Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Adventure Antigua best beach stop

Was just looking for some photos of Rendezvous Bay to show to someone and found this old video. I know it's miserably cold up in the UK at the moment and hope that someone up there will be warmed a bit after seeing this one. Best viewed with the mute button clicked! lol
As some of you know this is the last stop on our action packed Xtreme tour. No other tour in Antigua makes as many wonderful stops in a single day which is why we need a fast boat for this one.


Monday, November 29, 2010

In Antigua we have many seasons.


I love it when some people out on the boat say to me "living in Antigua must be great but sunny days every day would get boring, and I would miss our seasons." It gives me a chance to talk about some of our seasons. I think I blogged about them one time before. Let me do a quick search....
Oh here is it: Click here The post there from 2006 pretty much covered what i wanted to speak about today, but there is way more i could have written.
Of course many people here wait all summer long for "tourist season" to roll in sometime around mid November which is about the same time as "Cruise ship season" starts up.
All of the surfers wait for "ground swell season" which is when winter storms roll off the east coast of the USA and send waves all the way down to the Caribbean.
Nobody wants surf more than my good friend Roddy from Aqua Films seen above.
The biggest noticeable change in Antigua probably happens in English Harbour when the "Yachting season" starts. Antigua, St. Martin, and St. Barts are the three top places in the world for Mega or Super Yachts during the winter months. They start coming in to port to get ready for the charter season in mid November and this year looks like it will be a very busy year. It makes the south side of the island come alive with clubs, bars, restaurants and many other ancillary businesses. The Charter Yacht Show is the biggest of it's kind in the Caribbean and is only a few weeks away. Here is an article I just found on google news.
Here is an image I took a few years ago in the middle of the season:
yacht show

and another here:


In fact I used the above photo in another blog about the show here from a 2007 blog.
Anyway, you get the idea. This island may be small but there is plenty to look foreword to with as many seasons as you can imaging. Whale season is another cool one I anticipate each year.
I can't wait for Mango season which is probably one of my wife's favorites, but I guess we will have to wait a few good months for that!
its mango season

My blog is actually filled with photos and stories about all of these seasons and more. Pick a year and month over on the right side and have a look through for more interesting bits of info about Antigua and Barbuda. Enjoy!

Friday, November 26, 2010

am looking for writers who'd like to see some of their stuff published here.

As many of you "regulars" have noticed, my postings recently have been not as regular as they normally have been over the past few years. My wife and I just celebrated our one year anniversary with a little holiday (without computers) and the blog sat here stagnant. Not too cool for some who tell me that this little simple blog is their life line to sunshine in Antigua while sitting at home or in the office on cold days up north.
Anyway, I'd like to have guest writers from time to time here to help keep the oldest and best Antigua blog running. If you are interested and have a very good idea about what it is that this blog usually writes about then send me a message eliantigua @ gmail .com (without the spaces). You will need to write about things to do with the sun sea and sand around Antigua and include photos and or video as well.
It's an unpaid job, but a chance to practice your writing and to have people hear about your writing. OF course it also will make some people happy this winter.
Speaking of which, I took this photo while at a Best Cellars wine tasting up at Carmichael's on Sugar Ridge. It is an untouched photo that i took with my HTC phone.
We have taken many happy guests from that resort our on our boats as it's just next door to Jolly Harbour and they usually want to enjoy the best Antigua has to offer.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Burning Antiguan tax dollars and boasting about it.

First blogged about Thursday, September 23, 2010, this topic didn't seem to create as much interest as the blog I did about the oil spill. I guess people are tired of hearing about how our tax dollars are being wasted away at a time when we have so few to give the government. Last week I heard one of our country's main ambassadors boasting about this plant and shook my head.
When the government of any country burns money through total mismanagement, corruption, incompetence or from any of the variety of other ways that we have seen here in my adult life many of us sit back and accept it as being business as usual. What is now driving many to the breaking point or to a point where they actually may do something about this notion of "business as usual" is when the government on the verge of bankruptcy calls in the IMF for help. Why would this upset people? Well the IMF helps just like Shakespeare's "Shylock" helps and the pound of flesh that Shylock and the IMF wants will be taken at any cost. No country can run without its people being taxed, but I for one don't want my government spending huge amounts of my tax dollars on terribly planned and mismanaged projects like this one. I will let the reader decide who is to blame for this mess.
The reason I am re-blogging about this water disaster is because one of my guests gave me some photos taken recently showing the further demise of our tax dollars. See the photos here and read the blog below if you can bear it.

There are other aspects to these photos which tell other tales, but I think I better stick to the desalination mess.

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:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

“The perfect tour of a Caribbean gem”

Hi there, after yesterdays blog i figured I better put something more cheerful up and this one I found on  tripadvisor was the perfect thing!
If you want to write about your trip out on one of the http://www.adventureantigua.com/ tours please have a look at how you can get it posted by clicking this link.
“The perfect tour of a Caribbean gem”

Adventure Antigua

sgbie, Bartlett, Illinois

Nov 1, 2010 Just got back from Caribbean cruise. Read many glowing reports of the Ad. Antigua Eco-tour, so we skipped the cruise line excursions and booked the Eco tour last Friday Oct. 29th. So glad we did!! We were picked up right on the dock by the cruise ship right at the time promised and then headed over to the Sandals resort where 4 more people joined the tour. There were 24 of us from two cruises and two resorts. Chris, Nicola, and Shamar (spelling?) described local landmarks as we cruised along. At our first stop, we were served our choice(s) of passion fruit or tamarind juice or water as we anchored and viewed the exclusive (and deserted) resort of Jumby Bay. Chris pointed out the starfish swimming below, then dived in and brought one up to the surface so we could all get a good look and pictures before he released it back into the ocean.

We then pulled in close and toured the mangrove swamps and later sailed to Bird Island and anchored there close to the beach. We hiked to the top of the Island (a quick 5 min. hike) with great views of the island, ocean and Antigua island. Then it was back down for some swim time and snorkeling lessons for those of us who had never snorkelled before. The crew supplied the equipment and a quick lesson. The water was only 3-4 feet deep there so it was a good place to learn or just cool off. Back on the boat, lunch was served and it was delicious as other reviews have stated: yummy pasta salad, tossed green salad, fabulous, finger-licked BBQ chicken, plantains (I'm now a fan!) and incredible banana bread.

After lunch we sailed around to the Atlantic side of the island (lots of fun wave action) and anchored off the "calm" side of Hell's Gate--a number of options then: stay on the boat; swim over to the "Jacquzzi;" climb up thru the tunnel over the top and down into the rushing water. Definitely bring waterproof shoes if you decide to do the climb--the formation is weathered limestone with many many sharp points--several of us brought home souvenir scrapes and cuts but the experience was worth it!!! And my husband brought home the t-shirt to brag about us old folks (60) making it to Hell's Gate and thru the tunnel!

Next we sailed back to Bird Island where the boat was anchored out over the reefs for snorkeling. Water was about 10-15 feet deep. The crew supplied bouyancy belts for those of us who wanted some support as well as flippers and the snorkel masks. Chris took the experienced snorkelers out while Nicola toured us beginners over the reefs closer to the boat. I was thrilled to see all the different and beautiful fish and coral--it was unbelievable to me that I was having this experience. We had lots of time but it ended too soon. The rum punch that was then served up as we headed back helped to ease the disappointment of having to return.

Just as promised we got back to the harbor by 4:00, plenty of time to board both the 2 cruise ships. It was a perfect day--can't recommend this trip strongly enough!! If I'm ever fortunate enough to return to Antigua, I'd do this trip again!!!

This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

The photo above came from our facebook page. THANKS!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Crazy Customs Fines will have a negative effect on the yachting sector.

In recent weeks some of the yachts clearing into the port of Jolly Harbour have received huge fines due to technicalities which in normal circumstances would have been overlooked by rational thinking customs agents. I'm sure there are more but I only know of the ones I will mention here.
I guess I should first explain the law that is being used to give the fines. It has to do with coming off the yacht before "clearing in". The ancient customs law states that all crew and passengers must remain "in the vicinity" of the vessel until the Master (captain) has cleared the vessel into the country. It goes on to say that if the crew or passengers need food or drink that the master can leave the vessel to obtain these things and return to the boat. It says that in times of "stress" and or for health reasons others may be permitted to leave the vessel. In all other circumstances the Master, Crew and Passengers must remain "in the vicinity of the vessel".

Anyway, recently a locally registered Luxury yacht was entering the country after leaving on a private charter from St. Martin and arrived at the customs dock in Jolly after the three agencies had left for the day. Immigration, Customs and The Port Authority usually close in Jolly Harbour at 6 pm but sometime this summer they had shortened the hours until 4:30 pm. By the way, there is another law that says that a vessel must not come to dock up after 6pm. Once on the dock the lady chartering the vessel went for a walk.
In the morning customs arrived and told the skipper that she had learned that the passenger had left the customs dock and that this was an offence which meant that the vessel would not be cleared in until the Comptroller of Customs had dealt with the situation.
In the end a fine of EC $5000 was levied. The skipper of this Antiguan registered vessel could have chosen to fight the fine in the courts but knew that the boat would be out of operation crippling his company until it had been resolved. He paid the fine after loosing nearly a week of trade.
The second situation I know first hand since the boat in question was mine and the Master in question was yours truly. The even happened almost exactly the same as the one just mentioned except we walked 45 feet over to the Al Porto Pizza for dinner after arriving on the customs dock at 5:45 pm on a Wednesday evening. My wife had gone just down from the customs dock to use the bathroom. I figured these things were so insignificant since we were on their dock that I truthfully told the customs lady what we had done. She refused to clear us in until we had seen the main boss in St. Johns. The comptroller was away on a seminar and couldn't see me to hear about my alleged offence until the Monday. We cancelled our charters on Friday, Saturday and Monday. On Monday i met with him in St. Johns thinking this silly matter would be dealt with quickly. WRONG!
He told me to come back the next day when he would question me in front of the customs lady who refused to clear us in to the country. Tuesday morning came and I was sick as a dog and asked if I could come in later that afternoon. He told me to come in at 3pm and I did as I was told. Sadly the customs lady didn't show up so he told me to come back tomorrow morning at 10 am. 
I got there Wednesday morning at 9:45am and saw three customs officers including the young customs lady from Jolly Harbour go into the Comptrollers office. Twenty minutes later I was asked to come in. I just couldn't understand how something so petty could be taking so much of the Comptrollers time. This is the single most important tax man in Anitgua. I was interrogated as if I was a mass murderer for 45 minutes. They told me that I had no right to release my crew from the vessel and that it was an offence. I reminded them that I was in the vicinity of the boat. They said I had no way of proving that Al Porto restaurant next to the customs dock was the only place that my crew and I went to. They read the law with regard to boarding from their tattered old book and carefully explained to me that it was an offence to come to the dock after 6 pm. They explained that the 24 bottles of bio degradable boat soap that I had on board should have been declared as ships stores. They went on to explain that ships stores for local boats are taxable. I got a little frustrated at this point and had to remind them that i arrived and tied up on their dock before 6 pm and that I never was even permitted to fill out a customs form and therefore didn't declare "ships stores". It was the strangest thing I have been through. I know they had better things to be doing and couldn't understand why they were wasting their time and mine over something so simple. They didn't catch me offloading contraband on a secluded beach or find a boat loaded with Heineken beer. Me and my big mouth told them that we had gone for pizza and that my wife had gone to use the toilet at home in Jolly Harbour.
Anyway, after a fourth customs agent came in and started asking the same questions that i had been answering since I had arrived into the country one week earlier, I gave up and said I was leaving. The Comptroller said that they would let me know about fines.
Needless to say, they didn't contact me and I had to go to them once again. This time I found out that I was being fined EC $5000. I spoke to my dad (a lawyer) and another lawyer who both told me that we could file an injunction forcing them to clear my vessel into Antigua and then let them take me to court for the EC $5000. I asked how long this would take and figured that cancelling more charters just wasn't an option for my business's cash flow or more importantly for my businesses reputation. I went back to the comptroller and paid the $5000. After that it was another visit to the nice customs lady in Jolly Harbour to clear my vessel in 8 days after we had arrived into the country.
I have to be honest in saying that this experience made me have a huge variety of unpleasant emotions. I am sure that many people will quickly say that I was wrong and that customs was right, but if you run a business here and see what goes on in this country every day, then i think you understand my frustrations.

Anyway, a few days later on November 1st (independence day for Antigua and Barbuda) a charter boat with Russian charter guests came into the same port. They were told that the customs was closed and proceeded to the marina where they paid for a berth. They were told by someone on the dock that there were activities and a parade in St. Johns, and they decided to go into town. Big mistake! Or at least it was a big mistake to voluntarily tell our same nice customs agent about their trip into town.
This time they were told that it would be a EC $20000 fine and once again were not able to clear in until the Comptroller had interviewed and interrogated them.
The manager of Jolly Harbour Marina joined the Russian captain and pleaded with the officials to be lenient as it was and honest mistake adding that for the sake of tourism and the yachting sector it would be a good idea to use discretion in this case. The manager told me that a customs agent replied to him saying; "you see, that's the problem with people like you, you just want tourists to come here and do as they like."
Anyway, Customs decided to be lenient and gave the same EC $5000 fine that seems to now be the standard if you step off the boat and don't walk directly into the customs office.
As you can see in the photo above, my fine was for leaving the boat without permission. I will make sure that I don't make that mistake twice. If you know of any yachts coming to Antigua and specifically to Jolly Harbour, please warn them to be very careful to adhere to the rules.
I could say so much more on this issue, but I don't think it will be of much help to anyone really.
The IMF employees are changing the way things are done in this country and while I am sure that they will get their pound of flesh, I am not sure the country will be better off after they are gone. This is just one of the many similar stories that are floating around at the moment.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Excellent Reviews for our tours once again.

Today we received two lovely reviews from recents guests that came out on our Eco Tour with captain Shamel, Chris and Nicola. The Eco Tour team does a great job of making that tour something unique in Antigua. This was never designed to be a regular snorkeling tour and as you will read this tour and the crew that do it are in a league of their own.

From: Brenda Edwards [edwardsbj2@!##^%TU^^Y]

Sent: Saturday, November 06, 2010 7:40 PM
To: Adventure Antigua
Subject: Re: Adventure-Antigua

We had such a wonderful time on the Eli Eco Tour. It was my 78 year old father's first visit to an island. He snorkeled, swam and made it at least 1/2 way through Hells Gate. The tour guides were simply awesome. Helpful, attentive and full of great information. We enjoyed not only learning about the eco system but also being able to participate with it. My dad felt so special. He is wearing his Hell's Gate t-shirt with great pride! I would highly recommend the tour to both Antigua visitors and to cruise passengers as your tour is superior to any tour I've ever taken from the cruise ship tour desk.

Thank you again. I have already submitted a very positive review to Trip Advisor that should be posted within a couple of days. My dad is still talking and telling everyone about his great day in Antigua!

Brenda Edwards
The second one came in from a couple who did both our Eco Tour and our Xtreme Round the Island trip. As you will read, our tours made their holiday here in Antigua that much more special. We are always very happy to get reviews like these. Thanks for sending them in.

From: Terri and Barry [terriandbarry@&$^%$^$^%#R%]
Sent: Sunday, November 07, 2010 3:30 PM
To: Adventure Antigua

Subject: Re: AA-Booking Confirmation Eco/Xtreme Circumnav Nov 2nd & Nov 3rd x2/Davis

Hi Rebecca,

We enjoyed the Eco and Extreme tours. Many thanks to the tour guides. They were excellent and we learned a lot about Antigua. I would like to send a special thank you to Chris for giving us the pepper sauce. We have been enjoying its great flavor with all our meals.
We will certainly be back to the beautiful island of Antigua. She is truly a home away from home.

Sincerely and best regards !


Thursday, November 04, 2010

Another "best day of my life" review from lovely guests.


You know, when one of our guests tells us sometimes with tears in their eyes that the day trip you have just given them was the "best day of my life", you are deeply moved. Of course each tour we do is slightly different and even more so when it is a private tour, and each person coming on the tour may see, hear, smell, feel and generally experience different things. Their backgrounds, history and experiences are all different and although i was totally surprised when for the first time someone told me that the day was the best day in their life, I came to understand after hearing it again and again that it wasn't always the rum punch making them say silly things.
It's what our goal has always been at Adventure Antigua. We want to show you a great day.... the best possible day you could have had in Antigua during your stay.
Of course sometimes it is the rum punch we serve at the end of our tour, but we don't have a doubt that even with rum punch at the end of our trips, the day out with us will be a highlight of someone's vacation and it makes all of the crew members in all parts of our organizations sooo happy when we get a review like this one. THANK YOU PETER, DIANNE AND FAMILY!!

From: Peter@..........com
Sent: Wednesday, November 03, 2010 10:47 AM
To: Adventure Antigua
Subject: Private Charter on 25 October


Can I just ask you to pass on from all of us our sincere thanks to JD and Trevor for a fantastic day out on the Extreme on 25 October. One of our group described it as the "best day of my life".
JD and Trevor are brilliant hosts and put everyone at their ease and also the booking and admin and payment and communication from the shore based team as well as the catering were exceptional.

We'll be back!

'til next time

Peter and Dianne and family

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

a cool photo slideshow of things related to my work boating in antigua

For quite a few years i was seldom seen without a camera in my hand. Having studied photography as an elective in university, I had some knowledge and enjoyed it. Here is a collection of images mostly shot in Antigua and a few others from the greater Caribbean which all have Adventure Antigua in common. Enjoy: