To add to our list of woes… Almost exactly two years after the world shut down, Covid finally caught up with the crew of Sanitas. I’m almost embarrassed to share this, but I’ve promised to keep it real in this blog!
Our guests, Micki and Nathan, flew out of Martinique on a Saturday. They tested negative before their flights, with no problems. After they left, Capt Mike and I spent the weekend doing lots of errands: groceries, laundry, cell phone shop, chandleries, buses. We religiously wear our masks indoors as required in Martinique, and we are fully vaccinated as also required, but somehow Omicron got us.
On the positive side, it’s easy to get tested in Martinique. So as soon as I woke up with a sore throat and runny nose I sent Capt Mike to the pharmacy to buy some tests. Antigen tests cost about €3.50 here, and they are easy to find. My test came back positive right away, while Mike tested negative. It would have been easy to have the diagnosis confirmed with a PCR test, but we decided not to bother. I had cold symptoms, plus a positive antigen test, so I was going to isolate on the boat until I tested negative regardless. We have lots of food in the bilge, plenty of drinking water, and plenty of cold medicine and nuun electrolytes. So I just hunkered down and waited it out
Since Mike tested negative, he made another run to the store for tissues and fresh fruit and veg, and more antigen tests, being very careful to wear his KN95 mask just in case. Good thing he was careful, because he tested positive a few days after I did. It’s really hard to isolate successfully on a tiny boat! So the two of us hung around moaning and blowing our noses for about a week. I binged “Inventing Anna” and Mike played a video game. I notified all of the sailing friends we had socialized with before we got sick. They all tested negative – thank goodness!
I’m certainly glad that we didn’t get terribly sick, because it’s really not much fun to be sick on a sailboat. There’s so little space and no hot showers or laundry or grocery delivery apps. I’m grateful that antigen tests are cheap and plentiful here so we were able to find out quickly that we had Covid, and our friends could confirm that they were healthy. I’m grateful that vaccinations are easy to get here in Martinique – we’ll probably get a booster before we leave because our last dose from Colorado was seven months ago. And I’m grateful to our sailing friends who checked in on us via WhatsApp, and offered to bring us things if we needed anything. Let’s hope we got that over with, and we can stay healthy again from now on!
I keep telling people that sailing life is NOT glamorous, but nobody believes me. Possibly because I keep posting pictures like this….
But today was grocery day, and as I sweated my way through the day, I kept thinking “none of my American friends would believe how much effort goes into shopping in the islands” So if you’re curious, here’s a shopping-day-in the-life of SV Sanitas.
Capt. Mike and I decided to divide and conquer on errands today. But, we only have one dinghy, so the day starts with a “dinghy-pool.” We left the boat at 8:30 all packed, sun-screened, and watered up for a day ashore. After bailing out the couple inches of rain that fell overnight, it was only a ten minutes ride in little Bug to the Le Phare Bleu marina where Capt. Mike caught a ride to downtown St George’s with a friend to pick up our new watermaker (hooray!) Then I piloted the dinghy 15 minutes in the opposite direction to Clark’s Court Marina on the far side of Woburn Bay. I’m not a very experienced dinghy driver, so I don’t go at full speed, and I have to admit I overcompensate a bit on steering, so I tend to zig zag, and by now my butt is completely wet from salt water splashes. But I arrive with about 30 minutes to spare before the shopping bus is scheduled to arrive, so I order a coffee and a ham and cheese stuffed arepa from the Cruiser’s Galley restaurant for 15ec ($5.50) while I wait.
The shopping bus costs another 15ec. Patrick (aka Shademan) makes the rounds of all the marinas on Tuesdays and Fridays, picking up cruisers who don’t have land transportation and makes a loop of the most popular businesses: the bank, Ace hardware, Budget marine chandlery, IGA grocery store, and CK’s Warehouse store. I didn’t need anything other than groceries this time, but the stores are air-conditioned and the bus isn’t, so of course I stopped at each place for a few moments of cool. Grenada takes its COVID protocols seriously. Masks are required indoors, and each time I enter a shop I must take my temperature, use hand sanitizer, and sign into a log book for contact tracing. Now that I think about it, maybe it’s easier to wait in the bus. I know I said I didn’t need anything at the other stores but – peer pressure! A fellow bus rider recommended a 16ec bottle of sparkling wine at the hardware store (don’t you always buy your sparkling wine for $6.00 from a hardware store?) and I couldn’t resist.
