Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Antigua Carnival weekend coming up

Blog sponsored by the good people at: Once again its Carnival here in Antigua and the island is buzzing with activity. IT is actually the 50th year of Carnival in Antigua and instead of being a week long activity…it seems to be going on for 2 weeks this year. Unlike my good friend who run’s http://www.saucytrini.blogspot.com/, I am not Carnival crazy. I did go to quite a few when I was a teen and several when I was in my 20s but I don’t think I ever was in love with carnival in Antigua. Crowds are just not for me usually, and I think that it the main problem. Anyway, I am obviously in the minority with that feeling as can be seen in town at the moment. So far many of the shows have already taken place and there is a new but not young calypso king (who was a tour operator in between his many calypso crowns: Short Shirt) as well as many other winners. We have had a massive influx of Antiguans returning home from their residences abroad and it all looks and sounds like Carnival is being a massive success. Carnival isn’t just about talent shows, concerts, steel bands, parades and parties, it is also a time for many people to take holidays from the island. We get several public holidays and it’s usually a very long weekend off work which my family has used for many years to go camping. Carnival weekend camping trips are a major tradition in my family and we usually pack up the fishing and camping gear into the boats and make the ride across to Barbuda. There we find a secluded spot to set up as base camp. Finding a secluded beach isn’t too hard even these days with more boats on the water than ever. The fishing isn’t usually as good as it is during the long Easter camping weekend, but the water is warmer and clearer so we spend more time snorkeling than fishing. There are many wrecks and interesting things to see in the waters there and generally the weekend is filled with adventure. Adventure Antigua has tours most of this week, but Friday seems to be free on Xtreme. If I can get permission from Nell, my sister, I am going to take Xtreme to Barbuda for the weekend. I did a little practice camping session this past Sunday and have to tell you that it was lovely. I purchased a new little marine camping stove and got a chance to properly test it out in Five Islands harbour during the full moon. We had spent the afternoon counting turtle nests and excavating a recently hatched nest up at Rendezvous bay and cruised down at sunset/moonrise towards Five Islands. On the way we passed Ffreys Bay where there was having a massive concert for Carnival, but that didn't take us away from the sunset.

Apart from the lights at Hermitage Hotel, we were alone in Five Islands Harbour and the moonlight was dazzling. In fact it was so bright that we could see the many Moon Jellyfish in the waters below. Depending on the currents and bays, moon jellyfish congregate in large numbers at this time of year and we had found one of those spots. A bit of midnight skinny dipping would have been a big mistake and a real pain in the ass.
Anyway, the grilled red and yellow peppers with baked potatoes went down beautifully with some medium rare rib eye steaks. Sitting up on the bow with our meal and the moonlight it was hard to imagine a better place to be in the world. The faint booming from the St. Johns sound systems didn’t persuade me that I was missing out. The early morning tea before the eco boat passed us on its way to Hermitage bay was awesome too. The thing works!
Let’s hope that the weather in the Atlantic behaves itself for both carnival revelers and campers alike though. http://www.weathercarib.com/ is keeping an eye on a strong tropical wave to the east of the islands.
I will just leave you with a nice email we received yesterday. We get many lovely emails form many lovely people, but I felt the joy in this one.

From: r1minnie@xxxxxx.com [mailto:r1minnie@xxxxx.com] Sent: Monday, July 30, 2007 2:13 PMTo: info@antiguaadventures.comSubject: Thank You Eli Eco Tour!

Hi,I am finally back home in NY after a long week of vacationing. I wanted to take the time to personally thank the entire staff for taking care of me and my other half during our time in Antigua. I didn't think I could climb Bird Island or Hells Gate Island but I can safely say we both made it and back. The guys on the boat were terrific and helped me especially Tony with the snorkeling. Being the first timers of snorkeling, he gave us practice lessons and even helped us out once we were in deep water. The lunch and drinks were delicious. If I decide to do another cruise and Antigua is on that itinerary, I will definitely make it a point to look you up and take another tour, the extreme tour with you. I was a little hesitant on private tours, but I have to say the Eco Tour was the highlight of our trip. I felt like I got my money's worth and more taking your tour.Thanks again for everything and look forward to seeing you again on another trip to Antigua.Take CareInes & Damian

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Friends nearly lost at Sea

This blog is sponsored by Caribbean Real Estate Run by Derek seen here in the company plane which is part of the story below.

What a crazy afternoon I had yesterday. The afternoon before, captain Red, who does sailing on private yachts, happened to pass my apartment just as Captain Glen from Creole Cruises pulled up. Glen needed to get one of my phones as he had lost his somehow. I keep a small stock of mobile phones for my crew as they keep destroying them, and Glen came by in need. Anyway we got to talking and Red mentioned that he may about to be hired by Kokomo catamaran to be the skipper of their new boat which had just been launched in St. Vincent. Anyway, he mentioned to Glen and me that apart from the monstrous delays in building the boat there was now a delay in bringing the boat back. He said the boat had been launched on Saturday and was supposed to come straight to Antigua. That was Tuesday evening and there had been no sign of the boat. He also told us that Festus Isaac, the manager of Jolly Harbour Marina, was the one bringing the boat back with a small crew. It’s usually a pretty easy sail usually reaching across below the islands. The longest you would have to be in the open sea is about 50 miles on the last leg from Guadeloupe. Anyway, we finished our beer and said goodnight. Yesterday I had business to do in town and just got back into Jolly Harbour when I got a call from Derek, the owner of Caribbean Real Estate which is the company that sponsored our fishing Team as well as this blog. They own a small plane and employ Bruce who happens to be Festus Isaac’s son. Derek told me that nobody had seen or heard from Festus since he left St. Vincent on Saturday afternoon. Derek who was in Miami heard about this from his pilot Bruce and gave him permission to use the plane to go look for his father. Derek wanted me to go since I knew about boats and the passages. What he didn’t know was that I had been involved with another search for a missing friend who was on the same route many years before. I immediately hoped we would have better results. On our last search we spent two days in a plane scanning the ocean looking for Inigo Ross and his lovely girlfriend. They had left St.Vincent on a hobie cat bound for St Lucia and had equipment failure. The St. Vincent Coast guard dropped the ball and didn’t notify the St. Lucia Coast guard. We only heard about it in Antigua after they had been drifting over night. Even though we had a good idea of where and when they started drifting we never found a thing. Looking at the rough sea below was extremely stressful and depressing. We tried various heights and search patterns and saw some bits and pieces of unrelated flotsam, a few families of dolphins and even schools of flying fish, but in the end we returned home without success. IT was awful and losing Inigo Ross who was the co-founder of Wadadli Cats was a huge blow to me and the island. He was a hero to many.
This time I was very worried once again because we had no idea when they ran into trouble and even worse we had no idea where to start looking. Even the computer searching models that ABSAR had couldn’t really help us. I grabbed Jordan from JHR Caribbean who speaks French in case we needed to speak with any authorities in the French Islands and took off to the airport. Festus’ son Bruce is actually the co-pilot as Martin is the main man behind the helm. I had grabbed a hand held VHF radio from Jolly Harbour Marina. All the employees there were in shock. Everyone loves Festus and we were all very worried. The first people to be concerned about the late arrival were actually Festus’ family. The owner and manager of Kokomo didn’t seem or appear to think that anything was wrong. Bruce was quite frustrated over the phone as you would imagine. I made about 20 phone calls trying to get as much info before we got into the plane. The boat had never had proper sea trials. They didn’t have a life raft. They didn’t have a dinghy. They didn’t have life jackets. They didn’t have an EPIRB which I spoke about on my big crossing blog. They didn’t have a satellite phone. They guys on board didn’t have visas to enter the French islands in between (Martinique and Guadeloupe). They didn’t have roaming on their cellular phones. The picture wasn’t looking pretty at all, but I told Bruce that the last two facts could be very positive reasons why we hadn’t heard from them. If they had run into a little trouble and ducked into one of the islands where they couldn’t use their mobiles and couldn’t clear customs and immigration, then maybe they just couldn’t get in touch. I told him that they were probably just off shore limping back into Antiguan waters as we spoke. I was hoping this would be true. The fuel was finally topped up and we boarded the aircraft. We didn’t get proper clearance so the plan was actually to return to Antigua that night whatever the result. If we had to look more we would leave Antigua early the next morning. While they were doing their last checks and speaking with the tower I sent a text to my crew, family and girlfriend to say that I would be returning later that night. I was waiting for the last of the texts to be delivered when a call from the Manager of Kokomo. As I answered it, Bruce was instructed to tell me to turn off my phone. Interference was coming through on their headphones as they were speaking with the tower. It didn’t matter……..Her words were clear to me: “They have been found!”
I grabbed Bruce as he turned to tell me off and have him the good news. It’s a good thing I had been a little naughty with my phone otherwise we would have been out there searching in the Caribbean Sea until dark seeing nothing but haze and unforgiving waters.
Up until now, I don’t have the story but obviously something went very wrong for them to end up in Saba over four days after they left port. I am so happy that this story had a happy ending. I don’t need to say what lessons should have been learned here as it’s pretty obvious from the facts above. This was a near disaster and I think there needs to be a day when all boats going off-shore are required to carry EPIRBS. I don’t leave home without mine.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Antigua Sea turtle study

