Poisonous Slime

Our blog was created with intention of capturing and sharing our experiences while traveling aboard Fayaway. You came to the wrong place for writing eloquence – but if you’re still subscribed and still reading, you already know this. A primary motivator for Kelly and me to take this trip, is not to see what all the tourists usually see, but to find the lesser-traveled places, the gems in the rough, and above all, to meet the people and experience their culture. We couldn’t wait to mingle with the locals on Saba or Montserrat, and countless other places we haven’t yet been to. We socialize along the way, sharing our common passion of cruising with other world travelers. In the short time we’ve been out here, we have made more long-lasting relationships on this trip than ever before in our lives. That’s the beauty of international travel. It has happened at (and points between) almost every island we’ve visited! It’s not the places we visit as much as the people we meet. We immerse ourselves by trying their food, hearing their stories, exemplifying what makes their lives complete. At least until recently.

David Quammen, in his book Spillover, cites that the word virus comes directly from the Latin virus, a term meaning “poison, sap of plants, slimy liquid.” Poisonous Slime. I like that!

So, what does green poisonous slime have to do with us? We cruisers are in a completely different mode now. No, we’re not suffering, in the way of physical affliction. Knock on wood – we’re still healthy, as far as we can tell, as we do hope are our readers. But, we feel sickened by what’s been happening on a social level, especially here in the otherwise “friendly” islands. Read on, my friends.

Most of us cruisers are recently abandoning plans for continued cruising through the year, who otherwise might be migrating according to weather patterns. Instead we’re mostly all headed toward familiarity, often to be closer to land-based family and friends. For us in the eastern caribbean, this means traveling for hundreds or thousands of miles in a different direction, an often unfamiliar direction, only to refuel or resupply, by stopping over at other ports, often in foreign countries. An obvious sanctuary should be US territories, wouldn’t you think? US citizen or not. However, in the last week, sadly, we’ve seen for the first time, wonton petty selfishness, apparently based on fear and ignorance. Cruisers, friends we’ve met on this journey, have been ostracized out of fear and ignorance. And it seems to be continuing.

Facebook can be a benefit to us trying to connect, and we’ve been using it a lot to share our experiences – both abroad and locally, both on the islands, and amongst the cruising community. We gladly share the latest news and details about anchoring and dealing with regulations. For example, Where is a good place to buy groceries in Culebra?

But it can also be a bane, seemingly a platform for unsavory people, showing their true colors when under stress. Cruising groups usually avoid political discussions for obvious reasons, but this virus thing is unavoidable, bringing out the worst. Another type of poisonous slime is oozing out all over, and infecting social relationships, especially with fearful people in self-preservation mode, becoming vigilantes in their own way. These folks apparently monitor cruisers networking groups, and wreak havoc in this time of concern. Confusion over policies, combined with the worst examples exhibited high at executive level serves to fan the flames. Even though we’re not physically sick, there’s another kind of infection. Here’s what happened here two days ago. (names are ficticious).

With growing pressure to return home to be with family or friends, Joe’s wife flew home on one of the few flights left scheduled at this remote southern island. He still needed to bring their boat (their home) back, and so Joe began the journey by single-handing his 37 foot sloop North. With concern for volatile entry policies, just before leaving, Joe contacted federal port authorities at the presumably friendly US island territory to ensure entry permission and thereby obtain fuel, food and much needed rest upon his arrival. After three-days’ passage, he was hunted down by vigilantes at his harbor entry, and told he had to leave. Local law enforcement, possibly also under pressure from these fearful citizens, sternly said he had to go, even after pleading his prior arrangments with federal officials. Nope, turn it around. Icing on this slimy cake here is that the official (or friends of the official) posted a contradictory story, in that Joe made the decision to leave. Not wishing to make more trouble, Joe did leave and sailed upwind to the east, to another island, where federal authorities again said he could safely enter.

On a better note to finish this story, we’ve also seen continued heart-warming acts. Upon arrival, with ample foretelling (again via the local facebook cruisers’ group) of Joe’s predicament, he was welcomed with kindness by several cruisers. Word in his new harbor quickly spread, and kindness prevailed as his arrival was watched for and eventually announced so we could all relax. Joe was offered shared wifi (so he could re-clear-in to the new port), food and whatever to help him settle and regain some energy. This is the true meaning of Safe Harbor.

More about Spillover…

Spillover

Spillover is a descriptive term for the unleashing of a virulent pathogen into a new unprepared species that leaves its propagation unchecked. (Zoonosis is another broader term, more specifically the movement from animals to humans). A virulent species (of bacteria, virus, whatever) that was happily coexisting, or evolving with minimal interference in its host species for thousands of years, comes into contact with a new species. The new species is not prepared to deal with it, and the consequences can be devistating. The spillover unleashes the pathogen, which simply is doing what it always did – it multiplies. Since its new life is unbalanced, it may or may not kill the host in its simple quest to propagate. Obviously, the worst thing a pathogen can do in its effort to keep living is to kill its host; its natural existence wants to be in balance. It really wants to just exist and multiply peacefully. But it becomes a race to spread before it kills, and thus a dead end. Anyway, the book is fascinating – especially in this time of pandemic. Or as David points out, disease researchers call it the Next Big One. We’re having one of these now!

After hearing an NPR podcast with David Quammen a couple months ago, I purchased his book, Spillover. David’s writing is compelling in the manner of describing a historical perspective of contagious diseases, as well as how scientists research and discover new pathogens, leading into our current COVID-19. He shares many accounts of his own field research, assisting field scientists, literally capturing all kinds of bugs to monkeys. It’s fascinating to understand the complex life cycles and what makes these diseases spread. For example, Lyme Disease bacteria. David presents a clear case that deer are not primarily responsible for spreading it – mice, and a small forest ecosystem are. Or maybe I’m the last person to realize this?

Other Related Reading

Why Social Closeness Matters. https://www.wired.com/2010/10/why-social-closeness-matters/


Full disclosure: Links to Spillover above, connect to Amazon.com, and if the book is purchased, we receive a minuscule financial reward, at no additional cost to you. Thanks!

5 thoughts on “Poisonous Slime

  1. INVIA (captain)

    Sad but true. We here in the USVI are – especially on Facebook, luckily so far not really personally – experiencing rapidly increasing objections against sailors.
    Sad for us – as we are holding a German passport – is the tendency in the opinion of the local community, that “especially those European sailors are bringing in the virus …. they are not paying US taxes they are not US citiizens ….so the government should expel them immediately…”

    It´s senseless to tell those people, that it´s not the passport that carries the virus. That we personally did not just fly in from a Corona Hot Spot but have been on the boat for months. And we keep strict social distancing, I would say much stronger than the average US cruisers around here.

    Needless to say, that we are very grateful towards the US and the US Virgin islands government to allow us to remain on their territory.

    Thank you so much !!
    And hopefully we´ll find a spot where to stay over the hurricane season & outside the hurricane belt.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stefan, yes the policies aren’t all rational. At least the Federal Customs have been somewhat consistent thus far. Regardless, now that you’re established in your spot, you should be ok to stay (at least by some other unwritten system of judgement). Likewise we will not move again until our final departure, for non-stop passage back to US. We believe this system will relax more in coming weeks, so we need to be patient and wait it out.

      Liked by 1 person

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