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Picked-up Pieces...Featuring Klingons, Hurricanes, and Lobstah Boy

Updated: Aug 15, 2021

Author's Note: Stealing directly from Boston Globe sports columnist Dan Shaughnessy, I offer my version of Dan’s “Picked-up Pieces” column: vignettes, observations, and relations from a Caribbean island in the summer.

It’s bloody hot. Okay, I know it’s the Caribbean and it’s August. But still. It’s like someone flipped a switch, and on August 1, the winds died down and the real perspiration began. The sun stalks us like a jealous lover (see below). In the beginning, we complained about the boat rolling and the 15 to 20 knot winds overnight. But the afternoons have become deadly, good for little more than snorkeling or barhopping (see below). Siesta is our new normal, but it only goes so far in dealing with the heat. The other day, Chantal announced she was going to do laundry. “What laundry?” I asked. Clothes can only be dirtied if they’re actually worn.

Hurricanes. Like Klingons, they are out there: stubborn, mercurial, bellicose. July was quiet, and though a third of August has passed, we are not ignorant of the need for vigilance, as the old saying goes:

June, too soon.

July, stand by.

August, upon us.

September, remember.

October, it’s over.

Though Grenada is out of the hurricane box, nature has little interest in the doodlings of insurance underwriters. That means a plan. For us, in this bay, we can stay put. We have two anchors, plus the mooring ball we are on. There is also the possibility of fleeing to a nearby bay that is completely sheltered from the seas. Nothing, it turns out, is completely sheltered from the winds.

Quiz: Name the last major hurricane to strike Grenada. (Answer below.)

Reading list. It’s not that we have a so much time on our hands that we don’t know what else to do, but we have been reading a lot. In addition to our ASA study books (Sailing Made Easy, Coastal Cruising Made Easy, and Bareboats Cruising Made Easy), we are reading lots of other things down here. There is also the New Glenans Sailing Manual, Guide des Antilles, and, of course, Nigel Calder’s Boat Owner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual. I am back to Clive Cussler, reading one of his series, this one featuring Sam and Remi Fargo, adventure treasure seekers I am also rereading some of my favorite classics: For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Great Gatsby, Moby-Dick. Chantal is rereading An Embarrassment of Mangoes, one of the best books about Grenada—though we have found that in the 20 years since it was written, Grenada has changed a lot.

Teaching. Yes, I am teaching the second of two summer English Composition classes. I have been teaching fully online, asynchronous classes at the Community College of Vermont for over ten years, so this is not a big change for me. What is a big change is trying to type while the boat is pitching and rolling. The content of the classes hasn’t changed, and I still spend countless hours reading essays and interacting with students. I just sweat more now.

Covid. I’ve been dancing around this topic since we arrived, but I will say something about it now. Grenada has done remarkably well in containing and limiting the spread of Covid. It is an island, of course, so that helps. But they have a clear and consistent policy of dealing with arrivals. Only recently did they drop the quarantine period from 7 days to 2 days (for vaccinated travelers). On the island, contact tracing, sanitizing, and masking are all supposed to be in effect, and they are in most businesses. But Grenadians themselves have as many different ideas about Covid and how to handle it as every other nation. Around Woburn Bay there is a ridiculous variety of techniques. At one restaurant, our waitress showed up at our table with no mask. Then she brought our drinks and was fully masked. And then she brought our food and the mask was hanging off her ear. As of August 1, 2021, the Grenadian government requires all travelers to Grenada to be fully vaccinated.

Watching boats. When you are sweating to death in the afternoon, one activity that takes little effort is watching boats come in and out of the bay. Because Clarkes Court Boat Yard is one of the biggest in Grenada, a lot of people come in and put their boats in the hard for hurricane season. Most of these boats are catamarans, and some of these thigs are astoundingly large. One—a 62-foot Lagoon—had three stories and an elevator. The other fun thing to watch is how boats anchor. The catamarans seem to just drop their anchors straight down are done. The monohulls are more fussy, moving about the bay, searching for just the right spot. And the dinghy traffic is crazy: boats buzzing at all angles, all day and half the night.

