Welcome to our blog for the Plastic in the Pacific Crusade. If you missed the earlier editions please use the category search in the footer to go back and read them. They are listed under Plastic in the Pacific. Over the coming year we will be writing regularly of our adventures and what we are seeing. In this article we write about our visit to Grenada.
For the first time on this journey, I was going back to somewhere I had been before. In 2003 I sailed into Grenada on a Beneteau 38S5 called Southern Accent that I had purchased in Canouan which is located in the Grenadines, the country just north of Grenada. So I kind of knew what to expect, well so I thought.
The sail across from Barbados was an overnight sail, approximately 145nm downwind. Once again we disobeyed our rule of not flying a spinnaker at night and flew it pretty much all night. We made excellent time and by sun up we had the island in sight. We had planned to head to the south end of the island as that was where the hardstands were, as we had intended to do some work on our rudder. Ideally we would anchor up in shallow flat water, be able to drop the rudder out whilst still in the water, take it ashore, fix it up and then put it back in.
We had chosen Prickly Bay as it is known as the unofficial ‘cruisers bay’. We sailed past quite a few bays along the south shore and noticed a lot of yachts, and I mean a lot. There were bays with hundreds of yachts. We later found out that Grenada has some 4000 yachts stored through hurricane season and plenty of others cruising in the region. This was a vast contrast to the few yachts we had seen in Barbados. So when we rounded the point into Prickly Bay and saw probably 300 yachts anchored, it was a shock. They were everywhere. We found the Prickly Bay Marina where we could check into the country. The manager of the small marina was very nice and came down himself to grab our lines at the fuel wharf. He allowed us to stay on the fuel dock whilst we completed formalities.
With the new ‘SailClear’ system that has been put in place in most locations throughout the Caribbean to make checking in and out of customs easier, I had completed most of the paperwork online. So when I rocked up at the one person who does quarantine, immigration and customs all at once, the process was really easy. I had to sign I think 4 times, pay him US$40 and we were done in the space of 10 minutes. So back on the boat we decided to go and anchor off the front of the Spice Island Marine hardstand. We got in pretty close but even though the waters off the coast were really clear, this bay, with all the cruisers and the recent rains, was filthy and you couldn’t see one meter. So we just anchored in about four meters, inflated our ‘deflatable’ and went ashore to check out our options.
When you have come from a place like Barbados where the people are ultra friendly, it was always going to be a challenge for Grenada to match it. However I had high hopes as my previous visit was awesome. I had gone to a cricket match between Australia and the West Indies and was surrounded by locals and a guy from England who was on his honeymoon. His wife was at a day spa whilst he went to the cricket….nice!!! At the lunch break I expected to go and buy my lunch but we were told that we could have some of the local’s food. Next thing we both had 2 plates on our laps full with local foods. It was awesome and the people were too. So when we walk into the hard stand and the lady in security hut is really unfriendly and unhelpful, it really put a dampner on the start of things. We eventually found our way to the main office and they too were not helpful. In fact it took us about 20 minutes to find out that we couldn’t have space on the hard to put our rudder for over a week. I mean it is only a rudder, how hard can it be to find a small space. So we bailed out of there and went to the chandlery which was very well stocked and the guy in there was at least helpful. We bought a heap of stuff for the boat and then headed back out to clean the yacht and start on our list of jobs.
We were a little dismayed with the color of the water so we made a plan that in the morning we would go and do our shopping and then see if we could find a tender. All going well we would move around to the West side of the island off St Georges in the afternoon. In 2003 we anchored in the lagoon. We were told that due to development of marinas, it wouldn’t be possible to do this anymore and that you had to anchor out the front. The next day we got up early and went ashore to catch one of the shared busses that would take us to the main shopping centers. It only cost US$2.50 each per way so a good way of getting around. We got off the bus where we were told and then we were meant to get another bus into the heart of town but we asked where the local marine store was and it was just 200m away so we walked over to that and spent way too much money once again. A well stocked chandlery is really dangerous for us. Neither of us can help it. We did well to restrict the luxury buying and tried to stick to the essentials but nearly US$1000 later, we walked out with heavy bags. OK, we did buy a new spinnaker halyard which was a fair chunk of that cost.
