Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Planning a wedding while in Antigua isn't easy.

As many of my friends and readers may know my girlfriend and I decided that we are going to get married. We have gotten the blessing of our parents, families, friends and the Adventure Antigua crew and have been trying to organize the wedding. It's not been that easy for me for a number of reasons. First of all, I think I am starting to agree with my other half that i have ADHD or something like it. I simply can't concentrate on anything for long enough to get some productive wedding planning done. I mean, i started trying to organize things back in March but got slightly disturbed by a sailing trip down to St. Barts to hang out during the Bucket Regatta.
That didn't last that long though. I got back into the planning at the start of April and then started thinking about The Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.
As you know our team did very well in that, but when it finished i got back to the task at hand. Wedding planning! Invitations: what they would look like, what they would say, where were the people being invited to, who would design them, where would they be printed, how many did we need... etc are all questions that bogged down the actual process and then there was the West Indies Regatta down in St. Barts. I got distracted big time on that one and concentrated hard enough on that topic that we actually won the regatta. On the sail back with winds blowing like mad I thought about the wedding planning again and was determined to get stuff done as soon as i got back. Those winds! The winds blew so nicely when i got back that i started thinking about the HIHO windsurfing regatta in the BVI again. I have had more first place finishes in that regatta than anyone else and had promised Andy who runs it that Adventure Antigua would send a team again this year. I dusted off my windsurfing gear and went sailing.
aint got time for a fast train
While out there a few miles off shore on my way down to Jolly Harbour I started thinking about the invitations again. Man, i needed to get this thing done. We still haven't figured out where we were going to have the reception either. The next day calls were made and during the week we were very good and wedding planning. We decided we wanted to do a post card as our wedding invitation and took the tripod down to the beach three times to get the right image. I can't tell you how difficult it is (and funny) trying to take a photo of your and your bride to be walking down the beach! Anyone watching would have scratched their heads and thought we were totally nuts. I think they would have been right too!
Anyway, after weeks of trying and far too many hours spent on photoshop we came up with a design and got it printed up. It's not the one above but has the same kinda theme. We are both happy with it and i finally feel like we are getting somewhere. We have had about three months of discussions with a place for the reception and we are just about to make a deposit on that. There is still plenty to do and when a boy asks a girl to marry him, he doesn't think about all the things you have to do before you get married if you are going to even have a small wedding. Wow!
The most important thing now is getting a list of all the people we need to send invitations to and then to start sending them. There is one slight problem though..... There is a fishing tournament this weekend and all i can think of is that huge blue marlin Team Xtreme is going to be looking for.
As the full time readers of this blog know, we are very much into our sport fishing. This vid was taken last week:

Anyway, my ADHD and all the distractions won't stop me from wedding planning next week as we are doing a wedding shopping trip to NYC. Got cheap tickets and a place to stay and wedding planning and action is gonna happen next week!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Illegal French FAD fishing in Antigua waters.

Please read more on what exactly a FAD (Fish Aggregating Devise) is here by clicking this link. From what we have seen and from what we have been told by fishermen who own them simple FADs here in the Caribbean can have a two mile radius of marine species which are all attracted or "Aggregated" by the FAD. Under the water you usually see a scene like the one i shot around this floating net some time ago:

