Merry Christmas from Antigua!
Christmas on the boat is always vastly different from what I’ve experienced on land. First, there are the obvious things.
1) No real tree, though I like our conch shell tree better anyway, and 2) no snow, but it’s not like we had very much of that in Florida, either. The thing you never seem to think of until it hits you in the face, however, is presents. Clearly, we don’t have the space for random things that most people receive, and we can’t buy things online because of the logistics. So, that leaves extraordinarily little in the gray space.
However, my parents don’t make things any easier. If you ask them what they want their response is always: “I don’t know, I don’t need anything. Maybe a massage?”
With their completely unhelpful answers, I spent a lot of time trying to wrack my brain for things I thought they’d like. Thankfully, a few days before Christmas, my dad made a request...Cookies. He wanted cookies.
At the time, we were at an anchorage named Falmouth Harbour with our friends from SV Galatea, Misha and Frank. Falmouth Harbour is a really nice place with huge, fancy yachts and the area has a lot of history. For instance, Nelson's Dockyard, around the bend in English Harbour, has beautiful Eighteenth century buildings that are cool to see and I learned so much about the history there and the British Royal Navy.
Ok, I veered off track. So, back to cookies. When my parents left to hangout with Misha and Frank, I used the time as an opportunity to cook the cookies. Despite him clearly making the request, I decided it would defeat the purpose of a gift if he saw me bake them.
My goal was to be finished before they returned. I wanted to clean everything so it looked like I didn’t bake anything and hide the cookies in my room until Christmas Eve (which was the next day), so it would be a surprise. He’d be super disappointed then BOOM! I’m the best daughter to ever exist.
They arrived back at the boat while my second batch was baking and I tried to shoo them away but they were ready to retire to their room. I let my mom in but forced my dad to wait on the sugar scoop until they were done cooking. To anyone looking, he probably looked like a dog who was kicked out of the house for peeing on the furniture. But he didn’t mind, he knew what I was doing. He could smell the sweets from outside.
I didn’t let him back in until the cookies were placed in plastic containers and any evidence of my baking was erased from the galley.
On Christmas Eve, after a lovely lunch at Boom Restaurant (located in front of the historical Gunpowder House), we returned to the boat and opened gifts. The cookies was the first gift Dad unwrapped. He spent the rest of the evening with them by his side. My mom, though still hard to shop for, was easier to give gifts to. I found a skirt I knew she loved from a local shop, made a few bracelets, gave her cards to open when I’m being annoying, and some cocoa balls for hot chocolate.
Christmas Day we had lunch at the Copper and Lumber restaurant in Nelson's Dockyard. This is a very old historical building that sits right next to Fort Berkeley. It was a picturesque setting with windows open, views of sailboats, old buildings and a gentle breeze cooling us at the perfect temperature. The restaurant had a special Christmas buffet lunch with a steel drum band. I felt bad for the restaurant because there were only two other small families dining at the same time as us. The restaurant was eerily empty. Covid has really hurt these businesses so we were very happy that we DID spend our Christmas there .
By New Years we were in a marina and the cookies were completely gone. My mom and I helped...especially me.
Antigua has a different time zone then New York, despite being on a similar longitude line, so we decided not to watch the ball drop. My dad went to sleep immediately after returning from dinner, but my mom and I stuck it out. We watched a movie that I have no memory of and watched the clock turn from 11:59 to 12:00.
We celebrated by watching fireworks from bays around us and enjoyed some sparkling cider.
Happy New Year!
Hello! Long time, no see. A lot has happened since the last blog post: two major holidays, book club meetings, left Grenada, came back, and then left for the final time (before next season). However, there is a reason for a delay (other than my complete lack of time management, though that is an issue). That reason is dengue fever.
I will preface this by saying that I had such plans for Halloween. It was going to be our “last” day in Grenada before we left for Carriacou, the island adjacent. Grace and I had spent weeks talking about what we were going to do and what compromises we would make since we wanted to do very different things. Me: watch scary movies since it the only time of year when they are acceptable. Otherwise, they are just terrifying and pointless. Her: participate in all the events happening at Le Phare Bleu, that included crafts, trick or treating, and a party with the sailing teenagers.
Ultimately, we decided that we would wear costumes and participate in some craft and go trick-or-treating, then return to my boat to watch scary movies with whatever candies we discovered. However, this did not happen.
A few days before Halloween, in the middle of the night, I got extremely sick. So sick that I threw up not once, but twice and had to rock my body back and forth so my stomach would not feel so bad. I remember waking up many times during the night and feeling a mix of nauseous, dizzy, and confused, which is the definition of awful. A quick check of my temperature and the over one-hundred-degree result confirmed what my parents and I suspected; I was sick.
I felt so awful that I could not even go back to my room. I just sat in the salon and waited util Grace (who had been staying the night at our boat for a week) woke up at her usual absurdly early time. We had to kick her off the boat with the hopes of avoiding her catching whatever I had.
It took until my mom became sick the next day for us to realize what it was. Dengue fever. The big bad disease that we had been warned countlessly about since we arrived in Grenada. Overall, as a family we were only sick for a week (not including the tiredness that lasted a week afterwards) but it served to erase my chances of participating in Spooky Season.
It also led us all to choke down the horrible papaya leaf drink that supposedly helps to make us feel better. If anyone who reads this gets Dengue, do not drink it. It is not worth it. Your stomach will churn for an hour and all it serves to do will exercise your gag reflex. Funnily enough, that was not the only awful tasting liquid we had to have. The other culprit is coconut water. I know, I know, it is not that bad. However, I hate coconuts and I somehow preferred the papaya drink to the coconut water I had to have to keep me hydrated.
Eventually, we all returned to perfect health and my excuse for missing the blog was gone. Once we all felt reasonably better and we said our “final” goodbyes to everyone we knew in Grenada, we left for Carriacou.
Of course, we were only there a week before almost our entire friend group joined us. SV Kraken and SV Dorothy Rose both spent time in Carriacou with us and we got to give them tours of the places we had discovered.
Eventually we returned with Kraken to Grenada and said our final, final goodbyes to Dorothy Rose before they headed north. We would only spend a little over a week with Kraken while we waited for packages because (surprise, surprise) we had to get a replacement part for our water maker. Something is always broken when you live on a boat. We spent that time decorating for Christmas (yes, before Thanksgiving), buying Christmas gifts (again, before thanksgiving), and then participating in Thanksgiving potluck at the Lightship at Le Phare Bleu.
Despite the COVID-19 restrictions, the local sailors found a way to create a Hodge podge Thanksgiving dinner where everyone brought something. We brought mashed potatoes, and everyone ignored how they were mostly cold by the time everyone ate. Despite the logistics, the meal was just as filling and hearty as any other Thanksgiving dinner would be. There was turkey, chicken, potatoes, rolls, salad, cranberry sauce, gravy, stuffing, strawberry pie, cake, and milkshakes (though I bought these at Le Phare Bleu, they were not originally a part of the meal).
However, our last day in Grenada was not pleasant. A requirement to travel throughout the Caribbean during the pandemic is to have a negative COVID-19 test. We had already gotten the blood test when we originally arrived in Grenada but now countries were requiring a different version: PCR. Do not ask me what it stands for because my only guess is: Painfully unComfortable stick that goes Right up your nose.
They must take a swab of your inner nose and that requires the testers to use essentially, an extended Q-Tip to go so high up your nose that it feels like they are penetrating your brain. Then, they do a 360 with the Q-Tip. Twist, twist. Just when you think they are done; they go in for the second nostril. Twist, twist. You leave the room with tears in your eyes and a feeling that you must sneeze. Altogether, better than a shot.
Our results arrived later that night and we got the go ahead to start our two-day passage to Antigua.
Almost a week later, on the Saturday following the discovery of Walter (the dog we found almost drowning in the water), we found that we STILL had him. Despite my pleading, we were not the ones to keep him on our boat. He was staying on Dorothy Rose with Tanner, Kim, and Topher. Instead, we got to keep my friend, Grace.
Grace stayed the night on Friday so on Saturday we woke up with a fourth person on the boat. The only real difference between her staying on our boat overnight and a normal day is that she was at our boat all day instead of half of it. Eventually, she and I were kicked out of the boat because we were doing absolutely nothing productive. We stayed in our pajamas until noon. We were happily being our inner grannies. I say that we were being our inner grannies because we did absolutely nothing but embroidering and reading. Sometimes we have to wonder if we really are teenagers. My mom says we are old souls.
After being kicked out we found ourselves jumping from boat to boat trying to find people to hang out with. We ended up at Tanner’s and snuggling with Walter was an added bonus. We all got a little bored and decided to join some kids we saw passing on the dock at the pool.
This is where we met the members of what would be our new book club: Zoe, Gulia, and Ariana. What started off as an awkward encounter between the Port Louis Posse and the newbies soon turned into all of the kids getting to know each other and hanging out. This left Grace and I with the newbies and Addie who joined us at the pool. The ice was broken after a few games and the conversation of books were brought up. Nothing opens me up like a discussion about reading!
