Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Montserrat Fishing Tournament 2008

The weather forecast had been looking great all week long with winds speeds of about 9 knots expected for Saturday's fishing event. The Montserrat Tourism Authority had invited us down to take part in their event. This would be our third tournament there. Tony and Serge who usually work on the Adventure Antigua Eco Tour were coming on Xtreme with me as well as all of the other crew who joined us for the Nevis event bar Big John who was MIA in the UK.
We were planning to make a good adventure of it, but heard that becausae of increased volcanic activity, tours of the island were limited. We then saw the forecast change to include ground swell and increased winds. Little Bay in Montserrat isn't that great of a port when the weather is "rolling" which made overnighting less appealing to me. We changed plans slightly to just fish, clear in and do the weigh in, and then come back home.
Friday afternoon we met up at Customs and Immigration in Jolly Harbour to clear out. My young crew always eager to get an early start decided to meet up at the boat at 3:30 am! Crazy i know, but we did have to travel 20 miles to get to the fishing area and lines were allowed in the water at 5 am however dark it was. Luckily we found later that the lines in was actually 5:30 am. Anoher 30 minutes sleep!
It was dark when i got to the boat to find all the crew waiting for me ready and rearing to go. With nav lights and engines on we slowly cruised out of the harbour while setting up the rest of our bits and pieces for the journey down to Redonda.
Just before we powered up onto a plane, Uncle Nick and His crew passed us with "Nicole". We were going to fish the same area to start off with.
There is something very exciting about going fast at sea at night on a boat. 20 knots feels like 40 and 30 like 60 with just nav lights and your intruments inturrupting the blackness. I love it unless it's wet and going downwind to Redonda we kept dry while guili baited up at the back of the boat. Using the red forehead light to iluminate his baits guili didn't distract me and I steered down the waves. The first shimmers of light began to appear behind us.
Before we could see them we could feel the ground swell and the chop. IT was going to be a bumpy morning once we started fishing and we knew that it wasn't going to be anything like the original "fishermans" forecast we had seen on WindGuru the week before.
We got down to the drop off at about 5:45 am and there was plenty of light even though the sun hadn't come up just to the south of Antigua. Lines went out with the crew performing like a nascar pit crew. Th Adventure Antigua boats do sight seeing and snorkeling tours around Antigua and Barbuda and are not designed for fishing. We jus fish on our days off and when the fish are biting. Fishing properly is difficult because we don't have outriggers and because we have seats and all that shaded cover in the way. To do it well you have to fish with guys who have done it many times before and who practice. Serge was the only crew who hadn't fished Xtreme before so he kinda helped when asked to start with. Before Nicole got to the edge we were fishing and ready for action. Almost immediately we started having problems with our Furuno depth recorder. It was very difficult to see the bottom contours on the screen with the bottom dissapearing faster than i knew the real edge down 300 feet below was doing. Something was wrong, but we would have to try and make do. We fished the area that in the Nevis tournament had produced some good action with no results. Nothing either when we went further south along the drop off looking for wahoo. Nicole was having the same lack of action. We fished and fished catching and releasing a few barries along the way. The depth recorder was driving me mad too and after a few crossed lines and a few near misses with the planer I was ready to call it a day. IT wasn't even 10 am though. Just then i had a scratchy call from Nicole who we had left back on the East side to say that he had found a spot with some action. I thought he said "come north" so we pulld in the lines and went under the lee of the massive rock (Redonda) and continued north without seeing Nicole. It was so incredibly choppy over there that we were now getting wet too. With no bites, no sign of Nicole, the depth recorder not working and the choppy conditions I was hating it. I stopped the boat and asked who of the crew was gonna go over the side and check the transom mounted transducer which is the thing that sends the echo down to the bottom giving our depth recorder it's functionality. As usual, it was Tony, the strongest guy in Antigua who was ready to jump over first. Remember the waters here are deep and totally inhospitable. We had seen a big bull shark at this same spot four years ago and anything near Redonda is just spooky. Tony went over and reported that the wire holding the ducer in place had worked free which is why it was only working intermittantly. The big problem now was that with the 6 foot waves we were getting tossed around in, Tony was having a super hard time trying to fix the ducer. In the end he jammed a bit of plastic in the hinge hoping to keep it in place. We started fishing again heading to the North west which is where Nicole had acutally found the fish. They were 6 miles from us and had just landed two wahoo and lost another. Within no time the recorder stopped working once more which quickly dampened the mood once again. The reason the recorder is so important is that wahoo hang out on the edge where the continental shelf drops off into the deep. They feed on fish that congrigate on