Sounds of the Sea

We hear singing whales, the grunts of fish, the crashing of waves on rocky coasts and sandy beaches. The wailing sound that rigging makes when strong winds blow. The nightly slapping of wavelets on a hull of a still sailboat. The hills are not the only place filled with the sounds of music.

Ever since the first man or woman carved out a tree trunk, climbed aboard and floated down the river, rhythmic utterances, later known as songs, helped propel them to their destination. They mimicked the sounds of the waters they traveled, coordinated their work to raise sails or pull oars, lamented their separation from those ashore, and sang songs from inspirations gleaned from the sea. They appealed to the gods of the oceans for safe passages, bountiful catches, and quick return home.

It is no wonder that the grunts of early seafarers became the chanties and melodic sounds of generations of voices that followed; that instruments to accompany and argument those songs were carried aboard and protected as much as the provisions were for long passages. The advent of recorded singing and worldwide communication didn’t dim the need, or want, of such musical tradition.

With this background, we raise a flag to the spreaders. It signals that we are open for seafarers to gather aboard and, as a friend once said, “bring joyful noise to life”. No need to be proficient, learned or even melodic in temperament. Voices can be angel sent, or a devil’s growl. The idea is to use the language of musical intonations to convey something that otherwise lies dormant. It fills a void left by the inadequacies of both spoken and written word to convey full human feelings and yearnings. In short, not all things in the heart can be communicated with the spoken or written word. Nature has not given other animals the speaking and writing abilities of humans, but we are blessed that those abilities can be melded to nature’s sounds.

There is, of course, always another side of the story. In this case, the other side of the interface between air and sea: underwater sounds in the ocean. Recent news articles have pointed out how scientists, after listening to the sounds in the ocean “confirms that anthropogenic noise is becoming unbearable for undersea life” (NY Times Feb 4, 2021). “Sound travels faster and farther in water than in air. Over evolutionary time, many marine organisms have come to rely on sound production, transmission, and reception for key aspects of their lives. These important behaviors are threatened by an increasing cacophony in the marine environment as human-produced sounds have become louder and more prevalent.”

Humans, apparently, and their ships, seismic surveys, air guns, pile drivers, dynamite fishing, drilling platforms, speedboats, dinghies, and even surfing — have made the ocean an unbearably noisy place.

The articles describe how these noises interfere with many living sea creatures. Juvenile Clown Fish need to hear the surf breaking on the reef to find their way home. Dolphins are well known underwater  communicators. Whales can go deaf, get extremely disoriented and beach themselves when subjected to prolonged and powerful sonar pulses. The later was aptly detailed in the book War of the Whales by Joshua Horwitz. It described the U.S. Navy’s cover up of how sonar affected whales in the Bahamas and in other places worldwide. At one time the navy had one sound generator in the Indian Ocean that could be heard in virtually all oceans (it was used to track Russian submarines).

Jelly fish and zooplankton are impacted as well. “Marine life can adapt to noise pollution by swimming, crawling or oozing away from it, which means some animals are more successful than others. Whales can learn to skirt busy shipping lanes and fish can dodge the thrum of an approaching fishing vessel, but benthic creatures like slow-moving sea cucumbers have little recourse.” Which sounds an awful like how “environmental injustice” works on land when more affluent people can escape the effects of land pollution by moving to better neighborhoods. So, am I adding to the cacophony of disruptive sounds in the ocean by jamming on board our sailboat?

To sing or not to sing, that is the question. Is it better to suffer the pains of silence or take voice and bellow out against inadequacies of just the spoken words and writings of a feeble mind? Will those creatures of the deep suffer the slings and arrows of our piecing songs, to die, to sleep? And by a sleep to say they end the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that fish are heir to.

Shakespeare concluded that such a question led to no action at all as conscience makes cowards of us all. Methinks we have progressed and can face the challenge. Let us be mindful and sing in harmony with the creatures of the deep.

Not Deep Bay

We are not in Deep Bay. After posting the last blog entry we decided to stay a few more days in Five Islands. The draw of free WiFi was one reason but sometimes we just get accustomed to a location and decide to stay. Keeping an ever-watchful weather eye out for changing conditions also influences our decisions.

In this case, the big winter storms up north start to have an impact on the islands, especially the northern Leeward chain of the Lesser Antilles. Antigua is pretty far north in the chain and so is subject to impact. Not that these storms that bring wind, snow, and cold temperatures to the East Coast have a direct impact but they do affect the weather patterns here. Two effects that are particularly noted concern the wind and swell.

The Trade Winds blow all year from the east and are strongest in the winter. The “Christmas Winds” at the end of the year announce the stronger trades for the rest of the season. They do, however, take a break if a strong storm comes off the East Coast. When temperatures suddenly drop in Florida due to a strong cold front pushing south, we take note. That raises havoc in the Bahamas as strong wind shifts occur that come out of the west. That’s a problem there, as most anchorages in the Bahamas are not protected from west winds.

Most times, that front is anchored in a deep low pressure system in the Atlantic Ocean. As the cold front pushes south, it reaches Puerto Rico and stalls. Eventually it dissipates. By doing so, the islands south and east of Puerto Rico, the Lesser Antilles, experience a drop in the trade winds. This is actually quite pleasant. Temperature don’t change, they remain in the low 80’s but the strong winter trade winds calm down.