Finally, about an hour after we left the marina, we arrive at the Spiceland Mall which has a small food court, some souvenir shops, an optician, and the only big American style grocery store on the island. I make a quick stop at the pharmacy and the pharmacist is very helpful in finding me treatments for a recent burn on my arm. She doesn’t even ask for a prescription for the silver sulfide cream, and she walks me around the small shop, gathering up natural cocoa butter and vitamin E to prevent scarring. 48ec ($17) later, and I’m good to go on burn treatments.
Finally, around 11:00, I make it to IGA grocery store which is the whole reason I left the boat today. In the States, I think of IGA as a small local grocery store, but here, it’s da bomb! It’s where the tourists and medical school students and expats and wealthy Grenadians shop for imported foods in air-conditioned comfort, and the only place on island where I can find gluten-free bread. The funny thing is, IGA sells their own store brand foods, and also sells the store brands from British grocery store chains. So I buy liquid hand soap from Tesco and gluten-free pasta from Waitrose, and spices from the Trinidadian brand, Baron. Luckily, it’s a good day for produce, but a bad day for eggs (completely empty shelf) and my heart gives an anxious little flutter, ‘cause we’re down to only three eggs back on the boat.
Surprise! I run into Capt. Mike here at the grocery store. Karen, on SV Soulshine who gave Mike a ride to town, also needed groceries, and IGA is the place to be! So I tell Shademan I no longer need a ride home (he doesn’t offer me any money back) and I load my three heavy bags into the back of Karen’s rental car. Where, we find that a previously bald tire is now also completely flat. Maybe I should have stuck with the bus? Capt. Mike is our hero, and he replaces the flat tire with an even balder spare, and off we go. Karen gives a turkey sandwich that she bought at IGA to the homeless man who always begs at the parking lot exit. I donate to the Salvation Army bell ringer.
Back at he marina, it takes us two trips to get all of our bags and our new watermaker from the car to the dinghy, and it’s a very tight fit for the Captain and I to squeeze in as well. Bug is moving a lot slower with this load. We make a pit stop at the concrete fishermen’s dock in lower Woburn bay, where I duck into a local restaurant / convenience store and buy a tray of thirty non-refrigerated eggs for 30ec ($11) The owner admonishes me for not bringing my own egg cartons, and makes me promise to bring the tray back to her tomorrow. I balance the tray of brown eggs on top of the watermaker box, and Capt. Mike and I carefully maneuver around our pile of stuff and stand up in the dinghy all the way back to Sanitas to avoid getting totally soaked as we motor upwind.
Finally back to the boat around 1:00, we hoist everything into the cockpit, then down the companionway stairs into the galley. Then the real fun begins – figuring out where to put everything we bought! I wrestle with my top-loading fridge, trying to keep the meat and dairy in the coldest part, and the bread and condiments in what our thermometer calls “the danger zone.” Too bad the warmer danger zone is the only part of the fridge that’s easy to reach. I spread out the fruit and veg that will be stored unrefrigerated to let it dry – air conditioning in the supermarket makes for a lot of condensation, and storing away wet onions or apples will cause them to go bad more quickly.
Phew! By about 2:00, I’ve put everything away, drank a huge glass of water, and I’m beat. I feel a sense of accomplishment for the day, like I’ve done something momentous, although looking back on it, I’ve done nothing but buy a week’s worth of groceries. Good thing we’ve learned to slow way down in this nomad life!
International travel is possible again, but you’ve really gotta want it
After our epic Long Trail backpacking adventure, Mike and I spent a few more weeks visiting family and attending the Annapolis Sailboat Show and then, suddenly, it was late October and time to return to Sanitas and the Caribbean. Who would’ve thought we’d still be dealing with border closures and COVID restrictions in fall of 2021? Definitely not me!
Our first challenge in returning to the islands was to figure out what to do with all of our stuff. Somehow, whatever we packed to bring home back in June bred and multiplied in the back of our Ford Escape and we suddenly owned way more junk than fit in our luggage. Visiting “The Land of Plenty” will do that to you. Also, a Costco membership card.😜 Some of it, we’d bring back with us – American toiletries and supplements are very expensive in the islands, as are gluten-free foods. Extra clothing we donated to charity. Luckily, almost all the clothing I bought as “land clothes” for our visit came from a thrift store so it was easy to part with – almost like renting warm clothing that we wouldn’t need when we returned south. Speaking of thrift stores, here’s a great nomad life hack for you…if you are returning home from your trip with a little more than you started with, consider buying an extra suitcase from Goodwill. We bought 2 huge pieces of luggage for $6.99 each and filled them as close as we could get to the 50-pound airline limit. Then we donated them on arrival in Grenada. Just don’t forget to pay for your bags in advance to avoid paying more at the airport! Even international flights don’t always include free luggage these days.
