A Hike from Grenada Marine

My brother and sister and I spent a great deal of time over the many recent months in a three-way text chat. Margaret and I could vent, and Michael would regale us with his humor. We were in the middle of such a chat and I needed to break off. Our fresh fruit and vegetable stores were decidedly weak so I texted my brother and sister “Off on a Hike to find some fruit.” Margaret texted back “Are you two reduced to foraging for food again?” Michael responded “I don’t think she means traipsing through the jungle.” Well actually…..

Grenada Marine

Grenada Marine

Grenada Marine is a nice quiet marina that has recently made some significant improvements, but one of them is not, a decision to no longer permit some food vendors (mobile bakery and seafood, in particular) inside the gates. There is a very nice restaurant, but sailors are a stingy lot and eat relatively few meals out.

Cruiser’s Reef Restaurant

Our hike for Fresh Produce

George, my better half, recalled a fruit and vegetable stand that was only two mountains and a couple of miles away so off we went. Largely unbeknownst to me, as I have an exactly zero sense of direction, George strayed a bit here and there to take in a few other sites he was interested in checking out.

The yellow line is the track of the hike we embarked on to purchase food from “nearby” fruit stands

The hike was absolutely delightful. Along the way we got a look at the progress being made on the construction of the Six Senses Luxury Hotel Resort to the west of La Sagesse Bay while Duhkxy played hide and seek in the tall grass.

We also passed through a region of farmland that had sufficient water resources from a large stream to supply an irrigation system. There were thriving fields of “local spinach”, cherry tomatoes, lettuce and seasoning peppers (in order below).

As well as many fruit-bearing trees.

Key Lime

Soursop trees with maturing fruit, and buds.

Soursop fruit – opening buds, below

Trees bearing a local nut called almond. We purchased a bottle of these nuts at one of the fruit stands – they are less than a fifth the size of the almonds you are most likely familiar with and do taste quite a bit like an almond.

Local nut called almond.

A couple of cows and some beautiful flowers we have not seen before – a special plus for residing and cruising in Grenada during seasons we have not been here for previously.

Lastly, we stocked up on passion fruit, oranges, grapefruit, bananas, avocado, mangoes, coconuts, cucumbers, pumpkin, “almonds”, peppers, cabbage, ginger, and sorrel. It was a successful and thoroughly interesting day.

A Recent Sample of Michael’s humor for your entertainment (spoiler, not flattering with respect to our soon to be ex-President).

Trump reportedly considering sending Melania on an extended tour of campaign-like rallies, promoting hs current conspiracy theory of extensive voter fraud. Confidantes and advisors hint that this is part of a well laid plan that the President has outlined to reverse the election results in his favor. When asked for comment on these rumors, Melania replied “Well laid? Well, I guess there is always a first time.”

Grenada Hash

Grenada Hash

The Grenada Hash is not a local culinary dish or mood enhancer.  It stems from a long history of Hashes, first imagined and initiated by a group of British soldiers in Malaysia in 1938, who were looking for a fun way to stay fit without foregoing their penchant for beer.  The playful slogan for this Hash Club, and subsequent Hash Clubs is:

Some seasoned hashers sport tank tops featuring the sport’s slogan.

A trail is created by a club member referred to as a Hare and and the Hash is on. The Hares, in our experience, take devilish delight in creating trails through challenging terrain and incorporating false trails.  The concept took some time to catch on, with the interruption of World War II, but today there are almost 2000 chapters all over the world.  

The first Hash in Grenada was held in 1985, and with limited interruptions is held on each Saturday.  The Grenada Hash Club is purportedly one of the largest in the World with 150-300 regular participants http://grenadahash.com.  This season the Hashes, which ordinarily occur on each Saturday in Grenada, were interrupted for several months while restrictions on gatherings were in effect to stem the spread of Covid 19.  A handful of long devoted hashers were so despondent on Saturdays that they formed an interim Bird Watchers Club until the Hash started up again on September 26.

The Grenada Hash, garners a lot of participation.

Prior to the Hash beginning, members of the Hash Club circulate throughout the participants looking for those sporting new sneakers or running shoes.  These may be confiscated in the guise of testing their integrity for the rigorous trail. (SPOILER: The true reason is for a customary ceremony that entails the unsuspecting, unfortunate, owner drinking beer from the shoe.)

Separate Hash trails are laid out for Runners and Walkers.  Some Hashes include two walker trails – one easier and / or shorter than the other.  The trails are identified by periodic deposits of shredded paper (in Grenada) or flour.  You must be vigilant to ensure you keep track of these markings as there are false trails that can lead you astray. There are invariably some parts that are steep, some wet and muddy, and some bushwhacking. More often than not there are some remnants of shoes that fell apart.

