Antigua, January 2005
By: William R. Cotton

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We got to our condo about 12:30AM or so. The flight was delayed more than an hour. The guy who we got the rental car from gave us directions. The drive after dark along windy roads driving on the left side with frequent speed bumps(more like hills as just crawling over them we hit bottom), and locals speeding by us, was interesting. The condo is quite nice with a patio/deck opening up into a channel in the bay. I jogged this morning and found a few secluded beaches not far from our place. I bought food stuffs this morning that cost me over $120! Expensive here. I met Sonia Lapper-Trapp at the grocery store and she gave me directions to the opts center. Driving over we missed it since it was on another road from where we came in but after getting directions at a gas station managed to find it. I feel pretty tired but otherwise OK.

Bob Rauber showed us the ropes for putting a forecast together. I still have a lot to learn about all the webpage links we will need.

Got up at 0540 to head out to go over weather products to help in deciding if today is a flight day. Liz wasn't very enthusiastic about getting up that early especially since she and Vollie went to the airport to pick up her sister and didn't get back until 1:30AM.

The decision was not to fly the C-130. We still have to prepare a forecast for the 3PM briefing.

It is challenging to prepare the briefing as some very useful data comes in just about the time the presentation is scheduled. I have to do much on the fly. I'll get used to it though.

After the briefing we got back before sunset and I jogged around the south side of the complex. There is a long beach on that side and I ran the entire SW end. Rain showers began at the far end and I ran in moderate to heavy rain most of the way. I must have run about 4.5mi which really felt good since I haven't had time to work out the kinks from the flight down here.

Got up at 0540 and found heavy rainshowers outside. I gave the 0800 pre-flight briefing and since tomorrow is a down day, I might get a chance to explore the area a bit. So far it has pretty much been get up in the dark go to work and get home just before or after dark. Geez, I could do that in Fort Collins. At least it isn't -10F!

We drove over to English Harbor and Falmouth Harbor on the SE coast. English Harbor is a Hurricane haven that the English used since the middle 1700's. It is a beautiful place with very expensive sailing yachts all up and down the bay. There is a lot of money floating in the harbor. The old port is reconstructed with many only taverns and arts and crafts shops. It is the neatest place I have seen on the island.

Since it was a hard down day I didn't have to get up at 540 and rush to prepare a morning briefing by 0800. But we did have to prepare a forecast for the 9th at 3PM. So in the morning we stopped off in St. John's to explore. Driving into the town is a challenge but parking is even harder. We parked near the quay where the cruise ships docked. Walking around there we were accosted by people trying to sell us junk and trying to get us into taxis. Liz and her sister went shopping while Vollie and I found an old rather decrepit-looking cathedral build in 1848. It had a lot of hardwood in the interior some of which had been refurbished. Doors, however, were rotten and much of the plaster outside was falling off.

We then found a nice place to have lunch. It was a small courtyard in Redcliffe Quary with small shops and restaurants. We found a vegetarian restaurant where we had interesting vege lasagna, and smoothies. It was pleasant to be off the main streets. The main streets of St. Johns consist of a lot of rundown buildings, shops, open ditches for sewers, and crowds of tourists.

We then planned on dropping Vollie and Liz's sister, Debbie, on a beach not far from the opts center. But as it was cloudy, windy, and no facilities, Liz volunteered to take them back to the villa while I prepared the afternoon forecast. My forecast was for moistening in mid-levels through the next several days, with a very good chance for serious rain.

That evening we decided to hit a restaurant in our area. The food was good and the atmosphere was very nice. While we were eating it began to rain seriously and sitting near the sides of the open-sided restaurant one could feel the spray on ones back. We took a tour in the local casino where Liz won $40. I then ran through the rain to get the car and got pretty well soaked.

More forecast verified as it was overcast and rains were steady. They decided to cancel operations for the day. So I went back to Jolly Harbor and went for a long jog including climbing up a little mountain on the opposite side of the back from our villa. The views of the area are spectacular so I'll have to go back there on a nice day and take some pictures.

I gave the afternoon weather briefing with a forecast of continued mid-level clouds, and a good chance of deeper convection and showers. It was not a popular forecast. Bjorn decided to not fly the C-130.

