Monday, January 15, 2007

Eco Tour on for tomorrow.....

Well after working about 40 hours over the past three days, Tony just called me to say that the Arawak Odyssey is up and running again. On saturday we took managed to change the bad engine with our spare, but we had troubles Sunday afternoon last nite getting it running well. We left last nite at about 8 pm with plans to get at it early today. It hadn't been started in quite a while and the "injectors" on several of the cylinders were malfuctioning. Anyway, all day tony and a young mechanic called Joel worked in order to change injectors and then to change the power steering pump which had also failed while sitting for a year. Anyway, she seems to be running well at the moment and tomorrow the repairs of the engine we pulled out begin.....
They say boats are "holes in the ocean you throw money into" and i think they are totally correct with that one. Anyway, this has been a very costly few weeks with three mechanical failures, and i hope its over for the moment.
None of my equipment is old which is the crazy thing......people keep saying "i can't believe you have had these problems".....I guess i just havent been lucky with my engines. Oh well.....its over now!!!!!! All smooth sailing (powering) from now on. This photo is of Tony, the hero this weekend, doing what he loves best. In fact, its what we both love.....being on the water at sunset fishing for dinner.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

trouble better only come in threes!

Well as i have already blogged, i had one of Xtreme's engines fail, and one of the Eco's propulsion system fail.....we got those problems fixed in a day each and were "back on the road again". A friend told me after the last problem that bad things come in threes. Jeez did she have to say that?!!!?? They call that "goat mouthing" here. Anyway, sure enough problem #3 came running along at 20+ MPH on Friday afternoon. JD, Junior, and Trevor were doing the Eco Tour and Tony, Francis and I were fixing our Pillars of Hercules mooring.

Tony had been doing some maintenance on Xtreme during the morning and in the afternoon we went off in Xtreme to fix the Pillars mooring which was getting a bit worn. We finished doing that quickly and decided to do a bit of exploring. I will save that for another blog tomorrow or something. Anyway, i get "the phone call" from JD just before sunset. When something is wrong JD has a pretty unique tone and i knew immediately that it wasn't good. He said he had just finished the tour and was coming into Jolly Harbour when he noticed some white smoke coming out of the exhaust. This has happened before and is never a good sign!!!

The last time it was a crack in the "exhaust manifold" which caused coolant to seep into and run through the exhaust system.

Tony went down early on Saturday morning and noticed that the oil dipstick had water beads on it! Great....even worse!

Essentially there was only one option in order to get up and running for the next trip which is scheduled for Monday: get the spare engine set up and replace the leaking one with it. Its easer and faster this way....kinda like what we did recently with the Xtreme's yamaha engine. All day yesterday, Tony spent his time disconnecting the bad engine which is a tough job, and in the afternoon we positioned the boat on the sea wall in the marina in order to have it pulled out. Tom from AMS sent one of his guys with a crane and in the rain, we pulled the bad one out....and put the rebuilt spare engine in. That took about 3 hours and was pretty nasty....we have done this quite a few times now but this was particularly difficult for some reason this time. Anyway, Tony has been down there at the boat all morning hooking this spare up and i am gonna go down to see if we can get it started now. It has about 8K worth of new parts and a new paint job so it looks great, but it hasn't been started in about 8 months so we are a bit nervous. We had maintained it well during the period so fingers crossed!!!!!

This is a pic i took when we were coming back from fixing the mooring. In my opinion its moments like this that make all these problems disappear. Know what i am sayin?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The other article this month....

Was on the Xtreme Circumnav again today in lovely calm weather for a change, but we did manage to get some rain before lunch which "wasn't in the brochure". Anyway, after lunch the weather was perfect and Rendezvous was more stunning than usual. One lady said it was the most beautiful beach she had ever seen. I feel the same way most days too.

Its kinda late and we have another early one tomorrow so i am just going to show the article from the Travel Guardian. I guess i should mention that in the winter Xtreme leaves an hour earlier that the Eco most days in order to get to the Stingray city park in between cruise ship arrivals. They have exclusive contracts with the cruise ships to do tours for them at 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm. We have to get there at 10 am in order to make the tour work and this means super early starts for the boys (and me) on Xtreme. It is nice knowing that we miss groups of 150+ who arrive at 11 am though especially when its just us in the park at 10. Here is the very English and very nice Guardian article ( :

Cricket widows (and widowers) should be sighing with relief.
In March 2007 the game that has separated countless couples for days at a time is coming to the Caribbean in the form of the Cricket World Cup. For six weeks, a tropical smorgasbord of nine countries will be offering bountiful attractions to appeal to both parties.
On November 1, Antigua and Barbuda celebrated 25 years of independence from Britain, the former colonial master of the twin-island nation. The islands have produced some of the finest test match cricketers in the history of the game: from Sir Viv Richards, whose 20-year-old record, for the fastest test match century ever, still holds, to Richie Richardson and Curtly Ambrose.
International sporting success, fused with a lovely coastline and the gently undulating landscape of the interior, has propelled the islands into the Caribbean tourist super league.
Without a single private beach on the islands and a population of under 70,000, you can always find a secluded, palm-fringed stretch of powdery sand, lapped by cobalt-blue waters, on which to unwind with a local Wadadli beer. Windward, Galleon and Half-moon beaches are among the best.
Antigua is also blessed with some of the finest coral reefs in the Caribbean. Eli Fuller’s Eco-Tour runs a seven-hour trip around the craggy north-eastern coast, with the accent on the zoology, ecology and history of the reefs and mangrove stands.
The boat passes Georgio Armani’s palatial summer home before mooring off Great Bird Island and disembarking passengers to look at pelicans, ospreys, tropic birds, laughing gulls and herons. You will also see one of the world’s leading ornithological research stations and breeding grounds for endangered hawksbill turtles, at Jumby Bay.
But the highlight is snorkelling over a coral reef just off Hell’s Gate, a small, eroded, limestone island. Hardy souls can swim out to it and then climb through caves to a whirlpool and across a natural bridge to gaze down on blue parrot fish and rays.
Read the full article……
Donning flippers, face mask and snorkel and plunging into the insanely clear turquoise water transports you to a sub-aqueous wonderland. Coral clusters the size of a small village rise on either side of you. Schools of fish coded in hallucinogenic colours pass nonchalantly by while jelly fish pulse in rhythm to the current.
Back on land, you can jump aboard a jeep for a tour of the island and rain forest. Specially converted open top Land Rovers take you to inaccessible spots that a hire car could not cope with. Ask for the driver called “Kill Bill”. He is an entertaining and informed guide who will stop to pick indigenous fruits and point out everything from the cacti Rastafarians use to keep their dreadlocks natty to banks of wild, roadside lemon grass.
No Sunday in Antigua is complete without a barbecue “jump-up” party at Shirley Heights in the south. These take place in the crumbling ruins of Fort Shirley, a former 18th century garrison for British troops at nearby English Harbour. As the evening extends into night, live steel bands give way to reggae, dancing and concerted drinking.
Don’t be part of the foolish majority who fail to make time for Barbuda, the nation’s second, and much smaller, inhabited island 48km to the north. A day trip is easy – the island is just 90 minutes away by ferry from Heritage Quay, in St John’s, or 15 minutes by plane.
Once on Barbuda, walk some of the 13-miles of pink-tinted coral sand making up Palm Beach. Having worked up a hunger, you might stop off at the horizontally laidback Martello Beach Bar for grilled lobster, fresh from the adjacent Codrington Lagoon.
Next, perhaps hire a boat and a guide and head for Man of War Island, the mangrove-rich home of the Caribbean’s largest breeding ground of frigate birds. Watch amorous males, with their eight-foot wingspans, inflate their great, bright red neck pouches as they cruise nonchalantly on thermals attempting to attract a hen. The Barbuda Warbler is also to be found here - its only habitat on earth.
Back in Antigua, art lovers can head to Woods Gallery (001 462 2332) - an artist-run co-op on the island with keen prices. It has bi-monthly exhibitions and openings where you can mingle over wine with local artists and collectors.
If you want professional pampering, the island has limited spa options: try Carlisle Bay and Antigua Yacht Club Marina Resort.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Woods Art Gallery show all this month.

The Woods Art Gallery has an exhibition entitled "Young Artists", and somehow at 34 years old, i was invited to show some of my pics. I had them printed at Island Photo by my good friend Justin Nation, who is probably one of the most talented artists on Antigua. He did a fantastic job of printing them, and the show went very well. There was quite a variety of art on display and if you are going to be in antigua this month you should take a trip down to have a look. I was quite surprised by my photos because they look so different when blown up big and in frames.

I am gonna try to put the ones i used here. These were not the titles i used:

Maltese Falcon in The North sound on Jan 1st.

Portuguese Man of War i saw in Brazil

I put three photos of the frog i saw in Brazil together into one frame, but here is one.

Bahia, Brazil. Bike ride in the rain.

Redonda Boobie and Chick.

jolly harbour at nite

Evo - HDR

They look way better huge and rich. Anyway, you get the idea. Hope you enjoy em and go have a look at the other more professional artwork if you can get the chance. Woods Gallery is next to Carib Photo in the Woods Mall.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

famous? who me?

On the Antigua message board i saw someone posted a thread letting me know about a new article they had read on Antigua which had a good plug for my tours. I will try to get a copy of that to put up here, but another one that came out this month was in Englands The Sunday Times Travel magazine. It was written by Nick Redman. This wasn't the final version and he may have edited it a bit. I can't find the final version online and didn't get it emailed to me. The photos are excellent too if you manage to get a copy i am sure you will enjoy. Anyway I hope you enjoy the read:

They"re very friendly, assures Eli, the guide, as we squint down from the floating jetty. "They"re just like the rest of the people on the island." The black shapes flapping in the Caribbean waters below don"t look much like the rest of the people on the island, unless those are rubber one-pieces they"re disguised in. Pretty unlikely, this far from a Berlin fetish bar.

I craved an adventure in coma-inducing paradise and now I"ve got one: half a mile off the coast of Antigua, I'm contemplating a marine eco-enclosure teeming with stingrays, and I have to say they"re rather unusual looking. Doubtless you"ll agree if you"ve ever seen one up close. If you haven"t, simply take a tadpole to your local service station, inflate it to the size of a Spacehopper, release all air, reverse over the result to really mess up the features, and you"ll get the picture.

I may have oversimplified things a little. In fact the stingray plays a crucial role in the waters of the Caribbean, for it is the vacuum cleaner of the deep - hence the spaniel-soft eyes high on top and an utterly unrelated mouth in its pale, soft underbelly. Sure, it looks a sight to anyone other than Picasso in his Cubist phase, but at least that way it can hoover the sea bed without too much fear of concussion.

What is more, stingrays possess unique powers to seduce humans. Our party of nervy Brits and overexcitable Americans discovered as much on Caribbean cruise with a difference: Eli Fuller"s extreme tour of Antigua using a 45 foot powerboat. Leaping from the jetty with snorkels and a splash, we were treated to one of the warmest welcomes in the West Indies as the inhabitants of Ray Park waltzed around us like camp, caped counts at an Austrian ball. A caresss here, a nuzzle there, even a love bite for the ladies - when the gang resurfaced after half an hour with the amorous beasties, one woman realised she"d have a bit of explaining to do to her boyfriend back on dry land.

On dry land, chances are you wouldn"t associate a holiday on Antigua with the call of the wild. This being the Caribbean, there are so many demands on your time - chief among them doing nothing whatsoever. Upon the palmy beaches, along the goat-grazed ways of bougainvillea and canary-yellow timber homes, the island affects indolence so convincingly you guess the authorities must add something to the drinking water.

There was certainly refreshingly little action at my designer-colonial hotel, Carlisle Bay. Unless, that is, you include casually devouring trios of dwarf bananas which arrived mysteriously in your room, artfully placed on oblong plates; or admiring at length the fashionable cream-and-darkwood interiors from the balcony daybed, or toasting sunsets with a(nother) martini. Some folks signed up with Sembi, a gentleman employed by the hotel to take guests power-walking in the village. Personally I found it better to let him do it for me while I exercised my iPod on a sunlounger.

That was two days sorted. But for all the allure of reclinable beach furniture, there comes that Caribbean moment when thoughts turn to What Lies Beyond. I was becalmed in a sea of rum punch when it happened to me. From nowhere a mountainous swell grew, out in the bay, the waters rising uncharacteristically into jellied heights that wobbled momentarily then sank, sending the horizon of moored boats into a clockwork rocking. The land and the sand paled into insignificance by comparison with the high-seas drama developing. It was exhilarating, enticing, like another Antigua beckoning. It was time to push the boat out.

And what a boat it turned out to be. I got the lowdown on Eli"s mean machine the following morning from a sympathetic hotel receptionist who understood my need to experience Antigua beyond bonsai bananas. (She duly plucked a leaflet from a drawer with long maroon talons.) The vessel was bobbing idly at anchor in Jolly Harbour when I first glimpsed it: a glorious 45 foot purpose built powerboat, sleek as a sabre, with the dazzling white looks - and the power - to cut a veritable Miami Vice dash across Antigua"s blue deeps. Eli had bought it mere weeks previously, in Florida, sailing it home in six heady days: down via Nassau, Turks & Caicos and St Martin, en route encountering some infamous Pirates of the Caribbean - Mackenzie Crook and the cast. Together they"d rummed it royally.

"This tour is called Xtreme," Eli announced, as he eased the powerboat out past million-dollar harbour villas painted butterscotch and pink, supported on concrete piles 30 feet deep, like a tropical Venice. The T-shirted human cargo of 15 or so shuffled, seeking to find comfy positions on banquettes, or in obliging partners" arms. "We"re going to be travelling at 40mph so watch out for hats and loose stuff." There were a few involuntary whoops, a few gently greener complexions and one lost hat as the boat rose and belly-slammed in a rollercoaster motion. We were off.

Antiguan born and bred, Eli Fuller has been showing visitors the hidden beauty of his home turf and surf for 20 years or more. The reefs, the mangrove forests and the wildlife. The insane blowholes in the eroded limestone rocks that spew the sea skywards, like whales do. The deserted white-sand beaches and all the other elements you might think incompatible with a major-league package-holiday destination.

Away from the sunlounger, seen from the choppy wilderness of the sea, a wilder world unfurled as we whipped along: looking to shore it was moody and forest-cloaked, huge and forbidding, any hotels too small and insignificant to compete. In places it was humped violently into coral lumps and volcanic peaks - pristine as it must have looked to the seamen who came here for construction timber in the 17th century, when it was one of the most densely wooded islands in the region.

Waves frothed and lunged like rabid dogs at crazily angled strata rising from the neon Caribbean. Pelicans rested in haughty silhouette, motionless on jagged outcrops. And when later we snorkelled 60ft over the sea-bed boulders that had tumbled into the blue from the dramatic rock Pillars of Hercules, it felt like a dream sequence. There were coral fans and darting grunts blue and yellow, trumpet fish down deep. And blue tang, seemingly lit from within. A colonial anchor lay far below, broken and barnacled. Another island altogether.

I say another island. In fact Antigua is a buried-treasure-map fantasy: so many tiny uninhabited outcrops where you can spring-clean your soul in the breezes along a bleached beach, no trace of man as far as the eye can see. In this respect it"s unique among the big Caribbean destinations, with a score or more barrier islands and reefs scattered off its northern shores.

Here turtles feed on grassy beds, bonefish and young barracuda breed, and stingrays do their housewife routine, cleaning up shells and cockles from the seabed and clucking at their lascivious husbands. Local wildlife is engaged in a constant battle for supremacy with more exotic species: Giorgio Armani, for instance, whose new villa slides by far above us, high on a bleak western headland. It"s a sleek giant composed of two edifices, one black, one grey, in the designer"s signature tones. They work rather well with their earthy surroundings. How very considerate. How very this season.

Eli displayed a healthy tan across his good-looking Caucasian features, heightened by the mystique of a baseball cap pulled low. And he displayed a healthy scorn for local powers that be and their apparent disregard for Antiguan concerns when big bucks are at stake. Swinging the boat in off bumpy waters to pick up more of the party at St John"s harbour, he indicated an innocuous-looking pale-blue storage depot. "Designed and built by the Japanese - it"s Japanese Fisheries," he yelled over the roaring breeze that yanked at the long hair of women holding on for dear life up front. "We vote alongside them when it comes to whaling and in returns Antiguans are conned into letting these things be built. But they"re designed for trawlers, which is not how we fish and so they"re actually useless to us."

On along the western coast the waters calmed to vast sheets of aquamarine and powder-blue, a waft of molasses from a rusty plant, glimpses of decrepit cannons as we bounced past distant St James Fort trailing a wedding train of foam. In the 18th century the British chose Antigua as the nerve centre of their local naval activities - pitted with indents and hidden coves it offered safety from storms and the savagery of pirates. Centuries on, weathered relics in iron and mossy basalt, distract you at every turn. It ain"t half Nelson.

Suddenly the sea was mad again, signalling the treacherous north of the island, boiling itself incessantly into molten troughs and peaks. After the drama of the stingray swim it was a touch too much for some as the PowerCat soared then hull-floppped ear-shatteringly. "We"re off to the chiropractor the minute we get back," one American (hopefully not too litigious) was heard to whimper, clambering in defeat back from the prow. My thoughts were turning for some reason to the Tupperwares of pasta-twist salad I"d seen Eli"s team stash aboard discreetly, back at Jolly Harbour.

I cannot recall a more beautiful picnic anywhere, ever, than that served by Eli on tiny Green Island. Black and red mangroves twisted up from waters now still and dark. Here was an eerie place of silent spreading acacia trees, coconut palms and thrusting finger cacti that emphasised the seductive strangeness. I hid around a tiny headland from the group (now pally and talkative). The trunks I"d packed weren"t fit for mass scrutiny, but more importantly, I wanted to be alone on the demerara sands. Squinting as I lay, wet from a swim, I saw at eye level only strewn coconut husks thrown up by the tide, conch shells pink and erotic, and cloud kingdoms bunched on the horizon. This, I decided, would give any mainland five-star a run for its money.

They"re fragile places, these islands - breeding grounds to osprey, turns, Red Billed Tropic Birds and such endangered species as brown pelicans and the (definitely lesser spotted) West Indian tree duck, but also ripe for development. "I grew up with the luxury of these places," says Eli. "If you"re going to protect tourism, you"ve got to keep them." He talked of Bond-movie-lair style developments in the vicinity, for which "the first thing the developers did was bulldoze all the red mangrove. You"d go to jail for that in Florida.

"A beach without a hotel can be an attraction. But to the powers-that-be, a beach without a hotel is a liability. If you want to lose an election simply don"t encourage construction. Ecologically we"re in the Stone Age." The boat rolled like a whale in the mouthwash swell as we made for port down the eastern side. The sea leapt and sprayed those at the back. Some of them sensibly wore goggles, protected against a Caribbean not about to be tamed. Not yet.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Back on the "road" again.....

Well after two drives to English Harbour, two to St. Johns, and one to Jolly Harbour the Eco Boat, "Arawak Odyssey", is back running with two propulsion systems. I think i must have spent 4 hours on the road today running around which is pretty hard to do in little Antigua, but it was worth it. Tony and Junior (one of the new guys) worked a very long, greasy, hot day in order to get everything taken apart and put back together once i got all the bits. It was dark by the time they finished putting back in the fixed propulsion system, but we are ready to do a private charter with the boat tomorrow. Today we had another private charter on Xtreme which JD said went very well.
The winds have calmed down a bit and the skies tonight are beautifully clear. It looks like it will be a busy weekend for us with some super weather though. Although i am not going to sit back and relax with my orange "crocs" up and think we won't have any more mechanical problems.........I think we are all happy at the moment:)

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

do boats ever have problems?


They never stop having problems, and this is something I never get use to. It’s the same with all the boats in this business. One of the other boats in this business had worse problems this past week. Anyway, this past Saturday one of my 18 month old Yamaha engines on Xtreme had a major failure. We had a charter on Sunday and managed to do the whole thing with just two of the three engines. She still cruised at 30 mph easily but wouldn't go much faster. It was fine though because it was only a group of 6. I knew that with a full boat we would be challenged to get near 30, and the two remaining engines would be fighting to keep up. Anyway, I had prepared for this situation by buying the blue boat that you may have seen in recent blog entries which carried two of the same engines. On Tuesday, my mechanic, Tom, took off one of the blue boat's engines and swapped it with Xtreme's bad one. New ones are about 17 grand each in the USA!!!
Anyway, we were back in business today with a full boat. While we were out there though, I had a call from Captain JD saying that one of the Eco boat's drives (propulsion systems) had jammed. I had purchased two new ones 11 months ago too!!!!!!!! They are about 5 grand each landed here in Antigua. I have some old ones which may be able to be used to repair the jammed one tomorrow. Anyway, I cancelled tomorrow's eco tour unfortunately, but I am assured by the engineers in English Harbour that they can use the two old drives to fix the jammed one. They also said that they can do it quickly......We will see, and I will let you know tomorrow.
Someone told me that these things come in threes but that hasn't been my experience. I wish it were, but I am on like number 23 not 3!!!!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

happy new year!!!!!

Well, i am sure that some of you who check this site from time to time thought that i have given t up, but i had just been taking a short time off. In fact last week was a very difficult week for me. One of my captain's, Adam, had his last day working with us just before Christmas and both boats have been extremely busy since then. We worked every day last week including sat and sunday. By the time i got home each nite i was sooooo tired that writing blogs wasn't possible. Anyway, i will try to be better from now on.

The holidays for me were good and it was nice seeing old friends and family. Work was tough but fun. We had many repeat guests which was nice and for a change we had quite a few private charters. Its been windy and fairly choppy and my old bad knee has been giving me some trouble. This year i hope to do something about it as driving the boat makes it worse immedeately. This shot is of my favorite boat in the world, The Maltese Falcon. I know i have mentioned her many times this past month, but i never get enough of her. Last night she was anchored between my home and Long Island's "Jumby Bay", and as the moon rose overhead, she was all lit up naturally and by her own lights. What a thing to see.......for dreamers like me.
Hope all of your dreams come true or get closer anyway in 2007. More later..............