This chandlery is right on the lagoon and I could see what they meant about development. Two large marinas had popped up and there was no room to anchor anymore. However one thing remained the same, the supermarket I visited on the day we had arrived into Grenada was still in the same place. I remember it well as whilst we had been shopping the locals were crowded around under speakers and clapping and cheering. They were listening to a game of cricket and Brian Lara, their captain was taking the Australian’s apart. When they hit the winning runs the place erupted in cheers. I always knew they were passionate about their cricket but didn’t expect this. We did a fairly small shop considering we knew we were coming around to the front in the next day or two and could use our dinghy to get to the shop. We then caught our bus home and as it was raining heavily by then, the bus driver was nice enough to drop us at the dinghy dock. Back out on the boat we spent the rest of the day cleaning up, catching up on computer work and relaxing. It was too late to move to St Georges. We would do that the next day.
I set about trying to find a secondhand dinghy as the new ones were way too expensive. I had tried the cruisers forum which was run on the radio every morning but had found nothing. I tried the cruisers facebook page and found two listings. One was in Prickly Bay so I radioed them and went to have a look. It was stuffed and also black so it wouldn’t be good for the Pacific even if we could fix it. The other one was around a few bays and it sounded really good. It was a Zodiac Yachtline which I knew were a good brand. The tubes were intact but the hull and tubes attachment was a bit iffy and water leaked in when motoring. So we decided to go have a look the next morning by bus and found it was excellent. We told them we’d be around the next day by yacht and pick it up. We thought this bay was much nicer and we could do the rudder there instead of St Georges.
Now this cruiser’s forum was sometimes boring, sometimes entertaining and sometimes outright hilarious. I have to tell you this story as it sums up some people for you. I don’t want to be critical but hopefully you’ll get a laugh like we did. In the section asking for assistance with issues, one guy was having problems with a valve on his gas bottle. Another cruiser kindly gave him some advice and then the next cruiser said something I thought was outright hilarious. In a thick American accent I quote ‘To the guy with the gas bottle, don’t play with gas, gas is the most dangerous thing on a boat. It can explode and hurt you. Americans use it in bombs to kill bad people!!!’ OK gas is dangerous but wasn’t this just a little over the top?
The following day we took delivery of our new tender. We knew it would need some work so we started stripping back the strips that afternoon and cleaning them up. We also replaced the halyard. We hadn’t found a very good spot to anchor that was suitable to pull the rudder out so we again decided St Georges was our place. We left for there the following morning and anchored up out the front. I immediately set about trying to remove the bolts that held the rudder in. I could move the main bolt that held the bearing and hence held the rudder in, but I couldn’t budge the two stainless steel bolts that went through the cast steering arm. Two different metals never was meant to work. So we had a major issue. We couldn’t simply drop the rudder out as planned, we had to haul the boat. Our spirits dropped. We hate hard stand work and the cost was not going to help our already tight budget. Quite simply, I got very depressed that afternoon. This was not part of our plan. We wanted to dive this place and enjoy it, now we had to go and haul our boat out. The weather was horrible with incessant rain and the water clarity was getting worse for diving when we could eventually go.
So we tried to find a place that would haul us out as soon as possible. Spice Island Marine, although they were not nice people said they could haul us out the next day. Clarkes Court Marina, a Kiwi owned hard stand that was new and being developed still could haul us out the day after that. I had a gut feeling that we should go with Clarkes Court but the timing meant we looked into Spice Island that afternoon. When we went to the office a few extra charges appeared that made the cost a lot more than Clarkes Court. For instance they wanted US$8 per foot to work on our own boat. How ridiculous. We quickly told them we would go elsewhere and motored into 25 knots for an hour to get up to Clarkes Court. As we made our way towards the marina, I saw on the chart a sand bank that was shallow enough for us to hit it. It was right in the middle of the channel. I went to the side but managed to clip it anyway as it was definitely a bit west of where it was on the charts. No damage, just a bit of a bump.
We pulled up at the marina arm which was temporary and went into the office. What a relief it was when the two ladies in there were laughing and having a great time. They were friendly and helpful. I should have trusted my gut instinct. We would be hauled out the next day. We went an anchored off for the night. It was raining so we couldn’t do any work on the tender. In the morning we went back to the dock to wait for our haul out. We were hoping to get out earlier than the 1330 we were told but also wanted to go to the farmer market which visited the marina once a week with organic fresh food. Annika was stoked to get such good quality fresh food and a variety too. Unfortunately we had to wait till 1330 and we got lifted by their new green travel lift called ‘The Hulk’ We then became a trailer boat as they placed us on this trailer. It was quite amusing for us to see our 43ft yacht on a trailer. We already had a trailer boat at home, our sportsyacht, now we had two it seemed.
We got racked up and we were allowed to put our dinghy in the new shed they were building so we could work on it and keep it dry. We worked hard that afternoon to strip the rudder of antifoul ready for the glass. We needed to drain it of water too so we did that. Being a Wednesday, we had to work fast to be launched by Friday afternoon or we would be stuck on the hard all weekend. We thought we had no hope of making it but we would try. Also on the hard stand were several other Aussie’s. One couple had a new X-Yacht 44 that was having some warranty work completed and the other was a Bavaria 46 that was getting the antifoul and rigging replaced. It was so nice to talk to some Aussie’s again. We felt right at home in this marina. Cam off the Bavaria allowed me to use his electric sander so the following morning I stripped back the rudder and we were able to glass it up the same morning. Over lunch we went shopping again and in the afternoon we put the second layer of glass on the rudder. All going well I’d be able to sand it in the morning, antifoul it straight away and launch that afternoon.
Don’t you love it when a plan comes together. That is exactly what happened and better still we were able to fill our gas bottles so we headed straight off to St Georges where we thought we could provision the boat and spend the weekend diving before we headed up north towards Tobago Cays. The following morning we walked through town and got supplies and headed up to Molinere Marine Park where they had set up a dive site with lots of statues. It was made after a big storm in 1999 destroyed the reef and was set up as a tourism focus. It was shallow enough to snorkel and people off cruise ships and other tourists would come in the hundreds. We picked up a mooring just south of the site and relaxed for the evening. The water visibility was still pretty poor due to the massive amount of rain they had but we would give it a go the next morning.
In the morning we had our first dive on the site. It was different for sure. Strange seeing statues everywhere. It was kind of like a treasure hunt. You would swim along through the crevasses and all of a sudden a new statue would pop up. Annika loved it with her camera and being a shallow dive we spent 70 minutes under. We went back to our yacht to refill tanks and have lunch. The local marine park people paid us a visit, charged us for the mooring and told us we can’t dive in the park by ourselves, we needed a local guide. I had heard this about other places like Tobago Cays but not here. We convinced them it was for a good cause and they allowed us to dive. In the afternoon we dived at Flamingo Bay which had amazing corals along a wall. It would have been nice to do a drift dive as you would see more but being on our own we had to return to our dinghy. We then did another dive on the statues as we hadn’t found the Christ statue which is one of the highlights. We found it second time around.
There are some major dive spots on Grenada including a 600ft cruise ship called Bianca C. However the visibility was hopeless and we were told it wouldn’t be worth it. Will have to wait for another day. Better places were calling.
That evening we were researching diving in Tobago Cays and sending emails to the marine parks people up there to see if we could get an exemption to dive by ourselves. We thought the next day we would head up to Carriacou which is the most northern island of Grenada. We would do a bit of diving there and then check out and head to Union Island, check in there and then we would have the Tobago Cays for 2 weeks to play with. The sail up to Carriacou was upwind which was quite unpleasant to say the least. It took us all day to cover the 28nm distance, tacking all the way. Tyrrell Bay was quite busy once again and the facilities were quite small. We would spend two nights there and our whole mission for the Caribbean would change. We had no response to our emails to allow us to dive. We spoke to a local dive shop and they told us we had no hope as the dive shop owners brother was the man in charge of the marine park. So we couldn’t dive without a guide. This is meant to make more money for the local economy. I think it does the opposite and we are testament to that. We decided to head to Panama and skip Tobago Cays all together. We would spend more time in the Pacific where we could dive for free and focus on our campaign.
So at 1500 the following day, having checked out in the morning, we lifted anchor and hoisted the sails for our 1,150nm journey direct to Panama. Would I make it this time? The last attempt I didn’t when a small fire took out our batteries and we ended up in Cartegena Columbia, rescued by the local authorities. This time I was desperate to get there and transit the canal, a dream of ours for a long time. Would we make it?
In our next edition we sail to Panama. Did we make it? You’ll have to wait!!!
Ocean Crusaders are out to change the way people treat our oceans. Our online education program is free to download at www.OceanCrusaders.org/education where children can learn of the issues our oceans are facing and how they can make a difference. The Plastic in the Pacific Crusade is about educating the South Pacific Islands, finding out what is happening in these islands and updating our programs. You can join us in the Pacific and see for yourself what we do.
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