I jogged in the semi-darkness along the road to the north beach and out and back along one of the streets to the villas. It was very sticky. Morning sounding looked like the deep tropics instead of the trades. No pronounced inversion and lapse rate was nearly wet adiabatic. Satellite imagery suggests a weak tropical depression to our north with cyclonic rotating winds. In addition, it appears a dust or smoke layer is making its way toward us across the Atlantic.
I drove in for the morning briefing. Liz stayed behind since her sister is leaving today. After the briefing I returned to the villa and went for a nice jog. I headed to the south beach area where I wanted to explore a road up by some cabins on a hill that overlooked the south end of the south beach. The road that veered off of our access road is full of potholes. Since it rained quite heavily last afternoon there were large mud puddles. Since they were getting bigger and harder to get around I asked permission to go into a hotel complex and then jog along the beach. With some reluctance they let me in and I headed to the south end of the beach where I jogged up a trail. I found the office of the complex and jogged up a narrow steep trail. There were 20 or so individual cottages each with fantastic views over the bay. I asked some housekeepers if I could look off the deck of one of them and they said go ahead. It was just a great view. The cabins are a bit rustic with no screens in the windows. You used one of those pull-down screens over the bed. The rooms had a toilet in a semiprivate bathroom and a shower outside on the deck. I returned down the hill and talked to the manager to find out information about the place. They are pricey but the price includes all meals at their restaurant. I told the owner I had a cabin in the Colorado mountains and wondered if he would be interested in a swap? He said he might be and that I should e-mail him. The restaurant was out on a deck with open sides with a roof and the manager said they have a great cook. I looked at the prices and they looked reasonable so decided to come back for supper.

After my jog Liz and her sister went back to the opts center where I began preparing the afternoon briefing. Liz then dropped her sister at the airport. The day was rather suppressed with only small tradewind cumuli about. The forecast dust didn't appear to make its way in.

That evening Vollie, Liz and I made out way to the COCOS restaurant that is part of the cabin complex I mentioned. We began by driving the access road that comes out Jolly Harbor but quickly found the mud puddles became more like muddy lakes and got deeper and deeper, becoming more like a lagoon. We backed out and asked if there was another way in. We were told to go out on the main road and then turn at the sign. Off we went and found the driveway but it was also quite muddy with graded drainage ditches that dropped enough that our car bottomed out going in and out of them. The road went along a sort of dike put in over a lagoon. But we finally got there before sunset. I had thought that the restaurant and bar area would be great for seeing the sunset but trees obscured the view. So I asked at the desk if there was an empty cabin that we could go up to view the sunset. They said sure and gave me the key. We hiked up the hill with Liz huffing and puffing up the hill behind me. The view off the deck was spectacular! On each side were trees with doves and little native birds with yellow bellies. Below the sea crashed against the beach and to one side there were organ-pipe looking cacti. The sunset itself was not as spectacular as we would have liked as clouds over an island about 30mi away blocked its final decent into the sea.

We then went back and had a few drinks waiting until the 7:00PM dinner hour. The meals were served in the open-sided roofed enclosure that was something like a gazebo. In an other era I'm sure it would have been roofed in palm fronds. On three sides were trees and large ferns and the west side opened to the sea some 50' below.We ordered our meals and were serenaded by tree frogs and crickets that somehow seemed to synchronize. Then a musician set up with a keyboard doing the background percussion and he playing on steel drums. It was delightful. The meal was worth waiting for. I had red snapper with a red sauce and Liz and Vollie had some other fish concoctions. We agreed the food was excellent.

Up at 0540 and off to prepare the morning briefing. Today looks like a good day with precipitating cloud lines in the area. We think the dust should make its way in. We expect the dust should make some significant changes in the cloud microstructure. I am also scheduled to give a seminar to the students here at 1030 and then give the afternoon forecast briefing. I should be plenty tired by the end of the day. My seminar went well but in the briefing I made one mistake when I misinterpreted a model color contour when it went from blue to purple where I thought since it went from light blue to dark blew representing decreased humidity, that it was a further decrease going to purple. Not! Instead purple was increased humidity. Bjorn was not going to let that go by. In fact he and Bob Rauber both enjoyed giving me crap about my forecasts.
Today is a down day for aircraft operations. But no rest the forecasters as we still have to prepare a forecast briefing for 4PM for the next days operations. But since we didn't have to be in until 10:30 I decided to take the day off and let Liz take the forecast since she wanted to be in for a 10:30 seminar for the students.

