Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

March, 2014:

Thar she blows

It’s that time of year again – the clocks have sprung forward in the U.S. and the humpbacks are heading north with their young ones to gorge on fattier, cold water fish. So the watch is on. Last year was pretty disappointing in the whale watching category. Just a couple of distant spouts. We got luckier this year. Not of our own accord but because we enlisted the help of friends on island in agreeing to a call pact. If either of us spot whales we are supposed to call the others.

A few days ago, Michael and I were having breakfast around 8AM, and I was doing my seasonal scanning of the horizon when I spotted a few good spouts far off to the south east heading east. That would be heading towards our friends’ house.  So, as agreed, I called them. I never saw any more spouts and only received a communication back from Robert asking if I was familiar with a little story about a boy and some false cries of wolf. (That’s what you get sometimes for trying to be helpful.)

Fast forward ahead a few days. I was lying awake in bed trying to let Michael sleep a bit longer when the phone rang. Before I answered, I asked Michael, then awake either from the phone ringing or my asking, what time it was. 6:30A. That meant the odds were that the call was either bad news or a wrong number, but in fact it was these same friends calling to tell us that they had at least two whales spouting southwest of them. They were hesitant to call at first but then felt that I would want them to abide by the agreement. If we couldn’t see the whales from our house, we were welcome to drive out to theirs for some watching. The only request was that I call them back to let them know we were coming so they could ‘throw some clothes on.’ Fair enough.

And that’s what we did. We couldn’t see anything from our vantage point because the sun was just above the horizon and shining straight at us. So we threw some clothes on ourselves, grabbed our binoculars and camera and headed off. By 7AM we were all sitting out by their pool following the spouts and seeing an occasional whale’s back slide through the water far off in the distance. We drank coffee and chatted and hoped they would come closer.

By 7:30A, though, that was still all we were seeing, and the guys decided to drive over to the French bakery for croissants. In all fairness, I said that they didn’t have to walk away from a whale spotting on my account. And my friend told them she had English muffins handy. But they were determined and drove off.  Caroline then felt compelled to cut up some fresh fruit to round out the breakfast fare. Luckily her kitchen windows face out to the sea because, as you might predict, shortly thereafter I called out about a big spout and then sure enough the whale breached. – completely out of the water. It was a stunning sight that she did manage to see from the kitchen. And then she breached again. And again. And again. And again. Like a dolphin skimming the surface she breached seven times in total – though understandably with a bit less gusto each subsequent time.

It was amazing and beautiful to watch. Caroline and I were so excited. I didn’t even reach for Michael’s camera at first because I’m not the photographer in the family in the first place and I’m certainly no wildlife photographer under any circumstances. But I ultimately did manage to capture a couple of frames of some of the later breaches so I offer this one as proof of our sighting.


Sadly, even though that whale or another whale breached two more times, the guys missed it all returning with the croissants after all of the commotion with only more opportunities to see an occasional spout. However, we had a lovely breakfast by the pool. And Robert marveled at island life and the fact that back in Boston he would never dream of calling a friend’s house at 6:30A to invite them over for a spur of the moment breakfast.

I, for one, am awfully grateful that he did.


Easy come, easy go or not

I know that I’ve spoken before about how difficult it can be getting people here to this island. And I know that I’ve written before about what an ordeal it is getting things to this island. But really isn’t the definition of insanity doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results? Well, call us crazy.

We’ve been crazy this whole time. Way, way back when this whole ‘living on a desert island’ dream was just a twinkle in my eye, I read Herman Woulk’s classic novel about middle-aged angst prompting Norman Paperman to pack it all up and move to a Caribbean Island. It’s requisite reading for folks who turn around and attempt the same thing. But it was published in 1965. Even in 1998 we were sure that things would be different. Imagine how hope springs eternal as we sit here in 2014 living the dream yet still clinging to our delusions that mail will arrive in a timely fashion and that planes will do likewise.

I am thinking about this as we prepare to see off our third set of visiting guests in the past five weeks with a two week break coming before the next ones arrive. (Bad weather up north seems to make people remember that we are down here with an empty room.) These folks are leaving by boat and the seas are very calm today so I don’t think there will be any issues.  The last couple, however, was not nearly so fortunate.

Robin and Faye visit us from England. They fly to Antigua and then over from there on the local, Caribbean airline, LIAT. Now, historically, LIAT has always been given a bad rap (not to say whether that was deservedly so, but yeah it was deservedly so) hence the pithy plays on the meaning of the name as Lousy In All Things or Leaving Island Any Time (just not when scheduled). Anyway, our English friends fly Liat into Anguilla. They have had good experiences and bad experiences, planes on time and planes that simply flew over and elected not to stop for them. But recently the airline’s performance has been better.

Even when they arrived this time, they were only delayed about 30 minutes. That’s not so bad except that there never seems to be anyone at the airport to give you updates. I’m sure there are Liat employees about. They are just never anywhere where you can talk to them. And the electric arrivals and departures boards haven’t worked since the week they were installed. Flight Status links on Liat’s website give you a schedule not an update, and I just cannot sit on hold long enough for someone to answer their phone. Nevertheless, they arrived safe and sound at which point I thanked them for their lovely Christmas note that I had conveniently placed on the dashboard of the car having only just retrieved it from the post office on my way to fetch them at the airport on that the 12th of February! (Even the post travels by plane, you know.)

Fast forward (Ha ha, I crack me up. I mean slow forward. Remember where I am.) past all of the rum punches and sunny beaches to the day of their departure. On Liat. Back to Antigua. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time. They checked in. When asked if the plane is arriving on time, the agent’s response was, ‘we believe the plane is en route as we speak.’  Sly. Very sly. ‘We believe’. Do we look like we just fell off of the mango truck yesterday? Even so, Faye and Robin encouraged us to leave them and go home, but we’ve fallen for that one before only to have them arrive back knocking at our door when the plane didn’t come.  We insisted. We’d wait.

An hour later the plane landed. Not bad by Liat time.  We said our good-byes and headed home. Between loads of laundry I checked my email. There was one from Faye. My first instinct was to think she was kidding. But she was not. They boarded the plane, the engines started, smoke billowed out, and they were back in the departures lounge waiting for a new mechanic or a new plane or who knows what.  Their 3:30P flight was then hoping to depart by 7:30P. (This is exactly why they always spend a couple of nights in Antigua before heading home so they are not among the panicked throngs of passengers wondering how they will make their connections with British Airways or Virgin that same night.)

They were, however, without food or water since the airport restaurant closes at 5P. So I emailed her back and told her to meet us in the car park. We threw together some cheese and meats and crackers and chips and threw in a bottle of wine and before you know it we were tailgating in the parking lot of the airport. When the world gives you lemons, make charcuterie!

tailgateP.S. They did get to Antigua eventually meanwhile a good time was had by all.