Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A slide show of our newest boat's slow evolution. More to come.

I have written about Zemi a few times before. Here is a slide show of the evolution up to now. We are racing her in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in 2 weeks. This will be the second time she has raced and the first time here in Antigua. It should be very interesting. We are having to make many adjustments to her rig's design. Most importantly we have been finishing painting her above and below the waterline both inside and outside the boat. Look for her in Antigua Classics.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A slide show showing the history of how our "Classic Yach Tour" evolved.

After running powerboat tours, charters and excursions for nearly 10 years we decided to go back to the sailing which had always been part of our family's lives. We also knew that the price and ecological impact of oil and it's industry would some day limit the number of powerboat excursions that we would be doing. A move to sailing and not just any sailing was something we were very interested in. To be even more "green" we decided to build locally here in the Caribbean and not our of the usual fiberglass which our other boats are constructed with but from renewable wood. These boats have been traditionally built with very little change in the design or the construction process for nearly 300 years. It was a dream that has come true and this little slide show will give you a glimpse of how the adventure started and eventually finished with us doing regular day sailing tours and charters for holiday makers and residents here in Antigua. We have been on several big trips up and down the Caribbean, and i can tell you that there is nothing quite like sailing on a authentic West Indian work boat. These things have soul! Why wouldn't they after all that went into them.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Why are the skies so clear sometimes and so dusty at other times?

The photo above is of my wife on the helm of our boat during a July holiday trip 200 miles over to the British Virgin Islands. As you can see even far off shore the skies were full of dust.

This article below was printed in the Enjoy Magazine, published here locally by the Observer Group and I write a piece every two weeks for them. This one was edited down from a blog i did some time ago. I hope you enjoy, but if you want the longer one check this link from my blog written over four years ago:

Over the past week we have been blessed with some of the clearest skies that anyone remembers. Last week I spoke with Shelly Hulford who has been living out on Curtain Bluff's point for nearly fifty years, and she says that in all the years that Montserrat has been "sitting in her living room" she's never seen it as clear as this. Yesterday on our Classic Yacht sailing tour we could see Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Redonda, Nevis and St. Kitts all at the same time. The reason it's been so clear is that we've had light north east winds which have kept the haze to the south of our islands. "Sarah Dust" also known as African Dust comes across the Atlantic every year blanketing the region in haze. Many people think incorrectly that the haze has something to do with Montserrat, but the world's most studied volcano, Soufriere, has nothing to do with it. What happens is that high winds blow massive quantities of dust from western and northern Africa up into the sky. Millions of tons a year of it comes across the Atlantic passing through the Caribbean traveling on the same trade winds that brought the original European settlers here. Since the early 1970s the mass and content of the dust has changed dramatically. Extreme droughts possibly to do with the "green house effect" as well as changing land and water use have resulted in more land losing its vegetation. Of course this results in more dust getting into the air, but that isn't the worst of it. Since the 1970's there has also been a change in the composition of the dust. There is now a variety of pollutants contained inside the dust and many scientists are now attributing much of the decline in our coral reefs to this increase in african dust. It’s quite logical actually because we all know that when coral is covered with silt of any kind in can die, so with african dust filled with pesticides and all the other nasties covering the coral each year, it’s not hard to make the connection. There are so many things killing it off that i think much of it is gone forever. Sadly, i remember when i was a teenager 19 years ago snorkeling on huge coral forests teaming with life. All of a sudden we had a few mega-hurricanes and most of the reef was gone. Many people blame the hurricanes, but the reef's decline wasn't just because of the storms.
It will take more time and study to find out all the negative effects of this increase in african dust, but there is at least one "positive" result. Using satellite imagery, NAOAA predicts when we in the Caribbean will get "african dust surges", and we know days in advance when it will be hazy.
They have done many studies on the effects of the dust on our weather and have concluded without a doubt that increased levels of the dust can hinder hurricane formation. Considering that due to "global warming" we are forecast to have more conducive conditions for extreme hurricane formation, it is also interesting that also due to global warming, the increase in dust helps to deter these storms from forming. The way it works is that the dust doesn’t come across the Atlantic in a constant stream and instead comes in big waves almost like weather fronts. If good hurricane forming conditions and the dust appear in the same area, then water droplets inside the clouds become too heavy when mixed with the dust and fall out of the sky before they get a chance to become huge thunderstorms. The dust kills the storms before they get a chance to turn into hurricanes.
Apart from all of this, the dust also makes a huge mess on clean surfaces including our boats! There is some great reading to be done on African dust, and of course there are many articles on the net about the health effects of the stuff too. For now we can be extra thankful that it's nice and clear out there. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The most important and threatened fish in our waters

