A Few Days in the Big City

After 35 days on anchor at remote Bird Island, it was time to venture briefly back to civilization. My “toxic waste” laundry pile had gotten huge, even though we’d done some hand washing. We had a long shopping list for groceries and medication. And we needed to equalize our house battery banks. So we raised a super dirty anchor (we’ve never anchored in a single spot for so long!) and sailed downwind to the Jolly Harbour Marina.

Downwind sailing is delightful!

Antigua is still under a limited state of emergency, but curfew rules have recently relaxed a bit. We’re now allowed to leave the home between 6am and 6pm for essential errands. Masks are required in public and gatherings are banned. When we planned to move Sanitas, we were required to call the Antigua Coast Guard to request permission to change anchorages. They asked for our boat name, the captain’s name, the reason we were moving, and then granted us permission. They told us to call back in the morning when we were ready to leave, and also to call when we arrived at our destination. The Coast Guard is really on top of things!

Antigua Coast Guard is on it!

It was quite a shock to return to civilization after so long. Sailors are lucky that marinas here in Antigua are considered essential services, so boaters have been able to access fuel and water and arrange for boat repairs. Jolly Harbour Marina has been super supportive of sailors, and has been extremely professional through these extraordinary times. But it’s quite clear which services are considered essential and which aren’t. The grass and landscaping at the marina and around town are very overgrown. Garbage bins are overflowing. The pool has a permanent sign “Closed for cleaning.” All the outdoor restaurants still have tables and chairs sitting outside and chalkboards still advertise specials, but only two are open at all, offering take-out within curfew hours. Everyone wears masks. Everyone! Some are made from the coolest patterns and prints ever. It’s also clear that Antiguans are feeling the crunch financially. Every time I left the dock, someone asked me if I had any cleaning projects or repair projects on the boat that I need help with.

But not everything is grim! The beaches reopened for exercise on the day we arrived. But no sunbathing, picnicking, or “liming” is allowed. In fact, the beaches are still eerily empty.

Beaches are open, but empty

And a small number of restaurants are open for takeout or delivery. OMG! I was absolutely thrilled to eat a meal filled with new and different flavors that I did not have to cook myself. We went a little bit crazy, ordering Bouillabaisse from La Brasserie, and smoked chicken and Serbian specialties from Fort Medieval. It was almost worth the 4-hour sail to Jolly for this wonderful treat! The cruiser community here has kept each other supported and entertained through lockdown by hosting morning and evening VHF radio nets. The evening net is a virtual happy hour. It starts with each boat sharing what they accomplished today, and what adult beverage they’re drinking now. Then each night a different boat hosts a trivia contest. It’s the highlight of the day!

Bouillabaisse from La Brasserie
Fort Medieval Serbian specialties

The highlight of our marina stay was a quarantine haircut adventure! My last haircut was in a local barber shop in Deshaies, Guadeloupe. With my super-short hairstyle, three months without a trim is insane! Forget how shaggy I looked, and how glorious my Elvis pompadour was growing….long-ish hair is too hot on a boat and requires too much water to wash and rinse. We used the marina WiFi to watch several YouTube videos on cutting hair, dug out Capt. Mike’s clippers and an old pair of scissors, and locked ourselves into a marina bathroom. I really had to close my eyes and hold my breath for that first snip of the scissors. Ooh. I still get a shiver of nervousness just thinking about it. But he did a really good job! Especially if you don’t look too closely 🤣

While it was great to take care of business, we felt a sense of relief when we untied the lines and eased slowly away from the marina dock. Our Gilligans’ Island paradise feels safer, cleaner, and less restrictive than life in the city during a state of emergency. And, of course, we have friends to return to! We shopped for 4 or 5 boats, and brought back treats for everyone. We’re home!

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!

I guess I live in Antigua now

After a month in beautiful Guadeloupe, with Covid-19 finally present in the Caribbean, Capt. Mike and I were feeling increasingly unwelcome in the French island and made the difficult decision to return north to Antigua. Why’d we decide to move?

