Cherbourg

Day -8 and 9 2-May-2017

Cherbourg is a large town built around its Harbor.  Children learn to sail at a very young  age as part of their school curriculum and they are out there almost every day regardless of weather conditions.  As sound carries so well over water and the wind has typically been blowing inland, we enjoy hearing their continuous laughter and chatter.  Some of these young sailors will ensure France continues to dominate in international sailing competitions. 

Youngest sailing students in Optimus prams
As children grow older the boats grow, as well

Mayday is a holiday in France and it rained all day.  This afforded us some much needed down time.  I weaved pot holders from George’s old socks, an invention of Marilla’s with a few additional tips from Nancy.  George read some of the many boat manuals.  It was delightful. 

The following day it is back to business.  George has been communicating all morning with Jean, an ALLURES workman who has come to fix the leak in the keel trunk and investigate what looks like a leak in the cabin top over the head (turned out to be condensation).  Jean does not speak a word of English, and George does not speak a word of French.  George appears to anticipate Jean’s needs (ie, a wrench, a hose, et al.,) and with a bit of charade- like gestures “Voila” there are nods of heads.  

Communicating does not always go so smoothly.  A few days later we set out to buy a 40cm X 55cm piece of plywood to build a mount for the dinghy outboard motor.  In a store that is a bit of a cross between a IKEA and a Home Depot we could only find plywood marked “Non-structural”.  I asked in my best French (a combination of words I know and words in english with my best French accent), “Je regard non-structural plywood.  Avez-vous structural plywood?”  Puzzled look.  My statement, I later discovered, translates to “I look non-structural plywood.  Have you got structural plywood?”  George goes over to the sign that says Non-structural and puts his hand over the Non.  A look of enlightenment comes over the employee and he runs off.  

Quite some time later he returns with another employee who speaks English very well and we let him know what we are looking for.  In the interim, we had found a small cut piece of plywood that was big enough and I show him a written notation of 40cm X 55cm.  He understands our request, but his expertise is in the gardening section of the store and responds that he does not know enough about building materials to advise us.  We are almost ready to give up and I see that about 20 feet to the right of the many stacks of non-structural plywood, a stack of (you have probably guessed) structural plywood.  The first employee then guides us through the store to an area where the 40cm X 55cm piece can be cut.

The piece we need and the remaining scrap and large piece of plywood are loaded back on the cart and we prepare to leave.  I get the bright idea to ask that the store keep the larger piece of plywood and explain in my Franglais that we are living on a boat.  That we will pay for the entire piece of plywood, but could the store please keep the large piece.  This third employee pulls up the Google translator on his phone and with several rounds of back and forth communication, he understands we only need the small cut piece.  He takes a few minutes calculating and then give us a bill for 2 Euros (just over 2 US dollars).  We surmise that we had thoroughly confused the man by simultaneously saying we will pay for the whole board, we can only take the small piece, can the store keep the large piece….. It took about two hours to purchase the plywood.  Everyone was so helpful and patient.

When George started to plan the installment he discovered the outboard engine is too large to fit in the locker.  Can’t wait to see how long it takes when we go to return the piece of plywood.

Love at First Site

Day 1 25-April-2017 

We arrived Tuesday morning in Paris after an overnight flight on British Airways.  We treated ourselves to Business Class seats using some of the miles accumulated during Susan’s working days.  It allowed us sufficient comfort to sleep for part of the trip and access to the airport lounge where we had a before-flight dinner and some very pleasant beer (that also helped us sleep for part of the trip).  We drove to Cherbourg, where our new sailboat was built and it was love at first sight.

The length of daylight is very long here (almost 15 hours).  Consequently, we have been fooled into staying up much too late on most evenings. Nonetheless, we adjusted to the time zone change with remarkable ease sleeping until our customary 7:00am time from the very first night. 

We are docked at an very large marina protected by two amazing barrier walls that were man-made in the 1800s. 

Entrance to marina
Port Chantereyne in Cherbourg

The picture above shows the steepness of the ramp to the floating docks – the daily tide change is 24 feet!  You can also see the popularity of sailing in France, even in this chilly Northwest harbor where temperatures are moderated by the sea ranging from the low 40s in mid winter to the low 60s in mid-summer.  We are experiencing typical weather for April and May with temperatures in the mid 50s with the best days seeing a penetrating sunshine in the afternoons.

Day 2-7 26-April-2017 – 31-Apr-2017

We spent the first week unpacking and stowing the 500 lbs of gear we carried over on our combined trips in January and this trip.  This was an arduous undertaking in parallel with getting an in depth overview of ICE FLOE deux’s (henceforth ICE FLOE) systems from Phillippe Hasne, an expert on the ALLURES  from Grand Large Services, and having every inch of ICE FLOE inspected by Brad Baker, a part owner of SwiftsureYachts, the US company we purchased ICE FLOE from.  Brad’s inspection raised a number of issues that were quickly attended to with a flurry of workmen working in the boat alongside us.

We took our first sail on April 29th.  It was a short sail in light wind.  We were accompanied by Brad, Francois (ALLURES salesman) and David (a British national living in New Zealand who came to Cherbourg to see the ALLURES 39.9).  The sail  gave us an opportunity to see ICE FLOE function admirably in low wind and to be tutored by Brad on many functionalities we had not enjoyed on our previous boat.  ICE FLOE deux is not “just” a bigger boat than her predecessor;  we have much to learn to take full advantage.

Our second sail was on April 30th in winds approaching 20 knots.  It was a beautiful sunny afternoon and an outstanding sail.  We sailed consistently over 8 knots. Unfortunately, the most memorable part of the sail was when we discovered a leak in the keel trunk.  This required nothing more than some additional silicone cauking, but it did take quite a bit of time to bail out the bilge and flush it repeatedly with fresh water – another late night!!   

Second sail

To France and the Mediterranean

Day -24. March 31, 2017

It’s official.  We are headed to France to pick up our new sailboat “ICE FLOE deux” for our sail through the interior of France via canals and rivers to the Mediterranean.  This part of the trip includes 179 locks (water elevators), several aqueducts (bridges with a water channel for the boat), and lastly tunnels (holes through mountains), that collectively, get us over / through the Alps.  

We just received our long term VISAs – what an  adventure we had applying at the French Consulate in Washington, DC.  Documentation requested included a French translation of our birth certificates, evidence of sufficient financial assets and medical insurance, declarations that we would not seek work in France, an address for where we would be staying (tricky), et al.

What nearly tripped us up was the traffic in Washington, but George came through, as always, and delivered me to the front door as the clock struck 9:00 am, the time of my appointment.

In preparation for our trip, George needed certificates in evidence of his sailing skills and knowledge of how to navigate France’s interior waterways.  In all, this required 100 plus hours of study, completion of two written exams, and a practical exam in Houston, TX.  I was tasked with re-learning French, to a tune of about 3 hours of Rosetta Stone so far.

ICE FLOE deux is in her last stages of construction.  To outfit her we carried 200 lbs of equipment when we traveled to France this past January, and will bring another 300 lbs when we fly to begin our trip.  Our guests on this adventure will include Nancy and Bruce, who will join us for a part of the trip through France, and  Marilla, Mitch, Allison, Mike, Riley, and Tristan, who will join us in the Mediterranean.  Marilla and Mitch are transporting two paddle boards and Allison and Michael will bring sleeping bags for Tristan and Riley.  For the duration, we have saddled Riley with care of our rabbit Dickory, and Margaret and Burt with our beloved Chaze.    Diana will keep an eye on the house. We appreciate everyone’s support.

We’ve moved

Blogger to WordPress

Hello to all,
Our blog platform has switched from Blogger to WordPress.  In theory, this should not create any change in the manner in which you access this Blog and all the Posts that have been published will be there.
You will see some changes:

  1. If you want to continue or start receiving emails with new posts, you may need to sign up again.  On the home page you will find a column on the right that in the photo below with a big red circle.  Just add your email address and click the follow button.
  2. The Blog’s Homepage and Posts page have the posts organized by date (Archives) and “Destinations” on the right side of the page also identified with a red eclipse. If your interests lie mostly with a particular destination, you can select it and those are the blogs it will bring up.
    1. A new destination will be added soon – Sailing the French Canals
  3. The transfer of some of the photos introduced some distortion that I may or may not be able to fix in the future.
  4. A few past blogs are still missing – should be restored in the next several days.

To access the Blog directly, you can still use www.gowiththefloe.net

If anyone has any difficulty, please do let us know.

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.

 

United We Stand

Divided We Fall

The flag of the United States flies off Ice Foe’s stern to identify our boat’s place of origin.
Glancing up at our flag, I thought:
“How symbolic of the destructive divisions that we are experiencing in the United States”
  • raw
  • messy
  • irreparable?

We are a proud nation, but prefer to forget that it was built along with the systematic, near, extermination of Native Americans, the enslavement of African Americans, and the extinction of untold numbers of species.  Rather than repair our nation, I believe it is time to remake it.  We cannot undo what is done, but that is no excuse not to learn from it.

How has it come to this?

Have we let our nation – the land of opportunity – devolve into the land of opportunity for a select minority or do we delude ourselves into thinking this is new?  If not new, I question how much of our current inequities exist by deliberate design?

  • Does it seem just that our public schools are largely funded by their district’s community?  Should children from a disadvantaged community have inadequate school supplies, larger classrooms, and teachers with lower wages?  Why has this paradigm for school funding existed for so long?
  • How about safe public drinking water?  Priviledge or Right?  C’mon!!
  • Why did my occupation allow me to essentially deduct from my taxes nearly all my and my family member’s health expenses, while a single Mom working two jobs could not?
  • On the topic of tax deductions, why can real estate moguls deduct enormous sums of income from their taxable income based on the depreciation of their properties, while their properties are in fact appreciating in value?
  • Why are monies earned through investment taxed at a much lower rate than those earned as wages?
  • How many hundreds of ways have the privileged persuaded our lawmakers to write into law practices that create and perpetuate inequities that benefit themselves?
  • Is it true that our lawmakers vote on their own salaries and the specifics of their health insurance plans?  If so, does that look like a conflict of interest to you?
  • Would illegal immigrants flock to our country if employers did not hire them?  Why not just expand the number of work permits for these same people to come and work legally?  A good-faith effort to hire US citizens should of course be conducted first.  Those from other countries could come legally via a work permit and be protected by our fair wage and safety laws.  Oh, I get it – is that why??!!
  • Just pretend I skipped another thousand other questions I ponder over that seem to foster, magnify, and perpetuate inequities that are neither new, nor the focus of our attention.

Is it just me?

Have you considered the possible – probable likelihood that the division of beliefs and stifling anger growing between diametrically opposed factions in the US  has come about also by design.  Every issue is discussed as though it is black and white – there are no shades of grey.  Our two predominant political parties are at war.  Are you not tired of being manipulated?  Can we not agree to differences of opinion, but acknowledge that facts are facts?  There can not be your facts and my facts unless we both have taken the time to discuss each other’s truths, and investigate the validity of our source of facts.

United we Stand!!

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.