George and I participated in our first Hash on Saturday, January 23rd, 2020.  It was Grenada Hash Number 1122 and was laid out by the Hash Hare “Sex Problem”.  As first-time Hashers we were referred to as Virgins.  Before each Hash begins, all Virgins are called to the front of the crowd for instructions (mostly lies and obfuscations).  You are also informed that at the end of the Hash Virgins will be reconvened for a short ceremony to commemorate your loss of your Virginity and receive your certificate. You will want to make sure you show up for this fun ceremony. One Hash in which we participated had an extra closing ceremony for a pair of Hashers who had just received their official nicknames and another for two dedicated Hashers who had announced their intent to get married.

Dogs are welcome and when the University is in session, many Vets in training bring theirs along. All the dogs must stay on a leash and are very well behaved.

Many doges participate, particularly when the Vet Students are on island.

The dogs are even better behaved at the end of the Hash (see below).

Of the eight Hashes we have participated in so far, my favorite brought us through an interior part of Grenada with large and small farms and homes with vegetable gardens and/or vegetable and fruit plants tucked in wherever there was a bit of room.

Each Hash is different and they are all fun. They offer you some great exercise while you are introduced to parts of Grenada you might not otherwise see and people you might not otherwise meet.

Celebrating Biden’s Victory in Grenada

If you could see it through others’ eyes

As the United States Presidential election approached, conversations in Grenada frequently strayed into opinions about the candidates, and speculation about who would prevail. We have not met many American cruisers who support Trump, although they do exist. When we spoke with a like-minded American, various outrages were voiced and then someone would suggest the unpleasant topic be dropped. The most interesting discussions were those with Grenadian citizens and people visiting from countries other than the US.

The electoral college was a frequent topic when speaking with non-Americans, and many people were incredulous that the presidential election would not be decided by the popular vote. My explanation was that the electoral college was intended to give a fair share of voice to each state. Many would concede that they could understand some value to the process, but still far preferred their country’s use of the popular vote as the sole determinant.

As to the candidates and who would win – the great majority of non-Americans thought Trump to be without morals and foolish. They were confounded by his continued popularity in the Unites States and judged the US harshly, as a result. A disappointing number of opinions shared were that Trump would win. Disappointing, in that the view expressed was a condemnation the intelligence and morality of Americans.

Ice Floe and we are back in the water

Ice Floe was returned to the water bright and early November 2nd and we spent most of the day stowing things we brought back from our apartment, and otherwise getting her ready to sail. To be truthful, George spent most of the day in this pursuit. I made contributions when I could tear myself away from the pre-election news and texting with my brother and sister.

George and I slept well on the boat on the eve of the election with near certainty that Biden would win. The following day and for the balance of the week I was consumed by the need to follow the frequent changes in who was ahead in key states, and fretful over how close the vote was turning out in key states.

Saturday – The Grenada Hash and a new president is elected.

George and I hopped on the bus taking us to the Grenada Hash (a rigorous run or walk through the hilly interior of Grenada) with light hearts as shortly before, the results in Pennsylvania had just been called for Biden, thereby securing his successful run for president. We completed the Hash, and if not for a very steep slope toward the end, we would, for once, not have come in last. George had tied Duhkxy’s leash to a stump at the top of the incline that helped getting down the embankment and those that followed were pleased to use it, as well.

We took the bus back to Whisper Cove for a lovely dinner to celebrate the outcome of the election. We could not help but notice a young woman (American), who we learned is a full-time cruiser, dressed in such a way as to leave no doubt to the joy she felt in Biden’s election.

The lovely, lively, delicious, restaurant at Whisper Cove Marina

As we shared our happiness at the outcome of the election I mentioned that I had told George we would not put up a new American flag at Ice Floe’s stern until we had a new president. The young woman said she had made the same pronouncement to her shipmate.

We saw no cheering crowds, no dancing in the street, fireworks, or other displays of celebrations. Just a quiet sigh of reiief, a joyous sense of hope, shared by a couple of Americans who found themselves in Grenada for this historic election, It was more than enough,

Leadership in Grenada – A Cruiser’s Perspective – Updated September 2, 2020

September 2, 2020 – (Update to March 31 post)

Five months since I first wrote this post, we are still in Grenada.  Ice Floe is on the hard in Clark’s Court Marina for hurricane season and we will resume sailing in November.  What began as the prolongation of our time in Grenada due to the airport closure, evolved into a decision to stay in a country where as George often comments “The Grenadian Prime Minister cares more about our health than our President does.”  We are living in a small apartment overlooking BBC Beach in Morne Rouge.

        The view of BBC beach from our apartment porch in Morne Rouge

To date, Grenada has confirmed a total of 24 cases and ably managed a limited outbreak of community spread infections through extensive contact tracing and quarantining.  There have been no deaths and are no known active cases.  Children are back to school, and most businesses are open and the amazingly efficient bus system is back in full service. Large gatherings are still prohibited and the Grenadian Carnival and Emancipation Holiday were canceled to reduce the chance of infractions.

Masks must be worn before entering businesses.  Upon entering, your temperature is often taken and hand sanitizer applied.  In restaurants, your name, phone number, and time arriving is recorded for contract tracing purposes.  International traffic to the island remains highly restricted.  We may hear some grumbling from time to time, but we have not witnessed a single instance of disrespectful behavior, let alone violence.  Adherence to these restrictions is very good – Grenada remains armed should Covid 19 return.

Sadly, in the United States, the pandemic rages on.  Our President applauds his success when the average daily number of deaths declines to 1000, and daily new infections drop to 40,000.  He continues to contradict the world’s leading experts on infectious diseases and the simple numbers a young child can understand.
Over six million people have been infected in the United States and 189,504 died from Covid 19 infections as of the instant I am writing these words https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/  .  Grave concerns about serious, long-standing, health issues in those who have survived the infection are continually being discovered. Our president offers, in an effort to minimize the tragic loss of life, “Half of the people who died were in nursing homes”, recommends less testing so we will have fewer confirmed infections, and threatens to take health insurance away from millions.

We plan to return to the United States in early spring of 2021.  At that time we expect to have President Biden shepherding our once great country through its recovery from the enormous damage wrought by the morally corrupt, deceitful, and self serving actions taken by Trump.

Until then, we remain grateful to Grenada leadership and Grenadians for the safe haven and hospitality they have afforded to us.

Original Post -March 31, 2020

Choosing to Quarantine in Grenada

As the inevitable invasion of Covid-19 infections reached the Caribbean islands, many cruisers raced to find a way to get back to their motherland.  My husband and I, having closely followed the news concerning Covidi-19 outbreaks in much of the world, elected to self-quarantine on our sailboat, anchored off a small, uninhabited, breathtakingly beautiful island in Grenada.  

We reasoned that a trip back to the US would require flying to JFK airport in New York and our coming in proximity with many hundreds of people from all over the world.  We would be putting ourselves at risk, as well as, potentially adding demand on already over-burdened health care professionals with insufficient resources

Can we save ourselves?

The magnitude of this tragedy today, is difficult to take in.  Near-term certainties of what lies ahead, should we fail to slow the progression of infections, will forever damn humanity for our short-sighted, selfish, and shallow priorities.
  
Tomorrow (April Fool’s Day), the number of deaths in the United States will exceed those in China.  Tomorrow, the deaths in Italy will exceed 12,000, with no hint of an inflection in the curve to suggest it will not continue to increase until exhausted by Italy’s vulnerable population.


And yet, leadership across much of the world, points fingers, debates, and seeks to secure some personal or political advantage; none more-so than in the United States.


What true leadership looks like

Presently, confined to our sailboat, in the relatively speaking tiny island nation of Grenada, we have had the opportunity to observe and remember how exemplary leadership can guide a nation through a crisis.  Grenada’s leaders have taken swift, decisive action, given unequivocal direction, spoken the truth, and conveyed empathy.

Before a single infection was confirmed in Grenada, increasingly more stringent directives, principally directed at reducing the immigration of potentially infected foreigners, were enacted.  The following are those relevant to cruisers, like ourselves.

18 – March. Ports of entry to Grenada reduced to two and health check and travel history taken prior to possibility of check in.
19 – March (12:00am). Foreign vessels checking into Grenada must fly a quarantine flag and all passengers be quarantined on their vessel for 14 days
20 – March. Persons on board foreign vessels in Grenada cannot set foot on land 
21 – March (11:59pm) Grenada closed to any foreign vessels not already cleared in
  • The first infection (an individual returning from the UK) tests positive.
22 – March. Grenada’s main airport, Maurice Bishop International Airport closed to commercial traffic

The announcement that those on foreign vessels could not set foot on land, was simultaneously accompanied by hand delivered details of how our need for resources (food, water, fuel, et al) would be met.  This service has been faithfully provided at no cost.  We feel much indebted to the Grenadian Prime Minister Dr. Right Honorable Keith Mitchell and Minister for Health Honorable Nickolas Steele and all Grenadians for continuing to provide us with safe haven and necessities.

Since the first individual in Grenada with a confirmed Covid-19 infection was identified on March 21, eight additional individuals are known to have been infected. All have ties to patient zero and we can only hope the infection has been contained.  In addition, a Limited State of Emergency was put in place, curfews were established and the need for social distancing, hand washing, not touching your face and remaining at home whenever possible was repeatedly emphasized.  

Grenada’s Leadership not afraid to take unpopular decisions

March 30th, a written announcement from Grenada’s Minister of Health, the Honorable Nickolas Steele included the following excerpts.

“Sadly, many have not heard us.  Many have ignored us.”

“In this regard, therefore, a mandatory curfew will be imposed beginning from 7:00 pm on Monday, March 30th, 2020, and ending 7:00 pm on the 6th day of April 2020.

During this period, every person shall remain confined to their place of residence (inclusive of their yard space), to avoid contact outside of their household; except as provided in the Regulations or as may be authorized in writing by the Commissioner of Police.”