  • The government asked all foreign flagged boats to leave.
  • Guadeloupe followed the French lead, and was increasingly locked down: all non-essential businesses closed, stay home at all times, if you must leave for groceries or medical care you need a form which will be checked by police, no moving boats between harbors, no walking on shore, even no swimming (!)
  • Confirmed cases increased rapidly on the island, to epidemic levels. We stayed on the boat for over a week straight with only one trip to land for groceries.
  • We were running low on propane for our cook stove. When it runs out, we can’t refill in the French islands because they only have butane. The possibility of going weeks or months without a hot meal was daunting.
  • We had no support network of fellow liveaboard sailors in Guadeloupe, and can’t speak French well enough to make new friends. When our dinghy motor conked out half way back to the boat, it really brought home how much we were on our own.

All around us, Caribbean islands were closing their borders. I belong to Facebook groups for sailors and twice a day admins shared the latest and greatest news on borders. The situation was changing so quickly that some sailors left one open port to make a passage to another open port in a different country, only to find those borders closed when they arrived. Here’s a portion of the the last edition of the closure list from March 23.


Latest updates as of 09:30 March 23

This will be my last update. If you haven’t figured out that moving around is risky, I can no longer enable reckless behaviour. When restrictions start being relaxed, I’ll be back. This is for yacht/pleasure craft clearances only. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this. This was truly a community effort.

TRINIDAD is closed.
ST LUCIA is closed.
ARUBA is closed
BONAIRE is closed.
CURAÇAO is closed.
BVI’s are closed.
MARIE-GALANTE and THE SAINTS are closed.
DOMINICAN REPUBLIC is closed.
ST MAARTEN (Dutch) is closed Monday. It appears the French side will be doing the same.
ANGUILLA has a mandatory 14 day quarantine.
BERMUDA is closed.
DOMINICA is closed.
GRENADA is closed.
MONTSERRAT has a mandatory 14 day quarantine.
MARTINIQUE is closed.
GUADELOUPE is closed.
TURKS & CAICOS will be closed as of Tuesday, March 24. PUERTO RICO is in lockdown. Ports are open.

If you are told to quarantine, don’t mess around. You asked that country to take you in and trust you, it is now up to you to do your part. Fines and jail time are possible, never mind jeopardizing the health of those around you. Good luck all.


So….Capt. Mike and I made the decision to leave as soon as possible for Antigua, while borders were still open, even though the sailing conditions were less than ideal. But – we had another problem. With all non-essential businesses closed, we couldn’t clear out of Guadeloupe, and we didn’t know if Antigua would accept us without the proper paperwork. We spent all afternoon on the phone with Antigua customs and immigration until we found someone who could answer our question. Finally, at 5:30 pm, we were told “You can come”.

So I cooked a big dinner, prepped everything for the sail, and set the alarm for 5am. We’re definitely out of practice with these early starts, but we were anchors up and outside the harbor channel by official sunrise at 6:02 am. Conditions were definitely “sporty” all day with winds over 20 knots and very high waves hitting us on the beam and knocking Sanitas sideways. As we rounded the point at the southeast corner of Guadeloupe, seas were very confused causing a “washing machine effect” and I found myself feeding the fishes a little bit of last night’s dinner. Capt. Mike was amazing all day. He stayed at the helm for over 12 hours, through rain showers and crazy seas, managing the sails, adjusting course to get us to Antigua as directly and quickly as possible. Floatation device on and tethered to the boat, at one point a big wave crested over the cockpit, half-filling the cockpit with seawater. Good thing the cockpit scuppers (drains) weren’t clogged! On the positive side, there were absolutely no other boats out there to get in our way, and with those strong winds, Sanitas was flying! She averaged 6.1 knots over those 12 hours, which is absolutely unheard of! Conditions were never actually dangerous, and our sturdy 37 foot Pacific Seacraft handled it great, but it is just slightly possible that I am less hardy and tough than our boat. 😜