The other affect may not be so benign. That big low pressure system that anchors the cold front spins in the North Atlantic after dumping snow and cold winds on the East Coast. As it does so, large waves are generated that head south. In a few days those waves arrive in the islands as long swells. Depending on their strength and the topography of anchorages, boats anchored can expect rolly to very rolly conditions.

What is meant by rolly anchorages? There are anchorages that are so well protected from ocean swells, that no roll – the boat rolling from side to side – is noted. The amount of tolerable roll is subjective. It also depends on the individual boat’s response to various swell periods and the angle the swell is relative to the wind. This makes for some interesting discussions with other cruisers. When queried by a fellow cruiser as to how rolly an anchorage is, we may say it is fine with only a little roll. When they show up and anchor, they may complain that their dishes are flying off the bulkhead. All a matter of opinion what “fine” is. Having gone through this a few times, both as the reporter and recipient of roll reports, I think we should be more specific in description.

In that regard, I devised a simple guide:

This might not suite everyone but it is a start!

So, with an eye toward the weather, we saw a prediction of a strong cold front and deep low coming off the coast. The effect was that there would be very light winds on one day and then large swell for a few days after. This was a good time to go from Five Islands around to Falmouth Harbor. The harbor would be immune to the swells and the sail along the southern coast, due east to Falmouth, would be easy. It actually turned out that way last Friday. In fact, the winds died completely, so we just motored around and anchored deep in Falmouth Harbor. Current role: Stage 1.

Falmouth Harbor, where the big boys play

The other reason why we came here is that on Thursday we are going to get a quick COVID-19 test at the Antigua Yacht Club in Falmouth. We need that to board the plane back to NYC on Saturday. Kalunamoo will be in Jolly Harbor Marina while we fly up to NYC for a few weeks for my dad’s 100th birthday. We are looking forward to being there (although his birthday is in early March). We haven’t been back to the States in over a year. Will practice social distancing, masks etc. while in NYC, including a short quarantine in our friend’s empty apartment but all should be well. We will need another PCR test to return to Antigua and a quarantine period on the boat on arrival. Well, it will all be worth it, you don’t turn 100 all that often! Hopefully we don’t get snowed in. It should also be a stage 1 roll in the apartment.

In the meantime, we continue to keep busy with other cruisers. Antigua just entered a higher social restriction period. All restaurants have take-out only for the next few weeks and evening curfew starts at 8PM. The island has a current total case load of 37 cases with 508 people in self-quarantine.

With plenty of time to read and reflect, I have been posting some of my thoughts on Kalunamoo.com, apart from this blog. If your interested click on the Essays botton to read them.

Hermitages & Hermits

After a short afternoon sail from Jolly Harbor, we dropped the hook in Hermitage Bay. Hermitage Bay as its web site writes is a “…sensitively developed resort [that]celebrates the peace, warmth, and extraordinary natural beauty of the Caribbean”. Well, who could object to that! Not I for one.

Hermitage Bay, Antigua is just past Stony Horn and Bakers Cellar. It actually sits on the edge of York Salt Pond. The other edge of that lies Mosquito Cove. Due east, up wind, is the refuse dump where the areas waste is often disposed of and burned. There may be the haze, and definitely the aroma, in the distance. Always know your surroundings!

But we come to Hermitage Bay for the peace, warmth and extraordinary natural beauty that is endemic to the islands. The winter snows that others enjoy, and perhaps as we did in some distant past, never touch the pink and white sands of Hermitage Bay. And that is ok by me.

The waters of the bay, unfortunately, are not the typical clear Caribbean water we are accustom to. The local geology deposited a very fine clay like sand in the bays in this area. The result is rather murky, not dirty, just murky near shore waters. But other than that, the area has “extraordinary natural beauty”. Mostly.

It is also fitting in this time of pandemic that a hermitage is called to mind. Of course, Old Hickory’s plantation home in Tennessee was called The Hermitage although I’m not sure why, especially for a President. And there are many other historic hermitages around the world. I remember one we visited in the Bahamas had a door about 4’ high. Must have been a very short hermit. I think the reason why there are so many hermitages is simple. A hermitage is a place where hermits live; or a group of them living in seclusion. If the world is full of hermits, and by definition they keep to themselves, you’ll never see them. Actually, we will never know how many there are, as we just keep finding traces of them here and there.

Plainshill , England

The pandemic may have made many more hermits. Interestingly, however, a “hermitage house” in the English planned landscape park Plainshill was constructed in the park for a hermit. He was actually hired to occupy it. Seemed he only lasted a short time as he was frequently absent. I guess it is hard work being a hermit.

As I mentioned above, I assume many have become hermits given the present world-wide situation. It is too early to determine if this lifestyle will then “catch on”. Perhaps with enough bandwidth to Zoom everybody you know, it may. This is something to think about. The current idea of bringing the country “back together” maybe like fighting the last war. Can we all just get along better living in our own bubble and carrying our home on our back? Can we self-sort our lives and political, religious, and social philosophies independent of physical space? I’m thinking like Doctors Without Borders. Live in your own state of persuasion. 

Many people think that living on a boat may be akin to living like a hermit. This is not necessarily true. Cruisers do like to socialize when not practicing hermitage. Think hermit crab: he/she carries his/hers home on his/hers back. A much more apt description of cruisers. Whatever.

