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Thursday, December 30, 2021

Review: Blue Lizard Sunscreen SPF 30

 On a sailing/snorkeling trip, you can't use my favorite brush-on sunblock. That's because you might have to apply the sunscreen to wet skin, and the horse hair brushes on the brush-on would get wet and essentially become useless.

As usual, I look for titanium dioxide or zinc oxide sunscreen with no chemicals. Blue Lizard sunscreen came up as a search result and was ranked highly by sites such as Wirecutter. The problem with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide sunscreen is that they're harder to put on and rub in. The solution to that is to do it right. I picked the SPF 30, because me and my kids are brown people, not white people, and the savings is substantial. (Note that SPF 30 filters 97% of UVB, while SPF 50 filters 98%, so you're paying a lot for that extra 1%)

The sunscreen comes in a white bottle that turns blue in the presence of UV light. The marketing claims that it turns blue when the amount of UV is dangerous, but my experience on the Chinook was that ANY UV would cause it to turn blue, so the bottle is there to basically make you put on sunscreen during the day. The sunscreen is efficient. Between me and the two kids, with me wearing a rash guard and the kids wearing wet suits, it took us 5 days to use up a 5oz bottle. That's including a day when Bowen went to the beach with just swimming trunks and no top.

None of us got burned, and when I took Bowen in for his annual physical the day after we came back from the trip, the pediatrician complimented me by saying, "I couldn't tell you'd just come back from the tropics!" That's high praise, so I'll mark this sunscreen recommended.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

2021 Antigua: Thoughts & Reflections

 I've done a number of sailing trips, and in recent years have had those magical days where everything goes right, including the most recent one on Xiaoqin's birthday. I've thought a lot about how those magic days happen, and why they happen when they do. Here are what I think the pre-requisites are:

  • No external or internal constraints. If you're required to be some place somewhere at a specific time, the constraints prevent you from having the flexibility to make a magic day happen. That's why magic days almost never happen at the start of a trip. If you're a typical American, your vacation time is fixed, and you'll spend the first few days of your trip rushing about and getting certain things done. There was no chance you can have a magic day when you have to provision, or get a PCR test. One thought is that Europeans, who can sail for 2 weeks or a month at a time might have more magic days than Americans do.
  • Familiarity with the Area. You can only have a magic day when you know the area well. This includes the wind/wave conditions (e.g., on a North Swell, you want to be on the south side of an island). Your chances of having a magic day are much reduced if you don't know where/when the optimal location to be at is. This is very similar to Galen Rowell's admonition to "look for the rainbow in the anti-solar position before 10am."
  • An open-ness to serendipity. A cruise with a fixed itinerary will almost never have a magic day. That's because you can't change your plans to fit the conditions, so you'll never have a day of perfection.
You can't control what they day will bring, whether it's a bike tour or a sailing trip. But you can maximize your chances of a great experience:
  • Schedule longer trips, not more trips. This helps eliminate the external/internal constraints.
  • Do repeated visits to the same or similar areas. This builds familiarity with local environment and makes your decisions better.
  • Seize the opportunities when they arrive.
Antigua was very pretty and well worth visiting. Flying through Canada was safer while we only had half-vaccinated kids, but was really an ordeal when the plane ran late. I definitely think that without COVID restrictions at play, it would have been useful to visit Antigua for longer (a 2 week trip) which would have enabled us to visit St Kitts/Nevis and/or Guadeloupe as well. But with the time we had and the COVID19 restrictions in existence it was neither responsible nor practical. Definitely something to think about for a longer trip.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Review: The Remarkable Life of the Skin

 I read The Remarkable Life of the Skin during a sailing trip in the Caribbean, which made the early chapters on how tanning and melanin work really resonate with me:

Overnight, keratinocytes proliferate rapidly, preparing and protecting our outer barrier for the sunlight and scratches of the coming day. During the day, these cells then selectively switch on genes involved with protection against the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. A 2017 study took this one step further and found, rather remarkably, that midnight feasts could actually cause sunburn.14 If we eat late at night, our skin’s clock assumes that it must be dinner time and consequently pushes back the activation of the morning-UV-protection genes, leaving us more exposed the next day. So while studies are increasingly showing that a lack of sleep is detrimental to our overall physical and mental health, it now seems that our skin also benefits from additional sleep. (page 9)

 The next few chapters describe how amazing the skin is, including how it's carefully acidic for a particular reason:

The acids in sebum also keep the surface of the skin slightly acidic (between a pH of 4.5 and 6), which deters potentially dangerous bacteria, while those that adapt to this environment will be consequently less able to thrive if they manage to get past the skin and infect the alkaline environment of the blood. (pg. 13)

This is followed by chapters on touch, how skin recovers from wounds and activate the immune system, and even how tattoes work:

 The most impressive feature of Meissner corpuscles is that they literally catch us every time we fall. As you hold the key, it actually slips a thousandth of a millimetre a number of times a second. Our Meissner corpuscles can detect this loss and, in a series of rapid reflexes, cause our skin to tighten so that we don’t end up dropping the object. All of this is completely subconscious. (pg. 113)

 We essentially create an infinite infection. So if you sport a tattoo, spare a thought for the little fellows who went into battle thinking they were fighting an infection but were instead fated to spend the rest of their days embedded in your skin-based art. (pg. 176)

There are also entire chapters on skin diseases, including exotic ones like leprosy and river blindness, which I didn't realize was a skin disease as well. The social implications of skin coloring (such as albinism, not just race) are also covered, and in well-written fashion. After reading this book I took Bowen to the pediatrician where she told him his skin was so dry that he needed moisturizer twice a day. The knowledge in the book prepared me to treat her recommendations seriously (eczema is no joke and can lead to infection).  The book was therefore well worth my time.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Index Page: 2021 Antigua Thanksgiving Sail

 From November 21 to November 28th, Arturo, Niniane, and my family did a week long cruise in the sailing catamaran, the Chinook. This was our first international trip since the pandemic, and the trip itself had been canceled previously, when it was supposed to happen in April 2020. At the last minute, Mark Brody had to cancel, and Niniane substituted. It was my first time in  Antigua, and everyone had a good time. This is the index page with links to the day by day reports, as well as photos.


Trip Journal

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Review: Chemistry for Breakfast

 I randomly loaded Chemistry for Breakfast onto my kindle for a trip, and started reading it with very low expectations. After all, I already knew a lot about valence electrons, the periodic table, etc. But after reading the first couple of chapters I got thoroughly sucked in. I loved the way she talked about the work of science, demonstrating her passion for it while not flinching from the cruel reality science offers as a career:

It isn’t necessarily the salary that scares people away from academic careers. To progress at a university, you need to sacrifice your private life and sleep on the altar of science. Christine never goes a weekend without working. Although we live in the same city, I usually only see her when I visit her lab. And all this work doesn’t guarantee job security. You move from one fixed-term contract to the next. And an academic career path has just one destination: a tenured professorship. If you’re extremely good, you might reach this point by your late thirties. Although very few people—and only the very best—make it to the habilitation stage, there simply aren’t enough tenured professorships. Hard work, intelligence, and talent aren’t enough; you also need to be really lucky. If you don’t manage to secure tenure, then at some point you’ll find yourself totally overqualified, possibly even applying for the same industry jobs as your own students. (kindle loc 1109)

 In one chapter she excerpts a famous letter written by a professor to one of his students, berating him for taking a vacation instead of spending all the nights and weekends at the lab. (One of my friends in graduate school one day found himself apologizing for leaving the lab at 8pm on a weekend) She explains why many untenured professors are so cruel:

In a company, every boss has a boss. The executive board members have shareholders or an employee organization breathing down their necks. In theory, the only person a professor answers to is God, and since scientists tend to be atheists, they have absolute power (kindle loc 1593)

I shouldn't leave you with the impression that the book is all about how bad academic science is. First and foremost it's a book about chemistry and science. And it's really fun, includnig a description of a study of flatulence:

In 1998, scientists from Minneapolis studied the flatulence of sixteen men and women to identify the odor substances. At first, pretty much all the participants had to do was fart into a tube. Of course, you can’t leave anything to chance in a scientific study. So the evening before and the morning of the study, the participants’ food was supplemented with 200 grams (7 ounces) of beans and 15 grams (1/2 ounce) of lactulose, a sugar with a prebiotic effect that is broken down by the intestinal bacteria, thereby forming gas...two “judges” were employed to assess how unpleasant the odors actually were. Why only two? Well, you try finding people willing to smell fart samples in the name of science—and, of course, you need a very sensitive nose to assess them with the greatest possible scientific accuracy. In any case, these two judges had previously proven to have very sensitive noses and the ability to assess both odor quantity (how strong is the odor?) and quality (how do the odors differ?) particularly well. They rated various odor samples on a scale of 0 (odorless) to 8 (very offensive). They also had to precisely describe the smell of individual, isolated gases. Sulfurous? Rotten? Sweet? A simple “disgusting” wouldn’t be specific enough. A fart is largely made up of odorless gases like hydrogen, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide (CO2). (kindle loc 1766-1771)

 There's a great section about why you shouldn't be afraid of artificial flavors:

If you know which molecules create the flavor of a natural fruit, you can either extract them (from a natural source) or produce the molecules yourself in a laboratory (CHEMISTRY!). Provided they have the same chemical structure, there’s no difference between molecules from nature and molecules from a lab; it’s just that nature is a far more accomplished chemist than all human chemists put together. Flavor often traces back to a sophisticated blend of molecules, while artificial flavors often have a simpler composition. This also means that artificial flavors are just as safe as natural ones, if not safer, because every single ingredient in the artificial flavor has been identified and tested. (kindle loc 1522)

The entire book was breathtakingly good, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It's well worth your time. Read it. I wish her youtube work was in English, but to make up for it, Chemistry for Breakfast is accessible, enlightening, and full of great information.


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

November 28th: Carlisle Bay to Jolly Habor + Epilogue: ANU to SFO

A storm had blown in the night before, sending rain occasionally and turning around the boat all night. I was fast asleep, and but Arturo reported that the music from ashore had been faint and didn't disturb his sleep at all!
Once I had breakfast and coffee, I got into the water and checked and indeed, the anchor was now properly buried. From the water, I shot one last photograph of the Chinook before engaging in more snorkeling.
In the morning light, the snorkeling was excellent, and Arturo even found a moray eel!

 It was a great way to send us off. We got back onto the boat at 8:00am, rinsed off, using the last of the water left in the water tank, and proceeded to pack up. Turning on the engine, we motor'd back to Jolly Harbor using the autopilot, and then gingerly edged into the Marina's fuel dock, fueling up the diesel. We could not refill with gasoline for the dock didn't have gasoline that day.

Ashley had sent Mario to take us back to our slip, and then we had to finish up the paperwork, take our luggage out of the boat. Air Canada texted me saying that our flight was delayed by 3.5 hours, so we had a leisurely lunch at the SeaDream, run by an Italian. Arturo suggested that we visited his hotel rather than spend 6 hours waiting at the airport, so we visted the Buccaneer Beach Resort and made good use of the swimming pool until Niniane and Arturo's room was ready.

The delayed flight meant that we arrived at Toronto at midnight, and once there we had to do more paperwork because the airline had lost our luggage! The transborder short-cut that would mean that we didn't have to do security was closed, and we ended up getting to our hotel at 2am, after being forced to exit and doing yet more PCR tests. We'd get 3 hours of sleep, then go back to the Toronto for the next day's flight, which was delayed but only once we'd boarded the plane.

Once in San Francisco, our lost luggage became an asset as we could just walk out onto the Lyft pickup area and get a ride right away back home. Our first post-pandemic international trip was over.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

November 27th: Deep Bay to Carlisle Bay

The night before, a storm swirled by and rocked the boat. Xiaoqin woke me up so I could check the boat but as far as I could tell the boat hadn't moved so I went right back to sleep until the morning.

As expected, the water around the Andes was just as murky in the morning after breakfast as it was the afternoon before. With our plans blown out of the water, we had no choice but to turn on the engine, weigh anchor, and head out of Deep Bay down South. Mario had wanted us in Five Islands Harbor for our last night for an easy return the next morning. But my guess was that he had no experience with sailors who got up at 6:00am every morning while on vacation, and I was determined to measure the time it would take to get from Jolly Habor to Carlisle Bay via motor.

As we rounded Johnson's point, I noticed that the wind had picked up to about 6 to 8 knots. Since it was still early in the day, I expected that we might be able to sail from English Harbor to Carlisle Bay. The decision to spend the night at Carlisle Bay was pure risk reduction: English Harbor to my mind had better snorkeling.  I timed 45 minutes from Jolly Harbor to Carlisle Bay, with a northward current that should assist us the next morning.

To our dismay, as we approached Falmouth Harbor, we saw another cruise ship parked outside what looked like English Harbor. This wasn't going to be fun, but Niniane noted that this was a 400 person cruise ship, and we were relieved when we saw that its lifeboats were unloading people not at English Habor, but at Falmouth Harbor.

Arriving at English Harbor we dropped anchor at the same spot we did before with confidence, snugged it up, and proceeded to drop the dinghy to visit tank bay. Niniane had noted that the bakery was closed, this being a weekend, so we weren't even tempted to try to eke out a lunch there. We bought sufficient food not only for our last night, but also for the two days ashore that Arturo and Niniane would have after we returned the Chinook. Once back on the Catamaran we got out the snorkel gear and to our relieved, discovered that the water clarity was excellent.
This time, we swam all the way out to the Pillars of Hercules, and saw flatfish. Xiaoqin also explored the inside of the Bay and discovered a wreck and a turtle!

When we were all done with the snorkeling, we weighed anchor and motor'd out of the harbor. Once I had the boat pointed towards Carlisle Harbor, however, I asked not for the main to be raised, but for the Jib. "Why just the Jib?" It's only 3 nautical miles, and even at 3 knots that's an hour, and saves having to point the boat into the wind, and the trouble of raising and lowering the main. I actually expected stronger winds as the afternoon built, but I wasn't counting on it.
To my surprise not 15 minutes had gone by when a pod of dolphins (3 of them, 2 adults and a juvenile) joined us. They would follow us all the way to Carlisle Bay. Mario would tell us later that indeed, that was the one place on Antigua where you would most likely encounter dolphins. I shot and stitched together a video.

It was a magical journey, and as expected the winds picked up and soon was driving us at 4-5 knots with only one sail up! The mainsail would have given us at most 1.5 additional knots, at the expense of having to deal with the main, and who was in a hurry when there were dolphins to watch! I had to adjust the heading of the boat because the current was pushing us towards shore, but fortunately Arturo had checked the GPS and we had caught it before we got close to shore. The sight of these magnificant sea mammals filled us with awe.

Arriving at Carlisle Bay, we turned the boat into the Bay before turning on the motor, this time knowing that we wanted to be far away from the loud music. There were other boats in the Habor, but I knew the motorboat in the spot I wanted to be in was going to leave --- it wasn't equipped for an overnight stay, so I deliberately anchored closer to it than I would have if it had been a boat equipped for a longer stay. Dropping anchor, I felt it slip and then catch, but Arturo let out more chain just to be sure. The dive check revealed that the anchor slipped because it had pushed a rock out of the way, but looked steady.
Our last snorkel of the day gave us lion fish (an invasive species for the Caribbean), and made me realize how good the boys were at snorkeling now, with Boen attempting to dive even in his wet suit.

Other parents might obsess with their kids being fast in the water, joining swimming clubs and participating in sporting events, etc., but more than anything else, my goal had always been for my children to be comfortable in the water, able to deal with exigencies and difficult situations, and enjoy experiencing the natural world as much as they could. They had clearly gotten there.

We were out of the water before sunset, and prepped a dinner and celebrated Xiaoqin's birthday with a birthday cake, with a match substituting for a candle.

But perfect as the day was, it wasn't over yet. After sundown, we saw bioluminescence around the boat, and as the stars came out, Xiaoqin saw a shooting star! It was truly as perfect a birthday as you could get.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Review: Why Geese Don't Get Obese

 Why Geese Don't Get Obese is a book on the physiology of animals in comparison to our own, and how our lifestyle as well as our unique features make us susceptible to problems that other creatures don't. It contains many titbits that are really relevant to parents. For instance:

Large numbers of new fat cells are not created—that happens primarily in early life. But if there were twice as many fat cells around to begin with, there would be that many more fat cells with the capacity to become fatter. So, the idea goes, it is especially important not to overfeed young children and toddlers, because this is the time when they can still make additional adipocytes. Overeating, therefore, will cause growth of both the number and the size of fat cells. It is highly probable that overeating in newborns leads to adults with lots of extra adipocytes, just waiting for that next cupcake or scoop of ice cream. (page 28)

