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!


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.

Quarantined in Paradise Lost

March 22, 2020

The sun set over Sandy Island as cruisers like ourselves enjoyed their last few minutes on land.

Foreign vessel restrictions in Grenada due to Covid 19 Coronavirus

Efforts in Grenada to keep the island free of the Covid 19 Coronavirus have become more stringent by the day since our arrival March 18.

  • March 19, 12:00am – any foreign vessel checking into Grenada must fly a quarantine flag and be quarantined on their boat for 14 days
  • March 20 – Foreign vessels in Grenada or Grenadian waters cannot set foot in Grenada
  • March 21 – At end of day, Grenada closed to any new foreign vessels
  • March 22 – Grenada’s main airport, Maurice Bishop International Airport closed to commercial traffic
We applaud the precautions the Grenadians are taking, but how I cried when the restriction was put in place that we could not touch land.  Poor Duhkxy lives for the time we take him to Sandy Island, often sitting wistfully gazing at the beach.
In an effort to establish a new routine for play we put out a ramp for Duhkxy off the swim platform.  Once we jumped in he was happy to join us but he headed immediately for shore, took a poop, and then swam back to the boat.
We were visited later in the day by Grenadian immigrations, customs, and coastguard.  They checked our papers to ensure we were checked in.  I asked if the land restriction included Sandy Island and was told we could go there. What a relief and how kind.
We have been assured that we will have assistance in obtaining provisions, water, and fuel as needed and have already been visited by gentlemen who will provide this service.  Our personal situation is not a hardship and we feel extremely grateful to be so fortunate.
My anxieties concerning the magnitude of this growing tragedy erupt without warning – concern for my loved ones at home, friends who are trying to get home, cruisers who have not found a home, the health care providers who risk their lives while not even being provided the most basic of protective apparel, the many hundreds of thousands of lives that could be cut short, the inexcusable delays in preparing for and managing the spread of this virus, businesses ruined and repercussions that we cannot even imagine.
In an effort to form my own conclusions regarding what we may expect from this pandemic, I have been tracking the number of deaths from the virus in several countries that have had the best to least success in managing the spread of the virus.  Death is the only way to compare countries as the rigor of testing is so varied.  At present, the United States appears to be on a trajectory similar to China.  Even if the most “draconian” measures implemented in China were adopted now, we will likely see several more thousand susceptible people die.  If unchecked, we can only hope the virus peters out.
Stay safe – stay isolated to the fullest extent you can, stay well.  Understand that each person who contracts the virus passes it on to others – some who will inevitably succumb to the disease.

Self-Quarantined in Paradise

Sandy Island, Carriacou, Grenada

We celebrated the 2020 New Year while anchored off Sandy Island (Blogpost Sandy Island, Carriacou, Grenada).  The island and its surroundings are a treasure; rescued at one time from obliteration, it offers a quiet, protected and uncrowded anchorage, unspoiled beauty, a lovely beach with a back-drop of coconut palms, and a vibrant, shallow, reef to snorkel.  The water is a deep turquoise that reflects onto the undersides of the beautiful white terns that fly above us.  We knew we would visit again and again.
We arrived again on March 18th, under circumstances we could not have imagined.  The first confirmed case of the coronavirus infection (Covid-9) in the Caribbean Islands was reported March 1st, and by March 16th 90 cases were confirmed (https://buzz-caribbean.com/article/coronavirus-update-in-the-caribbean).
In the interim 2 weeks a swift series of actions were taken.  First, some islands turned away cruise ships with passengers who had recently been in countries reporting a high incidence of infection.  There was an uproar and strikes in Martinique when St. Lucia turned a cruise ship away that was subsequently accepted in Martinique.
Within days an increasing number of islands had instituted bans for all cruise ships.  By March 17th many islands had reduced the number of points of entry and instituted health checks and quarantines.  St. Lucia, Martinique, and the Trinidad and Tobago went further, banning all foreign cruising vessels.
We recognized that if we stayed in St. Lucia any longer we could wind up there indefinitely.  We had space reserved in Clarks Court Marina in Grenada for Ice Floe to be hauled for the summer months.  In Grenada we would have options.  We left St. Lucia mid-day on the 17th sailing through directly to Grenada, arriving March 18th late morning.  We learned that at midnight a 14 day quarantine would go into effect in Grenada – we dodged that small bullet.
We are checked into Grenada.  The process took several hours and before we were through the number of boats that had arrived to check in was over 50.  A Grenadian pulled his T-shirt over his mouth and nose as he passed the line.  We brought this here.
Everyone checking in had a story.  Some were desperate to get home before flights in and out of the islands were cancelled.  Families and friends who had chartered boats were being forced to cut their cruises short – a sad and costly end to a dream vacation.  Cruisers on their own boats were struggling with the choice between getting home and staying for the perceived safety of isolating themselves here on their boats.
Our lives have been turned upside down – not just ours – the whole of humanity.  By self-quarantining ourselves on our boat, we have chosen to relieve the islands and the United States of two “elderly” retirees who might otherwise add to the burden of dealing with the enormity of this tragedy.  We have been granted the gift of options and of idle time.  How often have I wished for more time with a smaller list of things to do.  How difficult it is to conceive of how I might find enjoyment in this twisted granting of this wish.
No Covid-9 infections have been confirmed in Grenada as of this writing.