Photo from

 Since my last blog about Cabinet's crazy decision to demand that fisheries officers, the coast guard and the police ignore the laws on spear fishing has gotten plenty of play i figured it would be a good time to blog something that Enjoy put out recently. This was the story i did for them about one of the most threatened and important fishes we have in Antigua which also happens to be the most common fish speared in Antigua.  

People often ask me how Antigua and Barbuda came to have so many beaches. Why is it that we have so many? Are we that unique? For several reasons, we are actually quite unique. We have a more rugged coastline than most of the nearby islands, but that alone didn’t give us more beaches than everyone else. In addition to some unique geography, we also have quite a bit of biology to thank too. I’ll explain: Our nation has one of the largest continental shelves in the Caribbean, and herbivore fish like parrot fish (locally known as chub fish) graze all over the shallow shelves chewing bits of coral to remove algae. Algae, a type of aquatic moss, are parrot fishes main diet, and it is this same algae which if allowed to grow freely, kills coral by taking it over. For a number of reasons, Antigua and Barbuda and the rest of the Caribbean are seeing much of its coral reefs disappear. On a healthy reef there are a great many fish all living in a symbiotic relationship with the coral and each other. They feed on the algae cleaning the reef, and as a result keep it healthy and alive. A healthy reef keeps growing expanding it’s mass and area along the sea bed. There are other relationships in the reef which mankind has disturbed, but one of the most important relationships is the one between the parrot fishes and the reef. A healthy large adult parrot fish living on a healthy reef, can make about 900 kilos (nearly 2000 lbs) of sand a year. This sand is excreted after the chewed up coral and algae mix has been consumed by the fish. This doesn’t harm the reef, but actually makes it healthier.

Parrot fish are one of the most popular fish eaten in Antigua and Barbuda, they can be found in many supermarkets as well as a few restaurants. Surgeon fish and Blue tang, known locally as Doctor Fish, are also popular food fish doing the same job as parrot fish. Populations of parrot fish have declined so much in my lifetime that i think some species have actually become extinct here. The huge Rainbow Parrot Fish known locally as the Macaw Chub may possibly still exist in Antigua, but I have been looking in shallow waters for them for years without a single sighting since the late 90s.They used to be very easily seen feeding on top of the reefs along the shores but have slowly disappeared. One of the main reasons for the decline in herbivore fish is simply over fishing and inadequate management of the reefs around the islands. Reef conservation and management isn’t as easy as one would think, but changing our eating habits can help in dealing with the problem. If you would like to help out the beaches and reefs, you should consider all of this when you see parrot fish on the menu or in the supermarkets. Select a more sustainably caught fish like Mahi Mahi or Wahoo for your dinner and know that the reef and beaches will be better off as a result.
please sign a petition to the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda which calls for the 2004 Fisheries Act to be signed so that we can get more environmental protection for our marine resoirces:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Another crazy decision (possibly illegal) by a "caring" government.

poor parrot fish

First of all, when I speak about the government in this case, I am speaking about the men and women who make up the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda. You can see who these people are by clicking this link.
Anyway, Antigua and Barbuda has quite a large area of coastline that is legislated as Marine Protected Areas. One such place is the NEMMA and you can read something i wrote about the North East Marine Management Area by clicking here.
If you read that article you will see that while our government is quick to take international funds needed to set up marina protected areas, they are not so quick to accomplish their side of the bargain. NEMMA remains noticeably unchanged and many including myself would say its marine eco systems have never been in such poor shape with a huge increase in uncontrolled and unsustainable fishing being done within the park. There is no visible or noticeable management of any marine protected area in Antigua. If someone can show me that I am wrong then I would be delighted.
The point of this article is not only to show a dramatic failure of this government to set up their marine parks and specifically the NEMMA which they received money to do, but it is also to highlight one of the many major failures in that respect. In this case I will be speaking about spearfishing which according to the laws of Antigua and Barbuda is totally illegal unless the person spearfishing has a permit from the Chief Fisheries officer. I am not 100% sure but I think that back in 1999 a cabinet decision was made that the Chief Fisheries officer was not to give any of these special permits. So not only is spearfishing illegal, but it is being done within the Marine Protected Areas.

The photo above was taken by the guys at on Windward Beach in Falmouth and shows a typical catch after an hour or two of spear fishing.
This week I had a guest on one of my boats who told me that he met some men coming out of the water at long bay with their spear guns and a huge collection of speared fish. Most of them were parrot fish too. Anyway, he told them that he used to be an avid spear fishermen himself and asked if he could pay them to take him the next day. They agreed and took him spearfishing for 5 hours the following day.
This week I also was in English Harbour and saw someone i recognized from one of the visiting yachts walking down the street with his snorkeling gear and his spear gun. This wasn't a local spear fishermen and I was surprised to see him just walking down the street with an illegal spear gun as if there was nothing wrong with it. Of course I had no reason to be surprised. 

Recently I spoke with Chief Fisheries officer, Cheryl Jeffrey –Appleton, about spear fishing that was being done inside the marine parks. She expressed great frustration and told me that the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda met recently and made and executive decision that the laws regarding spear fishing in our waters would no longer be enforced. Surprised, I asked for clarification, and she said that people with or without fishing licenses or permits from her would be able to spearfish anywhere around our waters. Again, I asked for clarification specifically asking if people would be able to fish within marine protected areas like NEMMA and Bird Island for example. She said they were instructed by this executive order not to enforce any of the laws surrounding spearfishing. She clearly didn't support this decision and when I spoke with other fisheries officers they too were against this decision and were totally surprised at the decision permitting people to spearfish.
Before anyone comes to the wrong conclusion about my views on spearfishing I would like to explain them. I believe that spearfishing should be legal but should be carefully managed and monitored so that it would only be permitted within certain areas and that only certain fish would be targeted.
As a kid I spearfished regularly and know how indiscriminate you can be if you want to be. A spear gun is no different than any other gun in that you point at your target, pull the trigger and shoot to kill. It doesn't matter what that target is and it's up to the person pulling the trigger to consciously make the decision to pick species and the sizes, and its up to them to also decide where to use the gun and where not to. Without the coast guard or fisheries division checking there is plenty of room for problems.
I see people regularly shooting all species and all sizes in various different areas including within marine parks.
I think that Marine Parks, regular dive sites and tourism related snorkeling sites which only make up a tiny tiny fraction of the marine environment should be off limits to any sort of fishing. Areas where fishing is permitted should be free to various types of fishing including spear fishing if managed properly.
Although this is my opinion, it is not that of the Chief Fisheries officer. I have been told by a Cabinet Member that she has written a report on why spearfishing is currently illegal in Antigua and why it should not only remain illegal but why the laws should be enforced. This is key because as we all know enforcement is the only thing that matters.
I spoke to this Cabinet Minister to find out why the decision was made to tell The Fisheries Department, the Coast Guard and by extension the Police to not enforce the laws about spearfishing. According to the Minister i spoke with today, the Cabinet Minister responsible for Fisheries spoke before Cabinet claiming to be representing the Fisheries Ministry asking that the Cabinet members vote to stop enforcing the laws so that people would be able to spearfish once again. The minister I spoke with said that he and the other ministers didn't have any background info about spearfishing and trusted that the Minister was representing the Fisheries Ministry and all of their technicians. It was only after the decision was made that it came to light that this decision was not supported by the Chief Fisheries Officer who then presented her report. I'm not sure where this report was presented but I hope to publish a copy of this report in the near future.
I could go on and on about why this possibly illegal Cabinet decision is bad for our country, but I will simply say that one of the reasons that many of our snorkeling sites are in trouble in this tourism based economy is that spearfishing and other forms are uncontrolled. Snappers and groupers are almost extinct in Antigua and the reefs and beaches are in decline. If you think that my statement about snorkeling sites are based on opinon and not on fact, I suggest you do some research. Go on tripadvisor's forum for Antigua and search for "snorkeling". What do you see our visitors saying about Antigua's snorkeling? The sad reality is that the only good snorkeling in Antigua is done by boat now because all the shore sites are over fished.
This decision is a slap in the face to everyone involved in tourism and to the Fisheries Department too. In fact, the biggest victims in all of this are the people who will probably never get a chance to see many of the fish that are being targeted.
I am sure that the Cabinet decision was one made in haste without proper information and should be revisited immediately. I will try to publish the report soon.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

