When we returned from Canada at the beginning of November, the “official” hurricane season was over and the entire cruising fleet was either preparing to depart or had already left. It felt a bit like the posting season when you saw all of your friends leaving and there was very much a sense of being left behind.
Because we were in Kingston longer than expected, we had a gazillion (yes that’s a word girls) projects to complete before we could depart. Both main diesel engines needed servicing, the generator needed an overhaul (including sucking the gear oil out with three straws taped together…), restringing the trampoline, fixing the inverter, picking up, throwing out, and loading Rafiki with food, fuel and water. In between these required chores we tried to say good bye to many wonderful friends that we had met during our stay in Grenada.
Our plan has changed after speaking with some of the other cruisers and we now intend to retrace our tracks up through the Dominican Republic and Haiti before heading south to Panama in the spring. I put this plan on paper because it will give us a reference later when we end up doing something completely different. When I was flying we used to say “plan early, plan often” and “the best-laid plan won’t last longer than the take off”. We are often asked what our “plan” is, and without sounding like a typical non-committal teenager… we really don’t have one. When we started this trip it was one year, with an option for two. Then it became two with an option for three. In the spring there were days when I hoped that the mast would finally fall down and we could call it a day and head home! While in Kingston this Fall, there was a week when we weren’t sure that we were even coming back to Grenada. Bottom line is that we will continue as long as everyone is having fun.
Grenada is the hurricane destination for an armada of cruisers from North America and Europe alike. We met some fabulous people with fascinating stories to tell, and not since living in Moose Jaw with the NATO Fighter Training Program and all the international pilots, have we met such an eclectic group of people. The best part is that we will probably have the chance to reconnect with some of them in a few years, when we all return to life ashore.
One unforgettable aspect of island life was a short, but nasty epidemic of Chickungunya (similar but worse than it’s poor cousin, Dengue). This mosquito born virus laid your mother out for a full week and beside the benefit of the seven-day-bikini-body, it’s symptoms were severe achy joints, immobility, vertigo, high fever, and a very uncomfortable rash. One night when you two were off to yet one more social event (your mother stoically tried to convince me to go as well…), she finally got up to use the bathroom. I suddenly heard a shuddering thump and when I didn’t receive any response to my inquiries, went below to find your mother face down against the bulkhead, chin and forehead skinned on the non-skid, out cold. I managed to stabilize her neck and she quickly regained consciousness. With a confused look said, “where am I?”. When I told her that she had passed out in the bathroom she replied, “Oh, how embarrassing!” and promptly passed out again. I called for assistance on the radio and our friend, Diane from Puddy Cat (Joel was hard down with the same ailment) came over and we hoisted Mommy into bed. It took several weeks before she started feeling normal again and I still have a hard time saying Chickungunya without envisioning John Cleese as a doctor in some Monty Python skit….
The island itself is rich and lush, with a bounty of food literally growing on every corner. We were not successful meeting many of the locals and with a few notable exceptions; they were not terribly interested in meeting us. Although the island is considered very safe for cruisers, there were many incidents of thefts and boardings, which has left an unavoidable stain on our time there. In August we were boarded in the middle of the night and the thieves entered the main cabin of the boat and stole our laptop and iPads. They went so far as to prop open the doors and go back in for the charging chords. Four other boats in the same anchorage were also boarded and computers stolen. We heard nothing at all, which is really remarkable given that we never sleep very soundly, however the incident was extremely unsettling. The official reaction was even more unsettling and only after writing to the Minister of Tourism, did we finally get a police report eight weeks later. During our stay several other RIBs were stolen, and another boat was boarded with the owner in the cockpit. In this incident, after she raised the alarm, other cruisers captured the man in the water swimming back to his fishing boat and held him until the Coast Guard arrived. Even being caught on the boat and prevented from escaping with multiple witnesses, the individual was promptly released by the local authorities; the official response being they were fishermen and it was misunderstanding. Unfortunately these incidents have coloured our opinion, and it is hard not to look at small rowboats passing through the anchorage without concern for security and safety.
On November 15th, we started our push north, and our immediate goal is to get to Antigua for Christmas. We anticipate several of our boat buddies joining us there for a bonfire on the beach; while not traditional it should be fun. On the way up we would like to explore Dominica, Martinique and the Saints since, on the way down, we really did not get a chance to explore these islands, and local intelligence indicates that they should not be missed.
I hope that the next six months will be less stressful than the first six and we all are excited that the really fun part of the trip is just beginning.