I opted out of going to a Club Rush at my school to hang out with everyone and this is how the Book Club was created. Grace thought of the idea after I expressed my interest to join my school’s Book Club and how I would not be able to join since I missed the Rush. Everyone in the pool decided they would like to join if we put together a club. So, we did. Grace and I were nominated as co-presidents and the book club began.
We decided to meet at the pool the following Saturday at 3:00 to discuss what our first book would be. Before that I had everyone over to my boat: Zoe, Addie, Gulia, Ariana, and Grace. This wasn’t our first club meeting so we spent the time getting to know each other. We played a few games including charades and then we separated with plans for the following weekend.
Grace and I spent the rest of the day flipping between being grannies and trying to find book options for our first book club book.
Tanner’s birthday celebration spurred a big change in one of our traditions. Sunday Funday (which had previously taken place at The Aquarium) was taking place at Savvy’s. Savvy’s is a nice, beachy restaurant connected to a resort that we’d visited on Tanner’s birthday. I’d already gone to Savvy’s at this point, but the majority of parents came for the first time. They fell in love.
I can see the benefits to this beach bar instead of The Aquarium: no rocks in the water, better menu, nicer staff, finer sand…and yet for some indescribable reason, the kids and I prefer The Aquarium. It doesn’t make sense. We regularly complain about features of The Aquarium but it still holds a fond place in our heart.
However, just because we prefer a different beach doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the upside of Savvy’s. We took full advantage of the smooth bottom and enjoyed swimming without the worry of cutting our feet for the first time in a long time. I enjoyed seeing the beach during the daytime. All of my previous visits to the area had been at night and had a very different feeling.
Returning to Port Louis Marina resulted in the separation of groups. The parents got together and congregated on my boat while us kids found ourselves at SV Kraken (Grace and Camren’s boat). I didn’t get to stay long. I already knew that Grace had cats on her boat. She has an adorable white cat called Macy and another called Honeybadger. What I didn’t know and discovered the hard and very uncomfortable way, is that I’m allergic to cats. My face started…expanding and I sneezed like crazy.
Grace left her boat with me and the results were instantaneous. My face started feeling almost immediately better. We’d thought that we’d just walk onto my boat and enjoy the rest of the night in my room while the rest of the kids stayed on Kraken. What we did was even better. We discovered upon arriving at my boat that the adults were singing karaoke. Not just any karaoke, the kind of karaoke they only get to sing when they’re alone and there are no kids. Of course, they weren’t aware that you could hear their singing from hundreds of feet away. They also remained unaware that Grace and I snuck onto the deck to listen.
Out of respect for the people singing and those on the boat, I won’t recount what we heard. But I’ll say one thing: It was great.
The following days found us surrounded by dogs. The day after Sunday Funday, my mom and I volunteered at GSPCA before returning to the marina to work. I’ll admit that I wasn’t the happiest that day, I was still recovering from my allergic reaction and I didn’t want to be anywhere near the cats in the animal shelter. I almost didn’t want to go, but I did. It was worth it.
The next day we hung out with another dog. It was a crazy situation. SV Kraken found this little dog drowning under their boat. Luckily, they saved him and our friends on SV Dorothy Rose fostered him until his new owner could arrive to take him. All of the kids spoiled him to much! He was adorable. So glad he was going to a good home (well, boat because he is now a boat dog). It was a great way to the end the week.
Our time in the Airbnb only lasted a week, but it was a welcomed reprieve from our ordinary routine on the boat. It’s not that being on the boat is uncomfortable, it’s that it’s home. Being in the Airbnb felt like being on vacation. It was special.
The day after leaving the house, we returned to the GSPCA for our second day as volunteers. Our day was almost identical to the first time we came to the animal shelter: walk dogs and pet cats. The only difference is that we got to bathe a puppy before we left. We had to keep the small dog in the water for at least five minutes for his conditioner to set in. Afterward we got to hold the puppy wrapped in a towel. I kept rocking him back and forth like a baby.
It took us no time to settle back into our routine on the boat. We went back to chores, school, friends, repeat. I wasn’t too happy about having to do my chores again but even that was accepted again.
About two weeks later September began and with that came another birthday. Tanner was turning fourteen! We all got to vote on what we wanted to do for his birthday, which seems a little weird, but he was happy with any outcome. So, because of that we ended up at a bowling alley twenty minutes away from the marina.
I, for one, love bowling. That doesn’t mean I’m good. I got a gutter ball at least half the time and my other bowls were all over the place. Sometimes I’d get one, sometimes I’d get ten, but I had no idea how to continue getting the good scores and scrap the bad. Despite my poor performance I still managed to get third on our first round and second place on our second round. I may have only played against three other people but I was still very happy to not have gotten last.
We had four games playing at once, two for kids and two for parents. If you only focused on our game (I was playing against Cameron, Grace, and Tanner) then I would appear to be an average bowler. If you compare me to everyone else who was playing then I would have been almost last.
After the bowling alley we went to a beach bar called Savvy’s. We had recently discovered this place and the parents loved it. The kids however…we missed Aquarium.
After our first day at the Airbnb, when we invited almost everyone we knew in Grenada, we spent the next day by ourselves. It was fairly quiet which is something I’m not used to. There is always noise on a boat. Either there are waves or other boats but there will always be something keeping you from total silence. Well, you can never have true silence. In the house we had insects and AC to keep the volume. That’s about as silent as you can be.
We all just spent the day in our respective rooms establishing a routine for the following week. Starting that morning I would wake up a little later than I would on the boat (no chores, so I got to be free for a reprieve!). After having whatever my parents had laid out for breakfast, I would go to my room and not emerge until lunch. During that time, I would do school.
Recently we have been very social people. So, even though I wouldn’t see the other teenagers until Cameron’s birthday, I did see the adults that have been my parent’s friends in recent months…Kate, Curt, Mandy, and Joe. You’d think I’d lock myself in my room like most kids my age but, admittedly, I did for a time but I did emerge to play a few games.
There are some games that we always play when we can or actually just one in particular: Pit. Pit is my favorite game; it helps that I’m not absolutely dreadful at it. I can hold my own among almost anyone, even when they are competitive adults like the ones I was playing against that night. The goal is to earn 200 points by successfully trading commodities in “the pit” to create a set of nine (you would know what I’m talking about if you have played this game). In the end, I was the one who emerged victorious. Not to brag…well, maybe a little.
Afterwards, even though it was late and I definitely should have been heading to bed, we continued our game night with a game Kate and Curt brought called Catchphrase. Catchphrase is one of the easiest games to understand. It’s just a verbal charade. The only rule: don’t say any of the words in the statement you are given. We played this game so much and over so many rounds that I don’t know who truly won because we kept switching the teams.
Eventually everyone was kicked out and it was just our very sleepy family. Of course, even though it was midnight, I wasn’t allowed to sleep in.
Our newly minted routine continued and by noon I was free of school. This meant one thing, I would be going back to Port Louis. Having previously made cookies as a gift to Cameron on his 16th birthday, I was prepared to celebrate with my friends.
The plan was that I’d travel with my mom to the marina, I would go to find the kids (wherever they were) and she can check on the boat. She would finish her responsibilities and return to the house, whereas, I would spend the rest of the day with the Port Louis Posse. From there I would spend the night on Dorothy Rose and catch a taxi midday to go back to the house. Is it complicated logistics so I could go to a birthday party? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes.
We didn’t do much out of the ordinary. The only difference was that the parents supplied special treats and some kids brought gifts. Otherwise, it was completely ordinary. We watched a movie, swam (for all of thirty minutes before the pool closed), played some games, and listened to music. Yet, it was something I wouldn’t have missed because it was thoroughly entertaining. Or at least it was more fun than being in my room, reading to myself. Though I am perfectly content to do that, too.
Our time in the Air B&B has highlighted how different our life is to what it was on land. Living in a stable, air-conditioned house the first morning after sleeping there was completely shocking. I’ve become so used to the gentle rocking of our boat that waking up and coming into the kitchen felt completely foreign. My schedule was jumbled for the rest of that day. I’d slept so well in the bed that I’d woken up an hour late and the strangeness of that ordinary lifestyle jarred me from my schoolwork.
It would be even more different if I were back in public school, but even my school schedule was different from my usual routine. Of course, part of this was because my dad had just implemented some new rules. I had to do thirty minutes of music, get 10,000 steps on my Fitbit five days a week, and have my blog readily prepared by Sunday.
If I compared what my day looks like on the boat compared to the regular teenager, it would be so vastly different that it’s funny. Unlike most boat kids, I still wake up at a reasonable time 7:30, instead of the 10:00-12:00 I see some kids have an alarm set for. The schedule is where the similarities end. Online school has given me unique opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise. The average ninth grader would be starting Geometry, a subject I covered two years ago when I was presented with the option to go at an accelerated pace through FLVS. I’m now in Pre-Calculus, a class usually taken in 11th grade. If I continue this pace, I will be finishing high school before I’m seventeen.
School is only one of the differences in my life before and after. The most obvious is traveling. While most teenagers will only go to a hotel here and there on vacations, I’m constantly moving from place to place (or I was, before COVID-19), always discovering and learning something new. I’ve learned about the history of the Bahamas and it may not be vast there but it is more than you would expect. Without my lifestyle on the boat, I don’t think it would have been possible for me to see and do as much as I do.
