Wednesday, February 28, 2007

barbados to antigua- 285 nautical miles to go

After a lovely adventure in Barbados, it was time for the sailing adventure back to Antigua. We had been looking at the weather forecast which showed a big cold front approaching from the North. Not many people realize that strong cold fronts sometimes can make it all the way down from Canada through the USA and into the Caribbean. Anyway, this one was a biggie and the winds and waves were forecast to get nasty. We wanted to get close to home before the worst of the weather came through.
After trying to track down my brand new mobile phone that had been charging inside the Boat Yard restaurant, we decided to give it up, clear customs and immigration, and set off for Antigua. Clearing out took forever because Barbados doesn’t seem ready for cruising yachts. In fact during our stay there we only saw three or four other cruising yachts. Antigua has hundreds coming and going each week and is more welcoming to the cruising world.
The phone thing kinda added to the stress of departing because it was a nasty situation. After lunch the day before we left, the manager on duty at Boat Yard agreed to charge my phone behind the bar. We came back at 9 pm and the security told us the place had closed early and that i had to come the next day. I could see the bar and after explaining about my phone was told that the bar was locked up. I remember thinking that it didn't look like it. Anyway, the next morning the phone was gone. The owner called the staff who had been working and assured me that it would be found. There could only be so many people with access to the phone, so it would be easy to sort it out. After the owner had left in the morning the staff just decided to stall me and jerk me around. The owner had told them to either produce the phone or pay for a new one. They did neither and in the end i had to leave with the boat. I am sooo over having expensive phones!!!!! (RANT) I am now sporting the cheapest phone available in the Caribbean, and it works and isn't attractive enough for anyone to want. Perfect!
Once we pulled the anchor up, Xabier's stress of clearing immigration and my phone theft stress seemed to wash away like the sand coming off the anchor. We were cruising again without time to be miserable. Those things seem so unimportant when you are out on the blue water with the winds blowing through your hair (or over your scalp in my case).
The winds had died down again to almost a breath in the lee of Barbados, but the waves were long large swells almost like a rolling field of blue wheat.

We tried at first to sail but that didn't work after we sailed into the glassy holes without enough air to fill the sails.
We motor sailed with just the main until we found some light winds on the North side of the island. Xabier hates the sound of his engines and no matter how light the winds were, was much happier to be sailing. With a specially designed light wind reaching sail called a "screacher" we were probably cruising between 8 and 9 knots. The winds were not much faster so we were happy with our speed. Xabier explained that on this hard core carbon fiber catamaran, sail choice was extremely critical, and we had to be careful not to carry the screacher in too much wind. We expected the winds to pick up during the night and at that time we would have to change to the regular jib which can handle stronger winds. The sun set as flying fish which Barbados is famous for flew off to our port side into the fading light. Sunsets out to sea are always an emotional thing for me......they are times of excitement and usually of nervous anticipation. Being at sea out in the middle of the ocean at night is as beautiful as it is dangerous, but all mariners love it.
Anyway Chef Francis got started making dinner at about 9 pm. The sky was overflowing with stars once again and the winds had picked up a bit to make it a little cooler than normal. In fact, as expected with cold fronts, the winds had bent a little more towards the North which kinda explained the chill.
At night, a radar adds a whole heap of technological security and comfort. Not only can u see land and other boats, but you can see squalls which can be dangerous to yachts. On the way to Barbados we had seen squalls coming on the radar and as they got close the winds picked up as expected. We were always prepared and ready for the spikes in wind speed. This time the massive jump in wind speed wasn't due to a squall. Well at least it wasn't a readable squall on the Radar. The sky showed no clouds either but just before we served the food a huge wind surge burst into our sails taking the screacher over the limits. The extremely light catamaran accelerated quickly and started to feel like it wanted to lift a hull. This all happened in seconds and although we were expecting the winds to pick up, we thought it was going to be much later in the night and more gradual. Xabier turned off the auto pilot which was straining to keep the boat on a reach, and she rounded up into the wind backwinding the screacher. Francis and i quickly tried to furl the sail in and within a few minutes we were back in control with the screacher rolled or furled on its bowsprit. Xabier decided to quickly put up the jib and to continue on as normal which is what i would have done too. In my opinion he was being a little too comfortable up on the front of the boat in a building sea at night with winds approaching 20 knots, but within a few minutes the sails were up again and we were on our way. Five minutes later we started hearing a sail making a hell of a noise up front and Xabier scurried quickly back up on the trampoline. The seas were building quickly and a few waves send spray all over us as we tried to figure what was going down. As it turns out, the screacher had been damaged in the wind surge and the damaged part was unrolling and filling with the strong winds which were ripping at it with noisy forked like gusts. Without hesitation Xabier decided that we had to drop the rolled up sail down from the mast. He released the halyard and the started pulling the partially rolled up sail down. Keep in mind that because of the winds we were probably doing about 12 knots of speed into a 20+ knot wind with large building invisible waves below us tossing the light cat around. At this point the real problem stopped us at the worst possible moment. The sail we were trying to drop was unfolding and catching some of the strong winds while this was happening the halyard got jammed. Try to imagine darkness with noisy strong winds, waves crashing over the decks, cold spray in your face and seeping under your clothes.....imagine that and then the nasty part. Imagine a huge sail with tons of power being stuck half way down as it threatens to totally unfurl while four tiny humans try to keep it under control. Poor Andre! He had been at the back of the boat kinda half asleep in a state of semi-seasickness. All of a sudden it was all hands on deck with total chaos unfurling in front of him. Not being a yacht sailor he didn't quite understand what was going on and was just ordered up onto the trampoline to attempt to hold down the bit of sail that had already reached the deck. Later he recounted that with every gust he was getting lifted and shaken like a rag doll. He was using all his power while kind of sitting to keep hold of it, but did say that he wasn't going over board with that sail no matter what. Xabier on the other hand was on the port side of the trampoline trying to pull down the damaged and unfurling screacher. I could kinda see him getting tossed around by the powerful and potentially deadly sail. One big wave, a little more unfurling, or one big gust and xabier could have been in the sea. Maybe there was no such danger but from my angle it was a frightening possibility and together with Francis we struggled to free the halyard. You see, earlier that day when Francis and Xabier had put up the big sail, they hadn't expected these problems and the halyard wasn't carefully stored in a way that ensured the sail could be quickly dropped. What had actually happened was a big tangle. The halyard looked like a big spilled bowl of spaghetti and it needed to be untangled to ensure our boat and crew's safety. Francis was holding back the halyard against the weight of Xabier and the wind while his fingers and hands jammed into the block at the base of the mast. He had to do that in order to give me enough slack to untangle the mess. Somehow i managed to pull some of my late grandma's tangle skills out of the air and the line came free. We dropped the screacher to the deck where it lay conquered like a huge snake for a few seconds. The waves were picking up quickly and i wanted to get the hell off the deck before a real accident happened. We quickly got the rest of the sail unattached and stowed it in the front lockers. When that front door finally closed i can tell you that i breathed a huge sigh of relief. When someone falls over at night from a yacht you can almost not even bother looking for them. People are almost never found and that's all i was thinking as we were zooming along on autopilot with jib and main sails up battling with the jammed screacher which was behaving like a prehistoric python on crack.
Anyway another thing that happened when we closed that door was that the smell of Chef Francis' food found its way to my nose. I can eat in almost any situation and although Dre and Xabier didn’t have an appetite immediately, it didn't take them that long to follow me and Francis into the pasta. Yum was good.
Man this story is getting long. Some of you will be reminded of my trip from Miami with Xtreme that i wrote about back in November. I will finish this story off tomorrow. The first and second photo show Andre up on the trampoline in the calm seas off Barbados. The first one shows him looking across the screacher. The third photo is of Xabier and Francis adjusting sails at the mast, and the last photo is of the bow of the catamaran in the glass calm seas near Barbados before the winds picked up. Hope you enjoyed. Night night little ones:)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The barbados event.

