Caribbean S3 - Part 1 Grenada to SXM
October 25, 2018
Robert would start this 3rd cruising season in the Caribbean without me! But would have not one but two female crew instead. What?!!! Maybe I should explain….
In early October my mother discovered a cancerous lesion on her shin between her knee and ankle. When I took her to have it biopsied, it was determined that she would need radiation treatments every day for 20 days to start by mid October and continue into November. With her in her early 90’s, I was concerned as to how well she would recover after the treatments were complete. So Robert and I came to a decision that he would head back to the boat alone to get her ready for the new sailing season, and I would join him whenever I could. This season’s plan had us bringing the boat north into the U.S., so that we could start a retrofit to prepare the boat for heading to the Pacific. With my part in all this being up in the air, we decided it would be a good idea if Robert had crew to help with anchoring and some longer passages. So he posted an ad in the Facebook group “Sailboat Hitchhikers and Crew Connection”, as well as on the Findacrew.net website. His ad indicated that he was looking specifically for a female crew member to join the boat in Grenada and cruise north to the Bahamas, taking approximately three months. Not surprisingly he took a lot of flak from the male members of the FB Group. Even though he tried to explain that the cruising life was more conducive to couples, not to mention, female crew bring a different mindset from males and he felt that would work better given his own personality. We were quite open and honest about the fact that he was NOT looking for a “bed mate”, just crew. Finally through all the hostility, we were able to find a couple of potential candidates, one from the FaceBook Group and one from Findacrew. I helped conduct the phone interviews with him, to reinforce the fact that he did have a girlfriend/partner that truely existed in his life. Whew, what an ordeal! Knowing that he would have help moving the boat from place to place, meant it was one less thing I would have to worry about.
Next decision was to plan Roberts transportation to Grenada. Since we were planning a big retrofit on BnG and we were still undecided about where to take her in the U.S., Robert wanted to drive to Florida and then fly from there to Grenada. This way he could stop along the way to take a look at various marinas and what facilities they had to offer. Friends of ours had previously used a company called “Toronto Drive-Away”, which connects snow-birds who preferred to fly south but also have their car there when they arrive, with drivers willing to make the journey in their car. It worked out to be a good deal for us, as it gave Robert free transportation to Florida (all fuel expenses paid), plus a bonus to be paid after the car was dropped off with the owner in Florida. Transportation to Florida, CHECK. Booking the flight from Florida to Grenada was the easy part, we just needed to coordinate with his arrival in Florida, with a couple of days padding.
Robert departed Toronto with his Toronto Drive-Away car on October 25th, making stops at prospective boat yards in Annapolis, Savanah, Jacksonville, and finally Ft. Lauderdale. When he handed the car over to the owners they were very happy and so was he. He had made a decision that the boat would sail up to Annapolis, to Herrington Harbour North Marina for her “spa date”. That’s what I call it, since a lot of the work will be in beautifying her. Yes, of course there will be a lot of practical upgrades as well. We will be sure to keep a detailed record of all improvements to share with you later! Robert arrived in Grenada on November 6th to commence relaunch efforts.
At this point, I can update you on my mothers progress. All radiation treatments went well and her follow-up with the doctor two weeks afterward gave me the confidence in her recovery to allow me to start my planning to rejoin Robert. After several phone conversations between Robert and I, and searching the web for affordable flights, we made the decision that I would remain in Canada through Christmas, and fly into Philipsburg, Sint Maarten (SXM) on December 29th in time for us to spend New Years together.
Now, back to Robert in Grenada.
Upon arriving in Grenada, the first thing Robert noticed about our boat was the oily liquid dripping from the bow prop tunnel. Nothing like a little oil leak to get him right in the throws of boat repairs! He discovered that the seal in the bow prop was the culpret and would need to be replaced. No big deal, it is only a $6-8 part. The problem was, getting it in Grenada. The shops that might carry it, did not have it in stock, and ordering it in brought the cost of this relatively inexpensive seal close to $50! Crazy right? So he put me to work trying to procure it from Canada and getting it down to him via friends that were planning to fly there later in the month. In the mean time, he would work at cleaning up the mess made by the oil leak. Not the best start to a new sailing season, and one that he was on his own to start with.
Around the third week of November, our first crew member arrived at the boatyard. Jenny Rawle, originally hailing from the UK, flew in from Spain to join BnG for a minimum of three months. As Jenny was the first to arrive, Robert gave her first pick between the two state rooms in the forward part of the boat. Surprisingly Jenny picked the bunk bedroom because she was tall and the beds in that room were longer than in the V-berth. Susan Taylor, from Montana, USA arrived the following day and took up residence in the V-berth. Although Jenny and Susan did not know each other before arriving at our boat in Grenada, they quickly became friends. Robert was just happy that he would have some extra help to get BnG ready for launching in a week or so. Not wanting their experience to be all work and no play, the day that Robert was to sand the Coppercoat bottom, Susan and Jenny went on a tour of the island. They returned to witness Robert trashing the t-shirt he had worn while sanding, as it was completely green. They took pictures for me because Robert told them how I always complain that he never throws his clothes away, even when they should be!
BnG was launched on schedule, December 6th, and Robert and his crew were off sailing. They stopped at some of the same islands that we had visited the previous season, and enjoyed the fabulous snorkling. This also gave Jenny and Susan some time to get used to the boat operations before I joined them at the end of the month.
I flew into SXM, Sint. Maarten on December 29th as planned, and Robert met me at the airport smiling, but with his nose all bandaged up! No he wasn’t in a fight. I knew he was planning to have surgery on his nose to remove a basal-cell carcinoma on the morning of my arrival, and I sure didn't expect him to meet me at the airport, so that was the real surprise. His surgery went well, however, on doctors orders we would remain in Sint. Maarten for at least another three weeks so that the surgeon could monitor his recovery. I was really happy to be back on board BnG with Robert. Jenny and Susan had decided to take this time that BnG would be staying put for awhile to leave the boat for a couple of weeks. I think they thought Robert and I needed some alone time, which was really nice. Susan headed back to the US to be with family for Christmas, and Jenny flew to see friends in the BVI’s.
Our few weeks alone on the boat seemed to go by relatively quickly. We were anchored in Marigot Bay, on the French side, just outside the marina wall. In fact, you could walk to the end of the pier surrounding the marina and practically throw a stone to our boat.
Christmas Winds Foil New Years Eve Plans
Robert is always watching the weather, even when we’re not on board the boat. He has gotten so good at predicting the weather now, that I think he’d make a great TV weather person. We had planned to spend New Years Eve over at St. Barths, just a short day sail away. They are known for having some pretty flashy parties, especially for events like the turning of a new year. We were both really looking forward to it, but the weather would not cooperate. Based on what we were seeing on the various weather apps, very high winds would create rolling seas, making the anchorage over there very uncomfortable. So we stayed put in Marigot Bay for what we thought would be a quiet end to another year. As the clock struck midnight, we kissed, said “Happy New Year!”, and then the excitement began! There was a training tall ship that had anchored next to us earlier that day, and they proceeded to send off fireworks from their vessel. Due to our proximity, we had great views, but we also had serious concerns when some of the phosphorescence was coming back down very close to our deck! When you have a teak deck, any kind of burning substance is a danger! Thankfully, they only got close, but never actually landed on us.
16 Months After Hurricane Irma Destruction
We decided to rent a car for a couple of days that would allow us to make a large order trip to the grocery store as well as do some touring around. Robert was prohibited from spending any time in the water or direct sunlight because of his surgery, so going to the beach was not on the menu. Being on this island was not new to us, but we knew that many areas were not the same after the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma the previous summer. Some of our favorite haunts were no longer in existence, like Captain Oliver’s Restaurant, at Oyster Pond, where we enjoyed a wonderful dinner there only last March. (Update: Two years later, Capitain Olivers has not been able to rebuild due to a dispute between the French and Dutch, as it lies right on the boarder)
We found so many buildings completely destroyed. We figure it will take years to build it back up to what it once was. The airport was one of the first things I saw when I arrived on the island. It had been completely destroyed and they were working out of temporary buildings. St. Maarten is one of our favorite islands in the Caribbean, and we do hope they will be able to rebuild quickly.
Where is BnG now?
We cannot direct the wind, we can only adjust our sails