Saint Lu”cia-l Away” to Rodney Bay

Saint Lu”cia-l Away” to Rodney Bay

 

If I’m in the photo or the photo is really really professional, then the photography credit goes to Paul Woo.

Despite the shenanigans of our comedy of errors of traveling in the middle of Omicron, we still woke up to beautiful mornings. Even Umbi, who continues to test negative but cannot sail with us due to his prior exposure risk, came by to quickly say hi.

 

 

And lo and behold, our intended replacement skipper, Borna, who had sailed for 24 hours from Guadeloupe to come save us would ALSO TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID.

We therefore cried to ourselves, licked our wounds and headed out for a sunset dinner at Double V. This has become a war of attrition.

 

 

At least the food was fantastic.

 

 

And so was the view:

 

 

The next morning we received the good news that our replacement skipper and chef, Brian (from Ireland!) and his wife Marta (from Brazil and Australia!) tested negative for COVID-19 and were ready to take us. We thus set sail for St Lucia in the wild open ocean.

 

 

Once underway we enjoyed the exhilarating sailing down wind to St Lucia, taking us about 3 hours before arriving into Rodney Bay in the nick of time at 3:30pm (the customs offices close at 4pm)

 

 

Once we arrived, we grabbed a coffee in Rodney bay while a local named Marcel and I took care of passport formalities at customs and Port Health next door.

 

 

After an hour of showing them our vaccine cards, copy of negative PCR results, our online QR codes showing we were cleared by their travel portals, and our passports, we received our coveted white wristbands that allowed us quarantine-free entry to the rest of the country!

 

 

 

Once we were cleared to enter Saint Lucia by sea, we docked to finally enjoy dinner and drinks.

 

 

While we saw a variety of bars, restaurants, and stores lining the marina, we elected to drive our dinghy and perform a James Bond-esque mission to retrieve provisions from a larger shopping mall across the bay at Massy Store.

 

 

Now it’s music night as we get out all our guitars and jam to the music playing in our heads and on the stereo…

 

- At time of posting in Rodney bay, it was 28 °C - Humidity: 74% | Wind Speed: 18km/hr | Cloud Cover: sunny

 

Ad-“Marin” du View

Ad-“Marin” du View

 

If I’m in the photo or the photo is really really professional, then the photography credit goes to Paul Woo.

We had expected that similar to our last time with them in Sardinia it would involve a frenzy of check-ins, security deposits, last minute provisional shopping, except this time without the 2 flash thunderstorms. Instead, we woke up this morning to something even crazier: finding out that 90% of the yacht staff would test positive for COVID-19 this morning after a trip they had sailed on the week before.

Therefore, in the best interests of everyone’s safety, a decision was made to cancel the itinerary entirely. We sadly would miss out saying hi to our friend and intended our skipper Umbi (who we were so lucky to have in Sardinia). Although he continues to test negative for COVID-19, he also did not want to take a chance to eventually test positive while sailing with us. Such professionalism. I respect that. WE STILL MISS YOU UMBI.

Especially after having our fill of Fort-de-France, we decided to reframe this unfortunate series of events with the irony of a Yacht Week trip now truly turning into a monsoon proper, where we would have no idea what the next step would be but pressing on anyway. Therefore continuing onwards without expectations, we asked our concierge at Simon Hotel to arrange a driver to take us to the marina at Marina du Marin from Fort-de-France.

And as luck will reorient itself for us, they luckily got us a wonderful driver and guide named Daniel, who after taking us to Sacré-Coeur de Balata also pulled off to the side of the road for a spontaneous jump behind the bar to serve us their local aged and white rum, complete with syrup and muddled lime.

 

 

Every travel serendipity now tastes 10 times sweeter of a victory.

 

 

Once we arrived at the marina an hour later, we were informed by the yacht staff that they actually may have found us a replacement skipper from Croatia, who just so happens to be vacationing on a nearby island and therefore did not partake in last week’s trip that got 90% of the staff positive for COVID-19. If he tests negative upon his arrival tomorrow, we may be able to salvage whatever bit of our trip that remains viable.

Umbi even left me a gift at the marina office!

 

 

After our check-in and all the logistics, we waited for our yacht to be prepared.

 

By 6:30pm the yacht was ready and we got pick our cabins onboard our newly christened yacht, Free Willy.

 

 

After settling in, we had dinner at L’Annexe for first night celebrations for getting this far despite the circumstances.

 

 

- At time of posting in Marina du Marin, it was 27 °C - Humidity: 74% | Wind Speed: 23km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

Getting Out of Omicron City to Fort-de-France, Martinique

Getting Out of Omicron City to Fort-de-France, Martinique

 

If I’m in the photo or the photo is really really professional, then the photography credit goes to Paul Woo.

It’s time for another joint journey with The Yacht Week on our second collaboration together, this time for a much smaller excursion to visit Martinique and St. Lucia amidst all this craziness with Omicron.

With NYC at nearly a 1 in 3 positivity rate and CDC telling us we can go back to work after as few as 5 days from a positive COVID test, and after a week of drowning in understaffed healthcare facilities across the city due to COVID positive tests, I’ll take my 14 days of daily negative rapid antigen and PCRs as a sign to quit while I’m ahead and getting the fuck out of Omicron City.

I feel that instead of working as a glorified human testing site (since so few patients are getting sick or hospitalized due to most of NYC being vaccinated so I feel pretty useless as a doctor these days), I feel it’s safer for me and my own mental health to take a week isolating myself on a boat with other fully boosted healthcare workers who have gone through the same shit-show and rigorous negative testing requirements. The only exception in our group is one person who had tested positive at least more than 10-14 days ago before testing negative on both a rapid antigen and PCR at least 3 more times before starting this trip with us. We’re also fully boosted for an extra layer of security.

And sadly not all of us made it: I had 4 monsooners drop out at the last minute due to being unable to make these requirements. We started with 11, and we’re now down to 6. Luckily I bought G1G travel insurance for all of ourselves a week ago, so the 4 are getting 100% of their money back as COVID-19 is covered in the trip cancellation policy. I hope this is good enough…otherwise we’re all going to quit tomorrow and you’ll have no more safe or open hospitals left to keep society afloat.

Therefore, unlike our Sardinia trip which consisted of us filling 3 yachts out of 22 in the fleet, this time we kept it to filling a single yacht out of 5 total on this route.

Flying direct into Martinique from the USA is nearly impossible unless you’re lucky to get a cheap flight from Miami. Otherwise I had to finagle a hack flight path consisting of 2 separate bookings of JFK to PTP in Guadeloupe and then PTP to FDF to make the itinerary affordable (<$300).

Taking the 7:50am AF 621/Delta 8251 flight from JFK to PTP, I landed 4 hours later at 1:15pm, and then because of a last minute cancellation by Air Antilles, I instead joined Sabrina, Kimmy, and Paul in taking off again at 2:30pm for a 3:15pm arrival into FDF. Tammy and Koichi would join us later in the evening on Air Antilles and AirCaribes flights.

 

 

After arriving into Martinique, we hailed a cab for about 10 euros per person into the city center.

 

 

Settling into our lodgings within the hour at Simon Hotel by the bay, we then sauntered in an empty plaza outside. One of my favorite things in life are freedom you feel in the first few minutes of every new trip.

 

 

We then walked over 10 min into a city completely shuttered for Sunday.

 

 

We headed into town to Market Hall Fort-de-France.

 

 

Then turned back around for a visit to Schœlcher Park which faces the town’s cultural center and Court of Appeals

 

 

Nearby, don’t miss St. Louis Cathedral, built in 1895.

 

 

Nearby is the town’s prettiest structure: Bibliothèque Schœlcher, which houses the works of abolitionist Victor Schoelcher.

 

 

We then crossed into Parc La Savane for a glimpse of local living.

 

 

We then kept walking further down to enjoy music by the Malecon at sunset:

 

 

We then walked down peninsula past the park for Fort Saint-Louis: a fortress, former naval base, and now public museum originally built during the reign of Louis XIII.

 


 

Afterwards we finally had our first meal of the day at the hotel terrace restaurant where we devoured their entire menu despite missing items.

 

 

Then we took back a bottle of white wine and enjoyed a round of “We’re Not Really Strangers” before kicking off an impromptu jam session: Tammy somehow packed both a guitar and ukelele in her carry-on; she even almost brought a keyboard!

 

 

The next morning we tried to visit all of the above when everything would be open on a Monday, including the best fried fish sandwich I’ve enjoyed in recent memory. Thanks to Paul’s find, we went to find the obvious reason why: Asian.

 

 

The town is so small we didn’t mind another walk around the neighborhood:

 

 

 

After enjoying a rooftop drink, we then set off on our cab ride to the marina to be with the rest of the yacht weekers. If you have time on your drive, do a short detour for Sacré-Coeur de Balata, surrounded by cliffs north of Fort-de-France.

 

 

The views from here:

 

 

- At time of posting in Fort-de-France, it was 23 °C - Humidity: 73% | Wind Speed: 13km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

“Cayman,” What Are You Waiting For?

“Cayman,” What Are You Waiting For?

  

I need to use the last of these before they expire! #firstworldproblems

 

 

As the Cayman Islands were beginning to allow foreign visitors again for its Phase 4 of reopening during the pandemic, I wanted to get in before the high season began in mid December. You have to register proof of your fully vaccinated status on their travel portal for a Certificate To Travel.

 

 

Then you need to acquire proof of a negative PCR for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure.