Looking at those little boxes on the hillside (apologies to Malvina Reynolds), which may or may not be made of ticky-tacky, it is expensive to live like a hermit in this resort. Much less so on a boat. Theirs is also very exclusive. We are seriously dissuaded to land our dinghy on their beach and wander around their hermitage. I understand that they will accept a fistful of money to buy drink at their bar. We try not to carry a fist full of money when in our dinghy.

The Hermitage Resort, Antigua

In any case we see the same setting sun from our boat, anchored free in front of their hillside boxes and can enjoy the “peace, warmth, and extraordinary natural beauty of the Caribbean” just as well as they (including their free internet!). The big difference is that their hermits go away to their own abode after a week or two. We just move our home to the next extraordinarily natural place of peace, warmth and beauty. Mostly.

Our next anchorage will be Deep Bay. That, of course, brings to mind Deep Thought, the super-computer from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe.  Until then keep the peace, stay warm, and enjoy the extraordinary natural beauty of wherever you are.

Winds of Change

The winds of change have arrived! Or have they? The Christmas Winds here came on strong for about a week, just after Christmas. The strong trade winds blow above 25 knots, with rain squalls in the 30’s. That limits sailing around. They generate 10+ foot seas and swells that can penetrate otherwise calm anchorages. Combined with swells from  typical winter North Atlantic storms, it can make inter-island sailing “sporty”.

But this year they died down and haven’t peaked again. That’s good for now, but the winter is as young as the year. The pandemic is still raging but hope, in the form of vaccines, is also in the air. There’s not much talk about the vaccines coming soon to the islands except the U.S. Virgins which have begun to distribute it in phases. Our best hope to get the shots is to get back to U.S. territory but we also want to get back to New York for my dad’s 100 birthday. We are also running out of time on our Antigua visa that allows us to stay here. Air flights are limited, travel bureaucracy is endemic, and testing fees begin to add up.

This is all to say that living on a boat is not as “care-free” as one might suppose. Not that I am complaining. The pandemic has spared no one, at best, inconvenience and at worse, death. But it is the hope that in the new year, we would head toward a new “normal”. News from the States is shocking as reality seems to be rooted in the quick sands of personal myopia.

Life aboard in Antigua goes on. Definitely more “live-aboard” than “cruising”. Our neighbors are only a dinghy ride away. Here in Falmouth Harbor, we have get-togethers with other cruisers, swim, repair our boats and watch boats come and go.

The sailboat boat “La Vagabonde” came in the other day. This is the popular video blogging catamaran with the Australian’s Riley, Elena and their young son Lenny aboard. We met them here a few years ago when Elena was pregnant with Lenny. Well, they are here again (after sailing the Bahamas, and Europe), and they are now expecting their second child. We wish them luck as they are planning for a new electric boat. Winds of change indeed!

Jim, Chuck and Jeff on Kalunamoo

Meryl and Jim on the trawler Kokomo (we met them is St. Lucia) are anchored next to us. Jim played profession jazz piano for many years and when we had a  jam session aboard Kalunamoo a few weeks ago, gave a great performance. Yes, I’m jealous!

Lee at the Helm
The Crew on Allegro (I took the picture!)

Lee on his 52’ sailboat, Allegro, invited some cruisers, myself included, on the Nelson’s Pursuit race. We have known Lee and Sharon for years here in the islands. They are long time cruisers but raced extensively when they were in the states. It was great afternoon race with winds in the 16-20 knot range and typical ocean seas. Lee definitely knows how to race and to drive his “crew”. Us cruisers, not accustomed to being “driven” may have had thoughts of mutiny but we came in first place! Yes, again I’m jealous!

Row 4 Cancer two days from Antigua

The first boat to finish the Talisker Whiskey Ocean Challenge, Row for Cancer, came into English Harbor around 4:30 AM today (Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021). Mark and Kai, from the Netherlands, rowed 3000 miles from the Canaries in 32 days, 18 hours, a new world record, non-stop. Two hours on, two hours off 24/7! I didn’t see any fishing poles so I don’t think they did any trolling on their way across. The second boat, On the Shoulders of Giants, from the UK is a 4 man boat and is about 2 days back. The remaining 19 row boats behind them will arrive over the next weeks. Single handed, pairs, three and four men and women rowers comprise the fleet. No, I’m not jealous!

Arrival this morning

I had to install a new water heater just after the New Year as M&R in exotic places never changes. We rented a car one day to do some serious provisioning in the very large Epicurian supermarket in St. John. Jim and Meryl from Kokomo came along and we filled the trunk to capacity. Upon backing up to unload the trunk at the dinghy dock I came too close to a post and broke the tail-light. Why cars don’t have big fenders like boats I’ll never know. The car rental agency looked and found a replacement from a junk auto yard so the repair only cost $200, half of what the water heater cost. M&R ashore in exotic places!

We will fly to NYC in February for a couple of weeks and will put Kalunamoo in Jolly Harbor Marina when we do. The pandemic makes flying a concern but we all must adjust our sails to the conditions that we face. Hopefully the winds of change will land us all in a more “normal” place. We’ll just have to wait and see.          

Time to Thaw

Well the year ended. Over the last week we video messengered family and friends and wished them all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Antigua. We do the same for those reading this blog. Most of our family, and a number of our friends, are all well north of here by thousands of miles. This means that their weather is quite a bit different than ours in the Caribbean. It is not unexpected that one topic of conversation that pops up is the temperature difference between our respective environments.

