Friday, September 24, 2010

International Coastal Cleanup Day 2010 (and a fishing tournament).


Back in the early summer months of 2007 Martin Dudley, a local environmentalist, contacted me about the Ocean Conservancy's International Coastal Cleanup Day. He told me that although there was an island representative, they were too busy to be involved that year. Together we organized several groups and tried to drum up media attention locally about it. We eventually received some help from the government to collect the huge mass of garbage that we collected. You can see some photos and read about our effort that year hereand here, and on the sunday here
Many people around the island called me up trying to find out how they could be involved. I didn't set out to be a coordinator but it sort of turned out that way.
In 2008 the day clashed with a big fishing tournament here and we decided to go to a few out of the way beaches on my smaller boat. The weather wasn't good but we still managed to get quite a few people joining us. Read more on that here 2008.
In 2009 we decided to market it as a free day of boating and helping the environment. I promoted it a bit in the media as well as on my blogs. Here is an example of that: 2009 promo.
We had a huge response and it seemed that other groups were now getting involved. Sandals and some of the other hotels were doing their own things too. Little groups of families were cleaning beaches all around the island. The word was getting out. We took our Eco Tour boat as I had a feeling the deserted beaches we would go to would be filled with garbage. The volunteers came with bags and in the end we didn't even have enough. As you can see from this blog (please check it out), we collected a scary amount of garbage. The management of Jolly Harbour was kind enough to receive the trash in their skips.
This year the Ministry of Tourism and the Antigua Hotels and Tourist Association finally decided to get involved and there has been quite a bit in the news and on the net. Check this video out:

I am so glad that this has now taken off here in Antigua. It's been about time. Of course many people will say that showing interest for the well being of our beaches comes a bit late from the Tourism Ministry and the AHTA, and while I agree, I think that it's never too late. There is plenty more they should be caring about when it comes to our beaches and I can only hope and urge them to become more involved in other similar issues which i frequently raise on my blogs. In fact, just looking at the blog post i last mentioned above and coming up with a strategy to stop all the trash pouring into the sea out of St. Johns would be a great step in the right direction from here. Anyway, I will try not to stray too far from International Coastal Cleanup 2010.
I currently have two of my boats out of commission getting major refurbishments done and Xtreme is taking up the slack and working most days. In fact, tomorrow she will be doing a round the island tour (with extra trash bags). Tomorrow is also the Francis Nunes Memorial Fishing Tournament and I will be joining my Dad in the tournament. He's just come back from heart surgery and I'm happy to be fishing with him and not against him this time.
Adventure Antigua will plan a proper beach cleanup once again in our traditional manner as soon as the Eco boat comes back from it's refit. That should be sometime in October, so if you are interested in being part of that one please contact me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How not to find water!

Historically, Antigua was one of the last islands to be colonized simply because of the never ending water shortage the island has been faced with. With very little rainfall comparatively and without large enough mountains for streams and rivers, Antigua has always been a dry island. Early European colonists knew living here would be tough and it wasn't until England realized the strategic importance of Antigua's coastline that the island became attractive. From the first colonial structures to the most modern buildings today, water catchment has always been important. As mentioned in one of my earlier blogs about the oil disaster here, Antigua finally tried to fix the water problem with a massive desalination plant sometime in the 1980s. This was a huge step in the right direction and for most of my adult life water shortages were a thing of the past.
Sadly for one reason or another, the main desalination plant has not been able to keep up with demand. Depending on who you speak with, the reasons for this failure can be blamed on one political party or another. Anyway, that isn't the purpose of this blog. This blog is about an attempt to start up another smaller desalination plant at one of Antigua's favorite beaches which ultimately has been an unbelievable "cock-up".
Before I explain what is going on at Ffryes beach I should first explain what has happened there over the past few years:
Without proper permission, or any study from the Environment Division a massive dredging and sand mining project was undertaken a few years ago which took hundreds of truck loads of sand from the swamp behind the beach. Even after the swamp was dug up right up to the high water mark on the CocoBay Beach, more sand mining continued between the swamp and Ffryes Beach as seen in this photo where the holes were filled with dirt after the sand was excavated:
This unfortunate area already had already seen heavy mining in the hillside behind the hotel and swamp. I don't know what was done with all of the sand that was mined from this area but I am sure that someone became very wealthy out of this environmental disaster. Needless to say that this area has had major industrial work done over the past few years. These photos were taken in October 2008 and show you the effect the sand mining has had on the beach which in a high tide merges with the swamp. Notice the mined hillside in the back too:

This was all quite odd when you think about it from a tourism perspective and also from a nationalist perspective. I say that because Ffryes Beach had always been thought of in my mind as "The People's Beach", a undeveloped beach where people had always visited especially on public holidays.
Also going on was the construction of several small tourism developments. Dennis Beach Bar at one end, the very controversial Tamarind Hills development (which i will leave for another day) on the other and several other developments nearby too. I guess that's another story which leads me astray from the topic at hand. Desalination!
After all of this had gone down, the government's Water Department decided that they would start a desalination plant on the beach.
According to the water manager, they had first thought that a better site would be next to the Urlings Fisheries facility where the waters are clearer and an industrial facility already existed. Fisheries said "No Way", so Ffryes was the next alternative according to the manager.
Instead of doing an extensive study to see if the area would be a feasible site for desalination, construction began at the same time that studies and test wells were being drilled. Well after well was drilled without and success. Hydrogen Sulphide was found in most of the wells and there was never a fast enough flow of water into the well from the surrounding material which was mostly made up of clay. Clay isn't permeable enough to permit the smooth flow of filtered brackish water. In addition to the clay, the little sand that was found in the wells was also too fine for water to flow quickly.
In desperation the drilling machine was even positioned right on the beach just to prove that the wells were not going to work in the area. That last and final well couldn't get sufficient water either and the machine was finally taken away. The building seen in the video below which is where the main desalination process takes place as well as housing the water distribution mechanism. This was all already completed by this time the last well failed to produce enough water.

Well what good is a water facility without water? None, so the only choice was to go directly into the sea. Why wasn't this done to start with? After all the facility is a desalination plant right?
Well Reverse Osmosis plants (more here) produce what we call fresh water from what we generally call salt water. This is accomplished by using a series of very specific filtration processes. Ideally wells are used because water that "wells up" inside a well has been filtered by the earth surrounding the well. A coastline well gives you fairly clean filtered salt water which ideally needs considerably less filtration than water that is taken directly from the sea.
With that in mind, water taken from the sea in an area where the water is clear and sediment free will require less filtration and maintenance than water that is taken from a murky coastline.
Here we come to another huge problem with Ffreys Beach. Whenever there is ground swell usually during the cold front season between November until May, the coastline along the coast where Ffryes is located is terribly murky. The seabed is a very fine sandy bottom that remains shallow for miles. I am not an engineer, but after spending most of my life on the water in and around Antigua, I am afraid that this will cause big problems for the Water Department's RO plant. The filtration process will never be able to effectively cope with the heavy sedimentation which is normal in the area.
During the summer the waters are usually very clear there unless there is a storm out to sea. Today Hurricane Igor is now history but large North swells are still making the waters along that coastline very murky. This video shows the pipe going into the water this past weekend when Igor's swells were being felt along the shore.

The swells were pushing around the pipe and rocks were brought in from the Tamarind Hills mine to hold the pipe down. I believe the Environment Division got involved to stop this thankfully.
I am told by the government's water manager that a huge array of studies including many done by scuba professionals has been done and that all environmental costs will be lower at this facility than those associated with pumping water to this side of the island all the way from the Crabbs water facility. That being said, he told me that his first choice would have been the Urlings area if the Fisheries Department hadn't killed that plan. The eye sore and potential environmental problem that the pipe is will be dealt with according to the manager. He says that foreign contractors will bury the pipe and it won't be visible. This is very good news because as you can see it surely doesn't fit on the beach.
It always amazes me how terribly our different government departments do at working together and planning together. I don't think the ministry of tourism is involved with this project in any way. If they are I am very surprised indeed. Of course, this project would have considerably lower costs of all types if a more appropriate place was chosen for it. I understand why Fisheries would have been concerned with a desalination plant at their facility but there can be no doubt that it would have been a better choice considering the year round water clarity there and the history of desalination in another sensitive ecological area in the North Sound. A carefully managed system at Urlings would have been far better. I guess all we can do is wait and see how this thing works out. For more on reverse osmosis desalination check this animated video:

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Best 7 days of surfing ever"

That's what all the surfers here are saying. They didnt surf all of the 365 beaches, but there were quite a few new surf spots that were tested with all the waves that Hurricane Igor sent us.
We never really had winds above about 20 mph but the waves were crazy for a few days. This weekend with Igor approaching Bermuda, Antigua still was getting some waves and I actually managed to catch a few on my stand up paddle board. They were smaller than they had been all week but soo much fun!

I have a feeling we will still see more surf this month and probably next too before the cold front waves start being pushed down. All in all surfers are licking their lips and are generally stoked at what 2010 had given them so far. Lets hope that surf with light winds is all we get until the "h season" is over.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A young Antiguan music producer needs a bit of help

I blogged about Justin last month here.
He needs some help trying to win an international competition with a song he's remixed. Check it out and vote if you can. Thanks!

Friday, September 17, 2010

a cool slide show of Antigua nature/eco images

One of the things that our organizing group came up with for the Green Fete was showing a slide show of eco images. I have thousands of such images and put together a bunch for Robby, EAG Board member and owner of He got some images from my sister Fran and compiled them all together with some of his into a cool slide show which intrigued many people during the huge party we had at Abracadabra. In the end the Environmental Awareness Group was able to raise nearly EC $8,000 (US $3000) from this party thanks to Abracadabra and everyone who helped out.
Here is the slide show.

EAG Green Fete fundraiser slideshow from robby breadner on Vimeo.

If you would like more info on the eag please visit their site on and tell them i sent you! lol
Have a great weekend. eli

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hurricane Igor misses Antigua totally, but sends us waves

For the past few days the waves have been coming in to Antigua from hundreds of miles away. I imagine the surfers have been calling in sick from their jobs all over the Caribbean. One of my good friends who owns his own company tells people that he's busy all week with "board meetings".
The guy surfing above is world famous kite boarder Andre Phillip. He was pulled into the wave by the Stevie Mendes who took the photo.
Anyway, while we didn't receive any real winds or rain from the dangerous hurricane Igor, the waves have probably caused some damage to the marine eco systems as well as some beaches.
Last night I passed by Dickenson Bay where the Sandals and several other hotels sit, and the waves were coming right up and over the beach. Although they didn't seem that big, they were causing problems along the shore because of the high tides and surge.
Today I am cancelling my Xtreme tour sadly because of these swells. The tour could probably go out, but snorkeling would be horrible as would our beach stops. This doesn't happen very often at all during hurricane season, but I think today it's the right decision.
Some people are enjoying it though. This is a photo of my good friend Nik on his SUP (stand up paddle) board "ripping". The photo was taken by the equally talented Shelly Chadburn.

I have been laying low for the past few days and missing the waves. The forecasts have the waves sticking around for another few days, so i am sure I will get some of my own. All the forecasts show lovely marine weather again from Monday.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Fat Lady sings a tune about Gaston

I don't think i remember a tropical wave ever giving people so much stress. Of course to simply call the group of clouds just east of us a tropical wave without elaborating would be unfair. This thing did turn into a depression and then briefly into a tropical storm before it hit some dry weather and fizzled back to a tropical wave.

I was one of the people stressed out about it mainly because we had just been hit by strong tropical storm conditions from Hurricane Earl which passed north of us. The reminder of what these things can do if given the chance to catch you off guard was still fresh in our minds. With some of the original forecasts suggesting that Gaston would give us worse than Earl did, stress was a modest description of what went on with many of us.

Thankfully the dry air and cooler waters chilled out Gaston all the way back down to a strong tropical wave giving us some relief from the post earl stress syndrome. The NHC and many others kept on suggesting that this wave would get stronger and at one point gave it a 90% chance of developing into a tropical depression. The stress levels rose again.

Even now with it very close to us people are worried about it regenerating. I may be crazy, but at this point I am not worried about the tropical wave that was once a tropical storm. It looks like most of the cloud activity has gone a bit north, it looks like it isn't organizing very well, and its too close to turn into a dangerous hurricane.

I can just hear some people "chupsing" at the last statement. Of course a tropical wave can turn into something very dangerous very quickly. Flooding alone from a tropical wave could cause problems, but not this one. I think the fat lady is singing already here in Antigua about the wave that was once Gaston.

We are still sitting in the peak of hurricane season, and this doesn't mean we can stop looking east. In fact, is showing a big hurricane coming towards the Caribbean one week from now. Keep looking east! In the meantime, i will keep uploading photos of what we are getting here in antigua on twitter. today it is way too sunny for the yard work that i plan on doing!!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Amazing reviews of our Eco Tour at the moment on Tripadvisor

Looking for something to do in Antigua? Tripadvisor has some very good activity reviews at the moment on our Eco Tour. Here is a sample of one of them (including photo above) which was titled "Best Day in Antigua":

We had the ecotour which was just amazing. We were on a 52 foot catamaran with plenty of room for the number of people aboard. Chris and crew knew Antigua and the surrounding islands very well. The scenery was beautiful, lunch was delicious, the hike on Bird Island was fun, and everyone that snorkeled really enjoyed it. This cruise had the morning full of cruising around the various islands and history provided about everyone of them. We then hiked on Bird Island where we were dive bombed by sea gulls, and got to see a blow hole that typically doesn't blow water unless it's very stormy. After lunch at Bird Island we went to Hell's Gate for snorkeling and hiking, and then to a reef off of Bird Island for more snorkeling. The crew was very knowledgeable about anything and everything and made you feel like a member of a family. Definitely a day we won't forget!!
We spent quite a bit of time refining the tour and placing the best possible crew for this particular tour together to maximize the Eco Tour's potential. We know it has always been among the best tours in Antigua and it's surely living up to it's reputation. Thanks to anyone who has posted a review on tripadvisor or any of the other online forums and websites. Don't forget that you can become a fan of our facebook page too. Click here for that one.  Remember we have other excellent tours that you have to check out on our website.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Weather in Antigua now and a good guide to the best forecasting tool.

There are a few very common Google searches that end up on my blog. One of them is "wheather in Antigua" and of course with hurricanes in the Atlantic and passing by the Caribbean, people will be wanting to know what weather is in Antigua right now more than ever.
Recently i started upoading photos almost daily to to show people what we are looking like. I did one this am because Tropical Storm Fiona was passing to our north and many expected our weather to be terrible. So far, we haven't had any winds or rain in Jolly Harbour which is on the South West of the island. And if you read my blog yesterday (click here), you will know that Hurricane Earl also passed by giving us only tropical storm conditions with plenty of rain. In fact there was some flooding in low flood prone areas. I understand that one person who works with the local power company was sadly killed when he was working to restore electricity yesterday. Sad news indeed, but generally Antigua is back in business today with all the hotels up and running that were scheduled to be open. Someone sent me photos of St. James club taken yesterday the day after Earl Passed. Here are a few:  

As you can see, these guys didn't wait long to be back out enjoying the holiday in Antigua.
Below is a guide to windguru which is a very good forecasting tool for weather forecasting for Antigua. If you want to see what weather Antigua is having check my twitter account above or learn how to use windguru by reading my old blog below:

Here at Adventure Antigua weather forecasting is an essential tool used in our business. Yesterday we had a tough one with some bad weather that rolled in. We sat glued to weather maps, radar, and satellite images on the computer before we made the decision to postpone two boat trips for the day until thismorning. As someone who monitors weather every day and then has to send several boats out, i see what forecasts work and what doesn't. No site is 100% accurate, and many are total garbage. Dont ever use yahoo wather or's animated forecasts. I have never seen them say we would have a sunny day here in Antigua. The most simple forecasting site giving long range forecasts that has the highest degree of accuracy for Antigua and Barbuda is windguru. Coming from 17 years of competitive windsurfing i can tell you that there isn't a group of more addicted wind and wave junkies that windsurfers, and windguru was set up by a bunch of them. When i first heard about it i thought there was no way that these guys from Czech republic could tell me what weather i could expect in Antigua next week. All my friends were telling me that it worked so i added windguru to my favorites and started checking each day. It's been years now and they have been incredibly accurate predicting cloud cover, rain, winds, and waves. They are are also accurate at predicting wave direction and wind direction. The forecasts are so good that i think our local forecasters here should just tell people what windguru is forecasting before doing or saying anything else. So often windguru will forecast a weather event like strong winds or big rain or huge waves and we say to each other: ''Windguru has gone mad again as there are no storms forming and nothing out there''. We then have to eat our words a few days later when a storm forms a thousand miles away and things start to look like they will be right. Last year was the best though when a week before Hurricane Dean appeared it was forecast by windguru. Everyone thought that windguru had gone mad until they saw the clouds coming together on sat maps.
Anyway, i keep hearing people say they find it difficult to understand windguru. According to their site: ''WindGURU is a service specialized for forecasting weather, mostly for windsurfers and kitesurfers (but not only...). Forecasts are based on data produced by weather forecast models. Windguru is able to provide forecast for any place on planet Earth. The main reason to create this site was the idea to get the forecasts quickly and easily without wild clicking the mouse while searching for meteomaps throughout the internet.''
So it should be easy and i want you to figure it out.
Using Windguru's seven day forecasting tool:
Go to the website and using the drop down menus for the 'geographic area' locate the Caribbean. Then go to the country and select the Antigua and Barbuda one. Then below that you see a menu for 'Spot', select Antigua and press 'GO'. You will now have the most accurate forecast for Antigua there is at this point IMHO. Lets show you how to figure the info out. I cut out a bit of the main image and drew a little arrow in the top left corner pointing to the day and date which in this case is today Wednesday July 9th. You can even see the time of day as you look from left to right under the date starting from 5 am and going to the right of the image ending in 8pm.

Ok next we will speak about wind speed and wind direction which are on the line below the time of day. In the image below the red line is pointing to the colourful wind speed box on the far left which forecasted 10 knots at 5 am. By the way you can adjust it to be measured in whatever unit you want from mph to knots to kmph. I like knots and is what i understand. Here is the image:
You can see that by the end of the day it is saying that it will be 13 knots at 20 hours (8pm). Under the colourful wind speed boxes there is a line for wind direction. On the far left it is pointing from right to left using the compass directions. East is on the right and west is on the left. North is up top and south is below. In this case the winds are coming from the East on the right and blowing towards the west. The next thing is something very important for boaters and especially ones that are kept on moorings off beaches at areas where it is normally calm. Many boats here in Antigua would be safer if people would keep an eye during the winter on this part of windguru. Wave height and wave direction. Waves don't always come from the east here in Antigua. The image below shows the red arrow i drew pointing at wave size or height. As you can see at 5 am it was 2.2 meters high and over on the far right at 20 hrs they will be 1.4 meters so the waves are dropping through the day.
Under the wave height line there is the 'wave period' line which tells you how long a particular wave will take to go past a specific point in seconds. A longer wave period (higher number) means the wave is essentially thicker or wider. There is more water in that wave and more power. Higher numbers are good for surfers and bad for your moored boat or beach house in a storm. Below the wave period is the wave direction line which is so important. Here at 5 am you can see that the forecast was for waves coming from the north-east (remember east is on the right and north is up top). This will let you know if your favorite beach will be calm or not. That if you know what side of the island your beach is :)
Temperature, cloudcover and rainfall. The next red arrow i drew points to the most important part of the forecast for many tourists coming to Antigua and Barbuda. The temperature. In Antigua the temperature stays the same for most of the year so i don't ever look at this part of windguru. Here at 5 am it said it would be 28 degrees C and as you can see they say it will be the same all day. Never worry about the temp here in Antigua. Its always warm. Under the temp line is 'cloud cover percentage' which is important for those beach people who want to get loads of sun on their holiday. Today at 5 am it said over on the far left at the bottom that it would have 22% cloud cover. At mid day it would have 50% cloud cover. Under the cloud cover line there is the rainfall line which is important. People always are asking on the internet forums about how much is it raining in Antigua. Here is your answer. Today between 5 am and 8 am they forecast that .5 of a mm would fall on the island and between 8 am and 11 am .4 of a mm would fall again. It didn't happen in Jolly Harbour today but i am sure that somewhere on the island got a 30 second rainfall over the past 6 hours. OK that is how simple it is to get an accurate forecast for Antigua and Barbuda. Just follow these instructions and rest assured that its mostly sunny here in Antigua.