 

And don’t forget your passport! Almost missed the flight because of this; and alas it took only 6 minutes from taxi through securities to gat to my seat on the flight with only 11 minutes to spare before the doors closed at 7:43am for a 7:58am departure.

Had this flight gone on without me, there would be no possible alternative other than a grueling itinerary involving repeating a rapid PCR test for $350 and 2 layovers in Chicago and Miami before finally getting into Grand Cayman the following night. Luckily that did not happen; my flight arrived nearly an hour earlier at 11am local time:

 

 

When you arrive, there’s a separate arrivals halls to ensure your health declaration forms and certificates to travel are in order:

 

 

To avoid spoiling your stay with a surprise fine at departures, make sure you have arrangements made at your nearest clinic wherever you’re staying as the government requires you to test negative for COVID-19 on a $25-$30 rapid antigen lateral flow test on day 2, 5, and 10 of your stay (your arrival date counts as day 0) to avoid a quarantine.

They hand you these informational forms after they stamp your passport:

 

 

They then give you a card that you’ll need the testing clinic to stamp. You’ll need to show this stamped card upon your departure to avoid a potential fine.

 

 

After the arrivals hall for passports, a $23 cab ride into Georgetown and Seven Mile Beach, this was all mine by noon:

 

 

The Locale Hotel Grand Cayman is a great central location to mostly everything you need for a relaxing 4 days here; across the street you have numerous local eateries as well as the typical Pizza Hut/Wendy’s/Quiznos, 2 nearby yoga studios, at least 3 wellness massage spas, and a newly developed Caymana Bay district and promenade about a 7 minutes’ walk away.

 

 

Really odd to see Christmas decorations in 90ºF weather:

 

 

While in Caymana Bay, climb up the Observation Tower’s unique double helix staircase (free):

 

 

After a few flights you get okay views over Grand Cayman:

 

 

But the real treat is the 5 miles (not 7!) of the Seven Mile Beach you literally can feel like you have all to yourself. I barely saw a soul walking up and down here numerous times at various points of the day:

 

 

Sick of the beach? Swim with stingrays at Stingray City, play with turtles at Cayman Turtle Center, learn stand up paddleboarding, go scuba diving, snorkeling, or do yoga at any of the numerous studios on the island:

 

 

The Cayman Islands are also known as the culinary capital of the Caribbean and it’s hard to screw this one up; literally everywhere I ate was impressive. Avoid the basic fast food shops unless your nostalgic for them; you can’t go wrong with the Tandoori Cauliflower Steak and the doubles at Cimboco:

 

 

Any of the bowlstoasts (ESPECIALLY the vegan, gluten-free cornbread like toasts hnnnnnnggggg), or salads at Island Naturals Café:

 

 

…or a dinner at Tillie’s by the beach as you watch the sunset:

 

 

- At time of posting in Cayman Islands, it was 29 °C - Humidity: 74% | Wind Speed: 3km/hr | Cloud Cover: sunny

 

“Why So Cerros?” Verde National Park

“Why So Cerros?” Verde National Park

 

Sunsets and volcanoes: I’m a sucker for any variation of the combination.

Today we began with a lazy morning taking turns obtaining negative test results for COVID-19 so we could return home. In lieu of visiting local clinics, I packed 7 BinaxNOW home test kits I had ordered ahead on emed.com for everyone on the trip.

 

 

All you need is 20 minutes on a laptop with a webcam. After an online proctor verifies you performed and interpreted your test correctly, you’re good to go!

 

 

Brandon had a near miss obtaining an inconclusive test result, but a spare test kit I had luckily packed got him through on a second attempt. 

Beginning our day at 11am and after picking up some local Salvadorean coffee, we drove up to the top of Los Cerros National Park, aka Volcanoes National Park.

 

 

We paid the $3 admission fee and with a quick bathroom break we immediately befriended a group of Salvadorean locals curious to our presence. Our group of 7 then became 15.

 

 

Assisted by our driver Loretta, we found a trailhead to begin a half an hour hike with our last minute assigned guide Enrique. Our favorite were the views over Lake Coatepeque:

 

 

…and the trees of love:

 

 

After nearly 2 hours here, we then drove back down to the side of the volcano of Santa Ana where we devoured the numerous street stalls served on the side of the road:

 

 

It’s a vibe here too:

 

 

We then drove back to Lake Coatepeque proper for a quick dive and swim while watching the sunset:

 

 

Hard to beat these vanilla skies:

 

 

Returning back to the city at night, we dropped off Nina to see an old childhood friend from San Salvador while we dined at a local Salvadorean restaurant for our last dance with fresh pupusas, tamales, empanadas, elotes, …the works.

 

 

Then it was back to our rooftop batcave before our hotel closed at 10pm. 

Back to dissecting each other’s personal legends and most hidden of secrets.

 

 

- At time of posting in Los Cerros National Park, it was 16 °C - Humidity: 88% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy