Wednesday, July 30, 2008

First murder at a hotel in Antigua ever - Cocos

The horrible murder at Cocos this past weekend has had so many ramifications and cans or worms have been opened at every corner. I would just like to give my view on why we have arrived at this stage. These are my views after going to school, living and working here.
With the massive influx of immigrants from all over the Caribbean and from many other areas around the world changes for the better and for the worse have taken place in Antigua.
With very fast development here our work force had to be supplemented with people from abroad. While this was happening many Antiguans who had ways and means were moving to the UK, Canada and the USA in large numbers. While construction of hotels and all sorts of developments were taking place labour was always in huge demand, but when the economy slowed down and immigrant workers finished their jobs they didn't leave. Our population has increased dramatically contrary to the terribly defective census that was last done. My guess would be that we have somewhere around 140 thousand people here in Antigua instead of the 62k that that crazy census came up with. It was done at a peak time of immigration here and also before the Millennium Act was passed which gave citizenship to many of them before the last election. Anyway, our police force and all public departments (including the tax department) are working on the idea that we have 62 thousand people here on the island. This supposed drop in population happened while new villages were formed all over the island and every village was growing exponentially. There was just no way the population could drop and the only reason it dropped on the census was because all the immigrants were fearful of their status on the island. There are thousands and thousands of foreign immigrants here now who were brought in to help with the development of Antigua and mostly to do with the construction projects that have now finished. They have to work to stay alive and have entered every aspect of the Antigua and Barbuda workforce. There isn't a department or category of employment without them and this goes for jobs at the very bottom to jobs at the very top. You even see immigrants selling CDs on the side of the roads. So what? Well while all of this is happening the strain on the school system as well as every other government system has been stretched. Education and health has suffered. There are hundreds and possibly thousands of young Antiguan youth without any jobs or direction and many have fallen to the lure of drugs and then more serious crime. The average age of people arriving before magistrates on criminal charges has dropped considerably over the past 10 years. Kids are being found with drugs and weapons on a regular basis. Our entire country has big changes that need to be made and the problem is being analyzed by everyone concerned.
The horrible shooting of the honeymooners at Cocos this past weekend was the first time a deadly shooting has taken place in a hotel in Antigua. I think it was the first time a tourist was murdered in their room. I know of one other murder where husband killed his wife while on holiday years and years ago, but this Cocos thing was totally out of the ordinary and the county is in a state of shock. Many people calling in to the radio stations are calling for a swift capture of the culprits and a quick execution. I have heard many offer their services as executioner. That's how dramatic people are taking this thing. You don't attack and kill people and least of all tourists. That's the general feeling. Of course, there are some who stress that this is not a tourism issue and that it's more to do with the general public safety of all within the country. This is a smart way to think, but there is no doubt that the ramifications of violence to tourists hurt the mainstay of the economy and as a result it is perceived as being more serious. I remember while i was at Florida Tech back in 1990 there was a spate of tourist related murders and Tourism was hit very hard there. Orlando was very badly effected. Laws and procedures were quickly changed and as a result the escalation in tourist crime was hit on the head.
Here in Antigua things have gotten out of control and changes in our country's makeup have had a negative impact on crime. When i was a kid there was one murder a year and that was a big deal. Although there are many other Caribbean islands with worse murder rates than we have our increased rate is totally unacceptable and we all know this. Before this murder at Cocos the country's leaders knew things were getting out of hand and made major changes within the police force. A foreigner was employed as Chief of police for the first time since our country became independent and he and his team have been totally changing the methods and structure of the force. The changes needed are happening as i write this and I am very confident that a drop in crime will happen here shortly and that we will all be safer as a result. That being said, it will take more than just action from a better trained police force. The hotels are being stricter with their security measures and have done things over the past year to beef up their security.
I dunno guys, this killing and the others that have taken place recently in the country have had a major impact within the island and many people are terribly worried about the situation and it's ramifications. Although i think that crime is gonna be hit hard over the next few months and years, i think the effects on our daily lives and the economy will be dealt a big blow.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Thank goodness its monday.... i need a rest!

