The sweetest word in my vocabulary. I thought I knew how much I loved home each spring when I arrived here from a long winter of sailing. This year it is doubly sweet. I am long overdue returning, and the journey to return was harrowing.
I really don’t want to relive the trip home in these pages. I’m sure Bob is writing about it as I write about being home. I may have to give some reference points to his version of the passage, so I’ll consider that.
Meanwhile, it’s mid-spring here. I have missed the daffodils and crocus, the tulips and lilacs. But there dogwoods blooming, and my peonies are still in bud. The roses are budding. Our yard is full of tulip poplars that have yet to bloom. House finches and wrens have made nests in all the outdoor light fixtures as they normally do. They’ve even deigned to use the birdhouses that Bob made, hoping they’d stay away from the light fixtures. His efforts have just attracted other bird families. Last fall I bought a painted gourd at a festival down in Maryland, and there are wrens in it now. Life is bursting here, and I’m so glad to be back in time to enjoy it!
Here’s the painted gourd with the wren family, and notice that there is a nest above one of the birdhouses that Bob built in the center of the image!
In December last year, we found a local nursery that was willing to take some of my larger plants to overwinter in their greenhouses. What a thrill that was, not to lose some of my cherished herbs and plants. Bob and I got them back on Tuesday, and I was so moved to find that several of them are in bloom! My French lavender and rose geranium are already just past prime, but I’m so happy to see them bloom at all!
My olive tree not only bloomed but now has quite a few tiny olives on it. I’m holding my breath until they get a little bigger. The plant did not seem big enough or old enough to bear fruit. There must be some good karma at that nursery!
We also started up our two water gardens with new plants, and one water lily that we overwintered from last year. We both could not resist this beautiful pitcher plant in flower for the water garden out front.
I have not yet managed to unpack. I have things strewn on one of the beds in the upstairs guest room, and I have plenty of things strewn around my own bedroom. Poor Bob, who is far neater than I am. Truly I am Oscar to his Felix. But instead of putting my things away, I have been weaving! This is a set napkins for Chris (our son) and Melody. I managed to weave and hem two in time to gift them for Christmas. These are the last four on the warp. I wove two between yesterday afternoon and today. Only two more to go, and then I’ll be making a new warp for the next project!
My small tapestry made it home with no damage. It went through a LOT to get here. It is better to have it safely on its easel in my studio that bashing about through the Caribbean aboard Pandora!
With all the good surrounding our arrival home, do I want to dredge up the awful trip home? Maybe just a couple of highlights, which are really lowlights–just to balance whatever Bob is upstairs writing at the moment!
I made quite a few meals ahead of time, in an attempt to make a good effort for this trip. I made Asian barbecued chicken thighs. I made ziti. I made meatballs. Yes, homemade meatballs. The meatballs occurred because I couldn’t find frozen meatballs in the Caribbean, even before the lockdown. Anyway, I love making them and of course, homemade is better. We managed to eat one portion of the meatballs and one portion of the chicken (I made enough of each for two meals. It was hard to eat any of this, and the ziti never made it into a bowl. It was too rough for eating. We were lucky to get some cream cheese on crackers, and I don’t know how Bob managed to get anything out of the fridge or cabinets, or even how he could spread the cream cheese. He could barely carry them up the companionway, even though they were in a bowl rather than on a plate.
Have I mentioned it was rough? There were many points when the waves looked like something from a movie– a documentary about storms at sea, or even some of the scenes from “The Perfect Storm”–although not that final scene where the fishing boat does not make up that last horrific wave. The seas were confused, so they did not come from one direction. They were hitting mostly from the stern, but both starboard and port. There was no place to sit comfortably without bracing ourselves, and no comfortable place to sleep.
We can never sleep in our own bed on passage, or even use the master bathroom (stateroom in nauticalese), since both of these are too close to the bow. I made up a ‘go bag’ with some changes of clothes and my toiletries so that I would not have to enter our stateroom during the passage. I have to say our hygiene was less than stellar during the passage. I think I managed to wash my hair three times in thirteen days. Again, we were just lucky to brush our teeth twice a day–in the galley sink at the bottom of the companionway. Using the head (toilet) was such a feat of getting in there and then hanging on to everything possible while trying to accomplish that feat. There was one night when I was so tired that I tried to sleep on a settee (that’s an upholstered bench, like a couch) down below. As I mentioned the waves were hitting us both port and starboard. Bob did not want me to use a lee cloth because it might get ripped off the wall (a lee cloth is similar to the barriers that toddlers have when they graduate out of a crib). Well, that was the only time I attempted sleeping down below. I was actually thrown out of bed. I woke to find myself in mid air, and then promptly hit the hardwood floor. I didn’t break any bones, but I was bruised. I won’t even talk about seasickness. So much for the myth that everyone gets over it after three days! Ha!
I really don’t know who can possibly like making long passages. Sure, the weather might be better, but it’s never calm enough for living a normal life aboard. I don’t ever plan to do it again. I’ll leave all the details of wind and speed and way points to Bob. I only mean to convey that it was difficult and scary. As we approached the entrance to Fort Lauderdale I began to think that we would die within sight of destination. Bob would not agree with that, but he did say it was the roughest passage he’d ever made. And he has made 14, or maybe a few more, of them. Just sayin’….
I’ll take a loom with a view, thank you. There is no place like home!
Our long passage home began on Monday, so this is Day 5, and it has gone better than I expected. I’ll never be a sailor, but Bob sure is. If you ever have to go on a long voyage against your will, I highly recommend Bob as your captain and Chris Parker as your weather router. You cannot do better!
Day 1: (Monday, May 4) We left Caneel Bay, St. John, at 1pm. We were wallowing a bit in following seas with the wind directly behind us. I got out my sketch book/notebook to jot down a few impressions of each day, and on this day I noted that I was having a hard time writing. I was worried that writing would make me seasick, so I kept it rather short. By 5pm we had left the Virgin Islands behind us. By 10pm we could lights on Culebra and we could see Puerto Rico faintly in the distance. There were big swaths of sargasso everywhere, and a big clump of it was tangled on the rudder of our windvane. There were big, dark squall clouds all around us, and from 2am – 5am we sailed through a number of them. Seeing big squall formations on radar was was intimidating for me. We also saw one ship in the dead of night. My anxiety level was high. I was no help at standing watch since I kept falling asleep–a sure sign of mild seasickness!
