Friday, February 27, 2009

Shocking news to Antiguans

Today history was made here in Antigua when parliament was recalled after being dissolved just weeks before a massive general election. They were recalled to debate the compulsory purchase (a.k.a. eminent domain) of R Allen Stanford's lands here in Antigua. The arguments for the purchase were presented and debated, and at the end of it all the "I's had it" and the act was passed. Some 250+ acres of land were taken away from him in order to protect investors claims against those assets and to protect over 800 jobs. I have spent the past two days trying to understand it all and think i have a better idea of why it was done. I spoke to both ALP and UPP lawyers on this. It seems like it may have been the best move to make at this point, and i can explain more about it later. The fact that our government had no legal right under our laws to put a lien or caution on his lands forced them to do the only other thing they could do to protect these assets and that was to compulsory purchase them.
Anyway, that was not the shocking news. What was shocking was the info that came out in the criminal complaint filed in Texas against Allen Stanford's right hand woman, Laura Pendergest-Holt. If you are Antiguan or have any interest in Stanford or his banks then you should read the complaint here. Apart from further providing evidence for this "8 billion dollar fraud" which is of interest to us all, it shows an email between Stanford top execs where they speak about a land purchase. The email shows that Stanford International Bank purchased Pelican Island (which we knew about) and Guiana Island Farms (!!!!) back in 2008. If this email is legit and these two top execs knew what they were talking about then this is the more shocking to many Antiguans than anything so far in the Stanford saga. Again IF this is all true then....this means that apart from the 250+ acres of land that our parliament was recalled to take away from Standford, he also owns about another 2000 acres here which nobody here seemed to know about. In parliament yesterday it was alleged that the Cort and Cort legal firm was on a US $25k retainer monthly from the Stanford group. Mr. Cort did not say this was untrue, and there seems to be quite a bit of talk locally about this connection. I find it very hard to believe this allegation because most retainers here locally are a fraction of that. What i do find strange though is this... There was a legal measure taken by our government against the owners of Guiana Island and the surrounding land preventing them from selling it pending the outcome of a court case where some US $200 million in unpaid taxes (undeveloped land tax) is at stake. I think this is public knowledge, and I would have imagined that if Stanford was going to buy the company owning the land that had this massive figure liened against it, he would have spoken to his lawyers or someone in our Gov. about the problems he would face. Weird that nobody on the island of Antigua knew about Stanford's purchase. I am sure that if the Government knew about this recent purchase then, when for the first time in history as the parliament was called back, they would have taken those 2000 acres too. All super weird.
What is also strange is that SIB has to give monthly and quarterly statements to Antiguan banking authorities here. According to the criminal complaint SIB listed those lands mentioned above as assets on these statements. How did our local off shore banking authorities miss this and fail to let the AG know if this is actually a fact. If i were the Prime Minister or even worse the Attorney General I would be asking some questions about now.

Whales being spotted daily here at the moment

It's that time of year again when humpback whales are passing through these islands with their young ones.
whale watch
JD and his full Xtreme charter last week saw a nice pod off Pillars of Hercules and yesterday I saw a mother and her calf breaching and tail slapping off Indian Creek.
one whale
As my regular blog followers know from my last whale blog, I am like most Antiguans very much against our government's stance on international whaling and I hope that someday we have leadership that stands up to the Japanese and says no to their blood money. Both the former ALP government and the current UPP government support Japanese whaling.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Poor Antigua and Barbuda