I took a jog to the north beach and met up with Sonia Lapper-Trap and jogged back with her. I then drove Liz in to the opts center and came back to do some things with Vollie. First we hiked up a little mountain at the west end of the south beach which I had jogged up earlier. The views were very nice and Vollie really enjoyed it. The plan was to then go sailing. But is was overcast with occasional showers with gusty winds to 25kts or so. But after climbing the little mountain I convinced Vollie to rent a little Hobie Cat for an hour. We first took a swim which was the first time I had gotten into the water here. The Hobie was probably 14' long with only a main sail so I figured it would not point very well. In fact it was true and it wouldn't come about and require jibbing to head the other way. But it moved pretty fast in the generally reaching winds. At least it felt that way as it created a lot of spray. But it was a lot of fun and Vollie even enjoyed it once she realized that I could handle even the strongest gusts. I pretty much stayed close to the beach to make Vollie more comfortable. So we reached back and forth sometimes moving quite fast. When we returned to Hobie we saw a water spout some distance to the west. We pointed it out to a local and said he was named after them. His nickname was "twister". He was called that because he does well when he is out in the water but is a disaster when on land. He mentioned that the water spouts are generally harmless over water but when over land they can cause a lot of damage. He described one twister that took the roof off of one hotel.

After about an hour we brought it up to the beach right where the guy waved us to bring it in. Then we took a shower at the villa and drove over to St. John to have lunch. Traffic was awful. We finally managed to find a parking spot and headed to the vege place for lunch. It was an excellent curried vegetables, salad, and stir-fried veges. After lunch we got ice cream cones which were excellent. We had to wait out a shower before returning to our car.

We then drove north from St. John where we found a coastal road. It wound along a beach front on one side and a lagoon on the other. While the lagoon was trashed out it was overrun with birds such as snowy egrets. We counted as many as 8 frigate birds flying in one cluster. We then headed back to the opts center where we picked up Liz. Then we decided to explore a peninsula that was southwest of St. Johns. After some "interesting" driving around the back streets of south St, Johns, we followed a windy paved road. I took a drive off of it that headed towards the shore and it climbed up to a few houses that had super views of the ocean. We then continued on the main road and took another rough road that went to a beach. At first it was paved and then became gravel with deep mud puddles. Vollie asked some Germans the directions to the public beach and after only one diversion found our way. The road would have been designated a 4X4 road in Colorado and we only bottomed out once. We parked next to a foot bridge with a hill that had stone buildings and rock walls as part of some fortified lookout of a bygone era. The beach would have been nice and secluded on a nice day but it was blowing 25-30kts, dark clouds and showers seemed ready to pounce on us any time. When we walked back to the bridge one of the cruise ships made its way up the channel near us. It is like seeing a floating city go by the mountains and beaches!

We returned to make our supper at the villa.

I'm doing the forecasts today so it was up at 0500, breakfast, make a lunch and drive 30minutes to be at the opts center by 0700. I gave the briefing at 0800 and it was decided to delay aircraft takeoff until 1100. So realizing I wouldn't get back to the villa before dark, I drove back to the villa and went on a jog. It is tough jogging anytime except just near sunrise and sunset. At 1000 it is just plane hot and humid. I explored a back road and found a tulip tree(at least that is what I think it was) in blossom with red blossoms. That is the first one I have seen. Then back to the villa, showered, and still perspiring after the shower, drove back to work. We had a power failure and lost our link to the display of radar products here. So all we have are satellite products for most of the day.

My forecast was for tradewind cu with a few brisk showers. Pretty normal day here.

I returned near dark and we decided to go to an Italian restaurant in Jolly Harbor for dinner. It is like most an outdoor restaurant located next to the board walk along the docks for the boats here. The food was excellent and we were entertained by the cats that prowl about the restaurants. We then walked along the docks for a while.

Today is a down day for the C-130, but the King Air and British plane will be flying. A tour of the Seward-Johnson research vessel is scheduled for 11:00. I decided not to go and instead prepare for the 1:00PM briefing and read Kyle's thesis. Vollie and Liz drove down to go on the tour. I understand it was a bit of a hassle getting through the guards but they finally got the tour.

I had a workout making a forecast today because satellite pictures showed a band of deep convection to our east but the models did not show any evidence of low-level trough or anything. I had a hard time deciding if this disturbance would come through on Sunday or it would not and therefore pretty much be a normal tradewind cu day. I went with a normal tradewind cu day. When in doubt go with persistence.

Beginning at 3:00 we had a group beach party at a beach-side restaurant called OJ's which was about 3mi SE of Jolly Harbour. The beach was short and with rocks here and there. At high tide the water lapped right up on the piers of the platforms of the restaurant. I took a swim, the longest since I had been here. I just floated about and backstroked in the rolls just off the surf. The water temperature was quite comfortable, it must have been in the middle to upper 70's. We then had a meal consisting of salads, veges, hamburgers and chicken for meat eaters, and fish for others like me. It was quite good. We had fun talking to everyone and Vollie and I danced to the sausa type music.

I decided to let Liz take the morning briefing today and I would take the afternoon forecast briefing. I jogged out on an undeveloped land-filled point we can see from our balcony. I had hoped I might see some birds or other wildlife but I saw only a couple of ibis that are very common around here. I got my feet pretty went running along the overgrown road. I then jogged along the north beach and enjoyed seeing the sailing yachts anchored off the beach.

I called for pretty normal tradewind cu for the day. We cooked supper at the Villa. Not much else to report.

I arranged to have the students due the afternoon forecast briefing and since the C-130 wasn't flying I didn't have a morning briefing. I arranged to come by an hour before the afternoon briefing and critique their presentation. They will be doing the forecasts from now on. So I took a job along the south beach and after breakfast Vollie, Liz and I drove over to the northeast coast. First we stopped off at the ground aerosol site. There is a nice beach area at the turnoff to the bumpy road up there. I wish we had more time to explore it. The site is located at a bluff where waves come crashing in from Africa. It is a very nice setting. The site is located next to a construction site for a private house so it is not so scenic but it is very nice looking off the bluff. I saw Piotr Flatau's ceilometer looking rather out of place near the construction site.

We then drove out to a point called Devil's bridge where waves crashed against the rock point. At one location there is a rock bridge of sorts where waves frequently passed under and came up on the inside of the bridge.

We then drove a windy narrow road to Harmony Hall. The road overlooks Half Moon bay which we were told is the best on the island. Unfortunately we didn't have time to visit it. This is a restaurant located at a very scenic location overlooking two bays. An old windmill tower is part of the complex with a staircase curving up its side and a open-sided roof covering a place to have drinks. The views are some of the best on the island. Inside the restaurant is with walled with paintings. It is a very nice place and I wish we had time to eat there. The tables were all set with flowers all outside in a beautiful garden area. The grounds are all nicely manicured.

We sped back to the opts center where I reviewed the student's briefing and gave them some suggestions. We then drove to St. Johns where Liz and Vollie shopped for local CD's. It was so warm that I put the air conditioner on for the first time. I really don't enjoy St. Johns as it is trashy and hot.

We returned and turned on the air conditioner in the villa. Then went to dinner at Dog Watch Bar and Restaurant where there are no dogs but usually plenty of cats.

For the first time here we slept with the A/C on. The winds were weak and it had really gotten warm and humid. Up at 0530 we packed up the car and tried to turn in our keys but no one was at the desk. Fortunately we paid our bill on the day before so we found someone to leave the keys with. It was overcast with light showers about. We got to the airport and guess what no one was at the AVIS rental card desk. We filled out the paperwork with our contract and dropped the keys and paperwork at the counter hoping it gets properly taken care of.

Naturally our flight was delayed but made it to San Juan in time to catch our flight to Dallas. I am now waiting for our delayed flight on to Denver. We arrived in Denver on schedule. Our only hiccup in the trip was when we arrived at the USA Parking to get our car. Loading up the van Vollie and I had agreed that I would carry the big case and she would carry my carry-on bag. After unloading from the van, it drove off and we started loading the 4 Runner. I asked Vollie where was my carry-on pack. Uh-oh, she being very tired had spaced it out. So we quickly drove over to the headquarters and had them call the driver. When we drove up Vollie rushed on but no pack! The driver had put it in the last car he stopped at. Fortunately the car drove up and the van driver stopped him and got my pack. He said all is well that ends well. And so it was for our trip to Antigua.