One of the things I’ve noticed after living in our house is that while I may have given up some conveniences (AC, a normal-sized kitchen, not doing constant chores), my life on the boat is infinitely more interesting. I learn more skills and meet exciting people that I would’ve never known otherwise. This includes a girl named Betty that I’d been corresponding with for weeks before finally meeting up in La Phare Bleu.
I had already signed up for volunteering at the local animal shelter and hospital (GSPCA) on August 17th and we had our first day as volunteers. Being a volunteer means a lot of things but, for us, it mainly meant my mom and I would adopt high-pitched voices as we walked dogs. Unlike the Human Society in Tampa, GSPCA was very small and only had around twenty to twenty-five animals. My mom and I got to meet almost all of them.
When you arrive at the building you must wait for a woman named Paula to allow you inside. We didn’t have to sit for long because she was very prompt and immediately brought us to the back where the leashes, kennels, cages, towels, baths, etc. were. She gave us a small tour so we’d know where things were in the future before helping us leash a dog to walk.
I walked three dogs but my favorite was a teenage dog named Shiloh. Unsurprisingly, she was very shy. She’s about the size of my arm and has gray fur with a patch of black running from the back of her neck to her tail. It made her look elegant and fast.
By the time we finished walking the dogs it was almost time for our taxi to pick us up so we spent the last few minutes saying “hello” to some of the animals that couldn’t go for walks, including an almost-newborn puppy and cats (which I later learned to have an allergy to. Oops).
Instead of heading back to the marina, we moved to a house. Our boat had to have its holding tanks removed, cleaned, and replaced. Therefore, we had no desire to be there when our home started to smell like waste. We accepted the alternative of moving into a house and immediately arrived at our home for the next week. The house was white and two-stories, though it wasn’t too large. The roof wasn’t a roof. It was a garden with grass and plants growing on it. Very cool.
I don’t know how, but I somehow ended up with what would be considered the masters bedroom. Almost all of the rooms were identical. It just so happened that mine was the only one with two closets instead of one like the others.
To celebrate our “homecoming”, we invited the Port Louis Posse and their parents to hang out at the house. Besides dinner we were mostly separate. Kids were in my room and the adults on the balcony. Oh yeah, there was a balcony. The kids and I spent the night playing games on my bed until that got boring and then from there we played hide and seek. It may sound a little young, but boat kids don’t have the chance to play it so we must take any chance we have.
Eventually, after an almost exhausting amount of time running around our house the kids had to leave and we said goodbye for a couple days. I wouldn’t see the kids again until Cameron’s birthday.
In the weeks that followed there were only a few things worth mentioning:
1.GSPCA (Grenada Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals)- We spent an hour getting signed up to be volunteers for an animal shelter. We would walk the dogs, play with cats, and give animals baths. My mom and I would be the only ones participating since my dad had to work but we were still extremely excited. We volunteer every other Monday.
2.Haircut- It may not seem like an especially important subject, but about a week after being signed up for GSPCA, my mother cut off her bun. She got what has been referred to as the “politician” haircut. She now has the shortest hair on our boat.
On August 11th (yes, I’ll be skipping a few weeks), it was my mom’s birthday! She was turning…35, that’s a safe answer. I’d mentioned a few weeks earlier to my mom that for her birthday I’d go to a dance class as a present. It is important to understand that I hate dancing a lot. However, my mom loves to dance and I knew it would be something she’d enjoy so I thought it would be nice. It would be just her and me and the only person to witness my sad dancing would be the teacher. It would be fine.
It ends up that my mom liked the idea so much that she decided to do that for her birthday party. She invited almost every girl she knew and their kid to go Bele dancing, a type of dancing unique to Grenada and the Caribbean. It is a folk dance of Creole Caribbean origin. We had a teacher who instructed us, she taught us a song to sing and showed us how to use the beautiful and huge skirts we were given to wear. It ended up being fun, but it was still a little embarrassing.
There were only three girls my age at the dance with myself included. Kat was one of them and Grace, a new girl to our marina, was another. Grace had arrived the day before on her boat (SV Kraken) with her parents, brother, and two cats. They knew Tanner and had arrived with SV Dorothy Rose after Tanner and his family spent a few days on a neighboring island.
A few days later, another girl was introduced to what would later be called “The Port Louis Posse”. With the arrival of Keira, Kat’s best friend whom she’d been waiting to get out of quarantine, our numbers had grown to six: Myself, Tanner, Kat, Kiera, Grace, and her brother (Cameron).
The posse started to spend most of our time together. We started hanging out almost every night and, to my parent’s annoyance, it was usually at our boat. The main reason was because only Tanner and I had AC on our boat, so we were the ones who usually hosted.
After our tour of Grenada, we returned to our normal lives of work and school. There has been a good amount of traveling and moving parts lately, so I haven’t been able to stay on track in my schooling. So I tried to stay focused and get on pace. It was a valiant effort, but my plans were interrupted when a girl named Kat knocked on our door.
Kat is thirteen and from the boat Somni, a boat that had previously been in quarantine. Her parents and mine had met on a Facebook group for sailing families and had already been planning for us to meet. Kat was accompanied with another girl, Betty, from the boat *Aphrodite. Betty wasn’t able to stay for long, since unlike Kat’s family, she wouldn’t be staying in the marina once her parents got through customs.
Betty only had a little time to be introduced to Tanner from Dorothy Rose before rushing off to join her parents. However, she did manage to give each of us a boat card so we could stay in contact. I don’t usually follow-through with emailing or anything similar, mainly because boat cards are surprisingly easy to lose, but in this case I managed. Betty and I are started a pen pal situation that would continue for weeks to come.
Kat and I also continued to hangout, her boat had moved to a dock within the marina so she was able to come over almost every other day. Though there is a lack of things to do when your trapped in a marina, we managed to do a few things, like, playing board games, watching movies, and swimming in the disgustingly warm pool in the marina.
After almost a week since Kat’s arrival we started a new tradition: Sunday Funday. The parents of her boat, Dorothy Rose, and my own got together to plan a day at the beach that we ended up liking so much that we decided to d it twice. Then thrice. And so on until present day.
However, on that first day we found some of our favorite things to do. We mainly spent time in the water, throwing around a football and playing monkey in the middle, but another thing we did was dig holes. Sounds weird? I know. But we dug holes in the sand to bury people in. The best part about burying someone is that once their hands are under a foot of sand, they can’t do anything to stop whatever your doing/drawing on the surface. So hypothetically, if you bury Tanner then he can’t do anything to stop you if you decide to give him a seashell bra and a mermaid tail. Hypothetically, of course.
After we brushed off the sand and dried of from the water we would sit down and eat some food from the restraint, The Aquarium. They had live music playing from 3:00-5:00 so we usually tried to eat quickly since it was mind-numbingly loud. Loud, but good. A woman was singing the first time we went and she switched from genre to genre though she seemed to prefer reggae.
As our day ended, we made plans to come back the following weekend.
After finishing our dives we continued to Port Louis Marina where we were once again reunited with Tanner and his family. There are few benefits to being in a marina: air conditioning, WiFi, and most importantly...friends.
It only took a few days before I met new people. There were two girls, Nina and Zoe. They were sisters and had lived on a boat before moving to Grenada. I've met a few people who have fallen in love with Grenada and I might be one of them.
A week after meeting the sisters we went on a day-tour where we got to see the island. We were taken from place to place learning the history of Grenada.
Our tour began with fruit. Nick, our driver, started telling us about the local fruits that grow in Grenada and we got to try some. Skin-ups have an almost lime-like outside but are only the size of a quarter. You bite into them and suck the meat out from around the seed. It's a little work for so little but it's a good snack. Along with skin-ups there were also mangoes (as in the best fruit ever). They have so many mangoes in Grenada that the locals seem sick of them. Well, I'm happy to take them!
Our tour continued from the marina to a waterfall. It was small and the path that led to it ended in an overlook that you could jump into. I didn't but you could have. Instead, I walked into the pond and took a "shower" under the waterfall. It was my second favorite part of the tour.
My favorite part was what we did next. Grenada is surprising in more than a few ways. For example, they have monkeys! I had no idea. They're called Mona monkeys and they are adorable. There's a man that our driver brought us to who has befriended the monkeys. We gave him money and in exchange he called the monkeys with a special call. They climbed down from the trees and onto us. They tried stealing our bracelets, sunglasses, and necklaces and yet...I still loved them.
We continued to lunch where we ordered food at a local place, similar to a cafeteria but FAR better. We took that food to an old airport that hadn't been used in decades. It was really interesting because there were some airplanes still around, all of which were rusted and missing parts but still very cool. My dad found this very interesting.
If we hadn't been in the middle of a pandemic, then we would've had a look around a few factories for chocolate and nutmeg but they were closed. Instead, we continued driving around while learning Grenada's history. I missed out on a lot of the details because at this point I had fallen asleep in the back of the car.
I woke up as we pulled into the marina and ended our amazing day.