Day 2: (Tuesday, May 5) Low wind, wallowing in following seas. I was looking forward to seeing Puerto Rico, but during the day I could not see any of it. Our course took us from about 25 miles off the coast to 40 miles off the coast. During the morning we sailed over the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean, the Puerto Rico Trench. It’s over 27,000 feet deep there, which is more than 5 miles deep. Just a bit further west is the Old Bahamas Channel that has some of the shallowest shoals I’d ever imagine to find in the middle of the ocean. What a strange world! Our view was 360 degrees of water. It is a deep indigo color verging on purple, like what we see all through the deep waters of the Caribbean. When night fell we had non-stop squalls, especially from midnight ’til 8am. I slept through most of this, leaving all the work to Bob for a second night in a row.
Day 3: (Wednesday, May 6) Squalls. Uncomfortable! Are they ever going to stop? On the one hand, the winds have been light, and seas are down. I told Chris Parker I wanted a flat sail home. I wanted to feel like we were just sailing across a lake. He’s done a great job of finding those conditions for us. If only the squalls would stop! Bob has always said that he finds Day 2 of a passage to be the hardest. On Day 2 he often wonders how he will endure the entire trip. For me, that day came today, on Day 3. I struggled with a sense of feeling imprisoned in a small space with a view of a vast seascape which was not at all soothing. The Dominican Republic was to our left, but we could not see it, even at night. I was fairly depressed this day, unable to pass the time reading or knitting. I have a few audio books, and it was helpful to recline in one of our adjustable cockpit chairs with my eyes closed, listening.
During the night we had a parade of ships, likely due to being in the vicinity of the Mona Passage and Windward Passage. I don’t know why I hardly ever see a ship during the day; then they all seem to pass by us during the night. It’s stressful. On the positive side, I was able to stand a 2-hour watch so that Bob could sleep. Progress!
We are traveling during the time of a full moon, which does make for a a few moments of excitement in that otherwise endless view of water and more water. The nights have been overcast due to the squally weather, but the moon has been a lovely gem.
Here is the moon setting, no longer silver but a stunning golden orb from the rising sun.
The water in the foreground is a perfect study in calm seas. Bob took a close up for me.
Day 4: (Thursday, May 7) We’ve now gone more than 350 miles. There has been no sight of land, which is rather depressing. I had hoped to see some of the Dominican Republic, and maybe even a bit of Haiti. Still following winds directly behind us, but calmer seas so that we are not wallowing today. I can read!– and I actually spent a good deal of the day knitting!
We learned that bad weather is headed our way. A cold front is forming that will bring near tropical storm weather right to our route home. Our weather router is urging everyone in our flotilla to get shelter on the southernmost island in the Bahamas, Great Inagua. The Bahamas is closed to boating traffic at the moment, even for boats seeking shelter, so our shoreside volunteers in the Salty Dawg organization did some terrific work in getting our homeward bound flotilla boats permission to land at Matthew Town on Great Inagua for as many days as we need to avoid the bad weather. We cannot check in to the Bahamas, or go ashore, but we can anchor and wait out the storm. We could not have managed this individually, so help from these volunteers is priceless. They are working hard to get us safely home. What a relief.
The night was challenging for me. There were squalls all around us with violent lightning on both sides of the boat. I stood two watches this evening, so Bob got more sleep than he’s had in three days. It was frightful to me. Like desert mirages and visions in the fog, after a while I began to see things in the haze. The radar showed that there were two boats that would soon cross our paths, all of us headed to shelter in Great Inagua. As hard as I looked into the gloaming to find their running lights, I could not see them. I saw all kinds of other things instead! I saw various ships and strange lights, and I heard ominous sounds. After 3 1/2 hours, I could not stand the stress any longer, so I woke Bob to take my place.
Today is Day 5. (Friday, May 8) We have sailed 537 miles, which is close to half the way to Florida. This has now become the longest passage I have made. It’s seems like a great time to take a break, but this is not the break I’d like to have. There are no harbors on Great Inagua; boats simply pull up to the shoreline and anchor. The Bahamas is notorious for ‘clocking’ winds, which means that every few days the wind direction shifts around the entire compass. We arrived here with westerly winds which is the worst direction for anchoring here, as you’ll see on the map. In westerly winds this is called anchoring on a lee shore, which means if your anchor drags you’ll drift right onto a shore that will be a challenge to get off since the wind is pinning you on that lee shore. Not good! The winds are slowly shifting eastward, but the westerly ocean swell will continue to roll us about. We are now facing northeast, with northwest waves rocking us sideways. It will be hard to sleep tonight. As I often say about sailing, “out of the fire and into the frying pan.” I wish this weren’t always the case.
And here we are newly anchored off Matthew Town on Great Inagua. This is the memorable Bahamian blue one finds in about 20 feet of water. Stunning.
We have been granted permission to anchor in either Matthew Town, where we currently are, or in Man of War Bay, just north of Matthew Town. You can see neither of these locations is protected. The wind is gradually shifting to the east, but the waves continue rolling in from the west. It feels just like our first two days of wallowing in following seas. Ugh.
We cannot go ashore here, but I should mention that there is a big salt pond on the island, where Morton Salt makes their sea salt. On the map you can see this salt pond right at the lower left hand corner, just inland of South Bay. There is a gate that can be opened to flood the pond with sea water. Then the tropical sun causes the water to evaporate and leaves behind the salt. It’s terrifically hot here. I can imagine turning into a block of salt myself. I am so ready for some temperate New England weather!
There is also a protected flamingo rookery here. We won’t be seeing any flamingos on this visit, since we cannot go ashore. I guess I’m happy to be here. It’s uncomfortable, but it has to be better than riding out a tropical storm.
I’ll close with this photo of Sailor Bob, ever ready to take on a long journey and make the best of whatever conditions Mother Nature throws at him. He’s hoisting the “Q” flag (for quarantine) and the giant Salty Dawg rally banner. Do you see that threatening black cloud above us? That’s another squall in the making. Bob is not worried about it. He set the anchor well and now intends to open a cold beer and get some well deserved R&R. As he sat down to enjoy himself, he got a wonderful air show of a US Coast Guard helicopter landing on the airstrip in Matthew Town. I was so tempted to hail them on the radio and ask for a ride home!
The time has finally come! While I haven’t had nearly as much experience with long passages as Bob has, this is what I always encounter: We provision and wait for the weather window. Our provisions grow low in the waiting so we provision again. We wait again. On and on. Inevitably, we get the word to “GO!” now, right when we need to provision again! The waiting is a killer. I feel like I’ve been holding my breath for ages, and feeling anxious. By the time we really do ‘GO!,’ I’m exhausted. I’m exhausted now. So, naturally, it’s time to go. And wouldn’t you know, we need fuel in our extra jerry cans and we are a little low on fresh food.