I am very proud and happy to say that Adventure Antigua’s two boats are now part of a very important endangered species study. Mykl Clovis, who has a Masters Degree in Environmental Coastal Planning, is helping the Antiguan Environmental Awareness Group do an island wide turtle study. The Environmental Awareness Group Sea Turtle Conservation project is now just two months old. The goal is to find out what kind of turtles nest here, how many nest here, where the nesting is taking place and to create awareness about these amazing creatures. So far she has 17 dedicated volunteers roaming beaches across the island at all hours trying to collect data. It’s truly amazing, but apart from the extensive scientific data collected over on Pasture Bay on Jumby Bay’s Long Island (which we speak about on the eco tour), there is no info about Antigua’s turtle populations or their nesting habits. As I said in a previous blog entry, these endangered species are extremely important in many ways. This project, co-sponsored by the UK’s Fauna and Flora Flagship Species Fund, aims to help species that have ecological and cultural importance. This is perfect as our turtles have extremely important cultural significance. Like I said in the other blog, they are on our passports and our money and very important to our tourism product as well.
Tony on the Eco Tour and JD on the Xtreme tour are now responsible for checking several beaches along the coast and on the tours each day for turtle crawls and nests. Both boats keep an eye on Pinchin Beach, Hawksbill’s nude beach, and “Shafflers” beach as they both pass close to these. On certain days they collect from other beaches like Yeptons and Deep Bay and will collect data from there if they see crawls. The Eco boat will also collect data from Bird Island’s two beaches and Xtreme will get info on two of Green Island’s beaches as well as from Rendezvous Bay. So far this week, the boys have reported 3 fresh nests which is exciting. Mykl is already getting some fantastic data from her other volunteers which is quickly describing which beaches are critically important for turtle nesting. One such beach is Darkwood Beach on Antigua’s South-west coast. Here Jepson Prince is one of the volunteers. He has been employed at Jumby Bay for years and has always taken a keen interest in their own turtle project taking part in quite a bit of their important study. With his home town being Crab Hill, he has always been interested in the nesting that takes place there and had a wealth of knowledge about nesting in the area even before the project started. He is 100% dedicated to Antiguan sea turtles. Wouldnt it be nice to see Jumby Bay send him off island on some sort of scholarship? He and other volunteers have had many turtles come up to nest over the past month, but unfortunately there has been a poacher taking eggs when they weren’t there. Two weeks ago there was a report of this same poacher actually killing a turtle. The volunteers went looking for the remains of the once majestic creature and were terribly upset to find its undignified resting place in the bush behind the beach.

This prehistoric creature only comes up onto the beach once every few years after it reaches maturity will not be returning again. Only female turtles come ashore and they can only nest on beaches. To get to maturity and to this beach, she's had to pass almost insurmountable odds and it’s just so sad that one person has put a stop to it all.

Depending on which study you read and where the study was conducted you may see that only 1 in 3000 or as bad as 1 in 10000 eggs reach maturity. She may never have an offspring that is able to nest. Maturity in general is somewhere between 20 and 40 years depending on many different factors.

Of course it is totally illegal to kill these endangered animals or even to touch their eggs but unfortunately there are still a few people here doing the damage. There are millions of factors which do harm to the turtles, and in Antigua poachers are not the biggest problem. The worst problem is that our people don’t understand how all the factors come together to wipe out our important indigenous animals and plants. These animals were here before us and unfortunately will be wiped out very quickly unless change is made. Creating awareness of the issues and problems as well as the positive things will help. Studies like this one will end up being a very important tool in the fight to protect the ever disappearing habitat too. After all it is habitat destruction which is more of a problem here in Antigua than poachers. Key nesting beaches are on the move towards development and great care needs to be taken when making the plans. Anyway, for now this is a great push to gain info and to educate our island about the sea turtles that were here long before the ancient amerindians lived here. Keep an eye open for crawls while you are here on the island or on a boat trip. Call the turtle hotline on (+1 268) 773 8448 and leave a message if you see a nesting or someone troubling a nest. As with most things to do with "saving the environment" EACH OF US CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.

Monday, July 23, 2007

200 miles from the BVI to Antigua

This Antigua Blog is sponsored by Caribbean Real Estate:
After the prize giving at the HIHO windsurfing adventure we went back to the boats for a few hours sleep. The plan was to get up and out very early the next morning. Coming back on the boat to St Martin was Jean-Marc and Ricardi, the two from St Barts and my crew, Tony and JD. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy because the winds were up again fairly strong. Our last stop in the BVI before we hit the Atlantic was at the very top of the Eustatia Sound on the North-East side of Virgin Gorda. It is lovely up there and a nice place to stop for a breakfast with the gang. Unfortunately most of the people on board managed to lose it somehow before we got back to St. Martin. It was rough and if you are not used to being in the open Atlantic on a rough day for 5 hours solid then it can be a challenge. The boat took a beating and I don’t think any of our trip could be described as being fun. IT was incredibly hazy as well and we didn’t see St. Martin until we got a few miles off. I guess this part was fun for the guys who had been sick as they all got very excited for the first time since we left the BVI hours before. We got in too late to clear customs and immigration, but released our residents from the boat anyway. (Not legal I guess) I held on to their passports to clear in early the next morning. St Martin can be a pretty relaxed port and many boats don’t ever bother to clear in or out when visiting the Dutch side. I did things almost by the book by clearing in and out the next morning. It got incredibly rough and we made the decision to wait an extra day before we did the last 90+ miles back to Jolly Harbour, and the home of Adventure Antigua. We had quite a few boat bits and pieces to buy there and spent the day shopping and of course having the obligatory stop at a fast food joint. We don’t have either McDonalds or Burger King in Antigua yet thank God and many Antiguans make a stop at one of these places when traveling abroad. After all the nice food we had in the BVI, Burger King just wasn’t as good as it usually was. After some more crazy St. Martin traffic and some more rushed shopping we were tired and ready for an easy dinner and some sleep. We went to the Green House bar where we could check the weather from my laptop and have a relaxed dinner. Yes this is me with +1 specs on! JD snapped this pic of me and tony checking the weather. I now have to use glasses to use my laptop. Tony and JD were drunk with tiredness.

IT had been a great trip for us and it was very nice to just be chilling with the core crew on the last night. As you can see, Tony felt the same:

We managed to escape St Martin the next morning without having any more fast food, and the best thing about it was that the winds had gone down. We went straight up to St Barts to have some lunch that we had gotten before we left St Martin. We were not allowed to clear into St Barts so just held on to a mooring on the national park outside their main harbour. Antiguans can’t go to any of the French Islands without a European visa, but we still managed to have a nice lunch offshore there. I also jumped over to see how nice the snorkeling was at their park. Mom I didn’t wait 30 minutes after eating either……hehe
The snorkeling was nice, but had plenty of current. I think it was better suited for scuba too as it was mostly very deep. After getting a good sting on my face I stayed just a bit longer to see a cuda and some jacks and the type of jelly that stung me and I was out. IT was a strange jellyfish that I had never seen before and the sting was nasty although it only lasted for about 5 minutes. Once back on board we started cruising back to Jolly. It wasn’t too bad and JD and Tony went and stood up on the bow for most of the ride home. Half way there JD shouted “Dolphins” and I then saw about a dozen Atlantic Spotted Dolphins playing around the bow. I did this little video with our new small camera.

We did quick time to Antigua and got in well before Customs, Immigration and the Port Authority were due to close. They had told me when we were leaving that they now closed after 6 pm, but in true Antiguan style the only person at the office in Jolly Harbour was Customs. This was just after 5 pm and he stayed the whole hour doing nothing at all. I asked him if there were forms that I could fill in, but he insisted that I couldn’t do anything until the other offices opened up the next morning. The next morning we waited for them to open and as expected it was customs this time who was late……almost an hour. Anyway, the new shift was all very nice and got us cleared into Antigua and Barbuda without much trouble. Tony and JD had to leave me as they were working on the other boat. We had had enough play time and now had to be back at work. IT had been quite an adventure and we were almost immediately thinking about where our next one would be.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

the final of the HIHO windsurging regatta

The final day of racing at the HIHO windsurfing regatta started with almost no wind. This wasn’t good as I needed to get rid of my DNS (did not start) by finishing a fifth race. With 5 races the organizers discard your worst result and add up the rest. In my class, The One Design (Techno class) I had 3 first place finishes and a 50th for not starting a race. Without a final race I would place somewhere around 15th overall. This wasn’t good at all and I hoped the wind was gonna pick up. One of the people hoping it wouldn’t was my good friend and part of our Adventure Antigua crew from St. Martin, Jean Mark. Without the “throw out” or fifth race he was sitting in first place overall. We went up to Sandy Cay which is a little sandy island in the lee of Tortola to get ready for a race.

I didn’t regret sitting out the race and would leave it up to the wind god to decide what would happen that day. IT was so beautiful up there and we rigged up the sails slowly and relaxed peacefully in the shade.

