The first three weeks of our sailing expedition were spent in and around Sint Maarten, figuring out how to make sailing and arachnid collecting work together and preparing the ship for a six-month voyage. We are well on our way south, but a recap of our activities thus far is certainly in order!
Lauren and Zamira started the expedition in Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, and after a warm welcome from our Captain and crew we got to work (both on the boat and off). After meeting with natural resources and parks personnel from both sides of the island, we spent several days sorting out how to work effectively with a smaller crew than we are used to. On the French side, we got to spend some time with Julien Chalifour from the Reserve Naturelle Saint Martin. On the Dutch side we made it to some caves with assistance from the island’s resident naturalist: Mark Yokoyama. After a fruitful week of collecting we made our first trial voyage to the neighboring islands of Tintamarre and Saint Barths. Tintamarre, part of the Reserve Naturelle, was hot, dry, and of course full of spiders.
Saint Barths turned out to be less than ideal from a sailing standpoint since the anchorage was unprotected. We spent two nights standing watch while rocking and rolling. In between, we had the opportunity to meet and work with the super arachnid-knowledgeable Karl Questel who led us around the accessible areas of the largely privately owned island of mega-yachts. We then headed back to Saint Martin to pick-up Angela Chuang, make a few last minute repairs to the boat, and wait out a storm before heading to Saba.
Our next stop, Saba- “the unspoiled queen”, was fantastic. We arrived on a Sunday, which meant everything on the island was closed. Luckily I got a fantastic taxi driver to help me find the home of one of two rental car guys on the island. Everyone was incredibly friendly, and there was quite a bit of local interest in our research. The island’s trail system is impeccably maintained, so it was very easy to navigate through the habitats and collecting went very well.
From Saba we headed to ‘Statia’ to meet with collaborator Hannah Madden of STENAPA on her home turf. We had an amazing few days of carefree collecting with the immensely knowledgeable Hannah leading us around. We also made two exciting arachnid discoveries on the island- a tiny ant-mimic Salticid never recorded, and schizomids in the Quill!
Our next stop was Saint Kitts, where we bid farewell to Angela, but said hello to our new team member Ana Miller-ter Kuile. In Saint Kitts we met a local hiking enthusiast, Wayne Clarke, who led us on our spider hunts. We also parked Reboot at a dock in the marina, making it the first time Reboot had been docked since the other side of the pond! From Saint Kitts we headed over to Nevis!
Nevis was truly welcoming of arachnid research! We arrived and were given a five-star welcome by our local host- the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society. They arranged a television interview, newspaper coverage, meetings with the Directors of the Ministries, a guide from the Ministry of Agriculture, and our cameraman even offered to drive us around for collecting! The island was a great success, and we are hoping people will be excited about arachnids after they see our TV debut! Nevis was also where we bid farewell to Lauren and welcomed Anne McHugh onto our sailing expedition.
To learn more about our lives aboard Reboot, be sure to check out team-member Anne McHugh's blog and Captain Roger's blog.