First, let me just thank the thousands of people who have viewed my blog entries over the past week. It's been a crazy time for LA (little Antigua) and I wish i could have spent more time keeping you up to date. Anyway, the good news is that the "run" on Bank of Antigua (owned by Allen Stanford) seemed to slow down before the weekend close, and with word that the ECCB is taking over control of the Bank starting today we can further be assured that some needed control will be gained out of this move. Stanford International Bank is another story though. The Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer says he will cooperate fully with the SEC on their probe into the Antiguan registered off shore bank. His attorney general didn't sound so optimistic echoing some of the issues mentioned in my last blog entry.
Found in this damning New York Times piece, AG Justin Simon, said "I’m sure various other offshore companies are going to worry exactly how far S.E.C. control will go.” YUP!
Anyway, while all of this tangled web of organized chaos continues there can be no doubt that people all over the world will be touched in some way. There are depositors at SIB from over 100 countries according to Allen Stanford who boasted about that sort of thing in the past, and there are about as many countries involved with off shore banking who are as worried with the new SEC as the depositors at SIB. According to Melford Nicholas (leader of the OND political party here in Antigua) writing about this story on my facebook page, "I think we are at Act 1 Scene 1".

In related news, my company got a private charter from a journalist who wanted to do a private version of the Eco Tour. As we usually do on the Eco Tour, i took them into the North Sound to teach them about the history (ancient and modern) as well as the ecology of the area. Of course, like all of our Eco Tour guests this week, he was extremely interested in what we had to say Allen Stanford's interests in the area and especially about Maiden Island and Guiana Islands. While we were up there he asked me about the big white building to our south. I told him that it was Mr. Stanford's boat house and his new EC $67 million dollar (US $26 mil) boat yard which is just being finished up. As it was a private charter I went where he asked me to go and over we went. The marina is like all of Mr. Stanfords buildings.... top notch. Unlike most of his colonial type architecture here on the island this marina was an ultra modern (James Bond) sort of thing, and I assume that his huge boat was inside the NASA style hanger or boathouse.
The last bit of dredging was taking place and there was a huge cloud of dredged up silt in front of us. I didn't get too close, but what caught my eye was something that had nothing to do with Stanford. Crabs Peninsular is a key commercial port in Antigua with the Antigua Brewery, the desalination plant, Antigua Power Company, Stanfords Marina, a cement loading and off loading facility and other commercial type operations. What caught my eye was a huge sand barge filled to the brim with well over 200 truck loads of pure white Barbuda sand. I know they had over 200 truck loads because for the past 15 years Barbuda sand has been coming from Barbuda to the condemned High Point jetty where i grew up. This jetty was built by the US government in the 1930s i think. Anyway sometime in the mid 1990s sand from Barbuda started arriving there. Up until that point Barbuda sand has been shipped all over the Caribbean and was always imported into Antigua at other commercial ports. Back in the 1990s the opposition accused many within the ALP ruling party of profiting from the mining of sand calling it just another corrupt way for the ALP leaders to get rich. The Lord Nelson Beach Hotel which was owned by my grandparents tried to get the new landing place for sand into Antigua moved complaining that it was damaging their business. Sand trucks raced up and down past the hotel after collecting sand from the massive barges and guests checked out time after time complaining about the noise and dust. Petitions from guests and residents nearby was ignored. With the UPP opposition complaining about corruption and the residents and hotel complaining about noise, dust, and speeding heavy machinery nothing changed. All this time poor little Barbuda was getting scraped clean of it's land. There can be no place on our nation where "Land is sold off" in a more barbaric way than in Barbuda.