I was going to speak about the Barbados "Beach Culture World Tour" event last Friday but didn't get a chance to with the crazy story of the rescue. Anyway today I will finish the story off.
First I just gotta reprint an email we had from some very happy guests. We get these sort of emails all the time, but this one is especially nice I think. From California this morning:

Hi Nell -

It's my first day back here at work in Los Angeles, but all I can think about is eating barbequed chicken and pasta salad on Green Island. The Extreme Tour was an experience of a life time, and I just wanted to write to you to say thanks.

The Extreme boat was gorgeous, and it was thrilling to cut through the waves at such intense velocity. JD was our captain, and he was amazingly deft at handling the boat through coral reefs and against strong Atlantic currents. He made it look effortless to navigate, which is surely the mark of a skilled sailor. And between the crew of Ty and Junior, well, we felt completely safe, entertained, educated, and well-attended to throughout the entire trip.

Of course, snorkeling with Stingrays was sensational. They're so cute that I kept smiling whenever I saw one swim underneath me, which resulted in water getting into my snorkel mouthpiece constantly. (My fault entirely - you shouldn't smile while snorkeling, but I just could not help myself.)

Best of all, my husband had the best birthday ever in Antigua. He can't stop talking about his Extreme Circumnav tour. He sounds like he's 9 years old, and not 49, when he tells people about his great boat trip. He had a ball.

The bad news now is that we're back to work for a while, but the good news is that we get to go back to Antigua within the year. Sandals gave us a complimentary 4-night stay to come back, since the room we originally booked with them was still being constructed. We could not be more thrilled to return to your beautiful island. When we do, we're definitely taking the Eco tour.

Nell, thanks for all of your help in setting up this trip. Know that you provided to us - two city-weary, traffic-battered, urban dwellers - the trip of a lifetime. We really needed that, and you guys truly delivered beyond all of our expectations.

