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!

When Leaves Turn Red

There is an old people’s legend of why leaves on trees turn red in the fall. This is that legend. (Above photo by Dave Marshall, Adirondacks, New York)

In the earlier years, the leaves on the trees did not turn colors when the air became cooler and then colder. They remained green as they were when first sprung from the shoots of new sprigs. But as the winter came upon the land, the people gathered together and would need heavier coverings to keep the cold winds out. The snows would soon follow, down from the north, and covered their villages in a white blanket that warmed no one. The sun would shine less and be as cold as the moon. Crops and animals, both of which the people relied upon, would soon hide in the earth.

The people needed to keep warm and the animal skins and coverings were not enough. They needed their fires to burn longer and hotter both day and night to keep the winter cold away.

This they did and set out each day gathering the wood from the trees to feed the fires in their hearths. They did this every time the winter, the snows, the cold winds came. The trees saw this and took pity on the people by offering their branches and wood. The wood burned bright and warm all during the cold winters. In the spring and summer the trees grew taller and replaced what the people used in the winter. The people respected the trees of the forest for their kindness and sacrifice and protected them from any harm. They vowed only to use the wood that was needed to keep them warm.

Carol Gaiman, Kenoza Lake, New York

But as time went on the people became more plentiful. They needed more and more wood to keep warm, cook their food and light the night. They used more wood to build their shelters, and for stuff that kept them amused. They used wood for many things; rafts to cross lakes and oceans, bridges to span rivers and spears to make war. This alarmed the trees and also the animals that depended on the forest for their own lives. They feared that a time would come when there would be no more trees, no more forests as they would all be burned to warm and to satisfy the people. And so, the trees talked among themselves and asked the great sky maker to guide and help them. The great sky maker talked to the trees and said you need to talk to the people. They will understand what you need. Of course, the trees don’t have the same language as people and so they didn’t know how to do so.

Then one day a tree noticed a newborn baby cradled by her mother. There was much love being shown between the mother and the little one as she nursed and cared for her. Trees can sense that better than people. The tree thought that if the mother could love and protect her little one so much, she could love and protect the trees as well. If only the trees could tell her what they needed.

At another time, the little one started to cry. She was hungry and needed her mother’s milk. The mother was busy with her planting work and so did not come at once. The little one continued to cry and soon her face was changing color. It became red like the setting sun and her crying voice carried over the fields. The mother soon heard the cries and saw the crimson face of her daughter and quickly lifted her to her breast and gave her the food that she needed.

Mark Hoenke, Crystal Mountain Michigan

The tree knew it could not cry out in any voice the people could hear, but they could turn red. Their leaves can cry out to the people that they need the love and protection as much as the newborn.

And so, each fall, when the cold winds start to blow, and the sun sinks low in the sky and before the first snow flies the trees give out a cry. Their leaves turn crimson or yellow or purple or any color other than green. They are talking to the people to respect their forests and not to burn it down in their hearths and use it to destruction. Many people have learned this long ago and yet the trees still cry out.

The old people’s legend continues today as we hear the trees speak. They let the forest prosper and head south. Those picturesque photos of the turning colors in the forest are a plea and a reminder. So, take heed all of you who feel for the earth, the signs are there, even if we cannot hear the voices. Time to head south, save the trees.

We, of course, have not been north in the winter for many years. Here in the islands the winter rains keep the vegetation and trees lush and green, and the air never turns cold. Our friends and family send pictures of the changing colors which brings back pleasant memories of the changing seasons. People will drive south, and cruisers will be heading south in a few weeks; we will meet many when they arrive. I’m sure they are unaware that their actions have been passed down from their ancestor’s understanding and compassion When Leaves Turn Red.

Between Voyages

We are between voyages and remain in St. Lucia. The pandemic continues in most countries as travel restrictions remain or evolve almost day by day. Here in St. Lucia, no new cases in over 3 weeks, no current infections, and the island itself has the lowest cases per 100,000 population of all the Caribbean islands. They did a great job controlling it and even began to allow tourists to come to some resorts after they undergo testing and restricted travel. Soon it will be the start of the new tourist season so we’ll see how that goes. Our Sunday Dominoes and some touring keeps us busy between video zooms, books and NetFlix.

The Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Castries, St Lucia
Mexican train Dominoes

When we were in Trinidad for the season one of the reasons to fly back to New York was for routine doctor checkups. Since we were here, Maureen did schedule a dermatologist checkup for us and a cardiac doctor for herself. The cardiac doctor, in conjunction to a call that Maureen made to her doctor in New York, did some tests and medicine checkups and all is well. The dermatologist exam was very thorough and found 3 spots on me. She recommended that the two on my scalp be removed by a surgeon. That was done at Tapion Hospital and we are awaiting the biopsy report and don’t expect it will be too serious. All in all, the medical system looks sufficient and capable. What I noticed in the few doctors we saw was in their offices. They didn’t have the “staff” (assistants, secretaries, billers, etc) that are found in our NY doctor’s offices. However, considering how the country is controlling the pandemic, there is nothing to complain about.

The other major reason why we are “between voyages” is the hurricane season, or more specifically to avoid hurricanes. I did a post awhile back, Where Will My Hurricanes Be, part of which was also published in the Caribbean Compass, a Caribbean monthly newspaper. A bit of an update, now that we are in the peak of the season.  

Ok, it Is definitely an active “season”. As of today there is a storm over Bermuda, a storm heading to New Orleans, a few storms heading across the Atlantic and a brewing weather system that will come off Africa. NOAA originally predicted 13-19 named storms back in May. In August they upped it to 19-25 (7-11 hurricanes 3-6 major hurricanes). The Eastern Caribbean already have had 3 named storms, no hurricanes, of the 19 named storms so far this season. The last time there were over 20 storms was in 2005 with 28 storms. If there is any consolation, only 2 tropical storms and one hurricane crossed the Lesser Antilles that year: in the St Vincent and Grenada area. So far this season only three of the 19 named storms have crossed the Eastern Caribbean. But as they say past performance is no guarantee of future performance. Fingers crossed for the rest of the season.

2005 Storm Tracks
Surface Forecast 4 days from now

This is our first time in the “Hurricane Box” and so we are mindful of the possibilities. So far so good. In any case Rodney Bay Marina seems to be a good place to ride out any storms that come this way. In a larger sense, the fear of being here in the hurricane season may seem a little bit out of proportion. Yes, the danger exists but there are ways to deal with it, not the least of which is to sail away from the storm. The weather at this time of the year is notably different than in the “winter”. The Trade winds are down, no northerly swells, the water temperature is about 5 degrees higher, less crowded islands – it’s the off season – air temperature is also about 5 degrees higher (still with breezes but not as strong). Humidity is about the same year-round. Squalls don’t seem to be anymore prevalent than at other times, although they are usually heavier and the island looks greener. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, cruising among the islands might be more enjoyable than in the “winter”.

In a few weeks, we plan to haul the boat here for some bottom paint and prepare for our next voyage. Of course, it all depends on the pandemic restrictions but hopefully we can find an opportunity to fly north for some over-due visits. In the meantime, our in-between voyages became our Retired-in-Paradise time until Cruising-in-Paradise resumes.

Ferrogosto

Today is Ferrogosto. I always thought it meant Fiery Hot mid-August Day. But no, it actually started out as a non-religious holiday on August 1 in what could be considered the original Labor Day. Emperor Augustus, 2000 years ago, gave the day off to the farm laborers after the long planting season and before the harvest. Christianity eventually moved it to August 15 to coincide with their holiday. Today it is a public holiday in Italy and Ferrogosto marks the height of the Italian vacation season when many businesses close. Years ago, when I worked for the Italian shipping company Costa, I was amazed at how all of Italy seemed to close for two weeks which turned out to be more like all of August. I think the Italians took pre and post vacations. Of course, now with the pandemic, who could tell the difference?

Well, since today is August 15 I should mark the day with an extra shot of rhum and rest extra hard. I’m   exhausted after months of thinking of activities to keep active when being active was discouraged. It is not hard to come to the realization that 2020 has not been kind to anyone that had things to do or places to sail to. It made many forgo work or school. No one could go to restaurants, weddings, or even funerals. Airplanes didn’t fly and the ports were closed. Forget going to a movie, seeing a ball game or visiting your friends. Your neighbors might have moved to the moon for all you knew. For all I knew our cruiser friends sailed to Australia, or could have, since they were long gone. It was vacation time for everyone but without the joy, activities and sometimes money to accompany it. So how do you celebrate a day of rest when all you were allowed to do for the last 6 months is rest?

My way will declare that August 15, 12 noon will be the end of voyage #10 for Kalunamoo. I was waiting to end this voyage in Trinidad when hauled and put on the hard. It seems doubtful that will happen anytime soon. Voyage #10 began at 10AM, Oct 15 2019, when we launched from Power Boats boatyard in Trinidad. Voyage ten took Kalunamoo and us from Trinidad to Bequia, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique and St. Lucia. Engine repairs, sail repairs, and other minor delays slowed us down and kept us in ports for extended time before the pandemic. A total of 695 nautical miles over 10 months! The voyage metrics will be entered into the logbook now that voyage 10 is finalized. Wow, was that a slow voyage or what! Since we are still in St. Lucia, we will reset the clock and commence voyage #11 when we depart St. Lucia. When will that be? I have no idea as travel restrictions still apply and the hurricane season is here.

The peak of the hurricane season starts now and extends for the next 30-45 days. As of today, there has been 11 named storms in the Atlantic, only two of which crossed the Eastern Caribbean islands near here with minimal impact anywhere. They were not hurricanes and were poorly formed; both storms had storm winds north of the center and very light winds south of their centers. One passed between Grenada and Trinidad and the other north of Martinique. But there is little incentive to move around, especially if you are in a good protected harbor as we are. Cruisers do sail around during the hurricane season, but it may be a bit like playing musical chairs. When the music stops, or the hurricane arrives, you hope there is an empty chair, port, to go to.

This is also the height of the “off season” on the islands. Few tourists are around which might make for great cruising opportunities but many things are closed. But mainly the pandemic’s restrictions have mostly quashed moving country to country. We are in the Caribbean bubble, and have wrist bands to prove it, so it is somewhat easier but we are now between voyages and “resting up”. This is a time for doctor’s appointments and taking stock of what is needed for the next voyage. A short haul for some bottom paint and cosmetic repairs would be great sometime between now and November.

We rented a car for a few days to get around. It was a small red car (see the blog entry about The Little Red Car Tour in Guadeloupe!). I needed to see a doctor for some skins issues and Maureen will get a medical checkup next week. We also drove down to the coast to the Pitons at Soufriere. It is not far mileage wise but takes over 2 hours without stopping as it is nothing but a twisting mountain road with steep hills. St. Lucia is the island with spikes for hills and mountains. Interesting drive but I would not want to commute.

The Little Red Car

As mentioned above, between the pandemic and “off season” there were very few “visitors” on the road. When we rolled into Soufriere we were greeted by independent tour guides eager to make some money giving directions or tours. Flies attracted to honey? Yes, we moved on. We’ve been there, done that, and we were just out for a drive. Unfortunately, many restaurants were closed there so we drove back to Rodney Bay to our favorite Indian restaurant. There are actually some sail charterers arriving here and some resorts are opening so there is some activity starting. The virus is basically not here, but all eyes are on the arrivals! As mentioned above the marina distributed blue wrist bands to us to identify that we are “nearly locals” and not to be confused with recently arrived visitors of questionable health! Masks, however, are still required in public.

Wear a Mask!
The Pitons

Voyage #11 should take us to the U.S. Virgin Islands after the hurricane season and hopefully we will be able to catch a flight up to New York to see family and friends. That is yet to be proved, so we plan one voyage at a time and take advantage of favorable conditions when they arrive. For the rest of today, we will chill out and enjoy Ferrogusto!