We’re mid-way through the shelter-in-place order for Grenada and are doing our best to comply with all the rules. Our best apparently isn’t good enough for our fellow cruisers as we continue to see snippets of bad feelings on Facebook posts and via the radio channels. Unfortunately, many bored people trapped on their boats resort to nit-picking others.
Perhaps they are right to complain that we have moved around to re-anchor several times – it’s possible that some COVID-19 might be wafting off our boat as we pass by their anchored boats. Or the Grenadians looking down from their expensive-looking homes could be jealous that our homes can move and theirs can’t. But it’s hard to feel too badly about these perceived transgressions because now our movements have finally paid off and we have decent internet!!!
Yes, we have moved our boat on more or less a daily basis for the past few days, mainly in an effort to pick up a better Wifi signal so we can stream movies (yes!), get sufficient internet to be able to read the unpleasant FB posts people are putting up about “that catamaran that just moved into our anchorage”, and even host a Zoom happy hour with family members (although that was in an older spot that was only so-so on connectivity).
The shelter-in-place order for Grenada requires you to stay in your place of residence, inclusive of your yard. Since we are anchored in a lovely harbor with some coral reefs around, we decided that “our yard” meant we could swim to the reefs. This seemed innocuous enough since there was no one else around that we could possibly infect. Playing devil’s advocate, we could potentially pass it on to a fish and then someone could catch that fish and eat it and be contaminated by it? Assuming that we somehow contracted the virus while isolated on the boat . . .
Of course, this apparently irritated people too because a friend boat of ours told us that there was radio chatter about people swimming too far away from their boats and they were probably talking about us. It’s unclear but there might be a rule that came out several weeks ago mentioning a 15-meter radius around boats for swimming. I looked through the regulations and didn’t see anything about it but there are a lot of regulations floating around. With our shifting around for internet, we decided to solve this problem as well. Our new anchored spot is within 15-meters (loosely measured) of the best snorkeling reef (which is pretty mediocre but better than nothing) in the area. Joe tossed out a stern anchor and we are holding nicely here, right in front of the motor boat that is apparently most incensed by our activity. Ah, neighbors. There are always one or two that are determined to dislike you.
Following rules is not my forte although I really am trying. I admire what Grenada is doing and I think it’s the right thing for the country. I get why people need to stay at home and we are, in fact, staying away from everyone. The rules do allow people to go to the grocery stores on market days. While some boats have made clear that they think you need to be down to your last spoonful of rice before you go, we do not feel we need to be that desperate before we re-provision. We also are trying to stay ahead of the panic buying and keep the boat stocked so that, in case we need to set sail for the US, we can leave at any time.
Grenada, although it has acted wisely in many ways, does not seem to have thought through the grocery shopping issues. There are several larger grocery stores on the island, all of which they have shut down, preferring to route people to the smaller parish-based stores. This is allegedly to keep people from moving about and to keep the larger stores’ employees from having to travel across parishes. All of this would be fine if they had routed more supplies to these mini-markets. Or if they left them open similar hours. Instead, they have cut the hours by two thirds and also reduced shopping days to three. So, in a time when they claim to want to minimize the gathering of people, they have reduced the availability of basic necessities and forced larger quantities of people to be in the same place at the same time.
I walked to a store today and thankfully only waited behind 6 or 7 people, all correctly spaced out. Outside, the conversation among the locals was chiefly about the UK citizen who “fled” the country with his wife and child on an Air Canada flight a few days ago. This is an unbelievably unpleasant story to think about. This man arrived on the island on March 16, shortly before Grenada started curtailing flights. Most of their 12 COVID-19 cases are related to people arriving on flights around this time. This man was identified as having been seated near one of the positive cases and I think (the details are fuzzy) they requested that he go into a 24-hour quarantine to await the test results. They tried calling him to let him know that he had tested positive but couldn’t reach him. They tried the next day as well and then learned that he had left the country on an international flight and was now back in the UK.
All of the locals speak as if he “escaped” quarantine and fled the country, deliberately infecting scores of people on his way home. My guess, based on how some of the other bureaucratic processes work in this and other countries, is that they told him they were testing him but were unclear about anything else so he decided to remain ignorant, get on his planned flight and return home. I would rather assume the best although I’m probably wrong in this situation. Regardless, it is unbelievably distressing to think that because of him, several other planeloads of people are carrying around the virus. He must have known he had a high likelihood of being infected if they told him he had been sitting near one of the other infected people. I’m less inclined to believe he was very innocent the more I think about it.
The locals want him prosecuted and I don’t blame them. Everyone I met on the street was very kind to me. I called to people as I walked by their houses and they gave me good advice about which stores might have produce, where to go to the store, etc. Most people seemed to be following the guidelines about staying at home although I did see some young men riding their bikes in the street and quite a few cars moving about.
The only other real conversation in line was from a man who looked like he was from Grenada but seemed to need to prove it to the two women in front of me. He must have spoken for 6 or 7 minutes about his bona fides, talking about his cousin that owned land in the area, his uncle who sold such and such land back in the day, the man over there who knew him when he was a toddler, the coconut field that he remembered being on the hill, etc. I don’t know if he had recently returned home, was slightly deranged, or was just feeling nervous, but he was determined to convince the women that he was “born and bred in Woburn.” I was beginning to wonder if I would have to prove anything about my origins in order to stay in the line or enter the store but thankfully that was not the case because I only have four days of history in this particular area.
Once in the tiny store, the two others with me had no choice but to be in close proximity. One man even patted me on the shoulder (old habits die hard) to politely get me to move out of his way. The store workers sprayed my hands with some sort of liquid and very helpfully answered all my questions. I left with butter, eggs, and frozen chicken drumsticks. They had plenty of toilet paper, bottles of bleach, and other things that are in short supply elsewhere in the world.
On the way home, I greeted a man hanging out by the roadside and asked if he knew where I might get fresh produce. I already had a couple of leads – a woman named Jenny has been selling produce to yachties for a while and, according to the morning cruisers’ radio net, was on the verge of getting permission to resume sales. There was also a small boutique market at a nearby marina that seemed able to get produce occasionally and some of our WARC friends were able to get to the market and could, in turn, pass things along to us. But I thought having a local supplier would be a good idea.
This man on the roadside, whom I will call George, introduced himself and told me that his cousin grew tomatoes and that he could get me papayas and lemons from the trees near his house. He showed me the boat he lived on in the harbor and the yard where his cousin lived, behind a large derelict boat. He told me he would try to source some cabbage and carrots for me and that I could come by any time. Later that day I took Marin in the dinghy. I realized as we headed to the ferry that we had no choice but to pass through the parking lot of boats to get to George’s place. I could almost hear the clicking on their keyboards as they researched my potential infractions. It’s true that I bent the rules in this case as I wasn’t technically grocery shopping but I was still securing provisions.
We tied up the dinghy and I had second thoughts as we would obviously be passing through someone’s property to get to the house George had indicated. The amount of trash and rusting junk around didn’t give me the highest degree of confidence in my potential supplier either, although I guess I knew it was more about the adventure than the produce. Two days ago, we heard shots fired on land and Joe told us all to get inside. We carefully peered out and saw two young men hurrying along the beach away from the source of the shots. We never did figure out what happened but, based on some shouting Joe had heard earlier, assumed that the property owner wanted these men to leave. So, I was quite careful to shout out George’s name before we went much further so Marin and I wouldn’t be shot.
George told us to come up to the house. He was seated on the front steps of a wooden house on stilts that looked like an aggressive tree-house project. Inside I could see a hammock strung up and rudimentary living supplies. I asked him if he thought he might be able to get us any ice or beer and he said he would check with his neighbor. He asked if I had any rum on the boat. We didn’t have any and I knew that Grenada had recently halted alcohol sales, possibly just to make sheltering in place even more miserable for people but supposedly to stop people congregating in front of stores that sold it.
Disappointed, he started whacking down green papayas from a nearby tree and told me to talk to his friend, barely visible behind him, about produce. The man looked at me quite skeptically and mumbled something about it being hard right now. I could tell he had no desire to give me any tomatoes and that was fine.
George had wandered off with a long stick to knock some lemons down from a tree in an adjacent yard space that housed lots of random bits of rusting machinery and a couple of goats tethered to various bits of brush. I sent Marin to the dinghy with the papayas to wash off the ants and gathered up the lemons to take back to the boat. George told me he would need some cash to get the beer and ice so I sent him off with 100 EC (about $30 US). He came back with four bottles of beer and a metal bowl with a giant chunk of ice frozen inside. I hesitated about the bowl, wondering how I would get the ice back to the boat but he told me to bring it back later. He said he would work on getting cabbage and carrots and I should return the next evening. He asked that I leave him some cash so he could buy them for me. I left the change from the beer, which seemed like more money than I expected to see back.
Marin and I piled up our papayas, lemons, beer, bowl of ice and some unfamiliar fruits that George told us to skin and eat and zoomed back to Charm in the dinghy, trying not to make eye contact with any boat occupants along the way. We took some papaya and other fruits over to our WARC comrades, anchored nearby, and left them on their boat, careful to follow the rules of social distancing here where we were once again being watched, and to respect the health of our neighbors. The skipper told me they figured we had a medical emergency because we had crossed through the field of yachts so quickly. I told him I knew there was no way to avoid being seen so I might as well go quickly and he just laughed, as he has at all of our exploits.
The ice has already melted and I think I can find a source for cabbage and carrots so my lessening need for George is hitting up against the unpleasant reality that I would have to break the rules again to return the bowl. However, I’m assuming that the owner of the bowl doesn’t have many to spare and I certainly don’t want to break George’s trust by not returning it. But tomorrow is Saturday and there is no reason, apart from a medical emergency, that I should leave the boat. Today was a permitted shopping day but there isn’t another one until Monday. I think I will have to wait until Monday. In the meantime, George has my change that he can use to pacify his neighbors, if needed. At least I left something of value as well.