Strict guidelines for the procurement of food were established.

“Shops which sell groceries, grocery stores and supermarkets in each Parish shall be open for business between 8am and 12 noon on select days specified by the Commissioner of Police.”

“One Person from each household shall be allowed to leave their residence once during a grocery day to attend shops which sell groceries…..in their own Parish”

All other places of business including restaurants and gas stations will be closed.

Strict guidelines for personal vehicles and busses were clearly spelled out.

Lastly, in my opinion, the most powerful and persuasive message issued from the Minister of Health, when addressing the nation live today was the following.

“Do not leave your house unless it is a food or medical emergency and you will have done your part to keep your household safe and your nation safe.”

Judging from the comments left by Grenadians following the publication of these directives, there is widespread support, despite the hardships imposed.

That is what True Leadership can accomplish!


Duhkxy and the Sandy Island Rats

Prelude – Catching up

We are still here in Grenada on Ice Floe, moored off Sandy Island within the Sandy Island / Oyster Bed Marine Protected Area (aka Carriacou Marine Park).  We have been here since March 18th when the majority of Caribbean Island Nations closed their borders.  Our June 18th flight was rescheduled for June 16th and subsequently canceled.  The airport in Grenada will open no sooner than June 30th.  We are now rebooked for July 4th.

How do we spend our days under lockdown?

That is a question we hear quite often so here is a description of our typical days.
We are both reading a lot, and of course I write my Blog every so often.  I spend way too much time reading the news and then I feel depressed and play solitaire on my iPad for an hour, or so.
I am heartened that the outrage played out in the peaceful protests following George Floyd’s death has rekindled the Black Lives Matter movement and drawn international attention to the need for police reform.  I track and graph the pandemic statistics every day.  In my humble opinion, we haven’t seen anything yet.
There is the requisite cooking and cleaning every day, 3 times a day.  Now that the Paradise Beach Club has re-opened we treat ourselves to a visit there a few times each week – sometimes for the best rum punch we have ever had, sometimes for the best fish tacos we have ever had, sometimes for the best lamb fritters we have ever had….
I FaceTime with Riley and Tristan on Wednesdays.  They are both reading me a different book and Tristan recently serenaded me on his ukelele.
Our days are frequently variations of the same, with occasional outings to sail, fish, snorkel, watch the seabirds and turtles around Ice Floe, or take a hike around Carriacou.  Many of these adventures are described in other blogs.
We visit Sandy Island almost every evening with Duhkxy and I will devote the balance of this entry to Duhkxy discovery and fascination with the rats on Sandy Island.

Duhkxy and the Sandy Island Rats

Soon after we arrived I saw the first rat on Sandy Island flash past into a pile of palm fonds.  Several weeks later, George and I both caught a glimpse of several surfing along the branches of a sea grape.
The photo of the cute little rat at the beginning of this blogpost was first seen less than two feet from George’s right shoulder.  I said “George, there is a rat – right there – pointing”.  George asked “Where?”, a bit alarmed.  I pointed again and George, now seeing it, quickly retreated to a safer location.  I then kept staring at the rat, who kept very still in hopes I did not see it.  George pulled the camera from our pack and I captured this adorable shot.
 
Now, as rats go, the Sandy Island rats are quite cute – smaller than nasty dump rats, shaped a bit more like a kangaroo rat, with soft-looking brown fur and big round eyes.  George was having none of it – he does not like rats (or snakes).
 
It was not long after that Duhkxy discovered them and for weeks his favorite past time, while visiting the island, was trying to flush them out and catch one.  He is a clever doggie and it was not long before he succeeded.
 
His favorite game is chase.  Unfortunately, he is too fast, and so are the rats, for me to capture that in a photo.  He has treed them as below.
 
I got you
Get down here and play with me (or let me play with you)

And he forced one into the water.  He would have been in there after it if we had not restrained him.

Admittedly, not as cute as when dry and fluffy.  This rat sure could swim.

Each day brings new discoveries and things to see on Sandy Island.  Each evening a new sunset.

 

Footprints in the Sand on Sandy Island

Sandy Island, Carriacou, Grenada viewed from a hilltop on Carriacou.  Ice Floe is furthest to the right.
Duhkxy has become a capable and comfortable swimmer.  He howls with delight when he sees me don my bathing suit and we need to be very careful to make sure he doesn’t land on our heads when he launches himself into the water after us.

Our Evening Routine

Each evening we swim with Duhkxy to Sandy Island to walk the beach, and visit the hermit crabs.  The evening before, they created beautiful new patterns in the soft sand as they travel to and fro in search of food, new shells, and whatever else they have a hankering for.
Their footprints tell the tale of their long journeys, and they leave very little of their terrain unexplored.
An island bird’s footprints lay atop the beautiful quilt-like pattern laid down by hermit crabs
A hermit crab crossroad
Largest land hermit crab we saw on Sandy Island (~3-4 in)

Hermit crabs are remarkable creatures.  They do not have a protective shell covering their abdomens.  They must borrow one left behind by a dead snail or other animal.  Having searched the beach on Sandy Island for months, I can attest to the fact that there are not many shells and the most beautiful ones invariably have been taken by a hermit crab.  As they grow, they must find larger shells and on occasion they may do so in a cooperative manner.