After escaping quarantine and being admitted into the country, one of the first things we did was…eat. We enjoyed a reunion with the boat SV Dorothy Rose who had one of my friends on board, a teenage boy, Tanner; they had also been in quarantine and were signed into the country, only minutes before us. The customs office was connected to a marina that included multiple features, including a bar and restaurant. This is where we had our first meal as freed people.
Our day continued by us leaving the bay we had been held capture in for almost 14 days. We found ourselves in Prickly Bay, a relatively crowded place. Besides the semi-desperate need to do anything besides stay on the boat, we had another reason or coming to this bay: scuba diving. Less than a week after leaving quarantine, my dad and I had lessons for a scuba course. I would be getting a certification while he had his recertified, for safety’s sake.
My dad got his certification around the time my mom was pregnant with me; however, he never had much use for the skill as my mom could never complete the course. It may be a bit of a surprise, but pregnant women usually are warned to avoid the sport. My mom also has problems clearing her ears, which is a necessity when it comes to diving. So, my dad’s certification was mostly unused until one day I decided, that would be fun.
In the days before our fist dive, my dad and I spent a little more time on the boat we would have preferred. We both had to take an online course and complete a minimum of three segments before our first dive. For an idea of how challenging this is, you should understand that he and I both were struggling to balance diving and school/work and the dive course didn’t make it easy for us. The segments were long and took at least an hour each, plus a practice quiz and knowledge review. It was an interesting few days.
When our first dive finally arrived, my dad and I left the boat around 8:25 so we would arrive almost exactly on time for our morning lesson. The pandemic made the dive shop’s business slow, so we were the only ones at our lesson. We met our teacher Eveline Verdier (you should look her up, she’s pretty cool) and learned the basics to diving.
We didn’t do much the first day, we dove in shallow water and practiced a few skills, mainly on understanding and maintaining our equipment above and below water.
The following day had the same pattern, we spent the morning diving and afternoon on the boat. After our two shallow dives we would need our Open Water dives, we only got one day between the dives, which we spent primarily studying, before we were back in the water.
After those dives were completed, we were certified and able to leave Prickly Bay. So, we packed up and sailed towards Port Louis Marina.
For the sake of including the most recent information, I will be skipping the details of our time in Antigua.
We arrived on June 24th in Grenada, our home for the next few months. Most people haven’t heard of this country, but almost all boaters have. This is the place that most cruisers will escape to during hurricane season. The island is outside of the ‘hurricane belt’ so it is a safer option for hurricane season which runs from the first of June to the end of November.
In the time before COVID-19, we would’ve arrived here around the same time, but under different circumstances. We most likely would have spent the season traveling throughout the Caribbean and slowly making our way to Grenada before hurricane season started. However, as you probably know, that did not happen. Instead we were trapped in the USVI’s until we were able to buy a ticket for Grenada. Yes, ticket.
Grenada has been strict about their lockdown rules, so when they finally opened to the boaters, they had guidelines in place. First, you had to buy a ticket that would represent when you would arrive in Grenada. This is your time slot, you have to arrive within a three-day span. Two, you must have your temperature checked when you arrive in the country. Three, you must quarantine in a predetermined bay for two weeks. Finally, you are tested for coronavirus at the end of those two weeks.
So, on June 24th we arrived midmorning and were put directly into the first day of our two-week isolation. Now, we’ve been in a semi-quarantine this entire time, avoiding large groups, only hanging out with a small group of friends, etc. But this was completely different, we were not allowed to leave the boat at all. We weren’t even allowed to swim! (Though I don’t know if I would have wanted to, that anchorage was gross).
With no hiking or swimming or snorkeling or afternoon activities, you would think that I got ahead in school…I didn’t. I did do school; I just did do enough of it to get ahead. I was REALLY behind when we started our quarantine, almost three weeks behind in every subject. By the end of quarantine, I was only a week or less behind in those subjects. It may not sound impressive but its is, that is almost five weeks of work in two weeks!
In the times where I stopped doing school and we were all sitting around, I discovered a new hobby. Henna! I’ve always loved getting the designs on my hand or arms, I’d even done a few of them, but this time I went a little crazy. I gave myself a total of maybe five hennas and each of my parents received at least one. That’s not even considering the amount of times I did a design, hated it, and immediately rubbed it off.
By the end of our quarantine we were all just a little, tiny bit sick of each other. That’s something I’m sure everyone in the world can relate to right now.
So, on our last day, we took our dinghy to the dock and were tested for COVID-19. We were one of the first to arrive and we were in and out within an hour. We had to wait to have our fingers pricked and our blood tested, then another 15 minutes for that to cure. But it was all worth it because our tests came back negative and we were officially admitted into the country.
THIS BLOG USES EXTENSIVE BOAT TERMS, IF YOU NEED HELP UNDERSTANDING YOU CAN VISIT THE TIPS, TRICKS, AND DIYS TAB TO FIND SOME DEFINITIONS FOR THESE TERMS.
In 1493 Christopher Columbus arrived in Antigua on his second voyage, and on June 11th of 2020 an equally important voyage took place. On this “historic” day SV Dragonfly made their voyage to St. John’s, Antigua. We left out at 3:00 AM, arriving in our newest exploit on the next day in the afternoon.
Our passage only took one and a half days, but the majority of the time we motor-sailed. We rarely got to turn off our engines because the wind was both light and right on the nose. This meant that our sails had to be set at what’s called close hauled, which means they were trimmed to be as tight as possible. The issue with this point of sail is that in the right (or wrong) conditions our sails would luff and it’s not a very efficient way to sail.
Tacking is when the bow of a boat goes through the wind, since we were on such a tight close haul it made it a regular occurrence for the headsail to shift between a starboard and port tack. Luffing is the term for…flapping, that’s really all it is. When the sails start to flap and lose the lift they have created, this is called luffing. Neither of these are productive so our headsail was brought in regularly.
If I had to explain an overnight passage in one word it would be: sleepy. Night watches are both a torturous and required part of boat life, they can last anywhere from 2-5 hours and lead to very tired people. We always try to have two people at the helm, one to stand watch and another to make sure the other is awake. We have a rule that if you’re tired then you must switch with someone, you are no help if you can’t stay awake.
Our night watches also make our days uninteresting, besides a dolphin sighting during one of the sunsets, we don’t do much during the day besides entertaining ourselves (reading, movies, etc.) and eating or napping. Up until this voyage I wasn’t much help -a little ashamed to admit it, but it’s true- but now I was able to be an active participant, going so far as being the helmsman for a few hours where I watched the sails and steered away from anything in the water.
My dad is the captain of the boat so whenever something I didn’t understand was happening, I would always call him and this happened a lot. I spent four hours at the helm on our second day, and he probably spent at least two of four of those hours with me. He didn’t stay up there, he would always go back down once I had my problem resolved, but it only took a few minutes before a new one arose.
Antigua didn’t look much different from the USVIs or BVIs when we first saw it peaking out from the water, it has the same mountainous terrain, but the biggest difference is in the water. I’ll admit that the north side of the island supposedly has clearer water but where we were was murky and a little green. Still beautiful! Especially when you compare it to Florida water, but I guess you could say we’ve gotten spoiled.
It wasn’t until we got onto the island did we realize how different it was, but we weren’t able to do that until the 13th. We arrived past the hours the Customs office were open, so we had to raise our “Q” flag (quarantine) and wait to venture ashore for the next day.
Antigua has been closed during this pandemic and has only just started allowing cruisers to check into the country. There was still and a 50-50 chance that we could’ve been told to quarantine for two weeks before we could visit the island, in which case we would’ve turned around and headed back to the USVIs. However, we bypassed that and only had to spend an hour signing into the country and getting our temperature checked before starting our exploration of the island.
As previously mentioned, most people are starting to leave the USVIs. Hekla and Liberty have already left, taking most of my friend group with them. Tanner from SV Dorothy Rose is still in the Virgin Islands, but his family is trying to get their fill of the area before they leave for their Grenada dates a week into June. So that has left me in a similar situation to my time before quarantine. Just me and my parents.
It was nice. In the absence of everyone I was reminded of how it was before there was a consistent number of children on the boat…quiet.
Only a week into our solitude and it ended. We visited a boat called Sephira, who were friends with Hekla, and we were hoping to talk with when we got a chance. Hekla and this boat are both Chris White designs which probably doesn’t mean much to the people who are reading this. It doesn’t really mean much to me either because I’m still not “in” with boat talk. From what I can gather, it means they are by a man named (unsurprisingly) Chris White and they are almost always extremely fast.
Sephira was an interesting boat to tour. Though they are more than twenty feet longer, they had one less bedroom in exchange for a large engine room. The salon was almost double the size of ours and they had a cockpit near the steering wheel. However, the most interesting detail of this boat wasn’t in the interior but on the exterior. Unlike basically every sailboat in existence, this boat had two masts and two sails, each on a different hull.
After our very educational tour of the boat we just enjoyed talking to new people. There were no kids but there was 20-year-old that has further my want to learn how to surf. She lives in California and was visiting her parents for the pandemic and she loves almost all the watersports I recognize and some I didn’t.