Wow, with active action packed weekends some people just are happy for Monday to roll around so that they can get some rest. This was one of those weekends. On Saturday a bunch of us continued work on Ocean Nomad putting in the last of the floor as well as doing the last bits of engine installation. In between doing that i would run over to help JD and Tony who were doing some engine maintenance on Xtreme. After calling it a day with the yacht i decided to take Xtreme out just to see if all the maintenance went well. My GF joined me for a quick sunset cruise over to Pinchin Bay. The sand there was softer than i expected and i realized that although i had been passing this beach all my life, i had never stood on it. The poor beach had been almost wiped out by the local family who owns the land there when they decided to mine sand from behind the beach. Now rocks that were once buried with sand form a barrier between the beach and the sea. It's not just a barrier for swimmers but for turtles also. This beach was one of the most popular nesting beaches on the west coast and it still has a high number of nestings. Anyway, the sunset was beautiful and the soft sand seemed to help me forget the horrid sand mining that had gone on just a few years before. Up the beach from us there were three American Oyster Catchers feeding on the rocks and in the sand. These beautiful birds are here in Antigua most of the time but in such small numbers that most people miss them. Usually I see them in pairs but today there was a third wheel.....maybe a relative. As the sun dipped under the very hazy sunset, bats from the hills began to do their aerial acrobatics in search of bugs to eat. The hills between Hawksbill and Pinchin must be a great home for all these insect eating bats. Long before it got dark stars began to jump out of the orange and purple sky. You cant keep them hidden for long even when there is haze in the sky.

We swam back to Xtreme and cruised slowly home as the moon rose over Five Islands Harbour. I thought that Friday was full moon or maybe is was that night.... either way i was exhausted from a long day and it was time to sleep.
Sunday we decided to relax all morning with a late lunch at OJ's beach bar. I was going to break my ''fit for life'' regime and eat a burger and fries today! As i bit into the fantastic home made burger i watched my friend Paul Ryan zoom past on his big SeaRay powerboat. It looked like he had the family on board, and it would be a lovely day for them......or so i thought. The weather was better than anyone could want for boating, but Paul's perfect day of boating wasn't to be. My cousin Bel who works for the paper called me 15 minutes later asking me where is Morris Bay because there was a yacht on fire there. I reminded her that its where we spent most of our Sundays while growing up. We called it Callaloo as that was the name of our Grandfather's hotel there. Anyway, when i told her i was just paying my bill she asked me to go have a look for her. She knew i had my camera. At this time i didn't know it was Paul's boat, but when we got to Cades Bay i could see the black hull beneath the flames and billowing smoke. I called uncle Nick who as the owner of North Coast Salvage company, was always in tune with boat mishaps. He told me that Paul and his family had gotten safely off the boat after it caught fire. Just before jumping in he had called the coast guard. They arrived over two hours later after the boat had come to its resting place on the North-eastern side of Cades Reef.
We watched most of the ordeal wanting and waiting to see the ocean take over from the fire. It happened finally with a sharp burst of flames and then steam. Thank God nobody was hurt.
As we arrived back in Jolly Harbour I got a call from Alan Aflak telling me that there was an injured turtle inside of the harbour. This was strange as we never see big turtles in the harbour. We went down to see what was going on and Alan took us out on his boat to see it. The poor big green turtle had obviously been hit by a big boat and had huge prop scars along its shell. It seemed to be very tired and was only using its front flippers. The wounds look like they were not recent and the turtle had probably been suffering for some time. We dragged it to the entrance of the harbour where there was a beach we could pull it up on. It was here we could see the extent of the damage and it wasn't good at all. The big green was still alive but there was no doubt that death would be coming soon. A flipper was missing and the shell was cut right through and deep into tissue close to the bottom of its shell. We made the decision to call a vet as we didn't think it would make it. Unfortunately it didn't and finally succombed to it's injuries.
With the thousands and thousands of hours that i have spend on powerboats in the Caribbean i always am amazed that I have never hit a turtle. Keeping a sharp eye open for turtles and all the other things that can be out there in our path has paid off so far. I just hope our luck continues.
We got back home exhausted just in time to receive a phone call from someone at Darkwood beach. There was a whale close to the shore swimming slowly past. A whale! In July! Immediately i thought something had to be wrong, but it was 7 pm and almost dark. This story would have to pass me by.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

