It sure ain’t Instacart…

So we’ve been under a 24-hour curfew to limit the spread of Covid-19 here in Antigua since April 2. And as of yesterday, it had been 10 days since I’d set foot on land and gone shopping for groceries and other supplies. Talk about self-isolation! On the plus side, Capt Mike and I are pretty confident that we’re cornavirus-free after such a long period of social distancing. But on the down side, our fresh food stores were down to a cabbage, a few carrots, and a lime. So, a few days ago, I had a brilliant idea…..In a Facebook group for cruisers in Antigua, I found an advertisement for a business that is willing to deliver fresh vegetables to various parts of the island. So I sent a What’sApp message out into the void letting Farmer George know I wanted a delivery to North Sound Marina which is located about 2.5 miles by dinghy from our remote anchorage. I let three of four friends on nearby boats know that I planned to place an order. Then…BOOM! Everything got a little bit crazy. The word spread quickly, and I was suddenly receiving veggie orders via FB messenger and What’sApp and SMS text from 13 boats, most of which I hadn’t even met in person yet, and several who don’t speak english as a first language. Some submitted orders in pounds of each type of veg, some in quantities of each kind of veg, some added “wish list” items that weren’t even on the price list! I buckled down and created a spreadsheet to track the orders and estimate the cost for each boat. I created a What’sApp discussion group to keep everybody informed. And I walked a thin line between harassing the veggie delivery rep, Petra, and trying to be polite and understanding because she said she was sooooo busy managing individual deliveries during lockdown and leading up to Easter weekend, that she was only getting a few hours of sleep each night.

Finally, I got a hold of Petra and submitted an order for approximately $900 Eastern Caribbean dollars of produce to feed thirteen families. At 2:00 am Thursday morning, I received a message from Petra: “We should be there by 11:30. Given the volume of orders, we need a tight turnaround. Add 70.00EC for delivery. And the eggs are”…..Yep. That’s where it ended. I hoped we were both talking about 11:30 on Thursday. I hoped we agreed on meeting at the marina. I had no idea the total cost of the order and how many hundreds of dollars I had to bring in cash. And the Antiguan government had just announced that 24-hour curfew was extended for another week, with absolutely everything on the island closed down on Friday through Sunday for Easter. So this Thursday morning was go time!

I sent an email to the Marina, letting them know we’d be coming in for “essential business” to buy food for our families, so they wouldn’t get us in trouble for breaking curfew. Chuck on SV Virtual Reality and Jason on SV Mimzy have the biggest, fastest dinghies in the anchorage, so the three of us donned mandatory face masks, grabbed shopping lists and cash, and headed ashore. We got there about a half hour early so we could speak to the boatyard manager and find our way through the huge yard to the front gate. And then we sat in the shade by the side of the road and waited. And waited. Now remember, I hadn’t heard from Petra since 2am. Chuck made a little side trip to talk to some local fisherman, and ended up buying us 10 pounds of mahi mahi fillets!

By noon (when we were all supposed to be back in our homes for the strictest form of curfew) I still hadn’t heard from Petra, and the number of cars and trucks passing by had slowed to almost none. Then I got a What’sApp message! Hooray! She said the eggs we’d ordered showed up really late, and she was headed back to pick the up. So we settled in and waited some more.

At 1:00 I sent another nessage, “Hi Petra, are you still coming?” and I got a terse response back – “yes”.

At 1:15, she messaged me “No tomatoes today. Someone stole my box. Sigh.” Now, we had ordered a total of 33 pounds of tomatoes, so I knew I was going to have some grouchy sailors! So I responded, “Please feel free to substitute something else. Spinach? Cucumbers?” At 1:30 Petra said “Heading to you now. 12 to 15 minutes” We had to move to a new spot in the dirt, because the sun had moved so far across the sky, the shade had moved!

An hour later, at 2:30…. “I am on the wrong side….coming.” A few minutes later….”I went to the wrong place…coming.” I walked over the the security gate for the marina and asked the security guard to call her and give directions. FINALLY, at almost 3:00, after sitting by the side of the road for four hours, Petra arrived! Hooray! Her little 4-door sedan was absolutely stuffed with cardboard boxes FILLED with fresh picked fruits and vegetables!

We had her drive as close to the dock as she could get and my big burly guys took turns hauling heavy boxes to the dinghies. It barely fit! We unloaded it all onto the stern of Mimzy, a big spacious catamaran, and set up a human assembly line to call out the orders from my spreadsheet, weigh pound after pound of vegetables, and load everything into shopping bags. Finally, I sent out the long awaited message – “The veggies are here! Come and get them!” Dinghies zipped in from all corners of the anchorage and we had the pleasure of handing heavy bags of pumpkin, carrots, cucumbers, spinach, zucchini, onions, lettuce, and thyme to quarantined sailors who were getting close to risking scurvy. 😜

I left Sanitas at 10:30 in the morning, and got back to the boat around 6:00 pm. It’s sure not as easy as going to the local Whole Foods. Or ordering quarantine groceries to be delivered from Walmart or Instacart. But all of our veggies were grown right here on Antigua – picked that morning or the day before. And we’re supporting a local business that’s trying their best to survive the closure of restaurants and resorts by figuring out how to switch to an individual delivery model. And we’ll be eating like kings and queens for the next week of curfew. After that, who knows? Maybe things will go back to normal and we’ll be able to visit grocery stores again. Or …. maybe I’ll be planning another epic trip to meet with Petra. There are about another half dozen boats in the anchorage now. I’ll bet some of them want fresh vegetables!

Tap ah you yard!

So, we’ve been under a Covid-19 lockdown here in Antigua since midnight on April 2nd. Under lockdown, essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and gas stations are only open from 8am to 12 noon. Gatherings of more than 2 people are banned. No recreational sailing is allowed, and boats aren’t allowed to move between anchorages. The coastguard patrols at least once a day, counting boats and making sure we aren’t moving around. They’ve been very polite and professional! Antigua has 15 confirmed cases of Covid-19, but they haven’t tested many people yet, because tests have to be sent to Trinidad to be processed.

The day before lockdown, Sanitas, along with several other American and Canadian cruising sailboats, moved to an isolated anchorage far from towns and civilization to wait it all out far from the drama and the busybodies in the popular harbors, lol. 🤣In the local island slang, the hashtag “Tap ah you yard” is trending. It means “Stay in your yard” and is similar to the “Stay home, Save lives” hashtags that I see on social media posts of my friends back in the states. It’s tough – with most businesses closed and all tourism shut down, many islanders aren’t getting paid and don’t have enough money to buy groceries for a family for a week. And not all islanders have comfy homes to hide out in – no air conditioning, cisterns for water, no unlimited WiFi. So even though Sanitas is starting to feel very tiny, we are grateful to have solar power, a low-capacity water desalinator, and plenty of canned goods! I’ve even managed a few impressive meals with all this extra time!

Everybody carries little countdown clocks in their brains these days. On Saturday, Capt. Mike and I celebrated 14 days since the last time we went ashore in Guadeloupe! This was a big milestone, since the number of Covid-19 cases on the French island hit epidemic proportions while we were there, and we didn’t want to inadvertently carry the virus to Antigua. So we’ve been carefully self-isolating from other cruisers and local Antiguans until we made it 14+ days without symptoms. 😀 We’re counting lockdown days now – this is Day 6 of a 7-day lockdown, but… the prime minister says to plan on several more weeks. So THAT countdown clock is a wee bit unrealible at the moment. It’s been 8 days since we last went ashore here in Antigua for groceries and to empty our trash. So we’re getting pretty close to 14 days of social isolation here as well!

There are at least 20 boats sharing this calm and peaceful anchorage with us. As we all approach 14+ days since we’ve been around any other people, we’re starting limited socializing amongst our own little isolated boat family. Our rules? Swimming and paddleboarding are totally allowed – you have to have some way to get off the boat and get a little bit of exercise, or you’ll go crazy! Plus, social distancing is built right in to those activities. If we need something from another boat, to pick up a spare part for a boat repair project, or to borrow some food, or to trade paperback books, you stay in the dinghy and hand stuff over. No one goes aboard another family’s boat. Everyone’s responsible for disinfecting the items they borrow or otherwise acquire. Even without the joys of unlimited high-speed internet, we’ve found a few ways to entertain ourselves….

At 5:30 in the evening, we have a virtual trivia game via the VHF radio. Each night has a different theme, and we run through the boat names in alphabetical order, each taking a turn to ask a question and to be the judge of the right answer. Sometimes, we all talk over each other on the radio, and sometimes we forget to key the mike, and sometimes we get laughing so hard, we need a few minutes for a time out. Right around the end of the game, we all enjoy sunset together from our separate cockpits.

Yesterday, Brian on Sava had the fantastic idea of a standup paddle board poker run. ⛵️♥️🤣 Here’s how it works: Over the course of the day at any time they’d like, each person paddles (or kayaks, or swims) to each of the seven boats in our little buddy boat group. At each boat, you can’t go aboard, of course, but you tie up alongside and get the chance to have a few minutes of conversation with someone who isn’t your spouse or your kid. What an amazing novel and fun experience! I had the chance to learn about my fellow sailors’ backgrounds, former professions, stories behind their boat names, goals for their cruising seasons, favorite recipes, and more! It was like speed dating by paddle board! Then each boat randomly chooses a card for you from a deck of cards. No need to touch it or carry it around in a soggy pocket – through the wonders of technology, we took a picture of each person with their card, and texted it to them. By sunset, every sailor had visited every boat, and the best 5-card poker hand was the winner. Ta-da! Have you realized the flaw in our grand plan yet? Because we played with seven different decks of cards, the final hands were VERY interesting. Capt. Mike had a pair of Kings of Clubs. That didn’t beat three Aces (two of which were Aces of Hearts 🤣) And the winning hand…. a flush of clubs, containing three 5’s, one 6, and one 10!

Tonight, we’re planning an acoustic guitar concert on Sava. Those of us anchored close enough will listen from our cockpits. Otherwise, we’ll dinghy or paddle board close enough to listen and will drop an anchor line. Something to look forward to in order to break up the long boat-bound days while still responsibly social distancing. Oh, and did I mention that an 8pm to 6am curfew doesn’t really bother us anyway? Cruisers are pretty much always back on the boat by sunset even in the best of times!

What are you doing to keep yourselves sane during social distancing and quarantine?