Settling into Cruising Life in Grenada, West Indies (WI)

JULY 15th
We’ve now been in Grenada for just over a week and we are getting settled after more than a 3,146nm (3,620 statute miles) journey! That’s roughly the driving distance from Key West, Florida to Vancouver, British Columbia. On a sailboat we are usually going at a slow, jogger’s pace. As we’ve mentioned many times, we knew our passage from the Bahamas to the Eastern Caribbean was going to be difficult, but the overall conditions were more challenging than anticipated. It was more than “The Thorny Path”, it was thorny, tiring, frustrating, and long – more than 1000nm. Luckily, we got through it none the worse for wear and Ocean Song suffered no damage. After an ocean passage, the list of things that break on a boat can be long. Our list was almost nonexistent, an early problem with our chart plotter that resolved itself early on was about it.

Mooring field at St. George’s.

Grenada is the # 1 destination in the Caribbean for Atlantic Storm Season. Grenada is below the traditional hurricane belt. That doesn’t mean storms don’t hit here, but historically very few hit here. Grenada gets the occasional tropical storm but seldom gets hurricanes. We hope that holds true this season! Our insurance company allows us to be here and covers us for damage sustained in a named storm; although, our “named storm deductible” is very high. If one looks at a Google Earth image of the southern bays of Grenada one will see hundreds of boats. Most insurance companies require a covered boat to be south of 12 Degrees North Latitude during storm season. Few storms track as far south as 12 Degrees North. Grenada’s southern bays are at 11 Degrees, 59 Minutes North Latitude; therefore, cruising boats congregate in the southern bays. Our insurance allows us to be as far north as 12 Degrees 40 Minutes North Latitude, which means we can move around as far north as the Tobago Cays, one of the filming locations for the original Pirates of The Caribbean movie.

We spent our first three days moored just off St. George’s, Grenada’s capital. We found a couple of good restaurants, a bakery, and a small grocery store. After a few days there, we refueled, and then headed the short distance, 12 nm, to the southern side of Grenada.

Track from St. George’s to Prickly Bay

Rounding Point Saline on Grenada’s southern shore.

We’re now anchored in Prickly Bay, along with about 100 other sailboats. We’re starting to get acclimated to life on the hook. We’re always learning. During our first visit to one of the local chandleries (boating store), we walked up to the checkout with several items. The clerk asked us the name of our boat so she could look up our account. We told her we didn’t have an account. She informed us she’d need our boat documentation, cruising permit, and passports. We told her we didn’t have any of those things with us. So, we put everything back on the shelves. Later in the day we returned with all the requested paperwork. The reason for setting up an account is it allows you to purchase boat supplies without paying import duties – a big savings. Allowing boaters to purchase boat supplies duty-free is one of the reasons Grenada is considered very cruiser friendly.

After being in Prickly for 2 or 3 days we started listening to the local “cruisers’ net” every morning at 7:30am. The cruisers’ net is on international channel 66 on VHF radio. It is hosted by a local liveaboards. It starts with information about weather, any important information like a missing pet, dinghy etc., allowing new arrivals to introduce themselves, and the like, then transitions into day-specific information. Updates on the shopping bus schedules, upcoming events, services, what the local bakery has for sale, and other useful information is provided. One piece of information given every morning – setting up boat accounts to take advantage of Grenada’s duty-free policy for cruisers. Wish we had listened to the cruisers’ net a couple of days earlier.
On Monday the 17th, we meet with Clarity Marine Systems to start planning our solar and lithium battery upgrade to Ocean Song. We’ve already started the process, but Monday Aaron Downey will come onboard and start the Ocean Song-specific planning. Clarity has done solar and lithium conversions on several Lagoon 42s which means Aaron already has a good idea of what needs to be done on Ocean Song. We will have a stainless-steel arch built and installed for our new solar panels. The work will be scheduled for September. The conversion is a big, big deal. Hopefully, with 2000 watts of solar and 1200-amp hours of lithium battery capacity we will be much more energy self-sufficient. Currently we have less than 600-amp hours of AGM battery capacity. With AGM’s we can only use about 20% – 25% of our capacity before recharging. With lithium we will be able to use 75% – 80% of our capacity before recharging, which is a huge difference. Literally 120 to 150-amp hours useable capacity -v- 900-amp hours of useable capacity. We should be able to run one or more of our air conditioning units for a few hours each day! Almost more important than the cooling is the de-humidification factor with the air conditioning. Battling moisture is a constant concern in the tropics. Mold and mildew appear quickly.
We are also planning to haul out in late July or early August to repaint Ocean Song’s bottom, do some cosmetic work, have our engines, sail drives, and generator serviced. We will also have our rigging inspected and have our sails inspected, cleaned, and restitched where needed. Hopefully, we will not have to haul out again for another 2 years. Our hope is that after the haul out and solar and lithium conversion, we can cruise Grenada and the Grenadines during late September, October, and November. We hope to do plenty of land exploration while anchored here in the southern bays.

Although we’ve spent lots of time at anchor in the past, our anchoring days were spaced out, not weeks at a time. Extended “life on the hook”, as boaters call it, will be a new experience. It’s nothing like life on land. To take the garbage out for example means not only bagging up the trash, but getting the dinghy in the water, finding a dock, getting ashore, and then finding a dumpster for the garbage. Going shopping takes many hours, no matter how limited the shopping list. Since we don’t have a car, we’re usually restricted to what we can carry and what might be allowed in a taxi or a bus. Even going to a nearby restaurant means taking a dinghy ride, finding a dock, and walking. We literally cannot just “run out” and get something or go do something. It’s not hard, it just means that an errand or excursion takes 4 or 5 times longer than doing the same errand or excursion back home on land. When it’s rainy, we are largely restricted to the boat unless we’re willing to get cold and wet. We are getting better at planning and organizing our excursions to shore, but it’s another anticipated learning experience. A standard topic of cruiser conversation is how to make trips to shore more efficient and less time consuming. We haven’t learned how to do it yet.

Passing storm cloud.

Boats on moorings can point in different directions when there is no wind.

This morning we had some strong winds with thunder, lightning and rain as a front passed through. Now there is no wind, and all the boats are bobbing around in the quiet. It’s really, quiet. We might try to go ashore later, but we’ll have to monitor the weather and ask ourselves: “is it worth getting the dinghy down?”, “are we willing to get cold and wet if the rain starts back?”, “how long will this errand take?”. Just another day on the hook in Grenada.

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