In a very last minute decision, Dad decided to fly down to Grenada to join us aboard Salt Whistle. He had always enjoyed reading books about sailing and spending time at sea, and now he would get to experience it first hand. Skeeter and I had spent the hurricane season in Grenada, just south of the usual hurricane zone, and were now beginning our passage north so we could find work and save up for another adventure. We decided that this would be a good opportunity for all of us to sail the seas together. The adventures were plentiful, so I am breaking this blog into a 4 part series.
Nautical Miles Sailed: 160
Grenada (Prickly Bay, St. George’s, & Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou),
St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Frigate Island, Bequia),
St. Lucia (Marigot Bay, Rodney Bay)
Wednesday, October 21st –
Brian drove Dad to O’Hare airport in Chicago at 6am. He had layovers in New York & Miami, but all flights went smoothly and were on time. When he arrived to Maurice Bishop Airport in Grenada, Skeeter and I were there waiting. Dad had a little bit of trouble at customs, since he struggled to understand the West Indian accent, but the customs officer finally gave up and just let him through.
|Grenada's Maurice Bishop International Airport|
Dad walked out of the airport into the humid night. We exchanged hugs and listened to stories about his trip, then grabbed a taxi to Prickly Bay. We were impressed that he was able to pack light, with a little bit of guidance, fitting everything into a little backpack and duffel bag. Before heading out to the boat we stopped at Timbers, a restaurant on the water next to Spice Island Boatyard, for a drink. Dad tried a rum & coke, made with Grenadian rum, Skeeter had a local ginger ale, and I had a golden apple juice.
|Timbers Bar & Grill|
We climbed into our little 8ft. dinghy, turned on our navigation lights since it was dark out except for the stars, and buzzed over to Salt Whistle. We gave Dad an orientation around the boat. We showed him his bathroom (he’d have to share the toilet with our fur-baby, Momo), set up his bed (a pull-out couch in the main salon), and sat outside for a little while under the stars. I gave him a book about Caribbean pirates to read and a headlamp, and we all went to bed.
|Dad was a good sport about sharing the toilet with this guy!|
Thursday, October 22nd –
In the morning, Dad got his first view of Prickly Bay and all of the surrounding boats. Arriving in the dark can be disorienting!
|Aerial view of Prickly Bay, with Salt Whistle circled|
We dinghied over to Prickly Bay Marina and walked to the US Embassy so Skeeter and I could pick up our new passports. The Grenada embassy was amazingly quick in getting them renewed for us. It only took 5 days!
Across the street from the Embassy was a really nice house for sale. Out of curiosity, we walked over to see what they were asking. The owner was a very friendly man, and he showed us around the house. It had a separate unit upstairs which could be rented out, and lots of breezy outdoor sitting areas and balconies. The garden was beautiful, bursting with color from all of the tropical flowers. He was asking almost $800k. Definitely not something we could afford, but a beautiful place, in a good location, on a wonderful island.
|Click here to see listing|
On the walk back to Prickly Bay we stopped by the little beach and looked out at Salt Whistle and all of the other boats. We picked up our filled propane cylinder from the marina, and then we headed back to our boat to drop it off.
Our stomachs told us that it was getting to be lunch time. We dinghied over to the Spice Island Marine side of the bay and walked toward St. George’s University to Aziz’s We Ting restaurant. St. George’s University is Grenada’s international medical school. There are many students from all over the world, including the United States, Canada, England, Europe, and other Caribbean islands. Most students are studying to become doctors or veterinarians, though there are some other smaller programs as well. Not a bad idea: earn a degree in paradise.
|St. George's University overlooks the Caribbean|
Skeeter and I had been to Aziz’s restaurant once before, and were excited to have an opportunity to return. Aziz is a really cool guy whose parents are from Syria and Trinidad. He makes great burgers, shwarma, and salads. Skeeter and Dad ordered the Aziz burger, and I ordered the chicken salad. They were enormous and delicious, and cheap for Grenada standards.
|Ridiculously delicious gigantic portions|
|Dad enjoying his locally brewed beer & gigantic burger|
After lunch we decided to paddleboard to beach. Dad had never paddleboarded before, so he decided to kneel rather than stand. Skeeter took the other paddleboard, and I swam, pulling and guiding Dad’s paddleboard until he got the hang of it. The beach was a farther swim than I thought, and I was pooped by the time we got there. Dad was tired from all that paddling, too.