Oh, how many of them enjoy the cold wintery weather and express such glee in the falling snow that is piling up around their home. A real Christmas scene, a delight in their eyes. Come March they may not continue to sing such songs of joy (again), but this is not the time to gloat. They have in mind our misfortune of not having the pleasure of this winter wonderland descending from the heavens every year. Every year. Overcoats, hats, gloves, scarves, boots, snow shovels, blankets, sweaters, and ice picks may make the season joyful, but frostbite is just plain frightful. And that brings us to common ground with our northern brethren.

First, we too must breakout the icepicks and attack solid inch thick slabs of ice. This happens more often than you may think. I know many up north do this outside their homes. Perhaps its on their walkways, vehicles or doors. Here, that icy menace is right in our home. Right where we keep the vegetables, meats and other essential food stuff of life, including beer.

The Frozen Section

Yes, I’m talking about the reefer (refrigerator) holding plates. What’s a holding plate? Well for those who remember, the Ice Man (no, not the cartoon character, the guy, usually Italian, that sold ice door to door), it’s like a miracle. In the reefer compartment and in the freezer compartment on our boat, we have 2” thick aluminum blocks that act like very cold ice blocks. No need to call the iceman to replace the ice in our “ice boxes” to keep things cold. The infrequent use of an electric compressor replaces the ice man and keeps these blocks frozen for days. This is different from your refrigerator at home which runs almost continuously. But the plates accumulate ice on their shell and must be “defrosted” monthly.

And so, with ice pick in hand we chop away the ice. Fortunately we usually do this in our bathing suite.

The second run in with ice is more welcoming: assembling sundowners. Those are the “adult beverages” consumed whenever the sun sets. Keen observers have noted that this occurs almost every day. The exception is if we oversleep a late afternoon nap. In that case they are called early evening eye-openers, but serve the same purpose: helping us translate from day to night before a restful night of sleep.

Care must be taken handling this ice as the proper amount is required for each “adult beverage”. As a general rule of thumb, the more expensive the alcoholic beverage used, the less ice is required. This comes in handy when visiting friends and judging their net worth.

This year end blog was going to wrap up 2020 and here I am writing about ice. In many ways, the year seemed like the onset of another Ice Age. We became frozen in place: eight months in St. Lucia and we are now in Antigua indefinitely. Our faces are covered to protect us from pandemic winds, social distancing precludes hugs and we are unable to move about in the drifts of uncertainty.

Well, hindsight is always 2020 but somethings are best forgotten. I think we all can agree that we can write off 2020 as the year the wheels fell off the wagon, common sense and decency kicked the bucket, the country bought the farm, the sky fell, the river either ran dry or overflowed, people played with half a deck, too many were not the sharpest knives in the draw, and the fat lady finally sang.

Christmas Eve and Day dinner was celebrated aboard by Maureen and I with video visits from our family. Fireworks on New Year’s Eve at midnight in English Harbor, Antigua Yacht Club and Pigeon Beach  were viewed from Kalunamoo. The little group of cruisers in our bubble have gathered together for occasional sundowners, a music jam on board, movie night, dominoes and restaurant nights. Hope springs eternal because we all believe the New Year holds the promise of better times ahead.

Fireworks over English Harbor, Antigua YC and Pigeon Beach

The strong Christmas winds have been blowing for two days and they should be able to bring in the New Year without difficulty. So as the New Year dawns, let the thawing begin! Lets all have some fun, in 20-21! HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Will They Pave Paradise?

We sailed to Barbuda the other day despite the very light wind. Actually, we ended up motor sailing the 30 miles from Jolly Harbor and dropped anchor in the clear waters at Coco Point. Since there are no “harbors” here, just open roadsteads, you choose the right weather window, including the predicted swell conditions, to anchor comfortably and safely. We, along with a number of other cruisers that we know, decided to come here before the “Christmas Winds” kick in. Those winter Trade Winds make sailing “sporty” when sailing between islands. We’ll be back in Falmouth for the holidays.

Barbuda, all 62 square miles, is a flat, Bahamas like island, quite different than all the other Lesser Antilles except Anegada which is similar. What sets Barbuda apart (it is officially part of the country of Antigua and Barbuda) is not only its topography.

The island is like a Bahama’s family island: think Eleuthera not Nassau. Only about 1800 people live on the island which has no real industry; just fishing, farming, hunting and limited tourism. When hurricane Irma came by in 2017, it wiped out 90% of the buildings and everyone was evacuated to Antigua. But what is really different is that the land is owned “in common with the people of Barbuda”, documented in the Barbuda Land Act 2007. That law specified that land cannot be bought or sold (Barbudian’s have a right to live on the land) and major developments on government leased land, valued over $5.4 million, must be agreed to by all the residents.

A few years ago, before Irma, we were here and took a short tour on the island and saw the largest frigate bird nesting area in the Caribbean. It really is a pristine place of natural beauty even though it does not have the volcanic mountains of the other islands. It has wet-lands and caves and beautiful beaches. The beaches are at the top of our list of great beaches. The sand at Coco Point ranks the whitest on my island sand collection! The snorkeling is good although the hurricane did do some damage, but the water is clear. Our current visit here will only be for a few days as we are restricting our travel to only the anchorage area. Some of our cruising friends, Roxy, Allegro, Merlin and Kokomo, took a long dinghy ride to a small local beach bar for a great lunch. There is not much else around! We also snorkeled, had sundowners and a dinghy drift – all the usual cruisers activities!