Sailing notes. We have been out on two solo sails, and we feel good (not thrilled) about our progress. For now, Chantal is focusing on handling the lines and sails, and I am focusing on driving the boat efficiently. We see improvement each time we go out, and when recently the wind died on us, we found ourselves wishing for fresher breezes. So we are ready to move up. We have also improved our mooring/unmooring skills. Anchoring, unfortunately, will have to wait. Our windless is broken—it still works, but the stripper (which directs the anchor into the chain locker) snapped off, so getting the anchor back on board is a messy, dangerous job. And this windlass does not have a manual option (dopey).

Boat work. I’ve written a lot about the work to the forward head, and we are just treading water with that for now. There are a couple of major re-plumbing tasks that need to occur before it is put back in service. We are holding firm with the other issues we have addressed on the boat. The navigation electronics are still puzzling, and we need some new displays for our helm screens. We have been learning about the form and function of the diesel engine, and we will soon perform regular maintenance work on it. There is a gas-powered generator for electricity that needs some TLC, but since we have not fired up the water maker, we don’t need the extra electricity. Manana.

Barhopping. There are five places to get a drink around Woburn Bay, and we frequent three of them regularly. Whisper Cove Marina is open and laid back and friendly. They have nice happy hour specials (3 beers for $12EC—about $4USD, fancy drinks for $10EC), a good pizza night on Tuesdays, lots of entertainment, and it’s a good spot to hang and chat with other cruisers. Cruiser’s Galley is over at Clarkes Court Boat Yard, and it’s a different vibe—more of a restaurant. We have eaten there several times, and the food is good, but there isn’t the same social scene. Le Phare Bleu is a quick dinghy ride around the corner, and they boast a more upscale experience. They make the best rum punch around, and you get to use their pool. Plus they have fuel, the only ones who do. We often make an afternoon around getting fuel, then having a couple of rum punches and taking a dip in the pool to desalinate our skin.

The Sun! The Sun! Upon sharing the news that we had bought a boat in the Caribbean and were moving down there to live aboard and sail around, the reactions I got ranged from the hilarious (“Really, lobstah boy? Remember the time you got a sunburn on the tops of your feet…while you were wearing shoes and socks?’), to the incredulous (“Dude, didn’t you already have skin cancer?”), to the sublime (“Really, lobstay boy? Remember the time you got a sunburn in the rain…in Ireland?”). But it’s really been manageable. While Chantal has bronzed beautifully, I have used a combination of SPF 50+ clothing, sun screen, and strategic exposure to avoid any kind of burning. So I’m still translucent white. That hasn’t stopped people from audibly gasping at my appearance, or mothers from shielding their babies’ eyes, but at least I’m comfortable in my own skin.

The Grenadians. I can’t emphasize enough how lovely and welcoming Grenadians are to us. Everywhere you, people greet you with a sincere, “Good morning!” Well, maybe there are some pissants in St. George’s, but otherwise they are a great people. We have been told that this is also one of the safest places in the Caribbean, and in our nearly three months here, we see no cause to dispute that. And yet…

…but still. We are from away—that is simply a human reaction to people coming to their home country. And we are wickedly in the minority. Though we are never made to feel unwelcomed, there is still an arm’s-length limit to Grenadian’s willingness to engage with us. Some of that may radiate from us, and once when we were walking up the road in Woburn we were invited to a “lime.”* Unsure of what it was, we demurred, but we will jump on the opportunity next time. And there will be a next time…affaire a suivre

* lime: to hang out, casually, with friends, sipping drinks, eating food, gossiping, laughing, enjoying the company of others.

Quiz answer: The last major hurricane to strike Grenada was Hurricane Ivan in 2004, a Category 3 storm that caused 39 deaths and $1.1 billion in damage.

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