I could feel Tony getting upset that this was our last full day in the BVI. It had been a trip of a lifetime for him so far and although JD had been missing Antigua’s two biggest parties of the year The White Fete and the Blue Jeans Fete, he was also enjoying the time in the BVI. I took this pic of them playing in Sir Richard Branson's swimming pool.
Rusty, the race director wanted desperately to have a 5th race and would even have a sixth if the winds were strong enough. He decided to send us out to try and do a race before lunch. It was very light and not enough to get up moving with any speeds. After the start we limped up to the windward mark…..it was going to be a hot long boring race around Sandy Cay despite how beautiful it all was.
Sitting in about 8th place at the windward mark, I wasn’t surprised to see the abandonment flag flying from a chase boat and turned around to head back to the shore. We had lunch before I could eat that last mouthful the winds picked up out of nowhere. I would never have guessed the winds would have come back and Rusty who wasn’t as surprised quickly sent us back out to the start line. It could be a tricky race because after you had gotten around the choppy windward side of the island and raced across towards Sandy Spit, you had to navigate back under the lee side between anchored yachts and find your way to the finish on the opposite side of the island.
I had a so so start and immediately had to look at Ricardi and Nat Ford up ahead. I managed to stay close to them until the gusty and fluky leeward side of the island. Nat who was ahead of me went low to try and search for better winds away from the yachts, but I decided to stay as close as possible to the island hoping for some of the coast bending effects of the winds there. I managed to find some lucky gusts and all of a sudden appeared out from underneath the island way ahead. Funny how luck can be some times…...or was it the wind god? One of my Dad’s buddies says to me sometimes “it’s because you are a first born…..luck travels with you”. I dunno about that, but winning that final race meant that I had not only won my division in HIHO but had won the event overall too beating the open division as well. This wasn’t what I had expected to do and not at all what I had set out from Antigua to do. I thought I would be able to do a few races and would treat this trip as more of an adventure with my close friends than as a competitive windsurfing regatta. It ended up being both. Being able to race without major knee pain and still be competitive was a blessing and I felt more than just luck.
But walking up to the finish flag I did feel that luck had been on my side as well…..what were the chances?

Later that night at the prize giving sitting at a table with the rest of the awesome Antigua/St Martin crew .......

I felt overwhelmed…….. Lucky and blessed!

Life is short and sometimes you have to take chances and risks. The knee pain which came a week later and I am feeling now……is and was worth it. I am sure Mr. Justin Cobb may not be happy next time he sees my knee but he’ll understand.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

a 27 mile race at HIHO

This month the blog is sponsored by Caribbean Real Estate.

Friday July 6th was scheduled to be a major race day with the longest race course of the event so far. It sounded very windy and although most of the racers were up early at the skippers meeting, the numerous bottles of highland spring being consumed were a strange testament to how good the Pirate Party was the night before.
We quickly hustled over to Salt Island to get rigged and ready for the 27 mile long race down the Sir Francis Drake Channel towards the West End of Tortola. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to make it using my one big sail and decided to borrow one of Ricardi’s smaller ones. I also knew that those long reaches across the channel would kill my knee so I changed my fin size too to make it easier. With the smaller gear I wouldn’t be as fast over short bursts but would be comfortable enough to keep up for this long distance type of race. After the start I could immediately see how much slower I would be especially in the lighter winds near Salt Island.
As we got out into the middle of the channel the winds picked up and my speed followed. Some of the guys ahead were getting tired and I started passing them. At the first gybe mark I rounded third behind Ricardi and Nat Ford. For the next 20 miles the three of us battled and battled exchanging positions countless times. Whenever the winds got lighter they both raced ahead of me but as they picked up I comfortably passed them. We were never that far from each other and it was pure excitement. With about eight miles to go the course changed in a way that it was a downwind shot to the finish. Each windsurfer had to make critical tactical decisions on what route to take in order to get there fastest. I knew that the currents, wind speeds and wind shifts were in my favour closer in and decided to make short runs gibing and gibing close to the coast. I would keep looking back to see where the gusts of wind would be and gybe accordingly to stay in the good winds. Ricardi decided to make one long run out into the channel and got a terrible wind shift which put him far behind Nat and I. Nat kept following me trying to cover me. I managed to out point him a few times as we neared the coast and started edging away as we got further down the coast. The finish at Little Thatch Island was in the lee of Sopers Hole harbour and the winds could be a bit light and gusty in there. I was pretty far ahead by the time I got there and still knew that in the light winds that I expected it would be easy for the two guys behind me to catch me up on their big powerful Open Class equipment. Of course as luck would have it I stopped still as soon as I got to Sopers Hole. IT should be called the Black Hole. I remember getting stuck in there when I was about 12 doing this regatta for the first time. Nat quickly caught me up and passed me with about 1000 feet to go before the finish. Disappointed and exhausted I watched as he approached the beach and finish flags and highland spring tent on the little beach ahead of me.
Man I was tired. I almost didn’t notice him fall just before the beach as a big gust threw him down, and quickly started pumping the sail to get me to the beach. I watched as he pulled his sail from the water and floundered as I hit the beach. With my bad knee numb I ran awkwardly to the finish flag getting there seconds before Nat did. I could hardly speak and after taking a bottle of water I collapsed onto a teak chez lounge under a tree. The island was so beautiful and I almost couldn’t appreciate it with the exhaustion that had taken over all my senses. This was one of the hardest races I can remember and I was spent. Ricardi came in shortly after and according to his GPS watch, we had done 27.3 nautical miles on this long downwind race taking 80 minutes. As we watched all the racers arrive over the next hour the fatigue didn’t seem to wear off. The picturesque setting did become clearer though. Lunch here to me equaled the one from the day before at Necker Island. Like Necker, Little Thatch is a private island and the owner allows the HIHO fleet to come there once a year for lunch. They make lovely custom pizzas in their brick oven and have a massive and varied gourmet salad as well. I never want to leave there, but I had a plan for the afternoon. Mykl and I were going to relax over on Sandy Spit and when we finally dragged ourselves away we were off to the next deserted Island.
A day chilling and playing at Sandy Spit was the rehab I needed after the tough 27 mile race. The rest of the gang sailed across to Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke on with the HIHO fleet as that night there was a massive dinner at Foxies. We arrived late in the evening and were invited by the Martinique boat for cocktails. They were so hospitable and friendly that we almost missed dinner. Foxies was as packed as usual, but this didn’t stop them from putting on an awesome dinner. The party afterwards with their own band was pretty good too. This photo was taken by Mykle and shows JEan-Marc, Ricardi and me at Foxies.
We left early to get some rest for the last day of racing around Sandy Cay. I now had 4 1st place finishes in the One Design class and one DNS (did not start) so I needed to race one last time in order to be able to drop my worst score..the DNS. “Pray for wind” is something that windsurfers and kitesurfers say all the time. I needed some for the next day.

