Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ghouls and Goblins on Halloween

Hi there, the skeletons are out to do damage today so look out. Lots of nasties! For example, read this message board thread and then come back to this blog to read what i have to say about it. Here is the link to the thread: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g147242-i225-k853230-Adventure_Antigua_The_Blog-Antigua_Antigua_and_Barbuda.html

One of the very nice people who enjoyed my tour and who has made comments on my blog decided to post about it on trip advisor. The funny thing is that i have not asked anyone to post my blog link anywhere but people have done it on several message boards.

Ahhh the words "blog and message boards or forums" together....... for the benefit of Terry and others who seem to have a big sleepless night problem with me writing a blog, i will just enlighten them on the definition of a blog and explain the difference between blogs, message boards and forums.

Here goes: Blog is short for weblog. "A weblog is a journal (or newsletter) that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or the Web site."

Ok guys here are some definitions i found on google for what a message board is: "An application that allows users to post and reply to messages from other users and review the flow of a discussion. Also known as a discussion group."

What about a "forum": "An online discussion group, where participants with common interests can exchange open messages."

Well i know that even a ghoul or a goblin would be able to see how a blog is different from message boards or forums.

The kids these days love to say something like "dont be a hater".....and i think that this phrase is so perfect here. I am not trying to "spin" anything or mislead anyone. Please check the title of this BLOG and it's description. It is totally clear what the intention of this blog is. It is part of my website and company. It is not a message board or a forum terry. I have the moderation feature to make sure people don't post links to porn sites or other crap that would be so easy if it was an unmoderated blog.

It is incredible that some who are rated as "local experts" on trip advisor would be so negative about about this blog and in one case about my family. "I don't mean to be disrespectful", but if you actually lived here in Antigua you would be more tolerant of what i am trying to do. I do have a commercial interest in my blog for sure and i am not saying otherwise. Its up to you if you want to read it or post a comment.
I didn't post the url for this blog anywhere other than on my www.adventureantigua.com site, and i don't go on message boards using either of my urls in my signature. Many businesses promote the hell out of their own companies on these "free message boards" using their emails and web site urls without people asking for it.
Again for the benefit of the ghouls and goblins who didn't see the title of the description of this blog......here goes:

Adventure Antigua - The BLOG!!!!!!
This is a blog set up by Eli Fuller (me) to help the company keep up with the times and to promote our little country to prospective guests. It's also to make sure that new info is passed on quickly and also to receive feedback in order to make our company the best it can be in this extremely competitive little market. Make comments anytime you want, but if you want to book a tour please goto the main site.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Say Hi to Tony

About 4 years ago when i was using only one boat and a much smaller one, i had only one crew. At that time it was Francis with me. He's now traveling the world working in the "Mega Yacht" industry. Anyway, one morning Francis didn't show up at my house at 7:30am like he usually did. I called his phone and his parent’s home and got no reply. Nobody had seen him, and i started to worry about him as well as about the tour i was about to do on my own. It was doable, and i had done it before, but it was very hard on your own. I called around all the other kids who helped me part time, but there was nobody to help me out. Anyway, i left the home to go towards the boat and just driving down the hill, i see Tony walking my way. I totally forgot that i had just hired him to do some gardening one day a week at my house. This was his day to cut my grass. Tony, like about 12,000 other residents here, comes from Guyana in South America. Guyana, by the way, is the only English speaking country in South America and has the least disturbed rain forest in the world and is one of the least populated countries in the world. The Economy there is very bad unfortunately and many Guyanese have come to Antigua looking for a better future. Tony was having a tough time finding that better future working only a few days a week. When he first came to work a gardener, i took one look at him and figured he was not going to be that tough. My garden was more of a jungle that a garden, and i was worried that all the work was going to kill this skinny little South American. Tony, however, proved me wrong. He is without doubt one of the toughest people i have ever met. Anyway, as i saw him walking i pulled over and asked him if he knew how to swim. Most people here can't swim, so that was the first question i had to ask. He said, "i wasn't born in Antigua man, all Guyanese people swim". so i told him to jump in. "You are working with me on the boat today". Then i saw his lovely smile for the first time. He was happy to be escaping the dreaded jungle and possibly even then thinking that his "better future" was on the horizon. Well after all these years, all i can say is that it was my future that had gotten brighter. Tony has helped me in every way that i asked him to. He is excellent at learning things quickly and now he not only works on the boat as a tour guide, but he does all of our minor maintenance, and is at the front of all of our major maintenance. Everything from taking off and apart the propulsion systems, to taking apart the engine, to painting, to fiberglass work. There is nothing Tony can't do. He excels at all of this and never complains about the toughness of the work. I remember last year when we were doing some reinforcement on the eco boat, Tony was below the deck in the "guts" of the boat grinding away fiberglass in the middle of the day. It must have been 120 degrees down there and the toxic fumes and horribly itchy fiberglass dust were bothering him. Tony didn't stop until the job was done. I don't know many people out there who would have done such a thorough job in those difficult conditions. He did.
He loves working on the boat though. Tony is a shy person by nature and i have always tried to get him to open up more on the boat. His calm and relaxed style can be misunderstood but if you give him a chance, he will open up. One of the things that he got into as a result of working for me and being a friend of mine is fishing. Tony loves fishing. We often go on our days off and he is a very lucky fisherman. I guess the fact that he doesn't eat red meat makes the fishing even sweeter, but Tone is also very good at it. Remember the toughness? Well recently we got into Blue Marlin fishing and he proved his toughness to the island. Another thing Tony and i have in common is the need to do things properly. If we are going to do something we want it done the best it can be done. Marlin fishing is no different. Marlin fishing though, is the most extreme kind of fishing that anyone can do. These fish swim so fast and are so powerful that if you are not prepared and ready for them, all 1000 yards of line will have vanished from your reel before you know what hit you. You always hear storied about the big one's that got away. Those stories are true and are true usually because the angler made a mistake. We don't believe in making mistakes. They are not part of Tony's or my plans. We did the marlin tournament here last year to see what it was all about and we did lose "the big one". Two other boats saw it jumping and escaping us. We think it was about 500 lbs. We hooked another few but only managed to catch and release alive a small one probably about 90 lbs. Anyway, after the tournament we knew we had work to do before next year. I purchased new gear and we practiced. People laugh when they think about us out there practicing, but that's how we approach things. We had a few obstacles and disadvantages too. I neither of our boats are fishing boats, and we don't have fighting chairs which are designed to help you get that fish into the boat more easily. Instead i purchased a special "stand up" fighting belt where the angler is strapped in to the rod so that he can use his body weight to fight the fish all the while taking some of the strain off his/her arms. Tony doesn't have much body weight....
Another disadvantage we had is that because of the boats designs we can't reverse towards the fish like all the big fishing boats to. We turned this into an advantage though by practicing to follow the fish going forward. Boats after all, are designed to go foreword, so as soon as we had something big on, we'd turn towards the fish and essentially "chase them down". One last thing that we had against us is the tackle. I believe in fighting the fish instead of just winching them in. Some marlin fishermen use 130 lb test line which gives the fish more tension and less chance to take all of your line. My uncle Jim likes to say "why give the fish a chance". I like the challenge so we went with 1000 yards of 50 lb test line. This proved to be pretty damn tough on us. In five weekends we got about 15 marlin, and we released all but one. The big one.....
This blog is taking way too long today (i have some of your emails to reply to) and if i had the chance i would keep going on and on about the fight with the big one. I will just say that our crew, Tony, Big John, and "Corey" form cocos hotel all worked together as a team seamlessly as planned. Tony, the iron man attached to the rod with Big John and Corey taking turns to hold him. Being pulled over the side my big marlin has happened many times world wide and we didn't feel like losing the man. Believe it or not, chasing this monster marlin made me the driver tired as hell. I was in and out of gear, turning this way and that reversing and following. We followed the fish for 2.5 miles according to my GPS chart plotter, and did 7 circles along the way while the fish tried to be just another "big one that got away". After 2 and a half hours we got the beast to the boat. The helicopter hired by the Tournament with press hanging out of the door had just left 5 minutes before. They were running out of fuel. I had never caught anything that big but knew it was over the minimum weigh in size of 300 lbs. We decided to keep it, but i told Tony that i thought it was like 350 lbs. He screamed immediately saying "i am ready now for a 500 pounder". He wasn't even tired and i had seen one of my other crew (who shall remain nameless) nearly pass out after catching one that was 1/4 the size. Tony is an iron man. The fish was just shy of 600 lbs. Tony works on the Eco Tour as well as The Xtreme Circumnav, and is training to be one of my future captains. The future is bright for both of us!

Ask him about the fight if you see him. I will put a photo up later.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Power of the Internet

By now you should know that i have two tours: The Eco Tour and The Xtreme Circumnav. The Eco Tour is a much bigger seller and i have just closed one of my days in April due to it being full already. Can u imagine that? A day in April being full already!! Why is the Eco Tour more popular among pre-bookers? I think the main thing is the fact that the Eco Tour has been spoken about in the press and message boards for 6 years now with mostly positive reviews since then. It’s been kinda like a snowball effect with the Eco Tour. I remember the first internet "freak" (i am one of them) that came on my tour many years ago when i was first starting out. During the tour she was telling me that she was going to get me loads of business. I said thank you, but in the back of my mind i was thinking "i have heard this one before". My business had been struggling to get bookings with the Antigua market being more geared to big catamaran booze cruises. The hotels and tour reps specifically were not interested in hearing me speak about my eco tour at all. It was a tough2 years. Anyway, she and her husband went back to the cold USA in the middle of the winter and began posting reviews of our day out on the message boards. Sure enough just like she said.......emails and lots of them started pouring in. It was amazing. I have a private web tracker and any time someone posts a link of mine, i see when people use it and where it came from. She didn't know this and most people on the message boards didn't know that i was watching. People felt like they were "discovering" my tour and it was great to give them all the info up front and eventually take them on a tour which matched their expectations. To this day we rely heavily on this concept and we work hard to make sure that every customer who comes out with us has a great day. You never know who will go back and tell "the world" about it. We did find some problems with this concept though. You see if someone says to you, "When you are in Antigua DO ELI's TOUR! Reach him on info@adventureantigua.com " some people just book right away without reading any of the info on my site. They just know that they "have to book" my tour. We had huge groups of people booking expecting a sailing catamaran with music and booze all day. I mean, we have more text on our site than any other tour's web site. We stresses that we are not booze cruise. I kinda got tired of questions like "when is the beer coming out". Anyway, we changed our info around a bit more and added more steps in the booking process to solve this communication problem. We added more pics too and this blog is just another tool to make sure people know what we are about. Please ask questions if you don't find all the info you are looking for on the site or after you send in a reservation request.
Anyway, another interesting problem i saw with the way the whole message board thing was evolving was the way certain operators manipulated them. Many people are naive enough to believe everything they read and to not read between the lines. People often asked me when i was doing the Eco Tour if i was the one writing my own tour reports on these message boards. I laughed until i actually saw operators doing this. One thing you must do when you see an extremely good OR bad review is to check how many times the author has posted. Usually there is a bit of info attached to the profile of a poster which tells you how many times he/she has posted, where they live, what they have posted about, how long they have been a member and other info too. Some message boards let you see all the posts the author has made, so you can see what they have been speaking about. If all they ever comment about is how "awesome" a particular excursion is, and never speak about anything else......then you begin to wonder. Also, if their first post and only post is about an excursion then you have to ask yourself whether you should trust them. Most tourists will speak about their ships or hotels or something before posting about an excursion. It's terrible to think that people would pretend to be tourists in order to generate business for their own company, but however crazy this is......it happens.
One other thing I have seen that can be a huge problem is where people for whatever warped reason decide to become “Trolls”. All they like doing is causing trouble. We see this regularly on the Official Tourism Site for Antigua and Barbuda where some person pretends to be other people and just says negative things about Antigua. Again, with this problem you have to just check the profile to see what they have posted about.
All in all the internet is a useful tool to the visitors of Antigua and Barbuda and my business wouldn’t exist without it. I owe a great deal to the kind people who took time out of their lives when they got back home to comment on the experience they had out with Adventure Antigua. I know for a fact that my company would not have made it past year two without them, and I will never forget their kindness. Thanks!
Speaking about messages, this photo above is of a bottle i found on the deserted east coast of barbuda. I have found many messages in bottles on that stretch, but this one was just a nice green bottle.....

