Saturday, March 22, 2008

North Swells

I know many people who visit my photo site and read my blog are not going to be happy about the lack of big wave photos, but the truth is that i was surfing them and didn't have time to shoot that many pics. Most of the surfers in Antigua were not that happy as there was quite a bit of North in the wind direction which made the waves choppy and bumpy. It also prevented them from forming properly. The guys drove around most of the day on wednesday looking for new perfect waves, but mostly were unable to find them. Roddy and Nik found some good ones late wednesday afternoon near Eric Clapton's drug and alcohol rehab center, Crossroads. The waves on the far North side of Willouhby Bay were protected that day from the winds and were nice walls of double overhead green according to the boys. After wiping out on a good one, Roddy told me he was held down in full washing machine mode for what felt like minutes. A good thing he can hold his breath long!
One of the nice things about using the SUP long boards is that you dont need to have super fast moving waves to keep you up as the guys with the little boards do. I knew of a nice wind protected wave near to home and surfed with Nik in the morning until we were beat. As you can see i took a few snaps of Nik on this nice litte wave just before i jumped in myself.
Later that day i returned with "Rabi", Ross and JD for a wicked afternoon session and by the end of the day i was "spent" and smiling. That was wednesday. Thursday was bigger and i had a bunch of work to get done in the morning. We are trying to launch our new yacht on the 30th of March, so i was busy getting last minute metal fabrication done in the morning. After lunch it was time for some surfing action and i met us with Roddy to go back the same spot as the day before. When we got there Nik was already enjoying the surf. We were just about to go out when Roddy got a call from a friend who said that the regular spots were much better. In a decision that i now regret, we called Nik in and went over to one of the regular spot on the other side of the island. The waves looked huge when we got there, but once we were out we didn't get the waves we had hoped for. I spend more time waiting than anything else and only managed to get a few good ones. On one wave i took off a little late just before the wave broke and got thrown off the top as the lip came crashing down. Somehow i managed to fall right on top of the boar which had flipped over exposing its fin. Guess where i landed? The fin caught me just above the left hip. Its a good thing i am sporting a good set of love muscles at the moment otherwise i may have been impaled! After making sure i wasnt cut i took some time to rest and caught another wave or two. On my last wave i fell pretty hard and managed to break one of my fingers. That was the last straw... I was over this place. Why did i leave a good thing? To cheer me up and kill some of the pain, we decided to meet some of the eco tour crew Trevor, Tony as well as Greg (helicopter pilot) for some rum over at the Foredeck Bar. We heard stories of beaches getting bad erosion and of hotels losing beach chairs. One or two boats had gotten in trouble and several coastal roads had been flooded. The surf is still larger than normal today but is getting smaller by the hour. I think things will be back to normal by tomorrow and it will be back to cruising on the boards instead of surfing.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

big waves here in the Caribbean tomorrow.

Each winter several big cold fronts push off the East coast of the USA and Canada and give the Caribbean a slight change in weather for a few days. If the cold front makes it all the way down here then we will get some cloudy weather and usually a big surge in winds. Our normal trade winds and waves come out of the East coming over from the African West coast, but during big cold fronts we get winds and swell (waves) coming out of the North. If cold fronts have all the right (or wrong depending on how you feel about weather) conditions, then a gale or nor-easter will form off the North-East coast of the USA. These storms can be as strong as hurricanes and although they can be over fifteen hundred miles away as in the case of the storm today, we can have huge effects from them. This storm as seen in the satellite photo taken a short while ago has winds of over 60 mph in the middle making it almost hurricane strength. AS you can see from the swell maps, the usual east to west flowing Atlantic waves are being replaced by massive North to South long period swells which will stick around for a few days up until Easter Sunday. This photo below shows waves right now in the North Atlantic around the storm up to 30 feet!!!!!All the surfers here have been going bananas since first indicated that we were gonna get some. For whatever reason everything is lining up for the swell to be big. 4.9 meters means waves will be over 15 feet in open waters later this week. This photo shows what it will be like on thursday in the Atlantic.North and West facing coastline that is not protected by barrier reef will get huge waves and there will probably be some beach erosion over the next few days too. I for one will be surfing most of the time and i think we will have to cancel trips. I just got a call from Wadadli Cats too who is thinking about cancelling tours tomorrow and on thursday. We will have to see. Tomorrow we will both be up checking conditions before the sun risies. Friday's forecast shows the waves getting smaller.The strange thing about these "ground swells" as they are called is that they are mosly only dangerous when they get near shallow spots not protected by reef and dont have anything to do with winds here on the island. Out in the open they are like long swells and don't cap. I remember fishing one time when the waves were about 15 feet, but there was no wind. It was like being in a rolling and moving hillside. The fish didn't seem to mind which was cool and the surfers love it. Anyway, SUP or "stand up paddle" is the sport of choice for me and a few of my friends when its like this these days, and i will try to get some more pics of our sessions over the next few days. The last time we had good waves was back in Jan and there was no wind on them making them perfect for surfing. Nik seen in the opening shot was loving life back then. Tomorrow there should be winds of about 16 knots, so it will be a little more bumpy on the board. Last week we had a nice little SUP sunset session and i took along my camera. The MPEG movies are cute and show a nice sunset on the SUP. The area we paddled is Jolly Harbour to Jolly Beach. AS you can see, SUP isn't just about waves.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Adventure Antigua - Sailing Part 4