With much gratitude,

Jenny La Raia

Los Angeles, CA

OK back to the Barbados story. I know some people just love stories so here goes. If you go back a few days on the blog you can read about the first Beach Culture Event organized by Brian Talma seen here on the left.
Our little Antiguan team arrived at Silver Rock on Barbados' South shore after sailing 285 miles across the archipelago. When we arrived there wasn't much wind unfortunately and the windsurfing and kitesurfing wasn't being featured. This event is about all aspects of beach culture with a main focus being on the surfing sports: wave surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. There also were other competitions in a wide array of beach culture activities. Anyway, there were some waves rolling in and when we arrived a hard core surfing competition was going down. At first it was the junior girls and let me tell you that they would have put many adults to shame. Slashing off the lips and cool style showed that surfing in Barbados isn't just a male sport. We saw boys and girls of all ages surf and then the adults. In between "heats" of surfing where expert cementation was going on they had a conch blowing competition. In the Caribbean many people on the beach use Queen Conch shells as horns and let me tell you that they are loud as hell. Anyway, during the beach culture even there was a competition with contestants from around the world taking part. The poor fellas from Hungary didn’t do enough training because of the lack of good shells back home and as a result failed to make it into the finals. Trinidad's conch blower had been partying too much the night before and somehow didn't have the stamina that the Guiana and Barbados contestants seemed to possess. Unfortunately the fantastic melodical blowing prowess of the Guiana conch blowing sensation couldn't sway the crowd away from the extremely talented local favorite.
"Full Moon" as he is known on the beach in Barbados blew his conch like a demon possessed and the crowd went bananas (or should I say conch mad). Since this section of the Barbados Beach Culture World Tour was being judged by the beach crowd..the world conch blowing title went to Full Moon from Barbados who is now ranked #1 in the world.
When I was a kid, Pappy, from Pappy's watersports was the best conch blower in the world as far as I was concerned, but he'd have a hard time blowing with these young new stars.
That afternoon we chilled back on the catamaran and in the end went out to the famous St. Laurence Gap for some of the Bajan nightlife. In the morning we went back to the beach where the wind had picked up and the action was in full swing. Some of the best "freestyle" windsurfers in the world are from Bonaire and 25 people from there came down to take part in the event. Tonky and Tati Franz who have been winning freestyle (trick) events immediately stunned the crowd with massive aerial tricks. There were guys from Venezuela, the usa, europe, dominican republic, barbados and other countries taking part in a huge expression session of windsurfing freestyle. Some of the complex maneuvers were hard for even me to understand. These guys were amazing and the large beach crowd was eating it up.
After the windsurfing it was time for some kitesurfing action, and our only competitor in the Beach Culture even was full time kitesurfing pro, Andre Phillip. In fact, he was the only full time pro there and the competition was a little skewed in his favor. Anyway, not to just steal the show Dre decided to do a session comprised of the most difficult aerial tricks in his repertoire. To the untrained eye (which much of the crowd consisted of) his aerial display was in the same league as the rest of the competitors and only the hard core kitesurfers there knew how difficult his moves actually were. If was a good expression session with some of the guys showing some great and huge jumps. The windsurfers actually got more of the strong winds and as it died down the kiters slowly came back to the shore.
In between events there was beach cricket with some famous international cricketers taking part. Both the kids and adults seemed to enjoy the cricket as much as the other events and it was pure energetic action throughout.
All in all the first event in the "Beach Culture World Tour" was a massive success and I am sure that we will be back there with a bigger team next year. Most of the international competitors there have competed in extremely serious events all over the world which at the top level are rarely about fun. They are sometimes soo serious that having fun is impossible. Brian Talma, the Beach Culture even organizer, has been to many of the serious events and wanted to make this event something different. Its all about fun and action as he keeps on saying. It's not all about who won or which rule book was being’s about coming together to take part in what makes the beach more of a life and not just a place.

Stay tuned for a story about the trip back to Antigua. That was pure adventure.
Pics include conch blowing finals, dre kitesurfing, the beach, team antigua, and a pic of brian, Full Moon and Andre.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

no big deal? ya right!!

After, explaining what happened yesterday to the coast guard and the news people, we didn't imagine the story could possibly change so dramatically. Our island is a funny one...I guess most small towns are like this too. The first thing that started happening was that people began to call me and my friends asking if it was true that one of my boats had sunk. Somehow this juicy rumor was spreading quickly around the rock, which is one of the reasons I wrote about it on the blog. If people want to find out the real story all they have to do is speak to the crew. Francis is on 268 764 2681. Tony is 268 726 7692 or even easier come to the blog.
Someone called me to inform me that adult who was actually trying to help the kids and ended up nearly drowning, called in to the local radio station to say that the incident wasn't any big deal and nobody was in any grave danger. He admitted that he did get some help from Tony and Francis, but that it was never a matter of life and death. I was on my way to meet the crew when I heard this and was eager to get the full detailed report from the boys. It was even more dramatic than I thought. I won't go on and on about it but will add a few points that I didn't mention yesterday. First, is that while taking one of the kids off the bottom, Tony was also grabbed by another kid who started pulling him under. Tony managed to grab one of the fender's lines that he had thrown in and was able to save the two kids and himself by kicking to the shore. Tony said that by the time he got to the shore and put the drowning girl on her side, he was totally exhausted. He said he nearly passed out himself. Another thing he said was that when the girl who was laying motionless down below made it to the surface, her eyes were rolling back into her head. While he pulled her unconscious body to the shore she kept vomiting. On the shore she brought up more and more before starting to come to. The teachers behind him tried to position her on her back but because of Tony's recent training he insisted that she stay on her side to bring up all the water. He said "I wanted to do everything Jonathan's way". That is Jonathan from ABSAR who had just given him the first aid training. Tony, Louis, Francis and the guests all agreed that no matter what three of the kids would have perished and possibly the others as well including the adult who was being dragged under before the fenders were thrown to him.
Anyway, this same man who was possibly saved by the fender that Tony threw in, was in fact the person organizing the trip. Like I said his account of what happened is dramatically different and minimizes the efforts of Tony and Francis. He made several calls to the radio station, wrote an article in the paper and was even a guest on the radio today. Nell and I spoke with some of the guests from the tour yesterday and we all still agree that Tony and Francis are heroes and those kids and all the adults involved are super lucky. It’s a terrible thing that happened and the organizer and the teachers who were there including the ministry of education (who knew about it) all need to rethink this entire episode very carefully.
The organizer is a guy called Eugene Humphreys and his heart is in the right place. His passion is similar to mine which is showing people the beautiful places that Antigua has to offer. Specifically he wants to show the residents of Antigua how beautiful the off shore islands are since they are all threatened by development. The threat of development is something that you hear each time you do our tours as well. I think that he has done a great service to the people of Antigua and I am pledging money towards the purchase of a small boat for him. That being said I am disappointed that he felt the need to publicly diminish the heroic efforts of Francis and Tony. I guess I can see his point of view or see at least his motivation to do some quick damage control. Anyway, I hope this doesn't put a stop to his efforts which by the way seem to be totally philanthropic. People need to see these off shore islands and understand why we need to keep them from becoming a huge development. Anyway, like many of the radio station callers were saying......all is well that ends well. Thank God nobody was badly hurt. We all need to learn from this episode and move forward wiser and more prepared. Here is a pic of the windward side of the narrows. You can see the incredibly important flats and red mangrove plants. The pic was taken from a boat sitting in the channel on the other side of the flats which are only about 5 inches deep on average. As the flats end the water quickly drops off to about 12 feet in the middle.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Stop the press!!!! Adventure Antigua crew saves lives!