So, it became official! I’m going to learn how to surf. After we clear our quarantine in Grenada- that will last two weeks-I’ll be taking a kite surfing course. That way not only will I learn a new sport but it will also help with my balance so next year when we return to the Caribbean, I can take a surfing course and possibly not make a fool of myself.
Most of our quarantine has taken place on the boat but the towns were slowly starting to open. So, the next day we took a taxi from Magen’s Bay to Charlotte Amalie. The area was still mostly closed so ended up being a flunk, but it gave us a chance to go for a much-needed walk.
While we were in Charlotte Amalie there was a small amount of time when going to McDonalds was considered. We’ve had nothing special for months, the potential for French fries was almost too good. But it only took us a moment to realize how awful and probably unsafe that would be with COVID still something we needed to take precautions against. It still doesn’t fail to surprise me that even though everything was closed, McDonalds still had its drive-thru open.
We did get to visit the Magen’s Bay beach in the following days and over a couple weeks we sailed from place to place, me learning the negatives of not being on open water for weeks on end. I used to have good sea legs, now I’m sick almost anytime I’m not at the helm or in the cockpit. I’ve had to put on one of the bracelets we keep for guests that’s supposed to cure sea sickness. I’m not sure it worked.
I’m happy to be back on the water. It has taken almost two years, but I am finally starting to learn how to sail. I can finally become a mate! I am a squab no more!
Most people are probably in similar situations where they are wondering what to do to fill the time. I probably have more options than the average person, because instead of being quarantined within my house, I get to be on our boat and go swimming. Even with the friends that I’ve gotten to hang out with, I still have a lot of time to kill.
A game we have all started to love is called (and excuse the curse word) Smart A**. While it isn’t exactly a friendly title, it is still a very fun trivia game. There are three categories: Who Am I, Where Am I, and What Am I. There is a fourth pile called Hard A**, which is an extra shot to move forward on the board. So far, I have won against the boys but when it comes to the parents, we are all at a loss. I blame it on their age.
We usually only start to break out the board games when we have started to get bored with swimming. We’ve taken to jumping off the top of our boat into the water, some of use even diving. It’s only a ten foot jump but it still can be absolutely terrifying. I’m not able to dive off, both because I don’t know how to and because I don’t have a death wish. I can barely jump off the side of the boat without squealing like a pig, not to mention the sheer will it takes to jump off the top. I’d probably scare any witnesses if I tried to dive, because I’d start pinwheeling my arms midway down.
There are still those of us in the mooring field who are a little more protective than others. An example is the boat SV Liberty who have been in quarantine since they arrived in the USVIs in March. Personally, I have no idea how they have survived so long without anyone besides their family and mate. The dad on their boat finally decided that we were safe and allowed his fourteen-year-old daughter to come hang out with me.
Don’t get me wrong. I love hanging out with the boys from Hekla and Dorothy Rose. I even got to hang out with another boy named Cobin one night, but… sometimes you just really need to be around another girl. I’m sure my dad feels the same way about my mom and I, he can’t always be around girls. I’ve seen first hand how crazy we can drive him.
The girl’s name is Micaela and we got to go to the beach when we met. She brought a speaker and we played her playlists while we walked down the beach. She is an extrovert and she made it blatantly clear how confused she was that she’s not insane. I was right! She barely survived life on the boat with only three other people, all of which are older than her.
I really understand how it is. I find it hilarious how everyone is freaking out about being stuck with only their family ad all I can think is, “Welcome to my life!” There is a real irony that the most I’ve gotten to hang out with other kids is when we’re in quarantine. We’re all forced into the USVIs because nothing else is open for cruising families, so now we’re all bundled together and able to make friends. It’s hilarious!
As quarantine is coming closer and closer to its end, all of us are starting to scatter. We’ve moved from our place in Maho and Francis Bay and into Magen’s Bay on the side of St. Thomas. SV Liberty will be heading north for the start of Micaela’s boarding school in fall (if it’s open) and Hekla will be leaving for Florida the day before Liberty leaves. The only boat left is SV Dorothy Rose who will be going the same direction as us… Grenada!
We’ve been patiently waiting for any sign that Grenada would be opening its borders. For non-sailors, it is important to understand that storm season runs from about July to November and during that time, cruisers have to find a way out of the ‘Storm Box’, otherwise there’s no insurance. Usually. So when Grenada released that we could start filling out forms and pick dates to arrive, we were very excited. This means we won’t have to backtrack for the third time, we wont have to return to Florida.
So sometime in the days following June 24th, we will be in passage to Grenada.
This blog covers everything from the last post to current time, for lack of content.
The mooring field in Francis bay became our official quarantine site. We stayed for weeks, enjoying the company of friends who joined us. Dorothy Rose was the first, a thirteen-year-old boy named Tanner aboard who was the reason for us connecting in the first place. He and I are both introverts, but we managed to find a shared interest in chess. We’ve played many rounds over the last few weeks and I’m happy to report that I’ve never lost, only stalemated.
A second boat joined us; SV Hekla, our friends from our last season. They were originally in Antigua but with the breakout of COVID-19 they were forced to return to a U.S. territory and decided to join us in the USVIs. Three more boys were added to the little kid group that was slowly growing. There are a good number of children, but most of them are between the ages of six and ten, whereas I was on the brink of turning fourteen. For the following weeks I stuck with the boys from Hekla and Tanner.
In the long days that make up our social distancing we started a business. The boys from Hekla (primarily Duncan and Kenneth) decided to find a use for their Brownie Lung, an electric device that would allow them to breathe underwater for a long period of time. They wouldn’t have to carry tanks on their backs and a certification wouldn’t be required. And thus, began the creation of Smooth Bottoms Boat Cleaning.
It is important to note that before SBBC was created, the only boat I’ve ever cleaned was our own and that was only once, so I was the least experienced on our little crew. I tried to make up for it in whatever way I could, especially since I always had to work at the waterline and not do the more taxing work of the hulls and keels. I believe I have but I haven’t asked any of the boys, so I don’t know.
After our jobs we always returned to my boat to hang out. It became a tradition where we’d swim or play games or have dinner, which was hard since each of the boys had a special diet. Tanner from Dorothy Rose is gluten and dairy-free and the boys from Hekla are vegan in the loosest of terms, though they do refuse meat.
I haven’t been able to participate in as many jobs as the Hekla boys (who have done twenty a piece) whereas I’ve only completed five. The reason is primarily that at the time when we had the most jobs, I was trying to finish school for the year. I’d cracked down on my schedule, working from 8:00-2:00 instead of the previous arrangement of 8:00-12:00, and since most of our jobs were around noon I had to skip out. Even with the days I missed, I’ve still been able to rack together over a hundred dollars, plus a little extra from when I did a “camp” for one of the younger kids on Hekla.
The reason for my sudden shift in priorities to finish school was because my birthday was coming closer and I didn’t want to be worried about deadlines. So, on Thursday the 16th of April I completed my 8th grade and was able to have a birthday party that weekend.
It hardly counts as a birthday because I did most of the same things swam, chores, and reading. The only difference was that I got to sleep in, a sign with the word celebrate was hung in the salon, I received presents, and I got to eat some of my favorite foods...primarily candy.
Only two of the three boys from Hekla (Duncan and Tommy) were able to come since the third (Kenneth) had a sore throat and with everything in the world, it was better to be cautious. Tanner came over a little before the others and we enjoyed a game of chess before starting to play games with the others. For a few hours, our main source of entertainment was video games. Sad, I know, but after that slump we discovered a great place to jump off the boat and into the water...the roof. The rooftop was about eight or ten feet off the water and two feet from the side. It was semi-terrifying but we all managed to go at least once or twice. Duncan even managed to dive off.
Our time in the water led us to paddleboard wrestling. We let out a line and our paddleboards were tied to that line. We took turns crawling on top of the boards and facing competitors to see who would be the first to fall off. I surprised myself by not doing awful. I got second place, beaten only by Duncan, who is an avid surfer, so I had no issue losing to him (his balance was amazing).
Eventually the day led us to movies. Somehow (and I am still lost on how it happened) we ended up watching Twilight. You know, the movie about a love triangle between a clumsy girl, a werewolf, and a vampire? Yes, I convinced three boys to watch that movie. “It is so bad it’s funny,” were my exact words, and somehow, we were watching it and Tommy was making comments about watching the next.
Tanner left for his boat shortly after the movie and the two boys from Hekla were invited to sleep over. And so, the next day when I woke up to the sound of kids talking in the kitchen at 7:00 in the morning, I just silently growled before joining them. Reminder, I get up at 7:30 and since I was on my “summer vacation” from finishing school, I should’ve been allowed to sleep in. I was, but no one can account for me being a light sleeper so there is really no one to blame.
After I wished them goodbye, my mom and I went about signing me up for my next courses. It may make me a nerd, but I love school and quarantine is boring. No shops, no hikes, no beaches, no restaurants. So, I gave myself two weeks to recuperate before starting my 9th grade, my freshman year of high school. As of the time I’m writing this blog, my break is over, and I start my class tomorrow.
On March 23rd we returned to the USVIs to avoid the expiration of our visas for the BVIs. While we got to see and do a good number of things in the British Virgin Islands, we also missed a lot of the more famous things on the list. One of which would be the Baths.
