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.


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.

St. Martin to St. Barthélemy

St. Martin to St. Bethélemy

We woke from our much-needed sleep to a beautiful sunny day.  Winds were moderate (10-12 knots) as we sailed close-hauled from St. Martin to St. Barts.  With George’s tweaking of the rigging, we managed 5- 7 knots over ground despite unfavorable current.  The combination of the boat’s heeling and a 3-4 foot swell made it challenging to move around, but we only needed to tack once, so we sat back and enjoyed the ride.  We passed by uninhabited islands with distinctly different topography.  We saw turtle heads galore and our first siting of tropic birds.
The first time we saw tropic birds was in the Bahamas.  Sometimes, the white bottom side of the bird takes on a reflection of the turquoise water below – doubly gorgeous.
Our delicious pancakes in the morning held us for quite a while, but eventually, hunger becomes a force compelling enough for me to head down into the hot, stuffy cabin (you can’t sail with the hatches open) to make lunch.  I had a simple lunch planned – burritos – and I have a method where I assemble them and then heat them which requires few dishes and very little time below.
I had the burritos heating up when a large wave threw the boat to the healing side.  At that same moment, one of my kitchen cabinets opened and the contents came careening out, much to the floor.  George called out “Are you OK?”  I hesitated for a moment as my full concentration was holding back the cabinet contents that were still on the counter and assessing the situation.  I then simply said “No” and George from the companionway replied something like “Oh Man…”

The worst of what had fallen was our flour canister (that had been filled the previous day) and our sugar canister.  The sugar acted like tiny ball bearings creating a treacherously slippery floor.

This photo taken mid-way through the clean-up after the bulk of the flour and sugar mixture had been collected off the floor with a dustpan.

As cleanup progressed, waves continued to tip the boat.  The sugar began to absorb moisture, transforming from ball bearings to syrup.  I began to sweat.  As the boat tipped, the slimy mixture below my knees, facilitated my slip-sliding away.  In the picture above, I am grasping the stairs and cabinets as I slid to the starboard side of the boat.

The worst part was that we were aware of the fact that objects on top of the cabinets could bang into the cabinet latch and open it.  We had already purchased a 90 degree plastic strip to install behind the latches to prevent it.  George installed them the following day.

Our mooring in Anse du Colombier (Cove of Colombia) is off a lovely beach banked with boulders sculpted by years of winds and salty waves.

Anse du Colombier (Ice Floe marked)

First thing upon arrival, George took the dinghy to check in with Customs and Immigration.  He could not bring Duhkxy as he had not been cleared for land yet.  Duhkxy and I waited on Ice Floe.
Duhkxy expresses his anxiousness, particularly when parted with George, with ear-piercing shrieks and yelps.  He has gotten much better, but still objects vehemently if he is left behind for a dinghy ride.

Check in went smoothly as George had submitted much of the needed information on-line beforehand.  The Customs agent did not mention Duhkxy so George offered “We have a dog.”  The agent responded in a French accent “You have a dog”.  George went on to offer “He does not bite” that elicited nothing but a blank stare from the Customs agent.  George says he was a bit punchy from being over-tired 😀