When a hermit crab (Crab 1), in need of a larger shell, comes across one that is a bit too large, it may stay by this shell in hope

that a larger hermit crab (Crab 2) may come along also looking for a new shell. If Crab 2 takes the larger empty shell, its previous shell may be the perfect size for Crab 1.

Sometimes, a number of hermit crabs line up in size order waiting for the biggest one in the line to start the switch.  Then each crab exchanges its shell for the next larger one that has just been vacated.  Take a moment to see this happen at
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f1dnocPQXDQ

Recognizing the shortage of shells on the island I felt compelled to return suitable shells from my collection to areas with large populations of the crabs.  In less than 15 minutes, an interested crab came by to look at a three quarter inch blue shell I had returned.  At this point, in the next photo, the small hermit crab has already examined the blue shell, turned it on its side and appears to have positioned itself to line up the shell openings.

In the next regrettably fuzzy photo, the smaller crab has inserted its abdomen in the larger shell.

Within the next several minutes another hermit crab approached and examined the newly empty shell.

However, it ultimately deemed it not a good trade and went on its way.  By the following morning about half of the shells I had distributed were gone, with very small empty shells in their place.

Land hermit crabs mate on land and the female carries the eggs until maturity (~ 1 month).  At that time, she distributes them in salt water and they immediately burst, releasing the immature hermit crab.  Each crab will undergo a number of life stages in the sea, and upon acquiring a shell, they begin to spend some time on land.  Their final metamorphosis occurs buried in the sand at which time their gills are modified such that the hermit crab can breath air.  At this point, a land hermit crab will drown if submerged too long in water.

The approximate size of of the hermit crabs shown below are less than two inches in diameter, but we have seen some as small as an eighth of an inch and as big as George’s fist (first photos above).  All of these hermit crabs are land crabs.  They must periodically replenish a supply of water that they carry in their shells.  A hermit crab without its shell is not only in danger of becoming someone’s snack, they will dehydrate quickly and die.

Tucked all the way into its beautiful shell you can see the brightly colored claws of these Caribbean land hermit crabs.
This odd looking hermit crab shell was wearing the calcareous shell of a tube worm (also photo below)

Our initial encounters were with hermit crabs in the sand.

Later we found them climbing palm trees and congregating and feasting on the foliage of the sea grape.  The following photos are representative of the majority of the hermit crabs we encountered.

Addendum, added June 26 – Shortly after publishing this post, the hermit crabs all but disappeared on Sandy Island.  Most had not returned by the time we had to leave Sandy Island, and those that did were tiny.   We concluded they had buried themselves in the sand and started a synchronous molt.  The time it takes for a crab to complete a molt varies. As a general rule, the larger the crab, the longer the whole process will take. It is not unusual for an average-sized crab to spend about four to eight weeks going through the whole process, during which time it may stay completely buried in the sand.



Stay safe and well.  The worst of the first wave of Covid 19 is passed but new infections are being recorded at a rate around 20,000 per day – BE CAREFUL!!  We may choose to believe that there will be no second wave, but most likely it is at best a few months away.  Try to take these limited summer months to prepare to the extent that you can.

Jjj

Cruiser Debate – Stay safe on boat or head home?

We are heading for home

Every cruiser we have met, who like ourselves had their plans waylaid by the Covid 19 pandemic, has spoken of the pros and cons of either finding a way home or remaining in relative safety on their boat.
 
 
Why stay in Grenada?
 
In the early weeks, those highly motivated to get home had to first get to an island with an operational airport that would let them check in while each day more islands closed their borders and airports.  Quite a few American cruisers headed to Puerto Rico or to the US Virgin islands. These trips took many days with few protected anchorages.  As islands closed their borders, they also prohibited anchoring in their waters.  Once arriving, they repeatedly booked flights that were then canceled.  We chose to stay.
 
Living on Ice Floe has provided us with near absolute safety from the Covid 19 pandemic.  We have an infinitesimal risk of encountering anyone who is infected.  Moored in the Marine Park between the Grenada islands of Carriacou and Sandy Island we engage with only a handful of people – cruisers, like ourselves, who had been cruising in the Caribbean for months and several Grenadian citizens who live on Carriacou and have delivered groceries and other necessities to us.  Carriacou has not had a single Covid 19 infection.  We are safe here.
We love spending time on Ice Floe.  She is a modest sized boat, similar to most cruising vessels we see.   It is not a hardship to spend a great deal of time confined to her space.  We also feel some measure of pride in living and eating simply and leaving small footprints on the environment.  Wind provides the energy for our transportation, both wind and solar to make fresh water, to refrigerate our food, and to power our lights and electrical appliances.
It pains us to consider the possibility that, if we go home we may not be able to get back to the islands next season.
Why return home?
We have now been living in the Caribbean since December 5th, 2019 – in this safe and idyllic setting for over 2 months.  So much has changed since we left home.  We have mourned the loss of lives, livelihoods, and our way of life.  We could not have imagined how quickly so many things we have taken for granted have been lost.
We miss our children and grandchildren, and all members of our family.  We miss conversation and friends.  We remind ourselves these longings will not be satisfied by returning home.
A possible opportunity to fly home has emerged, and we feel drawn to return.  Our rational minds cannot provide a cogent reason for voluntarily returning.  We are frightened. 
On Ice Floe, we have not built up any tolerance to the fear of contracting Covid 19.  The death toll from this virus has slowed a bit in the warmer months, as many coronaviruses do.  We see a window of opportunity and are less terrified to fly to the JFK airport.  We put out of our minds our certainty the outbreak will resume in the cooler months to come.
We are drawn to a home that only exists as the physical structure and gardens and memories we created over the past 3 decades.  We hope we will be safe and find some ways to assist others less fortunate than ourselves.  We are not needed here.
 
 
 

Under Lockdown Moored off Sandy Island, Carriacou, Grenada

Our mooring off Sandy Island, Cariacou, Grenada has served as our home from the day we checked into Grenada on March 18th.  We could not have asked for a more ideal location to quarantine as the course of Covod-19 unfolds.

At any one time, we had as few as 3 other boats as neighbors, and as many as 7.  Some came and went and came back again.  There was no place we would prefer to quarantine so we remained.

We have been provided with a service to secure groceries, as we are not permitted on land in Cariacou.  We place our order with Alison, a proprieter of the Paradise Beach Club restaurant on Cariacou.  The restaurant is closed, but Alison oversees efforts to ensure cruisers are provisioned.  Cariacou receives its groceries from Grenada (the big island) and there is no way to know what will be available on a given day.  Alison stands in lines with people in masks keeping 6 feet apart, sometimes for hours.  She has invariably brought us as many of the items we requested as possible, and does a great job of substituting when necessary.  We eat well – never better than on the occasions a blue marlin has been caught.

Things to do while moored off Sandy Island – Underwater

You may think that remaining on a boat such a long time in one place would be tedious, but we are never bored.  There is a very lovely reef within swimming distance from Ice Floe and our snorkeling has rewarded us with views of frightening moray eels, a small yellow snake head peeking out of a hole, slipper and caribbean lobsters, two types of sting rays (yellow and southern) a spotted eagle ray, a host of vibrant corals and other sea invertebrates and many species of fish.  Every visit reveals something new and we never get tired of snorkeling on the reef and along the island shoreline.

We often catch glimpses of fish backed into a crevice like this one that is either a spotted burrfish or a porcupine fish.    They look a bit like ET with their big eyes and wide mouth.  When they are threatened they blow up into a big fat ball with spikes sticking out.  It is hard to get a photo because you need to dive down and they usually back further into their hole.
This fish is likely the same type as the one above, but not the same fish.  This was my third attempt to get a photo – very proud of myself.
Glasseye Snapper
This is the West Indian Sea Egg, a very common type of sea urchin.  They have the curious habit of collecting seagrass and small shells.  Sea urchins are part of the broader category of sea creatures Echinoderms.  Echinoderms include starfish, brittle stars and feather stars and sand dollars.
French grunt fish swimming near what I believe is Smooth Star Coral
Juvenile Mahoghany Snapper
Blue Tang
Identifying coral is difficult as their color may vary depending on what algae grow inside the coral polyp.  Relying more on shape of the total colony and the individual polyps, my best guess is that this is a Great Star Coral.  Those, in very shallow water, which this one is, tend to collect green symbiotic algae.
The blue dotted fish is a juvenile yellowtail damselfish.  The Yellowish tan coral in the background is a type of fire coral.  The red is likely a sponge.
School of French grunts
Trumpet fish
George
Southern Ray

Above the water

While sitting in our cockpit, we have been surrounded every day by the heartless slaughter of small and juvenile fish.  We see large fish as they decimate the huge schools of tiny and young fish.  We have observed a progression of the type of predators, as well as the seabirds who take advantage of the disorganized fish that come too close to the surface.

Underwater predators

Underwater predators we have observed include redfin needle fish, barracuda, and jacks.  It is common for the predators to launch themselves from the water, especially in the initial attack.  At times this is a single predator – they may fly straight up in a tight arc or cross an amazing distance.  Sometimes groups of predators come by in what looks like an underwater airplane configuration.  They will suddenly erupt just above the surface.  We believe all of these tactics help them disorganize their prey making them easier to catch.

School of horse eye jacks

Predators from above

Above water predators have included terns, laughing gulls, brown-footed boobies, and pelicans.  They continually keep a watch and when the fish strike, the birds are right behind them.

Royal Tern
Laughing gull
Brown footed Boobies
Pelican

 The prey

The innocent prey are generally schools of silversides or young fish.  The predators have varied over the weeks – most recently the horse eye jack, perhaps as some of the prey has grown from half inch to several inches.

A school of silversides just below the surface of the water
An enormous, dense, school of silversides we swam through while snorkeling

The play unfolds

Jacks, erupting at the surface of a school of prey
Several laughing gulls are next on the scene of carnage
Birds assail from above as jack (center bottom) attacks from below
This scene plays out dozens of times a day

Initially Duhkxy reacted to every loud splash from the attacking predators.  As he has grown accustomed to the behavior, he reserves his barking to instances when he becomes bored or the attack is particularly loud and close to the boat.

Duhkxy maintains vigil.

Watching the birds can reveal some behaviors you cannot imagine.  Have you ever seen a seagull stand on the head of a pelican?  WE HAVE, many times.  After a pelican catches a fish, it also takes in a large amount of seawater.  Before swallowing, the pelican allows the water to drain out of its pouch.  In this interval, gulls hang around and often stand on the pelican hoping they can snatch some of the catch.

We often watch laughing gulls stand on top of a pelican’s head immediately after the pelican catches a fish

Many larger birds of prey routinely steal fish right out of the mouths of others.  We have observed that here, with frigate birds taking fish from boobies.  In other locals, we have seen eagles and osprey do the same.  We wonder if this is the main way frigate birds satiate their hunger as we routinely see them soaring above but have only rarely seen them catch a fish.

Our neighbors entertain us with their water activities.  Some paddle board, some kite sail, some kayak, and once, we watched a cruiser successfully use his hammock as a sail for his kayak.  He had a little better luck than Marilla when she tried this in the Boundary Waters.

Marilla, in Boundary Waters (1989)

At the end of day, we sit in the cockpit and watch the sun go down.  No two sunsets are the same.  Each is a peaceful, end of day, experience.

Our loved ones and humanity as a whole are never far from our thoughts.  Stay well.

Soufrière and the Pitons

Soufrière

Soufrière is first and foremost a lovely town nestled in a valley just north of the Pitons on the west coast of St. Lucia.  The town name is derived from the French word sufre which translates to sulfur in english, reference to the proximity of an active volcano and associated hot sulfur springs.  The Soufrière volcano is considered to be dormant – its last eruption of magna occurring in the late 18th century, however steam continues to be emitted.  The volcano and opportunity to bathe in hot springs and mud baths draws many tourists to the area.

Soufrière viewed from the northern rim of the valley with the prominent Pitons behind

The Pitons

The Pitons, Gros Piton and Petit Peton, were formed from magna that hardened in volcanic vents.  This type of landform is referred to as a volcanic plug.  In some instances, pressure builds up below the plug and may result in a violent eruption.  The hardened volcanic material that forms the basis of the Pitons was only revealed when the landmass surrounding them eroded away.

We visited this beautiful region with our daughter Allison and her family when they joined us in February.  Our sail from Marigot Bay could have benefitted from a bit more wind but afforded a nice opportunity for the kids to rest up from their previous exhausting day.

We moored in a bay between the Gros and Petit Pitons and spent an afternoon snorkeling the reefs on either side of the bay.  Sadly, I left my camera on Ice Floe when we snorkeled the south side.  The water was nice and clear and the reef was a colorful garden of sea fans and sponges such as we have not seen in many years.  The pictures below are from our snorkel on the north side.  At first impression I was disappointed as the water was not as clear and the most interesting part of this reef appeared to be in deeper waters.

