Getting Our Land Legs Back

In case you were wondering, the crew of Sanitas are land lubbers this summer. Like most everyone, we’ve been separated from our friends and family way too long due to Covid, so we’re making a grand USA cross country tour this hurricane season. We’re loving the quality family time (with lots of hugs – thanks vaccines!) the opportunity to cook delicious meals in a full size kitchen, and the chance to stretch our legs and run, hike, and go on bike rides. There have been a few instances of culture shock for sure, as we readjust to life in “the land of plenty” but we’re having a great time. Have you SEEN how huge a Walmart Superstore is? Especially compared to a typical grocery store on Bequia in The Grenadines?!?

The long flight home

First stop has been visiting family in Upstate New York. We bought a used car (we sure have good timing, huh? Buying a car during a nation-wide car shortage?) installed a bike rack, and hit the road. We told our folks to have the ToDo lists ready – what’s the point of all those boat projects if we haven’t learned something to help out with our parents’ home maintenance while we visit? We helped with lawn work, cleaned out basements and garages, configured streaming accounts and Bluetooth speakers, and even rebuilt a fieldstone wall. Or at least Capt. Mike did. I mostly supervised and took photos. Did you know you can put almost any old junk by the side of a country road and SOMEONE will stop and take it?

But it’s not all work! We’ve also caught up with high school friends, and been tourists in our home towns.

We had a great time looking through photo albums at my parents house in the southern tier of New York. Recognize this future sailor?

I’m really enjoying the chance to get some land-based exercise again. Not much of a swimmer, I’m loving alternating between hiking in the national forest, building my running endurance with the C25K app, and getting used to my road bike again. You know what they say – it’s just like riding a bike, lol.

I know, I know. It’s not as exotic as life on a small sailboat. But we’re enjoying it! Please follow along, as we start our epic road trip to Colorado on Monday, and as we attempt to get in shape to backpack the Long Trail in Vermont this fall. Watch out mountains! These sea level sailors are coming for ya!

The end of another great cruising season

It’s June and you know what that means – the official start of hurricane season in the Atlantic. Sanitas is in her summer home at Spice Island Marine Services in Grenada, and her crew is hard at work in the yard.

We’re engineers, so we love spreadsheets! We’ve got our hurricane prep spreadsheet all ready to go, color coded, prioritized, and sorted. We gave ourselves two weeks to get everything done, plus to fit in time for a little bit of fun. Most of our projects are intended to keep Sanitas safe in the event that a tropical storm or hurricane hits grenada while we are gone. For example, we take down all the sails and the bimini and dodger so there’s as little to catch the wind was possible. We also do a bunch of spring cleaning, although boat yards are so dirty, it’s pretty much a lost cause.

And… We always do a couple of big projects too! This spring we replaced our ancient stove and oven with a shiny brand new one. How exciting is that? All three burners work. And there’s even an electric lighter. And a thermostat on the oven. Wozza! And unlike most boat projects, this one actually went smoothly. The Budget Marine had a perfectly sized stove in stock, and let us borrow a cart to wheel it across the boat yard. Mike and I managed to raise it up to the boat using the main halyard and a winch, without having to ask for help. And it was easy to install – even though the propane attachment is in a decent location that our old stove. We even found someone to buy the old one so we didn’t have to figure out what to do with it. Cooking will be an absolute delight next year!

Our anchor light died about a week ago, so I hauled Capt. Mike up the mast to investigate. I know that it’s not actually more dangerous to have him up in the air in the boatyard than up in the air in an anchorage, but it sure feels scarier to have him up so high above solid ground. It’s a good thing we don’t have a bigger boat. It’s hard enough to get his big butt to the top of our short mast 🤣 Mike found some corroded wires and had to order a new part. I guess we’ll be doing this up the mast thing again in the fall!

The chaos inside the boat is really getting to me. I’m so glad we decided to get an apartment rather than trying to live on the boat in the yard while doing all this work. It’s wonderful to have a peaceful place to return to every night. With hot showers! And air conditioning!

Remember I said we left time for a little fun? We ate some delicious meals, spent a Sunday Funday on Grand Anse Beach, and even attended a wedding! Our friends Jill and Jørn had a lovely intimate ceremony on the beach in front of The Aquarium restaurant, and we were honored to help them celebrate.

It’s always sad when the season ends. But this time, we’re looking forward to visiting family and friends in the US for the first time since 2019. You’d better believe there will be lots of hugging. Thanks again to St Vincent and The Grenadines for letting us get vaccinated. We’re gonna miss our sailing friends (and of course, we’ll miss Sanitas!) But we’re really looking forward to a summer of land-based adventures. After the culture shock wears off🤣

Grenada or bust! 🇬🇩 (aka more swabs up the nose)

Way back in March 2020, we said to ourselves, “Let’s just sit tight through this Covid-19 thing, and we’ll be able to cruise again next year.” Cue 2021, and we’re STILL sitting tight and waiting for the world to open up again and to let us travel freely again. I’ve seen a lot of friends recently posting warm weather travel pictures on Instagram – and you’re mostly visiting US states territories such as the USVI, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, or the Florida Keys. So you get it! While travel is possible again these days, testing costs and quarantine requirements still make travel between countries tricky and expensive. Or maybe I’m just trying to convince myself that we made the right decision to spend five whole months in the Grenadines 😜

June 1st is the official start of hurricane season in the northern hemisphere so after our extended farewell party circuit of the Grenadines, we dug out our boat paperwork, To-Do lists, and links to government websites and started planning our trip back to Grenada. On May 1st, Grenada issued a new policy stating that fully vaccinated visitors could bypass most of quarantine. Hooray! Instead of the two-week quarantine we performed last year, vaccinated visitors just need to get a PCR test within 72 hours of arrival in Grenada, submit a bunch of health forms and documents, get tested again on arrival in Grenada, and quarantine on the boat until we get negative results from the arrival test – from 24-48 hours. This makes a lot of sense, and hopefully will allow the Caribbean islands to fully reopen to tourism in the fall. We used the two weeks after our second shot to say goodbye to all of our favorite places, as described in my last post, and then I went to work planning for a smooth transition between countries.

The swab up the nose doesn’t get any easier

Sunrise on Monday May 10 found the crew of Sanitas at the dinghy dock in Bequia, heading to the hospital for our “leaving SVG” Covid test. These tests must be processed manually in a lab on the main island. Test appointments are super early so that the nasal swabs can be put on a ferry and sent north to St Vincent. It sounds so logical but… island time! Capt. Mike and I sat on the ground in front of the tiny hospital from 6am until about 7:15 when we handed over 104ec per person (around $40) and finally were taken into an air conditioned shipping container and got the old swab up the nose. Our test didn’t make it on the first ferry, but they must have made it on the next one – we were thrilled to get our test results via email first thing Tuesday morning. By that time, we’d sailed back down to Union Island, the southernmost point available to clear out of SVG.

Negative test results in hand, I pestered the ports authority in Carriacou until they replied with an email granting us permission to sail to Tyrell Bay exactly five months to the day after we cleared in. How crazy is that? We cleared out on exactly the day our cruising permit expired and made the short nine-mile sail south. The travel gods continued to smile on us, as we passed our health assessment quickly, and before we even made it back to the boat, we got called back for our “arrival in Grenada” Covid test. Before noon on Wednesday, we settled in cheerfully on Sanitas, making the best of our 48-hour wait for results and freedom.

What do we do to occupy ourselves while confined to a teeny boat during quarantine? Well, I’m obviously catching up on blog posts 😀 We cooked up some comfort food treats, like homemade gluten free pizza, and a delicious steak dinner. We reviewed our To-Do list for prepping Sanitas for hurricane season, and started to check off a few items that could be performed in advance. We did more planning; booking our haul-out date and an apartment, and even booking flights back to the US. We binge watched a young adult fairy romance series on Netflix (don’t ask how the algorithm decided we’d enjoy that one) and rewatched both seasons of Derry Girls. We even (and this is a little pathetic in retrospect) packed go bags. So if we heard the Port Authority call us over the VHF radio, we could simply pull on our nicer “customs and immigration clothes”, grab backpacks stuffed with boat paperwork, wallets, and swim suits, and after clearing in we’d be all set to walk over to Paradise Beach to celebrate our freedom. But… Thursday crawled by. And Friday morning turned into Friday afternoon. And other boats in the quarantine anchorage started calling the ports authority asking when we could expect results. About 4:00 I got an e-mail addressed to “Dear Captains” stating that they hadn’t received our test results, so we’d have to stay in quarantine through the weekend. Say what? Our 48-hour quarantine just turned into five days. I didn’t bring enough Netflix or sweet and salty snacks for that much time!

Go bags at the ready!

Capt. Mike and I took turns being grouchy and then optimistic all weekend. We have a rule in our marriage that only one of us is allowed to be in a funk at a time. We polished stainless, wiped down closets with mildew killer, ate the rest of our cheese and crackers and chips and cookies, and somehow made it until Monday. Finally, at 10:30 we got the call on the radio to come in for our health clearance certificate. As I write this, it is 11:30 Monday morning, exactly 5 days or 120 hours after our supposedly 48-hour quarantine started. We brought our health certificate over to customs and immigration across town to FINALLY check in. The customs officer told us they are open from 1pm to 3pm. The officer must have seen my face, ’cause he said “ok, I know this is a stressful time. I can process you now” I gotta say, I’ve had my fill of Island Time for a while 🤣 We’re official now, and planning to sail to Grenada tomorrow. Phew!

The captain clearing us in… Finally!

Saying goodbye to The Grenadines

After five months in The Grenadines (yikes – five months in one country!) we are finally preparing to say goodbye to this beautiful country and to head south for hurricane season. And we’re also saying goodbye to many good friends. We’ve been sharing anchorages with some of these same boats since Covid first started in 2020. I’m not so fond of goodbyes, so here’s a “See you later” to some of my favorite places and people….

All good things must come to an end. And so, lobster season in St Vincent ends on the last day of April. I kind of thought Capt. Mike’s epic birthday party in the Tobago Cays would be our last lobster beach barbecue of the season. But wait! In a calm weather window, we herded the cats and gathered four boats of cruisers off the beach of Petite Bateau for one last hurrah. Romeo and Juliet motored by in their red power boat, shouting out “welcome back my friends!” And, wow did they treat us well this time! They whipped up a towering platter of grilled critters, plus conch curry, plus all the delectable sides. We had so much lobster, we celebrated “Mofongo Monday” with the crews of Dorothy Rose and Soulshine with the leftovers the next day. Thanks Karen! I haven’t had mofongo since Puerto Rico, and yours is delicious! 😍

We recently had the opportunity to meet a large group of Scandinavian cruisers. It’s been fun to meet and play with a whole new crew! At one point, all of our boats were anchored in beautiful Chatham Bay on the quieter, undeveloped side of Union Island. There’s only a couple of rustic beach bars on this spot, and we’ve kind of colonized Sunset Cove, returning time and time again for Adele’s great food and Bald Head’s strong rum punch. We spent an afternoon there in a super competitive Mexican train dominos tournament. (Jill, from SV Ticora, shared the bottle of rum that she won with the rest of us). Ken, who owns the bar, offered a buffet barbecue and bonfire if we could get a good sized group together. Cara, from SV Music, took on the challenge and in no time, we had a goodbye party scheduled for the next day. This sleepy beachfront turned into a disco with a DJ getting everybody dancing off their dinners around the embers of a gorgeous fire.

We had to return to the “big city” side of Union Island soon after, so that we could get our second shot of the Covid-19 vaccine at the Clifton hospital. Many of the Scandinavian boats followed us over to the new anchorage, prompting the idea for a farewell to yet another favorite place. Sparrow’s Beach Club, on the most beautiful beach on Union Island, is always a special day out. I’ve organized so many group outings there that Bertrand, the manager, replies to my phone call with “Hello Jennifer.” This was the biggest group of all, with 20 sailors – pretty much every cruising boat in Clifton Harbor – attending. We had the largest pavilion to ourselves, claimed all the beach chairs with their fluffy pink towels, and lucked out on the sunniest and warmest day of the week! The fresh fish is always delicious at Sparrows, and you really can’t beat the location. When I told Bertrand it would be our last visit for the season, he treated me to a free mojito. Well played, monsieur Bertrand! You’ll see me and all my friends again next season for sure.

Photo credit: Nikki Marie on SV BooRie
Photo credit: Cara on SV Music

Caribbean countries have just started relaxing quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated visitors. We had to wait two weeks after our second shot to be considered fully vaccinated, so we squeezed in one last sail north to Bequia to check off the last few items on our wish list there. (If you recall, our last visit was cut short by that pesky volcano) I thought I’d walked every road and trail on the island, but I found one that I’d missed – a 9.5 mile round trip trek to the northernmost point on the island, with great views of the main island of St Vincent. I’m glad we came back for it, because this turned out to be one of the nicest trails we’ve encountered in the Grenadines – even if our feet were aching by the end of the trek. Life on a sailboat sure isn’t good for hiking training! In Bequia, we were also able to squeeze in a little gift shopping and gluten free food shopping, as well as visits to our favorite restaurants, and one last hike to picturesque Peggy’s Rock.