We made it as far along the Antigua coast as we could before sunset, but we couldn’t make it to the one remaining open port of entry in St John’s. So we dropped the anchor, raised the yellow Q flag, had a bowl of soup, and went right to sleep. After another early start, with a coast guard boat escorting us part-way, we sailed into the channel of St John’s, the capital of Antigua and Barbuda. It’s an industrial port, and sailboats rarely come here. We hailed the port authority on the VHF radio to let them know we were coming, dropped anchor in the middle of a bunch of other boats all flying the Q flag, lowered our dinghy into the water and headed ashore. The building at the top of the dinghy dock has been turned into a new customs and immigration office. As soon as we walked through the door, we were asked to sit down at a card table and had our temperatures taken and recorded. An officer from the Antiguan Health Ministry asked us a series of questions about our travel history and current state of health: “Which countries have you visited in the past 30 days?”, “Why did you return from Guadeloupe?”, “Have you had any crew members join and leave your vessel?”, “Have you visited any of these countries?” We filled out several sets of forms and they all got gathered into our file. The Health Minister signed off on our entry and sent us to Customs and Immigration. We were immediately asked for the missing clearance paperwork from Guadeloupe. Luckily, the customs officer allowed Capt. Mike to write a letter to the government explaining the reason for the missing papers. After standing in a few more lines, and paying a few fees, we were in! We have a 90-day immigration visa, a 30-day cruising permit (renewable) and no restrictions on moving between anchorages.


We did a quick walk into town to pick up some veggies, a phone charger cord, and takeout for lunch. It was strange to see so many people out on the streets after the complete lockdown of Guadeloupe. We went back to Sanitas, replaced the yellow Q flag with the courtesy flag for Antigua, and sailed south to Deep Bay which is quiet and calm to rest up and recover.

So what will we do next? I don’t exactly know. It’s just been announced that the Antigua international airport will close at midnight tomorrow. The prime minister is talking about implementing a nightly curfew this weekend to keep people at home. There have been three confirmed cases of Covid-19 here in Antigua – which is pretty low compared to other countries and islands. Basically, Mike and I are planning to hunker down on Sanitas, eat the food we’ve got stored away, and go ashore and be around people as little as possible. Our immigration status is good until June 22. We can move from harbor to harbor as the weather conditions change to find a safe anchorage. We’ll top up with diesel, gas, and propane to ensure we are well-positioned in case businesses close or supply chains are impacted. We’ll get a little extra cash (Eastern Caribbean Dollars) from the ATM. We’ll lock the boat every time we do leave – in case our cans of tuna fish start to seem very attractive to other people. We’ll think about alternative plans for hurricane season – researching if we can haul out here for the summer instead of in Grenada, and asking if Grenada will roll over our non-refundable deposit to next year, or if we’ll lose it 😢 All in all, we feel pretty safe here and feel in control of our own safety. We even have plenty of toilet paper! Honestly, it feels safer right now than getting on a plane, squished in with lots of people, and returning to the US where we don’t have a home or any supplies. Stay tuned! We’ll keep you posted as we figure it all out!

Beautiful Barbuda – Frigate Bird Sancuary

Have you heard of the Caribbean island of Barbuda? If you have, do you only know it as “That island where every single resident was evacuated after hurricanes Irma and Maria”? If so, you might wonder if there’s anything left to visit. I’m here to tell you enthusiastically – YES! This special and beautiful island with its courageous residents is open for business and well worth a visit!

We departed St Barthelemy at 4am and arrived at Low Bay, Barbuda about 12 hours later, anchored in gorgeous turquoise water, just off an empty white sand beach. We raised the yellow quarantine flag, had dinner, and went early to bed. The next morning, we lowered our dinghy, Bug, into the water and headed to town to clear into the country. Barbuda is part of the country “Antigua and Barbuda” and it has a teeny tiny customs and immigration office in the only town on the island, Codrington Village. We sent an email 48-hours in advance, requesting permission to clear into the country here, and received permission just before we left St Barts. We had to ask several times for directions to customs as we wandered through the sleepy town with no street signs and little commercial development. When we found it, the customs agent said “Clearing IN? Really?” And then the immigration officer showed up and she said “Clearing IN? Really?” Apparently this doesn’t happen very often!

