Monday, December 04, 2006

winds of change

Well today was my first day back on the boat in about 5 weeks and it sure was a shock to the system. Nell and my mom had cancelled the Xtreme tour Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday because of high winds and big swells. Since the weather had calmed down over the weekend and was forecast to get better this week we went ahead and booked tours. When I woke up at 6 am today it was raining pretty hard and I quickly went to have a look at the weather sites. All seemed to suggest that it would clear up and be pretty nice weather for our tours. By the time we got to Jolly Harbour the sun was shining and we were looking good.
We had a good group of 12 on the boat today which was good because we were one crew short. Leslie is MIA!!! Anyway, the tour ran smoothly and everyone seemed to be enjoying. Green Island was lovely with only one other small yacht there. During lunch I noticed some clouds out in the east looking pretty dark and also noticed the winds pick up a bit. By the end of lunch it was pretty dark and I could see that we were just getting missed by a fast moving squall. The Atlantic wasn’t too bad on the South side of Green Island with the swells being nice and long. Xtreme does well in long period swells.
Quite a bit has changed since I was last out there, and immediately I noticed the different bird life. There were so many Ospreys out there today that I think they must be making a great comeback at the moment. I also saw quite a few Kingfishers as well as several Red Billed Tropic Birds. The winter birds are here! Another huge change from 5 weeks ago awaited me in English Harbour. The yachts are back! English Harbour which is a sleepy little town in the summer has gone through its usual metamorphosis and is now a hustling community of yachties and their associated businesses. All the restaurants are open and the harbours are packed with yachts. Of course, it helps that The Antigua Yacht Charter Show starts on Wednesday with all the important yacht charter brokers being here for the event. The yachts are as amazing as usual with a few new massive ones showing up this year too. The wildly famous Maltese Falcon which was launched earlier this year as the world’s largest private sailing yacht can be seen from both Nelson’s Dockyard where we do our historical part of the Xtreme tour as well as in Falmouth Harbour where she is stationed at the mo. This is their "home page". What an amazing yacht. It’s been featured on the cover of many sailing periodicals as well as on many television shows. Recently while in Brazil I even saw a documentary there about it. If you are lucky enough to be in Antigua while this yacht is here please get in a cab or rent a car and go to have a look Read this article before though so that you will have more appreciation of what this engineering marvel is all about. If you win the lotto you can possibly charter her too. It’s only $385,000 US for a week plus fuel, water and dockage. I would love the opportunity to go sailing on that thing just for a few hours. I think it would be an awesome experience to see these ground breaking rigs work as they were designed to back in the 1960s by some crazy German engineer.
Anyway, enough droooooling over these lovely women of the sea, and back to the meat and potatoes that is Xtreme! After our history tour and 2nd snorkeling session at Pillars of Hercules, we were off again to Rendezvous Bay. Stingray City had been enjoyable for the guests but with all that windy and swelly weather last week the water was a bit murky over there. Pillars was clear thankfully, but when we left I noticed that the winds had picked up. At Rendezvous the water was pretty calm and wonderfully clear but the skies were getting darker and I could see out to see that the winds were cranking. By the time we got to the Jolly Beach side of the island later that afternoon the winds were blowing over 30 knots and I was happy to be on the leeward side. Everyone was still enjoying it but I wanted to make sure everyone was back before the skies opened up. Five islands harbour which is usually pretty calm, was choppy and windy. We even got some spray there which seemed to make everyone laugh like mad. You know, when you live here for longer than a few years sea spray will make you run for cover, but for tourists it amazingly seems to be refreshing fun. By the time we said goodbye to our Sandals guests, the winds were even stronger and I am sure we must have had a 35 knot gust. Where is this coming from? All the forecasts I saw said 15 knots max!
The cruise back to Jolly involved some more spray in these strange gusts of powerful wind, but again our remaining guests seemed to love it. As we pulled in to Jolly Harbour at the end of our tour the sun started shining again which was surprising because I was sure the heavens were going to open up just an hour earlier. The day was a great success with all of our guests happy that they came out. For me it was fantastic seeing the changes and getting out on the water again, but it was a bit windy for me towards the end. I think I just attract rough conditions or something. This photo was taken by Ian from Acqua Films and shows the port side of the Maltese Falcon with it’s totally mind boggling rigs. You gotta see it!

The history of AA "Part 10"

After we got back to Antigua, I had to do a dummy run of the Xtreme Circumnavigation Tour that I had envisioned to make sure that it was fun and flowed properly. I also had to get photos and a brochure done quickly. The pic above was done by Roddy while doing a job on Caribbean Helicopters. I didn’t want to use this new boat for the same old Eco Tour type thing and thought that something very very different than was already out there was needed. I had contacted Andrew who is one of the main owners of Stingray City and convinced him that an alliance would be a great idea. He mentioned that several companies had spoken with him about doing combined tours before but none had come through. I think he thought originally that I would be the same, but when I picked he and his wife up that first day he realized I wasn’t just a talker. The first demo tour was great, and everything seemed to be timed perfectly. To this day we haven’t changed a thing, and I still think it’s an excellent tour. We make 5 activity stops during the tour around Antigua. There is no other tour in Antigua that does that. The speed and comfort of the boat allows us to make this many stops without ever feeling rushed. I keep thinking about doing another tour, but I still haven’t come up with something nearly as good. Maybe in the spring we will do something new. I dunno…
Nothing dramatically different has happened for Adventure Antigua since we got Xtreme and we are now in our second busy season. I guess I could say that one of the interesting changes that happened last February was that I started taking more time off from driving the boats. I broke my knee very badly three years ago and since then I have had three operations. The last one I had at the end of Feb was just “damage control” according to my doc. My Doc, Mr. Justin Cobb, is one of the world’s leading orthopedic surgeons and happens to be a family friend. After smashing up the bones in my knee joint, I then tore up the cartilage. He says the knee “is not good” and finally advised me to lay off driving the boat. There is quite a bit of bone on bone “rubbing” in the knee which is made worse by driving the boat while standing up. I find it very difficult to drive without standing. My life has changed dramatically since all these knee problems…..I was a very active windsurfer and then kitesurfer, and now I can’t even ride a bike. It has given me more time to spend on my business which on one hand has been good, but I sometimes feel trapped in this “broken body”. Not having the active physical release is hard and it has taken its toll. I did take a month totally off the boat back in March and since then have worked on and off. There is no doubt that my knee is much less painful when I am not on the boat, but life without boating too wouldn’t be worth it. Its hard enough not being able to windsurf/kitesurf. Who knows maybe I will get the total knee replacement sooner and you will see me out windsurfing again. For now, I will keep working on the Xtreme boat most days.
The History of AA saga is now up to date and I will just give you the history as it happens. I am not sure where this blog is going to go, or what I am gonna ramble on about, but I will try to make it interesting in some way. If not I will still have some cool Antigua photos for ya. I hope you Enjoy.