From the Adventure Antigua Sailing Part 3:

“Ocean Nomad” would be brought back to life in the morning when work resumed after far too long. Sure enough at 9am once they had collected some lumber from town, work started up on Ocean Nomad and after sitting there for over a year she was back in business on her way to being the latest boat launched from Windward, Carriacou.”

Work started with a determination that was fueled by both excitement and relief. This boat had been a chain around the families neck for some time. A yacht which usually took 8 months to finish was sitting there as a tourist attraction well over two years after they had started. In fact, while I sat there and watched them work several taxi buses filled with tourists stopped to take photos and inspect the boat. The taxi drivers were most interested and jokingly asked Alwyn if he was finally going to get this thing finished. Alwyn replied positively introducing me as the new owner. The owner of the little house next door came home for lunch and said that she was just about to turn it into a sandwich shop and was upset to see that it might finally be moving. She was joking of course, but I think there were very few people who had ever past this section of Windward’s main road who didn’t know a version of this boat’s story. Poor Alwyn and his family had shamefully sat back waiting for something to happen and were delighted to be showing themselves working on the boat. And worked they did! As I sat there snapping photos I could see change happening port and starboard. The cap rail was being finished and the cabin roof was being prepared. I wanted this boat finished within five weeks in time for the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta held in the middle of April, and although Alwyn said it would be no problem when I told him the day before, I wasn’t so sure.
This feeling of doubt gradually was replaced with optimism as I watched the team of three family members work carefully and methodically around the hull. They probably had imagined the steps they would need to take in order to finish her several times and she sat there in her undignified and unfinished state. By early afternoon it was time to head back to town in order to catch the ferry. I told Alwyn, that he would need to hire extra hands in order to get it done in time and he said it would be no problem. I think he wanted it out of there sooner than anyone, so that he could focus on my other boat which I think will be one of the most beautiful yachts he has built yet. Sitting on the ferry going downwind back to Grenada I felt happy to have seen some of the process as well as to have helped Alwyn get Ocean Nomad back on track. That was February 20th and they have been working almost every day since then trying to get the boat done. The cabin is finished, the corking is done on one side of the hull, the cap rails are done. We are still shooting to have the boat here in time for classics. Sails have been ordered from North Sails and we are looking good to be ready for charter by the end of April.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Sailing in Antigua on a traditional Caribbean sloop

As you know if you have been reading the past few blogs starting with the Sailing Part 1, we are getting a yacht built and will be operating a sailing side of Adventure Antigua's tours, charters and excursions under Sailing Antigua. The site is Please read the sailing blogs if you haven’t as they have great pics and loads of interesting info about how the wonderful sailing yachts are built here traditionally in the Caribbean. More photos and info about our new yacht to come next week. For now though I will show a little vid taken on our cheap little sony camera yesterday. Mykl and I were invited out sailing by Alexis Andrews on his Carriacou sloop “Genisis”. Our boat coming this April will be almost exactly the same so it was good to finally get our on Genesis. The winds were fairly strong in the morning as we sailed out of Nelson’s Dockyard into the Atlantic, and even though there were some good sized swells, Genesis sailed very comfortably over them with grace and pride.
No prouder than Alexis who had this yacht built traditionally in Carriacou by the same guys building our yacht. It was Alexis who introduced me to the yacht builders during the Antigua Classic Yacht regatta a few years ago when Genesis took top honors overall. He has two books coming out at the start of this year’s regatta. The first, Vanishing Ways, is about how the ancient tradition of wooden boat building in the Caribbean is slowly fading away with the exception of a few small builders trying to keep it alive. The second volume contained within the coffee table book is simply called Genesis and is a photographic journey though the amazing cultural process undertaken to build the very boat we were sailing on yesterday. I can’t wait to get my copy! I hope to interview Alexis soon about the book and about the boats that we are getting soon. For now enjoy this little video I put together of our sailing session yesterday. Thanks Alexis!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Justin Wassouf Hadeed turns nine

