Well, again it has been a long time. Somehow it seems easier to update the blog when we are traveling and there is action. I spent 4 and half months in Grenada. Originally I had not expected to visit Grenada as we passed through the Caribbean, as I had in mind to go directly to Martinique. However, once we got there, Grenada turned out to be a very friendly, welcoming and convenient place to live while waiting for the North Atlantic crossing season in May. Of course, the fact that Hanna was in Germany and I was alone on the boat was also a deciding factor in staying put in one place for so long, as I did not relish the idea of single-handedly sailing HapiCat. And Grenada speaks English, so that is a major convenience for me.
Now some details of life in Grenada. For the nearly 5 months I was there the winds were very steadily coming from the east – sometimes a bit northeast and other times a bit southeast, but dependably from the east. They were generally moderate winds, so although the temperature rarely varied from 27 to 30 degrees I cannot remember a time when it was uncomfortably hot on the boat as the breeze kept conditions pretty perfect. When we got there, the first 2 months (December and January) we had small rain showers pass over every day – and we had at least one rainbow per day. Suddenly at the end of January the tap in the sky switched off and we had no rain until I left – perhaps a couple of showers, but nothing much.
Superyachts. The anchorage off St George’s sees a lot of superyacht activity. This one was the biggest we saw while there – it was so big that it could not fit in the marina superyacht berths and had to occupy the container ship wharf. The building behind it and to the right is the main hospital.
For a yachtie the officials in Grenada could not be nicer. We came in, filled in all our details, paid our fees and were out in about a quarter of an hour. For a 40 foot boat there is a cruising fee of 50 Eastern Caribbean Dollars per month – EC$2.7/US$1 – just under US$20 per month. The first 3 months of visa are free, thereafter a EC$25 per month extension fee applies. 6 months is no problem whatsoever, but apparently this can be extended.
Grenada is also considered to be out of the hurricane belt – although it was hit pretty badly in 2004 I believe – so a lot of people leave their boats in Grenada during the hurricane season – either on the hard-parking at one of the several boatyards on the island, or even on a mooring, or at anchor. The mud in Prickly Bay seems to be very good holding for anchors. I certainly didn’t move at all for the 2 months while I was there, even when we had some stronger 25 and 30 knot winds. The holding around the corner at the St George’s anchorage is not so great, but you can get your anchor wedged behind a rock or a ledge and then you will stay put. We were securely anchored there with our anchor wedged under a rock for about 6 weeks. There are 2 or 3 more major anchorage spots for yachts in the south of Grenada, but I didn’t try them out. Make sure you have several thick coats of antifouling on before you arrive in the Caribbean – the strands of algae grow prolifically, and with rubbing your boat down regularly you will wear through your antifoul paint quickly.
For the whole south of the island, where most of the people, services and anchorages are, you can either walk everywhere, catch the local mini-buses (EC$2.50 per ride) or catch a taxi. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and I never felt unsafe at any time. That is not to say it is crime-free. There were a couple of incidents while I was there – one murder of a tourist on a deserted beach by a deranged fellow. But overall you can walk around and go almost anywhere without any worries.
Just so us Africans don’t feel homesick. The public transport bus system in Grenada consists of these mini-buses. Each one has its own unique flavour. Usually there is a loud sound system running. All music is Caribbean, but the Caribbean music industry is incredibly diverse. You get really laid back reggae music, reggae covers of all the latest western commercial pop music, gangster rap etc. So each ride you take is different. There were a couple of rides where the rap music, tinted windows, back to front caps of the well-built conductor, and the general urgency of the hustle to pick up passengers and heavy gas-pedal driving style made me feel like I was taking part in some sort of a ‘drive-by’ mission. Hehe.
I felt very thankful and fortunate that while I was there in Grenada on my own I met some fellow cruisers who had been attending the local university Christian Students Union Sunday fellowships. So I was invited to attend the Sunday fellowships at the local medical university. It was very inspiring. The photos are from the international music evening they held at the CSU – the Caribbean group and then the African group. Such incredibly talented musicians and people overall. There are students there from all over the world working very hard to become doctors and vets.
Beach baptism held by the CSU. There was always something interesting going on.
