Our last week in mainland Grenada was a flurry of activity for us. Not only did we have to get Ocean’s documentation up to date for the trip but we wanted to make sure we had enough of our “convenience provisions”. What are those? Simply, they are the things we use daily or might need in a pinch. For us, it includes enough basic boat supplies, house supplies, dog food, drinks and stored food to last a month plus some extra Eastern Caribbean Dollars. While all of this is available as we travel through the Eastern Caribbean islands, they may not be easily accessible. For instance, we love walking so would cheerfully go several blocks from the dinghy dock to a grocery store. But, do we want to carry back large bags of dog food or big packages of toilet paper in the sweltering heat? Likely no. Or, do we want to run out of a favourite brand of something and be searching island after island for more? Surely no. And running out of beer? Hell no! Stocking up in Grenada while we have access to cheap taxis to transport us just makes sense to us. Plus, having a few extra Eastern Caribbean Dollars on hand also makes things a little less stressful. Not every place takes credit cards and sometimes, more often than I would like, the only accessible ATM is out of money.
We also spent quite a bit of time getting Ocean’s papers ready for our trip north. Normally, it is an easy process to visit the Veterinarian to get an updated “health certificate” (summary of the dog’s vaccinations, tests and medications that meet pet travel requirements) for the countries we will be visiting. Going to the Veterinarian this week, however, was anything but easy. Keep in mind that this was a “this week” issue and not a “Grenada” issue.
What happened? Well, we booked Ocean’s appointment at The Small Animal Clinic at St. George’s University for Friday October 20. The Clinic is too far away to walk so we got a taxi with our favourite driver “Squeezo” (so nicknamed because he is famous for squeezing in every last kid on his school drop off and pick up runs).
At the Clinic, the Veterinarian was ready to see us right away. Actually, it was an entourage of Veterinarians. This is a teaching hospital so we had no less than six people in our appointment room – the main Veterinarian, four students and a Veterinary Technician. Ocean loved all the attention! Her appointment went very well …except they didn’t have any Heartworm tests left. Oh. We would have to go to another Veterinary office for the test and then send the results back to The Small Animal Clinic so that they could complete the paperwork for endorsement by the Government Veterinarian. Yeesh!
Thankfully there is “Vets to Go”. This is a mobile Veterinarian that travels to the different bays in southern Grenada. They would come directly to our boat? Amazing! It is a little pricier than the regular Veterinarian but we loved that the service existed. We booked the next available appointment which ended up being on Monday October 23. Perfect! Well, perfect except that it was pouring rain that day and the Veterinarian works out of her small car which has no space for 2 additional people plus a large dog.
We got soaked taking the dinghy into the dock but were able to find refuge in one of the garages at the Secret Harbour Marina. The Veterinarian completed the required test (it was negative, of course) and hand wrote the formal documentation. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think Ocean would have a Veterinary appointment in the garage of a marina in the pouring rain but there we were!
With the testing completed, we had just one more step – to get the endorsed health certificate from the government veterinarian. The Small Animal Clinic submitted all of our documentation and voila! We had everything we needed to start visiting other countries. Well, almost. Many countries also require a pet permit but we need to request that authorization from each country just before we visit them.
We were now ready to weigh anchor and start heading north. At 0830 on Saturday October 28th, Caretta and Wild Horses left Secret Harbour and started the 40 nautical mile sail north to Carriacou, Grenada, following just a little over an hour behind Kemana who had left at 0715. The sea was rolly as we crossed westward along the southern coastline of Grenada but as soon as we pointed our bow north to start our way along the western coastline of Grenada we had both favourable seas and wind. It was a glorious one tack sail. The wind died about mid-island and caused us to turn on our motor but we thankfully shut it off again when the wind picked up just after we passed the northern tip of mainland Grenada.
After a great day on the water, we were happy to arrive in Tyrell Bay just after 1600 hours. We will be here for about a week, taking care of a few boat things and waiting for our pet permit to be approved by the government Veterinarian for St. Vincent. And, yes, one of those “boat things” we needed to get done was removing the stripped zinc screw from our propeller and installing a new zinc and screw. Stop me if you have heard this before but the solution ended up being our boat buddy Barry 😊. Yes, in addition to being a master electrician, he is also an awesome diver. Yesterday morning, he came over to Wild Horses and after no more than 15 minutes, he had the old screw and zinc off and the new one installed. Yes, people, he is just that good!