Monday, October 23, 2006

the WILD life

Once again this weekend we powered west on our day off in search of adventure. The fishing was terrible and as planned, in case of this occurrence, we decided to explore Redonda again. This time we wanted to climb to the old deserted mining post. The climb was dangerous with most of the ground being made up of very loose rock and stones. There was almost no stable footing, and adrenalin was pumping throughout the 90 minute climb. At the top, we found the remains of the old steel mechanics which was used to get material and goods up and down the mountain as well as some of the buildings and structures left behind. Apart from all the history, we found the top rich in wild life with nesting boobies and frigate birds. In fact there was plenty to see and take pics of. This pic is of a mother brown boobie and her newborn chick on the top of Redonda with the volcano island of montserrat in the background. They were nests all over the top and we had to be careful where we walked. I can't imagine a tour to a place like this soon, but the experience gives us a better appreciation for the places we show to our guests. The feeling we had exploring this adventurers treasure trove is exactly what our guests must feel when they first get to the top of Great Bird Island or Hells Gate while on the Eco Tour. Life is an adventure and it’s great to sometimes get a bit of the more traditional type.

Friday, October 20, 2006

back to normal

with rains passing, my computer worries are over it seems too. Our server started returning mail to people since our mail quota was over its limit with us not being able to access out mail (computers down). So apart from not having computers in the office, we couldn't receive mail onto our server either after thursday. This has taught me a lesson and i am going to make some majour IT changes next week. Its a slow time of year and a perfect opportunity to do maintenance on all areas of the business. Tomorrow we will finishing getting to our last emails before thinking about going fishing or any of the other fun weekend stuff. Next week looks fairly busy as far as tours go with two private charters in the mix too. The pic above is from my favorite kinda of private charter: barbuda on a calm day. Hope you all have a great weekend. Eli

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Computer Death yesterday

For the past two nights we have been having torrential rain and lightening storms and my work computer has died. It will not boot up. I back everything up but there were several emails on there that possibly be lost. It is at the fixers who may be able to bring it back to life. I will know what's up by lunch time today. If they can't do anything, then i will buy another one and put all my backed up emails onto it and start replying. Sorry for the delay guys. I am gonna sort it out by the end of today. Big rain this morning too. I hear that they had very bad flooding in the islands to the North of us.

Yesterday we had two boats out and the weather was awesome. It was a good thing too because we had a photographer from the Sunday Times on board again. I am not sure when the article will be out but if you are in the UK...keep an eye open for it. This is a pic of the Magnificent Frigate Bird which is common here year round. I took this pic on Sunday.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Glass Calm seas!

The weather doesn't get any better for powerboating than this!!! The winds didn't get much above 5 mph today so the seas were totally calm. We had one boat out on a private charter with the other one getting oil changes. The charter was from Sunsail Club Colonna and was for someone's 50th birthday. A full boat of family members!
Tomorrow we have both boats out with a cruise ship in town. We also have a photographer from the UK's Sunday Times with us which will be good. Hope its sunny. The past two days have been a bit cloudy and not good for professional photography. Anyway, speaking of photos.....I took this one is of us checking out dolphins on saturday. We don't see them each week but when we do its always nice.

Monday, October 16, 2006

days off

Ok so i didn't post yesterday as we were off island visiting one of Antigua's sisters again. Our independent country is actually called Antigua and Barbuda but we also have another large island that belongs to us which is called Redonda. It’s not mentioned much because at the moment it is uninhabited and will probably stay that way for years to come. Picture the lost island from KING CONG without any nice lush rainforest and that is Redonda. Desperately rugged and uninviting, this island is perfect for nature lovers and adventurers. We went the day before to take a pro photographer and my crew was so interested that we decided to go again for more fishing and exploring. The water was GIN clear and fishing was excellent. We ended up with 4 wahoo a.k.a. ONO and two tuna before we went snorkeling. The snorkeling below these massive jagged rocks was pretty spooky but we met up with 3 Hawksbill turtles and 1 green turtle as well as many other colorful neighbors. It is a true nature/adventure lover’s paradise and i am sure that one day it will be seen as an important part of our country. The pics show the crew waiting for one last wahoo to bite (which we are having for dinner tonight) and also us 7 miles off and approaching the island of Redonda.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

another day on the rock

day off for some of us. In fact, JD, Leslie, and Tony took out Xtreme today on tour so my cousin David and my crew David and a few others went on an adventure........We went to the third island that makes up our country. Its not spoken about much as people don't live there at the moment. At one time there was a guano mine there or something. Anyway, Redonda today is an amazing dive, fishing, snorkel, and hike spot. A true adventurers paradise and we found some today. Kinda late now so i will just post one pic from the island.

Friday, October 13, 2006

back no normal.......Sunshine

We'll after one nite and a day of clouds and rain we are back to normal today with nice calm seas and loads of sunshine. Despite what the little animated "five day forecasts" say we are usually hot and sunny here in Antigua. Do you know that weather.com and yahoo weather and most of the rest of the internet animated forecasts predict rain every day of the year. Today and the rest of the weak reads incorrectly like this on yahoo weather:
Today Tomorrow Sun Mon

T-showers Scattered Showers Scattered Showers Scattered Showers
High: 85°Low: 78° High: 86°Low: 79° High: 87°Low: 78° High: 87°Low: 78°

Its always been the same. I mean when we haven't had any rain in weeks and all the greass around the island is brown they are still saying its raining here. The reason behind it is that our local forecasters' reports say "fair to partly cloudy with a chance of scattered showers" every day, and the big companies interpret that with animated rain clouds which you cant see above but would see on the link. Anyway, most of our emails come in with comments from guests worrying about the rain (that we are not getting) and for 7 years now i have been trying to reassure people that we are not the rain capital of the world. In fact, we probably get less rain that 95% of all Caribbean Islands.

Enough about weather, since this weekend looks like it will be a calm one, i am going to take some of the crew deep sea fishing. Its what we like to do on our days off at this time of year. This is actually a very active time for a fish called Wahoo. They fight incredibly hard and are sooo delicious. We have done quite a few fishing tournaments since we got our boats and if we go to a new one some people laugh and say "you are a snorkeling boat...not a fishing boat". Well by the time we get back in that laugh is long forgotten because we usually do well. Here is an example of Tony's marlin from last May: http://static.flickr.com/75/153881678_e20871ad18_o.jpg
Look out for photos of the monster Wahoo that we are going to catch this weekend. We all love to eat fish and don't like buying fish. We have to catch something!!!!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The ODD rainy day