The highlight of our trip was a visit to the largest Frigate Bird colony in the Western Hemisphere, and home to approximately 5000 magnificent frigate birds.

Our guide, George Jeffreys, has lived in Barbuda his entire life, and has raised eight kids here, who now live all over the Caribbean and New York City. George told us a lot about the history and culture of Barbuda on the boat ride to the bird sanctuary. He told us that Barbudans are the biggest, strongest… and best looking people in the Caribbean. And from the folks I met on our visit – I believe him 😃 He told us what it was like to grow up on this quiet, remote island. As a teenager, he and his friends would swim across the Codrington Lagoon from town to the barrier island, walk a mile or so along the beach, and swim back – each returning with a bag full of lobsters from the adventure. Now to put this feat in perspective, it took Capt. Mike and I over half an hour to cross that lagoon one way in our dinghy, with a 5hp motor!

Frigate birds (or Man-o-Wars) can live 30 to 40 years, and grow to have a wingspan of up to 8 feet. They can fly over 20 mph. That’s four times faster than Sanitas’ average speed! They don’t seem to mind at all that a boat full of tourists drifts close by in a small boat to stare at them. The males are large and glossy black, and during mating season, they inflate a huge red neck pouch to attract the attention of the females. The yearlings are almost as big as the adults, but white and fluffy. And the chicks! Each mother lays a single egg, and nurtures her teeny fluffy white chick, with help from her mate finding fish to feed them both. George didn’t rush us, but gave us plenty of time to ooh and aah and take photos. And then we just put the cameras down and watched and enjoyed.

A little too close for comfort at Sint Maarten’s airport

Have you heard about the Princess Juliana International airport on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten? If not, please finish reading my story first 😘 and then search for it on YouTube. You’ll thank me, I promise.

The runway at this international airport starts just across a narrow road from Maho Beach. That mean you can get REALLY close to some REALLY big planes. I’m not that into airplanes. Or danger. Or loud noises. So I didn’t think a visit to the beach would be much fun at all. But it’s something you’ve absolutely got to do when you visit St Martin. And once we found a parking space, and walked down to the narrow coarse sand beach, I quickly got hooked! Here’s how it works:

Tourists hang out on the beach in bikinis, holding beer bottles, and keeping one eye on the single short runway less than 100 yards to the east, and the other on the horizon to the west. Arriving flights first appear as a small speck on the horizon. Once they’ve lined up for that oh-so-close runway, the speck grows into a plane fast! If it’s a commuter plane from nearby St Barts or tiny Saba island, it’s still impressive to see a plane roar by directly over your head and touch down RIGHT over there.

But if it’s one of the big 737s from Toronto or New York…. well then it’s just crazy! The speck turns into a little plane then into a huge plane, and next thing you know you’re looking straight up at a bright blue plane belly labeled Delta. The engine noise roars in your ears. You can clearly see the landing gear and the all the details of the bottom of the wings. Approaching planes clear the fence by only 100 feet – less if they need a last minute course correction or encounter a cross wind. A tour guide told us that the beach changes constantly due to wind and weather conditions. A few weeks ago, a rare west wind had built up a seven-foot drift of sand. Visitors who stood on the drift were almost even with the top of the barrier fence. Phew! No way! Just standing on the beach was close enough for me.

Departing planes taxi toward the beach, then slowly turn east toward the interior of the island. The assembled beachgoers wave, which I initially thought was a little bit hokey. But… the planes are so close, you can actually see the faces of the pilot and co-pilot. Pretty soon, I got caught up in it all and started waving wildly at each departing plane. And if you’re there between 2:00 and 4:00, you’ll see the big ‘uns. The fence that separates the airport from the road is painted in red and white warning stripes at the middle of the runway. Traffic in both directions stops (on one of the main roads on the island) because drivers don’t want jetwash to scour the paint off their vehicles. The jet engines ramp up. The roar gets louder. When the big plane starts rolling, the jetwash across the road and across the beach is fierce! Hats blow off heads. Towels and toys bags blow into the ocean. If you’re crazy enough to stand right against the fence, you’d get blown backwards. No way! I was satisfied just watching the chaos around me.