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.
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.
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.
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!