Martinique, Carriacou and mainland Grenada

April 19-June 28, 2022

I left off our last post waiting for the AIS to be fixed in Martinique.  We actually got it fixed, so the AIS dependent “Where’s Renegade?” part of the blog is working.  Now, I will try to get myself back into order and catch up on more than two very busy months. 

I can’t remember the exact day we checked out of Martinique but I do remember we had a lovely overnight beam reach down to Carriacou, where we checked into Grenada.  Carriacou is small island north of the main island of Grenada.  It is 13 square miles and less than 10,000 people live there.  The only way to get there is on the morning or evening ferry, a two hour ride from St George’s, the capital on the big island, or else by private boat.  There is some great snorkeling and diving at Carriacou, but we just skimmed the surface.  We had fun with friends, exploring the island, and hanging out at Paradise Beach bar.  I think they have some arrangement with the Aperol company, because the logo is all over and Spritz’s are the featured drink.  Worked for me. 

They also have a great tradition of letting cruisers paint their boat’s name on planks of wood that they then hang on the walls around the bar.  Drinking rum punch and painting yielded much better results than expected.  We were delighted to see in latter facebook posts that our plank was given pride of place, prominent as you come in off the beach! We stayed less than a week in Carriacou because we were already getting excited to go back for Claire’s graduation in the States.  It was to be an epic journey to 7 cities in less than 3 weeks.  The plan was to enter our hurricane season marina slip by May 1st, so we would have just over a week to settle in and get comfortable that Renegade would be ok before our flight out.  In our 2 years living aboard, we had only left the boat on a couple other occasions, once only a couple hours away in the DR for Amy’s wedding, and once for a week long trip to Mallorca. 

It turns out we didn’t need to worry about the marina.  Port Louis is a Camper Nicholson marina and beautifully maintained, with concrete floating docks, potable water, and reliable power and WIFI.  Oh, and  a lovely swimming pool overlooking the harbor.  We knew Renegade would happy here.  We started checking out the town, doing laundry, and catching up with friends passing thru, while also meeting new friends.  The people we meet kept going back to the States, so we were ready to go too.

Getting to Virginia Tech was a slow but easy journey, with 3 planes and an overnight in Atlanta between us and our baby.  We had many grandparents, an aunt and an uncle turn up to celebrate Claire’s graduation.

Then it was on to visit friends and family in Annapolis, Princeton, NYC, Connecticut, and Long Island.  Seeing Joe and Marietta’s excellent new place in Princeton was a highlight.  What a tough move after 40 years in the same house.  So pleased for them that it turns out to be such a good fit, with all their friends around them.  We also explored the area near Alexandra’s house, finding some interesting tracks left in the rock by dinosaurs.Boat life can be hard, but it has it’s compensations.  There has been a lot of lingering over cappuccino at the Victory Bar in the mornings,  a lot of dinking out to swim and snorkel Grand Anse (once we saw three Octopuses on the same day), hikes out to the Chocolate Museum to stock up on multiple bars of dark chocolate (low cal, believe it or not) crazy bus rides (in broken down vans with up to 19 people in them) out to waterfalls, across rain forests etc).  A gorgeous farm to table lunch with a tour of the Belmont Chocolate Estate was made excellent by charismatic tour guide Kelly.  We dived the sculpture park a couple times going out on a friends boat.  Really fun combo of the sculptures and “canyons” of coral going from 7 to 70 ft.  Lots of good meals too:  Carib Sushi, Sails (a short dinghy ride across the harbor), 360 Bar high on the hill in the pouring rain 61 west (toes in the sand on Grand Anse), and cruisers’ hangout, Umbrellas.

Julie grinds chocolate
Jeff and Julie SCUBA dive the underwater sculpture garden
Julie swims at a waterfall
Jeff watches and orders another beer

A recent highlight was going with 10 other cruisers in Shademan’s van to see the Leatherback Turtles.  It was a 2 hour bumpy ride to the north east corner of the island , the furthest you can go and still be on land.  We left at 5:30 and stopped for BBQ dinner along the way.  Just a road side stand, a little bench, and $5 a head.  By the time we got the turtle beach, it was pitch dark, no moon.  It was election day, so all the workers were distracted and talking excitedly about that.  We learned that we would wait for a turtle to come lay until midnight, with the rangers patrolling the beach hourly to spot them for us.  We couldn’t walk on the sand looking ourselves for fear we would step on tiny hatch-lings.  They said it was end of season, so only a 50/50 chance of seeing a turtle come up to lay. 

