Honestly…

One of my cardinal rules of keeping this blog is that I never write a post when I am depressed. Never. That accounts for some of the times when I go silent for weeks at a time. The past week or so has been particularly challenging for me, for some very good reasons as well as for no reason at all. Sometimes I just get a bit down. Surely I’m not alone in feeling this way.

This week we learned the sad news that one of the cruisers from the rally group Bob hosts in the fall, in Antigua, died of Covid 19. He got sick about a month ago while he was anchored in Simpson Bay, St. Martin. He was too sick to go ashore, and I don’t know the details of who came to get him off his boat. They were authorities of some kind, perhaps harbor security. He was taken to the hospital where it was quickly determined that his condition could not be treated on St. Martin. He was air lifted to Guadeloupe. Again, the hospital there felt he needed better care than they could give. He was air lifted to Miami. He was ICU there for about two weeks before dying. It’s tragic. I know it’s only one story, when there are so many all over the world. What gives me pause is that he was shipped around so many times, while he was critically ill. How many places in the world are like this? And how many places have no facilities at all, and no hope of getting good care in a hospital. The answer to that is frighteningly depressing.

The Prime Minister of Antigua makes a nightly announcement on a local radio station here. Bob and I have not yet heard it, but we get an update most mornings of what he says the previous night. Last night he declared that the restrictions currently place may have to continue until a vaccine is produced to deal with this virus. Who knows when that will be? That’s the first time I’ve heard anyone make such a long term pronouncement of isolation. Our rules here are pretty strict, far stricter than what I’m hearing and reading about in the US. It’s hard to imagine that these restrictions could stay in place for months to come. I am not complaining; I feel rather safe with these restrictions, other than not being in my home country.

In Antigua right now we have:
–24 hour curfew, no being in public or off one’s boat
–No using our dinghies; no visiting other boats; stay onboard.
–Food is available from 7:30 – 11:30 am on certain days. You must wear a mask to come ashore (no one on a boat has masks, so we’ve resorted to making all kinds of Rube Goldberg face coverings.)
–Only one person per boat may come ashore to shop.
–No leaving the harbor where you are anchored. The Coast Guard patrols each harbor once a day to monitor who is here and check that there are no illegally sheltering boats.
–If you have an emergency you must call Harbor Security before coming ashore.
–Violating these restrictions is a $5,000 fine (Eastern Caribbean), or 6 months in jail.

And this may continue for months. As I wrote earlier, I read that under these severe limitations to being outside, everyone needs to find a way to get at least 4,000 steps a day, or some equivalent. When I measured the steps I could take on our decks I realized I’d have to find another way to take 4,000 steps. Bob and I now swim around the boat. It’s not easy for me. It’s open water, with winds and currents. Some days are milder than others. I hope it’s enough. I’ve been planning to use our dining table as a barre for stretching, but I haven’t done it yet. Usually the table is littered with my various projects in progress.

Here is the mask I made for Bob when he went ashore at the beginning of this week. I used one of Bob’s handkerchiefs folded in half. In between the handkerchief layers I inserted a bilge diaper cut to fit (Bob’s clever idea). I had to sew the thing together by hand, including the clumsy pleats, and I used grosgrain ribbon from my stash of gift wrapping materials onboard to make two ties for the back of his head. It’s pretty lame, but I certainly hope better than nothing.

Would you trust this man?

Almost daily Bob talks to people who know what’s going on in the US Virgin Islands as well as to our weather router. Everyone is saying that the USVI is a chaotic mess right now, far too overcrowded, which has led to some aggressive situations. No one recommends going there right now. The first flotilla of boats heading home might leave from the USVI tomorrow. It’s very early for going into the North Atlantic now, so maybe they all only plan to go to Florida. Florida is not a picnic right now either, since it is also overcrowded. I am confident that we are safer here, and I am thankful for the restrictions. I feel safe, even though I also worry about the exposure Bob gets while wearing a handmade mask to go ashore to shop. So far we made it for 10 days between shopping outings. The local doctor in Falmouth got the virus about a week ago, and he has potentially infected many others since he’d been seeing patients. And all of his patients are potentially infecting others, just like everywhere. I do not believe there are tests here; diagnoses are based on symptoms. As overwhelmed as US hospitals are right now, these islands have no ability to help even a fraction of the patients that might begin to get sick here.

Given all our options right now, albeit few, I think we have managed to get ourselves to the safest place. If only some of the other cruisers would stop breaking the restrictions. One of my biggest fears is that we will all be evicted due to the few who won’t obey. Believe it or not someone threw a big party last night, with lots of revelers and lots of loud music. Of course the police showed up, but did they enforce any penalties? It was one of the giant mega yachts on the dock. I have no data to support how many of us there are vs. how many people are citizens of Antigua. But we are a significant part of the population, and as guests, we should be very careful not to stress what little medical services there are here. The citizens deserve that.

I’ve been trying to manage my stress and fear, but not doing so well. Yet every week there are things worth noting. Thursday was our younger son’s birthday. His partner Melody threw him a surprise birthday party on Zoom. It was a thrill for me to see so many friends there. I was thrilled to see new friends that have previously been only names to me, and wonderful to see his old friends from school. Now one them is married with a baby of his own.

Chirs, the birthday boy, is in the upper left with his sweetie Mila the huskie.

In all honesty, a beautiful photo or a poem cheers me up momentarily, but then I sink again. One such moment of stress relieve came when I read this article from “Handwoven Magazine,” called “Woven Flow: Weaving as Meditation.” It covers things we already know, about how working with our hands is a great way to relieve stress, to find peace and calmness, to be in a meditative state while working. The article also has some interesting insights. I found it helpful. Certainly I realize there is a delicate balance between working on something that is boring and therefore does not relieve stress and worry, and working on something slightly too complicated, that might be too frustrating because at this time many of us have a level of stress does not allow us to concentrate well enough to follow overly fiddly instructions and patterns. I need something engaging that allows my hands to be productive, my mind stimulated but not overwhelmed, so that I can have a little holiday from my fears and worries…..like watching the sunset every evening, except that the sunset does not last as long as an interesting project.

And that brings to me another of my foibles, and hopefully I’m not alone in this either. Right now I find all the projects I brought with me either highly frustrating (that little tapestry diary) or too fiddly (the sweater pattern) or supremely boring (the socks and the counted cross stitch). Nowadays I’m dreaming about my vast stash at home and how much I would love to be diving into it now, choosing more appealing things to make. I’m dreaming of the warp I have on my small loom at home that will become a set of napkins. I’m dreaming of what my first project will be on my new 60″ AVL compudobby. Nothing onboard can compare with what I’m dreaming of doing at home!

So recently Bob and I asked our weather router why people are leaving the Caribbean at such a treacherous time for sailing in the North Atlantic, to arrive in places that have so many cases of Covid 19. His answer was simple: the grass is always greener somewhere else. And there it is, the problem we all face. If only I had this…..If only I were there instead of here. I am lucky that somehow we made a great choice to shelter in Antigua, instead of blasting up to the USVI, as we almost did. Living in such a small space is hard; of course it would be easier to take care of ourselves in our house. We’d have real plumbing! I’d have a real kitchen! I’d have may more choices of entertaining distractions. I’m depressed about this, and now I am being honest about that. Everything has its pros and cons, and I can’t always be upbeat about it.

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