The Baths are by far the most popular destination and something we were planning to see before COVID-19 broke out. The Baths are a cave-like structure with an entrance to the ocean. The Baths are, of course, like baths. The flat surface is supposed to be great for swimming, especially with so little people in the area.
However, we left the BVIs in favor of Watermelon Bay, St. John in the US Virgin Islands. Recognize that name? This is the island my mom and I visited while we were on SV Kuma Too. We were almost at the exact same mooring ball as before. This was the place with a sugar mill only a short walk away which we, of course, hiked again.
This was my dad’s first time in this area. Therefore, the first thing he wanted to do was check out the island. So, the first day was spent discovering ruins. I had to opt out in favor of school, but they were able to explore a second trail that led to another set of ruins. My mom and I knew about this before, but with only a few hours we never had the chance to see it. I still haven’t had the chance to see it.
I will be the first to admit that I am not a “hiker”. I love the views and the animals, but the actual action of walking almost a mile to and from, no thanks. So, I was not in the happiest of moods when I was tugged off the boat to walk back to the sugar mill.
This area is great, but I was desperate to move on. The Wi-Fi was spotty and the hikes were repetitive. My pleas were answered! The following day was spent at sea to a second mooring field in Francis Bay.
A couple days after arriving in this spot, we spent the day at the beach. Only now am I realizing how long it has been since we have had a beach day. We brought our cabana, towels, games, books, drinks, and food. We were set. It has been almost a month since that day, but I still recall how I spent most of it reading. Am I a nerd? Most definitely.
I even remember the book I was currently reading: The Cruel Prince. A story revolving the protagonist, Jude, who lives in faerie land. No, that is not sarcasm, that is the world name. In this world there are fae and her foster dad is the general for the king. She wants to be a knight but she is mortal. In a land of magic that is a huge drawback. She faces off against a cruel prince named Cardan who she eventually conspires with to protect the world from her father. The book is followed by two others which I finished in the days following.
At the beach, there was a lemon shark skimming the surface and followed anyone in its vicinity like a lost puppy. It. Was. Adorable. By the time I joined my parents in the water, the shark was long gone. Though if he were still in the water, I probably would not have gotten in.
After destroying my dad at our beach games (I do not know the accuracy of that statement, it has been almost a month) we returned to the boat. At this point, I had been promising to bake my dad brownies for a couple days so I finally lived up to that promise. They were gone by the next day.
Moving to this bay brought news of another thing. Kids! My mom had been in contact with parents through different cruising communities for a while and she finally found someone I could meet. Tanner, a thirteen-year-old boy, who lives on the boat SV Dorothy Rose. I would be meeting him the next day.
The priority for our trip to Tampa was to have dental work done. Boring, I know. Most of the time was spent driving to and from orthodontists and the hotel, doing school, and occasional meals. We did a few things so we could check off our wish list for things you can’t do in the Caribbean i.e. McDonalds, Twistee Treat, Busch Gardens, and Charlie’s Steakhouse. Most of these are food related, but what can I say, you crave a LOT of stuff when you can’t have it. For months I’ve craved the crispy fries you can only find at McDonalds, the smooth ice cream from Twistee Treat, and any decent steak. We returned to the boat after our trip with full bellies, to say the least.
Our trip to Tampa lasted about a week before we left again. As we flew to Tampa, coronavirus was just beginning to be a thing, but by the time we left, my mom and I were holding our breath in the airport with little exaggeration. We didn’t fly through just any airport, we had to go through the Atlanta airport, otherwise known as the biggest and busiest airport in the world. If that isn’t a hotspot for germs, then I don’t know what is.
We meticulously wiped down our seats, screens, trays, and armrests on the plane, being sure that we didn’t touch anything that wasn’t cleaned. We brought no less than ten hand sanitizers with us as we boarded our flight from Tampa to Atlanta. We left that flight with about five full sanitizers and five empty. The next flight brought us from Atlanta to St. Thomas, USVI where we used the majority of our leftover sanitizer.
As we did on our trip out of the USVIs, we stayed with Mandy and Joe before returning to our boat in the BVIs. It was March 17th when we returned to SV Kuma Too, St. Patrick’s Day and a fairly personal day to our family. On March 17th three years ago our dog, Jett, passed away after almost fourteen years with our family. She was even in the household before me. My parents loved her very much, so every year on St. Patrick’s Day we wear a green shirt with a penciled version of our dog on the front as a way of remembering the dog that we all loved. We didn’t want germs on our Jett shirts so we waited until we got to Kuma Too before changing into them.
Of course, Mandy and Joe didn’t want to bring bags with airport cuddies onto the boat so we slowly passed up the luggage as Mandy sprayed our bags with Lysol.
It was fairly dark out by the time we arrived so we spent a couple hours drinking and socializing before being sent to our previous arrangements. Previous arrangements means, yes, we did do the weird bed arrangement from before. (Read the prior post to understand). After a few more hours of reading-because there is no such thing as me going to bed without a book in hand- I went to sleep.
The following day my mom and I spent on the boat. I wanted to go back to the restaurant Gringo’s since it would be our last chance to go before all businesses started to close, but we didn’t have the time. So we ate a quick lunch before going to a ferry that would take us from the USVI to the BVIs. By the way, this was the LAST ferry ride to the BVIs. The BVIs were no longer allowing non-residents on the ferry due to the coronavirus. We just made it. We were very lucky to be on that ferry. It was the only way we could return to our boat and our family could be together again.
Quick question before the blog continues, have you ever been on a ferry? Yes or no? Because I want to know if it was just ours that sucked or if it’s a common thing. Our ferry was so loud that I’d need to shout so my mom, who was sitting right next to me, could hear me. We got water sprayed in our eyes, on our face, and in our mouths. We were so desperate to stay dry that my mom used her dry bag to shield herself from the oncoming spray. I gave up on trying to get a decent view and moved inside, which only made the noise worse. I wasted so much time outside, that the only seat left was one in the very front with no window and a few inches of leg space. The one benefit was that I got the row to myself. No one else wanted to sit without a window.
When we reached our drop-off area we had to wait in line as the workers took our temperature. Even after we got through that we could only stay for a few days in the BVIs before being sent back to the US. For us, this meant going back to the USVIs because we didn’t want to travel the hundreds of miles to Florida. Plus, at the time, there were only about thirty or so cases in the USVI.
And at last! We were reunited with my dad. A delicious homecooked meal was waiting for us back at Dragonfly.
The peace and quiet of returning home lasted all of one day before it was back to school. The bars and cafés were mostly deserted but still open for the time-being. So my dad and I took advantage of the vacancy by eating at one of the cafés then working using their free internet for any customers. Chocolate croissant and free internet, what more can a person ask for?
A few hours of work was all we did the next day before sailing to a different island where the snorkeling was some of the best we ever saw. There was a small tie-off for dinghies so none of us had to patrol and we could all enjoy the vast amount of fish. We saw parrotfish, coral, various snapper and grouper, and after I got out my parents saw the best yet: a Caribbean Reef Squid. While that’s all fun and dandy, my favorite part were some of the caves that could be found in the outcropping rock connected to the island. There wasn’t anything necessarily cool inside, but I’m still a kid and I love anything small and seemingly adventurous.
It’s day and night really. The snorkeling was amazing and colorful, and the next day we went on a hike that I have officially named “The Torture Trail”. My parents may think I’m exaggerating but I was working hard to keep my breath. An hour to a small bay that we only spent fifteen minutes at and an hour back. My water was out before we even reached the bay. Besides kneeling over and almost hyperventilating a few hundred times, it was a good hike all jokes aside. We were able to see places we’ve been from multiple points on the trail, which seriously helped my poor understanding of geography.
The most satisfying part of the entire hike was when we got back and got to plunk down at a table (at the restaurant that would close the next day) and drank a gallon of water…each. The food we got to eat as a reward for our two hours of sweating was also a good bonus, especially since it wasn’t the ordinary island food. They had nachos and fish tacos and jalapeño poppers and conch fritters. Of course we didn’t get all of that, but we did order a few of the appetizers.
As our exhaustion started to wear off we became aware of a few things. 1) That we were all starving after our hike and would need even more food once we returned to the boat and 2) There was a game of Jenga just begging to be played on the beach. So obviously my dad and I faced off and after who knows how long, I decimated him in the game. Muahahaha. That’s my evil laugh.
The next day would lead us to traveling out of the BVIs and into the USVIs to avoid the expiration on our visas.
At this point, everyone in the world has heard about COVID-19 aka coronavirus. As my mom and I were preparing for a flight to Tampa, coronavirus was just starting to build momentum. It was already spreading to the US, with the first few cases popping up.
There were no extra regulations on entering the USVIs when my mom and I traveled to St. John on SV Kuma Too.
Our plane was a couple days from leaving from St. Thomas, but that area is crowded and wouldn’t allow Mandy and Joe to clean the bottom of their boat for the upcoming charter they would have after we left. After offering to help multiple times, we were sent onto the island for exploring and to get out of their way so they could work.
On the island of St. John is a sugar mill that can be reached after about a half a mile walk from where we moored. The walk was thankfully both easy and bug-free as we trekked our way to the sugar mill.
