CURRENT LOCATION: Anchored in Mosquito Cove, just outside Jolly Harbour in Antigua
17 04.579' N, 061 53.613' W
I have a problem. They say that the first step is admitting it, so here goes ... I am addicted to the internet. Our ability to obtain internet is directly proportional to our quality of life aboard Prudence. Many friends, readers, and other cruisers have tried to 'fix' what they perceive is our biggest daily sacrifice for the sake of simplicity: our lack of refrigeration. Thank you, but I will take warm beer over a weak internet signal any day.
On our journeys, internet access has come in many forms. Whenever we drop our anchor, one of the first things we check is the availability of signals from the boat. Obviously, we would prefer to find something for free, but we are willing to pay a reasonable amount for internet access at home. It is surprising how often we encounter outrageous charge structures for internet access, and how rarely we find a free signal. It seems that everyone has learned to encrypt their WiFi signals.
In the absence of internet on the boat, we often take a laptop to shore. Randomly hunting for internet is no fun, but we have found free signals in some surprising places (public parks in Salinas and Ponce for example, and once in the parking lot of a Napa Auto Parts store in Provo). In these types of locations, though, you are limited in time by the battery power on your laptop. In outdoor locations, you also have to find a shady spot or it is impossible to see your computer screen. Other places, like in the coffee shop in Hope Town, you buy something and get a code which unlocks the internet for a certain block of time (to prevent us from hanging around all day). Sometimes you get lucky and find a place like our French bakery in St. Martin, where you have free internet (with a purchase of something) and power outlets. Time is no longer a factor, and you don't have to play beat the clock to remember all the things you wanted to do online. A last resort is to go to an internet café, were we use their computers and pay for use by the minute or hour. Having a memory stick with pre-written blogs and responses to e-mail from our last internet check helps facilitate working efficiently on another computer. Sometimes this beats taking the laptop to shore and carrying it around on your back all day.
Obviously, our preference is for internet on the boat. Unfortunately, even when we do get internet, it is often a weak signal or an incredibly slow speed (generally both). Well, here in Jolly Harbour we found a free signal which is both reliable and quick. We are ecstatic! We spent the bulk of the day yesterday getting reacquainted with the internet. I was even able to configure our WiFi booster box to become a repeater and send the signal to both of our laptops (which may even help out the boats around us). It was a quiet day aboard, as both of us were busy clicking on our own laptops in different corners of the salon.
What do we do with all that time online? Well, the primary focus is on weather, e-mail, blogs, and photos (check out new pics posted in the St. Martin and Antigua photo links on the left). Recently, Sheryl joined Facebook and has added that to our list of items regularly checked. If we can accomplish those things we are free to read other people's blogs, do research on upcoming destinations, and maybe even download TV. With a strong and fast signal on the boat, we can do all that and I can listen to NPR streaming radio.
After a little too much time sitting at the computer, we did get off the boat in the afternoon. Master Sheryl had already checked out the area, but I had yet to see the town. There is not much to see. This is a resort-type community with shops and restaurants to support that type of clientele. We debated about going to a restaurant for dinner but it was still early and most were not yet open. They do have a remarkably well-stocked grocery store here, and we gravitated there in search of something special for dinner.
The prices take a little getting used to. A box of cereal may be marked $13.13, shocking until you realize that these are East Caribbean dollars (or EC). One US dollar is equal to $2.63 EC. Once you take the conversion factor into account, prices on most things are reasonable; however, some things are outrageously expensive so you have to be careful. We managed to get the fixings for making personal pizzas: cheese, flatbread, pineapple chunks, chicken breast, garlic, red onion, green pepper, and sauce ... all for $30 EC (less than $12 USD). Definitely cheaper than any restaurant in this area.
We still feel a bit off, as the residual effects of the passage linger. In my opinion, pizza is therapeutic. We enjoyed dinner with the sunset in the cockpit. Unfortunately, tonight our view was blocked by a boat anchored between us and the sun's landing spot. Hopefully, they will move before our next opportunity to observe the green flash.