Some more general information on Grenada for those intending to sail there.
The airport runway takes off directly over Prickly Bay and there are several international flights per day. Flights are generally costly by South African standards, but you can look out and get reasonable deals if you can wait and watch for them.
Internet. I used Digicel cellular 3G for internet on the boat. 3 gigabytes for EC$79. It was pretty much always reliable. There is a commercial wifi provider that services the anchorages. If you wish to download movies and have unlimited internet on the boat then that is your better option – EC$120 per month for limitless wifi in the anchorages. If you want to take advantage of this then get yourself a wifi range extender and also get yourself a device that turns your boat into a hotspot off a wifi signal, so you can use your computer and phones and tablets off your own boat hotspot. Better get these items before you get there.
Bringing stuff into Grenada. I brought in a radio, and a sim card for the satellite phone. The sim card came by FedEx and was there in less than a week, with no duties or fuss. The radio came by US Postal Service and it took over 3 weeks until I got it – about 10 days to 2 weeks to arrive in Grenada and a further week to be processed through customs ready for the broker to pick up. You have to arrange a customs broker in advance and fill out a form or 2. The best deal for customs brokering is apparently the manager of the Budget Marine chandlery – and I did find him to be very good and reasonable. On this note, customs and VAT add over 30% to the price of anything you see in the chandleries, so you have to bring your boat papers in and register with the chandleries to get the duty-and-tax-free prices you see on the shelves. Otherwise you will be in for a rude shock at the till as the price you see is not the price you will pay!
Supermarkets. There are 3 major supermarkets – Food Fair, Foodland and IGA. Foodland and Food Fair have 2 branches each. By South African standards (as I remember them) you will gasp a bit. But overall, considering that your life is generally less complicated (no car etc etc) you will still be able to live very affordably if you are prepared to live quite simply.
Some examples: (ZAR5/EC$1) and bearing in mind a pound is less than half a kilo.
Pasta EC$ 3.25 / 400 grams
Eggs EC$10 / dozen
UHT milk EC$3-5 / litre depending on where you buy and whether full cream
Milk powder EC$6 / pound (not a bad deal – the best I found in my 3 stops in the Caribbean)
Canned Tuna EC$2.50/ can (at food fair)
Mince EC$16 / pound
Chicken legs EC$2 – 2.80 / pound (most is around $8 per pound but you can find cheaper in food fair and IGA)
Potatoes EC$1.80 per pound
Tomatoes EC$5-7 per pound !!
Apples EC$17 / 3 pound bag
Bananas EC$2-3 per pound
Cabbage EC$3-4 per pound
Wine EC$17 per bottle
Juice EC$5 per litre
Chocolate EC$5/140 grams (buying the Trinidadian brand – otherwise 2 -3 times the price)
Biscuits Various but the cheapest about EC$2/150 grams.
Fuel was generally about EC$13 per US gallon (3.8 litres) – so about ZAR 16 or 17 per litre. However the cheapest fuel we found in the Caribbean was in the little sister island of Grenada (still under the Grenada government) called Carriacou, where if you sign out of Grenada and bring the customs papers, you can get duty-free fuel at EC$6.50 per US gallon (ZAR8.50 / litre). Water you buy at the various yacht clubs and marinas for between EC$ 0.20 and 0.30 per imperial gallon. Not sure why they use imperial gallons for the water and US gallons for the fuel but that is what it appears.
Gas. For cooking gas you can either drop your bottles off at one of several places (Grenada Yacht Club, Prickly Bay Marina), or have the one yacht service chap come and pick your tank up and deliver, or you can dinghy to the gas refill station yourself. It is about 3 kilometres from the St George anchorage in a place called Grand Mal Bay. If you take your bottles yourself you get the gas refilled at about half the price – we paid EC$40 for 10 kilos of cooking gas when we took the bottles there ourselves. That was about the same price as we paid in South Africa. Make sure you have a CADAC-to-big-bottle adaptor with you (and pliers or spanner) of you want to get a CADAC bottle refilled. The standard 9 kilo type fitting that is used in South Africa is used there in Grenada.
And that’s it for now. The next post will be about sailing again.