Hello lush, green Grenada! The island’s verdant emerald hues greeted us immediately as we tied up at the quarantine dock after a beautifully brisk sail to get here. Watching the sunrise over the island as we approached from the north at dawn felt like a “new beginning.” Post COVID 19 lockdown further north, we were really quite grateful.
On arrival, we summoned our weary bones, donned masks, and went ashore for health checks and strict instructions regarding our conduct for the coming 2 weeks. We were forthwith (on the fifth try!) happily installed in quarantine at anchor, along with the hundreds of other boats keeping out of the way of hurricanes. We whiled away the quarantine period on the boat quietly but happily, and as luck would have it, our closest neighbors were Australian boats. One from Sydney, another from Melbourne, (Phillip Island in fact) and a third built in Brisbane 20 years ago! Our communication during quarantine was restricted to shouting conversations at sunset, and sending photos of each others’ boats and messaging on Instagram. (Thanks for the tip @letsjustgosailing!)
One Aussie couple first sailed in the Caribbean in 1982 👍 and (like many other boats we meet) have been cruising the Caribbean for decades either full or part time ever since.
I must mention our gratitude to the Marine and Yachting Association of Grenada (MAYAG) who lobbied the Government of Grenada on behalf of cruisers and therefore facilitated a carefully staged arrival of yachts despite the country’s borders being closed. This was extremely important, as hurricane season officially runs from June until the end of November, but this year the COVID19 lockdown restrictions and subsequent border closures meant that MANY boats (including us) were (and some still are) stranded at a latitude generally not recommended (read “uninsurable”) at this time of year.
(Particularly pertinently, locals report that this year has seen an unusually active beginning to the hurricane season. It seems to be a year of unprecedented events!)
To cheer us up, the Aussies just kept coming as we moved out of quarantine and into other bays to begin our new plan for a safe hurricane season, and eventual repatriation. I was EXTREMELY chuffed to see so many Antipodeans…. Prior to arriving here I could count the number of other Aus or NZ boats on ONE HAND since leaving Spain. Consequently, as I greet any newfound Antipodeans, I can hear my accent broadening to a yet unheard of twang that any Queenslander with a heavy cold would be proud of.
Since finishing our quarantine, we have been able to move around the island and observe the gradual easing of restrictions, allowing some businesses to resume whilst incorporating the protocols imposed to manage the risks posed by COVID-19. The island is heavily dependent on tourism, and it is difficult to understand how the many resorts, restaurants and associated businesses will survive the country’s protracted closure. The closure of the university has also resulted in a mass exodus – hundreds of student and staff accommodations lay empty, obviously having having a profound flow on effect around the island.
Despite the dire circumstances; we have found Grenada to be very friendly and welcoming, and happily almost devoid of the opportunistic and determined “entrepreneurs” who have often been our somewhat unwelcome companions on other islands.
Some new experiences included:
- Well, obviously ANOTHER on boat lockdown, this time in the form of a strict 14 day quarantine, and all the associated experiences. We Whattsapped to request assistance with any of our essential needs (groceries, fuel etc) including food delivered by a supermarket. Then a 15 minute dinghy ride into the waves to collect it from where it was left on the quarantine dock. By the time we got back to the boat our groceries and us were completely drenched…but, we had food!
- Sailing in the vicinity of a mildly active underwater volcano. “Kick ’em Jenny” is off the north west coast of Grenada, and has rumbled 0ver 1000 times this June, compared with an average of 30 times per month. We happened to skirt the 1.5 mile exclusion zone by sheer good luck the first time. Tick. Subsequent passings were undertaken much more carefully.🥺
- Online live bingo, boatstyle… . I know, I know, if we’re playing Bingo already, lawn bowling is not far away. Despite the obvious slide into the oblivion of sedentary pursuits we VERY much enjoyed a fun evening over the radio playing electronic bingo, complete with humorous pommy caller, (our friend Lee) and appropriate cat calls from players, eg “two little ducks, 22, quack quack!!” You get the picture! It was also amusing to listen to the other players change gear throughout the evening. Many people began the evening with perky enthusiasm, then a little lewdness crept into their radio comments,, then as the end of the evening drew nigh, became somewhat slurry… signs of a successful fundraiser I guess! The money raised from the bingo evenings went to a charity called “Acts of Kindness” which provides food parcels to island families. Business closures have pushed many people into greater need than ever it seems.
- Participating in a “Get Grenada Swimming- Learn to Swim Week” program; as a volunteer teacher. It is a terrific program aimed at teaching 8000 Grenadians to swim by 2021. Current stats suggest that <15% of residents can swim! It was great fun, and a great way to meet local people; teachers, students, and organisers alike. Students came each day for a week for free lessons and then continue once a week. My students ranged from enthusiastic 8 year olds to a nervous but brave school principal!
- Participating in a remote “Jam session” that has been part of the lockdown social life here. Personally I am devoid of any musical ability, despite my promising heritage. (Sorry Mum) However; Magnus, Lee from Delphinus and I had fun recording a small snap to contribute. We have prepared our percussion section for our next effort, to feature Kirsty on the pringle tin shaker and triangle I hope!
- Swimming under a cool waterfall in the hinterland.
- Doing our first sort of Hash Run. We attempted to join a Hash run in Morocco, but didn’t quite manage, so were even more keen to try here. However, because of the COVID 19 restrictions, regular hashes cannot take place, but a local runner laid a flour trail for anyone to follow anytime, individually. We walked overland from our bay to where we joined the trail, which took us through a Dove Sanctuary, and along some dusty tracks away from the water, as well as more pictureque sections near the sea. It was great to go to new places, and the distance covered in the heat (even walking!) was certainly plenty for our current physical state – remembering that our legs have been almost superfluous for some months!
- Finding and eating mangos on the side of the road. Soooo good! A perfect mango at the right moment saved us on an extremely long hot walk one day.
- Preparing for a HURRICANE! Tropical storm Gonzalo was predicted to become a hurricane, and most unusually, was heading straight over Grenada.We made the best decisions we could, and had the boat taken out of the water and prepared it as much as possible. This involved taking everything down, even the boom was inside the boat! Almazul was on stands, and tied down, and we found some safe accommodation nearby to wait out the storm. As it turns out – the storm fizzled out to nothing, and what was left passed south of us, only sending some wind and a lot of rain our way. To say we were relieved is somewhat of an understatement! From speaking to local people we learned that since Hurricane Ivan hit Grenada in 2004, most people prepare EVERY time there is a tropical storm coming their way. Before this experience we were of the belief that Grenada is fairly safe from hurricanes. This is true only most of the time I guess.
- Preparing to become a GRANDMA! My daughter Lara and her partner Kyle are joyfully expecting a baby in February. The news was delivered over the phone, accompanied by an ultrasound photo, and then a short happy video. My general state of disrepair in the sight and hearing departments; combined with a windy night AND patchy internet, meant that poor Lara had to repeatedly shout the good news, and alert me to the fact that the ultrasound picture I had assumed to be an injury of some sort, (sans glasses) was in fact my grandbaby! Finally we shared the joy, albeit a little hoarsely by then. xxx
- An after dark swim during quarantine with BIOLUMINESCENT plankton surrounding me like a cloud of fairy dust! As I disturbed the water with my enthusiastic freestyle, the bioluminiscent plankton glowed in all its glory, illuminating my watery path and fading to a wake of magic! I felt a little bit like Peter Pan‘s Tinkerbelle in the “Little Golden Book” illustrations! (well in a wobbly middle aged woman kind of way…..!)
- Clearing quarantine and being (relatively) free. Our freedom began with being able go on land with masks for necessary things, meet others on the beach until 5 pm, and as a real treat, eat takeway food at outside tables at restaurants until 7. Since then restrictions have eased gradually, and it feels as if island life is probably as normal as it can be for the foreseeable future. Grenada is taking a very cautious approach, and is refining the implementation of infection control protocols while the border is still closed, and the risks comparatively low I think. Carnivale usually takes place next weekend, and the government are regularly issuing stern warnings that ALL events are cancelled. I wish them luck quelling people’s enthusiasm for this annual highlight.
- We were very warmly welcomed and assisted to moor by our dear friends from Delphinus when we moved out of the quarantine area to FREEDOM. They were a welcome site indeed!
- Snorkeling at an Underwater sculpture park. Swimming silently around in clear water, searching for anything that looked man made among the coral was quite magical. Between the four of us, we found about 30 of the 75 sculptures. The park was developed post Hurricane Ivan to provide a new base for marine life to proliferate and also to draw people away from the few surviving fragile coral reefs nearby. It has since been listed as National Geographic’s 25 Wonders of the World. A big thumbs up from me!
- Playing guitar and singing in the moonlight on deck in company. Tranquil and beautiful….
- Visiting Sandy Island in Carriacou. Typical Caribbean at its best; colourful coral, tropical fish, white sand, turquoise water. I think our appreciation was heightened as we wandered along the sand – because we wondered if anywhere would be the same in a couple of weeks, because at that time Hurricane Gonzalo was gathering in the Atlantic.
- Continuing to meet generous and like minded people at every turn. We were fortunate enough to acquire a replacement dinghy engine; delivered, in exchange for a case of beer and an interesting conversation over dinner. This happened after a friendly chat with a kind sailor at a boatyard. We try to form part of the cycle of giving as often as we can, to keep the wheel turning.
- Coming close to another anchored boat during a storm one night. We were awoken by our anchor alarm alerting us that we were moving – so, instantly alert (even through closed eyelids!) we sprang out of bed, put the fenders out, and spent the night in the cockpit ready to start the engine and pull up the anchor if a crash became imminent. It was a little tricky because we were not sure if our anchor chains were close to being overlapped, because our neighbors had an unusually long chain out for the conditions, still in place since the hurricane threat of the previous week. In the morning we found a better spot – one near(ish) miss was enough!
- En route to Grenada we appeared to stop in the water whilst under motor. Obviously we had a problem. This required an under boat investigation; clearly a first mate’s job.👍 So I clipped on and went into the water and sure enough, the propeller was completely engulfed and strangled by a huge swag of sargasso weed. I was able to pull most of it off, bit by bit, diving under and re-emerging trying not to get donked on the head by the boat in the waves. This was quite successful, and all was well until the Captain gave the throttle a burst to release the remaining weed. (I was well clear of the spinning blades by this time obviously!) The boat did not immediately surge forward (Magnus does like me a little bit!) but he possibly underestimated the velocity of the water pushed back by the propeller, almost blasting me backwards off my holding on the ladder. I held on, grimly horizontal; the remaining sargasso shot past me, and all was well with the world. I adjusted both my bathers and my composure, clambered aboard, and away we went, somewhat faster minus the weed.
- The belly laughs came thick and fast whilst practicing the uke and harmonica with Lee on the guitar playing “Ring of Fire.”
FOOD AND BEVVY HIGHLIGHTS:
- Looooong Italian style lunch in quarantine. We had to keep ourselves busy, so spent one day preparing and eating a four course Italian feast – improvised obviously, from the bits and pieces that we had onboard, but delish nonetheless.
- Tasty pantry style dahl.
- Gathering and eating perfectly ripe mangos we found along the road most days we walked on land.
- Doubles – a Trinidian street food delight, often eaten for breakfast. They are a little like a non enclosed roti/wrap – filled with a chickpea curry. (channa) The story goes that they are called “doubles” because they are so nice that most people asked for a “double” serve….
- Mango smoothie. Magnus loved these so much he had a tough time avoiding a state of constant “brain freeze” each time we had one.
- Wraps at a tiny roadside cafe near the boatyard we were at. The wraps and rotis here are often shoe sized rolls of satisfying roti or naan type outer, filled with rich chicken, fish, or vegetarian curry, and cost very little. Really tasty, healthy AND cheap – a great option whilst painting the boat, instead of our own cooking seasoned with antifouling paint.
- MORE fresh local fruits and vegetables,; kallioo,dasheen, breadfruit, sweet potato, ocra, many capsicum family members, eggplant, soursop, etc
- Frozen sorrel juice, served in a knotted plastic bag. To drink the luscious contents, it was just a matter of biting off the corner, reminiscent of a “sunnyboy” frozen triangle. (A veritable highlight of many a childhood summer in the 70’s, across both hemispheres apparently!)
- Brewery beer – Magnus is supporting a small local business by studiously working his way through the full repertoire of beers brewed onsite at The West Indies Beer Company. What can I say……he is a generous guy.
- Fresh tuna. No longer novel, but always appreciated.
- Bonnie’s recipe caramel popcorn. The BEST antidote to a sweet craving when the cupboard is (almost) bare!
- Changed the anchor light bulb at the top of the mast, and coaxed the contacts to remain “in touch” with each other – twice. This all happens at the top of the mast, so the more calm the day the better!
- Re painting of the whole underside with anitifouling. We took the opportunity while the boat was out of the water for hurricane purposes…. this is our second time doing this job.
- Through hulls replaced, another land job.
- Toilet pump replaced.
- Wind generator re balanced.
- Dinghy motor repaired and gearbox exchanged.
- Drogue purchased second hand. (Interestingly, from a boat that started right here, sailed to Brisbane, was sold, sailed back here, and now we have its very well travelled (but unused) drogue!
- Gas ignition switch fixed.
- Lubricated steering chain.
- Installed small fan – wondering why we waited so long!
- Repairs to canvas on bimini and sprayhood.
- Replaced a jib sheet.
- Re rigged whisker pole.
- Our dear friend and champion Henri from Les Saintes arrived here, and after quarantine he adopted a puppy. Gigi probably had a rough start to life, but is now happily ensconced in her wonderful and loving new home aboard a French catamaran, and is truly thriving!! As you can see from the pics, she is coming along in leaps and bounds. Magnus has developed a deep affection for her, and is known as “the blonde uncle” which sounds much better in familiar French!