Last night, the four of us went to one of our favourite Carriacou haunts “The Paradise Beach Club” so we could treat Barry and Andrea to a fabulous “thank you for being amazing at everything” dinner. The water taxi picked up both crews (plus Ocean) at Tyrell Bay and took us around the point to Paradise Beach for a great taco dinner. What a wonderful way to end a successful day!
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We have had one of our busiest weeks since we arrived in Grenada but every minute of it had us smiling from ear to ear. Well, that isn’t entirely correct after this morning’s events. Sigh. But let’s start with the good stuff.
We were elated at the beginning of last week with the early arrival of our shipment of packages from Miami. We got the call late on Monday (Oct 17) from our cargo broker that he would be bringing our boxes to Secret Harbour the next day. Thankfully, all eight boxes made their way quickly through Customs. We had heard of others who had to wait two or three weeks for their clearance but ours came in just five days. Yay!
Mike was away from the harbour doing our weekly shopping so Ocean and I signed for all the boxes, loaded them into the dinghy and got them aboard Wild Horses. In this shipment were our oil filters (boring but important), our port navigation light (boring but important), our new radar (so-so exciting but important), a few items from home (fun and important) and our new Solstice Pup Plank (super crazy exciting and important).
Later that same afternoon, Barry (our amazing buddy and electrician from Caretta) came over to Wild Horses and helped to install the port navigation light. When ordering the port navigation light, we tried desperately to get one with a white encasement so that it would be a perfect match to our still intact starboard navigation light. Unfortunately, they were all back ordered at the manufacturer. Yeesh. We decided to go with function over form and get one with a black encasement. Is it a big deal? Nope! And we kind of like our “black eye” at the bow. It doesn’t stand out to anyone else and, to us, it is a badge of honour. It is the only equipment we lost when we were dragged into during Tropical Storm Bret and that is due to Mike’s keen captain skills. I love looking at that light!
The following day, Barry was back at Wild Horses to do the outside installation of our new radar. I wish I could say the installation went smoothly and easily but it didn’t. It took a lot of ingenuity and hard work from Barry to get the radar mounted on our mast. Not only did he have to go up our mast several times to feed wires that did not want to be fed but he also ground out a spot in our mast to properly hold the radar mount. The guy was tired, sweaty and full of metal shavings by late afternoon. And, on Saturday he returned to finish the inside wiring pieces. Thanks to Barry we finally have radar on Wild Horses! Barry is definitely one very skilled and hard-working guy and we will be spoiling him appropriately to say thanks!
Ah, and then there is the Solstice Pup Plank. Yes, Ocean already has a great ramp for swimming off the stern of Wild Horses and that won’t change. The Pup Plank, however, is a mobile swim platform that we can attach to the dinghy so we can swim her when we go snorkelling. We never run out of ways to spoil our pup!
In between installations, we decided that we were due to play around in another waterfall. We had heard great things about the Mount Carmel Waterfall located in the parish of St. Andrew and all of our boat buddies (Caretta, Kemana, Bitty Rose) were happy to come along. It was a good hour drive there by taxi but well worth it. These waterfalls are less touristy than the others we had been to in Grenada. Our taxi took us down a narrow tree lined road and parked just off a little trail into the woods. At the end of the trail was a beautiful and tranquil waterfall with a gorgeous swimming area at its base. But wait, that isn’t all. Continuing along the woody trail and across a stream, we found ourselves at any even more stunning waterfall. The water cascaded down 70 feet and there was lots of room to swim and play in the falls and in its refreshing pool of water. We had thought that these falls would be very busy but we were the only ones there for most of the morning.
After we had our fill of the second waterfall, we walked back along the trail to the first waterfall where our driver (Devon) had prepared us a traditional Oil Down lunch. Full of salted fish, coconut milk, callaloo (like spinach), breadfruit (like potatoes), carrots, and dumplings – it was delicious! After lunch, we played in the waterfall until early afternoon. It was an incredible day and we felt like real Grenadians. It is days like this that make this adventure worth the hardship of travel and boat issues.
Speaking of which, this morning was one of the not so great times ☹. We had arranged to have our anchor chain and the hull of Wild Horses thoroughly cleaned (the barnacles and slime are nasty after 3 months of sitting still!) and to have our propeller zinc changed by a great company here in Grenada in anticipation of leaving Grenada in the coming week. For non-sailors, the zinc is a sacrificial metal that will take the brunt of any stray electrical current that may be running around our hull from our own boat or from other boats. Without it, our through hulls could get damaged and, well, that just makes for a very wet and potentially sinking boat.
Anchor chain cleaning – CHECK.
Hull cleaning – CHECK.
Zinc change – Uh oh.
The screw that holds the zinc onto the end of the propeller was completely stripped and the only solution put forward so far is to get the Wild Horses hauled out to fix the screw/zinc issue. Will this delay our departure from Grenada? We have no idea as I write this but we are now scrambling for options. It is never a dull moment around here! Thankfully we still have visions of our day in the Mount Carmel Waterfalls to keep us smiling!
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Hurricane season is just about over and we have started to see a few boats leave our anchorage and begin their slow meander north, up the Eastern Caribbean island chain, or west to Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. For us, we are planning to make our exit from Grenada within the next few weeks and will be heading north. However, before we weigh anchor, we have a departure list of several tasks that will need to be done. The first on this list is to receive our cargo shipment from Miami.
When we first arrived in Grenada, West Indies, we quickly learned that it is a common practice of cruisers to get items shipped to Grenada from the United States, Canada and elsewhere. The island is just too small to have “everything” a cruiser would need for their boat so many cruisers have to use an importing company.
The process is fairly simple, although it involves several steps. Order your items from a vendor and then ship them to the importer’s Miami address. If there are multiple items then the importer opens the boxes and consolidates the items to reduce the overall size of the shipment which lowers the cost to the cruiser. The boxes are then shipped (by cargo ship or airplane) to a Grenadian address. Once the shipment arrives in Grenada, it has to be processed through Customs so that the appropriate duty charges can be applied. If all goes smoothly, the whole process takes about a month. And the cost? Well, it won’t break the bank but it isn’t super cheap either. Suffice it to say, a person would generally only ship an item that they really needed.
For us, we had a few items that we couldn’t find anywhere in Grenada but all were critical to us as cruisers so we had to get on board the “ship-or-go-without” train. In our shipment will be our new radar system, a port navigation light (replacing the one that was broken in Tropical Storm Bret), oil filters for our Westerbeke engine, and a Solstice Pup Plank for Ocean to use when we are snorkelling from our dinghy. Oh, and we have a couple of items arriving that were replaced under warranty and had been sent to our Canadian address. A few packages of Swiss Chalet sauce may also have found their way into that bundle before it was mailed to Miami (thank you Betty and Barry!).
Until our shipment arrives, we are easily entertaining ourselves. Ocean swims off the boat on a daily basis and we still hang out quite a bit with our friends on Caretta, Kemana and Bitty Rose. Just this morning we had a great sailing and fishing outing, on Caretta, to the reef outside of the southern bays. Although we had no luck with fishing, the sail and camaraderie were perfect.
We also had a great time watching college football on Bitty Rose this past weekend. And last week? Well, we played Bingo at Prickly Bay Marina where the grand prize was a goat (yes, an actual live goat). We did have some winners in our group but, thankfully, none of our gang won that prize! Too bad, having a goat as crew would certainly spice up the anchorage!
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This past year has been a big learning curve for us. For sure, there have been big surprises, like lots of engine work, but there have also been many little surprises along the way too, which have made the journey just a tad more interesting.
Here are our top five surprises from our first year:
First – No bugs!