Monday, July 16, 2007

HIHO race 2 and 3

This blog is sponsored by Caribbean Real Estate.

On Race Day 3 there appeared to be some good wind and it was this day that we were scheduled to race across the Anegada Passage ending up on the white sands of Anegada. Reluctantly we checked out of the Bitter End at 7 am and rushed through a quick b’fast before joining up with JD and Tone on the Eco boat for a quick ride down to the starting area. JD had to take the helm on the yacht he was skippering at that point too. Mykl joined him and once they had gotten rid of the last of their windsurfers they nervously set off for Anegada under sail. You see Captain J-Dog has a million hours at sea, but almost all have been under power. Last year he skippered a sailing yacht at HIHO and did very well, but since then hadn’t done much sailing. Anyway, as is usual he did better than he thought he was going to do and the two of them had a nice sail. Mykl took this pic as proof.

On the other hand I was nervous as well because I didn’t think this race would be that good for my bad knee. One reach all the way across to Anegada with pressure on that back leg the whole 12 miles without a rest was tough on a good leg. I decided to spend some time before the race tuning my gear so that I would be as comfortable as possible. I played with the boom height, adjusted the universal position on the board and also lengthened the harness lines. I did quite a few dummy runs out on the course to see how I felt and was surprisingly comfortable. The race was about to begin and I was as ready as I was going to be. The winds had picked up a bit and as the red flag went up signaling 6 minutes I was struggling to put more downhaul on my sail so that it would spill some of the air. Since I wasn’t in great shape I didn’t want to be overpowered. Minutes later I glanced at my watch and saw the seconds dropping fast. Five, four, three, two, one, and the horn sounded as the green flag went up. We were off and I had a good start with only a few guys near me. For the next 12 miles Ricardi and I battled towards Anegada. Although the open class “formula” boards were faster than the one design boards on all points of sail except beam reaching which is what we were doing. On a beam reach with good wind I think we were fairly equal unless the person on the formula was a powerhouse of muscle (like Ricardi). You see the formula boards just want to launch out of the water with all the lift that their massive fins produce and I could see that Ricardi was having a hard time with all that power. He was definitely a fraction faster than I was but just couldn’t hold the speed for long enough to get ahead. We exchanged leads a few times coming within a few board lengths of each other several times. It was exciting but as the winds picked up close to Anegada I got about 100 meters ahead of him. As is usual on this race, we were instructed by the race director to look our for a HIHO yacht flying the Highland Spring flag from its mast and the finish flag would be right there on the beach. The brilliant white beach and haze made all of this pretty difficult to see and the yacht was blocking the view of the finish flags. Anyway, with Ricardi close behind me I finally made out the beach flags and two highland spring tents. Usually there are one or two women at the finish flag recording people’s names as they finish. On the beach I didn’t see them and as I got closer I saw two guys trying to put a flag up. One of them pointed at me and I figured that they were not ready for us and I had to finish at their flag. As it happened, the ladies who were usually at the flag decided to sit under one of the tents where they could easily see who finished. I went to the one with that was being manned by two guys and didn’t go to their flag. When I figured out my mistake I watched Ricardi hit the beach 30 meters from me and casually walk to the finish flag. I was about to curse myself out loud when a little voice said “don’t worry eli, you finished 1st yesterday”. It was Josh Morrell, the organizers optimistic young son. I had to smile and agree that since Ricardi and I were not even in the same division I still had just won the Techno One Design class. I sat down in the shade of the tent where Ricardi immediately joined me. We were both very tired and were very appreciative of the Highland Spring waters that the young Mr. Morrell brought us. As we sat there panting and re-hydrating we witnessed the tight finishes of all the other racers. Tony arrived towards the end single handedly running the Adventure Antigua “Arawak Odyssey” across an unfamiliar channel.