It was a pretty long boring wait, chit chatting and lying on picnic tables at the edge of the sand.  At 10 minutes before midnight, the guide approached us and we thought we were being loaded back in the bus, but no!  A turtle had come just in time.  We hoofed it double time down to the far end of the beach.  We went single file, all wearing the red headlamps all boaters have because you can see in the dark without destroying your night vision. 

Half way down the beach, we stopped to see some hatch-lings struggling down to the water.  Only a couple babies out of every nest of 50-100 eggs survive this difficult journey.  I probably broke an eco rule, but I saw a little hatch-ling flipped over on its back and struggling.  I picked it up, flipped it over, and set it several feet closer to the water.  It was sooo cute!  Just like all its sisters and brothers.

We got to the mamma turtle when she was almost done digging the roughly 2 foot deep nest.  Two researchers helped her dig because one of her back flippers had been cut half off, so it wasn’t digging deep enough on one side.  She didn’t even notice, because the turtle goes into a bit of a trance for digging and laying the eggs.  The eggs are white and bigger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball.  The mother is over 6 feet long, 2+ feet high, and weighs 1000-1500 pounds.  Wow.  We were allowed to pet her while she was in her trance.  Her shell feels like very smooth warm leather.

This was super cool, and we were all really excited as we walked back to the bus at like 1:30 in the morning.  We didn’t even mind a few passing rain showers while we were watching.

In boat related news, we’ve decided to update our 20 year old standing rigging (the stuff that holds the mast up) for our around the world journey.  It’s probably fine, and we won’t notice any improvement when it’s done, it will just be new.  This is worth the effort though, as there could be hairline fractures, or even just metal fatigue that could make our rig less robust.  Since the mast coming down is a catastrophic failure, we are willing to invest in new rigging for our safety.

We arrived for our 8AM appointment with Turbulence, the riggers , and the Spice Island Marine Services guys that run the yard were like, what are you guys doing here?  Our project manager at Turbulence got mixed up and told us Monday, even though she booked the dock and crane for Tuesday.  Oops.  Is that a bad sign?  Yeah, that’s a rhetorical question.  Oh well, no big deal.  Just an extra night at the dock.  I bet our project manager got in trouble with the yard for that.  The pulling of the mast went incredibly smoothly on Tuesday.  It was wait wait wait all morning, and then suddenly just before lunch, the crane was there and gone in like 10 minutes.

The yard crane lifts Renegade’s mast
Much easier to work on a horizontal mast
Renegade sure looks funny without her rig.

By 3:30, we were oozing our way off the bulkhead and out into rolly Prickly Bay.  We had noticed a roll Sunday night, but it was fine.  Now, with no mast, the period of our roll is much faster.  Very weird, uncomfortable and unfamiliar.  We went to the next bay to the east which was much more comfortable, and also were we have several friends on mooring balls for the season.  It was from here that we did our turtle tour, and also a tour of a local rum factory. 

We had a very nice week out of the marina for a change and nice cool breeze.  However, two things were driving us back to our slip.  One, our boat is just not comfortable to live on without a mast (who knew!) while rolling at anchor.  Two, there is a potential tropical storm forming to the east.  They are predicting up to 55 know winds three days out (turned out to be nothing, but we worried at the time).  So Sunday afternoon, we motored back around to our slip.  There is now a huge power boat in the slip next to us, so I was anxious about backing in, but Jeff did it like parallel parking a car.  Exactly a foot and half from certain disaster on either side.  I was pretty pleased and proud!  We had an audience of the power boat owners on one side, two dock hands on the other, and lots of curious onlookers from less interested boats as well.  We were cool as cucumbers, no yelling,  no running with fenders by me, because they were already all in the right place.  Just calm steerage by Jeff and calm, accurate tossing of heavy dock lines by me.  Ok, I was freaking out inside still, but it reminds me of giving big speeches at work.  I was always nervous before hand, but once I started speaking I was fine.   I think this was the first time I was able to fully hid my nerves docking.  Surely this is a new, saltier plane of existence for me.  Jeff of course is already a zen master, but could there be hope for me?

Our smooth low stress docking maneuver certainly made our new neighbors more inclined to be friendly to us, and they were indeed very friendly, so that’s a plus for the rest of the season.  Always nice to have good neighbors when you can’t just sail away!