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Mail Bag

Ever since we arrived in Grenada over a month ago, we’ve been getting lots of cards and letters from the folks back home asking us questions about our experience. I’ve tried to address some interesting issues in the blog posts, but I thought I’d dig into the mail bag and see if we can give everyone some feedback.

Q: What is Grenada like?

A: That’s a big question, but I’ll try to give you the highlights. Right now it is the rainy season, which means that we experience rain every 12 hours or so. Sometimes it’s a squall, sometimes a brief sprinkle. It’s hot and humid, about 85-90F each day. The wind blows constantly where we are, in one of the southern bays, generally from the ESE, usually about 10-20KTS. We have experienced gusts over 40KTS, and the seas are wicked, banging around at 3-6FT daily.

The countryside is gorgeous, dense jungle covering volcanic peaks. We went to Grand Etang the other day, and the road there rivaled anything I’ve been on in Switzerland. A good Vermont reference is Smugglers Notch. It’s that steep.

And the people are lovely. They are welcoming and polite—but to a point. Cruisers are still auslanders, and since we are all white, we are the glaring minority. With a population of only about 100,000 people, everyone knows everyone else, and Grenadians have a happy, relaxed demeanor.

Q: What is Woburn Bay—where you are moored—like?

A: It ain’t Green Harbor! The vague—but honest—answer is that it’s unique. The entrance is heavily reefed, with strong currents and demon winds, which scares the bejesus out of me. Added bonus: not buoyed. That’s right, no ATONs (aids to navigation). Not a nun buoy among them, never mind a beacon, a deacon, a priest, or a bishop.

There is a wide and varied anchorage here, with depths ranging from 3m to 15m. The bay is aligned north-south, and the prevailing winds blow ESE, which means we are usually stern to WNW. The big attraction here is the Clarkes Court Boatyard, which boasts one of the largest boat lifts in the Caribbean, so lots of boats come here in the summer to go on the hard for hurricane season.

There is another, much smaller marina, Whisper Cove, which is known for its food and entertainment. And there is a population of British expats who have come here to drink and smoke and enjoy the good life of an inexpensive island. This has led to the bizarre phenomenon of a sort of Sunday lunch competition among the three restaurants in the bay—Whisper Cove, Taffy’s, and Cruiser’s Galley. Each Sunday they advertise their traditional roast English dinner with all the trimmings—including Yorkshire pudding, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Just the thing for a drippy, smoldering Sunday afternoon.

Q: What’s it like living on a sailboat?

A: There’s a big difference between spending time on a boat and actually living on one. Space is at a premium for everything, and that means that things must be stowed away, and that means that to get things, everything must be unpacked. So things are tight. You have to really really really like the person you are living with. Forget love; sailboat life is all about tolerance and letting go.

Because of the mooring we are on, and its orientation in the bay, sometimes it’s like living in a front-loading washing machine. As I said above, it’s hot, and it rains a lot, and that means hatch maintenance: open hatches for breeze, close for rain. Each night we are wakened by raindrops on our faces.

Food prep is another challenge. For the first two weeks, we had no refrigeration. But even with the tiny fridge working, space is at a premium. Shopping is a patchwork of ingredients. We don’t bake; it’s too damn hot. Chantal tries to cook once and get two dinners out of it. The rest of the time it’s yogurt and granola and rum and Digestive biscuits (Grenada is Commonwealth of Nations member, having been a British colony for over 200 years).

And then there is pooping. There’s just no getting around it: pooping in a marine head is a challenge, even for a skinny-assed Irish dude like me. First, there is no relaxing, only balancing: right leg propped against the cabinet, left foot arched, left forearm pressing into left thigh, right hand tightly gripping the sink rail, arch your back slightly, thrust your sitz bones back…and poop. If you succeed with all that, your job is only one-third over. Now you must wipe. We have opted for a manual bidet, which substantially reduces the amount of toilet paper needed. Then, that toilet paper must be placed in a plastic bag under the sink and disposed later, because the only thing that goes into the toilet is what comes out of your body. Now you are ready for the final phase: flushing. To do this, turn around and face your poop in the bowl. How does it look? Should you call a doctor? No? Okay, hero: pump it out. Fifteen to twenty strokes usually pushes your poop up the hose, through a loopty-loop and into the holding tank. Pump some fresh seawater into the bowl, wash your hands in the sink, and step out into the salon, where everybody present just listened to you poop and flush. Humiliations galore.

Oh, and you are not done with your poop yet. You are still sailing around with it, in the holding tank. It goes where you go: “Where to today, skipper?” your poop may inquire. The correct reply is, “Three miles offshore, where we are pumping you out to mingle with other marine life poop.”

Q: Did you really need to tell us about pooping?

A: Everybody poops.

Q: What about the actual sailing?

A: It is amazing. To actually feel the wind on your face and feel your boat respond to that same wind the way you are responding to it is a feeling that turns your spirit into an electric current. To be able to take your home with you and explore a new area gives you a sense of freedom that is rare.

This boat is built to be sailed; in other words, it’s a sailboat that you can live in, not a house that you can sail. Conformity flows in the direction of the boat. You will bend to its will. Once you have achieved that, the boat is easy to sail. All the lines run back to the cockpit, so there is no scrabbling on the deck while under way. Even the mainsail is in-mast furling, and it can be reefed in under a minute.

Q: Are you going to stay in Grenada?

A: At least through the end of hurricane season…we think. Though a lot of people still deny it, the world has changed, and it remains in flux. Going from country to country right now is a pain, because each island down here is its own country and has its own rules about Covid and quarantining. We are hoping that by the end of hurricane season things will have loosened up, but we are not betting on that.

In loose terms, we hope to sail up to Martinique for the winter. Since Martinique is part of France, and since Chantal is a French citizen, we can accomplish a lot there: banking, administrative, health care, etc. Plus the sailing is pretty good. Beyond that we dare not think.

Q: What is one thing you wish you knew about living on a sailboat before you did it?

A: I should have brought a hockey helmet.

Q: Why did you name your boat Camino?

A: Both Chantal and I have traveled the Camino de Santiago in Spain and in Portugal, and that experience changed us in profound ways. It changed how we viewed the world: instead of laying out goals and achieving them—or failing to achieve them—we now see life as a progression of lived experiences. That, to us, summed up perfectly what living and traveling on a sailboat meant. Each day on board brings new challenges, problems that need solving, ideas that need flexing. There is only this day, and there is only one way: forward.

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