This partially explains why obesity runs in families. There are lots of fascinating sections about lung capacity, hormonal responses, and sweat, some of which I didn't know. For instance:

 Although perspiration on our upper lip may taste salty, it is actually less salty than our blood. The water in the perspiration comes from our internal stores of water. Thus, when we perspire heavily on a hot day, we lose both water and salt but proportionately more water than salt. (pg. 45)

The section on marine mammals is great. For instance, I did not know that seals expelled all residual air from their lungs before they dove, which is one reason they don't get decompression sickness by ascending rapidly. It turns out that lungs don't hold much more than about 2 minutes of air, which is insignificant for the length of dives the seals and otters do. Avoiding decompression illness is worth losing those two minutes. 

I enjoyed the book, even though it's short, and the epilogue is even more interesting, as it describes the experiment on geese which required putting them on a treadmill while measuring their oxygen intake.  The diagram is thoroughly entertaining and well worth the time to read. Recommended.

Friday, December 17, 2021

November 26th: Coco Point, Barbados to Deep Bay, Antigua

Despite not needing an early start this day, we woke up early anyway, in time to see the glorious sunrise from Coco point. The beach, the water, and the sun came together to create magical lighting for us as we ate a leisurely breakfast, and then prepared to get into the water.
We elected to all swim into the beach. But the visibility had gotten much worse overnight, and we saw next to nothing on the swim. We left the kids to play on the beach while Arturo and I went to scout the south side of Barbados, hoping for something better.
 It was indeed better after we got past the rocky section near the beach which was just as murky as the West coast. It would have been better if we had snorkeled there yesterday, however. I got a few pictures and then after that we went back and I swapped with Xiaoqin while Arturo led Xiaoqin on another snorkel.
The two kids were happy to play on the beach, and with conditions as murky as this I didn't bother trying to sell them on getting into the water except to return to the boat. By the time both Xiaoqin and Bowen were done it was 8:30am, and we swam back to the boat, ready to head to Deep Bay and try the Andes.

The wind was once again too weak to sail, and as we approached the Diamond Reef passage a storm blew through, tricking us into raising the sails only to discover moments later, that we were back to sailing at 1.5 knots, which was unsatisfying. The reason we were headed to Deep Bay was that my family needed PCR tests to fly back to the USA through Canada, and a doctor had agreed to come out to meet us and take PCR tests so we wouldn't have to take a taxi to a hospital

Arriving in Deep Bay, we spotted the buoy marking the mast of the Andes, and two Catamarans, clearly tourist boats, beached on the Bay. It turned out that not one, but two cruise ships were visiting Antigua that day. We anchor'd close to the beach in about 3 meters of depth, and to my dismay, when we did the dive check for the anchor, we couldn't see much. In fact, Arturo had to follow the anchor chain down so I could spot where it was!

We lowered the dinghy. The guidebook had a section marked on the other side of the Bay marked as "dinghy entrance", and it had the bridge that the doctor had wanted to meet us at. Just in case it was a better entrance, we decided to check it out, after determining that visibility at the Andes was no better than at the Chinook. The bridge was there, but there was no way we were going to steer the dinghy into the entrance in those conditions. "Why is there such a north swell? Why is the visibility so bad? Is there a storm?" Arturo looked at his phone. "Oh yeah. There's a tropical storm West of here down South." Our hopes for doing a good snorkel at the Andes, which was famous throughout Antigua was shot.

I received a text via WhatsApp from the doctor that he was headed our way. We got everyone into the dinghy, and got ashore, tying the dinghy to a tree. We raised the outboard, but neglected to pull the dinghy all the way out above the waterline, something we would pay for later. Walking over to the bridge, we had to wait a few minutes but sure enough the doctor showed up to give the 4 of us our PCR tests.

Mario had told us to hike Fort Barington at sunset, so we dutifully went back over the bridge, up the other side, and climbed up to the fort.
Far in the distance, we could see Mont Serrat's volcano erupting! People living near the volcano were evacuated even as we witnessed the smoke coming out of it.

At the fort, we finally got a group picture for the first time on our trip. Past that, we could keep going all the way to the point where the North Swell had flooded the channel that apparently in calmer times would let you walk or wade over to the headland guarding the Bay entrance.
It was approaching sunset when we returned to the dinghy when to our horror the surge and incoming tide had repeatedly dumped sand into the dinghy. We didn't have anything to bail with, so there was nothing to do but place everyone into the boat, but in the ensuing confusion and chaos (as the tide was relentlessly pounding away at us as we loaded the boat) Arturo got the rope in his hand at the wrong moment and pulled in it just a bit too hard and got rope burn. Nevertheless we got everyone back onboard the Chinook, and ice out of the fridge for Arturo's hand. I was a bit shaken: the memories of that trip in St. Vincent when a dinghy capsized and threw me overboard returned to me. We got away with just rope burn on Arturo's hand. Fortunately, all our important documents  (needed for our PCR test) were in a waterproof backpack that had stayed dry and secure in all the antics. In retrospect the non-waterproof camera should have also gone into that backpack.

Over a somber dinner, we debated what to do the next day. We were too exhausted to deal with the dinghy, so just tied it to the Chinook overnight. Being familiar with North Swell conditions, I proposed that we return to the South end of the island to Carlisle Bay and English Harbor for our last night aboard the Chinook. I revealed my agenda, which was that tomorrow was Xiaoqin's birthday, and going to English Harbor would allow us to get cake at the Tank Bay supermarket. Arturo shrugged. We really wanted to do the Andes snorkel, but I was pessimistic about it.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Review: A Small Place

 A Small Place is Jamaica Kincaid's short essay about Antigua. It drips with sarcasm and tastes of bitterness. Right off the bat, you get an examination of how history glorifies the industrial revolution when the reality was that a huge amount of its wealth came from slavery:

he West got rich not from the free (free—in this case meaning got-for-nothing) and then undervalued labour, for generations, of the people like me you see walking around you in Antigua but from the ingenuity of small shopkeepers in Sheffield and Yorkshire and Lancashire, or wherever; and what a great part the invention of the wristwatch played in it, for there was nothing noble-minded men could not do when they discovered they could slap time on their wrists just like that (isn’t that the last straw; for not only did we have to suffer the unspeakableness of slavery, but the satisfaction to be had from “We made you bastards rich” is taken away, too), and so you needn’t let that slightly funny feeling you have from time to time about exploitation, oppression, domination develop into full-fledged unease, discomfort; you could ruin your holiday. (page 9)

 Even though Antigua has been an independent country for some time now, Kincaid doesn't let up on its former colonists, which she blames for teaching its corrupt leaders how to behave:

Have you ever wondered to yourself why it is that all people like me seem to have learned from you is how to imprison and murder each other, how to govern badly, and how to take the wealth of our country and place it in Swiss bank accounts? Have you ever wondered why it is that all we seem to have learned from you is how to corrupt our societies and how to be tyrants? (Page 34)

The book exposes all the corruption, and the sad state of governance on the island, interspersed with scenes from the island describing its beauty and its colors and people. To a large extent, I do wish Kincaid's visited some other former colonies of England's that weren't mismanage. For instance, Singapore was also a former colony, but wasn't nearly as badly mismanaged, and its population is also much larger than Antigua's, so you can't even use the excuse that managing Singapore was an easier job.

To some extent, of course, was luck. Singapore's leaders while every bit as dictatorial as any tyrants could be, at least recognized that rooting out corruption was key to have a successful economy and country. Ultimately, that makes its rulers better off as well, enabling them to have a dynasty that's more stable. The question I'm left with is, "At what point can former colonist countries stop blaming their former colonists and start taking responsibility for the fate of their country?" Kincaid doesn't answer that question. I'll answer it for her anyway: "At what point do you as an adult stop blaming your parents for not giving you a good character forming childhood and start taking responsibility for your actions?"

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

November 25th: Long Island to Coco Point, Barbuda

 We woke up at 5:50am, made breakfast, and got going just after sunrise, using dual lookouts to navigate the Prickly Pear Channel out into open water before engaging the auto-pilot. The Garmin auto-pilot on the Chinook was the most sophisticated panel I'd ever seen, capable of going around marked obstacles on the map! I didn't trust it though, and would still disengage it whenever I saw a reef or shallow water marking on the map, as it tended to behave as though you could sail right on the edge of a reef. I personally much prefer to give such objects a ton of leeway, seeing as neither GPS nor my old eyes are very accurate.

To my delight, the anchorage at Coco Bay had only a few boats, and none right on Coco Point, where I wanted to place my anchor. The guidebook makes a big deal out of how challenging entering Coco Point was, so I had all crew onboard go forward and help me work my way into the reef. It was worth it though, since once on the boat we could easily swim to all desirable destinations, and the snorkeling was great.
It is hard to over-estimate what day after day of continuous snorkeling does for your kids' skills. They were now completely comfortable exploring the reefs, and playing. Boen would stick to Arturo and play with him in the water, pretending punches, etc.

When we were all done with the snorkeling, we had lunch on the boat, and then decided to head to the beach. I opted to take both kids to the beach by paddleboard, and it didn't take very long before I realized it was a mistake! The last time I'd done this was 3 years ago, and the kids had grown substantially in that time, so the paddleboard was lopsided. Despite the kids staying as quiet and centered as possible, I still fell off the board as we approached the sand. Since everyone was at least wearing swim suits there was no damage (my camera was waterproof!).
The white sandy beaches of Princess Diana Beach was a sight to behold. The resorts which were under construction after Hurricane Irma were unoccupied, so we had the place mostly to ourselves, seeing no more than 8 other visitors during our entire visit. Arturo swam ashore, and told me Xiaoqin had asked me to go fetch her with the paddleboard. I demurred, reasoning that if the two kids were sufficient to overbalance me on that chintzy paddleboard, trying to get my wife ashore in that would be a disaster.
Instead, we played with the kids until Niniane swam ashore, and then asked her to watch the kids while Arturo and I went for a walk. It was a walk with a purpose, since Mario had told us that Enoch would provide with a lobster dinner that night. Arturo had called while we were in transit to make reservations for that evening at 5:00pm, but I was having second thoughts. The reefs were navigable by day, but trying to get back in the dinghy at night looked very questionable.
We walked past empty outdoor gyms, the unused airport, and the reefs didn't look any better. I suggested we do dinner at 4pm, but Arturo thought that was too early. We finally arrived at Enoch's Shak A Kai after a 20 minute walk, and Enoch told us that he'd seen us anchor. He then told us how dangerous the reef was, and suggested we drop by at 5pm to do takeout!
That sounds like a great idea, Arturo said.  We bought a couple of drinks from Enoch, who had a blackboard that said, "No wifi in paradise!"  We then walked back to the boys, where we discovered that Xiaoqin had swam to the beach and was dealing with them.
The sand did indeed look pink if you had the sun at the correct angle and there was a little bit of water to tint it, but otherwise it was a white sand beach. Xiaoqin would later say that was the best sand she'd ever had in her life, soft and spingy at the same time, and it was fun to walk on.
I then ferried the boys one at a time from the beach back to the Chinook with no problems, but when I got back to the boat and tied up the paddleboard, Arturo swam back and told me there was more snorkeling to be had and he saw substantially good stuff near the beach. So I got back in the water.

This time we saw a barracuda, a spotted ray, and conch snails, eating the seagrass. It truly was as good as Mario promised. The boys were excited about today, because it was Thanksgiving. A few years ago, Mark Brody had suggested making a veggie turkey, and this time they replicated it!
Arturo and I went on the dinghy to pick up the lobster. As promised, it was tricky going but at least I could see the reefs and help Arturo steer around them. Once ashore, we hooked up the dinghy anchor and visited Enoch again, picking up the lobster, buying a loaf of bread, and picking up a drink for Niniane. Seeing how full my hands were, Enoch came out to the dinghy to help us launch it. He stuck around until we had navigated the reefs near his shack before turning back, getting into his van, and driving off. We were his last customers of the day, it turned out.

Between the lobster, the turkey, and the sunset, we had ourselves a glorious time. We looked forward to doing more snorkeling the next morning before heading back to Antigua.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

November 24th: Green Island to Long Island

 We woke up bright and early at 5:00am, made coffee, and to our surprise discovered that other boats in the flotilla moor'd and anchor'd behind us were already moving. They must all be on the same plan we were on! Once we were done with breakfast, we moved the boat back out the way we came in and raised the sail! I was delighted to be sailing, and a long sail seemed like a good idea, even though Arturo had said the night before that middle reef had supposedly great snorkeling. There were still enough boats in the Bay that I didn't think it was worth it to try to snorkel there.

An hour later, Arturo said to me, "We're only doing 3 knots. It's 27 nautical miles. This trip will take us 9 hours!" I looked, and sure enough, we were getting at most 6-7 knots of wind, not enough to get to Antigua on sail power alone. We could drop the sails and turn on the engine, but instead we pulled out the charts and guidebook and looked for alternate destinations.

Great Bird Island jumped out at me as a potentially great snorkeling destination, and it had the advantage of putting us into the North Sound, where an anchorage at Long Island would put us at least within decent motoring distance of Barbuda, given the poor wind conditions that were predicted for the next couple of days. "Long Island is near the Antigua airport, but the island doesn't have many flights."

We pulled into the Bay of Great Bird Island at 11:00am, after sailing slowly north, and then turned on the engine. There were no other boats in the Bay when we arrived, but soon after we laid down the anchor and snugged it up, a trio of motorboats sailed up, followed by a commercial boat carrying snorkels. The day had warmed up and was hot, so after I checked the anchor I immediately swam out into the reef and saw to my delight my first glimpse of glass fish!

From the boat, Xiaoqin spotted a turtle, and soon after that everyone was in the water! There was much snorkeling to be had and it was of very good quality. Even after we were all in the boat, Niniane hadn't had enough, and opted to swim all the way to the beach. That sounded like a great idea to everyone else as well, so I helped Arturo lower the dingy, which still needed fixing anyway. Then I got out the paddleboard and paddled to the beach.

Niniane had already arrived by the time I got there, and she was eager to try paddleboarding. I gave her a few tips and she was ready to head out when the dinghy arrived. The kids immediately set about getting wet and sandy, and Xiaoqin and Arturo explored the island while I man-handled the dinghy. We hadn't figured out how to tilt the dinghy's outboard, so you could'nt leave the boat unattended --- you didn't want it to drift away, which was easy to solve with an anchor, but you also didn't want the tide/waves to push it onto the shored, which would hit the outboard propellor and rudder!

When everyone was done, we took the dinghy back to the boat. Niniane was already there, since the paddleboard was very fast, and we had lunch while Arturo watched a youtube video on how to tilt the dinghy outboard. It turned out that the ring that was supposed to control the tilt feature had been lost from our outboard, so he had to find the lever by hand. Once he had done so, however, he could tilt the outboard. The problem, though, was that the davits on the Chinook were so badly designed that someone had to use their feet to push the pontoons on the dinghy while raising or lowering it --- not paying such close attention would result in the outboard striking the body of the boat, damaging both the Chinook and the outboard. I was determined not to find out about that the hard way.
After lunch, we motor'd through the sound to Long Island. I would have been happy to spend the night at Great Bird Island, but I figured that putting us within striking distance of Barbuda first thing in the morning was a good idea. The guidebook had also talked up Jumby Bay as being a beautiful beach on a resort.

On arrival, to my dismay I saw motorboats towing wakeboarders at speed all around the bay. We anchor'd one time, then realized that we'd anchor'd right in the way of the ferry coming from the mainland Antigua, and moved and reanchor'd the boat, reasoning that being closer to the reef would make for nice snorkeling.

Our first sight after the anchor check was a beautiful starfish, but swimming out to the reef brought no results. There were tiny bits of coral, but the reef was too rough to get to, and too shallow. We returned to the Chinook to report, and decided to swim to the beach, with Boen electing to join us.  We were much further from the beach than anticipated, having learned our lesson from Carlisle Bay about being too close to loud music at night, but Boen was game and swam strongly. Upon arrival, he reported that he had lost a tooth! It was his first baby tooth lost, and it had disappeared into Jumby Bay so he truly left a piece of himself in Antigua.

Upon arrival at the beach, security showed up and told us that we weren't allowed into the resort because of COVID restrictions. "You can stay in the water." We chose to let Boen play as much as he liked on the beach, and then swam back, finding a Manta Ray and various more Starfish on the way back to the Chinook.

The sunset was once again beautiful, marred occasionally by flights coming to and from the island (Arturo had an app that told us that the last flight was at 8:30pm, so we truly were not concerned about noise from the airport) At 9pm a private plane flew by, disturbing our peace, but overall it was still a much more restful night than Carlisle Bay had been.