Most of this long drawn-out goodbye has been loads of fun. But the downside of this nomadic life (and the flip side of meeting so many great people) is that eventually we have to say goodbye to close friends who have become our chosen family. We’ve been buddy boating with Kevin and Cheryl on SV LeefNu and Zach and Lindy on SV Holiday on and off for the past three years. (Check out the “Fun on Holiday” YouTube channel for great videos of cruising life – with ukulele serenades!) From SVG, we are all going our separate ways. And while we might meet up with Holiday somewhere during next year’s cruising season, LeefNu will be sailing back home to Ontario to resume careers and hunting and canoeing adventures up north. We’ve had great times together; hosting beach barbecues, sharing recipes, repairing each other’s boats, hiking and snorkeling, and drinking rum. Saying “See you later” to such good friends was the toughest part of our long goodbye.

Well, goodbye month is winding down, and it’s time to stop liming on the beach, and start making plans for keeping Sanitas and ourselves safe during hurricane season. Next blog post, we’ll be heading back south to Grenada!

How the other half lives

Just before the La Soufriere volcano erupted (life is now measured in BV, and AV) we spent three nights anchored off the private island of Mustique. Why three? Because the Mustique Company charges 220ec (about $82) per mooring ball, whether you stay for one night, two nights, or three. And the crew of Sanitas always get our money’s worth!

Mustique is definitely “Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous” If you’ve watched The Crown, you know that Princess Margaret owned a home here, and visited for decades. Bryan Adams, Tommy Hilfiger, and Mick Jagger own homes, and several large villas are available for rent to the very wealthy at around 40,000 per week during the winter high season. Only small private planes can land here, and the rif-raf is definitely kept out. Except for us, lol! We’re considered “yachties” and we are allowed limited access to this beautiful island. ⛵🌴🌄 Of course our first stop was the world famous Basil’s Bar, clinging picturesquely to a wooden dock over the blue, blue water. It’s a lovely beach bar, decorated with carved wood, rattan lamps, and antique musical instruments. Unfortunately, we arrived one day too late for the weekly Wednesday “jump up” of live island music. We watched a mediocre sunset while sampling tasty but obscenely expensive cocktails and burgers. It was a bit of a shock seeing the menu in US dollars rather than in ec. Well I did say I wanted to see how the other half lives – so far, I think they get ripped off, lol 🤣

The mooring field in Brittania Bay is beautiful with tons of happy healthy sea turtles swimming around. We visited with Zach and Lindy on SV Holiday, and we shared this large bag with only two other boats. Unfortunately, it can also be rolly here. On Friday morning we experienced an insane roll as if we were sailing in one of our most difficult passages – we think caused by the volcano’s first seismic activity.

Visitors, like us yachties, are welcome to visit the amazing gourmet supermarket, gift shops, and a few restaurants.

Sean at the mooring office told us “When you see a Private Property sign, you turn around!” We didn’t realize how quickly we’d hit one of those signs on our attempt to go for a walk along the waterfront. Pretty much every road that heads inland from the bay is marked Private. 😡

Most of the island is kept natural and undeveloped, and I’d read about beautiful scenic hiking trails. So I wrote to Sean and asked very politely if we could do a hike to the southernmost point on the island. He said yes! As long as we stayed away from all homes, and didn’t take any photos of residents or their villas.

Nobody said we couldn’t take photos of pornographic tortoises

At this point in our stay, the volcano had started erupting, and the sky was grey and full of ash. So maybe, just maybe, going for a hike and breathing in all that crap wasn’t the smartest idea. But remember my goal of getting my Mustique money’s worth? We could feel the grit in our teeth and ended the hike with black streaks of dirt in our elbows and arm pits, but I honestly think it was worth it.

Rich people islands have gorgeous hiking trails! Great signage, mowed grass, and beautiful stone steps to climb the hills. In a distance of less than three miles we changed environments from bird watching in a blind on a salt pond, to a moonscape of exposed rock and cactus. We also glimpsed gorgeous wild beaches, of white sand on the Atlantic side and of black volcanic sand on the Caribbean side.

So is it worth visiting Mustique on a sailboat? Honestly, I guess it depends. If you follow royalty or you’ve always dreamed of rubbing shoulders with celebrities and CEOs, it’s probably the cheapest and easiest way to get here. I didn’t feel very welcome here; it felt more like we were just being tolerated But I have to say, Sanitas has anchored in many equally beautiful harbors where we could anchor for free. And I’ve enjoyed delicious barbequed lobster on the beach for the cost of a burger and a beer at Basil’s. Since we’re spending five months in The Grenadines this year, we’ve set a goal to visit every inhabited island in the chain (and some uninhabited!) so I think Mustique was worth a stop, especially with our lovely hike included. But if you’re here on a brief charter, or if the weather is bad, or if you prefer to spend 12ec for fruit juice and sunset rum instead of $20…. I’d probably pass 🤪