However, I was directed to check out an area initially obscured by rocks.  Behind the rock wall was a veritable garden of colorful coral, tube worms, sponges, anemones, and plants.  
My best guess for what you are looking at:  The peachy pink masses – a cluster of nocturnal anemones.  In the evening, tentacles that catch food emerge and I bet it is absolutely beautiful.  The green and yellow animals are sponges.  The pale blue protrusion to the right of the green sponge is a Christmas tree worm (not in focus – better shot below) 
Glassy sweepers, often found in caves or hideaways like this one.
A collage of sponges, anemones, and sea urchins
The large yellow sphere is a brain coral.  The flat orange mat that looks like it has two eyes is a red boring sponge that, as its name implies, establishes its home by boring into the coral.  A beautiful orange christmas tree worm is displaying towards the top right and there is a white Christmas tree worm with tentacles out, as well as several other recoiled white Christmas tree worms below.
An elongated vase sponge.  Bottom spikey spheres are long spined sea urchins 
Smooth trunkfish.  Allison spotted this one and I took a wild shot and was lucky.
Again, best guess.  The blue and turquoise branched organism is a variant of the similarly-shaped white branched  organisms that look like “white tangled bryozoan”  Look closely and let me know if you see anything else?  Did you spot the fish in the upper left quarter of the photo.  I admit, I didn’t until I enlarged a portion of the original photo.  This fish is likely one of several types of fish that are usually resting, very still, on the sea floor or another solid surface.  They are generally well camouflaged and catch your eye when they dart from one spot to another
After lunch, George blew up our giant tube to tow Tristan and Riley.  George also offered rides to the two Angels who I wrote about in The Thin Blue Line .   We met them during a stay in Port St. Louis and as happens from time to time, we recognized their boat at the Pitons.  They declined, having spent an exhausting time swimming and snorkeling all day, but it was a pleasure to see them again.
As George was getting started the tube got caught behind some shallow rocks.  Allison’s attempts to free it resulted in her stepping on a sea urchin.  Let me tell you from my personal experience that this is very painful.  Allison had more than a dozen fairly deeply embedded spines.  Many had broken off or did so in the initial attempts to extract them.  There are always some tiny bits you cannot get out.  Allison reported that the last spine was expelled on April 25th, just about 2 months after she stepped on the urchin.
We scored a giant lobster and some fresh fruit from a local boatman.  We kept the lobster for the following day to have with lunch.
That evening was one we will remember as the second, roughest night we spent on a mooring or at anchor.  The craziest rocking experience happened many years ago when we rented a houseboat in Exuma, Bahamas.  Some day (maybe) I will find the time to tell that story in a Blog as it was the beginning of our road to cruising.  Allison and Mike made a Shutterfly book of the vacation that beautifully captures the fun we had with three generations on board – but I do digress.  
Back to the night at the Pitons – Ice Floe was in constant motion due to a significant swell, and seemingly, out of nowhere a katabatic gust of wind coming down between the Pitons would hit her and she would heel and swing like crazy.  At times we could see the wind hit the water and the water would splash straight up.  We turned on the navigation system to monitor the wind speed and clocked one crazy gust at just under 40 knots.

Day 2

We enjoyed a lazy breakfast and spent the balance of the morning snorkeling in a few more spots.

Lunch was the giant lobster along with a big salad.  George had to chop the lobster’s antenna off to get it to fit in our pot (IT WAS REALLY BIG!).  Delicious!!

We were cleaning up after lunch and making plans to stay another day to visit the Chocolate Hotel and/or a Botanical Garden.  Both were very close to Soufrière and quite a distance from Marigot Bay.  George emptied the giant lobster pot of steaming water off the swim platform and as he turned to step back up another giant wind struck Ice Floe and took her out from under his feet.

George landed hard and couldn’t even speak for a short while.  Those who know George know he is as sure on his feet as a mountain goat and stoic to an extreme.  He was really hurting.  Plans to stay another day to visit Hotel Chocolat and nearby Botanical Gardens were abandoned and we motored back to Marigot Bay.

George had broken his 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th ribs on his right side and had an approximate 500mL pool of blood between the diaphragm and lung, partially constricting his lung.  In addition, he injured his shoulder, a knee, and broke a toe.  I am happy to report, the diagnosis and care he received at Tapion Hospital (Castries) was outstanding and a tiny fraction of what it would have cost in the US.  He recovered in record time and has very few limitations, mostly pertaining to his shoulder and range of motion for his right arm.  He has been characteristically disciplined in doing a series of stretching and strengthening exercises and, no doubt, will be good as new soon.

Hotel Chocolat, Soufrère, St. Lucia

Our guest author, Riley (age 12)
Our guest author, Riley (age 12), brother Tristan, and her mother and father, Allison and Mike

The chocolate tour

Hotel Chocolat is a hotel on a cocoa tree plantation in St. Lucia. There are no kids allowed but we got lucky and we went on the two chocolate tours. They were Tree to Bean and the other tour was Bean to Bar.

We got to Hotel Chocolat a few minutes early so we took some pictures, here are some: 
One of the Pitons viewed from Hotel Chocolat

Tree to Bean

A cocoa pod
We also grafted a cocoa tree. Below is me and my brother, Tristan grafting the cocoa tree and me and my family with the tree we named Shenberger.   

Bean to Bar

The second tour was Bean to Bar what that means was we made a chocolate bar out of a cocoa bean. Each of us made our own chocolate bar. (this was not easy it was 45 minutes of crushing, smashing, and stirring). First we had to crush nibs (small pieces of crushed cacao beans) in a Mortar and smashed it with a pestle. Then we had to add cocoa butter (also called theobroma oil, is a pale-yellow, edible fat extracted from the cocoa bean). After the cocoa butter we added the sugar. We got to add as much sugar as we wanted. Then we added the nibs, cocoa butter, and sugar in a mold to harden. After that you would have a  chocolate bar! 
  
Me, making my chocolate bar

After we did the two tours we ate lunch at Hotel Chocolat. I think dessert was the best part because it is a chocolate hotel and they make chocolate and its the best. I had a salad for lunch and a chocolate  piton for dessert. 
Me, eating some bread while waiting for lunch
Me, eating my chocolate Piton


A bird that joined us at lunch