Quarantined in Saint Martin

When the first cases of coronavirus appeared in the Caribbean (I believe the very first ones were registered in the Dominican Republic), we started to talk about how the pandemic might affect the sailing community.

Our biggest fear was that islands would no longer allow boats in and we wouldn’t know where to go.

It didn’t take long for such fear to become a reality.

We were in St. Barts enjoying pricy meals and drinks on the island of the super-rich-and -famous, when the first poster appeared on the customs office’s door saying that only 2 persons at a time would be allowed in to clear customs, due to the spread of the Coronavirus.

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Excursion around Colombier – St. Barts wit hour friends from Heaven 47!

We followed the new rules and queued outside waiting for our turn to get in. Armed with hand sanitizers and germs killing wipes, we dared touch the keyboard and checked out of the country: next stop Saint Martin, where we would stock up on food and prepare for the worse.

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Food shopping these days……

Saint Martin (or Sint Marteen in Dutch) is renowned for its good provisioning with a variety of supermarkets on both the French and Dutch sides. Yes…for some weird reason this small island belongs to two countries! Apparently, the relationship between the two was so friendly that the border was amicably set one day by a Dutch guy drinking gin and a French guy drinking wine. They started walking towards each other and drew a line where they met. Rumor has it the Dutch guy got drunk sooner than the French and that’s why the French side is bigger :)!!

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Gc interacting with fish…. the only form of interaction still allowed!

Twenty four hours after our arrival in Simpson Bay, on the Dutch side, we were told that the other islands around us were already in the process of closing their borders. Things had started to change rapidly.

We had to hurry up and make a decision. Where should we go and spend the next x number of months? The BVIs and Antigua seemed two good options with their beautifully clear waters and many anchorages, but what about their health care system?

After pondering the pros and cons of a list of islands, we decided the wise choice would be to stay in Saint Martin. Here the main reasons why;

  1. It’s a European island, with one side being French and the other Dutch and as Europeans, we thought we might have a bigger chance of meaning something to them :);
  2. Good internet connection! Who can face a lockdown without Netflix!?
  3. Good provisioning, actually the best in the Caribbean so far in terms of quality/price ratio; with Carrefour, Super U, and many other markets and boulangeries available;
  4. There is a big sailing community with a VHF radio broadcast happening every day Monday to Saturday at 7.30 am on channel 10 – anyone can chip in and listen to general announcements, people selling and buying things, sharing knowledge and helping each other with bits and bobs. Quite reassuring in difficult times!;
  5. We thought the health care might be decent either on one side or the other – due to the close connection with Europe;
  6. We (erroneously) thought we could find shelter inside the lagoon should the weather take a bad turn. I say erroneously because we soon found out that the bridge that grants you access to the lagoon on the French side is not working due to maintenance…!

We had just about enough time to make an informed decision and check in on the French side – which is cheaper than the Dutch side – when the lockdown started, with people allowed to leave their homes (or boats in our case) only to go food shopping or buy essential goods such as medicines, and to exercise within 1 km from their houses.

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Our friend Barry the barracuda with one of its best smiles! He likes to spend its days under our hulls 😉 Courtesy of Simon @ Heaven 47

After almost a week in Marigot bay, we decided to move to Grand Case. This is a much nicer bay with clear waters and a sandy beach dotted with bars and restaurants…all shut at the moment.

It’s also a great spot for snorkeling with friendly fish getting really close to you and many turtles feeding on seagrass.

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One of the many turtles in the bay – courtesy of Simon @ Heaven47

Life is very slow these days and we’re trying to get into a routine. From Monday to Friday we do some work on our business and then exercise on the beach.

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My pizza….. &
Eater cake
…Gc’s Easter cake (Umbrian recipe)!

Weekends are dedicated to cleaning and cooking with Gc baking Easter cakes (in preparation for next week!) and me specializing in pizza dough and perfecting my bread making skills. We’re fine and lucky to be in such a beautiful place (even if in lockdown). We have some friends around us and that definitely helps during these hard times. Stay safe out there!

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Gladan in the beautiful sunset light – thanks to Giulia from Living Daylights for the picture :)!

 

News from the Atlantic, for family and friends!