This past weekend it was another Adventure Antigua party and this time Justin was the main man who was boss. Justin told me he was 7, his cake said 9 but i think he was acutally 29. He is a very mature charismatic 9 year old and told his parents that he wanted to go out on our boat again, but this time he wanted it to be different to his sister's party. The lovely Rax seen with her Dad above had a real adventure several weeks before and this birthday party was equally enjoyable for all guests and crew alike. Big Justin invited a bunch of his friends from school as well as some "older" family and friends for a long cruise up the coast from Jolly Harbour all the way up to Green Island. First we had to stop at Stingray City park to visit the rays as well as Greedy Bob the hawksbill turtle who hangs out nearby. Some of us were lucky enough to see him on this day too. The rays were swimming by and Justin seen in the pic above and below was the first to say hi. After everyone had drinks and had seen the rays we were off to Green Island. Tony, JD, Ross and Olly took the Arawak Odyssey up past Devils Bridge and into Green Island's Non Such Sound while i followed in the boston whaler. We had JD's whaler so that we could pull the Jumbo Dog once again which was a favorite in the last party. The kids then felt that they didn't get enough and if you remember i took some heat from one of the young ladies who thought i was a bit "evil". hehehe
We set up two lunches. One for the kids and one for the grown ups. My crew decided that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, hot dogs, tuna, patties and cheese sandwiches were better than the adult food. I guess this happens when you eat the same thing every day. That being said the adults loved our regular buffet.

After playing on the beach for a while picking on the biggest kid there (Elias) and making enough noise to wake the dead it was time for the Jumbo Dog. Who comes up with these names?

Anyway, Justin, being the main man, invited 4 of his best pals to come on with him on the first ride, and once they had belts on, Captain JD took off. We could hear the screams for the whole ride even though JD kept the speed limit to a very low pace the thrill was still big enough. Each child had several turns and then all of a sudden i heard screams from all directions. It was Justin's last ride with his friends and they managed to flip the dog over. I counted 5 little heads swimming quickly towards JD and Tony who were already back alongside them. When they got back to the boat they were talking all at once recounting the adventure from all different angles of bravery.

IT was now time for a bonfire! Ross and Olly had been in the forrest looking for dead wood and within minutes of the last Jumbo Dog rider coming back to shore the first marshmellows were getting roasted. In fact we had to let the little fire cool down a bit before the kids were allowed to get close enough, but they were amazingly patient. One and a half bags of sticky gooey marshmallows later and we had some hyper kids on our hands. They also had marshmallows on their hands and on their faces. Cameron Hadeed was covered in the stuff, but i think that's because this tiny skinny little kid had managed to consume about 10 marshmallows. He's too cute! I think he would have kept on going too but we told him we had to out the fire. Olly took careful care of that before coming back to the boat just in time for the cake. ....and what a cake it was! With all the sugar in the systems of those kids it was time for me and JD to abandon ship with the Boston Whaler. Tony, Olly and Ross managed to take Justin, his family and friends all the way back to Jolly Harbour. The day had been a 50 mile round trip of fun in the sun, and i hope enjoys many more such birthdays to come. The crew and i enjoyed the day out too. I went to elementary and high school with some of the adults on the trip and it was good to hang with them again. Thanks to Laila for asking Adventure Antigua to be involved once again and thanks to her also for all of these great photos. Well done! OK now since i know there are some smart kids reading this. Please make notes and comment on all my spelling mistakes so that i can correct them. My spell checker doesn't work after 11pm. hehehehe

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Adventure Antigua - Sailing Part 3