A new place for Antigua Tourism discussion

The Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Group was launched late last week as an alternative to other under-moderated sites which were less dedicated to tourism promotion in Antigua as their main purpose. This forum or message board is a place where users can sign in and speak about tourism issues related to Antigua and Barbuda. The discussion board or forum or newsgroup as many like to call it has had incredible popularity with over 100 people signing up as members in just a few days since its start. is the main page and you will see that moderators from the forum membership have been assigned to keep things in order on the site. That being said just the fact that there are moderators on the site deters trolls and other naughty people from signing up. So far no moderator has had any work. I am sure that will change but it has been anyway. If you are visiting Antigua and Barbuda and want to learn more about these wonderful Caribbean islands please come to the forum and fire away those questions.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sailing on Ocean Nomad... work still continues.

It was my girl friend's birthday recently and we decided to take some friends and family out for a cruise on the recently re-launched Ocean Nomad. The engine is in but not all hooked up with fuel tank, exhaust and bits and pieces, to JD had to ferry everyone out to the yacht using Xtreme. Anyway, there must have been about 14 of us on the yacht and she sailed very well along the coast out from Jolly Harbour towards Deep Bay. With no engine and not a single person apart from me who had sailed on her before we had to be careful. There were a few sailors on board so it was actually pretty easy. We dropped the hook very close to the Andes shipwreck so that we could all jump in and swim. JD had brought his thundercat along with the Xscream ring thing that we used at the kid's parties. A few of the big kids enjoyed going for rides while the rest of us ate and drank.
Time kinda flew and before long it was time to sail back to Jolly Harbour. There were a few squalls and with Galley Bay's point just below us we just used the jib to clear it before we hoisted the big mainsail. In Five Islands Harbour the winds kicked up pretty good and Ocean Nomad glided on with grace and speed. So much work has gone into this yacht and continues to this day. In fact, this past weekend the greenheart floorboards were put in over the top of the interior lead ballast and the engine box was finished. I think by the end of the week we will be able to get in and out of port under engine power. I dunno how my uncle sailed for all those years without an engine. Charters under the Sailing Antigua company name will probably not be started until later in the summer. To get it perfect it is taking plenty longer than i thought. Sail covers and the awning are being made at the moment by Graham at Antigua Sails, and a head will be constructed shortly. We still have not gotten a ladder either. There is an amazing amount of work that has to be done in order to ''finish'' a wooden boat to the point where she is ready for day tours and charters. The journey from the photos taken above back in Carriacou in Feb. where and when i took this boat over has been a rewarding challenge. Its still not finished!This sailing trip for my GF's birthday was the first time we went for a cruise with regular people and that in itself was a learning experience, and i was glad that it all worked out well. She even helped trim the mainsail as seen above. Nobody could ask for better crew!My mom and sister who both work with me at Adventure Antigua came with us too and enjoyed it which was very nice. All in all we had a great time and i am even more excited to have the yacht properly finished...soon! A special thanks to the ''crew'' that day as they didn't even know they were going to be crew. Also thanks to Kat and Karine for taking the photos.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Understanding Windguru and weather in Antigua

Here at Adventure Antigua weather forecasting is an essential tool used in our business. Yesterday we had a tough one with some bad weather that rolled in. We sat glued to weather maps, radar, and satellite images on the computer before we made the decision to postpone two boat trips for the day until thismorning. As someone who monitors weather every day and then has to send several boats out, i see what forecasts work and what doesn't. No site is 100% accurate, and many are total garbage. Dont ever use yahoo wather or's animated forecasts. I have never seen them say we would have a sunny day here in Antigua. The most simple forecasting site giving long range forecasts that has the highest degree of accuracy for Antigua and Barbuda is windguru. Coming from 17 years of competitive windsurfing i can tell you that there isn't a group of more addicted wind and wave junkies that windsurfers, and windguru was set up by a bunch of them. When i first heard about it i thought there was no way that these guys from Czech republic could tell me what weather i could expect in Antigua next week. All my friends were telling me that it worked so i added windguru to my favorites and started checking each day. It's been years now and they have been incredibly accurate predicting cloud cover, rain, winds, and waves. They are are also accurate at predicting wave direction and wind direction. The forecasts are so good that i think our local forecasters here should just tell people what windguru is forecasting before doing or saying anything else. So often windguru will forecast a weather event like strong winds or big rain or huge waves and we say to each other: ''Windguru has gone mad again as there are no storms forming and nothing out there''. We then have to eat our words a few days later when a storm forms a thousand miles away and things start to look like they will be right. Last year was the best though when a week before Hurricane Dean appeared it was forecast by windguru. Everyone thought that windguru had gone mad until they saw the clouds coming together on sat maps.
Anyway, i keep hearing people say they find it difficult to understand windguru. According to their site: ''WindGURU is a service specialized for forecasting weather, mostly for windsurfers and kitesurfers (but not only...). Forecasts are based on data produced by weather forecast models. Windguru is able to provide forecast for any place on planet Earth. The main reason to create this site was the idea to get the forecasts quickly and easily without wild clicking the mouse while searching for meteomaps throughout the internet.''
So it should be easy and i want you to figure it out.
Using Windguru's seven day forecasting tool:
Go to the website and using the drop down menus for the 'geographic area' locate the Caribbean. Then go to the country and select the Antigua and Barbuda one. Then below that you see a menu for 'Spot', select Antigua and press 'GO'. You will now have the most accurate forecast for Antigua there is at this point IMHO. Lets show you how to figure the info out. I cut out a bit of the main image and drew a little arrow in the top left corner pointing to the day and date which in this case is today Wednesday July 9th. You can even see the time of day as you look from left to right under the date starting from 5 am and going to the right of the image ending in 8pm.

Ok next we will speak about wind speed and wind direction which are on the line below the time of day. In the image below the red line is pointing to the colourful wind speed box on the far left which forecasted 10 knots at 5 am. By the way you can adjust it to be measured in whatever unit you want from mph to knots to kmph. I like knots and is what i understand. Here is the image:
You can see that by the end of the day it is saying that it will be 13 knots at 20 hours (8pm). Under the colourful wind speed boxes there is a line for wind direction. On the far left it is pointing from right to left using the compass directions. East is on the right and west is on the left. North is up top and south is below. In this case the winds are coming from the East on the right and blowing towards the west. The next thing is something very important for boaters and especially ones that are kept on moorings off beaches at areas where it is normally calm. Many boats here in Antigua would be safer if people would keep an eye during the winter on this part of windguru. Wave height and wave direction. Waves don't always come from the east here in Antigua. The image below shows the red arrow i drew pointing at wave size or height. As you can see at 5 am it was 2.2 meters high and over on the far right at 20 hrs they will be 1.4 meters so the waves are dropping through the day.
Under the wave height line there is the 'wave period' line which tells you how long a particular wave will take to go past a specific point in seconds. A longer wave period (higher number) means the wave is essentially thicker or wider. There is more water in that wave and more power. Higher numbers are good for surfers and bad for your moored boat or beach house in a storm. Below the wave period is the wave direction line which is so important. Here at 5 am you can see that the forecast was for waves coming from the north-east (remember east is on the right and north is up top). This will let you know if your favorite beach will be calm or not. That if you know what side of the island your beach is :)
Temperature, cloudcover and rainfall. The next red arrow i drew points to the most important part of the forecast for many tourists coming to Antigua and Barbuda. The temperature. In Antigua the temperature stays the same for most of the year so i don't ever look at this part of windguru. Here at 5 am it said it would be 28 degrees C and as you can see they say it will be the same all day. Never worry about the temp here in Antigua. Its always warm. Under the temp line is 'cloud cover percentage' which is important for those beach people who want to get loads of sun on their holiday. Today at 5 am it said over on the far left at the bottom that it would have 22% cloud cover. At mid day it would have 50% cloud cover. Under the cloud cover line there is the rainfall line which is important. People always are asking on the internet forums about how much is it raining in Antigua. Here is your answer. Today between 5 am and 8 am they forecast that .5 of a mm would fall on the island and between 8 am and 11 am .4 of a mm would fall again. It didn't happen in Jolly Harbour today but i am sure that somewhere on the island got a 30 second rainfall over the past 6 hours. OK that is how simple it is to get an accurate forecast for Antigua and Barbuda. Just follow these instructions and rest assured that its mostly sunny here in Antigua.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Going surfing.

After the thunderstorms and rain today for the second time in two months the dry island may start to look green again. I hope so because i was getting tired of the dusty dry conditions here. Anyway, hurricane Bertha missed the Caribbean totally and is of no threat to us anymore, but we may get some waves to surf today and tomorrow which have been generated by the storm some 660 miles from us. I am going to take my SUP board down south where there are reports of some 6 foot glassy swells. Will try to take some photos.

Friday, July 04, 2008

first Atlantic storm of the season

Tropical Storm Bertha is born! I have written so much about hurricanes and weather on this blog that i feel like saying these things is like deja vu. Here goes again:
Contrary to popular belief Antigua does not get hit by hurricanes every year. Antigua has been directly hit by hurricanes 6 times since 1954. Most of them happened to be in the 1990s and the media had a field day. The conditions only last for a day and sometimes hurricane force winds only lasted a few hours. Either way your chances of getting hit by a hurricane are pretty slim if you think about it. Six days of hurricane force winds over the past nineteen thousand seven hundred and ten days. Its amazing what numbers can sound like when you play with them a bit. All that being said, you have to keep checking the forecasts during hurricane season (june to november). A great place to look is where i write from time to time too. A week ago forecasters using the most sophisticated computers and software started predicting that a storm could form just off Africa due to all the favorable conditions coming together there. So said so done. A huge bulk of cloud mass came out of the jungle and turned into a named tropical storm. Tropical Storm Bertha seen on the far right of this image:

is of no threat at all to the Caribbean but is something to talk about. Its forecast by all the super duper computer models to miss the Caribbean totally not even giving us some rain. With a small fleet of boats to look after, i am constantly checking the weather throughout hurricane season and will let you know if there is anything out there that needs looking at. Every year the forecasters for this area get better and better and i feel more and more relaxed during this season. For now, its going to be a nice calm week coming up after a so so weekend. Tomorrow is my GF's birthday and we are gonna do some sailing on Ocean Nomad. Will take some snaps. Enjoy yours.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

a little fun for AA crew

Some time ago, JD decided he loved my little dinghy so much that he wanted to buy it. I gave him a good deal on it and I went without one for some time. Anyway, another guy here on the island got one of these "Thundercats" and i knew it was time for me to get another one for myself. We would use it to pull the ring thing on kids parties. Finally we were able to get out for some racing fun yesterday. Captain of Adventure Antigua's Xtreme: JD and captain of Adventure Antigua's Eco boat: Tony were going to be riding in the DUX brand thundercat while Jason, Adventure Antigua's newest deck hand would be my co-pilot. One minute into our race JD and Tony hit a gust of wind while going over our wake and had major problems. I looked behind just to see one of them in mid air as if they had just pressed the ejector seat button on a jet fighter. Of course this happened just as three other boats were passing. One of them was a Wadadli Cats boat. I can just imagine Captain Sheldon saying "yes ladies and gentlemen on our right is a flipped boat captained by JD and Tony who are two skippers from Adventure Antigua our competition." Anyway, one of the other boats helped us right JD and Tony who were very embarrassed. I took them to shore where Chris was waiting already with tools to do some work on the flooded engine. I did some quick work on the plugs, carbs and fuel system and we were at it again. Chris took some video too which i may show later depending on the language contained within. It was boys having fun on a day off during a very slow month. There is a poker run here at the end of the month before Carnival where be a Thundercat race. That will be some silly fun for sure. It can't be all work in this company, but we have to be a bit more careful. I can't lose the two best skippers in Antigua. I guess i should say best tour boat skippers because the best thundercat skipper wasn't JD. LOL