upwelling currents that are typical on steep drop offs. If you are fishing too far on from the edge either in the deep or in the shallows you luck is usually not as good. I was having a very hard time keeping on the edge. The GPS maps are not accurate enough yet to use effectively for fishing. Tony told me to stop the boat and he tried again. Once again this didn't work and finally i decided to have a go. Behind the boat under the engine bracket the transducer just flopped up and down with the boat as the big waves tossed us all about. It was impossible to hold on with one hand even with your legs braced against the engines. I tried hard to wedge the bit of plastic in between the hinge of the ducer while getting slammed hard into the engine. Looking back i think it was pretty dangerous for Tony and I to have been back there in those waves under the engines. One thing's for sure though... it was pointless as we didn't manage to fix a thing. If i fished slowly the ducer worked enough that i could follow the edge, but this was pretty useless as wahoo likes to attack fast moving lures. Finally, I decided that we'd go in to the lee of Redonda where we could try again to fix the transducer in the calm waters. Under the steep cliffs of the strange rocky island, Guili used wire to try and fix it once again. The rest of the crew jumped over with snorkeling gear to have a look. The waters there were very clear and even from up above i could see the vibrant colour below. Within five minutes we were ready to go once again, but this time i decided to go straight to the Montserrat edge to fish. On the way there we could see three other boats under speed going in the same direction. The day was coming to and end and this was our last attempt to find some fish. We started fishing on the northern most side of the volcanic island and fished slowly east following Nicole up in the distance which had been one of the boats we had seen. From all reports, the fishing had been very slow with not much action having been found. This wasn't much concilation to us though and we all hoped things would change.
According to the rules we could fish until 330 pm when we had to be back in the Montserrat port of Little Bay. It was getting close to 3 pm and we still hadn't found anything. Nicole had given up and was going in over the shallows. In the distance we could see Soufriere Volcano venting with it's precarious dome high into the clouds. This is the most studied volcano on earth and also one of the most active. It's pyroclastic flows have been known to travel up to 200 miles per hour incinerating anything in it's path. The beautiful mountain looked quite peaceful and beautiful at this time though. With time ticking away i decided to throw in the towel on the wahoo fight with 40 minutes to go. I told the gang we would fish over the shallows in the hope of picking up a kingfish. They get quite big and love to feed in more shallow waters than wahoo. As soon as i told them we were looking for kingfish we had a very strong bite on our planer line. Steffy was on the rod and hooked up within no time and despite the incredibly slow day the crew all sprang into action clearing lines and preparing to catch this fish. It faught like a wahoo with jerks of raw power. As it got within 30 feet we could see it was a wahoo indeed and when it saw the boat it took off with another blistering run. Steff faught it back and this time it came in deep. Wahoos shake their heads violently to try and get the hooks out and way down below with it's colourful bands showing I saw the hoo shake a classic hook shake and swim away free. The crew couldn't believe we had lost this fish, but i didn't have time for lamenting. "Lines out" i shouted. We had another 25 minutes. Using my GPS i ran right over the area where we had the stike and within no time we had another big strike. It got off almost immediately, so we kept fishing. A few minutes later we had another one on. This time steffy brought it to the boat and the fish got close enough for me to gaff it. Finally we had a nice fish on board and it was time to go in. We powered up and winthin no time we were in Little Bay and ready to clear in with customs and immigration. After quickly clearing in we went on to the fishing party to have some of the famous "goat water" that Montserrat is known for. Goat water is a delicious goat soup and went down well while prizes were given out. We missed the women's prize by a few pounds this time. The winning boat only had 5 fish so it had been a very bad day for fishing. We had some drinks and an early dinner and decided it was time to go back home. Jolly Harbour was just under 30 miles away and the sun was setting. Nicole had left thirty minutes before and we contacted them just before leaving to say we'd be on our way. The sun was setting as we came out from underneath the volcanic cliffs and entered the Atlantic. Although it was fairly choppy we were going right into the wind and no spray came into the boat. We were able to maintain a good 20 knots most of the way until we got closer and were able to go faster. Going quick at night is always a thrilling adventure and by the time we got back to the Jolly Harbour we were all pretty tired. It took us just under an hour, but we had left port a long 14 hours before. We have one more tournament to go this year which happens saturday November 15th in Jolly Harbour. There are more fish biting now which is great but the forecast says it will be pretty rough. Been waking up pretty early the last few mornings with a little jet lag from my UK trip and did this vid of our Montserrat tournament adventure:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More on Carriacou Sloops