|Prickly Bay Beach|
We met a couple of English women, one of which was a veterinary medicine professor at the university. Her friend had never paddleboarded before, so we let her give it a try. She struggled to go from kneeling to standing, because trying to balance your very first time is a real challenge and your legs tend to be shaky. Also at the beach, Dad got his first lesson about sea life when he accidentally swam into a rope and got stung by the hydroids living on it.
|We love our Tower Inflatable Paddleboards|
On the way back to the boat we formed a paddleboard train. Dad sat on the back of my paddleboard while I paddled (we were the caboose), and we were tied to Skeeter’s paddleboard (the engine). It must have been quite a scene. It was a challenge to stay balanced, and I had to remind Dad not to wiggle at all or we would fall. We had a couple of close calls, but somehow we managed to make it all the way back to the boat like this without ending up in the water.
When we got back, we taught Dad how to take a “boat shower.” Water is a very valuable commodity when you live on a boat, so we are very conservative with our water usage. We get wet in the ocean, climb aboard and soap up, jump back in the ocean to rinse the soap off, and then use only a few seconds of fresh water from the deck hose to rinse off the salt. Dad took to boat showers like a champ, and he actually said he liked them. Tonight we took our boat showers as the sun was setting, and we drip dried as we watched the sun go down.
|Sunset over Prickly Bay|
For dinner I made a Caribbean curry in the pressure cooker. It had goat meat, curry & spices, coconut milk, rice, pumpkin, peppers, okra, eggplant, green onion, and carrots. We watched “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” though Dad fell asleep part way through because he was tired after so much walking, swimming, and paddleboarding.
Friday, October 23 -
Skeeter made us oatmeal for breakfast, because we knew we’d need energy for our action packed day today. We were going to hike to a waterfall!
We dinghied to Spice Island Marine and made the mistake of getting on a local bus that wasn’t on the regular bus route. We should have just walked a few blocks to get on a #1 bus on the regular route, but the driver convinced us to get in. He drove went back to the parking lot by the dinghy dock (where we just came from), and sat there for about 20 minutes. We would have surely gotten off if he didn’t tell us every time we were about to give up on him “just one more minute.” He managed to fill all but 3 seats on the bus with other boaters arriving at the dinghy dock, then, hallelujah, he started driving. He honked at every single person he saw walking and slowed down the bus to see if he could convince anyone else to get on. Each bus is privately owned, so the more passengers a driver gets, the more money he makes. There is a bus and taxi association on Grenada that regulates prices and routes.
|Dad experiencing a local Grenadian bus|
He stopped at the gas station to fill up his tank, which took another 15 minutes. Included in the stop was a chat with his friends and a photo shoot with a man in motorcycle racing gear, helmet and all, sponsored by the “Rubis” gas station we were at. By this time we had been sitting in that bus, sweating, for 40 minutes. We should have already arrived downtown by now, but we had only made it about a mile.
|The gas station in Grenada|
We were finally fueled up and back on the road. Our overly eager driver continued stopping for every person he passed and going off route in hopes of picking up more passengers. He even went off route into the mall parking lot so he could give door-side service to a cute Danish girl. This was the most torturous bus ride ever. We finally arrived downtown. What normally would have taken us 20 minutes took us an hour and a half! He could have done the route four times if he would have stuck to the program!
After sitting on the bus so long we needed to find a bathroom. There was one at the main bus terminal, but we had to pay $1 EC (around $.40 US) each to use it. That’s pretty standard in Grenada. Public toilets are available, but you pay a fee to cover the cost of toilet paper, water, and maintenance.
|Downtown St. George's|
Downtown St. George’s was packed with people. It was almost shoulder to shoulder in the streets. I’m not sure if it was because it was a Friday, or because it was the start of a holiday weekend (Grenada’s Thanksgiving).
|The #2 bus to Mt. Carmel|
We packed into a #2 bus to Mt. Carmel, and the bus departed as soon as we got on. Dad got to sit in the front with the driver, next to the window, so he got the best view. The mountainous roads in Grenada are steep, narrow, and windy, and often times it seems there isn’t enough room to pass oncoming traffic. But somehow the drivers make it work. Sometimes they pass so close you couldn’t even fit a sheet of paper in between them. We passed plantations, small mountain villages, a rum refinery, and scenic overlooks.
|Beautiful views of the interior of Grenada|
There was a loud drunk man in the back of the bus who was shouting his political views at the driver. There was a military coup in Grenada in 1983, which led to US involvement. Click here to learn more about the invasion of Grenada. Some Grenadians supported the rebels, while others did not. The drunk man and the driver had opposing views, and the driver tried to drown out the drunk man's political preaching by turning up the music. Everyone was telling the guy to be quiet, but he wouldn’t. I was surprised the driver didn’t make him get off the bus. When the drunk guy did finally get off, he grabbed Dad by the arm, said something incoherent, and called him “the Venezuelan.” He paid the driver and everyone on the bus was shouting to the driver not to give the man his change.