I put a scopolamine patch on last night hoping to stave off any seasickness ahead of time. Fingers crossed. It should take us about 7 days to get to the Lake Worth inlet on mid-coast Florida. We could not get a marina reservation in Fort Pierce because they are already full. But some of those boats will be heading north as soon as mild spring weather arrives in the North Atlantic, so hopefully we won’t have to wait too long.
The closer I get to home, the more excited I’m getting for projects. Temptations arrive in my inbox daily. This winter I stumbled on KDD designs, a site with so many interesting facets–poetry and writing, knitwear design, even yarn from local sheep (in Scotland), where that yarn is also spun and dyed locally. It’s not local to me, but it’s in my DNA to need and want textile-y things from Scotland.
I’m in love with this amazing color of orange! I’ve loved the color orange for years, although I do not have a favorite color. The color of this yarn, with the little bits of other colors in it, is a show stopper for me. The teal is wonderful too, but that orange! Oh my!
I’m ready to start knitting this vest, also designed by Kate Davies (of KDD)! It’s called “Con Alma,” after the Dizzy Gillespie recording from the early 60s. Temptations are wonderful things, aren’t they? I put a kit for the project in my shopping cart, without giving it more than two seconds’ thought. Sadly, this yarn is already sold out. Sigh…. I hope I can order it soon, so that it will be winging its to me as I wing (hopefully) my way home.
I’m enjoying the possibility of what other sea creatures will work their way up the warp on my current tapestry. Sea turtles and rays for certain. Maybe a couple more ‘post card’ moments. I have to start drawing soon because the next creature will get added before the octopus is finished. Adding any more ‘post card’ images might involve weaving buildings again. The church tower in Deshaies, Guadeloupe (pronounced Day/A) is such an iconic landmark. Tempted for sure, but I should know better.
So, it’s time to leave, and here I sit. Am I stalling? Probably. Bob has taken the dinghy into the nearest town to fill the last couple of our jerry cans so we can have enough fuel to add to our tanks as the trip wears on. Supposedly there will be so little wind between here and Florida that we’ll have to motor a good deal of the time. As long the seas are flat, I’ll be very happy to motor, thank you!
So to pass the time ’til Bob returns, I will forge ahead on my Wrist to Wrist sweater from Purl Soho. Great color, isn’t it? But it’s not orange.
I hope I can knit during our passage home. I have a couple of audio books to listen to when I stand watch in the middle of the night. I am praying I can do that this time. It’s all Bob requires of help, so he can get a little sleep. A week without sleep is a long time. Off we go! Shortly I hope I’ll walk through the side door on our porch, and have a good cry of joy to be back. Welcome home!
All we do these days is make plans for getting home before the hurricane season starts down here. I was going to write about these plans, but they are mutating too fast for me, faster than shifting sand trickling through my fingers. We’ve now gone well beyond Plan C, D, and E. I started this while we were still in Antigua, but now nothing from that post is relevant. Lots has changed, but nothing really has.
We left Antigua last week, on Thursday, to sail through the night to St. John, in the USVI. We arrived on Friday afternoon. My medications are waiting for me in Red Hook, and Bob is taking the ferry there now to get them, as I write this. We tried to make landfall there on Friday afternoon, but it was so rough in the harbor that I did not think I could handle Pandora while Bob picked up the mooring lines. We have been in Caneel Bay on St. John since then.
I was frightfully sick on the passage here, and that has given me quite a concern about making the much longer passage home. People love to tell me that everyone gets better after three days at sea. I’m sure that’s true most of the time. But what about those three days? How is Bob supposed to get through three long days without help? The 2-night trip to Antigua in early March was a terrible burden on him. He had no help from me at any point on that trip. And it happened again on the way here. I’ve been sailing with him for 45 years now. We’ve made some long passages and we’ve covered a lot of ground between Maine and Florida on the east coast of the US, and on to the Bahamas. I don’t just get mildly sick; I get incapacitated-ly sick. It’s a risk to have me onboard. That is weighing pretty heavily on me. (I have a huge stock of different seasickness meds, trust me!)
The day we sailed to St. John, capital of Antigua,–not the island where we are now– to clear out, we saw this ship carrier in the harbor. You cannot imagine how much I wanted this to be our plan! Just take Pandora to Newport, and let us go! The cost of $20,000 to take her was a bit sobering. Still, I was tempted. Bob was not.
Here you can see boats lining up to wait their turn in the crane. Too bad Pandora couldn’t get on line.
The stress of worrying about this is taking its toll. I feel I am burden onboard, but no one else can get down here to help Bob. What to do? We talk to our weather router off an on over the months we are down here. Last week when Bob told him how sick I was with the following seas on our way here, he suggested that we consider the ‘northern route’ home, which would take us far out to sea, east of the Bahamas to make a straight shot to the Carolinas or even all the way to Connecticut. This route has more easterly winds and would put the wind and sea state coming across the middle of our boat, which is called a beam reach. This is the route Bob always takes each year. But that terrifies me. It’s so far from anything. Once again this morning we called the Venerable Chris Weather Router to ask if there was a way to get home in flat seas. This may be a possibility. The ‘southern route’ would take us north of Hispaniola (DR and Haiti) and into the Old Bahamas Channel. The winds and waves would be from behind, my least favorite direction, but if we pick a window when there is very little wind, the sea state should be flat. We’d have to motor most of the way to Florida. Horrors to real sailors like Bob, but that sounds pretty nice to me. Bob is in favor of doing whatever makes me less fearful. He is on a hunt for some diesel cans so we can carry extra fuel. Wouldn’t you know that all those sailors who sheltered here before we arrived bought up all the diesel cans at every store within walking distance in both Red Hook and St. John. I’m amazed that any of these chandleries are still open. (But that is another story)
In my distress over how I’m going to get home, I have returned to some of my projects that were so boring to me weeks ago. Now I relish anything that will take my mind off what lays ahead. On my small tapestry I have finally made it past the pillars in English Harbor. Really, I have no business weaving buildings. I need to imprint that on all my bobbins–No Architecture!! Now I’ve started the octopus that wraps around the little postcard scene of Nelson’s Dockyard, so I’m having considerably more fun.
I’ve joined in a couple of Rebecca Mezoff’s “Change the Shed” get togethers on youtube through live streaming. It’s been one of the best diversions I’ve been able to find. I weave my own tapestry while she weaves and talks to the weavers who send her questions or comments through live text messages. It’s fun. Lately I haven’t had enough connectivity to do it, and I miss it!
St John has some nice distractions too. There are lots of turtles here, and they are not nearly as shy as most sea turtles. One of them checks us out throughout each day. We must be sitting on top of his favorite patch of turtle grass. In fact, in Caneel Bay you may not anchor because anchors and chain tear up the grass that is so necessary to the turtles. There are moorings here, and now that the island is a bet less crowded, we were lucky to get one.
