on to the next one and sure enough another message was enclosed inside a palm frond at the base of the tree. The rhyme inside explained that we had to go to the top of Bird and look South for a rock with a bridge. As Chris, Tony, JD and I guided the group slowly to the top we explained about the wild life and plants we were passing. Once on top we spotted the island off to the South. We found some fossils and explained a little about the unique geography we had all around us. It was now time for a quick swim before heading off to the "isle with a bridge" where hopefully we would find our treasure. One child asked how we would share up the treasure. I explained that the way it usually works was that Captain keeps a third, crew keeps a third and owner keeps the last third. The kids told me that Captain Tony didn't need a third and that we could share the treasure between us. I explained that what they were suggesting was close to mutiny and that keel hauling was the punishment. They didn't like the sound of keel hauling and said that Tony could keep his share. We were then off to Hell's Gate.
Once Tony, Chris, and I had gotten almost all the group to the shore safely, it was time to find the "treasure that lay inside".
I led with "#2", Rax (the birthday girl) right behind me. Once we were all in the cave, I let Rax go ahead. A few steps and she blurted out "treasure!!!!". We had found treasure and despite much doubt earlier, there was enough for everyone. It was now time to eat and we cruised down to a nice protected area between Rabbit and Read Head islands. This is where the Jumbo Dog had been anchored up slightly out of sight from the kids. Man were they excited. I don't think I have ever seen food consumed so quickly and only kids could have done that kind of speed eating without heartburn. Once the other crew had eaten, we got belts ready for the kids and J-Dog got the Jumbo Dog loaded up for the first ride. For the next hour or so, J-Dog and his small crew pulled happy kids (and a few adults) back and forth in the nice calm waters to the lee of the "Arawak Odyssey". I just realized that the only person who didn't join in the fun was me!! Wait a second.
It was now time for the trip home where the cake would be waiting at a dock in Hodges Bay near the kid's home. Unfortunately the dock was a bit small so the cake was transported to Dickenson Bay where Tony and Chris said goodbye to the group. JD and I had left the group when the last of the kids took their last ride. Actually, a very pirate like little woman called Marissa had to be removed from the Jumbo Dog before we could leave. She had had too much fun and didn't want to get off. She told me I was an "evil evil evil man". I told her thank’s what all of us pirates want to hear and strive to become. Ahhhrrrrrrrrhh!
All in all it was a fun day and I hope to do something like this again.