A little further up the driver let us out at the tiny village of Mt. Carmel, and yelled to a friend to take us to the path to the waterfall. The guy’s name was Dexter, and we decided to let him guide us to the waterfall and show us the different plants and trees along the way. He showed us mango trees, papaya (known as paw-paw in Grenada), golden apple trees, soursop trees, banana plants, coconut trees, lilies, almond trees, and more.
|Dexter, showing us some figs (banana's cousin)|
|A papaya tree (locally known as paw-paw)|
He talked me into standing on a log with him for a picture, but as soon as I stood on the log it began rolling down the mountainside. Good thing I have quick reflexes and jumped off in time! Down by the river he got us some almonds and broke them open with a rock. It really made us appreciate how difficult it is to get a single almond!
|Dexter used a rock to crack open the almond|
|Dexter giving Dad an almond|
|We made it to the waterfall!|
The waterfall was tall, wide, and beautiful. We thanked Dexter for escorting us down there and gave him a generous tip. There were a lot of people down there, maybe because it was a holiday weekend (Grenada’s Thanksgiving is on Monday). Some people were cooking an “oil down,” a traditional Grenadian coconut curry stew, over a wood fire next to the waterfall. The smoke was a bit overwhelming, but it dissipated after the food was finished cooking.
|Traditional Grenadian Oil Down|
The rocks were slippery, so we took our time and were careful as we made our way toward the waterfall. We stood under the falling water and went for a swim in the fresh water pools. We even found a bar of soap, so we took advantage of the opportunity and cleaned ourselves.
|Dad & I at the Mt. Carmel Waterfall|
|Skeeter & Dad after a nice swim in the waterfall pools|
|A wild lily|
When we were leaving, one of the local guys claimed that we had used his soap that he uses to do his laundry. And that Dad cleaned himself “all over.” I wasn’t sure if he was joking or not, but it was a good laugh. I apologized and said I’d bring a new bar of soap next time we come. It’ll have to be next year!
|Skeeter & I, hiking back up to town|
|A banana flower and tree|
|Skeeter & Dad taking a break during the hike up|
We hiked back up to the town of Mt. Carmel, and Dexter had an avocado, some roasted corn on the cob, and a bag of golden apples for us.
|We made it back up to the town of Mt. Carmel|
We hopped on a #2 bus back to the capital, St. George’s, and went to the Creole Shack, located upstairs from a grocery store. The food is served cafeteria style, and it’s local, delicious, and cheap.
|Stewed pork, rice & peas, pumpkin & coleslaw|
|Dad is ready to dig in!|
|We love the Creole Shack!|
Afterwards, we had locally made nutmeg ice cream from the grocery store below. And once more, we hopped on the #1 bus back to Prickly Bay.
Saturday, October 24 -
We woke up at 5:45am so we could prepare the boat for our sail to Carriacou. We had everything secured, all ports and hatches closed, and were ready to raise the anchor and head out. As soon as I put the engine into gear I heard a horrible sound and immediately put it back into neutral. We had been sitting in Prickly Bay for 2 months now, and it seemed that our engine was out of alignment.
|New engine means frequent alignment|
Because we have a new engine, the alignment needs to be readjusted from time to time as it settles in and the rubber feet on the engine mounts compress. The slightest change in how the engine sits can cause the propeller shaft to wobble when rotating, causing a terrible noise and eventually damage the transmission and the engine.
|The propeller shaft goes into the stuffing box|
|And this hose makes alignment very difficult without x-ray vision|
Boaters learn to be flexible, to expect the unexpected, and to fix all sorts of things yourself. We knew that we couldn’t run the engine with improper alignment, so we decided to change our plans. Skeeter warned me that this could take all day.
Dad and I headed to Grand Anse Beach to give Skeeter peace and quiet to work on fixing the engine alignment. Dad drove the dinghy from the boat to the dock like a champ.
|Dad driving the dinghy|
We hopped on a #1 bus to the Radisson Beach Resort, took a shortcut through their property to the beach, and found a shady place underneath an almond tree. We chose our spot carefully, since there are some spots with lots and lots of ants, which bite really hard and leave you very itchy for days.
|Grande Anse Beach|
The sand was soft and the water was crystal clear. It dropped off quickly, so you didn’t have to go far to find water over your head. Dad was very happy swimming and bobbing around here.
|Dad enjoyed the crystalline waters of Grand Anse Beach|
Afterwards we sneaked into the Radisson hotel to use their showers to get the salt off our skin, and changed in their bathrooms.
|The Radisson Beach Resort in Grenada|
By the time we got back, Skeeter was just finishing up. I made us some tuna sandwiches for lunch, and then Skeeter jumped into the water to clean the growth off our anchor chain and propeller.
|Skeeter cleaning our anchor chain|
He got absolutely covered in thousands of tiny shrimp, so I helped him get the nasty little buggers off. They pinch really hard, so it was a good thing Skeeter wore a rash guard in the water. If you don’t get them off, they will stink like dead fish.
|I'm brushing off as many shrimp as I can|
Even though we couldn’t make it all the way to Carriacou now because it was too late, we decided to sail around to St. George’s. But the alignment was still off! We were discouraged, but Skeeter opened up the floor again and went to work to get the alignment right. This time he succeeded, and we decided that if we left immediately, we could still make it around to St. George’s.
|We sailed past the airport as a plane was preparing for take-off|
|Our sunset sail to St. George|
|This was Dad's first sail with us on Salt Whistle|
We had a nice sunset sail, and managed to anchor in the nick of time, just before the sky went completely dark. I made plantains and spaghetti for dinner, and we relaxed and watched “Trading Places,” one of our favorite 80’s movies. Dad really liked it too, and managed to stay awake through the entire movie!
Sunday, October 25 -
We woke up at 5:30am to prepare the boat for our sail to Carriacou, but just as we were ready to leave the sky became really dark. A big squall came over the mountains and hit us hard. The winds began to howl and the rain started coming down in sheets. We had a mono hull to our port side, and a catamaran to our starboard side. The way the wind was whipping over the mountains was causing the mono hulls to swing differently than the catamarans, and we were being blown dangerously close to the catamaran.
I pulled up the swim ladder and started the engine while Skeeter pulled our dinghy up alongside. The rain was pelting us in the face and we were drenched in an instant. I put the engine into gear and carefully maneuvered just enough to get us away from the catamaran without putting us too close to the monohull. It was intense. Skeeter was up on the bow ready to take up any slack on our anchor chain when necessary. We didn’t want to raise our anchor and leave the anchorage during the squall because there were numerous boats downwind from us and the visibility was extremely limited.
After about 30 minutes the squall finally passed, we raised our anchor, and headed out toward Carriacou. But the stress was not yet over. The alignment felt and sounded off again. We put up the mainsail and genoa, turned the engine off, and once it cooled Skeeter went down below to work on it yet again, this time while underway. After that nasty squall the winds were so light they were practically nonexistent. We were moving along at only .5 – 1.5 knots (we were in the lee of the island), so I tried to head further out from land to catch some more wind. We were outside the capital of St. George for 3 hours, making very little headway.
|We're STILL in front of St. George's???|
|It was so calm that even Momo was comfortable on deck|
When Skeeter got the alignment right we decided to motor sail to make up for lost time. We wanted to arrive to Carriacou before dark. After that big squall, there was lots of debris in the water. There were tons of pieces of Styrofoam, plastic bottles, coconuts, and worst of all, hundreds of gigantic logs. It was like the old video game “Frogger”, except a whole lot more intense. Hitting one of gigantic logs could put a hole in the boat or destroy our propeller. Skeeter was out on the bow on the lookout, and I was at the helm steering around what seemed to be an entire forest of trees. To add to the frustration, the winds were very inconsistent in both direction and speed so we had to adjust course and trim sails repeatedly.
|The northwest coast of Grenada|
Once we got out of the lee of Grenada the winds got steadier and the debris field was over. We were able to shut off the motor and just sail again. We picked up speed to around 5 knots. Dad took a siesta when things got steadier, and we sailed past the still active underwater volcano, Kick ‘em Jenny. We passed the beautiful Ronde Island, which is currently for sale, and the most expensive island in the world at an asking price of $100 million.
|Dad is the siesta champion|
As soon as we passed Ronde Island we felt a strong current, pushing us perpendicular to our intended path and slowing us down to 2-3 knots. We restarted the engine and motor sailed so we could be sure to arrive before dark.