Mike and I thought that living in the hot Caribbean would mean a lot of bug management on the boat. We had read many articles and posts about not bringing cardboard onto the boat as they are likely full of roach eggs (yikes!) and that the mosquitos down south would be a lot to handle. Yeesh, this was not something I was looking forward too. Back home in the Thousand Islands, I was constantly fighting to combat bugs. Mosquitos during the day, no-see-ums at dusk and spiders all the time. Well, so far, bugs are a non-issue for us in the Caribbean. We have taken cardboard onto the boat on several occasions throughout our trip and have never suffered for it. We also never put the screens in our hatches, preferring to allow as much wind to flow through the boat as possible. Mosquitos seem to be more of a land issue, thankfully. And spiders? I have not seen any on the boat, I mean, not even one, since we left the New York State canals. At anchor, we are blissfully bug-less 😊.
Second – How challenging it would be to get stuff
We had no idea how difficult it would be to get stuff along the way on this journey, that includes deliveries, marine supplies and our groceries. I mean, we knew we would have to walk to grocery stores and that walk would sometimes be long. We just didn’t realize how many towns along the New York State canals, in the Chesapeake, along the AICW (Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway) and further south in the Caribbean, wouldn’t have stores at all. Or, if there were stores, that they would be only marginally stocked and the size of a convenience store back home. Thankfully, my ultra-conservative self decided to stock up on lots of groceries and house supplies before we left Canada. When a good store couldn’t be found, we simply shopped on Wild Horses!
Marine supplies were similar. It wasn’t always easy finding a marine store and when we did, we couldn’t always find the right parts. It was a big surprise that something as simple as an oil filter for our Westerbeke engine could not be found once we left the United States. Truth be told, knowing what we know now, we could have done better with our spare parts before we left Canada. Too often, we had to borrow from our boat buddies until we could get the part we needed.
The other challenge was getting deliveries like warranty parts, bank or credit cards, SIM cards and amazon deliveries while travelling. When the weather was good, we wanted to keep moving and it was painful to have to stop and wait for a delivery to arrive. In Grenada, getting those same deliveries is a huge and expensive process. For example, it would have cost $130 CAD to get our replacement bank cards couriered from home. Yikes! Thankfully, a cruiser friend was able to bring them back for us when they flew back to Grenada from Canada.
Third – The beers keep getting smaller
How is this even possible? So unfair…
Fourth – What a blend of people we would be cruising with
Of course, we figured we would meet people from around the world (and we have) but what was surprising was the wide variety of people from all walks of life that are cruisers. Our little anchorage alone is full of retired (or working!) lawyers, business owners, government workers, realtors, medical people, police officers, teachers, tradespeople, kids, animals, young people, older people and everything in between. You name it, we got it. This diversity was hugely highlighted one afternoon when a young lad and his friends were fishing off the docks. All of a sudden, there was screaming. One of the young boys had gotten a fish hook in his cheek. Yeesh! Within minutes, several cruisers were on the scene. A numbing agent was applied by a retired dentist, then a retired ER doctor removed the hook while a retired nurse assisted. Incredible!
Fifth - Ocean’s popularity with the locals
We were definitely unprepared for how much attention Ocean would get on our travels. From our first moments in the Bahamas and all through the Caribbean, Ocean has caused a stir. Locals react strongly to her, in a very respectful and positive way. Kind of like she is a loaded weapon. Eyes become wide as we walk down the street. Women usually give her a wide berth and say “woo-wee, that is a big dog” while guys will challenge each other to get close to her. Almost everyone will finally ask to meet her though and when they see how calm she is, well, then they want to know if she can have puppies (she can’t). They want a dog just like her. And once we throw on her sunglasses to take off in the dinghy, it is game over. We get big smiles from everyone, or a thumbs up. It is an incredibly fun experience for us and we have met so many wonderful people. And the word spreads. Walking along a roadside or arriving at a dock, people we have never met will ask “Is that Ocean”? Well, yes it is! Our little girl is pretty popular!
These surprises are exactly why we are enjoying this lifestyle so much. Not all of it is fun but all of it keep us captivated and on our toes! 😊
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Victoria is a hiker, dog-lover, blog writer and planner extraordinaire. Oh, yeah and she is kind of fond of living on a boat.