Preparing to Sail North

posted from Leland, NC, April 2020

Excuse our dust
If you are following our blog you may be getting notices that some old pages are being re-published. We had a technical problem that caused many of the pictures to get un-linked from their spots in the posts, so we are going back through and fixing the links.

But after a long lapse, this post is NEW!

BACK IN GRENADA

After a long absence, we arrived in Grenada late after an easy 4 flight trip from NC.  Oddly enough it seems like the more planes you fly on the less it costs.  It was my birthday so Eric bought me a bottle of El Dorado 12 year old rum from the duty free shop in Trinidad, our last stop before Grenada. The weather was warm and calm when we arrived, so we celebrated my birthday late at night sitting on the bow under the starlit sky, sipping rum.

Day 2 reality hit. Right after breakfast our local canvasmaker came by to fit our new canvas. It’s looking good! Grocery shopping had to be a priority as we could not live on rum alone. While contemplating that, Eric noticed a puddle of gear oil on the deck under the already somewhat compromised outboard. George of Survival Anchorage lent us a dinghy but the outboard was a little challenging for me to start, Eric of course had no problem.

Since Eric was headed to Port Louis on Saturday to practice for race week next week, I would be left onboard with a no way off. So, we are now the proud owners of a Tohatsu 9.8 outboard – or as one of our friends pronounced it “Too Hot Sue”. We ended the day with a fun night at Nimrods, Eric jamming on the sax and me enjoying the music while hanging out with friends.

Eric, Tall Paul, and Gary back up Norman playing at Country Dave’s Sundowner Session at Nimrod’s Rum Shop

Day 3 We woke to find no wind and very calm seas- a good day to put the sails on, install the repaired SSB, and stitch patches on the sail covers. We later noodled in the bay with Danny and Carolyn from Mrs. Desilia and finally rested catching up on some reading.

 

Putting on the main sail

MORE MUSIC

I’ve been playing in a couple of weekly jams in Grenada, but when I was there last Fall, I started going to a very small, informal evening jam on Hog Island.  The first time I showed up there were three other musicians: Tom on guitar & pennywhistle, and Jack and Michael both on fiddles.  They started playing Celtic music which was a real challenge for me on sax.  They eventually switched into some blues and I fit right in.  But in self-defense, I tried out Tom’s pennywhistles.  Then I got a couple for Christmas.  Soon I was joining in at the jams on songs that didn’t lend themselves to the sax.

Playing the pennywhistle at Taffy’s jam.

GRENADA SAILING WEEK

Then we were into sailing week.  Eric raced on Jaguar while I alternated between going to the beach and working with the canvasmaker to move our project toward completion.  The new bimini and dodger came out great.

One day my friend Aleida and I went to Prickly Point to watch the races.  Here is a drone video of the race.  Aleida and I are standing on the cliff, Jaguar is the blue boat.

The race organizers always fiddle with the classes to best split the entries, but in an unusual move they combined three classes putting Jaguar in with a lot of pure race boats.  Jaguar is usually very competitive in her class, but was at a big disadvantage to boats from other classes.  The final results were a bit disappointing, but the racing was fun.

Jaguar racing – blue boat with yellow spinnaker

GETTING READY TO GO

For the past 10 years Grenada has been our second home.  But the time had come to leave and seek out new adventures.  We will really miss this beautiful country, its friendly people and the friends we leave behind.  We spent five weeks preparing Compass Rose as well as ourselves for the journey.  As is so typical with boats, we fix one problem and another rears its head, as if Grenada does not want to let us go.

Compass Rose gets fresh bottom paint

Getting the rig checked

Painting the main saloon

Compass Rose moving through the boat yard on the way to being launched

But it wasn’t all work.  We went birdwatching, and have spent time with friends, played music, swam at the world’s most beautiful beaches, celebrated birthdays, and saying good-bye.

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

We left Grenada and headed north to Carriacou around Feb 26 – our first time our boat was out in the open ocean in about three years.  The trip was about forty miles from where we were anchored in Clarkes Court Bay to Tyrell Bay, Carriacou.  It starts with a motor sail south around the reefs, then downwind with waves pushing us around a bit until we clear Point Saline at the southeast corner of the island.  We turned north and got to sail north past Grand Anse beach and St. George under reefed main.  From there we motor north and even a bit east until we get a wind angle to sail to Carriacou.

Clarkes Court Bay, Grenada, to Tyrell Bay, Carriacou

The problem with going north in the Windward Islands in winter is that the wind usually has a northerly component and you are hard on the wind between Grenada and Carriacou.  We managed to pick a day when the wind angle was such that we could make the rhumbline to Tyrell Bay while maintaining good speed.  Our ancient autopilot wasn’t cooperating so we hand steered the whole trip.

TYRELL BAY

It was good to be in Carriacou again.  Tyrell Bay is the only real cruiser anchorage and most of what you need (and can get) is available in a walk of a couple minutes from the beach or dinghy dock.  The bus into the big city is $3.50 EC (about $1.30 US).

On Sunday, Mar 1, we watched the launch of a 65 wooden boat that was built on the beach in Windward, on the NE part of the island.  Little by little they chop away the supports on one side of the boat (people are pushing on it from the other side) and slowly tip the boat until the keel and curve of the bilge rest on pipes that role on planks and push/pull the boat into the water.  It took all day (you don’t want the party to end too soon) and was amazing to watch.

65 ft. wooden workboat ready for launch

The entire day is a combination of party and problem solving.

One fellow directs the others as they gradually chop away at the bottom of the supports.  The boat leans farther and farther until…..

 

….the boat hull lays on the rollers.

Finally after a lot of pushing with a backhoe, adjusting of rollers, and pulling with a boat in the harbor the boat launches.

The next day we sailed to Bequia (St Vincent).  The winds were higher and more on the nose than predicted, and the waves were confused and contrary.  We were getting pushed so far off the rhumbline that we tacked and motor sailed east behind Canouan to get back some easting.  Once we got out from behind Canouan we were able to maintain the course we needed.  It was a tough day, but we made it.

Our course from Carraicou to Bequia

BEQUIA

Bequia has always been one of our favorite places.  It has a small town along the harbor with lots of shops and restaurants.  Lots of good food, yacht services, and friends.  If you can’t find what you need within a five minute walk of one of the dinghy docks, you probably can’t get it.  There are two beautiful beaches separated by a cliff and some rocks and reef.  You can anchor close enough to swim over and do some snorkeling.

There is also a lot of good music – especially when you consider how small the island really is.  This is the winter hangout of Stan and Cora, a.k.a., Ruff Enuff, one of our favorite acts from Grenada.

The music scene includes an excellent weekly jam session.  Elfic, a local guy (think a younger Morgan Freeman playing guitar) operates Sailors Café and hosts the jam.  The house band is all locals and includes a drummer, keyboard, 2-3 guitars, a uke, and a steel drum.  Other cruisers joined in on a uke, guitars, and trombone.  We played everything – rock, blues, jazz, reggae, and country.  Reggae sax gets interesting.

We got to stay in Bequia for over a week because we imported a part for our uncooperative autopilot.

IMPORTING A PART FOR THE AUTOPILOT

This part is a bit long, so you might want to skip it, but it gives a little insight into the experience of shipping things to an island.

I had done some testing of the autopilot while anchored in Carriacou and it seemed to be OK, so I chalked the problem up to operator error.  It turns out my only error was thinking it was OK.  Once in Bequia I found some diagnostic tests online and decided that the autopilot control unit was bad.  Our autopilot is ancient and the company went out of business on Jan 15, 2020.  I found a used control unit on eBay offered by a marine consignment store in CA.

 I called the vendor and we worked out a price and delivery options – he really wanted to send it via USPS Priority Mail Express International.  Because the item was offered through eBay I had to log on to eBay and buy the part. No matter what I did, eBay used our home address to calculate the shipping via UPS (not USPS), and wouldn’t process the order if I changed it.  The vendor manually set the shipping cost and told me not to worry about it saying UPS because he would personally mail the package-which he did.

USPS consigned the package to FedEx for delivery from mainland US to Bequia.  We tried tracking it though USPS and FedEx, but neither would accept the tracking number.  Luckily before placing the order we talked to a broker to help us get the part through customs and she finally figured out how to track it.   There was a lot of back and forth between us and the vendor via phone which got a bit painful when I ran out of time on my prepaid phone.  In three visits to the cell company office:

1) I added time to my phone,
2) their system was not working and they couldn’t add time to phones,
3) they couldn’t add time to my phone because it used a Grenada sim card rather than a St. Vincent card.

Then on the day we thought the part would finally arrive our broker was not in the office.  The person who was there suggested we talk to the local post office.

The post office is in the same building with Customs and Immigration, so we knew where to find it.  The checked and didn’t have it.  They talked to Customs (essentially the next window over) and they didn’t have it either.  They suggested that it would come in that afternoon on the boat from St, Vincent.

We left and got some lunch and then while walking by the shops along the waterfront road we saw some friends who asked about our part.  We sat down and began to tell them the story when the man at then next table interrupted us and asked if we were Compass Rose. He told us that FedEx had our paperwork, then he got up and left.  A couple minutes later he returned and repeated that FedEx had our paperwork.

We walked a few doors down to FedEx and yes they had our paperwork.  Sign here and head to Customs.  And now that Customs knew what they were looking for they found our package.  We signed some paperwork, paid the duty, and had our part.

ON TO ST. LUCIA

Having received the part and knowing it would only take a few minutes to install the part we decided to take advantage of a good weather window to sail to St. Lucia the next day, so we checked out and went back to the boat to install the part.

It didn’t work.

The die was cast – we sailed the next day.

By this time we were getting a little concerned about the virus but decided to continue on and keep an eye on the news.  We sailed to St. Lucia on Mar 13.  We bypass St Vincent so it’s a long trip – about seventy miles to Rodney Bay at the north end of the island.  We decided to cut about fifteen miles off the day’s sail by running up the yellow flag and taking a mooring at the Pitons (two incredible pointy mountains) at the south end of St. Lucia. It gave us a chance to relax after all the craziness of the last week.

Bequia to St Lucia. The red circle is the Pitons.

Approaching the Pitons

A little late afternoon improv

The next day we motored the fifteen miles up to Rodney Bay on the NW corner of the island and officially checked in.  This was where we encountered out first health screening.

Rodney Bay has a lot of cruiser resources within an easy walk of one of the two main dinghy docks.  We were also able to get a quote on replacing our autopilot.  Up to this point we had been playing tag with two other boats headed for the US and another that was going to Martinique and then back to Grenada and a fourth boat that was undecided from the beginning.  One boat headed out from Bequia and is now in St. Kitts.  The other three were with us in Rodney Bay.

Fruit and veggie boat making its rounds in the anchorage

Despite having access to local VHF nets, HF radio nets, and the internet, getting reliable, current information was a real challenge.  More and more islands were putting travel restrictions and/or quarantine policies in place and we were getting nervous about getting stuck somewhere and not able to get our boat out of the hurricane zone before hurricane season.  (Two of the boats that were with us in Rodney Bay headed north and are still in Martinique and quarantined on their boats indefinitely.)

We were on shore when we got “reasonably reliable” information that any boats arriving in Grenada (we assumed anywhere in the country, not just the island) after Mar 19 would be subject to a 14 day quarantine.  We decided to beat feet for Grenada and to get in ahead of the deadline. Luckily I had our boat papers with us and we checked out late in the afternoon.

We left the next morning at first light to make the seventy mile trip to Bequia.  We dropped anchor mid-afternoon after a great sail.  We ran up the yellow flag, got some rest and left for Carriacou at first light the next morning.  Once again we had a good sail and anchored early in the afternoon Mar 18, a day ahead of the deadline.

CARRIACOU

Usually when we arrive somewhere, we cover the sails, put gear away, and tidy the boat in general, before checking in, but not so this time.  As soon as we were confident that the anchor was dug in and that we wouldn’t swing into another boat in the crowded anchorage we commissioned the dinghy, locked the boat and headed for Customs and Immigration.

We weren’t the only ones.  There was a long line.  It was around 2 PM and we had to get a health screening before we could check in to the country.  We learned that the lady doing the screening hadn’t taken a break all day.  Luckily, she didn’t go to lunch until shortly after she screened us.  The whole process took about two hours.  We went back to the boat and went swimming.  We figured we could put the sail covers on and tidy the boat the next day.

Late in the evening of our second day in Carriacou the person who does the local cruiser radio net control came on and read a statement put out by Grenada quarantining everyone on their boats.  We can get the radio net from Grenada and we listened to it the next morning.  We missed the first part of the net which is when they would discuss things like a quarantine order, but when we tuned in it seemed like business as usual.  I asked about the quarantine in the Q and A section and was told it wasn’t an issue.  We decided not to trust the conflicting information and just sail to Grenada.   We went to shore and got the last of our laundry and sail to Grenada.

A few days later Carriacou got serious about lockdown after a quarantined charter boat crew went ashore on an uninhabited island.  Evidently officials are patrolling the waterfront – it’s a small place.  Grenada now has seven virus cases that trace back to someone who flew in to Grenada and took the ferry to Carriacou for a wedding.  (Currently, Apr 10, all three of Grenada’s islands are still locked down.  Cruisers can’t leave their boats except to swim or go for groceries.  Access to grocery stores is very limited.)

ON TO GRENADA

We had a good sail to Grenada and picked up a mooring back in Mt. Hartman Bay.  Some friends were surprised we showed up that day because they had heard that sailing between the islands was prohibited.  That was news to us.

The next morning, Sunday Mar 22, we got word that Grenada’s airport was closing at the end of the day on Monday.  We had booked a flight with American for the following weekend (today) but had not received a cancellation notice.  Jackie managed to find us a couple seats on a Jet Blue flight to JFK that afternoon.  We took the sails off, put all the canvas below, and did most of the things needed to put the boat up.  The guy we rent the mooring from took us to the airport.  We caught the flight with time to spare.  We had been on the island about 24 hours.

The big determining factors to not ride it out were that the boat is a VERY small place if you can’t get off once in a while, we didn’t know how long this would go on, and if we got sick there are precious few medical resources in Grenada.  We had to balance that against the risk of being exposed to the virus during air travel.

The flight was packed, but since there were no cases on Grenada yet we figure we are probably OK.  Interestingly there was no health screening coming into NY.  We spent the night in a hotel (only four rooms were occupied).  The next morning we flew from La Guardia to Wilmington with only four other passengers.  All the US airports that we went through were empty.

It was good to get back to our house in North Carolina

BACK IN NORTH CAROLINA

So we are here and have made it through more than two weeks of self-imposed quarantine, so we probably didn’t pick up any bugs along the way.  We have figured out how to get food delivered or by curbside pickup at grocery stores.

In retrospect I don’t think there are any decisions we would have made differently.  We headed north with a wait and see attitude about how things would develop, but pretty early on we began to suspect that countries would close their borders and of course they did.It is a month later and our friends our still locked down on their boats in various countries. Restrictions vary from island to island but movement is restricted to certain times of certain days to get food or simply on an emergency basis. Grenada finally seems to be allowing limited opening up retail stores, but masks and social distancing measures are in place.

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