It was interesting following the trail around the mill which was over a hundred years old. The signs near each of the deteriorated buildings explained how sugar cane was harvested, placed in the windmill and ground. It was then placed in the hands of workers and slaves to stir and boil until it was a fine sugar. But they had to make sure they didn’t take it out too soon! Otherwise the mixture would be molasses.
While the history of the building was interesting, my favorite place on the property was the garden. The park had a small garden overflowing with plants native to the islands. I’m not much of a garden person, but I am if I get to taste some of the food growing. Which I did.
Standing on the sidelines was the gardener who would offer anyone who passed some sugar cane, passionfruit, or papaya. My mom and I each had some passionfruit, but neither of us knew how to eat it and unknowingly wasted most of the sweet fruit. We got to take a papaya back to the boat as a prize for Mandy and Joe (who had it for the first time and claimed it tasted like mud), after we had a few sticks of sugar cane.
You’d think for something that creates sugar it’d be sweeter. It was sweet, but not in the “omg my head aches” kind of way you get when you have too much refined sugar. It just felt like something I could chew on for a good hour before all the flavor was drained, it wasn’t overbearing at all.
After demanding we get some when we come back from Florida, my mom and I returned to the boat.
We noticed more animals on the way back then there was on the way to the mill. We saw multiple birds (well we heard them), saw two iguanas, and spotted a couple of deer on the trail. We got within a dozen feet of the deer before they scampered into the forest again.
We reached the boat as Mandy and Joe were finishing their boat’s bottom project.
The majority of our morning was spent on the hike so after Mandy and Joe wrapped up, we headed to St. Thomas. Once we arrived we spent a few hours just hanging out on the boat. After a few hours we lowered the dinghy and headed into one of Mandy and Joe’s favorite places to get a drink. I don’t know the name of the bar/restaurant but I remember a few details. Man-sized teddy bear. Semi-dirty fish tank. And bingo. Our table was at the back corner of the bar, right next to a lightly green shaded tank and teddy bear that I made the mistake of laying on. I’m very lucky not to have lice. Or whatever else finds its home in that setting.
We ate a little. I mostly just feasted on things I hadn’t had in so long. Iced tea being at the top of my list and, of course, they didn’t have it. But they did have Caesar salad, so I happily munched on that and a shareable tater tots platter that was brought out. After the food was served and a few rounds of drinks were had, we joined bingo. Sadly, we didn’t win anything but I did have a few close calls! We returned to the boat and almost immediately returned to our bedrooms.
Now, because I’m weird and a teenager who thinks it’s strange to share a bed with her mom, I forced us into an original sleeping arrangement. The bed in their guest cabin is a queen, the same shape as any other, but because I wanted as much space as possible I had each of our feet hanging off the bed as I slept at the foot and she slept at the head. The next morning I narrowly avoided hitting my head on a low-hanging part of our bedroom (no one was meant to sleep there, only feet were supposed to be in that area). Of course, like any other time, I slept in and my mom was already in the salon conversing with Mandy and Joe when I came up.
I devoured the leftover charter food Mandy gave me and spent about an hour reading. I got to finish multiple books while I was on Kuma Too, we had awful Wi-Fi so my phone wasn’t an option and Mandy and Joe refused to let us do chores. They eventually kicked us off the boat so they could do final preparations for their charter. My mom and I spent the day roaming through St. Thomas. We wandered through an outdoor market where almost all the vendors called me “Princess” or “Sweetie”, and attempted to bully my mom into buying one of their dresses. You know, the kind you found in almost every tent in the market. After narrowly escaping the onslaught of vendors vying for our attention, we walked along the water to a restaurant called Gringo’s. Mandy and Joe suggested we eat at this Mexican restaurant because of its exceptional margaritas. Since we didn’t know where else to go, we arrived just as it was opening…at 11:00. They were gracious enough not to be irritated when we arrived while they were still setting up tables. We were the only ones in the restaurant as our waiter served us. The margarita was great…not that I drank any.
The rest of the day was spent walking from shop to shop. Nothing really stood out. St. Thomas is like almost any tourist trap destination. It was all shops, no charm. Eventually we were picked up by Mandy and Joe. We ate, drank, and mentally prepared ourselves for the next day when we’d be facing the St. Thomas airport, aka a hotspot for the now growing coronavirus.
Following a night at Pusser’s we decided to return the next morning for a beach day. Our waiter from the night before told us that to get one of their chairs we’d have to pay for a drink, but that was untrue. She failed to mention that if a cruise ship was coming into Tortola then we’d have to pay about $20 for an umbrella.
The beach was far more packed then we expected. Rows and rows of beach chairs lined the shore and it was a stroke of luck that we found a few open to use about three rows back.
When we left for the beach I was prepared with The Handmaid’s Tale (which I couldn’t get through) and a swimsuit. My parents were far more prepared with their towels, books, snacks, swimsuits, and wallets. But even they aren’t perfect.
My dad forgot his phone which gave me the perfect opportunity to return to the boat to get my kindle and towel. I heard so many good things about The Handmaid’s Tale but I found it challenging to get through, the story is interesting and I wish I could read more but (most likely due to my age) the writing style was difficult to understand.
I may have worn a swimsuit, but that by no means meant I would get in. My parents running from the water screaming, “It’s cold!” was enough to keep me away. I’ve started to regret that decision when a pant-lined tan started to appear on my thigh, at least it’s better than my dad’s red arms.
When we got onto the boat our skin had lost any brown-tint we may have gotten from the months in the sun. We’d completely forgotten everything we’d learned on how to avoid sunburns. A few days into sailing my dad had a V-neck shaped tan on his chest and small circlets on his arms. I think he was embarrassed to go shirtless because of it.
Mark opted out of going with us, so when we returned, we spent the night with him saying our goodbyes. He’d be leaving early in the morning for the airport. He was originally going to take a cab but after our first night at Pusser’s we became friends with one of the waitresses and she offered to drive him.
The same day that Mark left, our friends Mandy and Joe from the boat SV Kuma Too arrived. The Virgin Islands is the home base for their chartering business, so they spent the afternoon showing us around some of their favorite spots.
The first place they brought us to was a bar called Quito’s where we spent most of the night. While my parents were talking at the bar, I was sitting on one of the high-tops reading. We ordered a few appetizers before moving to a second restaurant called Paradise Bar and Restaurant. The night ended with a game of Jenga where my dad played for me because I didn’t want to be crushed by the falling wooden pieces.
The next morning, we woke up a little later than usual to make up for the late night we had before Jost Van Dyke. We’ve already been to this island, but this time we were on the opposite side located near a restaurant named Foxy’s Taboo, owned by the restaurant Foxy’s that I mentioned in my last post.
I personally prefer this bar over the other because it’s more secluded with a smaller area and less busybody’s running around. We spent the day working at the restaurant before eventually ganging up with Kuma Too later in the day.
Mandy and Joe directed us around the bar to one of the trails that would lead us to the bubbly pools. We took one of the longer hikes up so we could see a cliff-like view of our anchorage. Besides seeing my life flash before my eyes a few dozen times, we got to the pools safely.
We saw a few goats (that I am almost positive are magical) on our way to the pools. Each goat was in varying coats of black, brown, and white. We saw so many that at some point we started naming them. Oreo. Brownie. Coconut. Well, I did at least.
The bubbly pool is a small circular pool with a sliver of space connected to the ocean. When the tide is up enough, water will crash through that sliver and fill the pool with water. Sea foam will flow in creating the appearance of bubbles. We didn’t come at the best time and the bubbly pool was slowly dwindling, with only a few bubbles to show for.
I initially planned to get into the pool but a few seconds in the frigid water with who knows what biting at my feet, made me opt for climbing rocks instead.
The bubbly pool is famous for its bubbles, but I think the entire area is like Elephant Rocks in Missouri. There are huge boulders that are just begging someone to climb them and not just goats. So, I did. I watched from the sliver of space between boulders for the good waves that would result in a bubble-filled pool so my parents could snap a decent photo of the area.
After we left the bubbly pool, we headed back to Foxy’s Taboo to share some drinks and talk. To be perfectly honest I didn’t bring much to the conversation because I was reading on one of the restaurant’s hammock chairs. Good drink + Comfy chair + Interesting book = Addison isn’t listening.
I was hoping to eat at the restaurant but instead we dinghied back to the boat and ate leftover burgers before parting ways and going to sleep.
Our final day in this area was spent working before heading to a famous bar called
B-Line. We did get to eat there. They have about five things on the menu and all of them are amazing. I assume. We ordered three separate dishes, two of one kind, two of another, and one of the last, to split between Mandy, Joe, my mom, my dad, and me.
They were out of one of the dishes and the other wasn’t something we could split among each other so we decided on three we would all enjoy.
For the first time in a long time, I didn’t read while we were waiting for food. Instead, I crushed all of them at cornhole. Not to brag…too much. We had a competition where each person squared off against someone else and the winner would face a new person. I had a royal flush and beat everyone, securing first place for myself.
I got increasingly worse as time passed. In the first round I got about eight in the hole, but by the final round I was almost neck and neck with Mandy, neither of us even landing on the board.