I will get back to the history of sugar and more about our adventure to and from Barbados after today’s news blog about a life even that happened today.

Even before it happened I was thinking about writing about how happy I was with Tony and Francis for their extra efforts last night and today. We had big problems this week again with two things on the eco boat. One was an engine water cooling pipe that burst way back behind the engine. It was impossible to get to without taking the entire engine out. We didn't want to cancel trips so Tony somehow like a great contortionist, managed to squeeze himself in the most terrible position while the engine was still hot in order to stop the water leak. We were there until past 8 pm last night. That was on the left engine. The right engine was fine but had "spun" a prop with all the extra work it was doing. Francis jumped into the nasty Jolly Harbour marina water with tools this morning and managed to change the damaged prop for one that was given to us (free of charge) by the saintly people A1 Marine. He had to hold his breath for ages in the murky water holding heavy tools to get the job done. Neither he nor Tony moaned a bit. They knew these things had to be done in order for the tour to function properly and jumped into action without a question.
That was before the start of the tour today.
At about 11 am today I get a call from Jonathan Cornelius of ABSAR (Antigua and Barbuda Sea and Air Rescue) who is telling me he's just heard my boat calling the coast guard to request medical support. Jonathan said he couldn't hear properly but thought he heard something about "taking on water". Could the unimaginable be happening? How? I immediately got on the phone with Tony who as skipper is required to have his phone on him while at the helm. No reply! I tried three more times before I got through. I asked desperately what the hell was going on.
Tony, almost out of breath, starts telling me that he and Francis had just saved 6 school children and one adult. They just pulled up into the mangrove habitat between Guiana Island and the mainland where there is a small channel that is commonly known as The Narrows. As they arrived, they came upon a chaotic and horrific situation. There were 7 people drowning right in the middle of The Narrows. The water there is between 6 and 12 feet deep and the channel between the island and mainland is about 70 feet wide. Apparently a school group of about 30 kids with between 3-5 adults had been trying to get from the mainland to the island using a kayak. It would appear that not one of the group knew how to swim properly. This fact may be hard for people outside of Antigua to believe, but I assure you that this is the norm here in Antigua. Only a fraction of our population knows how to swim outside of shoulder depth. Sad but true.
Anyway, they speed up to the immediate area, and Tony grabs the boat fenders and jumps off the boat. There is one child almost lifeless on the bottom 8 feet below and two others beneath the surface going down. Three others are flailing on the surface with a helpless adult. All of them appeared to be in the process of drowning. Because Tony had left the fenders on the surface for the people who hadn't yet sunk below, he was able to swim down and clutch onto the almost lifeless girl. As soon as she made the surface she began to vomit water as Tony took her to the mainland. Francis had already left Louis at the helm of the boat and had joined Tony in the water. He also took a child from below the surface. I think Tony made it back for the other and together with Francis managed to help get all seven to the shore. One of the Eco Tour guests actually jumped in to help as well. We had a full boat of guests while all of this was happening. In the bacchanal, Louis had the good thinking to throw an anchor to keep the boat close allowing him to keep the engines out of gear.
Tony tells me that he was totally blown away with the body's ability to hang on to life. He was sure that one of the girls was going to die......but she managed to involuntary throw up all that sea water in order to survive.
After getting back on the boat, Francis called the coast guard to let them know of the situation. One of the adults had a car on the mainland side and assured our crew that they were ok and could go along on their tour. I had called back Jonathan at ABSAR and told him that from the report Tony had given me, I thought an ambulance was a good idea even though everyone seemed to be stable.
There are several crazy things to add to this story which just make you wonder.
The first thing to consider is that I hired Jonathan from ABSAR to do a proper marine first aid course for my crew all day this last Saturday and all day on Monday. Some of the crew had done it before and some were new to first aid and sea rescue. One of the things he told them during the two days of instruction was that if they ever had to jump in the water to save someone in trouble, they should not go empty handed. "Take something that a fender or life ring or jackets". Louis tells me that if Tony hadn't taken the fenders when he first hit the water then there is no way that all of them would have been saved.
The second thing that is strange is that if Tony and Francis hadn't gotten the boat working properly by putting in the extra effort then we wouldn’t have come all the way that far into The Narrows. We hadn't been there this week at all until today!
One last thing that is strange is that the disaster just happened to be unfolding at the exact moment that my boat turned the corner into The Narrows.
I think this episode needs to spur some kind of positive action in several different areas. First I think the guys need some kind of hero award. I will speak to the Prime Minister's Office about that. Another thing that I would like to put some energy into is some sort of Swimming Trust Fund. The kids of this country should be able to swim. This is crazy. I think if the kids did swim the island would be a better place. Anyway, this is something for me and others to think about. In the meantime this is just a bit of news that involves some of my great crew.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