Their water table was destroyed and erosion of the beaches closest to the mining started. Local Barbudan environmentalist, John Mussington, confirmed what i thought i was seeing at Palmetto Point. According to John, the erosion on the lee side is different from the seasonal shift in the sandy shoreline, and the vegetation now falling into the sea was signs of something far more sinister. Scientists and other experts testified in court cases introduced by the Barbuda Council during the 80s telling judges that terrible damage was being done. Injunctions after injunctions were issued forcing the mining to stay within a specified boundary. Time and time again the injunctions were ignored and new boundaries were set. On once such occurrence Minister Humphreys was charged with contempt of court. That didn't stop the mining and it continued around the clock. I am told that what the mining interests would do was to change the company names each time an injunction was issued giving the new company permission to get right back to work. In their manifesto five years ago, the UPP said all sorts of nice things for the environment including turning the Guiana Island area into a park. We know from my blogs that they ended up giving Stanford the "green light". When the ALP was in power the UPP had fought against the corruption that they said was happening with Barbuda sand mining. All people concerned about environmental damage and corruption associated with Barbuda mining were hopeful that "What was wrong would be made right". How wrong we were. By the time the UPP took over leadership of Antigua's government, the Barbuda council had been running the Barbuda mining operation for about eight years. Even though the Council were the ones who originally complained about the corruption and negative environmental impact of the mining, they had gone against everything they stood for on the issue, and management of the sand mining had stayed the same. The council was now being lead by Trevor Walker who had aligned himself with the new UPP government in Antigua.
Something happened shortly after Mr. Walker got into power over in Barbuda with environmentalists like John Mussington and many others complaining once again about the sand mining operation, and it was temporarily stopped. I don't know the specifics, but our government stepped in and asked the good old Environment Division to step in. Dian Black Lane who at the time was chief officer within the division helped sort the conflict out by doing some sort of detailed study. According to the politicians, World Cup Cricket was coming to Antigua and a construction boom was taking place, increasing the need for sand used in concrete. They had to continue mining sand otherwise there would be big problems with hosting World Cup Cricket. Using GPS and all sorts of technical mapping equipment, the Environment Division suggested that 103 acres of land in Barbuda be put aside for sand mining, and after that area was mined then sand mining would stop forever in Barbuda. Confused about how much sand was going to be mined in the 103 acres of land which mostly sits a few feet above sea level, Mr. Mussington asked how much sand was actually needed for World Cup cricket and was told by the ministers in charge that it was approximately 800 tons. He then said "ok so about two or thee barge loads". According to John who i called today, he said he didn't get a confirmation on that calculation.
John Mussington says that depending on the barge being used you can have between 200, 400 and even sometimes 800 tons of sand being exported from Barbuda each time one of the many barges pulls out. Anyway, this decision was made back in may 2006, and the mining never stopped. In fact, I always felt that the frequency of barges arriving at High Point increased at that time. To tell you the truth it was the first time that sand started being off loaded through the night. I called my local representative one night and woke him out of his bed. I told the Hon. John Maginley that i was very sorry to wake him up, but i was unable to sleep with all the noise the trucks were making off loading sand. I told him that the house i was living in was covered in a find layer of sand dust. I was surprised at his reply "they still mining sand? I thought they stopped that." Mr. Maginley assured me he would do something about it. He told me later that he had spoken to Wilmouth Daniel about it and was assured that it had been a mistake and wouldn't happen again. Like the sand mining from Barbuda, the offloading of sand at night didn't stop at all. In fact in continued with sometimes several barges arriving at the same time at High Point Jetty. You could see how frenzied they rushed to get the sand loaded, and transported. Many people would call into the radio stations complaining about the speed of the sand trucks. Sand was spilled all over the roads in their rush to drop off sand and quickly return to collect more. Mr. Maginley got tired of me calling and texting his mobile phone and finally stopped replying. As reckless as the sand trucks here in Antigua, the ones in Barbuda were more so. A bus containing small children was hit by one of the trucks ending the lives of several of them from what i remember. (this link was sent to me by "adam" showing a black and white photo of the bus in Barbuda) Sand barges ran onto reefs here in Antigua and Barbuda in their rush to get to and forth, and one even ended up on a beach in Barbuda where it rests today in a pile of rotting metal. When i wrote to the Daily Observer paper about this barge owned by Council member Knackbill Nedd, I was later ridiculed saying that the barge would be moved easily. I wonder if looking at that rotting barge on the beach if Princess Dianna would still think the beach so beautiful?
According to the recommendations from the Environment division back in May of 2006, sand from Barbuda was only to be delivered to Antigua and to nowhere else. I work on boats and travel to islands like St. Martin and St. Barts. If you read my blogs then you know i spend considerable time at sea fishing too. I can say without a shadow of doubt that sand from Barbuda has gone down to St. Martin and passed Antigua heading south as well many times since 2006. This export of sand is not legal in any way shape or form. Many allege that other goods have arrived back in Barbuda from places other than Antigua. The very flimsy controls on the sand mining operation are laughable. One person is employed by the Barbuda council to count truck loads of sand. That is how they know how much sand leaves Barbuda and how much "levy" is due to the Barbuda council. A person doing this job makes between EC $300 and $400 (US $111 and $148) a week doing this job. The operation is 24 hours a day. We have more control here in Antigua at our garbage dump! Apart from the simple math you can do your own calculations. A ton of sand delivered to you is worth EC $90 (US $33) and there are 20 tons of sand in an average sand truck here in Antigua. From this photo I took late last week at Crabs Peninsular, you can imagine how much sand is packed on. I imagine you could make a pretty nice beach with this sand alone, but as i said earlier sand isn't used for making beaches here in Antigua although many other areas around the Caribbean have used Barbuda sand to help their beaches. The sand here is used primarily for construction just like the sand that has been dug up from Pinchin Beach, Farley Bay, McKinnons Swamp, Darkwood Swamp and recenlty Ffryes (a.k.a Fry's). While many have gotten rich the beaches and their fragile and related ecosystems have suffered. Biodiversity in Barbuda has been hit as well and little is known about how badly the island's ecology is being effected. No one involved in any of the mentioned atrocities have ever been punished in any way. According to several people i have spoken with close to the Barbuda sand mining operation, it is alleged that sand from Barbuda is often traded instead of being sold. These people say that persons or companies in Antigua sometimes do business in Barbuda for the Barbuda Council in exchange for sand or barge loads of sand.
According to John Mussington, the 103 acres of land offered that were set aside in the recommendations from the Ministry of Environment has long ago been mined. He says that according to his GPS calculations on the ground, the borders of that 103 acres of land were long ago passed and dug up. John agrees with me that since 2006 there has been a dramatic increase in mining in Barbuda. The more things change in Antigua and Barbuda the more they seem to stay the same. I know that Mr. Maginley will be reading my blog later today so I will ask him once again to consider something:
John, if you say you have no control at all over what happens with the sand mining operation over in Barbuda where between 10 and 15 people are employed then so be it, but don't tell me that there is no other place for sand to come into our country. Notice i didn't mention anything about the even larger barges of gravel that since 2006 have been arriving at High Point almost as regularly as the sand. My photos show sand arriving at the Crabs industrial port. Please tell the people you are asking to vote for you that you will work harder to get all the sand and gravel barges to go there. The restaurants, hotels and residents who exist right next to the condemned high point jetty and along the path of the speeding trucks want you to do something about that at least if nothing about sand mining.
If anyone thinks that something i have written here is untrue or if you feel you would like to add more that i missed please email me at elifuller @ hotmail . com and let me know. You are all free to comment here as well.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

More on the Stanford saga here in Antigua and around the Caribbean.

First i would just like anyone interested in the Stanford saga to read something which many of us have been saying for some time. In fact much of the article seems like it was pulled from my blog :) but the rest of it is just stuff we have been saying here on the island for some time. It's a New York Times piece.

A more more enlightening and interesting article reprinted in the Trinidad Express from the Jamaica Observer is as follows. Ron Saunders used to be our island's representative in the UK.
This article came out long before the Stanford Meltdown here in Antigua, and while today the Levin - Coleman - Obama Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act is being emailed all around the Caribbean it does make the title of the article a bit more poignant. If you would like to see a copy of the act i can email it to you. IT is a clear attack on one of the last things that is holding the weak economies of the Caribbean afloat. Bananas, sugar, off shore gaming, and now banking have all come under attack from foreign policy. This is all very scary for the future of the Eastern Caribbean. (just a side note Allen Stanford never permitted any Internet gaming money to enter his banks and he was very strict about this).

Is the Caribbean financial services sector asleep?

Ronald sanders

Tuesday, February 10th 2009

THE threat to the financial services sector of the Caribbean is growing every day and is becoming more evident in reports by media who have swallowed hook, line and sinker that so-called "tax havens" are helping US, European and Japanese nationals, both persons and companies, to evade taxation in their home countries.There is no hard evidence to support this allegation about Caribbean jurisdictions. Yet it persists from governments of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
A recent BBC report claims that the British government "is broke-a record £44b in the red-and yet one estimate is that the taxman loses £18.5b a year thanks to tax haven abuse''.
The reports specifically identify British protectorates which are described in derogatory terms.
Dramatically, the report also states that "one man has targeted tax haven abuse in the Caymans-and his name is Barack Obama. So change for the world's tax havens seems on the way-whether the leaders of the micro-states like it or not''.
When the OECD first raised its so-called "Harmful Tax Competition Initiative'' aimed at closing down the financial services sector of 41 small jurisdictions around the world which were giving serious competition to the financial institutions of the OECD countries, Caribbean countries were slow to move on the issue.
It was not until it was raised by Antigua and Barbuda at the 21st meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community at Canouan in St Vincent and the Grenadines, in July 2000, that Caricom countries began to take the issue seriously.
A committee was established headed by then Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur and present Barbados Chief Justice, Sir David Simmons, and of which I was a part, to engage the OECD in a serious dialogue on this issue. Eventually, the OECD dropped a blacklist of countries that they had produced but only after coercing almost all of the jurisdictions to adopt many of the rules that the OECD had set unilaterally. A so-called "Global Tax Forum'' was also established to set rules for a level playing field for all jurisdictions. But, a report two years ago showed that the main culprits ignoring these rules are the big players in the OECD countries themselves. Poor regulation and supervision in the US and UK, which contributed to the present financial crisis in both countries, is ample evidence of that fact.
President Obama, when he was the senator from Illinois, joined two other senators in introducing the "Stop Tax Havens Abuse Act'' in the US Congress. Fortunately, the Act never became law. But it names 34 jurisdictions as "secrecy'' jurisdictions and among them are all the British Overseas Territories in the Caribbean, all the members of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, The Bahamas and Barbados.
The fact that the Bill did not become law does not mean it has been dropped from the Obama administration's agenda. Every indication is that the legislation will be enacted this year, and while the blacklist will be removed, it will be replaced by broad empowerment of the US Treasury Secretary to impose sanctions. The belief persists that "the total loss to the US Treasury from offshore tax evasion alone approaches US$100 billion per year, including US$40 to US$70 billion from individuals and another US$30 billion from corporations engaging in offshore tax evasion''.
Caribbean jurisdictions are regularly examined by the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force and the International Monetary Fund to ensure that they are compliant with the requirements set by the OECD. Many, if not all of them, have Tax Information Exchange Agreements with the US. Banks are required by law, and on pain of the toughest penalties, to make suspicious activity reports and to follow "know your customer'' procedures. Persons trying either to open a second account with a bank they have dealt with for years or transfer money anywhere are well aware of the scrutiny to which they are subjected, the paper they have to sign and the identification they have to provide.
Now, some of the OECD jurisdictions are luring customers away from Caribbean countries on the basis that they will give them better tax breaks and, of course, they are "safe'' jurisdictions. One of the latest companies to shift is the giant engineering and construction company Foster Wheeler Ltd, which is moving its place of incorporation to Switzerland from Bermuda for "tax and other reasons''.
So far there has been no public indication that Caribbean governments are ready to jointly engage the OECD and the US government in particular on these new threats to their financial services sector. Yet they are all at risk, including Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago-all of whom have passed legislation to offer international financial services.
Similarly, the Caribbean private sector which provides financial services and are in the best position to marshal the arguments and evidence to refute the charges of OECD governments are saying nothing.
When the crunch comes, therefore, those in the private sector, who seem to be sleeping instead of lobbying their governments for joint action should wake up and start pressing the issue fast. The wolf is already at the door.
Sir Ronald Sanders is a business consultant and former Caribbean diplomat.
- Courtesy Jamaica Observer

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

R. Allen Stanford in Antigua...hindsight is 20 20

north sound
I run the eco tour in Antigua. I started doing the tour on a little open boat back in late 1999 when the North Sound of Antigua seen above had a different look. Click here for a large view. Our tour was a eco-historical tour of the area where we spoke about the interesting ecology and history (both ancient and modern). Every day i would mention Mr. Stanford in my talks, and over the years i found it hard not to speak too much. He was changing the way i felt about Antigua and especially about the North Sound, and in the end I hard a hard time accepting the changes. Alan Stanford who had purchased the little Antiguan bank (Bank of Antigua) nearly twenty years earlier was just starting to make big money with his off shore business on the island back in 99, but hadn't made huge expansions in the area at that time. Within five years much changed with huge amounts of construction around the airport and even into the almost virgin North Sound with it's 22 little islands and rocks. By 2003 he was well on his way to having a huge health club for the elite of Antigua and his special clients, he had two airlines as well as a fleet of private jets. He owned most of the land around the airport including the main parking lot and a huge restaurant called the Sticky Wicket. That restaurant was part of the Stanford Cricket Grounds which was probably the most expensive cricket ground in the world. Here you can see happy fans at the final match of the first Stanford 20 20:
picture 328
He owned the largest newspaper on the island which essentially was his own little PR machine. He owned a large private jet hanger and landing facility which helped him bring in his new mega clients. He owned a massive private yacht, and he was on his way to building marina for his yacht. This marina, "Barnacle Point", would also serve the purpose of getting people to and from his private island which he just purchased. Maiden Island which sits directly in front of the airport was one that I had been using since i started my tour as a shelling and bird watching spot. More to come on that in a while. He had also purchased one of the largest and most beautiful houses on the exclusive Jumby Bay (then tore it down). He purchased another there for one of his executives. He had a printing company which did all sorts of stuff including printing Adventure Antigua brochures! He had a development company which constructed everything he built at the time and had a huge plant nursery. He was by far the largest employer on the island next to the Government. Plans for hotels mega yacht marinas, golf courses marine research centers and all sorts of stuff were in the pipelines. There were many other businesses that i am forgetting but for many of us it all seemed to be too much too soon. When he arrived in Antigua he flew commercial like the rest of us and in no time he had a fleet of jets and started calling himself a billionaire. Ads in Spanish promoting his off shore bank appeared in US magazines and his banking empire grew to several different areas in South America including Panama, Colombia and Venezuela. He gave massive loans to the Government to fund projects like the new hospital for example. IT was alleged that he helped individual local politicians too. Apart from helping the local guys, Mr. Stanford entertained many US congressmen (from both parties) in Antigua at hotels like Curtain Bluff and Jumby Bay and even on mega yachts which spend most winters here on island. By 2005 he stepped up his US lobby campaign by purchasing a lobby research branch of Charles Schwab called the Washington Research Group to help protect his off shore business. "In 2008 he spent US$2.8 million through the lobbying firm Ben Barnes Group, according to records accessed through the Centre for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign contributions and lobbying." That quote was from this site. His empire was massive and world wide with little Antigua being his main base of operations. He was knighted here and became Sir Allen......!

I didn't bank with Stanford and encouraged my immediate family not to either, so the banking situation was never a worry for me directly. What was always a worry was that this day when the US government finally (for whatever reason) decided to clamp down on his operation would come. As i am sure you have seen, Stanford and a few of his partners have been charged by the SEC with a massive 8 billion dollar fraud based on the allegation that he sold high yielding CD's that provide unsubstantiated returns. Whatever that all means i am not sure, but there has since been a run on his local bank and his off shore banks here, in the US, in Panama, in Colombia, and in Venezuela. For long I worried that the massive empire he grew here in Antigua would come crumbling down, and they have never been as shaky as they are today. Thankfully many of the local Stanford businesses mentioned above have closed down over the past few years and the ripple effect of what is happening now may not be as drastic had he been in control of it all now. What would have been worse would have been if he had been half way through tearing up the North Sound as were his plans. The Antigua general election is gonna be on March 12th and the opposition had been banking on Allen Stanford's money for their campaign as well as his massive $700+ million dollar development of the North Sound at Guiana Island. The ALP website is still talking about bringing the much anticipated Stanford projects online stimulating jobs and growth. Stanford's "I believe" campaign to develop the area came to a stop after a fight with the current PM last year. Since then he's been fairly quiet on that concept. Of course he was anything but quiet with his international Cricket 20 20 competitions. In fact he got plenty of bad press in the UK. I wrote about that in this blog here. Anyway, his development of Maiden Island stopped my regular Eco Tour stops there and only some of my first guests will remember us stopping every day there. I got tired of his personal security guards telling me to get off the island, and it made the tour look bad too. As mentioned in the end we stopped going there.
In fact this image is probably the last one of an official tour stop there some time back in 2003. Maiden was taken over by the Stanford Development Company around that time and it quickly became a construction project. He manipulated many by telling them he was helping repair damaged coral reefs while in reality he was dredging up healthy mangroves and delicate flats systems covered in coral species that live in turtle grass systems. I spoke quite a bit about that and included photos in an article i wrote back then. The papers here were not that interested in talking about that side of things back then. Here is the article i wrote that was only published in the end on my blog. These mangroves seen in this pic that i took before he took over maiden island lasted about a week and then were pushed down to make way for the landing craft carrying heavy machinery.
A place that i had visited all my life enjoying the incredible and complex ecosystems that it supported was very quickly turned into a construction project, and we were asked not to get off our boats whenever we got too close. My Eco Tour just picked a different spot to stop and the tour went on as normal, but this time with a little more info about Stanford and his dealings. I can't imagine anyone back then investing money into his banks after listening to my "rant" as one tourist described it on an internet forum. I may have talked too much back then, but i am sure that some people may have ended up saving money as a result. There are hundreds of stories that will surface about his dealings here locally and internationally and i am sure there are as many positive stories as their are negative ones. We here in Antigua were fortunate that he did many good things for our country and like many i was never really sure if having him here doing all that he did was better for the country or worse. There were many positive things created by him and I'm sure that although the immideate future of all his assets are up in the air, his footprint here will be around for some time. We don't even know where he is at this time, so there will be much more to this story. At the moment there is a run still going on at his local bank and i think all the off shore accounts are frozen. I spent a few hours at the Airport branch of the Bank of Antigua today waiting to pick up a friend who was closing his account there. These images show people who had been waiting for hours and hours. My friend got there long before they opened at 8 am and didn't get his money until 1 PM. He was only able to get a fraction of his money in cash and the rest in the form of a draft. Businesses in Antigua have started telling customers that they will not accept Bank of Antigua checks. The implications are huge and i will try to keep you up to date with more. For now you can also goto Forget trying to get info from Stanford's Paper. They had nothing about it today!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dolphins in Antigua and Barbuda

Both Cruise Ship passengers and Hotel guests often want to know if they will see dolphins on one of our cruises. Many people ask if you can swim with dolphins in Antigua too. What i tell them is that seeing dolphins is very likely while on a cruise or while saying in Antigua. We have several types of dolphins cruising off Antigua, but thankfully we don't have any dolphin parks here anymore. You can read why i don't like Dolphin parks here or here. Anyway, swimming with dolphins happens several times a year on our tours and one group of guests who private chartered out of Jumby Bay have jumped in with dolphins on two different charters with us which i can tell you is very very rare. The chances of seeing them are way higher than being able to swim with them and the chances of doing it twice over two tours that you would take with us are extremely low.
Dolphins don't usually like to stick around for that long unless you are out in the deep Atlantic and are moving fairly quickly. When you stop they usually just swim off fairly quickly just like the humpback whales usually do here. There are those rare occasions when for whatever reason they are just super curious and want to check you out. What i find most amazing when this happens is how carefully they look at you. You see their heads move up and down or side to side as they examine your body and face. I remember being surprised the first time i was in the water with them how much their heads could move. You don't see a "neck" but they sure have them. In deeper waters where sometimes there are big schools of bait fish you can come across hundreds of dolphins at a time. I have seen massive pods of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins (read more) while out fishing. This old vid my brother took shows a calm day of fishing interrupted by a group of about 20 (it was about 5 miles from land and we were in about 1200 feet of water. I didn't feel like swimming far from the boat for good reasons which materialized after a while):

This little movie i made last night shows a bunch of still images I have taken over the past two years as well as some video I took while out fishing on a day off with JD and Tony:

Hope you enjoyed today's dolphin blog. Made me feel like going boating. This weekend looks good. It's been rough for the past two days. Yesterday was the first day in three months that we had to cancel a tour because of weather. Two cruise ships didn't even bother to come into port which is something i had never heard of before.

Monday, February 09, 2009

regular people for change in antigua

There is a meeting tomorrow night from 7 pm at the St. Anthony's school on the Blue Waters Main Road just down from North Shore corner. The purpose of the meeting will be to come up with ideas that we as individuals or as a group can turn into action that will help the youth of the nation. I strongly feel that many of our island's problems can be traced back to the misguided youth. Anyway there are many programs here in Antigua that were set up to help the youth. I heard over the weekend about the a group that was set up in Clair Hall. I think it was called HOPE or something like that. Maybe someone knows more about that. The Antigua Yacht Club and the Jolly Harbour Yacht Club both have youth sailing programs which aim to teach kids how to sail and eventually how to race. Anyway, you get the idea. Youth Skills (the site) is a government program which was set up to help kids learn skills like carpentry, masonry and other similar things. If you know of other programs here in Antigua please come to the meeting and share them. If you cant make the meeting but know of some programs here in Antigua let me know here. If you know of other good programs that exist outside of the country that would work well here to give the youth some direction please come to the meeting or speak about them here. Last night on CNN i was watching something about Hank Aaron's foundation. I tried to find out more online but didn't get a great site. This one was connected in some way and looks great. It should be a good place to search for ideas. That page was the mission statement but you can navigate around the site. Anyway, come to the meeting or let us know about existing programs that we as regular people here in Antigua can join and help.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Cutting lead again

Yesterday we cut nearly 1800 lbs of lead and loaded it into the back of my truck.
Actually my good friend Martin Dudley who has a tree trimming business here cut the lead this time with one of his chainsaws. IMG_8118sm

He also has purchased and refurbished a Carriacou Sloop down in the Grenadines. His will be here in time for the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta this year.
Anyway, if you follow this blog regularly then you will have seen this video of our second boat being built which was shot back in the summer.

It's still slowly being built and we are getting the lead ballast ready for her at the moment. We will have to sail the lead down to Carriacou soon. Off to cut and collect some more lead now from the 23 ton keel we have been salvaging.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

A beautiful Beach stop on the Xtreme Round Antigua Tour

For more info on this beautiful beach in Antigua go check our website and click on the Xtreme Tour. With a very fast boat you spend less time getting to a spot and more time enjoying it. There are five stops on this tour with Rendezvous Bay seen here being the last one and the best tour beach stop on Antigua by far.

Monday, February 02, 2009

RCL Serenade Cruise: Southern Caribbean video

Today i got an email from a friend who saw a youtube video done by some recent Eco Tour guests of ours. They were on a Royal Caribbean Line cruise from Puerto Rico through the Caribbean with stops in St. Thomas. St. Marteen (St. Martin), Antigua, St. Lucia and Barbados. The three part video done by "Bill" is like a proper travel show of a Caribbean cruise with great info on each island. I suggest you look at all of the videos if you are taking a cruise to these islands. The ship he was on was the Serenade of the Seas which is a lovely one and we get many passengers on our tours from that ship who book through our website.
Anyway, if you are only interested in the Antigua part go two thirds towards the end of Part one and then watch the first third of Part two. Either way it's something that will help you on your cruise to the Caribbean. Thanks Bill!

Here is part one:

and here is part two:

and part three: