Stranded boat family welcomes new hand on deck

Proud mum: Marie-Michelle Larouche with baby Kaia at the Cayman Islands Hospital on 9 June.

The Larouche-Kelly family’s sailboat has a new crew member – newborn baby girl Kaia.

The Canadian family, who sailed into Cayman in early March and became stranded here during the COVID-19 crisis, welcomed the new arrival earlier this month.

Over the past three months, there has been an outpouring of generosity from local residents who have helped them with land-based accommodation, transport, baby items and groceries.

Baby Kaia’s name means ‘ocean’ in Hawaiian.

When they arrived on their boat Ohana, Marie-Michelle Larouche, her husband Philip Kelly, and their two children planned to stay in Cayman for just a couple of days before setting course for Guatemala, from which they had booked a flight to take them home to Canada when she was 31 weeks pregnant. COVID-19 scuppered those plans.

At first, they had to stay on their boat, moored off shore, but then a berth became available at the Cayman Islands Yacht Club and they were give special permission, amid the virus-suppression protocols, to dock there.

After reading about them in the Cayman Compass, reader Karin Scherfenberg was moved to offer the expectant mum and family her condo on Seven Mile Beach, free of charge.

On the morning of 9 June, Larouche gave birth to Kaia at the Cayman Islands Hospital. The baby was 8.15 pounds, born at 41.2 weeks of pregnancy.

Her name means ‘ocean’ in Hawaiian.

“The delivery went very well,” Larouche said. “I entered the hospital at 6:00 in the morning on Tuesday June 9th and our little Kaia was born at 10:59.”

“I am recovering very well and I am so grateful my daughter was born in such a safe and caring environment. Coming back from the hospital to the apartment was also a relief. We are still very comfortable and happy to be here,” she added.

Already a mother to a son and daughter – Alexis, 8, and Rosie, 2 – Larouche said she found Cayman’s healthcare system “much different” to Canada.

“The quality of care I received from Dr. [Howard] Deosaran and his team at the Trincay Clinic was amazing. We received such devoted and professional care. I still can’t believe I have my doctor’s personal phone number and that I can reach him at any time with concerns or problems,” she said. “Also, Dr. [Ayanna] Ennis, the Trincay Clinic anesthesiologist, made the delivery much easier with her comforting care. Kaia’s pediatrician, Dr. [Christine] Chen, was also with us to ensure Kaia was delivered healthy and safely. She was caring, gentle and answered all our concerns during the delivery.”

Kaia with her sister Rosie and brother Alexis.

Larouche said her family’s logbook usually contains accounts of their crossings and seafaring journeys. However, the entry on 9 June depicts a different type of journey, as she describes the birth of her daughter in nautical terms, and ends with the following words:

“This morning at 11 o’clock, our little boat finally shows up. A three-hour crossing that has set the course of our lives in a different direction forever.

“Little Kaia, brought by the sea, out of the storm and on the run, under the foreign sun of an exotic country. She is not only the latest member to join the ranks of the Ohana crew, but above all, she is my new little girl whom I already love.”

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