From the very unscientific research that i have done i would guess that there are close to one thousand FADs stretched between Trinidad and Puerto Rico concentrating fish stocks around them so that fishermen can harvest a dwindling supply much easier than simply "blind searching" for fish like they did in the old days. Many of the FADs are government sponsored or subsidized too.
In the waters around Antigua and Barbuda there are dozens and dozens of FADs. A few of them have been set by local fishermen but the practice isn't common here for a number of reasons. I suppose the biggest reason is that there are not that many people in Antigua fishing for pelagics like tuna, marlin, dolphin fish, and other species that concentrate around FADs. Another reason is that most Antiguan fishermen don't know much about FADs and how they work. I think if they did then we would see more Antiguans setting them and more Antiguans fishing the French FADs in our waters. The French island of Guadeloupe is only 50 miles away and with more commercial fishermen there per capita than most islands they often find themselves into our large economic fishing zone. In fact, on nearly 100% of my fishing trips into the Atlantic I come across fishermen from Guadeloupe. Sometimes i see them just off Antigua fishing, some times i see them 25 miles east of Antigua and some times i even see them east of Barbuda. Almost all of them use FADs and have them set mostly on the Atlantic side of Antigua way out in the deep. We have found French FADs 30 miles east of Barbuda and have seen the little French commercial fishing boats catching tuna there. These small boats will easily make a two mile round trip while fishing FADs. Their methods are specific and carefully carried out. Here is a short video we shot on the weekend showing the simple markers used on a French FAD. Notice that they are not intended to be there to show everyone where the FAD is. It is very important for the FAD positions to remain secret and if you want to upset a FAD fishermen then all you have to do is fish his FAD.

I have some friends from St. Barts who also put FADs in our waters off Barbuda and tell me that there are over 100 of them out there. Each commercial fishermen uses boats like this one which is typical of most of the commercial French fishermen in the Caribbean.
Most of them will have four or more FADs in a particular area which they work. Research has shown that tuna and other species will feed around a FAD for a short time and move to the next FAD and then to the next one almost making a circle around FADs in a particular area. The same can be true for Mahi Mahi (also known as Dorade, Dorado, and Dolphin Fish), sailfish, blue and white and Marlin. The fishermen know this and do exactly the same thing. Over the past two weeks we have been out fishing and have seen these boats on every trip. Of course they are in our waters and fishing illegally using FADs. What they do is motor quickly towards a FAD and stop to catch the mahi mahi first. If there are none they will try to catch small tuna which also concentrate around FADs. Once they have a little tuna they will then attach it to a line and drop it back over live in the hope of catching a big yellowfin tuna. I have spoken with French fishermen who have told me that they have gotten as many as 18 big yellowfin in one day doing this method. In all my life the most tuna i have ever seen any Antigua boat catch in one day is about 5 and usually boats catch none. It's a rare event for an Antiguan boat to catch a yellowfin tuna these days. As soon as the FAD fishermen thinks the FAD isn't productive they power up and quickly move to the next FAD which is usually within a few miles. They do the same thing there. We estimate that the average fishermen who fishes here in Antigua from Guadeloupe has at least five FADs. I think that we may have 150 French Fads in our waters, but this is just based on the reports from my friends in St. Barts and on the numbers of FADs we have randomly found out in the Atlantic. It is also my opinion that there are huge environmental, social, and economic implications by all of this. There are no controls and no study of FAD fishing in Antiguan waters. Those who know about Antiguas fishing know that there are no proper controls on any of our fishery but least of all on illegal pelagic FAD fishing.
FAD fishing is exponentially getting more and more common and the Caribbean is one of those places where a huge number of unregulated FADs have been set. There can be no doubt that they increase the catching rates for those who use them. I think that if more fish are concentrated or lured in around FADs and more catching is being done there then there are fewer fish everywhere else and fewer fish being caught away from the FADs. It's not just fish either. We noticed a turtle feeding off of a FAD on the weekend. It won't be long before the fishermen start using nets on these FADs as they do in the Pacific and then we will have a much bigger problem. There are huge environmental implications and since there is no study or control of FAD fishing in the waters off Antigua and Barbuda I think this is something that the Japanese funded Fisheries ministry here in Antigua needs to think about. It's not like they don't have the money!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

One week before the fishing tournament

One week from now Team Xtreme of Adventure Antigua will be on the way to start fishing on Day 1 of the 43 Annual Sport Fishing Tournament. Over the last week there has been plenty of trash talking with the winners of last year's tournament, Blue Rapid, with skipper John Fuller (my dad) saying that they will win easily and beat us any day any time. hahahaha not this time. They scraped through to win last years tournament with two young kids on board and a bunch of geriatrics limping around behind them.

Antiguan olympic team

HA! They don't have the kids this time to help them..
The "chairman" says that our team won't be happy with some of the changes they have made and talked plenty of trash in the feeble attempt to try to throw our concentration off.

We have been hearing trash talk about this tournament for a year and it has made our team even more determined to go out there and look for the biggest marlin ever caught in our waters. That's our only goal in this tournament and given the chance we will do it. Tony, Guilli, Big John, David and Garvin are so "amped" that I can hardly contain them. They are like raging bulls trying to get out and cause havoc. Here you see Big John on the left and Guilli on the right. The most desperate fisherman on Antigua and the chairman of the Antigua Barbuda Sport Fishing Club is in the middle. The photos were pulled from the club's site and were taken on the opening party for the tournament which was held last saturday.
We went back out East of Antigua several days ago and found four Guadeloupean FADs which are excellent places to catch marlin. In five minutes we are leaving once again to go look for both marlin and Fads in one last practice session. Like the kids say "Its on like Donkey Kong"!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Discounts on Adventure Antigua Tours

Today is another one of those days when the boats stay in port. It's not because the weather is bad, but it's because there just were not any bookings. Things are as slow as is expected at this time of year before the all the kids and their families are finished with school and after the main tourists and sailing seasons are all done. Of course it is even more quiet with all the doom and gloom that has been constantly broadcast in the media about the world economy. It's finally hit here in Antigua and to try to stir up some business and work for my crew we are offering larger discounts for our tours booked through our website. usually offers 10% discounts but if you book anytime between now and November 15th for tours within that time you will get an additional 10% off. So 20% off isn't bad at all and you won't find this savings at the hotels because this is only offered through our site.
These tours are unique and take guests on smaller guided adventures on purpose built boats off the beaten track. Please have a look at the website to see new photos and content as well and email us or facebook me if you need more info. Thanks again, eli fuller. Antigua

Monday, May 18, 2009

It's fishing time!

mahi mahi
May and June are the good months for Blue Marlin fishing in Antigua and although this season seems very slow getting started we managed to get our first Blue this past weekend. It was our second time out looking for them and although we had caught some lovely mahi mahi the first day we had seen no marlin then. Day two was much better with four mahi, one tuna and a nice release of a blue marlin. The blue was not even hooked as the hook was just looped around it's bill. We released the 150-175 lb fish to fight another day. Here the little movie shows part of the Xtreme Team having some fun.

The biggest tournament of the year is being held in Nelsons Dockyard at the end of the month. For more info and even some photos you can check their site. It's the 43rd year this tournament has been running and Adventure Antigua has done many of the recent ones.
the older big john
Will let you know how day three of our practice sessions goes later in the week.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Photo Action's photos arrived.

Tim Wright of Photo Action sold all of his fantastic Ocean Nomad photos from the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta to one of our racing crew. Harry Ingram a sailor from Scotland (seen on the stern) who joined us for the first two races got the photos from Tim yesterday and sent me them with the strict terms of use. The photos are excellent as are all of the ones on and the terms are fair as well. Anyway, as you know from reading the blog we won our class and division and the photos just add to the good memories we all have from that week. Here are a few that i can share with you. I modified a few of them. These are not to be copied or used without the permission of Tim Wright.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The West Indies Regatta part 3

The second day of racing in the West Indies Regatta started out with the usual pre race jostling. The night before Georgio had looked at the weather forecast for Monday and decided that he wouldn't stick around. Before we left the dock we said our farewells to him and his crew. Now the race for top honors was more focused on our boat, Ocean Nomad and Alexis Andrew's Genesis. The other boats even with their new ratings would have a hard time beating us overall, but anything was possible. We all took on extra crew as interest among both St. Barts visitors and locals had peaked. We had one more local friend of Loulou and Gaston come with us. "Gi" hadn't done much sailing but was up for some fun. We also took on two tourists who were very much in awe of the beautiful Caribbean boats. Alexis had a big crew of mostly the same makeup as did Frank on Tradition, and the Nevis boat "Alexander Hamilton". The plan was to race around one of the off shore islands and finish at a lovely beach called Colombier where we would all have lunch together. I was eagerly awaiting that but we had to first win the race!! All the photos here were taken by Bruno De Benedicts who runs the lovely shop KOKON in St. Barts. He raced with Alexis on Genesis and loved it. Here you see their crew getting ready before the start of the morning's race.

We didn't have the best start this time after being caught up in some traffic on the tight start line. Charles Hambleton on Summer Cloud killed me at the start and covered me very well up to the first mark. Tradition seen above with Frank Pierce shot off the line like a bullet and Alexis on Genesis was right next to him. We were in trouble and hadn't been in fourth place in a race in some time. At the first mark we just managed to pass Charles before putting our big down wind sail up. We had good winds and I was seeing speeds of up to 8.5 knots on the GPS very quickly. There was no doubt that the angle was perfect for us and we were reeling in the two boats ahead. By this time Genesis had pulled away from Tradition, but Frank was still going very well. We tried to pass upwind of her but Tradition would have none of that. Reluctantly we kept a more straight line to the island and Genesis up ahead and very slowly pass below Frank in his wind shadow. Finally we pulled out into clear air having passed Tradition and set our aim on Genesis up ahead. We were gaining on them which made all on board excited. Behind us we could see Martin Dudley on "Good Expectation" giving some good battle to Charles on "Summer Cloud" with "Alexander Hamilton" and "Plumbelly" a little further back. "Plumbelly" seen below is an amazing story in itself. The little 24 foot wooden boat was built ages ago in the Grenadines on a beach in Bequia and had sailed right around the world two times! It had also sailed across the Atlantic 26 times. The current owner, a 30 year old American guy sails normally by himself and was sailing through the Caribbean his brother at the moment after coming over from Africa. Talk about adventure!!!! The boat was tiny, but obviously designed and built very well.

After rounding the island we had to sail upwind to Colombier, and the wind was blowing at about 12-14 knots which is ideal for Ocean Nomad. We were catching Genesis and they knew it. We could see them carefully monitoring us trying to figure what to do. I have been in that position hundreds of times during windsurfing regattas, and you are always unsure of how to stop that boat behind you. The winds up under St. Barts started to get light and shifty and Genesis decided to tack away from the land into better air outside. I think they thought that I would tack to avoid getting his bad air, but I saw that the boats anchored up on shore above us were pointing in a way that would suggest a good wind direction change for us. We ducked his stern as he had right of way and kept going up in search of the magic lift. Sure enough we got it and got it good while looking back at Genesis sailing away from us. Finally when we had drank as much of that wind shift as possible we tacked to get us closer to the finish line. We were no very much safely in the lead and waited until we couldn't miss the finish even with a big wind shift before we tacked on our way to our second win in the regatta so far. It was time for lunch and a swim!
Genesis took a mooring and we pulled alongside him so we could share our beer and food with each other. The awening was a must as it was pretty sunny and hot. You can see us starting to put it up here.
LouLou the commercial fisherman from St. Barts who was sailing with us had brought along some lovely mahi mahi steaks which we had grilling on the back of our boat in no time. With all the food and drinks we all brought along it was going to be tough to race home in the afternoon.
In fact, by the time the start line for the final race was set, both "Tradition" and "Alexander Hamilton" hadn't set their sails. I think they were more set on enjoying the wine and relaxation than racing. Summer Cloud had also opted for the delicious attraction of rosé back at the beach. That didn't mean it wasn't going to be a battle between the racers left and as you can see from these photos taken just before the start, it was tight.

We knew that we would be able to just about use our big down wind sails but it was going to be tight. Since we started just below Genesis we waited until he had put his up before we did anything and then pushed him up in order to get above him. We then put our sail up and managed to stay in front on the way down to the island we had to round. It was close action and plenty of fun.

When we rounded the island Genesis got a huge lift and managed to pull alongside of us.

For the next few miles we sailed neck and neck until the winds picked up a bit allowing us to point slightly higher than them. I pushed them up for a while until finally cracking off to reach towards the next island we had to round in the lee of Gustavia. From there it would be a beat up to the finish. Once again we got to the island in front of them with them right behind us. The winds died for us as we expected in the lee of the island but then when they kicked back in we were pushed off or "headed" by a huge wind shift. Only about three boat lengths behind us Genesis was in good wind and managed to get a huge lift sailing about 90 degrees higher than us. Within about 10 seconds she was a good distance above us and we would have to work to catch her. The winds had gone much lighter and far more shifty and we managed to catch them again half way up to the finish before almost getting becalmed. We decided that the north side of the course had more wind and Genesis decided to sail on the south side. Unfortunatly we picked the wrong side and had to watch Genesis find some good air while we sat almost motionless. She finished ahead of us in the end which actually wasn't a bad thing. A win is a win and although she and her crew could be happy that they won the final race we could uplift this loss with the joy of the overall win. Two firsts and a second got us the trophy and what a lovely one it was. If you ever get to St. Barts make sure you look for the fantastic artist David Wegman who did our trophy. Guilli and Jason came up on stage to collect it with me and we were all very happy. The regatta was such an awesome time all in all with the most amazing hospitality from all the local people on the island who remembered these lovely sailing vessels coming into Gustavia to trade in the old days. The West Indies Regatta had now been born and was there to stay.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

West Indies Regatta part 2

So in my last blog entry i spoke about our sailing trip down to the West Indies Regatta and our arrival on the beautiful island of St. Barts. The next morning we woke up super early and took the little tender over to the north side of harbour where we could have a short walk to the boulangerie (bakery) which is owned by my fishing friend "Eric" seen in the pic below.

Wah' appan'
I have to admit that until you have been to a french bakery you haven't been to a good one. There were what looked like hundreds of different items to pick from and we kinda just guessed and took a huge variety of things. B'fast in St. Barts every morning was fantastic because of this place and we usually were there before 7 am each morning. Everything was excellent and if you ever go there ask for Eric's boulangerie. I can't remember the name at the moment tho. In the photo above of "Wa'appen" you have Christian (the owner of the boat) on the far right, then LouLou next to him, a friend who i can't remember in the middle and then Eric on the far left. I had spoken to Christian about the regatta and it happened that he was going to Antigua the same weekend. He told me to give LouLou a call. LouLou wanted to come sailing too. The night before I had seen another former fishing tournament friend, Gaston, who also said he would come out with us. We had a good crew and with the local fishing boys with us I knew we would give the rest of the fleet a hard time. Gaston and LouLou had been sailing many times before and were a huge help. There was only going to be one race on Saturday, and all the boats got ready just outside the harbour sailing back and forth near the start line. We had a great start and were leading off the line. There was a quick reaching leg with a gybe leading to a very broad reaching leg. We took a very long time to get our big down wind sail up and Alexis who had his up very early managed to catch up and pass us slightly. The winds were very shifty and light and we managed to catch up once we got our big "jenny" up. At the mark Alexis on Genesis gybed slightly wide trying to keep his spinnaker up. We had dumped our "jenny" and gybed tight passing him quickly. It was then some upwind work to a tiny mark of the north west end of Gustavia and then a long reach up to the south end of the island to tack around a mark and tight reach back to the finish. Our lead was never properly threatened again and we crossed the line very happy indeed. We were back on the dock by about noon and ready for some lunch and a swim once again at Shell Beach. Gaston insisted that we all come to his lovely home for some food and relaxing. The hospitality from the locals was fantastic and after far too much food and some great red wine we decided to hit the beach once again. Shell Beach was close to the boat and this time we walked. Nik and I chilled in the water while Guilli and Jason drank beer and relaxed in the Brazil beach bar or whatever it's called. LAter that night we hit Le Select where Tuey and some friends were playing. They had flown in especially for this regatta being family and friends of one of the boat's owners. The jam session was excellent and at the end of the night some of the crew from the boats joined in the last song. "You can't always get want you wan't" was the chant that even Jason managed to join in with. What fun! Race number two and three the next day were going to be a little tougher with Alexis on Genesis and all of the other boats determined to better.
All of the photos seen here except the one of my fishing friends were taken by Bruno De Benedicts from St. Barts who raced on Genesis.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Our trip to The West Indies Regatta part 1

Alexis Andrews of Antigua, the owner of the beautiful and fast Carriacou Sloop Gensis got together with LouLou Magras of St. Barts and came up with the idea of having a regatta dedicated to boats built in the West Indies. The West Indies Regatta was born. Some day they could have boats from the Bahamas in the North all the way down to Trinidad coming to this event. We know that all of the islands built wooden sailing vessels historically which were used to quickly transport cargo from one island to the other, and recently we have seen a resurgence of the passion involved in the idea of sailing these magnificent boats. It was that kind of passion that Alexis and Loulou shared in coming up with the plan for this regatta. Antigua already had a bunch of boats built on the Grenadian island of Carriacou and almost all of us decided to take our boats to the inaugural event in St. Barts. Our boat, the Ocean Nomad, still glowing from it's win at the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta a few weeks before was ready for battle once again. Genesis and Sweetheart who we had narrowly edged out to win the event were as eager to finish on top this time too. Martin on the newest boat in Antigua "Good Expectations" had learned plenty about his boat and was ready to get some better results too. The event was scheduled to officially start on Friday May 1st so we got some of our core crew together and set sail from Jolly Harbour on Thursday night after dinner. The winds had dropped down to almost nothing and in order to get there in time to register, clear into immigration and have b'fast we decided to motor sail down. I hadn't done motor sailing down wind on Ocean Nomad before and although it wasn't as quiet as I had liked it to have been, the constant noise from the engine somehow helped me to sleep in between my watches. In fact, it was the best sleep I had had while at sea on the sloop since we had left Carriacou a year before. Our crew for the ride to St. Barts was Iain of who was going to be shooting the event, Nik my former partner in and our "rock star" crew member, Jason the Ocean Nomad "first mate", and Guilliano our dedicated Adventure Antigua fishing and sailing adventurer. The sky wasn't always clear with some upper level clouds streaming above us for much of the time, but when there was a break in the clouds the stars were overwhelming. Sailing down wind from Antigua is always extremely enjoyable and coupled with the phosphorescence, the shooting stars and flashes of fleeing flying fish we all enjoyed the ride immensely. About eleven hours later we were dropping sails in the lee of Gustavia and dodging the huge green turtles that seem to live there without fear of all the boats that also share the beautifully clear waters. To be honest, although the waters were clear, there was a tinge of green that managed to find it's way into the harbour from outside. Mykl was telling me about a huge "bloom" of algae which had found it's way up here from the South American coast and I doubted the facts surrounding the article she read to me. Now i was seeing it first hand. Anyway, thankfully it was gone by the next morning. Here is info about it from the Virgin Islands.
After clearing in and getting some food in us we decided to take the tender over to the famous "Shell Beach" where we could have a long swim and cool off. With almost no wind we were overheating quickly. Shell Beach didn't disappoint and Guilli and Jason who hadn't been to St. Barts were blown away by the new beauty of it all. It wasn't just the pretty shells that caught their attention. Later that afternoon we hung out on the pier where all of the boats were docked stern to and watched slide shows which presented old photos of the traditional boats sailing and carrying cargo to and from St. Barts as well as the Carriaco Sloops presentation done by Alexis. One of the sponsors was The Grenada Chocolate Company which also showed a video of their excellent "green" company. The chocolate was very good too. I think i would like to get some to offer on my tours in the future. After a BBQ right there on the dock we migrated over to Baz Bar for some "ti punch" and some great NYC live jazz. It had been a long night and day and with all the excitement it didn't take long for us all to be tired and ready for bed. There was racing to be done the next day...