First West Indies Sail regatta was perfect.

Eight traditionally built wooden boats all crafted in the West Indies met this past weekend at The Antigua Yacht Club for the first West Indies Sail. Our boat Zemi is out of the water getting ready for the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta in April and we were asked to race on Pipe Dream which was recently resurrected by owners of other West Indian work boats here on Antigua. Anyway, the event came off exactly as planned with a huge amount of interest in taking part. The one race was a bit challenging as the wind was doing funny things. We were becalmed three times but this gave us time to drink our rum stocks down to nothing while enjoying being out on these authentic work boats as a group. Enjoy the photos I took during and after the race. As you can see, fun was had by all. Remember if you would like to come sailing on one of these amazing boats you can check and contact us from there.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Antigua's interesting ecology (published in Liat's magazine ZING)

barbuda eagle

I looked high and low on my hard drives and in my emails for this article but couldn't find it anywhere. It's a good thing Zing had it on their website still. Anyway, I am publishing it here on my blog so it will be more easy to find and so that you may have a read if you like:

Eli Fuller is a third generation Antiguan who lives and plays on Antigua’s North Shore where his grandfather built the Lord Nelson Beach Hotel in the late 1940s. Eli spent most of his childhood boating around Antigua and Barbuda. Snorkelling was also a favourite and Eli was wearing a mask before he learned how to speak. When Eli was 12 years old he learned how to windsurf and began competing internationally later that year. In 1988 he was given the opportunity to represent Antigua in the games of the XXIVth Olympiad, held in Seoul, South Korea. He was 16 and the youngest competitor in the windsurfing division. After subsequently traveling all over the world competing at windsurfing tournaments, he began to miss island life and his family. Once home he realised that his love for Antigua, its ecology and history, coupled with his life experience, made him extremely well qualified to start his own tour business and so Adventure Antigua was born. Eli’s carefully designed eco-tours are now often the highlights of many people’s trip to Antigua.

The nation of Antigua and Barbuda has an intriguing and distinct ecological makeup. Keeping in mind that the country is actually made up of two larger islands and an unusually large collection of smaller ones, you will understand why its fascinating and different environments come together into something so beautifully unique in the Caribbean.
Let’s start with a geographical description of the country to give you a better idea as to why the natural side of the county is so fascinating. Firstly, the two main islands. Antigua and Barbuda sit on the same continental shelf with about 26 miles of shallow waters connecting them. On either side of the islands and their connecting shelf, the water drops off into abyss-like depths that contain a massive variety of life. Many people forget about Redonda, which is a small island about 30 miles to our west which is also part of the county. It sits on its own continental shelf and makes up the massive triangular territorial and ecological zone connecting Antigua, Barbuda and Redonda.
The three islands are different to each other in almost every aspect. Antigua is made up from limestone and volcanic rock with a slice of clay between them. Having both limestone and volcanic rocks on the same island is unusual and helps give it unique habitats.
Barbuda is totally made up of limestone rocks with nothing above 38 meters above sea level on the island. Caves, beaches and mangrove habitats provide a wealth of ecology that has yet to be properly documented.
Redonda is the most unusual in terms of its geographic makeup and is simply a huge volcanic mass of rocks pushing up from the sea. With its steep rocky cliffs and high top it supports a very interesting variety of plants and animals with its bird life being the most impressive.
Antigua is the largest island within the country. There are more bays and coves than any other in the Caribbean, and they say we even have 365 beaches. In the south, the volcanic side of the island, the landscape is hillier and as a consequence, often wetter. This has led to very different territorial eco- systems, with one area called Fig Tree Drive being described as the rainforest. Visitors can take taxi and jeep tours through the area to get a better look at some of the lush and tropical vegetation that one would expect in a rain forest. Although there are no perennial streams or rivers, you will see some little ones in that area during wetter periods.

The north and east of Antigua have been carved from limestone rock, and with that you will see many reefs, rocks and little islands off-shore. Quite a few of these islands are large enough to be habitable. One of them is the private Long Island, also known as ‘Jumby Bay’, where one of the Atlantic’s best scientific sea turtle studies has been taking place for over 20 years. The endangered hawksbill turtles come here to nest each year between May and November and a great many fascinating discoveries have been made there. Long Island is one of many protected from the Atlantic within the North Sound, which is a large area enveloped in the calm waters provided by barrier reefs and islands.

One of the most important islands in ecological terms is Great Bird Island, which didn’t get its name by accident. A large and diverse variety of migratory and indigenous birds spend time there nesting and roosting at different times of the year. My favourites are the Red Billed Tropic Birds that only nest on rocky windward facing cliffs that have caves. The windward ledge of the island has numerous small caves and during the winter you will see these beautiful birds coming in to land and take shelter there. Apart from the feathered friends on Great Bird Island, there are also many other life forms that make the island a must see destination on your visit to Antigua.

One of these is the Antigua Racer. The Racer is a totally harmless grass snake which is one of the rarest animals on the planet. The racer has only been found on Great Bird Island, and when the first proper scientific study was carried out back in 1995 only 60 of these animals were accounted for. That was the world’s entire population of Antigua Racer snakes! Anyway, much has been done for the little guys since then and you may be lucky enough to see one some day.

Nearby is Rabbit Island , where you won’t find a single rabbit, but you will find many more birds including our local brown pelicans which nest here during the early summer months.

Another few hundred meters to the south is Antigua’s largest offshore island called Guiana, with its vast expanse of mangrove habitat. There are several types of mangrove plants with the red variety, which sends its long roots into the sea, being most important for juvenile fish, crabs, lobster and other aquatic life.
Much of the sea life you will find in the waters surrounding the country’s territorial zone is sustained by mangrove habitats which is where a huge variety of sea life gets its start.
I could write pages and pages about the food chains and ecological habitats that you will find around Antigua and Barbuda, but to keep it simple I will just say that there is so much more to the country than meets the eye, and if you take the time to have a closer look off the beaten path you will enjoy your experience here so much more.
• For tour details go to

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

A Traditional boat regatta this weekend at The Antigua Yacht Club


So the small group of traditionally built West Indian Boat owners are racing this weekend. Our boat Zemi is currently out of the water getting ready for the Antigua Classic Yacht regatta in April and won't be able to make it but the other boats will be there. Here is more from the AYC:
Dear Members,

Please note that on Saturday 5th and Sunday 6th March we will be hosting a gathering of West Indies Sail.

On Saturday afternoon the boats will be on the AYC dock from noon and we will be running a bar & BBQ on the lawn from 4:00pm. We are also planning a short film show featuring the boats.

On Sunday there will be a race starting at 1:30 p.m. with prizegiving on the lawn.
All proceeds will go to the Sailing Academy and some of our young sailors will be taking part in the racing. Anybody wishing to race please speak to the boats on Saturday.

All the yachts will be on the AYC dock for the weekend so please note no dockage will be available for other members’ yachts during that period.

Boats taking part will include: Genesis, Summer Cloud, Alexander Hamilton, Pipe Dream, Ocean Nomad, Sweetheart, Good Expectation, At Last.

Kind Regards,
Elizabeth Jordan
Antigua Yacht Club
English Harbour
St. Paul's
1 268 460 1799 (Office)