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!