Tony’s short career as a skipper on our boat has been one filled with a rapid learning curve, and this was the first time that he had done anything quite as challenging. Apart from having his VHF radio on the wrong channel J, he did a fine job. That afternoon we decided to do an island tour together and once we got to the Anegada Reef hotel which was to be the dinner spot later that night, we tried looking for a tour guide. With a total population of 600 it seems as though there were not prepared for the influx of yachts. In the end I rented an old Ford pickup which had two cushioned bench seats in the back. Tony, JD, Ricardi, Jean-Marc, Jean-Michelle, Mykl and I all piled in and off we went. The island’s coastline is beautiful and reminded us of Barbuda and Anguilla which all have similar geographical makeup.

That being said, the most exciting thing we saw was the beach bar on the windward coast.

This didn’t stop the guys in the back from consuming a large quantity of beer and making almost as much noise. IT was fun. Since this was a holiday, I decided once again to get a room and Chad’s brother Jerry Emmanuel fixed me up with a good rate there. The dinner party that night was a blast. Anegada is famous for their lobster and we were shocked to find out from the fishermen there that all our lobster that night had actually been imported from our sister island Barbuda. It seems as though the BVI are forward thinking enough to have a lobster season in an effort to try to save their diminishing stocks. Anyway, that night the Barbudan lobster however rare they may be back home, were delicious. Tony was the main man during the after party sometimes leading a raucous “Congo line” around the sandy dance floor.
I think he was having more fun than I had ever seen him have. Well almost…..nothing is more fun for him than catching big marlin.
The next day was filled solid with all sorts of things going on. First was prezzie opening for Mykl as it was her birthday. All the racers were taking part in a yacht race back to Prickly Pear Island just below Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Island. As soon as all the windsurfers finished racing over on their yachts, they had to quickly rig their sails and get ready for a race around Necker finishing on Branson’s main beach. We were also going to have the pleasure of being his guests for a long lunch there. This was the part I was looking forward too. I decided to sit out the race as I was feeling some knee pain and would use the extra time to chill with Mykl on her birthday. I was banking on the fact that after 5 races there would be a discard of my worst result which would be the DNS (did not start) that day. Ricardi won the race with Jean Mark finishing second. He had placed 3rd the day before too so our little team was doing very well so far. Necker Island is beautiful and I think well worth the US $47 thousand dollars a day to stay there. The pool is one of the biggest I have ever been in and is designed and constructed to be as natural looking as possible with even the typical beach vegetation around it. We all played way too much in the lovely pool. JD and Tony were in heaven.

The lunch was lovely and Tony, JD and Ricardi managed to meet Sir Richard.

He was actually vacationing there with his whole family. After lunch,
we were given a private tour of the island and managed to see the flamingos and Galapagos turtles too. It did feel a bit strange walking through the main house while the Branson family chilled at their private pool. We met a nice young family member in the kitchen who seemed so friendly and hospitable that I just was shocked. We were being given a tour by Charlie who was racing in the HIHO and worked the rest of the time there at Necker. IT didn’t seem to be something that wasn’t done either which was very odd to me. Just having a tour though the Branson home while they were there relaxing wasn’t something I had ever expected to do (or wanted to do for that matter). These people are cool though and welcomed us. Strange but true. In fact by the time we got back to the beach, Richard and his son were out kitesurfing in front of the eco boat. He was pretty good too. It was time for us to move on to the next anchorage down at Trellis Bay on Beef Island.
That night was the famous Pirate Party and everyone was excited. Mykl and I were tired and opted out settling on an exceptional dinner at Eclipse. What a day! Thank Sir Richard!