We quickly finished up our game when the food came out and set about creating a revolving idea where each of us would take a bite before passing our plate the person to the right. It didn’t end up working, so we just tried to eat a fifth of everything before giving it to someone who hadn’t had any of that dish yet.
You’d think the night would end there, but no! We went back to our boat with Mandy and Joe in tow to do G&P. G&P stands for Grab and Play, something we created for when we have friends over. We get out our music box of instruments, put on some music, and grab an instrument and play to the beat.
I went to bed early, so I can’t accurately say how long the adults were playing into the night. Using experience, I assume it was around 2:00 when they stopped.
The next day we returned to Cane Garden for our final night in the BVIs.
We all spent the day doing our own activities until the afternoon when we went over to Kuma Too for drinks. My parents had the drinks, not me. We spent a couple hours chatting until the guys decided to go in for a guy’s night with the girls prepared to take a separate dinghy for a girl’s night.
I was supposed to be with them for their girl’s night, but in the end, I drove myself back to the boat to read. Sometimes you just don’t feel like being around that many people and you want to be alone, with my parents doing their own thing it was the perfect opportunity. I’m not a crazy teenager, yet, so I didn’t do anything besides sit in the salon and read.
The next morning, we followed Kuma Too to customs where my mom and I would check out of the country before joining Mandy and Joe to the USVIs, then flying to Tampa.
I last left off was with us sailing away from what I imagined to be the best island to ever exist. Unsurprisingly, that title lasted all a week before a new island was awarded the honor.
After we left Mayaguana we made our way to Turks and Caicos, where we spent a day before continuing our slow progression to Grenada. Our plan is to try and get there sometime in either June or July for hurricane season, but we want to see anything and everything we can on the way.
We spent most of our day on Turks and Caicos sucking up sun light on a beach. We later regretted our decision to check out of the country so soon, but to check back it would be too costly.
Eventually we found ourselves in White Bay – Jost Van Dyke in the BVIs (British Virgin Islands) after a few days of traveling. I was less than merry when we finally arrived. You don’t know how precious sleep is until you miss six hours of it for watch duty. I didn’t even have to go on all my shifts. No one was out there with us and we were in thousands of feet deep of water, so my dad usually let me sleep for one of my two shifts.
It was our longest passage yet, with little to see beyond the endless water in every direction. As we pulled away from Turks and Caicos, I had my first look at a whale. We couldn’t identify it, but the assumption is that it was a humpback.
We spent our first few hours in White Bay searching for a mooring ball we could use. We began our search in a mooring field with a single open ball to use. So, we connected, spent 20 minutes on it before realizing it was rockier than any time we’ve spent on passage. And that’s saying something.
So, we moved to a deeper area to anchor and planned to snatch one of the mooring balls in the next anchorage, Great Harbor, the next day.
We spent the next day on our new mooring ball and cleared into customs. School still takes priority for me, so I had a good time on that before going in to explore. There’s a famous restaurant in Great Harbor called Foxy’s that my parents ended up going to for a date night.
The one restaurant we regularly went to had decent food. All island food is similar, so there wasn’t anything particularly interesting about the burgers and wings we ate. I did, however, discover that the restaurant was the perfect place to do school the next day.
One of my teacher’s had to call me the next day while I was in the restaurant. The music was blaring, and she asked me to move and all I could think was, “How do you tell your teacher it’s too loud because you’re in a bar in the Virgin Islands?”
When I eventually sat outside on the beach to finish our call, she asked me to move AGAIN, because it was too windy. I was snickering internally because I had no where to go. I was on a beach in the Virgin Islands and I couldn’t move too far from where my computer was still sitting within the bar. I just turned my back to the wind and hoped it’d be enough.
Apparently, it was, because we got through the call with only a few minor mishaps.
We spent the rest of our week jumping from one anchorage to another until we arrived in Cane Garden, Tortola.
Tortola was supposedly named by Christopher Columbus meaning “land of the Turtle Dove”. He originally called it Santa Ana, but the name was changed once the Dutch arrived. They called it Ter Tholen after an island that forms part of the west coast of the Netherlands. The last name change was to Tortola when the British altered the name.
I think a better name would be pelican. I did see some turtles swimming around, but they were nothing compared to the (with little exaggeration) hordes of birds around the water. Our plan for this island was to avoid spending money and eating out, we did far too much of that on the last island.
That rule lasted all an hour before we found Pusser’s. Pusser’s was our favorite restaurant to frequent when we went to Annapolis boat shows during the spring and fall. Our first assumption was that this was just some bar with the same name. It wasn’t. It is owned and operated by the same people. And what really melted our resolve was that they were having a pig roast that night.
We spent hours at our table happily munching on snacks and sipping on drinks while we waited for the pig to be served. We watched as the restaurant slowly filled with more people as the pork was almost done cooking. And rightly so. The food was so good.
After a delicious dinner we prepared ourselves to return the next day for a day on the beach.
When I imagined living on the boat I thought of hopping from island to island. I didn’t realize how much went into owning and living on a boat at the time. I always imagined the island would be small, a little run down but in the process of renovating, and a small community where everyone knew everyone. So far, the truth has been different from what I imagined. I love the boat and travelling, but no island has matched my design. Until Mayaguana.
I only spent one day on the island after we spent a day in passage from Georgetown, but I fell in love. When we first pulled up to the slab of concrete that served as a dock, I didn’t think much of it. All I could see from my viewpoint was a row of palm trees painted with various colors on their trunks. Red, white, green, and blue. Under the trees were a few picnic tables that I doubt anyone used.
We dropped off our trash at a little hut designed for waste and restrooms. There was a small path (maybe a car’s width wide) that we walked on to reach the tiny town.
The town was everything I ever dreamed. We had multiple people wave hello to us as we walked past buildings. On the side of a few buildings were paintings of the most vibrant colors. On the local government building there was a flamingo painted on the wall.
We spent little time exploring because there was little to see besides a few stores, a bar, and houses. My mom felt guilty dropping our trash without using one of their services, so we found our way to a little BCT hut (maybe one of the few air-conditioned places we could go and found an older woman who would help us find a store.
Another dream came true when she walked us a block from the BCT building and yelled someone’s name. A woman answered and opened a little store-about the size of our living room- for us. With a population of only 300 people, everyone knew everyone. Mayaguana had officially become my dream turned reality.
After that day, I regretted not going back to the town. We left a few days later for a two-day passage to Turks and Cacaos.
It’s been a while since we’ve been out sailing but we are at last in the final countdown! After months in a marina and weeks on the hard my mom traveled with a delivery captain to bring the boat to Ft. Lauderdale where we had our final boat projects done. My dad was busy with work – that’s the reason for the hired crew. For the first time in months we are living on the boat!
After upgrades, fixes, and several maintenance items the boat is better than ever. After almost a of year of being broken the fan in my room has been restored to its former glory. I now have a well-ventilated room that I can stand to be in for more than a few hours while awake! Which is perfect because now I can finally paint.
My parents gave me enough materials to complete my collection. It was among my favorite gifts from this year. Some of my favorite things I received was a gift card for books on my kindle, a Fitbit (that has informed me how out of shape I am), and some earrings I’d been eyeing for some time.
I was also very proud of the gifts I gave my family. All my dad wanted was some bracelets, so I made him one and gave him a little scented bottle meant to be calming. My mom gets headaches, so I gave her a face mask that can be chilled or heated to soothe. It was a very good Christmas.
Christmas wasn’t the only holiday to pass while we were on the boat. We were invited to a kid boat for New Years where we played games, ate, and talked. I got to know the kids aboard, though I spent a good portion of the night playing with their dog.
Their dog jump started a conversation I’ve been longing to have: Can we have a dog? I don’t know if I’m going to win this argument though. They add so much work to an already work-filled lifestyle. My mom is adamantly against it because she “knows” that she’ll be the one taking care of the dog. Until I do better on other chores, I can’t expect to see a dog in my future.
I’m not great at keeping up with my chores now. After months of living in hotels it’s an adjustment to wake up early and clean the kitchen. Or the deck. Or my room.
But I have gotten to do some pretty cool projects for our dinghy. I’d previously named the small boat Ladybug when we got it but after having custom covers made for the boat, the name we applied to the side was covered. My dad and I discussed ways to show the name again. We discussed painting the name on the chaps, painting the chaps similarly, and then finally we found the answer.
After a few hours of work, I had cleaned, sanded, and painted our motor cover to look like a ladybug. I was so proud of it. My grandma was there at the time and she helped me move it from place to place. I just loved it. I had meticulously carved tape to match the design I wanted.
I got into a little trouble with the marina security when I sprayed red paint onto our motor, but they just wanted to make sure I didn’t get red paint on any cars or boats. My grandma wasn’t very happy about that. She and I went to the parking lot and used soap and water to try and remove and red paint that got on the concrete. Security just waved us off and I was able to put the cover onto the motor.
We have yet to use the dinghy in action since I painted it, but we are planning to leave this marina in a few days with one extra crew member. Captain Mark is back on the boat and ready to help. He’s already helped us with provisioning and docking. We are ready to finally make our way back to the Bahamas and beyond!