The forecasters were correct and i did have to cancel both my boat trips today. It rained all night and for most of the day so far. They are forecasting rain for tomorrow but the latest satellite images make it look like things will get better tonight. I met our cruise passengers in the rain this morning on the Redcliffe Quay boardwalk to give them back their credit card deposits, and to try to organize another land tour for them. Since it was raining they understood, but sometimes when its extremely rough outside of the harbour and i cancel they are less understanding. You see, on those days it can be nice and sunny and the water in the harbour is nice and calm. They don't see the dangerous conditions a mile or two around the corner. I cancel tours very rarely since we get such ideal boating conditions in Antigua, but when and if i do........it is for good reason. I saw one boat smaller than mine go out with about 10 people form the ship to do a fishing tour. This is a new one and is organized by NCL. They are going to regret leaving port. WOW that will suck out there today and it could actually be very dangerous. Many new operators in Antigua don't have a boating background and are only in it to make money. They don't even work on the boats. This practice is not good but happens because there is little control of our sector. Anyways.............SUNSHINE TOMORROW!!!!!!
I am going to put two pics up today. One shows the cloud cover over antigua this morning and the other shows what its going to look like this weekend. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Wed 11th OCT

I don't have all of my staff on the site at the moment and will have to update that later. David Mendes seen here on the left having some fun while on a private charter in Barbuda, is now working full time with us. He will be here in Antigua until Jan 2007 when he goes off to study medicine. Growing up here in Antigua spending all his free time on boats, he is perfect for the job. This guy loves the water sooo much that even on his days off he goes out fishing, snorkeling, kitesurfing or surfing.
We have both boats on tours tomorrow but there is a fairly active tropical wave to our east that we are looking at. For good weather info and forecasts a simple site to goto for Antigua is Windguru. If what they are saying is correct, then i will have to cancel both of my trips tomorrow which sucks!!! The satellite imagery looks bad too. We have had such awesome weather this summer so far........the "H" season is almost over too thank god. Usually when we cancel a tour because of weather we can only rebook 50% of the people and of course if its a cruise ship day then we don't get a second chance. Of course, we credit all deposits that we have taken, and try our hardest to re-schedule. I usually encourage people to book early in their trips so that we can reschedule if we have to. We'll see about tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Tuesday 10th OCT

Wow, its almost like someone heard me yesterday. Today is calm and looks like lovely weather for a bit of boating. Saweeet!!!

We also have our main boat "arawak odyssey" going out on tour with a good number of guests. I think i would like to use this somehow to gain feedback and offer new info quickly about the business. Will have to see how that is possible. Xtreme will be going out onThursday (hopefully). She is gonna go through some maintenance today but needs some parts changed on the port engine.

People are still worried about swimming with the rays and i am starting to think about putting on another excursion. The Xtreme Circumnav is such an amazing excursion for younger more active people and we have had such fantastic feedback, but its more expensive and now has stingray fear associated with it. You know its the best selling tour at Sandals with more positive guest comments than from any other tour there. Maybe i will design a tour that goes to Cades Reef and Rendezvous Bay. When ground swell is kicking in the winter on the North side this would be perfect. I dunno.....we will see.

A note on stingrays here: Antigua is lucky enough to have three different types of rays gracing out waters. We have the extremely rare Manta Rays which I have only seen a few times, Spotted Eagle Rays which are fairly common and you may see and the very common Southern Stingrays. After the terrible news about Steve Erwin's tragic death, I though I had better do some PR for the rays. Firstly, in world recorded history, there have been 18 deaths attributed to the 150 species of rays world wide. You can see Steve's death in OZ was a total freak accident and a horrible tragedy. The one that killed "croc hunter", Steve Erwin, is called a Bull Ray and is found in South Africa , New Zealand and Australia . It is the largest of all rays getting up to 700 lbs. Our rays here in Antigua are extremely gentle and cuddly feeding on crabs and shell life. They don't have muscle control over their barbs and can not use them to attack anything. Please don't worry about them on your trip to the Caribbean . If you need more info please email us.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Another Antigua Blog is born

hmm....."everyone is doing it"........"companies are doing it"...........

Its october, and the quietest i have ever seen the island. Business is dead, the nightlife is booooooooring, i'm single again, and the worst thing about this month is the weather. October is usually a very calm month with excellent fishing. We go out fishing when there is no work and get too tired to worry about night life. BUT its windy and rough and i am not even fishing.

Instead, i am spending way too much time on the net. So a blog is born: