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Her Name Is Rose, But She Answers to Chicken

Meet Rose, our mascot and pet chicken. She came to us a year ago as the tiny fluffball you see here. A friend found her abandoned in Tortola and rescued her, but with a full-time job, she could not raise the little chick. Chicks are time intensive and since chickens are social creatures, chicks need company. Lots of it. Being separated from the mother hen creates anxiety for the chick and the chick will peep incessantly to alert its mother to where it is. At first, I couldn’t leave the little chick’s sight or a barrage of peeping would start. The chick behaved as if it had imprinted on people so in the chick’s mind, I was its mother and protector. I had to take it with me wherever I went. It takes about 3 or 4 months for chickens to mature enough for you to know whether or not you have a hen or a rooster, so Rose didn’t have a name for a while. I called her “Chicken” and that’s what she answers to.

 

Our previous chicken was another rescue. Bok Bok Chicken was about 2 months old when I found him. He had caught the disease that the mosquitoes carry here that causes the skin on the chicken’s head to form hard blisters. Bok Bok was so covered in

Bok Bok Chicken

blisters that his eyes were shut. Most of the chickens in his wild flock were sick with it. They lived on the marina property in Red Hook. We saw him standing by the walkway (I was out with the kids) and felt sorry for him. I picked him up and he collapsed in my hand. His breastbone was protruding and he was so light. He couldn’t see to find food or water. I got a box and brought him to the boat. He drank water when his beak was dipped in and I fed him raw egg which he loved. I spent time holding him but with the blisters, he looked totally gross, so at first I held him with paper towels. Bok Bok responded well to being held, put on weight, and in time the blisters fell off. His eyesight was fine, but one eye was still partially closed from the skin regrowing too much where the blister was. He also had a wonky comb from the blisters. He stayed with us until he was about 4 months old and started crowing. At 3 am. Inside the boat. So he got to sleep in a tree near the marina where we were staying. It was about that time that he discovered hens. He managed to integrate himself into a local flock. That worked out great for both parties. He was happy and healthy and we could sleep. Even though he wasn’t on the boat anymore, he’d find me in the marina parking lot and bring hens over to get fed. Occasionally, he’d allow me to pick him up and bring him back to the boat for lunch. I haven’t seen him since the storms. He used to hang out by the guard shack. I like to think that he moved to a new territory.

 

Rose grew and at 4 months old, laid her first egg in the salon. When I’m not on charter, I take her with me to my job sewing canvas. My workshop is in the basement of a villa and Rose will spend the day by my side while I’m sewing. On charter, she has a dog crate that she stays in. She doesn’t mind boating life. We’ve sailed with her around St. Thomas and she likes to perch on the edge of the aft cabin top while we are going. She has a stubborn streak and won’t do things if she doesn’t feel like it. She knows two commands “go poop” and “get the cricket”. I’m trying to teach her others. She doesn’t always come when called. Like my children, she waits until I’ve called for a good five minutes until she appears.

Rose never learned how to be a chicken. To her, people are her flock. She is smaller than the wild chickens in the yard of a friend’s beach villa where I do my sewing. They pick on her when they see her so she prefers to stay inside. Before the storms, there was a rooster with them, named Checkerboard. When he matured, he’d chase Rose and do unspeakable things when he caught her. My family and I stayed at the villa for Maria. They day after Maria subsided, so much water was coming the hillside, that the villa was cut off and an island of its own. The two wild hens were still around, but Checkerboard was absent. I went walking around the yard once the water had drained enough. The two scruffy hens were by a grove of trees and were chattering. On either side were two deep gullies in the sand. I looked near where the wild hens were clucking and found two yellow chicken feet sticking out of the sand at the bottom of a gully. Checkerboard had been caught in the torrent of water coming from the mountains and swept into the sand. I left him there. There was nothing to be done.

Recently, a friend who lost both boats during hurricane Irma wrote a children’s book featuring Rose. One boat was her and her boyfriend’s home and the other was a charter boat. They stayed in the same houses we did during both Irma and Maria. They are trying to raise money to get a new boat and return to St. Thomas. Check out the book and the backstory. We are hoping that they are able to return soon.

Rose has been a steady egg-producer. Her eggs are slightly smaller than store bought eggs and are a pinkish brown color. They make for a great breakfast or addition to recipes. She lays about one egg per day.