Friday, July 13, 2007

windsurf Race number one at HIHO

Blog sponsored by JHR Caribbean.
OK, I am not as fast to write my blog as I should have been and now the racing news is on the web for all to see. Usually at the HIHO windsurfing regatta there are 2 races the first day one every other day except the last day when there are two races. This means that there are usually a minimum of 7 races. When the winds are strong there can be more. Two years ago when I was the race director there I ran 9 races which was good fun for everyone as it gave more chance for people to catch up if they had made mistakes in the early races. Another important thing is that there is usually one “discard” after 5 races which means your overall score would consist of the best 4 of the five races.
Anyway, after having a nice b’fast at the Bitter End it was time to rig up my one and only sail, a 10 square meter race sail made by North Sails, and pass some 600 grit sand paper over the bottom of my old board before heading out to the start. The winds had died down and it took me forever to get to the start line a mile up the coast from the hotel. The winds were very light and after some time they decided to send us to the nearest beach for lunch.

img_5726It was here that Tony and JD got a chance to captain something other than the Adventure Antigua boats. We gave them windsurfing lessons and they were immediately hooked. Both of them did very well and almost didn’t want to give Mykl back her intermediate windsurfing equipment.

After lunch there was another skippers meeting and they decided to cancel races for the day due to the light winds.

This was perfect for JD, Tony, and Mykl who spent the afternoon sharpening their own windsurfing skills. The waters were so warm there on the almost deserted Eustacia Island and it was plenty of fun coaching the newbie windsurfers.

It was another chilled night for some of us at Bitter End while others including members of the Adventure Antigua crew partied until the wee hours. The winds picked up a bit the next morning and things looked good for a race. You see, knowing that my knee was still in very bad shape after three operations, I was planning on only giving the whole race thing a try. All the doctors I had been to would have shaken their heads at the thought of me taking part in the 100 mile HIHO windsurfing regatta, and to tell you the truth…..I had no intention on doing it either.
The red flag went up on the start line which signaled that we had 6 minutes before the start. A tiny shot of adrenalin pulsed through my veins and I smiled remembering how common that feeling was when I had first started to race in these waters back in the summer of 1985. By the time I went to the Olympics the adrenalin had stopped pumping out on the start line so it was almost a nice feeling.

Yellow flag………3 minutes before the start. Some windsurfers were racing up and down jostling for position and others just sat still waiting to burst through the line between the committee boat and the start buoy. The winds were still light and although it wasn’t going to put too much stress on my knee, it would on my unconditioned body. In light winds you have to “pump” the sail and exert so much energy of your own to keep “planning” or going fast. Yellow flag down…….one minute to go.
I had borrowed a proper sailing start watch and the big digital numbers showed only seconds to go. As it was the first race everyone was a bit nervous and windsurfers were packed like sardines near the committee boat. There was going to be a crash for sure. At 20 seconds I started racing towards the line hoping to cross it with space and speed. Five seconds before the red flag, someone cut right across my path. He had right of way and I had to do a sharp turn around him and back to the line. I was sure I was going to clip him, but managed to just miss and come out on the other side with an unobstructed view of the line and clear winds above me. Red flag…..GO! We were off and I was immediately surprised to be ahead. The two best places to be ahead are at the start and at the finish. I had half covered and just had to get to the finish in the same position. The race was long and difficult and one of the juniors caught me up half way and gave me a hard time for quite a part of the remainder. Luckily he made a mistake and all of a sudden there was another racer there challenging for the lead. He was in the open class which means he is permitted to use any kind of equipment whatsoever and I was in the One Design class using a 4 year old race design which was being used by most of the people in the event. It wasn’t as fast in the light winds as the Open class gear and I was passed easily on the downwind leg towards the finish. The winds got very fluky between the islands and we both “fell off the plane” which means stopped going fast. There was a squall coming behind us which was sucking up all the winds, and we both knew that once it got closer the winds would be much stronger than they had been for the day. My competition at this point was Nat Ford from St. John, USVI. I had raced with him in Puerto Rico about 6 years before and I knew he was good enough to easily beat me if I didn’t sail smart. In the light winds with islands on either side of us we exchanged the lead several times with only one mile to go before the finish flag on Prickly Pear Island. The squall finally pushed some winds our way and we were off again making quick gybes between the islands. Somehow I managed to edge him out and make it to the flag first. Phheeeuuw! I was tired and happy to have finished 1st in the 1st race I had done in years and years. I had probably only been on windsurf race gear 6 times since 2003 and was stoked to have done well. Maybe I would have to try another race the next day, but that one would be very tough on my knee. Sailing on starboard tack 12 miles across the Atlantic channel between Virgin Gorda and Anegada would be very tough indeed. I wasn’t sure about it and would see how the knee felt in the morning. For now it was time to go chill in the lovely room of Bitter End once again where we could see Anegada off on the horizon beyond Eustacia and Ncker islands. The first photo was mine, the ones in the middle were from my racing friend Ricardi and the last was done by MDC. Hope you enjoyed