DC & New York: quality time, gene editing, and the trip to Antares

April, 15 2021

Writing from the train that is taking Sofia and I from New York back to Washington DC.  NY city was very much alive even though most humans on the streets were wearing masks. Unfortunately, or fortunately, the trip was interrupted by Sofia’s soccer practices and we didn’t get to do everything we had planned, including a visit to the Moma.  But we spent quality time together, had long walks through the city, Sofia did some shopping, and I had the pleasure to dine at a couple restaurants which had a fine selection of wines reasonably priced — something that in Beirut is not possible now days. 

Marina and I left Lebanon on April 9th a couple of hours after midnight. We took the longer but more affordable route via Doha-Qatar and indulged an upgrade.  This made the long crossing of Africa and the Atlantic Ocean more bearable.  Several glasses of champagne and wine were consumed before landing in DC.  I also started and almost finished a new book that I highly recommend:  The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson.  It is the story of Doudna and the researchers involved in the discovery of CRISPR-Cas9, one of the mechanisms that bacteria evolved over billions of years to fight viruses and that is now used in the new generation of vaccines against COVID19. But  CRISPR-Cas9 can also be used to edit human DNA. Isaacson writes about the scientific discoveries, the personal lives of those involved, the egos and rivalries, and the moral questions that emerge as Home Sapiens become the first specie that could be able to create a new specie.  The part on moral questions is probably the best.  Is it acceptable to edit the DNA of embryos to get rid of diseases such as Hungtinton’s, which gradually kills brain cells?  But what about genetic enhancement to increase height, muscle mass, or the concentration of red cells?  It is ok for us parents to try to give the best available education to our kids, but why not the best available genes? We might all agree that we want to rid humanity of schizophrenia, depression, and bipolar disorder but what about the social costs of doing so? These diseases are also associated with creativity. Vincent van Gogh and John Nash were schizophrenics and Ernest Hemingway, Graham Greene, Gustav Mahler and Francis Ford Coppola were (is) bipolar.  Read the book. 

Everything seems to be in place for my trip to St Martin on Wednesday next week.  I’m flying American Airlines via Charlotte. I’m supposed to land in Princess Juliana airport at around 1:30pm and go directly to the boat which by then should be on the water with her mast in place. At least this is what Bea, one of the owners and the manager of the boat yard, communicated in her last e-mail. 

I would like to spend two nights docked at the yard so that I can rely on the staff/technicians there while I prepare the boat, if there is a need.  Wednesday afternoon I will unpack, stow, clean, and check the main systems including the radar, AIS, and navigation lights. Thursday I will set the sails, fill the water tanks, refill the propane tank, refill the diesel and gas jerry cans, provision (not for the entire trip yet), and buy a few spare parts that are missing. Friday I should be able to move to the anchorage in Nettle Bay. There I plan to stay until Wednesday 28 when, if all goes well, I would sail non-stop to Grenada — or at least anchor at Simpson bay if I have to wait for the weather.  

While at anchor, other than enjoying the island, I’ll finish preparing the boat for the passage, setup the Yellow Brick and Spot devices, test a new drone I bought, buy the rest of the provisions, work on a couple of papers I have pending, attend a few work related virtual meetings, and teach a virtual class. To be able to connect I am buying t-mobile’s Global Plus 15GB Plan.  It offers 5GB high-speed Internet and, I just checked, it works in St Martin.  Unfortunately, the class and one of the meetings  will have to take place at 1 and 3am respectively but that is good training for the passage. 

I have an appointment for my PCR test on Monday morning and the results should be ready on Tuesday.  I have also reserved and pay an advance for a slip at the marina in Grenada where Antares will be staying, if all goes well: Port Louise Marina.  More updates will follow.

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