While our first Carriacou sloop is almost ready for day charter and tours, we are also proud that our second boat is on its way. The main skeleton of the vessel has been set up and I will be going down to check up on her early in November. As you will know if you have been following my blogs this year, Alexis Andrews has given me plenty of help on our traditional wooden boat projects. Here is a video slide show he did for his book on Carriacou Sloops. Enjoy!

Friday, October 24, 2008

some sailing photos from yesterday


Guili and I took Xtreme out to take some photos of our Carriacou sloop Ocean Nomad.

We will be doing day charters and day sailing tours next month with her and needed a few more pics. You can see the "ocean nomad" slide show here.
The plan was to do a little deep sea fishing afterwards too, but the photo session was more successful.
After the photos we went out and ended up with only a cuda and a tuna. We lost a few other bites, but fishing wasn't good. The good news is i now know where NOT to go in tomorrow's fishing tournament put on my the good people of Montserrat. Will have a report when i get back.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Why all the fuss about Stanford 20 20 20?

SIR Allen Stanford moved with his small banking business to Antigua after it is alleged that he was asked to leave Montserrat some time back in 1990. Read more here. Between 1990 and today his business has had huge growth on Antigua and many say internationally. There are many both here in Antigua and abroad that have suggested that he and his business have operated in ways that have lifted eyebrows. Bloomberg news wrote a pretty hard article on him. Have a look here.
Nowhere has had more discussion about his business, political, ethical and environmental policies than here in Antigua. Half the people love him and half the people want him gone. There isn't a more visible "love - hate" relationship than you will find here with the people of Antigua and Allen Stanford. Well those last two statements are not totally correct actually because things have changed recently. They would have been prior to The Stanford 20 20. What the hell is the Stanford 2020? The best explanation is found on a website that was made for a small town in Colorado. Ft. Collins was where he made his game visible at every corner in an effort to teach some Americans about the second biggest sport on the planet. If you would like to learn about cricket and want to learn about the 2020 form of the sport go to this website, wait a minute, and then click on the "cricket 101" tab. The Stanford machine is a marketing powerhouse and they do an amazing job at whatever they do. Stanford 20 20 is a series of shortened cricket matches put on by Mr. Stanford here in Antigua where teams from across the Caribbean come to compete for huge sums of cash. It's a very fast paced game that fans can enjoy after work while spending very little money to enjoy the match within his Stanford Cricket Grounds.
As I said, Cricket is the second biggest sport on the planet and for some reason there has never been that much money in cricket with football, basketball, American football, baseball, automobile racing and others seeming to have more money in their professional leagues. Stanford and others have recently decided to change this.
Of course there are many reasons that Stanford has decided to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on cricket and I don't think anyone knows what the main one is. If I had to guess, it would be to make sure he is untouchable in the Caribbean. I know that sounds crazy but people all across the Caribbean love what he has done with Cricket and he has become very influential as a result throughout the region. Before 20 20 Allen Stanford could have been run off by a prime minister who felt slighted. I don't care who you are in Antigua now... there is no way you are going to move Stanford.
That being said, Mr. Stanford doesn’t always get a green light. The UPP and its leader Baldwin Spencer campaigned against Stanford and his plan to develop an environmentally delicate area off the North coast. They marched and picketed against it and even spoke about the particular area in their manifesto seen here... saying that they would make the area a park if they were voted into power. Check page 34 of their 2004 manifesto. Of course we know what happened when they did get into power. The words "green light" were actually used by the UPP to give Allen Stanford the permission to go ahead with his plans to develop an area they said they would set aside as park. I guess that's politics for you, but his influence is more powerful than any other person on the island. I wrote a little about Stanford's other off shore island development and warned about what could happen if he got his hands on Guiana Island on an old article here. This green light turned red last year after a political fopar by Stanford embarrassed the PM terribly. The PM and a few of the top brass then crucified Mr. Stanford in a very silly way thru the media and said that there was no way he'd get to do his multi billion dollar project in the North Sound. One of Mr. Stanford's employees told me that they would just have to wait until the next election and do it with the next party. Either way the cricket hysteria that the Stanford 20 20 has ignited will pave the way for what will be seen as an unshakeable power here in Antigua which will continue to spread it's tentacles across the Caribbean and internationally. There have been numerous articles about his spreading influence recently.
Although it sounds like I am being a bit rough on Mr. Stanford by airing all of this, I don't think that the motives for his huge investment in cricket whatever they may be outweigh the benefits for Cricket and our islands. The media coverage has been fantastic. Cricket is the only thing that seems to bind Caribbean nations, and since I was a little child its molecular bond throughout the region has weakened with basketball and other things taking away from the game. Stanford has energized old cricketing fanatics and has made fanatics out of kids and others who never knew anything about the sport. There is a unique brand of pride that a Stanford 2020 fan radiates that I can't describe, but know that it's pretty cool. It's given people something to get excited about. Up until now the games have been very affordable for Antiguan families with oftentimes no cover charge at all to get in. This Stanford 20 20 for $20 million seems to be catering to the English and the international cricketing community more than to the locals which is expected I guess, but I think some may feel a little left out. I am not sure about that though. Tickets didn't go on sale until the last minute and are way way way more expensive than people expected they would be. We will find out soon enough. To find out more about the Stanford Super Series which starts this weekend here in Antigua check the official website here. Whatever happens I am sure that the pride in West Indian cricket will return to the sport and when all is said and done... the sport will owe plenty to Mr. Stanford.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