antigua to barbados - 285 nautical miles to go

As I said in the last blog a week ago, I was going on a sailing adventure to Barbados with Xabier Ross of Wadadli Cats. He invited Francis who works with me as well as the kitesurfing Star and our friend, Andre Phillip. The purpose of the trip was just pure adventure. We had all been invited to attend the first ever "Beach Culture World Tour" event in Barbados organized by their famous windsurfer and ambassador, Brian Talma . He invited old and new professional watersports people from around the world to come down to Barbados and take part in his unique event. I originally met Brian in Korea where we competed against each other during the 1988 Olympics. Since then we have stayed in touch and met each other at other windsurfing locations around the world. Andre had actually worked for him in Barbados teaching windsurfing just before he took up kitesurfing back in Antigua.
Anyway, Xabier had recently gotten his new 48 foot Gunboat which he had been dreaming about for years and wanted to do some Caribbean cruising. This was a perfect opportunity for him to test it out in a more relaxing environment. The boat is lovely and made from state of the art space age materials specifically for speed, safety and comfort. We set sail after lunch on Thursday with plans to sail through the night upwind of the islands of Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent.
Unfortunately the winds were a little South for us and we couldn't reach down as fast as we wanted to. We ended up having to put in a tack to make it around the windward side of Guadeloupe after sunset.
The skies that night were amazing. In fact, during our entire trip, the skies were bright and filled with millions of stars. Its so nice being away from artificial lights at night and when we were 1/2 way between Antigua and Barbados the sky was pure heaven;)
We sailed through the night and most of the next day unable to get the speeds we had hoped for if we had better wind direction. Another thing you see when you are at sea at night is phosphorescence which is a plankton generated light source luminating the sea as you cut through it. The bright green sparkles are soo interesting and refreshing to look at in the dark night.
Speaking of dark night, it is always exceedingly dangerous to be at sea during the night and we all kept ourselves inside the yacht until the morning. IT is generally accepted that if you fall over at night you will not be found.

We finally arrived in Barbados at about 7 pm on the Friday just in time for the big weekly party at the famous Harbour Lights. After some interesting customs and immigrations procedures we made it to the party action. After being on a boat for several hours you tend to sway when you get ashore and I am convinced that all the swaying we were doing that night had nothing to do with the cheap bajan rum. haha
Anyway, I will post more about our trip tomorrow.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Sugar Part 2

One thing i didn't mention was a massive change in Europe called "The Industrial Revolution" which helped sugar to be produced quickly in a more effective process. Coupled with greater mechanism was the additional help of slavery. Of course the sugar industry would never have been what it was without African slaves, and for that matter entire countries wouldn't have been as wealthy as they are today. The first slaves in the Caribbean were native Arawak and Carib Indians. In an astonishing move, the Pope gave Christopher Columbus permission to enslave these "savages" as long as they would be taught about Christianity. Many resisted in the terrible conditions and in within 75 years all Arawak Indians were killed off. Imagine that!!! The total and complete genocide of millions of native Amerindians was complete by 1575. The Carib people were traditionally stronger and more aggressive and it is alleged that these people were even cannibals which is where the word Caribbean came from. (IT took me a while to find proof of this but here it is
These Caribs resisted being enslaved so hard that in the end the few that were left were left alone on some of the islands to the south. To this day there are still indigenous Carib people living in Dominica. Indigenous is a word that is used often in Antigua these days with a different meaning, but i won't get into that here.
The first Africans arriving in the Caribbean were imported like cargo in horrible conditions by the Portuguese some time around the start of the 17th century. The first British ships bringing African slaves to the "New World" left Africa in 1662 with the first British slave captain John Hawkins, but the first African slaves arriving on British ships arrived in Barbados in 1700. The British slave trade with most of the ships being based in Liverpool went on until it was banned in 1808. It wasn't until 1827 that Britain banned all foreign slave trading with its colonies, and even declared it piracy punishable by death. Within 6 years the Emancipation act was passed banning all slavery in the British Empire within 5 years. It actually was stopped a year later in 1834. There were many reasons leading to the abolition of slavery in the British Empire including the efforts of many activists with the most famous being William Wilberforce. Coupled with the passionate fighting of these abolitionists was the fact that sugar was now being produced competitively outside of the Caribbean using the sugar beet.
Anyway, the sugar industry didn't die when slavery was abolished as had been proposed by the anti-abolitionists. In fact sugar did hold these islands together for another 130 years. It was only stopped last year in St. Kitts which was one of the first two British sugar islands.
These sped up history of sugar is so abbreviated that i hope people will understand that i am not trying to smooth it over. There is a wealth of info on the net and in our schools here about it. This is just a blog and i am only just scraping the surface. In my next blog entry which i hope to write tomorrow, i will speak about why these islands recently and finally moved away from sugar cane. It’s all interesting to me and i hope you will be encouraged to read more about it online. IF you feel that you would like to add more or comment, then please do so. This is worth discussion.
I am off to Barbados on a Gunboat with Xabier, the owner of Wadadli Cats, Francis and Andre who i blogged about earlier. See ya later.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sugar Part 1

A bit of history for you today..........

Antigua, named and claimed by the Spanish, was actually inhabited periodically by amerindian people from about 2000 BC up until shortly before the Spanish arrived. Although the Spanish claimed ownership of the island, they never made any settlement whatsoever and it wasn't until nearly 150 years later that the British finally settled here. One of the things that steered the European people away from settling here was the fact that we had no streams, rivers or springs, and for a colony to prosper, a healthy supply of water was needed.
The islands nearby didn't have that problem and between 1500 and 1650 many of them became colonized by French, Dutch and even the British for various agricultural and mineral uses. Without the trade Caribbean in sugar, cotton and tobacco many wealthy countries today would not be considered "first world". Of course with the immense wealth that was being generated here from the Caribbean, there were disputes over various settlements, islands and trading routes as well and they all had to be protected. Port Royal in Jamaica, which was the main British Naval base, was too far from these Eastern Caribbean islands and their trading routes back in the mid 17th century, and the British needed somewhere closer in order to base their fleet. Antigua and its famous protected "hurricane holes" on the south of Antigua became very attractive to the Brits and the Nelson's Dockyard as it is known today replaced Port Royal as the main British naval base for the eastern side of British West Inides.
With a strong naval base, colonists felt secure enough to try agriculture, and with the introduction of African slaves to the area round about the same time the colony quickly grew to catch up St. Kitts and Barbados. Sugar was at the time becoming a drug like addiction in all of Europe and Britain was no different. Antigua's semi-dry climate seemed to work well for sugar cane, and large areas of land were cleared for plantations. Each plantation would have one or more wind mills. We'll speak more about sugar tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Say hi to Junior

Junior has been working with us since just before Christmas and has proven to be a great guy on the boat. Junior's real name is way to long to repeat or even write down, so i wll just say that you should ask him to tell you what it is if you see him on one of the tours. He works on either boat depending on the day and seems to manage both very well. His roots are in antigua, but he's been living abroad since he was a little kid. Fist he lived in the USA and then he moved to the UK where he's been until recently. I didn't know him before but have known his brother "Blackie" for years and years from Dickenson Bay and The Beach. Blackie approached us to see if we needed any more crew around about the time that we were saying goodbye to Adam and Leslie, so it worked out well. Junior is a mild mannered young man who's passion seems to be reading, modeling, singing and school. He has two degrees too!

Anyway, he's working with us for the near future saving money to put towards fixing up a property he inherited in St. Johns. He's focussed and friendly and i think he will do well in life.

My other crew tease him a bit (as is the norm with our guys after work) about his posh accent which is a bit funny to hear coming from an Antiguan. Anyway, this is a pic taken by Lizzie who was on the boar for a 65th birthday party charter for her friend Anne Philpott with Louis, JD and Junior. I will speak about Louis soon in another blog entry, but say hi to Junior if you are on a tour with him. Ask him about his singing too. lol he he he

Monday, February 12, 2007

Saw my first whales for the season.

Yes, i saw whales yesterday for the first time this season on the way back up from St. Martin. I had been asked to fly down to St. Martin to collect a small boat for one of my Mechanics. Marine Power Services has done many favors for me over the past few years and collecting a boat for them wasn't a problem for me. According to Windguru the winds were forecast to be light and therefore the seas would be calm too. I was up for a little adventure anyway and the trip sounded like a some fun. I have sailed and powered from there to Antigua many times and the 100 miles can be pretty tough in bad weather, so i wanted to make sure that we had calm seas.
I called Liat "the caribbean airline" to check on flights and they had space on their 4:30 flight on Saturday. By chance on Saturday morning i spoke with the owner of Caribbean Real Estate who told me that he was on his way to St. Martin at mid day and had space for me if i wanted. Cool....a free flight in a nice place. Tomas Miller who is the son of the MPS owners came along with me and we ended up leaving Antigua at about one pm on the Caribbean Real Estate plane bound for St. Martin. The weather was amazing and as we took off from Antigua we could see Barbuda off to the North, Guadeloupe way in the South, Montserrat in the South West, St. Kitts and Nevis to the West. Antigua and its waters looked so beautiful in this perfect clear weather and the 45 minute flight down to St. Martin was lovely. We went straight to the massive marina where the boat was being kept. It was actually a tender (dinghy) for a huge yacht called Midlandia and was a little old looking for them. At about 20 feet long with no shade the trip back to Antigua wasn't going to be totally easy but as long as we had good weather it was doable. We asked on of Midlandia's crew what range the tender had and astonishingly they didn't know. These tenders are just topped up every day and they don't care about how much fuel they burn. This wasn't good because we needed to be sure that we had enough fuel. We spoke to the first mate who said that he thought we would need about 80 gallons of fuel which i thought was considerably more than enough. Off we went to buy supplies which included life jackets, a flare, 6 five gallon fuel cans and other bits and pieces. I also had brought along my EPIRB which my brother and i used on our Xtreme trip from Miami to Antigua.
We decided to leave the next morning (Sunday), and to go have a nice dinner and enjoy the famous St. Martin nightlife first. Anyway, Sunday morning came and we painfully got ready to take off on our 100 mile trip into the sea back to Antigua. As we collected the boat we realized that we had made a miscalculation on our fuel. All the fuel estimation had been done in liters and we should have purchased another two 5 gallon cans to make the total fuel on board 80 gallons. All the stores were not shut and we couldn't get more fuel. I made a few calls to Antigua before we set off and planned to stop in at Gustavia, St. Barts which was 14 miles up from where we started at Simpson Bay, St. Martin. We could then use the fuel cans to refuel the main tanks which would give us and exact fuel flow consumption rate. We did this and calculated as i had expected that we would have enough to do about 130 miles....enough fuel.
The trip was fairly easy with a few bumps here and there which made us limit our speed to between 15 and 20 knots. On the way we stopped several times to top up the main tanks just to make sure that our consumption was steady and accurate. About 60 miles up we ran into a massive school of frenzied feeding tuna. We could see a tennis court patch the water turn white with frantic splashing and tunas jumping through tiny bait fish. A few miles after that i saw some humpback whales spouting as exhaled on the surface. It was the first time i had seen them for the year and i have been anticipating seeing them. Always a nice feeling to see them back here. Almost all the way up we had countless numbers of flying fish leaping out of the dark blue water and gliding away from us. As the sun set the silver, dark green and blue colours on these amazing fish lit up as they glided off to our sides.

