Time flies when you’re working on a boat!

I can’t believe it’s been a month since we packed up our lives in Grenada and flew to Florida to meet our new boat. Time sure does fly!

It was much easier clearing our big blue barrels of household goods into the US than it was on the Grenadian side. Less than a week after we arrived in Stuart, Florida we had all of our things and just needed to figure out where to put it all.

The town of Stuart is absolutely lovely, but we didn’t get much opportunity to enjoy it at first – we had too much to do…. We bought a larger, used dinghy from our friend Bill Roy and Capt. Mike spent a few days getting the outboard running smoothly. For his next trick, he installed dinghy davits – arms that allow us to lift the dinghy out of the water at night for safety, and to carry the dinghy out of the water while we are sailing. They turned out great!

Next, we went to work on solar power. Our boat has a nearly-new inboard generator which efficiently sips diesel to generate power. But it takes about two hours in the morning and another hour and a half in the evening to keep the batteries full while running the fridge and lights and keeping things charged. That’s a lot of noise! Not the way we want to live off- grid long term. Mike worked with Alexander to build a stainless steel structure above the shade Bimini and installed three 200-watt solar panels. After pulling loads of cable and installing a Victron MPPT controller, we have power! On a sunny day, our batteries are full by noon.

We have many more complicated systems than we had on simple little Sanitas. Lots to learn! For example, Mike said on this boat we’d be able to drink the water right out of our tanks because we have a built-in filtration system. But because the boat had been sitting unused for a while, the water initially tasted gross. So … we dug into every cupboard, found the water filter system, ordered new filters and voila! Yummy, great tasting water.

Then, the first night we venture out to socialize with other Island Packet owners at a Marina happy hour, we returned home to find a flashing red light illuminating the interior. Apparently our “magic head” (electric toilet) wasn’t so magical at the moment. We’ve got this super cool space age Electro-Scan head that uses electricity to sanitize waste so you can legally eject it overboard… when it works properly. We had to do a lot of investigating and eventually send a few emails back and forth to the extremely patient previous owners before we figured out how to add extra salt water to the system.

After a week of perfect sunny Florida weather, a week of rain set in, and we discovered that our hopefully dry cockpit… wasn’t. With enough rain, the Sunbrella fabric quickly got saturated, and the rain just flowed straight through. So we ordered a gallon of 303 waterproofing and went to work. Did I mention how grateful we are that Amazon delivers to Sunset Bay Marina, and how equally grateful I am that the marina employees didn’t shame me for the number of packages I picked up in one month?

Eventually, we came up for air and started to enjoy the marina lifestyle. And we had friends! Beth, on Stargazer, was moored only two balls away from us. And Adele and Herman, on Willful, made it safely back from Puerto Rico via The Bahamas and joined us in the mooring field. We met new friends, like Ray and Amanda on Elysium who bought their beautiful boat the same week we did. And Matt and Brooklyn on TwoCan who work hard on yachts in Fort Lauderdale all week, and then spend the weekends in Stuart working on their own boat. We even had the chance to finally meet up with Hayden and Radeen on Island Spirit who helped us buy our Island Packet and who serve as the gurus and cheerleaders for the IP community.

And, better yet, we had two different visits from family during our month in Stuart! My parents came to visit just before they started their big road trip back north to New York for the summer and Mike’s Mom was visiting a neighbor on the west coast of Florida so she made the trip over to Stuart to visit us and to see our new boat! It’s so nice to know that our parents can picture this life we are living and our new home! It’s very special.

I’m just going to run out for a loaf of bread

I keep telling people that sailing life is NOT glamorous, but nobody believes me. Possibly because I keep posting pictures like this….

Sunset in Benji Bay

But today was grocery day, and as I sweated my way through the day, I kept thinking “none of my American friends would believe how much effort goes into shopping in the islands” So if you’re curious, here’s a shopping-day-in the-life of SV Sanitas.

Capt. Mike and I decided to divide and conquer on errands today. But, we only have one dinghy, so the day starts with a “dinghy-pool.” We left the boat at 8:30 all packed, sun-screened, and watered up for a day ashore. After bailing out the couple inches of rain that fell overnight, it was only a ten minutes ride in little Bug to the Le Phare Bleu marina where Capt. Mike caught a ride to downtown St George’s with a friend to pick up our new watermaker (hooray!) Then I piloted the dinghy 15 minutes in the opposite direction to Clark’s Court Marina on the far side of Woburn Bay. I’m not a very experienced dinghy driver, so I don’t go at full speed, and I have to admit I overcompensate a bit on steering, so I tend to zig zag, and by now my butt is completely wet from salt water splashes. But I arrive with about 30 minutes to spare before the shopping bus is scheduled to arrive, so I order a coffee and a ham and cheese stuffed arepa from the Cruiser’s Galley restaurant for 15ec ($5.50) while I wait.

Breakfast arepa

The shopping bus costs another 15ec. Patrick (aka Shademan) makes the rounds of all the marinas on Tuesdays and Fridays, picking up cruisers who don’t have land transportation and makes a loop of the most popular businesses: the bank, Ace hardware, Budget marine chandlery, IGA grocery store, and CK’s Warehouse store. I didn’t need anything other than groceries this time, but the stores are air-conditioned and the bus isn’t, so of course I stopped at each place for a few moments of cool. Grenada takes its COVID protocols seriously. Masks are required indoors, and each time I enter a shop I must take my temperature, use hand sanitizer, and sign into a log book for contact tracing. Now that I think about it, maybe it’s easier to wait in the bus. I know I said I didn’t need anything at the other stores but – peer pressure! A fellow bus rider recommended a 16ec bottle of sparkling wine at the hardware store (don’t you always buy your sparkling wine for $6.00 from a hardware store?) and I couldn’t resist.

A particularly fancy island bus (photo credit: Christopher Bancroft)
Signing the contact tracing log

Finally, about an hour after we left the marina, we arrive at the Spiceland Mall which has a small food court, some souvenir shops, an optician, and the only big American style grocery store on the island. I make a quick stop at the pharmacy and the pharmacist is very helpful in finding me treatments for a recent burn on my arm. She doesn’t even ask for a prescription for the silver sulfide cream, and she walks me around the small shop, gathering up natural cocoa butter and vitamin E to prevent scarring. 48ec ($17) later, and I’m good to go on burn treatments.

Finally, around 11:00, I make it to IGA grocery store which is the whole reason I left the boat today. In the States, I think of IGA as a small local grocery store, but here, it’s da bomb! It’s where the tourists and medical school students and expats and wealthy Grenadians shop for imported foods in air-conditioned comfort, and the only place on island where I can find gluten-free bread. The funny thing is, IGA sells their own store brand foods, and also sells the store brands from British grocery store chains. So I buy liquid hand soap from Tesco and gluten-free pasta from Waitrose, and spices from the Trinidadian brand, Baron. Luckily, it’s a good day for produce, but a bad day for eggs (completely empty shelf) and my heart gives an anxious little flutter, ‘cause we’re down to only three eggs back on the boat.

Surprise! I run into Capt. Mike here at the grocery store. Karen, on SV Soulshine who gave Mike a ride to town, also needed groceries, and IGA is the place to be! So I tell Shademan I no longer need a ride home (he doesn’t offer me any money back) and I load my three heavy bags into the back of Karen’s rental car. Where, we find that a previously bald tire is now also completely flat. Maybe I should have stuck with the bus? Capt. Mike is our hero, and he replaces the flat tire with an even balder spare, and off we go. Karen gives a turkey sandwich that she bought at IGA to the homeless man who always begs at the parking lot exit. I donate to the Salvation Army bell ringer.

My hero!

Back at he marina, it takes us two trips to get all of our bags and our new watermaker from the car to the dinghy, and it’s a very tight fit for the Captain and I to squeeze in as well. Bug is moving a lot slower with this load. We make a pit stop at the concrete fishermen’s dock in lower Woburn bay, where I duck into a local restaurant / convenience store and buy a tray of thirty non-refrigerated eggs for 30ec ($11) The owner admonishes me for not bringing my own egg cartons, and makes me promise to bring the tray back to her tomorrow. I balance the tray of brown eggs on top of the watermaker box, and Capt. Mike and I carefully maneuver around our pile of stuff and stand up in the dinghy all the way back to Sanitas to avoid getting totally soaked as we motor upwind.

We’re gonna need a bigger boat

Finally back to the boat around 1:00, we hoist everything into the cockpit, then down the companionway stairs into the galley. Then the real fun begins – figuring out where to put everything we bought! I wrestle with my top-loading fridge, trying to keep the meat and dairy in the coldest part, and the bread and condiments in what our thermometer calls “the danger zone.” Too bad the warmer danger zone is the only part of the fridge that’s easy to reach. I spread out the fruit and veg that will be stored unrefrigerated to let it dry – air conditioning in the supermarket makes for a lot of condensation, and storing away wet onions or apples will cause them to go bad more quickly.

Drying veggies
Refrigerator chaos

Phew! By about 2:00, I’ve put everything away, drank a huge glass of water, and I’m beat. I feel a sense of accomplishment for the day, like I’ve done something momentous, although looking back on it, I’ve done nothing but buy a week’s worth of groceries. Good thing we’ve learned to slow way down in this nomad life!