Our kids love Rose. They spend time petting her or carrying her around like she’s a puppy dog. There aren’t many sailing chickens around. We’ve read about Monique, the sailing chicken. She’s really been on some travels! Rose is more of a Caribbean chicken. She loves to eat food and hang out. When it is time to work hard, she works hard. But she takes her roosting time seriously.


IrMaria: Part 1

Jolly Mon in the mangroves by the airport

On September 6, hurricane Irma devastated the US and British Virgin Islands as well as Barbuda and St. Martin. Irma was forecast to come awfully close to the VI several days before. Looking at the projected storm path, I felt a pit in my stomach. Chuck and I discussed our options for saving Jolly Mon. Hurricane Hole in St. John? The crowded lagoon of Brenner Bay? Culebra? Stay in Long Bay? A chance encounter with a friend gave Chuck another idea. Jolly Mon draws 7′ so getting her into the lagoon is difficult. Hurricane Hole is too far away. Same with Culebra. Long Bay is unprotected. The weather reports said Irma would turn northwest. But everyone could feel that wasn’t the case. The atmosphere on the islands changed. The panic was palpable. Chuck talked to a friend about it and the friend suggested a small cove behind the airport runway. It is 10′ deep up to the mangroves. Five days before Irma, we went to check it out and found that the rumor was true. The cove was 10′ deep up to the mangroves and no one else was there (the lagoon was already filling fast). Sunday before Irma, we pulled Jolly Mon nose first into the mangroves and put out every anchor we had, one off of the bow and three big ones off of the back. Then we spider-webbed line into the mangrove trees. We spent the night aboard and began packing to go stay at the concrete house of our friends. Knowing Irma was coming, paralysis set in. It was hard to pack because anything left behind could be gone forever. But in only a few days, there isn’t enough time or room to move everything. The process of letting go had to start before the storm even hit. We felt lucky to have found a good spot for our boat and a place to ride out the storm with our kids and pet chicken. Monday morning, we found why it was such a good spot. It belongs to the University of the Virgin Islands for their boats. Paul and Steve of the marine sciences program were kind enough to let us stay (Thank you, Paul and Steve!!). They put away their small powerboat and one sailboat in the same area. We left our boat Monday. The pit was still in my stomach as we loaded into the dinghy and I told her to be good. I left a photo of my Granny in my locker so she could watch over the boat.

We are the blue dot to the left, about to get run over sideways.

Monday and Tuesday was spent getting our friends’ house prepared for Irma. They took in several people and families who either lived on boats or in rickety structures (Thank you, Kim and Doug!!). By Wednesday we had 17 people (including 4 children under age 8), two dogs, a cat, and a chicken in a concrete house 35′ up a cliff facing the Caribbean Sea. I’m claustrophobic and didn’t like the idea of the house being closed up with no escape. I spent much of the morning curled in a ball waiting for the inevitable, obsessively checking the weather. The storm was forecast to turn but with each update, the turn wasn’t happening. Irma was plodding along in a direct line, her wind speeds clocking upwards, upwards, 180 mph, 185 mph, 200 mph. Sustained. I couldn’t imagine what 200 mph winds even looked like. I kept busy in the kitchen, cooking and cleaning, trying to not think about the coming storm. I called my son Zane in the states to tell him that I loved him. I talked to my sister. Both could hear the fear in my voice. There was no way to avoid what was coming. Flights out were sold out, the last ticket rumored to have sold for over $6000. The winds began building and we watched the waves crashing on the beach below. The waves were enormous and a sick color green, not the beautiful blue they normally are. Chuck taped a GoPro type camera on the deck railing to capture the hurricane in a time lapse.

Irma’s approach bringing the surf

We took one last look out of the door to the porch and then closed up. I went to clean dishes, but as the eyewall approached, the house generator failed. WAPA (Water and Power Authority) had cut power earlier in the storm to protect people from getting electrocuted by fallen lines. The house went dark with all the windows shuttered. The sick feeling in my stomach returned as the wind roared outside. It was just about noon. We worried about the waves outside and what to do if the roof came off or the waves came up. Some of the worst of the storm would be coming from the south, the direction the house faced. Before the power went, I had messaged a friend on Facebook to see if we needed to evacuate, would the villa up the road be available, was it safe, was anyone there. She was vacationing in Iceland and called me right away. The person watching the villa was having phone issues. There was no way to contact him, especially since phone service went down. We had wifi, though, for a little bit, until the generator went. The darkened house made the sounds coming from outside even more ominous. Panic seized me and I wanted to go be by myself so I found a dark corner upstairs and got in it. The wind screamed outside and the house creaked. The glass windows were flexing in their frames. The wind was so strong it was whistling up the sink drains. My friend found me hiding and insisted that we all hide together. 17 people, two dogs, a cat, and a chicken piled into a bathroom as the pressure dropped and dropped. My ears kept popping. We all brought furniture cushions to hide under in case the roof pulled off. I took my kids and went in the walk-in closet with the chicken and sat on the floor hugging my daughter. Chuck had been all business during the storm. He kept checking windows and doors and supervising the kids. The wind outside started to scream. Blasts of wind buffeted the house and the pressure dropped again. Silence for a second and then a massive WHAM from wind jolting the house. The roof was creaking and pulling upwards. The house began to shake and again a harder blast of wind. It didn’t seem to stop. In the bedroom, the shuttered glass doors burst open and the storm came in through the cracks in the shutter. The wind was so strong, it took 3 guys to try to shut the doors. They pushed a large mahogany bed against the doors but the wind shoved the bed back. Beau broke some furniture to get some wood to close the doors. They had to drill the doors shut and leave the bed against them. Chuck came to check on us in the closet and for the first time, I saw fear on his face and tears in his eyes. It sounded like the waves were hitting the house. I held my daughter tight as the pressure dropped again. Nick put on music and the “You Are My Sunshine” song started playing. I’m sitting in a closet, pretty sure we are all about to die, and these people started singing along to the song. I sang, too, but I was really pissed that I was looking at dying in a closet while everyone is singing “You Are My Sunshine”. Not how I wanted my life to end.

Irma ramping up

After what seemed like hours, the pressure stopped dropping. The wind had slightly changed direction but was still coming from the sea. What we thought were waves hitting the house was actually the wind slicing the tops of the waves off and flinging them at the house. We moved back out to the living room. The littler kids seemed to not notice the outstanding racket outside. The big picture window bowed with each wind gust. I reached a point of not being afraid. Irma shoved water under the doors, through any crack or crevice. The entire living room soon had the floor covered with an inch to two inches of water. The kids thought it was fun, but we scrambled to get things up off of the floor. After several hours, the winds calmed enough to open the doors. First we looked out into the dark of the back yard. Shining my flashlight toward the beach, all of the palm trees were either snapped or frond-less. Looking up the hill, ghostly figures of naked trees stared back. All of their leaves were on the ground, blown away. When we opened the front door at 10 pm, we found that Irma had dropped someone’s roof inches from my car, put a nail in the bumper of Beau’s car, broken car windows, and ripped up large bushes and dumped them in the driveway. Every telephone pole was either down or bent. Debris was everywhere. More roof up the hill, a bigger piece from a house over 100 yards away. I was nearly delirious to begin with from not eating or sleeping well the days previous, but now faced with this new world and the fact that we survived was completely overwhelming. Did many people survive this? What did the rest of the island look like?

downed bushes

In the morning, we got answers. The rumor mill had the hospital destroyed, Frenchtown leveled, St. John unaccounted for. One AM station broadcasting out of St. Croix fielded phone calls from people who had little idea what had actually happened here. Communication was cut off.

Welcome! We Are Ready to Sail!

Jolly Mon is ready to go! After four years of work, we are ready to share the fun of sailing and swimming in the islands with our lucky guests. Getting to live and work in the Virgin Islands is fabulous and we are looking forward to sharing a bit of that life with our guests.

A friend once told me that moving water sorts stones, pebbles, and sediment according to size. Sand gets deposited with more sand, small pebbles get sorted with other small pebbles, and larger stones with the other large stone. He said it’s like life. As you move through life, you sometimes find where you belong. That’s how I feel about living in the islands. I finally found where I belong and the people I enjoy being with.

Chuck and I started life here 7 years ago. We purchased Jolly Mon 3 years later. Chuck was in love with her classic look and I liked how she sailed. We’ve sailed her locally, to St. Croix, and to Culebra. Chuck sailed extensively before he arrived here, making several Atlantic crossings. In fact, we both had abrupt career changes. He was an RN and I was a chemist. Bada bing bada boom. Now we own a charter boat business!

We’ve stocked our galley, compiled high quality snorkel gear, scrubbed the deck, and bought an industrial blender. We are ready to show you a good time!