About 30 miles off Antigua, the island came into view and another ten miles later as i was looking back at Nevis in the setting sun, i saw a whale breach. I told Tom too keep and eye out and immediately we saw the baby try to breach too. The mom jumped several more times in the distance as we zoomed past. We didn't have time to stop as i knew we would be getting in just as it got dark. Antigua's coastline was so beautiful at sunset and even though we had been on land at lunchtime it was nice to get into port safe and sound. If you are coming to Antigua before May, then you will have to keep an eye out for the humpbacks which will be in these waters until then. These three photos were all taken in 2006 but will give you an idea of what i am speaking about. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

amazing weather!!!!

Over the past two months we had to cancel two Xtreme tours and one Eco because of bad weather. January and Feb can have some very difficult weather with typically strong winds. It’s been a little less windy than normal so far and the past few days have actually been totally perfect for boating. I did the Xtreme tour yesterday almost without any pain to my bad knee so you know it was calm! We saw two dolphins in the morning on our way to St. Johns but still haven't seen any whales.

The humpbacks are here passing through with their calves and we should see them any minute. Caribbean Helicopters saw some a few weeks ago. Anyway, today is even calmer and sunnier than yesterday and it doesn't feel like Feb at all. The kitesurfers who are on the island are not happy since the winds are soo light but the fishermen are all delighted. My dad is off today to go and catch mahi mahi as soo many seem to be around at the moment. My skipper JD is also going out on his little boat to go catch some and i am gonna call him in a few hours to order some for dinner:)
I have been asked to go and collect a boat for Marine Power Services from St. Martin and will probably fly down at 4:30 today. The weather is perfect for that and the 100 mile run into the waves shouldn't be too bad. The boat is fairly small at just over 20 feet long, but it’s a pretty big boat for its size with inboard engines and jet propulsion. I took my EPIRB out of Xtreme just in case we have any problems. It is a single engine boat. Anyway, i know that many of you reading this post are sitting inside wishing that you could even think about being in the sunshine as you walked outside, and i hope i am not making you feel miserable. Winter will be over before you know it. I just was on MSN with my sister, Fran, who is in "uni" in the UK, and she said the weather was something called "shite"......I guess that's not good! Here are a few pics from yesterday’s tour and one of me taking my dogs for a walk (jump) on Thursday........Expect an account of our trip to collect this boat coming soon. Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

a little help goes a long way.

Everyone knows that we have been through a difficult time recently with problems on the boats and soo many people have offered help and words of encouragement. I expressed on this blog how desperately hard Tony had worked to get us ship shape in time for scheduled tours and he wasn't alone. One of our young new guys who just started working with us is Louis and I will write bit about him here soon. Anyway, he's into his cars and bikes and owns a quad bike which has had extra engine work done to make it faster I guess. Anyway, he helped Tony quite a bit over the past month and deserves a pat on the back too. It’s good to have people who understand how our equipment works.

I already mentioned how much we spend in terms of labor and parts, and obviously the people at the big mechanic shops have been paid well too. However, they have always gone the extra mile with Adventure Antigua. Companies like Antigua Marine Services (tom), Marine Power Services (the millers) out in English Harbour, and A-1 Marine (Carl, Joel, and glen) in Jolly Harbour all have stopped what they were doing to assist us during emergencies. They have each done favors for us too with Carl and glen at A-1 being soooooo generous.....thanks!!!!

What people from the "civilized" world don't realize is that doing business here is even more difficult because of shipping times and shipping mistakes. We always have problems getting parts. Sometimes they send the wrong parts, sometimes they don't send enough parts, sometimes they say "parts are on order". We can't just run down to the nearest store because we don't have them here on this tiny island. I will give you one of a million examples I have on this topic. Tom from AMS ordered a new "steering helm" which is the main mechanics of the steering wheel side of our steering system. He specifically asked in his email for a 90 degree helm and of course after paying for FEDEX to send it to us.....we get a 45 degree steering helm!!!! Now we need this thing badly so like in all "third world" countries where we cant just change the wrong part.....we modified and fabricated it. These islands and other under-developed countries have some of the best machine shops on the planet. I am sure you must have heard about Cuba’s 1950s cars right? When things break here we try to fix them before we just run out and buy this usually isn't an option. Anyway, when we got this 45 degree helm station I knew we had no choice but to take it to the guys in jolly harbour. We needed to modify one part and completely make another. Woodwork and welding were going to be needed, and Jolly Harbour has the best of both. The photos today are of George from Jolly Harbour woodworks and Glen of A-1 Marine. Glen is actually welding a water tank for another boat just after he cut and welded the steering bracket to the proper size and angle that I needed, and George is making from scratch a new steering base. Both of these modifications ended up being stronger and better than if I had gotten them new even if they did take more time and effort. Both of these guys, by the way, were working on other jobs before they picked up my emergency project.

Anyway, that was Saturday and all went well the past few days on the boat until this morning when I was in jolly harbour about to set off Francis, Tony and Louis on the eco boat. They had a full boat of guests to go and collect and when Tony turned over the port engine we knew we had a problem. The starting motor was stuck!!!! Well we had to laugh because this just takes the engines shouldn’t have these problems!!!! Anyway, I was on the phone to Nell in seconds while Tony quickly, like a formula 1 mechanic...took off the starter. Nell was already picking up the spare starter from Tom and was on her way into St. Johns to meet the boat by the time the boat left jolly harbour. Tony and crew were quickly on their way into town on one engine to meet her and the main core of our guests....They ended up being twenty minutes late to pick up the guests with the spare starter. Within 5 minutes they were back up and running properly on the two engines going a little faster than normal to make up the time. pfffhheeww!