Our mooring is just off the beach of a derelict resort that was started by the Rockefeller family back in the 50s. It made it through all those decades and then was destroyed in 2017, by Hurricane Irma. Now, only 2 1/2 years later, it looks like it’s been out of commission for many years, not just a few. A local resident told us that the property’s 99-year lease will be up in two more years. There’s a rumor that a big resort company has bought the resort and will rebuild when the lease runs out.
The view from Pandora right now is quite spectacular. It’s hard to imagine that you can have tough decisions ahead and a hard trip home while sitting in such a place.
It took me a full day to get over the trip here, but as you can see, I am relaxing while I can, before we have to head out again.
I am working on a sweater design that Purl Soho offers on their website, called End to End Pullover. The yarn is also theirs, called Linen Quill. It is a blend of merino, alpaca, and linen. It is about the weight and grist of Shetland jumper weight, but so luscious due to the alpaca, and heathery, due to the linen. I’m enjoying the feel of it, and the Caribbean blue, even though the knitting has grown boring. I am almost half done.
I’m not sure that I use my nostepinne correctly, but I wanted to knit from a center pull ball. I have to drape the skein on our navigation chair, which is a bit too small. Of course at home I make balls with a ball winder and it goes at least 10 times faster.
My balls always turn out like eggs!
And I am baking and cooking, like everyone else on the planet right now. Even though I have a pound of yeast in the freezer onboard, I miss making sourdough. I thought I’d find out what wild yeast in the Caribbean would be like. It’s very healthy! It must love the salt air and warm temperatures. Playing with sourdough also has been a little ray of contentment during my worrisome days.
And the best balm for my fearful days has been the connection with friends who are checking on me daily. It’s been so therapeutic for me to know that friends are thinking of me. Somehow that is always such a sweet surprise! –to hear that people take the time to think about me when their own lives have a full share of worries. I feel wrapped in the love of people who are routing for Bob and me to have a safe trip home. Thank you immensely!
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.
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.
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.
This quote crossed my path this morning. We must be willing to let go of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting or us. These wise words come from Joseph Campbell, someone who does not readily come to my mind. He was a professor of comparative literature at Sarah Lawrence in the mid-20th century.
We have been more comfortable than we expected over the past week, with complete lock down in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua. The restrictions are harsh, but I do not find them cruelly implemented, as I might find in Grenada or Trinidad right now. There is an English gentility in the enforcement of isolation here. Bob and I swim around the boat twice a day, in lieu to trying to make any distance walking, with only 44 steps to circumnavigate Pandora’s deck. I am not a fan of being submerged in water, but the weather has been mild enough that my fears are less than in normal conditions. With a little luck, perhaps I will have grown so accustomed to swimming in the ocean that when the winds pick up again, in a few more days, perhaps I will be less fearful of swimming. One can hope.
In some ways, it has been a relief to put life on hold for the past week. Before that, I spent too much time wondering when we’d need to get up to the US Virgin Islands, and then which route would we choose, or be forced to take, to head home. No one sails in the north Atlantic until at least early May, so going all the way New England needs to wait a bit. Meanwhile, should we head out to the USVI to wait until we make our way slowly north through the Bahamas?
I’ve spent a good deal of this week working on a few projects I brought onboard. It has been a great way to stop thinking and planning. Here is my tapestry. I put is aside for about 6 weeks because I am so unhappy with it. If I were at home, I would have abandoned it already. However, here I have no other options if I want to weave. I’ve decided that the endeavor of weaving will still move my skills forward. There is always something to learn. I’ve learned the hard lesson that I will most likely never have all the necessary yarns I need onboard! At least I am enjoying the start of the octopus more than the struggle with the frustrating pillars.
Some of the plans we considered are now closed to us. The Bahamas is definitely not an option now. The government there is closing the borders indefinitely. Everyone not willing to stay put for an indeterminate amount of time needs to leave now. A quote from the Prime Minister’s announcement was “Do not wait, and do not assume this message doesn’t apply to you. As we have seen, we cannot predict if, when or how severely movement within and out of the Bahamas may become restricted by air or by sea. If you choose to stay, please be prepared to remain in The Bahamas for an indefinite period of time.” Well, we are not even there, so that’s not a choice for us anyway. The island nation is closed to new arrivals.
NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is predicting higher than normal activity this hurricane season, with at least four major hurricanes, possibly more. Just a reality check: last year they predicted fewer storms. This is not the year to take a chance being down here during the summer/fall. Although I am highly tempted to haul Pandora here in Antigua, I know that’s just me wanting to run away. We cannot take our time island hopping through The Bahamas to get home. Another of our plans, sailing non-stop through the Old Bahamas Channel, now moves from Plan B to Plan A. This route takes us through the shipping lanes on the north coast of Cuba, then up the west side of The Bahamas (I never it was The), for a total of about 1300 non-stop miles for this utter neophyte sailor. After 45 years of sailing, I have never done more than 3 overnights in a row, and I swore I’d never do THAT again. Never say never.
We don’t know if or when we can leave for the Virgin Islands. At the moment these islands are overwhelmed by cruisers seeking shelter and waiting for a weather window to get home. That is not likely before early May, although we could make landfall somewhere in the south or mid-Atlantic coast. In the meantime, the USVI are over stressed with so many non-locals. We all expect that any day now, the cruisers may end up evicted, even US citizens, and a closure for any new arrivals. We are no longer counting on starting our long passage from the there. At the moment US citizens and those with US visas can shelter there, but it is becoming a burden for the island nation. Cases of Covid 19 have advanced 10-fold in only a few days. They are not equipped with medical services to deal with this.
Still, the news from home is worse. The situation in the US is just mind boggling. Every morning I say I won’t read the newspapers quite yet, and then I sit down and immediately open them. The situation in New York is heartbreaking, and I believe it will be some time before it peaks. I read somewhere that Connecticut has some serious times coming. Rhode Island has closed its state borders and is stopping all out of state cars for questioning. My brother in law who drives trucks is seeing cars stopped for questioning on Route 95 in the Southeast. You already know this, of course. I know that we are safer here at the moment than at home.
When I was an adolescent in the late 60s/early 70s, many of my friends played a morbid game of choice that mostly went like this: would you rather burn to death or drown? I feel a bit like we are playing that game now. Would I rather go home to many more exposures to Covid 19 or stay in the Caribbean and ride out a number of hurricanes on Pandora. Is it possible to choose ‘none of the above?’
Here is the one and only project I have finished all winter. Maybe some of you will remember that Melody (Chris’ life partner who has become a dear friend to me) gave me this yarn for Christmas. It is one of the ‘cake’ yarns that has long color transitions, and no color is repeated in the length of the yarn. As you can see this yarn shades from deep coral through pale corals, then light grays into black.