Gladan’s crew caught 3 mahi-mahi! That’s a really good start, especially considering that there is a bet between Gladan and two other sailing yachts on a) who catches the first fish and b) who gets the biggest one. I heard something about a 12-year-old bottle of rum being up for grab as the bet prize…DSC0950 The crew is in good spirits and making good progress despite the light winds. That’s all for today! 29th November 2019 Gladan has lost a few positions and it’s now 5th in its category. The crew is having a great time: they caught two enormous fishes yesterday and are probably eating more than they should! Temperatures are rising so they’re also getting rid of a few layers 😉 There is little wind at the moment, so they are considering heading a bit more South. DepartDeparture day – Gran Canaria 3rd December Latest news from the middle of the ocean! The crew caught another Mahi Mahi and they now have over 30 kgs of fish onboard!! No chance of them starving, really! Over the past 24 hours the wind has picked up (last night they had a constant wind of 21 knots with gusts of up to 25 knots) and Gladan’s speed has increased to a maximum of 7.5 knots. Gladan is behaving very well and the skipper is heading back North after briefly detouring southward to chase the wind.  1630.9 NM still separate them from St. Lucia… Go Gladan!! Goodbye for now. I’ll leave you with a picture of the skipper’s mum’s kiss on departure day 🙂
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The Kiss!
6th December Over the past week, the wind has picked up and Gladan has been making good progress with an average of 155 nautical miles sailed daily. Unfortunately today the generator broke down – luckily they can still make water. The only problem is that they’ll have to start kneading the bread dough by hand as they won’t certainly be able to use the bread maker for a while! They also have a hole in the genoa and a couple of broken battens from the mainsail. Luckily they have a spare genoa, so they can always replace it if necessary. Some of the boats (the very big ones of course!) already reached St. Lucia. Galdan is now 7th in its category, Multihull B. Go Gladan, we’re waiting for you!!!

ARC 2019 – Gran Canaria to St. Lucia

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ARC 2019 Pre-departure PARADE

We spoke about it for years.

We dreamt of it after watching countless videos every night before going to sleep.

We read blogs of other adventurers and listened eagerly to the stories of the many sailors we’ve met along the way. Starting with the anecdotes of Amaltea’s crew (we met them in Leros, Greece, where our sailing adventures started from), who sailed around the world twice passing through Cape Horn and Good Hope aboard a beautiful 21 meters ketch; and ending with the tales of an 80-year-old man, Mark, who keeps crossing the Atlantic accompanied only by his beautiful green-eyed cat, Sheela.

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Sheela relaxing onboard a sailing yacht – Marina de Portimao. She’s the black spot through the ladder’s steps 🙂 Apparently, Sheela belonged to another boat, but one day she jumped on Mark’s boat and didn’t want to leave, so she got adopted by him or, as he likes to say, he was chosen by her. We used to see them walking side by side along the pontoons of the Marina de Portimao, faithful companions of adventure :)!

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The crew ready to depart from Las Palmas

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Fishing gear ready!

Well, after so many years of planning and dreaming and sharing other people’s stories, the time has finally come: Gladan is crossing the Atlantic!

We signed up for the ARC 2019 and together with other 200 boats, Gladan has set sails from el Muelle Deportivo de Las Palmas on 24th November at midday and is currently on its way to Santa Lucia, in the Caribbeans!

Over the past year, Gladan has been getting ready for the big crossing, undergoing a complete change of the rigging as well as several checks of the safety equipment on board (liferaft, lifejackets, EPIRB…).

She also got a new folding propeller – somehow we managed to lose one between Morocco and La Graciosa…but that’s another story!- a new watermaker pump, a Jordan drogue, a second jib, a John buoy, all kinds of anti-chafe materials, sails repair pieces of equipment and bits and bolts that were compulsory in order to participate in the ARC.

It’s been a long and tiring process but now Gladan is on its way!

After 2 full days of navigation, Gladan is positioned 3rd in its category with roughly 2,490 Nautical Miles still to go.YB

The Skipper, GC, sent me a message yesterday, after the first 24 hours, to say that the crew is in high spirits and that they were making good progress.

I’ll keep you posted with updates from the Atlantic! Fair winds to all the ARC sailors!

If you want to check the boat progress live, download the YB app on https://www.worldcruising.com/arc/arc/eventfleetviewer.aspx

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ARC Dress UP party!!