A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak,
Enough food for a week,
But I’m damned if I see how the helican!

—Dixon Lanier Merritt

Editor’s Note: As this terrible pandemic rages, I’ve heard of some particularly tone-deaf billionaires escaping to their luxury yachts and then flaunting their isolation-lifestyle with champagne toasts on social media. I understand they are receiving a well-deserved backlash from their followers. Please don’t conflate my voyage and posts with their antics. I started this journey back in January when it was a very different world and Hazel James is an honest vessel, not a luxury yacht. With that being said, I sincerely hope these posts give you 10 or 15 minutes of pleasure and escapism that is so healthy for all of us. Thank you to all of our clinicians and first-responders who are on the front lines.

Since I’ve got some good connectivity and all the time in the world during my quarantine, I thought I’d share some pictures of the animal life of the Virgin Islands. And no, when I say “animal life” I don’t mean the party scene. However that does remind me of a funny story: When I first met Go & Lan near Prickly Pear Island several weeks ago (see previous post), the pandemic was just getting cranked-up. One evening as Gautier and Lancelot on Go & Lan and I on Hazel James were looking forward to a peaceful evening, we were suddenly surrounded by EDM (electronic dance music) and 15 or 20 catamarans filled with partying spring breakers. I think all from the University of Michigan. No professional captains to be found on any boat and they were anchoring all over us. Fortunately the wind didn’t shift during the night and boats didn’t bump. Suffice to say, there wasn’t a whole lot of social-distancing going on in that crowd. Since then, in the papers I’ve read about outbreaks fueled by spring breakers in Mexico and Ft. Lauderdale. Every time I read one of those stories, I expect to hear about the epic party that surrounded Hazel James and Go & Lan. Before they departed the next morning I asked where they were going next so I could be sure to avoid them. In writing this, I realize I sound like an old guy. Lord knows I’ve been on the other end of a lot of parties like that. For me, thank goodness a global pandemic was never part of the cocktail. Perhaps I should have taken Robert Frost’s advice—he said, “I was never radical when young for fear it would make me conservative when old.”

Back to the animals…

Let’s start with some turtles. One of the coolest things about Little Harbour, where I am waiting out the quarantine is the number of turtles. Most every time I snorkel off HJ, I see one or two. It’s fantastic to see them munch turtle grass off the bottom for 5 minutes or so, then they come up for a couple breaths of air.

Turtle in St. John USVI
Green Turtle in Little Harbour, Peter Island BVI

The 5 or 6 days I spent in Anegada were great. The beach hikes amazing. I caught these terns resting inside the reefs that surround Anegada.

Terns on Anegada Island BVI (note reef break at the top of the picture)

Many of us know Kenny G. and his penchant for “starfish moments”. This one’s for him…

A starfish in a foot of water

Next to the starfish, I found this conch moving slowly through the shallow water.

When I picked it up for a closer look, I found it looking back at me.

I believe that coral counts as fauna (at least it does in my book). I was fascinated by this staghorn coral growing right at sea level. Perhaps it’s planning ahead for sea level rise.

I found these frogs sunning and waiting for flies in an abandoned cistern.

Note the smaller frogs in the upper-left

There are many feral goats on the various islands. Here are a few I saw this morning off HJ’s transom. Their numbers and appetite make them a nuisance to the islands’ flora, and there are some discussions about trying to eradicate them from smaller islands.

Feral goats

It’s funny that the goats are constantly calling to each other and their vocalizations sound remarkably like a child in distress. For some reason my phone ear buds picks up their sounds. When a group of them is nearby, I’ve had more than one person on the other end of the phone ask me, “Do you have children onboard?”

Several of us in our little quarantine community are discussing the feasibility of a goat roast on the beach to celebrate the end of the quarantine…stay tuned.

Stick with me on this next and final series—it’s worth it. It also brings us full-circle back to the pelican poem that started this post. My good camera has a sports mode that uses a very quick shutter speed to stop action. It also takes a burst of photos, several frames in a second.

I caught this trio of pelicans in formation diving on a school of fish.

Starting into the dive
Streaking down, down, down
Almost there, tucking wings back and bracing for impact
The first one is in, the second one’s bill is just about to touch the water
2 outta 3 ain’t bad (look at the shadow of the 3rd one on the water(
The birds are away
Resting after the feed
I disturbed a pelican halfway though swallowing her meal, she came back after I moved on (note her webbed footprints)

PS: On the Go & Lan front… Lancelot and Gautier enjoyed the post and shared it with friends and family back home which is wonderful. They can use the diversions as much as we can. To answer Kathy and Sarah’s questions of what happened to Go & Lan’s 3rd crew—no, they didn’t eat him (although that would have taken the story over the top). The 3rd crew just assisted for the transatlantic passage. He flew home to France from Martinique after a much needed week of shore time. Finally, Gautier drew this picture of Hazel James and me quietly quarantining. If you look carefully, you’ll see my ukulele. After he gave it to me, I was thinking of asking him to, “…draw me like one of his French girls”, but I thought we might lose a little something in translation.

Stay safe and healthy. Fair winds and following seas. Hazel James out.

26 thoughts on “Fauna

  1. Thanks again for some fun moments and great pictures. You are continuing Colleen’s legacy of making people happy and i thank you for it!
    Love, T

  2. Thank you for these posts Dan. Richard and I are enjoying each one! The animal pictures are great.

    Be safe out there!


  3. These pictures are pure and straight from heart. We would not have seen these rare pictures without you exploring the journey. Thank you so much Dan for sharing. You should probably look forward to write a beautiful book on this!!!

    Things are in lock down mode here in India too due to Covid-19. I understand US is worst hit. I pray for safety and best health for all quoting ancient Sanskrit verse …SARVE JANAHA SUKHINO BHAVANTU …meaning let every one stay safe and happy.


  4. Hey Dan! I enjoyed a leisurely time catching up on your posts and links today. What an extraordinary voyage. I’m glad to see that you’re safe and well – as are we. Our community has more than its share of COVID cases unfortunately, but hopefully the tide is turning. Our family and friends are socially well-distanced and doing fine. Hello from Eileen, Andrew, Kate and Erin. Some great fauna today, but your sextant selfie with hat and beard remains the family’s favorite.

  5. Thank you Dan for the pictures and the update. This blog has been a great distraction these last few weeks. Safe passage.

    1. Thanks Jorge. As you have probably guessed, my stop in PR is not going to happen. I’m bummed about that. I have also heard that the Spanish Virgin Islands are wonderful, especially Isla de Cluebra. I was hoping to spend some time there…another year.

  6. Great pictures!
    You sure those loud spring breakers were from Michigan? Sounds like an Ohio State crew to me. Michigan’s spring break is the last week of February.

    1. Daniel: Yeah, I thought the UM comment would be painful but I gotta call ‘em like I see ‘em and I saw a bunch of UM flags (but, I never asked them). Boy, wherever they were from, I hope it wasn’t a situation of classes being cancelled and they all decided to do a bareboat charter. Stay safe and healthy locked down at 8K feet!

  7. Wow, more amazing photos! thanks Dan. I will now be able to rotate my screen savers. Keep it up buddy we all need this diversion as our synthetic vacation.

  8. Channel that inner gaucho and start thinking asado next time you watch those goats browsing along the shoreline…

  9. JJ: too funny. yeah, what i wouldn’t give for one of your bows at this point. I could give it to my French friends and let them take care of the goat hunt—what could go wrong?

      1. Sad to tell you that your beloved John Prine passed away at 73 yesterday from the virus!! Stay safe!

  10. Yes T, I knew he was in the hospital and heard the news. So sad. It feels like a good friend died. Colleen and I saw him live several times, those memories are swirling too. Take care.

    1. Lots of sadness today for Suzie and Colleen as I was in the same church with father Peter and in the same cemetary. I hope down the road it brings me more comfort than sadness to know she is near!

  11. Great photos, Dan, thanks for sharing! And the drawing of HJ is fabulous! Your posts definitely bring me a sense of calm and peacefulness, so thank you! XO

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