So, here’s to struggling to make peace with making no plans, which is not something either Bob or I is good at doing. This is a good lesson in learning that skill. There are so many things I’m thankful for each day, and I need to stay focused on them. The highlight this week came late at night on Thursday. A men’s chorus gathered at the dock in Falmouth and sang a number of wonderful songs that may have been English hymns. To hear their voices streaming out to us in the ethereal night on the light breeze was such a balm to our worries these days.
Today a friend in New Jersey has sent me a number of youtube videos of today’s service at her church. Each segment takes place in someone’s home, the minister, the organist, the readers. Sometime between last night and early morning today, the minister of this church drove to every house in the congregation and left palm fronds at each family’s door. What a gift! There is another life waiting for each of us. It will bring some challenges we might not want to face, but there is little we can do about that. Be safe. I’m thinking about you.
There are new restrictions here in Antigua that took effect at midnight. There is a 24 hour curfew every day, and anyone seen outside will be arrested and fined. For boaters, who now cannot go ashore, there is an added confinement. We are not allowed to get in our dinghies. We must stay confined on our boats. This large harbor has become truly silent this morning.
Recently I read an article in the NY Times about getting at least 4,000 steps a day during this mandatory confinement time in the US. I am feeling quite antsy from this new restriction, so I decided to count the steps from the cockpit of Pandora which is at the back of our boat, to the bow. 22 steps. That is 44 steps round trip. I also thought I should count the steps from the bottom of our companionway stairs to the bow, which is our living space down below. 11 steps. I’ve never counted this before, so even when I’ve complained about how small living on a boat is, I didn’t actually know that Bob and I live in a space that I can walk in just 11 steps. Bob would do it in less than 11.
That means in order to get 4,000 steps in a day, I would have to make 100 revolutions around the deck of the boat. I guess I’d get an added benefit for the deep squat and twist I’d have to maneuver to get under the Hoyt boom up on the bow. I’m feeling rather depressed about this today, but I better suck it up because I can’t do anything about it. This is my new confinement. I can also swim around the boat when it’s not overly windy.
I may try to use the dining table as a barre for doing stretches. Meanwhile, our world is already so small that I don’t know I will maintain sanity. The hard part is feeling so unwanted. I know these island nations are trying to deal with us, but it is clear that they wish we would go away. I wish we could go away too. It’s natural to want the safety of our own country, and own own houses, during these trying times. I don’t disagree with all the islands’ needs to keep us in containment. Look at the containment going on in the US with immigrants. I agree that the islands’ first concern should be for their own citizens.
What I fear is that at some point these islands will kick out the cruisers. If we are evicted there is no other island to take us. They’ve all closed their borders. I still think about the French war ship that chased us away from the coast of Guadeloupe. Of our 2,000 mile trip home, we have only covered 250 miles. We are unwanted here, and other boaters are unwanted in the islands where they are sheltering. I regret that we are putting a burden on these islands. If we could get home I’d be happy to oblige. The North Atlantic will not be safe for sailing until May. We have to stay someplace for the next month, and I just hope that other cruisers will carefully abide by the new rules so we all don’t get evicted. I don’t have a lot faith in that because I’ve already heard so much grumbling about how unfair this situation is. Well, it’s unfair for everyone, isn’t it?
Yet, what’s a blog post without an image? I found a great one today in the New York Times. As people all over the world are confined at home, animals that normally don’t mingle with humans are checking out the empty streets of cities and towns. These are cashmere goats exploring a town in Wales. Here’s the article.
It’s a sparkling, calm morning. Time for a swim before I face this first day of confinement in a space that really is the size of a prison cell.
While I’ve been pining for home the past few weeks, friends and acquaintances have sent me such encouragement and sympathy! How can I ever thank all of you? I promise to try to uplift you, should you ever need it, as much as you have cheered me during this time.
In spite of the fact that nothing has changed in our situation, being cast offs in strange lands, not permitted ashore in some of the islands, actually being chased away from an island by a French war ship when we had no intention of stopping there, for the moment I feel calm. A line from Van Morrison comes to mind: “People are strange when you’re a stranger.” Bob and I now often feel alone in strange lands.
But all things have an ‘upside,’ and I need to find it. The scenery is beautiful (if only the wind would stop howling!). Some of my ‘home’ friends have written to tell me they are enjoying how quiet things are now that planes are not flying overhead and cars and trucks are not constantly rumbling by their houses. One friend lives near Bradley airport outside of Hartford, and she said there are no contrails in the sky now….just clear blue skies. I woke to a stunning silence this morning. The wind had finally stopped. Pandora was no longer straining and rocking at her anchor, and the silence was so therapeutic. On Sunday I sent a text to the boat next to us at anchor: “Someone PLEASE turn off the wind!” She wrote back wishing the same!
So, in the new calm, I have gotten out my copper pipe loom. I’m working on the frustrating stone pillar from Nelson’s Dockyard, and although it’s not great, I am content with it. I will continue. Sometimes (well, many times) I have to realize that it’s not about making the perfect image, the image I have in my head; it’s about trying different ideas to convey an image and learning what I can from from the endeavor of making. I can at least admit that I learned something about depicting stone columns at 12 epi, with no good options of weft yarn!
I’m starting to make peace with not making a plan for getting home. This is a big hurdle for both of us, and I’m probably less ‘at peace’ with it than Bob is, possibly because he could live this rather hard, inconvenient life forever. I can’t wait to get back to all my modern conveniences! But in the meantime, I am lurchingly accepting my lot here.
Some old phrases that I’ve heard almost all my life have cropped into my thoughts over the past few days.
If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans. Boy, that’s been my biggest problem over the past month. Whenever March 1st rolls around I start making plans about what I’ll do when I get home. I start placing online orders to greet me at my door on my return to my favorite place in the whole world–my little cottage near a river in a quaint New England town. Do I sound homesick? Well, anyway, I’ve given God a good laugh over the past few weeks. Ouch.
These are the two sayings about being seasick that I’ve heard since I first got sick as a kid.
The best cure for seasickness is sitting under an apple tree. Oh, I’d love to try that remedy right now. I’ll take any tree; I am not particular!
Seasickness: At first you fear you might die of it, then you’re afraid you won’t. Absolutely true!
There are so many sayings about sailing, but this one was an eye opener for me. Living onboard is like being sentenced to a jail cell, with the added possibility of drowning. Of course the scenery is way better, but the longer I’m onboard the more I begin to feel imprisoned. This year’s sentence will be harshly long.
This is how my thoughts are running this week. Anything repeated often enough becomes the new habit, the new normal. It’s boat life for me right now, and I have no idea when it will end. The islands all around us have closed, so we can’t leave, but we are here; we are a allowed to stay here as long as we isolate and follow the restrictions. When we run out of provisions, I have to believe these island nations will not let people starve in their harbors. Nothing is black and white; I’ve always believed this. Somehow lately, I’ve only been able to see in sharp contrasts. I need to find myself again.
I’ve been following the “Daily Respite” of a well known knitting designer, Clara Parkes for the past week. She has contributed to my lighter mood. Today’s respite from Clara is a quote from CS Lewis: “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”
Isn’t time strange? It passes quickly when you are engaged in something you love, but in actuality the future comes to all of us at the same rate. How many times has 10 minutes felt like an hour when I’m doing something I don’t want to do–like standing watch in the middle of the night (admittedly I don’t do this as much as I should. Poor Bob)? And how often do entire days fly by in a fleeting breath when I’m weaving? Time seems torturous right now because many of the things I love are not available. But there are still 60 minutes in an hour and 24 hours in a day. The future is coming. In about two months, at most, I will hopefully be home, doing what I love. I just have to get through this time first, while trying not to make definite plans. Ha!
Lastly, I followed a trail to a wonderful poem through a link in my inbox over the weekend. I get a monthly newsletter from a Scottish woman named Kate Davies who writes poetry and designs knitwear and publishes books. The words in this poem are so compelling. I can see in my mind a beautiful image from these words. I’d like to weave it. Someday. No definite plans.
Stones cast on the tide of songs long before ours. In speaking, we’ll turn them smooth in our mouths.
Thank you, wonderful friends, for all the encouragement!
Not a photographic collage, although that would speak a thousand words. This will be a collage of the stories I’ve heard over the past two weeks, as things have changed on a daily basis, sometimes on an hourly basis.
Deserted Rodney Bay Marina on Wednesday, the day we left. The Customs Office was closed so we could not clear out of the country. Even the marina was closed so we left without a bill for their services. They promised to email the bill, which we now have.
When we got up on Wednesday morning, planning to sail to the USVI, things had changed enough overnight for us to reconsider that plan. We decided rather last minute that it might be better to stay in St. Lucia another few days or week to let things ‘finish’ playing out in this scenario. By noon, things changed enough for us to feel that we’d better get on our way to Antigua, not the USVI.
Antigua was going to shut down in some form, by midnight Friday. Today is Friday, and we cleared into Antigua this morning. We sailed through the night both Wednesday and Thursday to get here. We haven’t heard definitely if the island will close its borders tonight, we haven’t heard for certain whether enforced quarantines will begin to take place. All we know is what happened to us. We were cleared in this morning without quarantine.
Although the exact details of what restrictions each island is enforcing right now is often inaccurate, here are some of the real stories, both heartbreaking and inspirational. These are my friends and acquaintances, so I am not going to use their names.
One of our good friends got Dengue fever while we were all together this winter. She was probably bitten in Guadaloupe, but her symptoms became obvious once we’d all sailed to Domenica, the island with the least services. She was sick for a month, anchored in Portsmouth Harbor, Dominica. It was scary to watch her go through this without medical attention. I don’t know if she could have been helped. She did not feel normal again for 6 weeks. By that time, the covid 19 virus was spreading down here, and she was in a compromised state due to being so sick already. She and her husband made plans to get to Grenada as soon as possible, hopefully before those borders closed. They have yearly storage for their boat there so they would have gone there at the end of the season anyway. They cleared in to Grenada on the last day Grenada was open with no restrictions. They moved their haul-out and storage date up so they could close things down and get a flight back to the US. The boat came out of the water on Monday, a week ago, but their Friday flight home was canceled. After a few scary days wondering what to do, almost putting their boat back in the water to sail home, they were able to get a flight to Toronto this week (possibly today). They got a second flight into the US from there. When they arrived at the airport in Grenada today, they learned their flight from Toronto to somewhere in the US had been canceled. The last I heard was that they found a flight to get back in the US. I don’t know where and I don’t know how long they will be in Toronto before getting that flight. I’m relieved they will soon be home, and I hope that they are able to stay well during all this travel. I hope I hear they are safely home (mandatory quarantine) by the end of the weekend.
This is the most heartbreaking story I’ve heard. One of the men who had done the fall rally to Antigua with Bob has gotten into quite a desperate situation. At some point after the rally, the man’s wife flew home, and he has been single-handing their boat for the winter. His last port was St. Martin, where he began to feel quite ill. As of a few days ago, he realized he had become to ill to take care of himself. Either he contacted authorities on shore, or nearby boaters made the contact for him. The authorities came to get him off his boat in Simpson Bay, St. Martin. After checking his symptoms he was found to be quite sick with Covid 19, so he was air lifted to a hospital in Guadeloupe. Why Guadeloupe? Most likely because St. Martin could only send him somewhere French. His wife was on her way to meet him in Guadeloupe, but once there, the doctors found that his condition was critical, and he has now been air lifted to Florida, followed by his wife, who now also has the virus. He is in a Miami hospital, in ICU. This is a story so sad, it’s hard to get my head around it. How tragic that both of them were so far apart, and he was so far from home. Maybe we’ll get the amazing news that both of them recovered, but deep down I fear it all played out too late.
Today at the immigration office in St. John, Antigua, we listened to the stories of others who were attempting to find shelter here. First, I want to note that the Antiguans did a terrific job of making us all as safe as I can imagine being outside of a hospital. We arrived just after Immigration and Customs had opened, so there were already a few people going through the process. The government has installed a new floating dock and ramp for people on private boats to land their dinghies. The ramp leads straight to the immigration building, and access to the rest of the city is roped off. Guards greet you at the ramp to tell you how to proceed.
As each of us arrived, we washed our hands with real water and soap, in a large basin with faucet. After that we got in line, 6 ft. apart from strangers. Captains and crew were kept together and entered the building for the medical check. Bob and I did that together. The table where we sat was sanitized between each visitor or group. The nurses who checked us wore full disposable gowns, masks and gloves. Even the pen we used to fill out the forms had been sanitized between uses. The only thing that the customs official touched that was not sanitized was our actual paperwork. Once this was finished, I was sent to a large waiting area, or I could wait outside, while Bob went into the office to clear in. The officials at both immigration and customs were behind glass walls. At one point I was asked to join Bob because he was having trouble hearing the questions through the glass partitions. The problem was that we did not have proper paperwork for exiting St. Lucia, which we knew. The customs office in St. Lucia was closed indefinitely when we left, and we were told that a copy of our marina bill which showed when we checked in and when we left should be good enough. In the long run it was. The official behind glass just wanted me to write a handwritten statement to the Controller of Customs about why we did not have the proper paperwork. About half an hour later, we were done with the process ( 2 hours in total) and were cleared into Antigua with no quarantine. I think the mandatory quarantine for boaters will start tomorrow.
