Let me start off by saying that being under lockdown (as it’s called here in the Caribbean) on a boat has taught me that I have a great capacity for staying home. I’ve known for a long time that “homebody” would be a pretty fair word to describe me, maybe even a good word to describe me. I just never knew how good until being under lockdown on Nancy Lu! I mean it’s way more than just good. I now believe it is the single most accurate descriptor that could be assigned to my personality! Like, I AM a homebody! No, not just a homebody—a homebody NINJA, the BOSS of homebodies! I feel completely comfortable in saying that I WIN at being a homebody, well, unless part of that descriptor includes productivity in the home. If that is the case, I still feel like I am a homebody of EPIC PROPORTIONS, just maybe not the winner. But, I’m not ready to concede without a debate, because I just may get extra points for not feeling compelled to be productive in my home. Look at it this way, I don’t even have to DO anything in my home and I still feel fantastic about not EVER leaving it! I’m not saying I don’t do anything worthwhile in my home, but if I didn’t, I still wouldn’t want to leave! I will share with you the most compelling evidence for me deserving to win the HOMEBODY OF ALL HOMEBODIES award later in this blog update, but first, I will start at the beginning of our pandemic-times life on Nancy Lu:
On March 13, as we were on our way to our anchorage in Saint-Anne, Martinique, we had high spirits as we sailed past beaches that we were imagining hiking to and playing on with our daughters. We could not have imagined what being anchored in a French country with a strict lockdown looming and the imminent closure of all borders would be like. We would soon find out.
Just before the lockdown began in earnest, we eked in a nice little get together for sundowners in our anchorage close to the beach. At the time, we were already aware of a little thing called social distancing and we were practicing that at this get together.
I brought my old stand by: homemade passionfruit juice!
The next day, we had the chance to check out the snorkeling right off the shores of Club Med, which one of our fellow cruisers at the happy hour gathering the evening before described as being very good.
We followed Sam, Jane and canine crew member, Poco from S/V Scoot to the spot…
It really was very good, which was surprising being so close to Club Med! I’m glad we took the opportunity to check out the snorkeling when we did because the next day, life on Nancy Lu and the whole of Martinique became VERY limited and remained at this highest level of limitation until May 11 when we entered stage one of the relaxation of lockdown!
Some of you may be curious about what a Martinique lockdown is like, especially for a cruiser, so I thought I’d try to give you an idea. I have the impression, from talking with people from back home, that the lockdown here has been much more strictly enforced than the “shelter in place” has been enforced in the rural area where we live in Texas. If you’re not interested in what the lockdown has been like in Martinique, feel free to skip over the purple words!
With Martinique being a department of France (like a state in the USA), we’ve had the same rules as mainland France, and from the beginning, they’ve been enforced by the gendarme (police) and CROSS AG (Regional Operational Center for Surveillance and Rescue in the Antilles and Guyana—if you say that in French, you get the acronym-CROSS AG).
For the most part, we cruisers learn of information, rulings, procedures, and restrictions from our Martinique VHF-Radio Cruisers’ Net, which is run by volunteer cruisers 3 mornings a week. These cruisers are diligent to get the information that they pass on to the rest of us from reliable government agencies. Of course, here in Martinique, having bilingual speakers as net controllers is essential in order to do this! My hat’s off to Steve, Patrice, Annie, and Fredricka among others! Cruisers’ nets are a normal part of the Cruising lifestyle, and most popular anchorages have them. They are a way for our community to be connected and disseminate information. A morning net usually consists of a few categories such as Safety and Security; Arrivals and Departures; Social Activities; Treasures of the Bilge (Anything you want to buy, sell, trade or giveaway); Local Businesses; and Helping Hands. Nets normally last about 15 minutes. During the COVID 19 pandemic, ours has lasted an hour or more at times! One reason for the extended length, is the amount of questions and discussions around the myriad of issues surrounding boat life in lockdown, but added to that, is the fact that everything, including questions and answers are spoken in both English and French! Our net controllers have quite a job, and we all appreciate them! Just to give you an idea of what some of the questions and discussions might be like on the net, I’ll mention just one that took up probably an hour of net time over a few days: Unlike Nancy Lu, many other cruisers do not have a water maker on board. Our friends on Eagles’ Wings are one such boat. They raised the very important issue of how they were going to get water during the lockdown. Of course, many others were interested and had much to add to the discussion. The government really came through with providing a hose at the town dock where anyone with the need can fill their jerry cans at NO COST! The Martinique government has been very considerate and accommodating to the cruising community!
SOME OF THE RULES AND RESTRICTINS FROM MARCH 16 TO MAY 11:
- Curfew-9:00 pm
- Only allowed to be 1 kilometer from your residence at any time
- Only allowed out of the house for 1 hour at a time when applicable (see below)
- Only 5 reasons to be out of your house: 1. employees going to jobs deemed essential 2. grocery, pharmacy, or other essential purchases 3. necessary doctor visits 4. assistance of vulnerable family members or keeping children 5. take your pet for walk and to potty…
- Must carry an “Attestation De Deplacement Derogatoire” –Basically, a paper that tells why you’re out of the house, which you are required to show the police at their request
- Only one person at a time in a store
- Only three people in a store at a time
- No walking on the beaches or forest trails
- No water sports, including snorkeling, kayaking, or stand up paddle boarding (WHAT? I know, right?)
- Swimming is allowed, but only close to your boat (I assume ocean swimming wouldn’t have been allowed at all for people living on land?)
- Wearing masks and gloves, highly encouraged
- Of course, stay 6 feet apart
- helicopter and airplane flybys over the anchorage and beaches once or twice a day
- drone surveillance with loud speaker reprimands and instructions if caught doing something unauthorized
- all bars and restaurants closed with only one that we know of doing take out
- Martinique borders closed to all except EU vessels
- All other island borders closed
Okay, I think that gives you an idea of what our Martinique lockdown was like from March 16 to May11—strictly enforced!
Now, on with our pandemic-times-life-on-Nancy-Lu update from this girl’s perspective, AKA blog-as-usual:
In some ways, living on a sailboat for part of the year for the past 9 years has been a kind of training for a lockdown.
SOME OF THOSE WAYS:
- We’ve become accustomed to living in small quarters with venturing out requiring much more effort than hopping in a car and going. For me, this often makes just staying on the boat a more appealing option to the rigmarole of preparing for an outing. That may just be me, homebody extraordinaire that I am. Thankfully, I have captain Mark who encourages adventures, and once I’m out, I am as game for the adventure (and maybe even more prone to enjoy it) as the next sailor!
- We eat out a lot less when we are living on Nancy Lu (see), hence more cooking.
- We have tools that we use regularly to keep us in touch with our neighbors, such as the VHF radio and SSB radio. Besides more legit ways to take advantage of the VHF radio (which I’ll mention later), there’s always the technique used by the nosy among us (and everyone is nosy at one time or another). The technique allows for listening in on conversations being had by others using the VHF, just a quick switch to the channel the other two parties have agreed upon to have their communication.
- We, like many others, do not have a TV so finding creative ways to entertain ourselves (or just going to bed early, thus causing another day to be done) is something that we practice daily.
- Not being able to practice our normal (landlubber) way of life is something that we adapt to for the 6 months while we are on Nancy Lu, so having the way we practice our normal way of life on Nancy Lu altered by the lockdown is just one other adaptation to be made.
- Sailing to different countries and cultures is something we do on a regular basis. With this, comes the reality that products or foods we are used to being able to use are often unavailable. We regularly adapt to this reality by making substitutions or going without.
- HA! I just thought of another tool we are accustomed to using for “keeping in touch with our neighbors”…binoculars! The “neighborhood” changes constantly, there are no fences, and there are often interesting things going on all around that could be entertaining to watch. People do weird things that deserve to be checked out a little closer, and NO ONE has any expectation of privacy!
- A beautiful view is ALWAYS available so without air-conditioning or even doors, and as I mentioned before, no fences, sitting in the breezy cockpit to do nothing more than take in the scenery is a pass time to which I’ve become expert (binoculars always handy)!
- Vendors making their way through an anchorage on a small boat is a common occurrence, and we’ve gotten used to taking advantage of their wares, especially fruits and veggies.
- Reaching out electronically, has been a big part of my day ever since we started cruising. My blog is an example of that!
So with all of the training we’ve had, I think we were reasonably prepared for a lockdown! Let me share, in no particular order, what we’ve been doing! Most of it will be things you are doing too, just not on a boat in the Caribbean! Other things are quite unique to our situation, and they’ve been such a blessing!
I’ve had many more opportunities to use technology to stay in touch with people back home. I think this is because many of my home-people are experiencing the necessity of using it way more than usual while they have been sheltering at home! One of my favorite ways of using technology has been taking part in my sister’s private Facebook group, Magnolia Forest Preschool Families! She has about a 30 minute Mr. Roger’s inspired “show” that the kids and parents can watch, interact with, and use as a springboard to continue the awesome discovery and learning that takes place at her forest preschool! It has been so fun to call or text Jenny using WhatsApp afterwards! We share ideas about what she’s doing, but MOSTLY laugh ‘til our eyes leak about things that only she and I would find hilarious about the day’s “show”. FYI: Southern accents ALWAYS have comedic value! Jenny and I have talked way more frequently than we ever have since being on lockdown in Martinique and Tacoma, Washington, USA, respectively .
I’ve planned and made videos for her private group, such as
a tour of Nancy Lu complete with a demonstration of how we do laundry on board.
I also made a video of me getting ready for a passionfruit juice party after being inspired by watching Jenny on the day she inspired her students to plan and execute a tea party!
Jenny’s private Facebook group is not the only group in which I’ve had the privilege to take part!
It has been so enjoyable collaborating with my good friend Karen, planning and making videos for our home church’s private children’s Facebook group!
And in that same vein….
I had one of my best birthday parties ever because my son made it possible for my 2 grandchildren to join me for a “Doing And Making Things AND Memories” birthday party using FaceTime! He indulged me by getting all the supplies ready on his end and helping Ava and Remi with all the activities! It was so fun!! Ava and I even got all dressed up with jewelry and everything (well, except shoes). We’ve enjoyed other FaceTime and Marc Polo moments with them, as well!
A favorite, according to Ethan, was the “Kaykay dives to get Granddad’s underwear off the ocean floor” video!
After we made the video of me retrieving the underwear, I swam around the boat for a while. The anchor chain had become an ecosystem all its own–we’ve been in this spot a long time!
My parents, brother and sister, and I have been keeping a group text going back and forth, and
we’ve all had more time to talk on the phone!
Just today, Jenny and I had a group Facetime with Mama to tutor her on how to use eyebrow makeup!
One of our favorite ways to connect with others using technology has been Sunday worship! This is something that we’ve never had available to us until the pandemic! Back in Texas, during hurricane season, we’re used to gathering with other Christians whom we consider to be family every Sunday morning at Cedar Creek Bible Church. Finding ways to gather with others for church while on Nancy Lu has always been a challenge. This sailing season, with the whole world experiencing this challenge, using technology in creative ways to gather Christ’s church is common! Besides the joy of gathering with our CCBC church family through Zoom, complete with breakout rooms available where we can spend time visiting after the wonderful message given by our pastor, Bob or Kenny, we have had the privilege of being a part of the Martinique Cruisers’ VHF Radio Sunday Worship”! I feel like we’ve gained another church family!
This type of church experience began for us on Easter Sunday after I enjoyed my breakfast up in the cockpit where I saw our neighbor boat, Eagles’ Wings all festooned for the celebration and yelled across the water to Marcia, “He is risen!”, anticipating her response of, “He is risen indeed!”
The interest has been so high for our ecumenical, bilingual (English and French) service that we’ve had it every Sunday since! Anyone interested just switches to the VHF station where we meet and follows along with the order of worship that is available by email!
Before too long, we locked-down-cruisers-of-Martinique began to find more creative ways to use the VHF radio for social interaction! On Wednesday nights, we have the “Martinique Cruisers’ General Trivia Quiz.
Mark and I have enjoyed coming up with questions and leading a portion of the Quiz!
On Friday nights we have my favorite, the “Martinique Cruisers’ Happy Hour Music Quiz”!
We’ve had so much fun coming up with playlists and taking our turn in leading this anchorage-wide game, as well! We’ve even played it over text and WhatsApp video with my family!
In another area of life—we’ve found ways to keep exercising! Doing my exercise DVDs in our tiny space is not new to me, but Mark has never had a routine other than the exercise we get from our adventures—
not any more! He tried yoga early on during the lockdown, but
he gave that up for using some of my weights to do a “stair-stepping” routine in which he steps from one level to a higher level of the deck at the bow of the boat. I’m pretty proud of him!
Something that I’m not proud of, but is indicative of my pandemic life, I now consider laying out on the deck while reading to be an accomplishment for the day. Such an activity definitely makes it into my journal entry at day’s end!
Then there’s FOOD! During the pandemic, like many others, I’ve prepared and cooked food at home WAY more than usual! From March 16 to May13, all but 1 of our meals and all snacks were prepared right in the tiny galley of Nancy Lu !
A local entrepreneurial couple who’ve been deemed essential workers were the ones who brought us our one non-Kathy prepared meal during the most severe phase of lockdown. It was a huge grilled grouper with a wonderful sauce for which the French are famous! Juliette and Guerric come by daily offering fresh baguettes and an assortment of veggies and fruits from which to choose!
Out of passion fruit we get from them,
I’ve made lots of passion fruit juice—my fave!
From fresh, then frozen pineapple chunks,
I’ve made MANY pineapple smoothies, for example: straight pineapple mixed with either water or milk smoothies, pineapple/banana smoothies, and pineapple/passion fruit smoothies (my fave)—YUMMY!!
These little melons that look and taste just like cantaloupe but are simply called melons by Martinicans…
make a refreshing side dish to many entrees, such as left over meatloaf wraps,
or tuna salad Polynesian. This dish is supposed to be served sprinkled with peanuts, but peanut butter will do in a pinch!
I’ve used much more cabbage in the last couple of months than I usually do, and of course,
we have *BAGUETTES EVERYDAY*! Isn’t there a saying, “A baguette a day keeps the doctor away”? Besides the few groceries that we buy everyday from Juliette and Guerric, we get things that they don’t carry when Mark goes into Ste. Anne or Le Marin once a week or so. He’s had to go into Le Marin to patronize one or two of the limited number of stores open to get boat parts and necessities a few times, as well. As for me, I got off the boat a total of ONE TIME during the long period of lockdown (March 16 thru May11). Serious homebody ninja cred, wouldn’t you say?! It’s worth noting that my birthday fell within that time frame! That one outing was to keep Mark company on a mile walk to the gas station for some cooking gas. This is the first time I had put shoes on my feet in 46 days—I got a blister! I wasn’t incentivized much by that experience to get out again until the lockdown was relaxed and a cheeseburger was on the agenda!
Our Ste. Anne, Martinique anchorage is a beautiful place to watch the sunset, and
every night for 50 nights straight we had the magical experience of listening to a fellow cruiser, Giorgio, serenade us on the saxophone! Each night was a different jazz selection. We found out that he’s from Turin, Italy and made his living playing in an orchestra there.
Even from as far away as his boat is from ours, we could clearly enjoy his mellow sounds wafting through the anchorage! What a treat!
Just recently, after we got a little relaxation from the lockdown and were allowed to dinghy through the anchorage without an attestation paper, we stopped by to meet him and thank him for the wonderful bedtime serenades that we so enjoyed!
Now, we are living under phase one of a more relaxed lockdown. Beaches are still closed, but our freedom to move about and gather in small groups has been greatly increased! We no longer have to carry an attestation. I’ve still got a pretty impressive homebody record, though! I have stepped foot on dry land a total of, drumroll, please……..4 out of 72 days!!
The first time, I have already told you about way back on April 30…
Who knew a trip to the gas station could be such a momentous occasion! At that time, we made makeshift masks for ourselves with things we had on board (bandanas and rags paired with rubber bands)…
I really didn’t have too much trouble getting back my land legs, but I did get those blisters between my toes!
The foliage seemed so vibrant to my eyes, which had become accustomed to only seeing the blue and green hues of nature!
Our next outing was to a restaurant that we had heard had wonderful cheeseburgers and fries! We found it on a nice walk behind the beaches leading to Club Med! It did not disappoint!
Outing #3 was to go with Mark to the “chicken lady” to get one of her famous delicious roasted chickens. SUPER DELICIOUS!
My last outing, to date was back to the cheeseburger restaurant, Le New Touloulou, but this time, we were part of a group that took a longer and nicer walk before we had our yummy burgers! We may not have the best social distancing skills, but we’re new at it and trying to get better!
I have a feeling that I will be getting out more and more now that we cruisers are planning more activities off of our boats!
We are still unsure about when we will be able to leave Martinique or where we will go. All the borders are still closed.
We’ve taken care of one of a few things that need to happen before leaving Martinique to go anywhere is a possibility—we bought some new batteries and installed them with the help of some fellow cruisers. Those things weigh over 100 pounds a piece! As soon as we do some substantial food provisioning and a couple of other things, we will be ready to make a move…I may be a homebody extraordinaire, but my heart’s desire, right now, is to be practicing my exceptional homebody skills in my stationary home in Texas! I’ll keep you posted on that front!