I guess its all about teamwork here with our associates, our family and crew and we all have one goal at the end of the day which is to make sure your day in Antigua is the best it possibly can be. We want you happy no matter what it takes.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


well if i am to be true to this part of my blog's description: "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.", then i must write about things that have nothing to do with Adventure Antigua as well.
Kitesurfing or kiteboarding is an interesting "extreme" sport that kinda is a fusion between traction-kite flying, windsurfing, surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding, wakeboarding and any other sport that you ride a board. It really is kinda unique though, and has been getting quite popular over the past 10 years or so.
Steve Gray, who worked at Caribbean Helicopters as a pilot was the first person kitesurfing here using one of the early designs. It was pretty difficult to use but he managed to make it look cool. I was coming to the end of my professional windsurfing career and after my last big race, actually traded three of my sails for 2 big kites and a board. I kinda taught myself and in no time, i was teaching others this cool new sport. A few years later i taught Andre Phillip, who was one of the younger pro windsurfers from Antigua. He had been doing windsurfing competitions in the Caribbean and i knew he would pick up kitesurfing very quickly. Anyway, sure enough within two years he was ranked in the top 5 on the Professional Kitesurfing World Tour doing well in competitions all over the world. Andre, has been featured in dozens and dozens of magazines, internet articles and even sport TV shows. He is still one of the main figureheads in the sport of kitesurfing. Most Antiguans don't know about his fame out of Antigua, but he has given Antigua incredible recognition in areas where it would have been missed before. He spends about 1/3 of the year here in Antigua and the rest of the time traveling all over the world's best destinations for kitesurfing. What a lucky guy huh? Anyway, these photos i took on Saturday and today at Jabbawock which is on Antigua's North shore just below the islands of the North Sound which is where we do the Eco Tour. I hope you enjoy the pics, and pass by if you have a car for the day. there is usually good kitesurfing action at that beach. The first shot above is of Stevie, who also grew up with us windsurfing and fishing and now kitesurfing. He's a chef. The ones below are of Andre a.k.a. DRE. and the very last is of an old fart called Eli way back in the old days

Monday, February 05, 2007

Francis is back

Francis Gobinet grew up fishing, snorkeling, boating and windsurfing in the North Sound just like i did. I first saw him jumping out of his dad's little boat on the beach where i live about 15 years ago. He was about 9 then i think. Anyway, from day one he has been full of action and personality. I took him to a windsurfing competition in the British Virgin Islands way back when he was 12 years old, and he did very well. We actually sailed down from Antigua on a yacht and as he was at home on the boat as he is today. Some of us just like being at sea more than on land. Anyway, years later after i had started my company, Adventure Antigua, he worked with me on my Scarab doing the "north sound eco-historical tour". He stayed with me long enough to gain enough experience to set off onto the big yachts which base themselves here each winter. Off he went to Europe working as crew on million dollar yachts and gaining not only experience but also "yacht master" certificates as well. On paper, he is now the most qualified member of Adventure Antigua and will be working with Tony on the Eco Tour for the season. When the big yachts leave Antigua at the end of the season in April, Francis will leave us to do more sailing with the big boys. By then, i hope, Tony will have enough coaching and experience to become a full time skipper on the Eco boat. Wish them both luck if you see them. The top photo is of Francis posing during a photo shoot recently. FUNNY! I am not sure who took the pic. The other photo is of the kind of yachts Francis works on in the summer.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

blogging aint easy.....

Up until my last blog entry, I was managing to quite regularly write a few lines about my company and life in Antigua, but then as you can see I stopped.
I find that when trying to do anything "creative", I must be relaxed and in a positive mood, and over the past few weeks I haven’t been there. As you would have seen if you had been keeping up with the blog, boat troubles were taking their toll on the company, the crew and on me. After the 15th the problems didn't stop. Although we didn't have to cancel any tours, we did have to use the Xtreme boat a few times to do Eco tours. We also spent long hours after work on several days getting the eco boat ready for the next morning. We left there after midnight one day, and that was after doing a tour that day as well. Tony worked far too many hours over the past month, and I am grateful for the dedication and calmness which he showed when dealing with all the problems. Several eco-tours came back on one engine, and the crew that we have did a great job of making sure everyone was back on time. Actually I think many of the guests didn't even know that we were running on one engine. Our philosophy is "the show must go on" and more important than anything else is the dedication to making sure that our guests have a great time. I think from the reviews I have seen on the various forums that we accomplished this even in these difficult times.
Altogether I have probably had to fork out about US $18,000 in parts and labor and I still have more work to be done. For both boats we keep spare engines, and I have 2 extra ones for Xtreme and one for Arawak Odyssey (the eco boat). All three have been used and abused to get the boats up and running at 100%, so now they have to be fixed back up in order to be on standby for the next round of problems. And that is the thing that anyone in this business has to be prepared for and to accept. Problems on boats are as sure a thing as getting wet when you go snorkeling. Not everyone likes getting wet but you have to accept it and are prepared to deal with it. If you keep on swimming you won't feel the cold brought on by the wetness. "Keep on swimming" wasn’t that from "Finding Nemo"....I love that movie. It’s a prerequisite for my tours you know.
Anyways.......we are in the keep on swimming mode here at Adventure Antigua and there are some exciting new changes that I will mention in the coming days. I am going to have fun with this blog again and hopefully you can too. Since I haven't been posing are a few pics for ya.
(The first one at the top is of some friends on the front of the eco boat who came with us to give the engines a proper test when we had finally finished all our work last Saturday)
(The one below is of us running the boat hard to make sure she was 100%, and the last one I took while doing the Eco tour on the Xtreme boat. It was the first time I had done the eco tour in ages, and I enjoyed it.)