During the clearing in process, the only problems I heard were from people who had been in any of the French islands during the last 2 weeks. Our last visits to both Guadeloupe and Martinique had taken place more than a month ago. What luck. I think I will always wonder about the Carnivale in Fort de France. The virus was already there then, but no one was aware. We spent days in the biggest crowds I’ve been in since my young adulthood. Still, I found myself listening intently to the others who were not so lucky. The saddest story I heard was from a family who was just sailing into St. John Harbour shortly after we did. There was a man onboard with his wife and two young children. They had spent a few weeks in St. Martin and were now bringing their boat to Antigua for it to be shipped back to Europe on a ship. The last I heard he was being denied entry. But I had the sense that the process was not yet final. He was describing his situation that the boat would get put on a ship, and he and his family would fly home. He was offering to quarantine his family on the boat until the day the boat would be shipped. Atlhough the official kept saying no, she also continued to listen to his plight and his offers to make this sitaution work. I do not know the outcome, but I hope it worked out for that family.
Also during our time in immigration process, I heard a young couple beginning their paperwork after the medical check. They were both from Italy. I have no idea if they had already been sailing in the islands for months, rather than just arriving from Italy. Perhaps they were just stating their nationality. Like us, as US citizens, we would not be allowed in directly from the US, but we were admitted since we’ve been down here for the whole winter. I hope all went well for them. I couldn’t help but wonder about their families and friends in Italy.
While making plans to sail north we had heard that not only was Guadeloupe closed but that they were policing the harbors to make sure that no vessels tried to shelter there. We’d heard that vessels on passage should not get closer than 12 to 15 miles offshore. We presumed this was hype, but in fact we experienced it last night. As we approached the southern end of Guadeloupe, heading north, we saw a French war vessel. Bob thinks it was a frigate. Slowly it began heading toward us, and night was falling. We had our AIS turned on, and I was hoping they would call us on the VHF radio if they wanted to shoo us away or ask our intentions. But there was no communication from them, and they just kept getting closer. My fear was growing. I did not want this ship to come close and blast a horn at us and threaten us over a loudspeaker. It was almost fully dark, and I knew I’d freak out to have a ship screaming at us with a bullhorn in the dark. So Bob called them. He told them we were passing through on our way to Antigua, that we had no intention of entering a harbor on Guadeloupe. Yes, they wanted us to move further offshore. They told us to cross their stern. We did, and promptly. It was a tense moment for me.
At home I am hearing stories of friends making masks for local hospitals. One of my friends said the local New Jersey hospital was giving out kits complete with everything needed to make the masks. Others in Connecticut and Rhode Island are supplying their own materials. One of my friends could not find 1/4″ elastic anywhere and had found that she could substitute cut t-shirt fabric for the elastic bands. Ingenious!
The sweetest story I’ve heard is from home. One of my friends has a granddaughter who turned seven this week. She cannot have a party. She cannot even see her local grandparents. What a sad memory this birthday would be. But her local friends made a plan to give her birthday parade! They drove by in cars, some of them decorated with birthday wishes for her, and she stood in her driveway to watch all these friends remember her special day. Even the police and the firemen made an appearance for her! I wonder if this will the best birthday of her whole childhood! What a terrific community!
Bob and I are feeling a bit lost. We’ve made it to Antigua, which suddenly looked like the place to be in order to keep our options open. But what are our options? It’s too soon to know, and things everywhere are changing too rapidly. We would like to get to the USVI. We’d be on US soil there, maybe we can get some money because we are almost out. Today they would only take Eastern Caribbean cash from us, and we are almost out of all currency. In the USVI I have an absurd dream that Bob’s crew might be able to get down there and allow me to fly home. I am trying to wean myself off this pipe dream, but I haven’t quite given up. Our 2-overnight sail to Antigua was about as calm as these waters ever get, and yet I was miserably seasick for most of the 48 hours. I’ve been sailing for a bit over 45 years. I am not going to miraculous get over this just because I have long journey ahead. Meanwhile, the harbors in the USVI are over crowded at the moment and there is mandatory quarantine. I don’t mind the quarantine; we had begun doing that in St. Lucia and will definitely do it here. Although I’m not anywhere near home, I am now on the crazy emotional ride of trying to get home. I don’t want anything to stand between me and home now.
In a short while we will have a phone call cocktail hour with a dear friend from NY who is currently living in the midwest. I think he is in a much safer place in the midwest, and I am thankful for that. We’ll have a nice chat. Almost every day we speak to both our boys and their families, and most of the time it is by video chat. Sometimes there’s a lot of dropped calls during the process. At home this would be frustrating, but here it’s the best connectivity we’ve ever had. These islands have upped their game in connectivity. This would be unbearable if we could not talk to our family. Bob’s mother is in a nursing home in Connecticut, and the staff call us now and then to update us. The facility has been closed to outsiders for almost a month, so we would not see Mom, even if we were home. They’ve made an extra effort to help her have phone calls with us. She had an ‘episode’ this week, but it had nothing to do with the virus. We hope to get to see her by sometime this summer.
So this is our diaspora. It’s not like war, and we are not starving or lacking for any necessities. We just miss home and friends and family. A LOT. I don’t know how we’ll get home, or when. We rely on foreign governments for shelter in their countries, and I hope to allow me to get a flight home. I can’t even imagine what people in less fortunate situations are feeling because I’m rather fragile just wishing I could get back to my ‘land’ life. I hope all our water friends make it to their own safe harbors. Many of our friends live onboard year round, and they need to get to safe harbors out of the hurricane zone during the next two months. At the moment the safe harbors where they need to be are closed. I want everyone to be safe and well. It’s what all of us want for our family and friends. It’s a lot to ask, and we won’t all get it. All we can do is take care of those we can. All we can do is ‘go with the flow’–something I could be better at doing. Good luck wherever you are and whatever you are going through with your loved ones.
The best made plans… We were set to leave St. Lucia today to anchor in the outer harbor, and in the pre-dawn tomorrow begin our journey to the US Virgin Islands, where we would shelter until there was a plan for sailing back to somewhere on the East Coast of the US. Things are changing faster than I can keep up with, especially emotionally.