It would have been way easier to move Sailing into the Adventure Antigua business by buying a fiberglass yacht just like everyone else, but this way is way more interesting. While in the car on my way to Windward which is where families in Carriacou have been building boats for hundreds of years, master boat builder Alwyn Enoe told me that he was excited. I had met him before and didn’t think that he could be so happy. He was finally going to get some work done. On the phone from Grenada the night before, I had asked him to find me a guest house or little hotel for me. He said “I don’t know if you would appreciate this, but I didn’t get a hotel for you……You will be saying with my nephew.” That was cool with me as I knew this gesture meant I would be with friends. I was excited too. When we arrived in windward and went to see his sons Chris and Terry, I was starving. We sat and ate in an enclosed but vacant lot right on the water. It was fenced off with old galvanized roofing and with coconut trees and some other bush scattered around. Outside was the beach and a huge ancient vessle lay beached as if washed up in a storm to die where it had come to life all those years before. This was the place my new boat was going to come to life. I could see some basic tools resting around which had been in use up until I walked into the “boat yard”. Scattered around were bits of cut wood and some lovely pieces of shaped wood I imagined were frames still to be assembled. While Alwyn ate his salt-fish and bake lunch he explained the process. They had taken the ferry over to Grenada where a local family was about to clear some land for development. The family allowed them to go into the forest and take the trees that they needed. He said it was very difficult as the terrain was steep. Getting the cut trees out was the most difficult part though, but the land owner had graciously helped them. Once a boat had finally dropped off the last trunks onto the beach on Windward, Carriacou, the men had to start picking the best ones for the construction of eight frames. He said that he had always assembled the frames onto the keel using only five frames, but that this time he wanted to do it with eight to speed up the process and make the whole process more accurate later down the line. He told me with shining eyes how these were the best trees for making frames that he ever got out of the “bush”. They were large and had the best shape for making the skeleton of the boat. You see, a simple keel is made in Grenada out of greenheart hard wood according to his design. While that is being made he and his sons make the ribs or “frames” as he calls them. When the greenheart keel arrives they then attach the frames so that they have a skeleton of the boat assembled. All of this is done with exact accuracy in accordance with the model which is kept in the boat yard as seen above. The assembled frames in the photo above are from another fishing boat being made, but the model is mine. IT is the model which he is most proud of. He boasts that most boat builders don’t use a model and just build a boat as they go. The model is a blueprint of the boat to be built and is done exactly to scale. On the model each three quarters of an inch represents a foot on the real boat. He explains over his salt-fish lunch that on a ruler, three quarters of an inch has twelve sixteenths. This means that for every 1/16th of an inch on the model the measurement on the life size boat will be an inch. ¾ of an inch on the model is a foot on the real boat. As you can see in this photo of the model there are careful measurements all over the thing which all are strictly transferred into inches and feet on the life size timbers they are working with. Although we sit in the one of the most primitive boat yards on the planet, the rules of boat building are the same as if we were in a naval boat yard in the USA or Great Britain. He gets very technical and most of it is way beyond me, but i trust him. During Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta I have seen his boats fly past classic shaped boats built recenlty using the most modern materials. I am impressed with Alwyn’s drive and determination to not let this tradition fade away. After lunch when we walk over to the other boat, he explains that his sons are only a few of the men their age that are working in this ancient craft. Many of the young men of Carriacou sit on the corner and do little of anything he says. Many have to leave the island to look for work in Grenada and further. The art and life that is boat building has been slowly fading away. He is proud of his sons and of the work that they do together. I am proud to be part of it. With the resurgence of Wooden boat racing in the Caribbean I think that many more people will come to Windward in search of a traditionally built boat. After having a good look at what work was going to be needed on the almost finished “Ocean Nomad” we walked back to the boys working on my boat.
Chris and Terry were looking for two tree trunks. One would be for another beam and one would be for the stem. The stem is one of the most important pieces of wood on the boat. It is the forward most piece which the rig is attached to. It goes from the very front of the boat down below the waterline and attaches to the wooden keel. With no big wood working machinery on the island it was time for the most high tech and biggest tool they had. A chain saw. I am sure that most international boat builders would laugh at the thought of making the stem of a yacht using a chainsaw, and I must admit I wondered how well it would turn out. To my amazement the process was as done as smoothly and carefully as any of the alternatives. Of course it took longer and took more care, but Chris was a master at using the saw. Using a bit of chalk to give the rough outline they cut into the tree trunk to get the shape. Then using a chalk line they used the chain saw to get the shape much closer to the finished product. Using a few more tools to mark the exact lines they used a electrical planer to get it perfect. The finished stem was so perfect that I was just totally blown away. It never appeared as though they were having a hard time and experience was what made it perfect. While Chris was making the stem, Alwyn and Terry worked at attaching port and starboard sides of the frames. Alwyn called me over at one point and said “you see beauty?” I smiled and said “yes”!
With no roof over their heads and without many tools they were creating a beautiful yacht. As the sun started to set it was time to clean up and make plans for the morning. Work would stop on my boat that afternoon, and with a shake of hands and the passing of some money another job would be re-started. “Ocean Nomad” would be brought back to life in the morning when work resumed after far too long. Sure enough at 9am once they had collected some lumber from town, work started up on Ocean Nomad and after sitting there for over a year she was back in business on her way to being the latest boat launched from Windward, Carriacou.