The next challenge is to comply with all the entry requirements of your destination country. That’s complicated by the fact that restrictions change quickly, based on the number of active cases in a country, and on whether the US is considered “high risk” at the time. When we traveled from New York to Grenada at the end of October, the rules were:
Only fully-vaccinated visitors are allowed to enter. We brought hard copy and digital copies of our vaccination cards
Apply for a Travel Authorization form one week before your flight
Have a negative PCR test result, taken within 72 hours of travel
Pre-pay for a 2nd COVID PCR test to be administered at the airport upon arrival in Grenada
Book two nights in an approved quarantine hotel in Grenada where you’ll stay until your arrival test results are available
Print everything to show the airline prior to checking in, or use an app such as New York’s Excelsior Pass
Our flight from JFK left before 7:00am on a Monday morning, so our covid tests were complicated by the weekend. We tried to take advantage of free testing at a Rite-Aid on Friday morning. But when we didn’t receive results by Saturday afternoon I panicked and paid $160 per person to get a test that guaranteed results by Sunday at 5:00 pm. It was a good decision. Capt Mike didn’t get his free test results until we arrived to the airport – I would have been totally freaking out if the results of our paid tests hadn’t been available!
After that, everything went smoothly. A 3am alarm got us to JFK in plenty of time for Mike to drop off me and my massive pile of luggage while he parked. I have nothing but positive feedback for JetBlue. Just a week after the Southwest flight cancelation fiasco, and a week before the American Airlines meltdown, every JetBlue employee we interacted with was professional and helpful. Our flight was about half full and on time, and it felt wonderful to take our first breaths of warm, humid island air when we deplaned at Maurice Bishop international airport. We arrived on a local holiday, but the clear-in process was still smooth and efficient. After our third nose swab in four days, we collected our bags and hopped into a taxi for the short trip to Sunflower Apartments.
I’d planned ahead and ordered delivery of grocery basics (eggs, fruit, pasta, potato chips, and booze) for our 48-hour quarantine. It was brilliant! The delivery van from IGA arrived at the apartment at the same time as our taxi. After Lauren in security took our temperature and showed us around, we settled in for quarantine, aka well-deserved rest and recovery period. With air conditioning and lots of Netflix movies, we barely minded, and we were officially cleared around 4:00 pm on Tuesday. Just in time to go out to eat at Greek Kitchen before restaurants closed round 5:00 for COVID curfew.
Do all these Covid protocols sound strange to my fellow Americans? Well, Caribbean island nations are still taking Covid quite seriously, especially since many have limited medical facilities. But they are also balancing safety with the need to improve the economy and to restore tourism. Both Grenada and St Vincent have recently removed the quarantine requirement for fully-vaccinated visitors. Grenada now only requires a rapid antigen test on arrival, rather than the costlier PCR test. And they’ve significantly lowered the cost of the tests for departure, which are required when you return home to the States. While Covid-related protests have turned violent in the French islands, Grenada feels safe and peaceful – especially as the beautiful weather means we live our lives almost entirely outdoors all winter long. I’m very glad we were able to return to Sanitas this fall, and I’m really looking forward to being able to sail more and explore more than we’ve been able to for the past two years!
Warning – for the next three weeks, this sailing blog will be pre-empted by the trail journal of my end-to-end hike of the Long Trail in Vermont.
Instead of The Grenadines, we’ll be walking 273 miles from Williamstown, MA to the border of Canada. Instead of the gin-blue waters of the Caribbean, you’ll see the emerald greens and deep earthy browns of the Green Mountains. Instead of Jenn and Capt. Mike, we will henceforth be known as Dingle and ToeJam.
Wow, time really does fly! Somehow our summer in Colorado is over already. We spent our last week squeezing in as many visits with friends as humanly possible…. Oh, and eating lots of Mexican food!
We spent our last weekend in CO with Micki and Nathan in Denver. We got to enjoy a beautiful summer evening on their Caribbean themed patio, the Rhum Shack… with very non-Caribbean oysters, champagne, and cheese.
We were especially lucky to be able to celebrate Micki’s graduation from the Lighthouse creative writing program – she’s one talented lady!
We managed to squeeze in brunch with our former ski condo besties, and with little Ester 😍
And just like that, we loaded up the Bat Mobile, with way more junk than we started with (Darn you, Costco!) and pointed the bow back east. Three loooooooong days on the straight, fast highways through Colorado, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, New York, and (finally) Vermont. We made it! This beautiful green slice of paradise will be home for the next month or so as we hike the Long Trail from Massachusetts to the Canadian border. Wish us luck!
Don’t worry though, Capt Mike’s still got a little pirate in him. He managed to find a painkiller in Burlington, VT🏴☠️