This morning Bob found the customs and immigration office closed. He came across a customs officer while walking and asked what we should do to check out of St. Lucia; the officer said, ‘just leave.’ Wow. Not getting officially cleared out of a country can make checking into the next country problematic, even impossible. We had considered stopping in Antigua on our way to the USVI, but that is the very place that would not look kindly on us leaving St. Lucia without checking out. These are unprecedented times, and maybe rules will be bent. It’s a long way to sail without knowing if we’d be allowed to shelter in Antigua.
Two other factors have come to light: the Bahamas is now closed, so our “Plan A” of sailing through those islands, which would afford me a chance to stop at night, is now off the the plate. Worse news is that the USVI may close tomorrow. We’ll have to wait and see. Perhaps it was a godsend that we could not check out of St. Lucia this morning. So…. we wait and see. Our weather router wasn’t too enthusiastic about the weather for the next four of five days either. The first two days would be would be fine, but after that we would have what he calls good weather for ‘salty’ sailors. He knows me well enough to know that I would be miserable. Bob called him with me in mind. So perhaps this is all working out in a way that will give me a better trip and better timing for getting back to the US. Who knows? If only we could tell the future. I feel displaced.
The marina where we are docked is closed. When we inquired about paying our bill and leaving, one of the few dock masters on duty said that they would have to send us a bill when the marina reopens–no clue when that will be. So far we still have electricity and fresh water. That is a big blessing. We cannot make our own fresh water in this harbor because the harbor water is too dirty. We could likely make our own electricity as our dock space gets full sun most of the day to fuel our solar panels.
Over the past few days I have turned my attention back to a small tapestry I intended to weave during this winter away. I got a good start in January, and then let too many ‘conditions’ drain my excitement through all of February and most of March. I don’t like the yarns I brought. Why didn’t I bring cottons? When I weave I enjoy it, but most days I talk myself out of weaving because I don’t like my constrictions. Why didn’t I bring more choices of grey? Well, because I didn’t know I’d want to weave the pillars in Nelson’s Dockyard, that’s why! I am so weary of the little voice in my head.
Here’s the sketch I made back in early January. The Pillars are a significant landmark in English Harbor. They were part of a sail loft during Lord Nelson’s command of Antigua. The two rows of pillars, about a dozen in total, supported a wooden sail loft that has not survived the centuries. While in English Harbour, a ship’s sails could be lowered into a smaller boat, such as a gig. The gig would be rowed into the channel between the two rows of pillars, and a derrick would lift the sails up into the sail loft through a large hole in the floor.
As of a couple of days ago, I am weaving again. Once I finish the little image of the pillars, I have entirely new ideas for the rest of this woven diary. It’s been a memorable winter, so now there are more ideas than I ever imagined.
Every year as my departure date for home approaches I begin planning my spring and summer activities, mostly centered around weaving. This year I signed up for a long weekend workshop in Vermont with Rebecca Mezoff. The workshop was to be on designing for tapestry. Did you catch that verb tense?–was. Yes, it’s been canceled. The tapestry class I teach at a craft school in Connecticut has been canceled. As you well know, everything is canceled indefinitely. On the bright side, I learned that Rebecca offers that design class online. I’ve thought about the pros and cons for me. The pros are all obvious, having to do with learning. The cons are these: I’d need access to the internet. I would not have that at any point when we are making passages, but I might have it in certain harbors. I have no extra loom here to do any weaving exercises that might be required. I don’t have a lot of design tools with me, such as a color wheel, colored pencils or pens, tracing paper; all these are at home. I only have one pencil and a small sketchbook. Still, this morning I felt certain there would plenty of good ideas in this course, and I felt the contact with with other weavers just might save my sanity. I signed up this morning and have done the introduction and the first module of the lessons. The community of weavers is just what I needed. I feel slightly less displaced.
Now I’m ready to get back to my own little Caribbean diary piece-in-progress. I did some UNweaving yesterday, tried something new, didn’t like it. I’m not showing the trouble I’m having with those pillars! Too embarrassing! I am also going to re-work the dark green area as well as the columns. About the only thing I’m happy with at this point, is my maker’s mark! That’s rather sad, but now I have some enthusiasm, and that is more than half the battle going in my favor. Today I will unweave the bit I reworked yesterday, along with that deplorable green shrub. (I’m cringing a bit that I’ve even let you see it, so please don’t judge! It’s got to get better on the next attempt!) Hopefully, after the unweaving I’ll make forward progress. The best forward progress I can make is in attitude. I may be displaced temporarily from home, but I have found a weaving family online.
INTERLACEMENTS: Artistic Expressions in Weaving. Juried Biennial Exhibit of the Handweavers' Guild of CT. River Street Gallery, 72 Blatchley Ave., New Haven, CT.
March 30 - May 5, 2019. Awards: 1st Place Wall Hangings, HGA Award for Outstanding Fiber Art.
CROSS SECTIONS: Works in Fiber by the members of North Adams Fiber Artists. Sept. 7 - Oct. 8, 2018.
Opening reception, Friday, Sept. 7, 5pm - 8pm. Gallery hours: Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays, 12pm - 5pm.
A CELEBRATION OF FIBER ARTS: Arts Center East, Vernon, Ct, October 11th -- November 7th. Opening reception Oct. 11th from 2-4pm. Gallery is open Thurs--Sunday from 1-5pm. "Sunset on Wilson Cove" and "Hudson River Idyll" are both there for this exhibition.
AWARDS FROM NEW ENGLAND WEAVERS' SEMINAR: for "Sunset on Wilson Cove": 1st Place Tapestry and Transparency, Judges' Choice, People's Choice, Textile Arts Center "Best in Tapestry," Rebecca Dea Award for First Time Entrant. NEWS 2015.
NEW ENGLAND WEAVERS' SEMINAR: gallery exhibition, Smith College, Northampton, MA. July 9 - 12, 2015.
"THE WEDNESDAY GROUP" at Garnerville Arts Center, Garnerville, NY. May 30 - June 4,2015.
"CONTEMPORARY HANDWOVEN TREASURES," 2015 Biennial Exhibiton of Conneticut Guild of Handweavers, Lyman Allen Museum of Art, New London, Ct; April 4 - 26.
"POSTCARDS FROM HOME," Invitational Gallery Exhibition of small tapestries by artists in Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Australia, and New England. Northlight Gallery, Stromness, Orkney Island, Scotland. March 25 - April 25.
August 2015, Torshavn School, Faroe Island, Scotland.
"A LIVELY EXPERIMENT," Gallery Exhibition of the Handweavers Guild of America (juried), Rhode Island Convention Center, Providence, RI. July 16 - 19, 2014.
"SMALL FORMAT TAPESTRY: Untitled/Unjuried," sponsored by American Tapestry Alliance at HGA, Convergence, University of Rhode Island Feinstein Campus Gallery, Providence, RI. July 16 - 19, 2014.