Dinghy Drift in Barbuda

But all is not peaceful on Barbuda as change is in the air (or on the sand). After the hurricane of 2017, the law was changed to define “major developments” from $5.4 to $40 million. Since the island was devoid of major developments, that has attracted developers like honey attracts flies. Understandably, when money is waved many people, including governments, salute. So it is here.

One third of the island is designated a natural resource protected area by Ramsar (an international treaty for wetlands) and a National Park area (Antigua and Barbuda). The local Barbuda Council working  under the Antigua government authority, is fighting that change in the law. There are now interested parties (Robert DiNiro, Steve Anderson, and Jean Paul Dijoria – the later formed a corporation named “Peace, Love and Happiness” for their Barbuda developments) fighting for development. Others, including international environmental organizations are fighting to keep development out or ensure development is environmentally sound. Others are calling for selling land to the highest bidder. All claim that this is in the best interest of Barbuda. The developments that are already underway, amid the legal fights, are the usual: luxury housing, golf courses, and mega yacht marinas. Politics comes to play along with the usual money flows to grease the wheels of progress. The locals need jobs but don’t want to change. Foreign investors see gold in the sand. Environmentalists see catastrophes but the turtles in the bay just dive for sea grass while the Frigate birds roost with their colorful plumage.

The following photos show where we are anchored and the developments that are starting to spring up here.

Coco Point Beach is like most of the beaches ob Barbuda

So the question is, do you pave paradise for a parking lot? The developers are selling the idea to the very wealthy as a place of great beauty and unspoiled land. You can easily land your charter plane in front of your estate, take water taxi to shore which conveniently rolls up the beach to your waiting personal staff. Of course, all the investors are foreigners and whatever profits are mined here rarely stay here, much like in colonial times. Yes, jobs are created, and it looks like progress. The streets will be paved with asphalt. But the key word is “spoiled”. And that, I suppose, is in the eye of the beholder. Although the turtles, birds and fish may have a different viewpoint.

If its Going to Happen…

To introduce the cruising lifestyle to landlubbers, we often recommend the film documentary that best describes the experiences, challenges and joys of such a life. The film accurately delves into the peculiarities of living aboard a sailboat that is capable of self-sufficient life and travel around the world. It touches on the many characters that you meet and the problems that arise. The basic personal requirements that are needed to survive in such a sea environment for a family are clearly demonstrated.

The film documents a family of four with an experienced captain sailing in the Caribbean. It is filmed aboard a Formosa 51 sailboat. The boat is in the familiar William Garden full keel clipper bow “pirate stern” design, much like Kalunamoo. We first saw a Formosa 51 a number of years ago in the Bahamas in Green Turtle Cay and had an afternoon aboard with its owner (the founder of Filter Boss, the marine fuel filter company).

One of the Salty Dawg Rally Boats that came down this year from Virginia, Moondance, is here in Falmouth and so we got a chance to see another Formosa 51 up close. A pleasant sundowner evening was spent with Carl and Shanna on Moondance which they have owned for about 15 years.

Here are some pictures from the documentary to get an idea what these boats look like. The first picture shows the condition of that boat, Wanderer, when the family first purchased it. Obviously, it need some  sprucing up. The second picture is the hired professional captain they hired to help them sail the boat to Florida. The third is the vessel underway after being spruced up and taking on some friends for a sail.

The second set of pictures shows the beautiful local and empty anchorages one finds in the Islands, a shot of the engine room and finally, a picture showing how to use the confined spaces on these boats to best advantage.

  Here are some pictures of Moondance:

Moondance at anchor
Shanna
Maureen and Carl

All this came to mind, yesterday when we were ashore and Diane from the sailboat Tiki Tour ran to us, bare foot, and reported that Kalunamoo went walkabout! In other words, it apparently dragged its anchor and was on its way to sea. What came to mind was “If its going to happen, its going to happen out there”, the sage advice of the professional captain of that documentary! It did happen “out there” but not with us aboard! Diane and her husband Dave quickly dinghied ashore to look for us, saw our dinghy at the dinghy dock and took a guess at where we were”: down the road at a market for their free WiFi.

Diane said not to worry but a pan-pan call on the VHF radio alerted other cruisers in the anchorage of the wayward Kalunamoo. A number of them went out and lassoed Kalunamoo and pulled it a mooring ball to secure it to end its wayward wanderings. We quickly went to our dinghy, put the key into the lock that chained us to the dock, broke the key in the lock and couldn’t use the dinghy. We jumped into Tiki Tour’s dingy and went out to Kalunamoo which still had a few of the dinghies around her that had helped her.

The first thing I noted is that there was no anchor chain hanging off the bow. Usually if a boat drags it just means the anchor lost holding and the boat just drags it along the bottom. Kalunamoo didn’t have the chain or the anchor!

The first thing I needed to do was go back to the dinghy dock and hacksaw the expensive stainless steel lock to release our dinghy. After that we needed to retrieve the 200 feet of anchor chain and an anchor that was somewhere in the harbor. Since I was sure the anchor didn’t drag it must be where Kalunamoo was when it lost the ground tackle. A call on the VHF to other cruisers was made as the more divers and snorkelers involved the more chance of locating the anchor.

Unfortunately, we anchored in a “hole” over 20 feet deep in the harbor where the water is not clear. This made “free diving” very difficult to search for the anchor or chain. I made a few attempts and barely made it to the bottom. Visibility was only about 3 feet. I quickly lost hold of a gaff, I was going to use to snag the chain, if I located it, so now that was lost to the bay. Fortunately, Dave on Tiki Tour had a small hooker so he could dive and Matt on Amajen had a scuba tank that he used to search the bottom. It didn’t take too long for Dave to locate the anchor after I estimated where it should be. He attached a marker buoy as Matt tracked the chain to its bitter end. I then went back to Kalunamoo and brought the boat back to the “scene of the crime”. A line from the end of the chain was brought to the anchor windlass to haul the chain back on board. All was squared away and Kalunamoo was again safely anchored.

Many thanks to the cruisers that answered the call for “all hands” to help in this situation. It is comforting to know that when help is needed fellow cruises come running! This included the cruisers from Tiki Tour, Numada, Roxy, Moondance, Amajen and other cruisers I never met.

How did this happen? Well, the anchor chain hook that the snubber line is attached to fell off the chain. This occasionally happens when the wind dies and there is no strain on the anchor chain. It has happened in the past. The snubber takes the strain of the chain to cleats, relieving the anchor windlass, which is not designed to take that much strain. The problem was that I did not tighten the brake on the windlass or have another chain stopper to stop the chain from running out if the hook failed. My error!

After a very still period a squall came thru while we were ashore. Without a chain stopper the 200’ anchor chain ran out. The bitter end of the chain was married to 100 feet of 3 strand rope. Unfortunately, the splice to connect the two was done quickly when we replaced the chain in Guadeloupe last January. It was on the list to be redone in Trinidad when the boat was on the hard. Of course, we never made Trinidad this year and so I never thought about it. So human errors (me) have to take the blame.

It all turned out OK despite the fact that Kalunamoo was surround by shoals. It was heading toward the reefs at the harbor entrance. The quick action of fellow cruisers saved the day. We will go to BB’s today and invied all who helped to drinks on Kalunamoo’s tab.

At the end of the documentary, it was learned that these experiences add to the learning curve of cruising. And yes, it always happens “out there”. Oh, the name of the documentary? Capt’n Ron.

The Treachery of Images

What is the purpose of an image? We come into this world naked with our eyes wide open. We can hear but we cannot speak. We begin to absorb “understanding” like a sponge within the framework of images.

In 1929 the French surrealist Rene Magritte painted “The Treachery of Images”. It is more commonly known as the “The Pipe” painting. It is a simple painting of a tobacco pipe with the words, in French, “this is not a pipe.” Of course, its not a pipe, it’s a painting. Just a bunch of oily pigments on a piece of canvas arranged in a particular order which deceives the brain into thinking about a tobacco pipe. It may trigger associations with particular smells, of people we know or have seen. Strangers from books and movies spring to mind – Sherlock Holmes! Old men in overstuffed chairs sitting in a swirl of pungent smoke, or a cartoon character with anchor tattoos on his arms may also spring to mind. It depends on your own past experiences or expectations. Isn’t that the treachery of images?

All this came to mind as I read a NY Times article about the rapid development of “facial recognition” (the fancy high tech term for “Yeah, I know that guy”). That development has morphed into the ability of computers to literally “paint” perfectly looking photo quality faces, completely from scratch. The face is completely inhuman in the sense that it is not a photo of any one on earth but it is impossible to discern that. We may wonder who the Mona Lisa really was but know she is just pigments on canvas. Photo people with animation? Photo people in locations, surroundings and with real people? The treachery is real.




Our good friend Paul Gauguin painted this when we were in the Bahamas

The amazing thing with “photo people” is that they can be manipulated, simply by turning a dial. Turn the attractiveness dial slightly and the woman’s features change slightly. Maybe she becomes more or less attractive. Turn the gender dial and she looks a little less “feminine”. Turn it more and a she becomes a he. Dials for, ethnicity, age, weight, etc. are easily manipulated as well. This is not all that is new, photo filters did the same but they start with a real person. But technology marches on, ever blurring the line between what is real and what we imagine. And what we imagine starts with what we see.

Uses for such abilities abound. Models may be replaced by “photo people” who need not get paid. Your Facebook persona and your face can be whatever you desire. In this time of masks, what can go wrong? Ah! But Bill, what has this got to do with Kalunamoo and living and sail aboard in the Caribbean? Good question.

It has been almost a year since we have been back in the States to hug family and friends. Notice that I did not say “see”. We have seen and talked to them frequently. The clever machines that empower us to do this proliferate exponentially (some family members, however disappointing, refuse to participate!). And so I start to wonder about the treachery of images.

We are here in Antigua. You can trust me. Just check my IP address (or am I using a VPN?) The photos that are digitally taken record actual scenes. Or do they?  What filters were used to enhance the photo from paradise to Paradise? How much color saturation would you like with the photo of the sunset (or sunrise?). That water is crystal clear, but only if I use a polarizing filter. The adage that I learned back in the 60’s was don’t trust anyone over 30 (we were in our 20’s). Maybe that should be changed to don’t trust anyone who has been pixelized. As Jack Par always said, “I kid you not”, these are my thoughts when we start relying on those clever machines for long distance relations.

The Salty Dawg Rally boats have arrived with almost 100 cruisers some of whom we met before. None of them are pixilated, especially in their bathing suits. Other cruisers we know sailed in from other islands as the hurricane season has wound down. The pandemic certainly affected travel but the desire to gather together is hard to put aside. Six feet apart and masks are not onerous.

Hopefully we will be able to fly up to New York soon, but in no case later than next March, for my Dad’s 100 birthday! My dad was eight years old when Magritte painted The Treachery of Images. Its hard to imagine that time when photos were black and white and the world, recovered from WWI was on the road to even more disruption, chaos and calamities. The images didn’t need to be manipulated to see what was and separations could not be bridged by clever machines.

We will remain in Antigua indefinitely, enjoying the islands beauty and pleasures until a time we can sail on. Thanksgiving is this week. Our turkey dinner with other cruisers is planned but our mental images, un-pixilated, will be with those we miss the most. Those clever machines will bridge the separation.  

Dad turns 100 next March and memories of mom will always remain.

Good-bye, Hello, Welcome Back

“I guess you’re glad to leave St. Lucia”. So said a cruiser friend after reading the last blog. After all, we were in St. Lucia for 8 months. Well yes, we were antsy to have a change of scenery. After all, the idea cruising on a sailboat is to keep moving.

Saying that, however, we don’t have the desire to sail around the world, which we have the capability to do. We know and met many cruisers who have done just that. They either take a year, or many, continent hoping. They either sell their boat when finished, pull into a port and become liveaboards, or go back to work. We met one Canadian couple in Trinidad who left Canada 20 years ago, sailed west, and the boat has not returned yet. They have spent some time back home between voyaging legs. Many cruisers that we met here moved on to either Europe, or the Pacific on their never-ending voyages. Others seem to like just moving quickly and to take in as much of the earth as possible. And some did the temperate and tropical circuit and are now sailing the poles. That is definitely not our idea, but I guess some people really like the cold. In our travels we met many who did all of this.

For us it’s a mixed bag. For the last few years, living on a boat and traveling in the Caribbean became our niche. A few days here a few weeks there, a month in a port, a few months on an island and you start to fit into the rhythm of Caribbean island life. You become semi-local, with the capability of moving when the time seems right. Locals begin to recognize you and you learn the ins and outs of island life. The market ladies, the yard workers, the marina guards, the ladies in the office, taxi drivers, shop owners the checkout clerks, they become part of the community of cruisers we meet from all parts of the world. Think of Rick’s Place in Casablanca without the war.  

So, were we glad to leave St. Lucia? We now know more locals and cruisers based in St Lucia and so our community expanded. It is always a little sad to leave friends, but we are sure we will cross paths with some of them again. All of this does not substitute for our family back on land. That’s what airplanes are for.

The pandemic, however, has put an indefinite crimp in traveling. In order to enter most islands you need a covid19 PCR test before your arrival. The problem is this is all new to everyone and so regulations and procedures are constantly revised. We did get a PCR test in St Lucia at the Polyclinic ($100/pp) in order to enter Antigua. There was some confusion as to how to get the results, but we did get them within 48 hours. We like to sail in the most advantage weather window so that had to be coordinated with the test. We got the results too late to clear customs and so we lost a day but finally did leave on Friday. It took less than 31 hours non-stop to Antigua; a good sail with no squalls and moderate seas.

We are always concerned about the boat on a long passage after months of non-sailing. The old adage, use or loose it, applies. Things deteriorate and fall apart more from non-use then with use. We always have stuff break or fail on first voyages and this one was no different. The top mainsail batten seemed to rip its pocket and flew out with the wind. I noticed it but since it is not critical for the one-day sail, we could wait to get to port to get it repaired. The second problem was when we rolled in the jib, the

halyard took a wrap around the foil and this can cause it to jam. The result is either a damaged foil or being unable to fully roll in the jib.

Both issues were not as serious as I thought. After we anchored in St. John’s Antigua I, inspected both. The batten didn’t pop out but was somehow twisted. I still have to figure that one out. Maybe the vang was to tight and didn’t keep the leach of the reefed sail tight enough. The jib halyard may have been too loose allowing it to warp the foil. After going up the mast, all looked good but the halyard was somewhat slack. Always something!

We had to come to St. John’s to clear in. We pre-advised our arrival with the “esailclear” system and as instructed, called in 6 hours before arrival via VHF radio. We were told that English Harbor was not set up yet with the Health Department to allow clearing in there despite the announcement that they were. The fact of the matter is, all these regulations and directives are new, never implemented before and change frequently. It seems that the actual procedures were never established clearly and the personnel carrying them out have no authority to act independently.

We diverted our course from English Harbor to St. John, adding a few hours to the voyage and anchored around noon on Saturday. We lowered the dinghy and went to the customs dock to check in. Multiple health forms were filled out, body temperature’s checked, PCR test reports handed in, all seemed to be in order. Except the person who had the authority to sign off on all this left for the day!

Awaiting Customs, Immigration and Port Authority

It was after all, Saturday, and he had to go to the airport and to Jolly Harbor, blah, blah blah… Maureen was a little more annoyed than I was and complained about the inefficiency of it all. Welcome to the Islands mon! Back to the boat to await the return of the authority on Sunday, 10AM, to sign off the papers.

Sunday, 10AM at the customs dock, 2 other boats had to check in before us. The Canadian boat was here for 3 days trying to check in. After sailing direct from Canada for 15 days, the Health people insisted they had to quarantine for another 14 days! A few Facebook posts, calls to the Tourist Office and with pleading they finally got the ok to check in. After they checked in, we were allowed to enter the building and eventually paid our $15 to enter Antigua with no quarantine. It was almost noon. We sailed to Jolly Harbor for the night.

Lunch in Jolly Harbor

It will be interesting to see how all this plays out over the next months. Jolly Harbor looks dead. A number of restaurants have closed, probably permanently. The boat yard is full of boats on the hard. Maurice and Valentina, owners of The Crow’s Nest, doesn’t know how long they can hang on if tourists don’t start showing up. All hope is on the new season but as it looks now, it doesn’t look too hopeful.  

Crow’s Nest owner Maurice

The next day we sailed over to Falmouth to meet the Salty Dawg Rally boats coming down from the U.S. About 40 boats are expected starting the end of this week. The Antigua cruising community is forming, we already know 4 other cruisers here, three of them still in quarantine. How long will we be here? Hard to tell, but I’m sure we’ll be asked, “Aren’t you glad you finally sailed from Antigua?”      


Time to Sail

In a few days Kalunamoo will commence voyage 11 when we weigh anchor and head for Antigua. It’s been a while since we sailed. Eight months in St Lucia! Our cruising life turned into a retirement life here due to the pandemic.

Clouds, and Rain for 5 days

Just a short recap of how we spent our summer. We arrived in St. Lucia on March 2 for some engine work. That was for a new oil cooler which was completed on the 24th at which time the islands started shutting down due to the arrival of the covid-19 virus. All tourists started to vacate the island and the airports were closed to arrivals. To fly off the island some embassies arranged repatriation flights back to various countries. Some cruisers laid up their boat in whatever island they were stuck at and chartered private aircraft to get back home. Others sailed back to the states. Nationals of the islands started their trek back home. World-wide, cruise ships, empty of passengers, anchored. Airlines grounded most of their aircraft. The local inter-island airline here went bankrupt. The islands had various restrictions as to who they would let in or stay. Trinidad was the most restrictive and still does not allow non-nationals in. That left sailing to Trinidad, which we would have done, a non-starter. Many cruisers headed for Grenada, knowing they would be quarantined for two weeks at anchor. We decided to stay in St. Lucia.

New oil cooler above the white filter

St. Lucia, population about 165,000, has had about 70 cases since the start. It has one of the lowest rates in the Caribbean. Restrictions over the summer, included closed airports, a complete lock down for a week, masks, social distancing, testing and tracing kept the island secure with no deaths. However, the last few weeks have seen an uptick after weeks of no new cases. The Health Minister noted that people with mild cases have ignored restrictions and contributed to community spread. Illegal island hopping may also be a factor. The three French Islands didn’t (couldn’t) restrict visitors from EU and now they seem to be paying the price as cases there have been high. It seems the world will be facing an up-hill fight this winter. 

We spent our time mostly in the marina, although we did anchor for some of the time. Flights to the States slowly resumed late in August but restrictions on both ends including quarantine made travel very difficult. The hurricane season cooperated (the major reason why it is the off season) as there were no storms here at all. Actually, if it weren’t for the pandemic, sailing here in the “hurricane season” is not as dangerous as advertised. The trade winds and seas are calmer so in many ways the weather is better than in the winter.

For us, daily life has been slow although the time goes by fast. Video calls to family and friends kept us in touch as the marina has good internet. Socially, we got to know a few other cruisers and locals with weekly dominoes or lunches, swimming in the bay and Netflix at night. All in all, a low key life-style.

Since the hurricane season is winding down, the tourists are being lured back (all islands need the money) and we can sail to other islands. A few days ago we left the marina and anchored in the bay to get Kalunamoo ready to sail. We’ll head to Antigua, about a 32-hour non-stop sail, when a good weather window opens. Since we left the marina it has been overcast with heavy squalls (saw no Halloween full moon!). This extensive system has stretched west slowly and is now tropical storm Eta west of here. It is not often that we get 5 days of clouds and rain but at least it is not cold!  No threat to us but possible could affect Florida and the Bahamas late next week. Before that, the skies will clear here and a good window to go north should open.  Besides a change of scenery, we will be able to sail to various anchorages and ports in Antigua even if the virus keeps us on one island. In addition, about 40 Salty Dawg Rally boats will arrive from the States about mid-November. We will be able to meet some new cruisers (at a social distance)!

At present we need a covid-19 PCR test before entry. That test cost $100/person here and will be good for 7 days before arrival in Antigua. Hopefully, Antigua doesn’t change their restrictions before we arrive. Those restrictions change daily and so we don’t expect to make long range plans other than to go to Antigua.

Silver Lining or Storm Clouds?

After that, the whole season is questionable, especially for the islands. As mentioned above, they rely on tourists for a major part of their income. They survived the early end of the last season and weathered the off-season without a hurricane. Will they survive the new season with fewer tourists? Few cruise ships will sail, and resorts are under restrictions. And of course, back in the U.S. besides the pandemic, the political scene will change (or maybe not?). Our votes were sent by FedEx so we did our part. As the whole world watches, only time will tell how all this will all play out. Voyage 11 will commence soon!