cool little video of sailing to Cades Reef

A few blog entries ago I gave an update on our Carriacou Sloop, the Ocean Nomad. You can see that particular blog here.
Anyway, apart from the some of images that i showed of the sloop at Cades Reef, we also took some video of that day. My girlfriend put them together in a cool little movie. Hope you enjoy:
Remember for more info on day sailing here in Antigua you can go to our site or and you can also do searches within this blog for more on Carriacou Sloops and sailing.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Back to normal after Omar

For most of the island it's business as usual on Antigua after we had all that rain from one of Hurricane Omar's Feeder bands. I still can get over how much rain we had in such a short time. Anyway, like i said in yesterday's blog, there were several areas on the island that were flooded. We didn't have hurricane force winds so the wind damage wasn't an issue. We went boating on Adventure Antigua's Xtreme yesterday between Hawksbill Hotel and Carlisle Bay and took a little video to show you how nice it is once again. There was a few beaches that had bad erosion and some that ended up with more sand. The worst thing i saw was the huge amount of sea weed on Jolly Harbour Beach. Yuk! This seaweed acts as a natural buffer in storms and is very important to minimise the damage done by waves. I think it's time to clean it up now. I just hope they don't scoop up too much sand with it as resorts usually do when cleaning up their beaches. We didn't go into the North Sound and there are reports of some waste oil that has been washed into the sea from the Crabs Industrial area possibly from Antigua Public Utilities Authority, Antigua Power Company, or from the new Waste Oil refining plant.
Here is the quick and dirty video. TURN OFF THE VOLUME (i forgot to):

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hurricane Omar and Antigua

To start off with Antigua didn't get badly damaged by Hurricane Omar. There were isolated areas that had extreme flooding and although there were not fatalities, there were damaged homes and property in these flooded areas. After securing Xtreme on the boat lift in a way that the boat would not sway in the winds, we secured the Arawak Odyssey on the dock with a huge variety of extra lines and fenders. We also used a huge anchor to make sure the strain wasn't only on the dock lines. The Ocean Nomad had similar lines and fenders holding her to the dock as well. I guess because the center of hurricane Omar passed over 150 miles to our north north west at it's closest we didn't hurricane winds in Antigua or Barbuda. I watched Ocean Nomad below my window in Jolly Harbour and a few of the gusts hitting her starboard side were strong enough against her mast to push her over 40 degrees momentarily. Jolly Harbour is such a great place for boats in storm conditions and we never saw any big chop or waves which was fantastic. The sea level did come up about 14 inches i think above where high tide normally reaches and i had to adjust one of the fenders in the middle of the worst.
I haven't spoken to anyone who has ever experience lightning like we saw during the few hours that Omar's Feeder Bands passed over us. From the look of the radar during the worst part of the storm Antigua and Barbuda seemed to be experiencing the worst of the thunderstorms and rain. Look here at this photo showing rain on the radar moving from south to north as the storm spun past us.

Antigua was right in the middle of the band for most of the night and the lightning was constant for about 3 hours. In the image above Antigua is covered by very heavy rain in the top row of boxes right in the middle column. That image was taken at 9:25 GMT or at 4:25 local time. This one was 20 minutes later:

And the image below was taken shortly afterwards showing hurricane Omar having already passed from the Caribbean Sea into the Atlantic with its center over 150 miles from Antigua, but the feeder band covering us. Imagine constant flashing with sometimes 4 or 5 flashes in a second non stop! It was sooo strange and anyone you speak to will talk about that part of Omar as being most unusual. I can still see the flashing. Wow!!! If you saw it in a movie you would say that it was total BS, but let me tell you it was real. In the middle of the worst of it I got a call from my brother telling me that his girlfriend was about to give birth to their first child. What timing!
Anyway, we drove my big truck from the North Finger of Jolly Harbour to the South before dawn after the main winds and rain had started to chill out a bit and all seemed ok. We came home in time for a second big rain and set of squalls. Just after 6:30, i went back over to check on the Adventure Antigua powerboats. The waters were starting to flow into the area from all the hills nearby and at the fuel dock area the waters were rushing incredibly hard. Only 4x4 vehicles could pass at that point and I carefully pushed the ford thru after taking some of the video you will have seen on the blog before this one.

My boats were ok so it was time to come back home. My girlfriend called me saying the waters were rising from the drainage canal and was now covering the road outside. The fuel dock area was worse and Greg from the Barbuda Ferry was at his boat asking me for help. I saw Glen from Creole Cruises who had jogged from Johnsons Point miles and miles away to come and see if his boat was ok. We both helped Greg move his ferry out of the way from all that rushing water. I called John Cox who owns the power catamaran right next to the ferry to tell him that he needed to get down here ASAP. His boat was right in the flow or water and all it would take was a boulder or big tree branch in that torrent to sink his boat. We couldn't get close to it. He was so very lucky that the boat made it thru without harm. I don't know how. My old windsurfing buddy Normandy built the boat and passed away just before it was launched. I think he was looking over it on that morning.

Anyway, i had to get back home and made my way towards the North Finger which was now having very bad flooding at the 330 block of villas just on the Northern edge of the gold course. I couldn't pass at all. This photo taken by JC Dornellas show me in my truck after the waters had dropped about 6 inches. I still couldn't pass.

I decided to go back and get my boat since the winds had died down and use that to get home with Brian Dornellas and his son who were in the same position as i was. Both his wife and my girlfriend were on the North side cut off from the rest of us. We got to the boat lift and found out that the power had been cut off. With nowhere to go we were invited in by Dr. Sengupta and his family for b'fast. Wow, we were cold and wet and the warm hospitality was great. Thanks!

Finally at about 9 am we got word that the waters were dropping and that it may be possible for us to get through. We also heard that several of the Caribbean Helicopters had been washed into the North finger canal by the floods. This image taken by JC again shows an area just downstream from the helicopters where the drainage canal overflowed and erroded the land next to Harbour Island Bridge:Nobody expected the kind of rain we got in such a short time and despite being tied down properly for tropical storm conditions the helicopters were easily washed away when the huge torrent of flash flood water came through. Their other helicopters were better off and should be up and running within a few weeks i hear.

The isolated but bad flooding within Jolly Harbour as seen in this image wasn't the only place on the island where flooding took place. From the Antigua Sun paper: "The worst affected areas, according to Mullin, were the villages of Piggotts, Gray’s Farm and Bolans. NODS had to rescue some 34 people from their homes in Piggotts and a “significant number” from Bolans – in these areas, some by boat, and others had to flee to shelters."

According to the MET office report we had 6 inches of rain in about 6 hours which was the main reason for the flash flooding in traditional drainage areas.

I knew that there were no fatalities, but had heard that there was looting in St. Johns but reports say this was isolated to one store. Again a reort from the Antigua Sun.

After my girlfriend and I were able to get out of Jolly Harbour we drove down to the Adelin Clinic to see how my brother and his girlfriend were. She had been in labour since the middle of the storm and hadn't given birth yet. My sister Nell told me that they were going to have to do a C-section so I made a stop at the Epicurean at Woods first for snacks and drinks. Most of my family had been there since 5 am and it was now mid day. I got there just in time to meet Alexander Fuller Jr. who was the most recent hurricane baby in the Caribbean at just over 8lbs!

Considering what we had all been through that morning I think this boy was a very lucky child. We all were pretty lucky in Antigua that morning and with a full boat booked the next morning for an Xtreme Circumnav there was still more work to be done before sun down.

Antigua and Barbuda sustained very little damage from Hurricane Omar mainly because the main core of the storm missed the islands. It was a very strong feeder band full of powerful thunderstorms that did damage by pumping 6 inches of rain onto the island in under 6 hours. Thankfully the flooding was isolated to just a few unfortunate sites. Today is sunny once again and we are all finally drying out properly.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Omar gave us plenty more than expected.

Despite being over 150 miles from us Hurricane Omar gave us plenty more trouble than anyone expected. Will speak about it soon, but there was several areas around the island that experienced bad flooding. "prepare for the worst... hope for the best" is what they say and some had no idea what the worst would have been. Adventure Antigua made it thru without any problems and did a tour with 22 people the next morning. Some were no where near as lucky. More later. We ended up getting 6 inches of rain in a very short time causing the floods. Here is a vid showing some of it in a section of Jolly Harbour.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hurricane Omar

Once again it seems like Antigua and Barbuda will be missed by a hurricane. It hasn't been since 1999 that we have had a direct hit and this hurricane Omar looks like it will go 200 miles to our north. It's nice and calm with little or no swell at the moment. In Jolly Harbour it's been dry since the middle of the night when we had some thunderstorms pass through. Windguru is still saying we will have over 30 knots of wind early tomorrow morning which is good windsurfing weather. The problem is the rain which is forecast to bucket down tomorrow. A friend and i will be out there trying to windsurf somewhere where there are a few waves probably between Johnson's Point and Jolly Harbour if the wind and waves are to come from the south as forecast. I don't mind storms coming this close, but i am sure that there will be some problems for people who don't do any prep work for this storm. People should still get their boats properly secured and check bilge pumps and batteries. I imagine there will be some beach erosion over by OJ's as well. Such a shame he put in the "breakwater". With the eye about 200 miles to our North it will be close enough to keep us on our toes. Radar shows very little rain in the area at the moment, and after looking at all the maps i am starting to think that we may not get as much rain from this thing as forecast with the bulk going north of us.
Anyway, I am happy that Antigua probably will have no hurricane damage again this time. Fingers crossed for us and for those guys to our North who are not as lucky. Hope the lovely BVI is spared.

Monday, October 13, 2008

"do the walk of life"

This weekend a bunch of us piled into Adventure Antigua's Xtreme and powered down to St. Kitts for some lunch and a historical island tour all the way up to the magnificent Brimstone Hill. To me it is the most amazing British Naval Fort I have ever seen. Check the website. From Brimstone you can see Nevis, Statia, Saba, St. Martin, and St. Barts. The views are so lovely that you are torn between admiring the amazing naval achitecture, fantastic preservation, hitorical significance and the vistas.
Brimstone Hill was first started by the British who shared the island of St. Christopher with the French in the late 1600s. It was strange for both nations to be occupying a small island together and the relationship lasted longer than you would have imagined. The fortification took close to 100 years to be finished and in that time relations with the French soured on the little island. In the meantime both Euro inhabitants slaughtered the Carib indians there with one of the killing fields known as Bloddy Point. It was there that people say that the river ran red with Carib blood after the French and British teamed up to wipe out the Caribs. Of course there are none left on the island at all. All my crew enjoyed the fort, but by the time we had cleared in to St. Kitts (2 hours) and gotten fuel (the marina had none) we didn't have that much time to have lunch and spend plenty of time exploring. We would have liked to stay longer at Brimstone Hill, but we had to get on to Nevis to clear in with our "Boat Pass" (Caribbean bureaucracy at its best) and make the skippers meeting for the Fishing Tournament which was the main thing we were down there for.

There were 24 boats registered for the tournament which looked like it was going to be a stormy one. My dad decided not to come down from Antigua after half of his crew came down with flu round about the same time as the squalls covered Antigua. He called me to let me know. I had been following the weather and knew it was going to get nasty.

Anyway, at the skippers meeting I got talking with Danny Sweeney about old fishing tournaments and this one. For as long as i have been skipper and doing tournaments (some 19 years) I remember seeing Danny in his little boats. Danny is from Montserrat and up until this year I thought i knew him only from fishing. While we were talking someone came up and said to Danny "you know eli is a great windsurfer?". To my surprise Danny said he did know and began to tell a story about how in 1985 during the first race of the Windsurfing Antigua Week I zoomed past him waving back as i did so. The first race was from Jolly Beach to Montserrat and Danny said that at the start of the race it was windy and the equipment i was on was super fast. He reminded me (how the hell did he remember) that i was using a Windsurfer Rocket 99. Anyway, shortly after we got off Antigua on the 30 mile trip the wind died and Danny sailed passed me on his light wind equipment. He got talking about how he taught some of the guys from Dire Straights the year before and how they had eventually windsurfed to Redonda. Aparently Dire Straights were in Montserrat recording their amazing album "Brothers in Arms" at the famous at Air studios where many beautiful albums were created by various artists including The Police, Paul McCartney, Phill Collins, Elton John, and many more. He then spoke about how "Walk of Life" was actually written about him after a party that they all went to one night during the three months that Dire Straights were on Montserrat. Danny went everywhere with the Dire Straights and their crew. At the party one of the band member's wives (who danny didn't realize was a aerobics instructor) wanted to dance with him once the others had given up. Danny danced for hours with her as if in a dance challenge to see who dropped first. The others cheered on as the two of them kept on going to faster and faster to the music without slowing. Danny said sweat poured off of them. The next day Mark Knopfler told him he wrote a song about the night. I have to tell you that one of my first CDs was Dire Straights "Brothers in Arms" so i listened to his story with excitement imagining the happy group of guys and girls back in 1984 when montserrat was still the emerald isle. Whenever I hear music from that album I remember being back at the windsurf shack on Dutchmans Bay in late 80s windsurfing and thinking that it couldn't get any better. I had no idea until this weekend that there was more to windsurfing and "Brothers in Arms" than just me and the guys at the windsurfing shack enjoying the tunes back in 1985.

Danny said that if you listen carefully you will hear his name in the song a few times when Knopfler replaces "Johnny" with "Danny". I went to youtube and found that it's true:

Anyway, before Danny and I windsurfed against eachother back in 1985 he and a few of the dire straights actually windsurfed the 15 mile trip to Redonda too. While writing this blog i searched for the proper spelling of Danny Sweeney and look what i found: The Redonda Trip from 1985.
Life is so funny. This all means very little to most people reading this i know, but it makes me smile. If you have never listened to Brothers in Arms please find a copy and give it a go. I knew that i recognized the crickets and tree frogs that you hear in the album. Lovely piece of music.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Status report on our Classic Yacht

Some of the hard core enthusiasts of Carriacou Sloops get annoyed when I call them yachts, and I must apologize to them first. I can't help using the incorrect words sometimes and growing up here as a little kid in Antigua I have always heard vessels with sails being called yachts and just can't help it. As many of the regular readers of this blog know, I started working on getting Ocean Nomad finished and ready for charter back in February. Ocean Nomad is the latest of a special breed of Caribbean boats called Carriacou Sloops. They are fantastic vessels build with incredible passion, dedication and pride in an effort to carry on the local tradition of wooden boat building. The rich history associated with these boats dates back to the colonial period of West Indian history with much of the early design and tradition being started by Scottish shipwrights who were brought to the island of Carriacou by British land owners. If you have a Xmas Wish list put Carriacou Sloops by Alexis Andrews on it. The two volume book is an amazing collection of photography and stories and descriptions coving ten years of work done by Alexis on these beautiful boats. I have been interested in them for years and as many of you know, I commissioned one back in November. Since then I took over another boat that had been rotting on the beach, abandoned by the original builder. That boat had sat there baking in the sun and many who knew of her considered her a total loss. Thankfully the original builder had used very good timbers as well as excellent fastenings and after a hell of a lot of work we managed to get her afloat some time in April. We managed to rig her with beautiful North sails from Antigua Sails and got her up to Antigua (see photo above) just in time to race at the Antigua Classic YACHT regatta (seen in the next photo). We placed 2nd in the Traditional Class behind Alexis' vessel "Genesis". The first layer of deck hadn't even dried, so we were extremely happy to have sailed in the event. Since then we have been working non stop on getting her properly finished to be able to offer her for day sailing charters and any sailing excursions that come up. It has been a monumental task, but we are about finished. I have to say that I was totally unaware about the level of work needed to finish one of these boats and especially one that had been sitting for so long. Anyway, six months after we launched her for the first time seen here in this photo:

we are about ready to get our survey from the marine department here in Antigua. This shot of Stevie jumping shows the joy i guess. He was on the maiden voyage from Carriacou to Antigua when down below was just bare beams and timber with sand bags for ballast. At night we would hear crickets chirping below. She's come a long way. We should be doing day charters by the middle of November. Some updates have been made to the Adventure Antigua website which shows some photos as well as a little description. For a slide show of some of this project you can look at this link.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

"Fishing" tournament video

As you know from the blog a few days ago, we didn't catch much at the Francis Nunes Memorial Tournament, but did manage to get the Champion Female Angler prize with our 24 lb wahoo. This little video shows us leaving very early at sunrise, shows us stop for some dolphins (which were kinda far by the time i organized the camera), shows where we were headed on the GPS, shows us kinda give up and start drinking rum and scotch. The last shots were when i was taking Xtreme back to Jolly Harbour by myself at the end of the awards and Seafood Festival. A nice day on the water. We have another tournament this coming weekend in Nevis. I'm pretty excited about that too. Enjoy the video:

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Jolly Harbour Homeowners Association

There seems to be some confusion and disagreement about the actual number of properties in Jolly Harbour, but for sure the number is somewhere between 799 and 820. That's quite a big number of properties within a private community anywhere and for a small island like Antigua that is huge. I suppose that is why some of the leaders of the UPP ruling party met with homeowners recently to speak about tax as well as security concerns. It was an interesting meeting and you can hear more about that meeting at the JHHA website which I will speak about in a minute.
The Jolly Harbour Homeowners Association has been around for years and years but has only recently become a force to be reckoned with. I guess there are more members now and more problems to deal with. Since the estate of the original developer of Jolly Harbour sold it off for next to nothing there has been huge changes in the way the place has been managed from top to bottom. The vision seems to have changed with more emphasis being placed on milking the cow than on feeding it. That's the way i see it and that is just my personal opinion. Regardless of that there is no doubt that with many more people calling Jolly Harbour their home combined with new owners and new operational goals, there are seems to be more problems and more concerns about potential problems than ever before. With this in mind there is no doubt why the homeowners association has gained more members and with them more teeth. Two big concerns that keep coming up and are "security" and "the community charge" and both have been taken up by the board of the JHHA with CDAL the company that runs Jolly Harbour. It has been known for some time that because so many Jolly Harbour residents live abroad for most of the year that a proper online forum would be the best place for free and frank discussion. Two days ago I was asked to set up their forum. Today and tomorrow the website will be emailed to as many members as we can find. If you are a homeowner or a "friend" of Jolly Harbour go and have a look. Homeowners are invited to register and take part in the discussion which I am sure will become very active before too long.