And so, on the 9th June 2015, our first sailing season as full-time cruisers came to an end with a champagne sail into Prickly Bay, Grenada - Our home for the next few months, having completed 2123NM. What a wonderful season it was, both on the water and off, although we certainly weren't short of tough sails which provided some great experience. It was, however, time for respite, recharging and spending time with family and friends in Ireland and England, as well as completing our final training course in Hamble, England. But not before we received the news, while out celebrating, that our son, Keenan, had passed his check ride and was officially an airline Captain. Of course, this called for a celebratory dinner - Bangers and Mash, accompanied by delicious Bordeaux. The icing on the cake was getting to see the Southern Cross that evening - the first time since leaving Bonaire. A perfect ending to a perfect day!
With another island came another reconnaissance. On our first day out we went in search of all the basic services sailors’ need - laundry, fuel, propane, groceries, chandleries, as well as those luxury items that make this lifestyle all worthwhile - beaches, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, entertainment, diving, snorkelling, etc. It didn't take us long to realise we had stumbled into Camp Grenada, a summer camp for sailors.
Entertainment included Mexican train domino and chess competitions, bingo nights with bizarre prizes ranging from money to rabbits, goats, sheep and even a cow; Trivia evenings, live music, including a Benefits Concert for Dominica after Hurricane Danny destroyed the island. Dancing under the stars to steel pan drums, movie nights, "2 for 1" and "½ price" pizza nights, yoga, tai chi, dinghy floats, island tours, "fish Friday", "bring and braai" dinners where we were able to reward ourselves with some "boerewors", purchased from "Le Burcher" in Prickly Bay - Who would have thought, considering we were unable to enjoy any during our latter years in Phoenix - No one was willing to share.
Our second reconnaissance took us on a hike to the various anchorages east of Prickly Bay - Worthwhile indeed as we concluded that we'd picked the better anchorage after all and rewarded our efforts with a delicious lunch at the Calabash Resort. One of our coolest experiences of the season was witnessing the leatherback turtles coming ashore, in the dead of night, to nest and lay their eggs, as well as getting to see some hatchlings.
Then, of course, there was the Hash; a torturous weekly hike around various parts of the island, where, both Roy and Elaine, lost their virginity for the second time and became fully fledged members of the Grenada Hash House Harriers. Elaine declared that she had never had such a difficult hike in all her life and thought she was going to die at the summit of the first mountain. Roy, enjoying his second hash at this point, was even pushing Elaine up by her bottom, but she came back strong after that first hurdle. Energy spent, it was time for a hot shower to wash off all the mud and sweat, dinner and straight to bed. Fun day out indeed! Our second hash was no better. It was brutal, except for Roy, who hardly broke a sweat, while the rest of us (Tisento (Agnes and Bas) nearly died again! If nothing else, we were going to be super fit by the time we left Grenada! Fitter and more prepared, participating in the 900th and 904th hash thereafter was much easier. Thank goodness!
Nothing, however, beats starting your day off with Tai Chi, packing it full of whatever activity you want to enjoy for the day and ending it dancing to reggae music (complements of a band playing on shore) on the foredeck of your yacht under a full moon - paradise indeed!
Our new home, essentially, offered it all, including a beautiful mile long white sandy beach, Grande Anse, which we had the pleasure of walking along several times while the most amazing colours of blue and turquoise waters lapped gently around our ankles.
What resonated with Grenada though, were the beautiful people. Many of the women are stunning - tall, slender and pretty; the men well groomed. All surprisingly cosmopolitan, but it is their friendliness and helpfulness which surpassed it all. Their fun-loving traditions were definitely depicted during the Spice Mas carnival and the ceremonies at the start and end of every hash hike. The weeklong celebrations of the Spice Mas started with the Steel Pan Band competition, followed by the various parades, but not before being jab, jabbed with black oil. We arrived at the Carenage in style on the last day of carnival via speedboat, complements of ScubaTek Dive Shop, while enjoying the coastal views with rum punches in hand.
The other notable factor was the weather. It didn't particularly rain frequently, but when it did, it bucketed down. The severity of the tropical waves that frequently passed over the island, along with the constant threat of hurricanes, was very disconcerting. Hurricane Danny, particularly, kept us on our toes until it eventually turned north a few days out, unfortunately devastating Dominica instead. Certainly a major disadvantage, as geographically this island is not quite outside the hurricane belt. Compounded by the fact that Trinidad is not the best alternative, given its poor anchorages, crime, risk of piracy en route and submerged containers swept along in the Equatorial Current. Elaine did, however, effectively use all the rain water collected in the dinghy to wash our beach towels. Neither of us appreciated being drenched though, during our dinghy ride from Paw Paw to shore, on our way to the airport for our flight to the UK. A change of clothing and a hot drink was definitely in order after that transfer.
Following a few days of respite and before our departure to the UK, work started in earnest on the final Do List for the World ARC. Elaine eventually opened the suitcase, first delivered in May 2015, which contained all the paper charts for our circumnavigation. The reality of what we were about to embark upon hit home that day - The piles of paper were the charts which represented all the places we would be sailing to before we returned to Grenada. Regardless, they all had to be catalogued and grouped into each leg of the voyage, along with the corresponding cruising guides; an effort which took more than a week to complete.
Our visit to England and Ireland was well overdue and seeing family and friends was a welcome break from life on the water. After a short visit to Ireland, it was back to England for a few days with friends, Justine and Paul and then on to Hamble for our Sea Safety, Sea Survival and First Aid training - setting of flares, playing with fire extinguishers, doing CPR on dummies, practising the recovery position on each other, surviving someone trying to drown us, righting a liferaft after having it land on top of us, were amongst some of the fun activities we participated in. All in all, it was a very worthwhile weekend of training. Our time with Justine and Paul got off to an excellent start - A rendezvous at a local pub to drop Roy off with Paul, a quick change of clothing for Elaine, cars swapped and the girls were off to the Fleetwood Mac concert. Lazy days of walks in the English countryside, naps and a scrumptious braai topped off that visit.
On the return trip back to Justine and Paul from Hamble, Roy was dropped off at Gatwick airport for his flight back to Grenada, while Elaine remained in England for a girlie week with Justine, since Paul was spending time with family in South Africa. And, what a fun girlie week it was. We started our week off with a lovely meal prepared by Justine, which, in itself may not seem like much, but this is Justine we're referring to. The next day Elaine had the whole day to herself to read and catch up on some much needed sleep after a very strenuous few days of training. Feeling totally recuperated, Justine treated Elaine to a lovely surprise and a load of fun - a pole dancing lesson. It was hilarious to say the least. After a heap of laughs and for a job well done, we treated ourselves to Cream Tea and a ride home in glorious sunshine with the roof of her new sports car down.
During her stay Elaine also had the pleasure of accompanying Justine to two ceremonies she officiated, and felt privileged to witness her first-hand as a Celebrant. The first a wedding, followed by a funeral. Needless to say, neither of us thought the latter was particularly peculiar in any way and would, indeed, result in a few raised eyebrows. It was only when the Funeral Director joked as to what kind of a friend brings a friend to the funeral of a complete stranger and indicated that he wasn't aware it was "bring a friend to work week". On reflection we both had a good giggle at what had transpired and decided that it probably was a rather bizarre thing to do - I guess that's why we are friends! During all this merriment, we did, however, still manage to squeeze in a lovely summers evening dinner on the patio at Justine's mom's house, a curry in Henley-on-Arden with friends, Mel and Devi, more walks in the English countryside with Judy (Justine and Paul's fur baby) and sundowners on the deck overlooking the countryside. Elaine earned her keep by gardening as well as cooking our favourite dinner - Bangers (Veggie ones for Justine) and Mash. Great times indeed!
Before Elaine knew it though, the week was over and she was back "where the mountains of Morne sweep down to the sea" - picturesque Newcastle, Ireland. Although she was miles from Roy and Paw Paw, it seemed that, besides the view of the beautiful English countryside during her stay with Justine and Paul, she never strayed too far from the ocean. During this second visit to Ireland, Elaine took the opportunity to visit family in Belfast, where she was spoilt with a delicious lunch and all sorts of baked goodies. She also enjoyed an afternoon of fun at the Glenfold Summer BBQ where Elaine's folks live, as well as managed to give 45A a complete facelift, the apartment where Elaine's sister, Dianne, lives. Elaine installed an additional handle to the entrance door to make life a little easier and safer, relocated the landline phone so Dianne has somewhere to sit and chat when Elaine calls, installed a TV, added some new artwork to the walls, fixed Dianne's double bed and installed an easier cooking surface for preparing meals. Then it was party time at the Buurendale before packing and starting the journey home to Roy and Paw Paw. After Elaine was greeted by Roy on arrival, a short dinghy ride, a delicious homemade callaloo soup for dinner, it was shower and off to bed, happily staring at the stars, in her own bed, as she drifted off. Home is definitely where the heart is!
On 5th September 2015, Roy was eventually on his way to meet our grandson, William and "the mice were out to play" or so Elaine thought. Turns out, paradise was no fun without her playmate. Elaine kept herself busy with after dinner drinks on TiSento (Bas and Agnes), reconnecting over lunch with Galene (Rowena and Richard) whom we hadn't seen in quite a few months, not to mention keeping Paw Paw afloat and actually cooking for herself - a challenge in itself! Although a whirlwind visit, Roy enjoyed spending time with Keenan, Brooke, Capri and William, as well as meeting other members of Brooke's family and connecting with friends in Phoenix.
In between all the trips to the UK and the USA and after 16 1/2 months we eventually got to the bottom of our endless Do List, many completed by Roy while Elaine was partying it up in England and Ireland. It did mean, however, that Elaine was behind the eight ball on all her tasks by the time she returned. A frantic few weeks ensued in order to get everything completed prior to the arrival of our friends, Olga and Denis. In summary, activities included:
· Obtaining our WARC supply of filters for our watermaker, a rather expensive procurement for bits of paper and plastic, but a necessity of course.
· Replacing the deck and streaming light, since the old one was completely useless. This meant another trip up the mast for Roy, his favourite activity on Paw Paw - NOT!
· Undertaking some hatch repairs and maintenance. We knew soon enough that we hadn't, fortunately, turned the small leaks we had into large ones - problem rectified!
· Elaine getting back up to speed on Celestial Navigation, more as a hobby than a necessity, we hope! A more important task though, was documenting all our on-board procedures to meet a World ARC requirement - A tedious, but necessary task indeed!
· Fitting a new shaft for the windlass which allows us to free fall the anchor in the deep anchorages like Panama.
· Replacing our anchor after a rather lengthy warranty dispute.
· Making our new bridle and lifelines for the stern step areas.
· Sewing a variety of winch covers and a gear lever cover to protect them from the elements, a new peg bag, a cover for the clutches at the mast to ensure safer tacking and a blackout blind for Roy's cabin - The captain needs his beauty sleep by day or by night. The sewing activity that took an extra dollop of care was our new individual jacklines for additional redundancy, as our lives literally depend on it. This is what we clip on to when moving around the yacht while under sail, especially at night or rougher conditions, to ensure we stay attached to the yacht and not go overboard. The individual lines ensure that if one happens to come loose, the others would still be secured, as they're attached at separate points to Paw Paw.
The highlight of our To Dos was hauling Paw Paw to have her bottom cleaned and the anti-fouling redone. A job from hell as the worst case scenario unfolded. After heading to St David's Harbour for an overnight stop, we were hauled the following morning. With plans to stay at La Sagesse, a beautiful nature reserve resort not too far from the Grenada Marine boatyard, we were ready for a busy two weeks on the hard. On 15th October 2015, she was out of the water and the grind began. After the usual jet washing, we had planned on sanding off all the previous anti-fouling, which was tin based, and banned in most countries around the world, with the exception of the Caribbean. Then one coat of primer, three to four coats of copper based paint to meet Australia's environmental requirements and we'd be done! Best laid plans! After various attempts by us and the boatyard to remove the anti-fouling, using both wet and dry sanding, it remained intact, barely scratched. We were down to paint stripping and hand scraping, a task which the boatyard wouldn't even provide us with a quote to do. Couple that with the fact that the time required to commute back and forth to the boatyard, meant our luxurious stay at La Sagesse was out the window too. We did, however, decide to treat ourselves to one night at the resort and spoilt ourselves with a lobster dinner. Then it was back to reality - Living on a yacht, while on the hard!
After six gruelling days, the anti-fouling was eventually off. By day eight, with the mosquitos still trying to carry us off, as well as being hot, humid and rainy, just to add insult to injury, nothing had dampened our spirits - The sanding was done and Paw Paw had been washed down, ready to start painting the following day. It was time for everyone to get spruced up for our milestone celebration!
By 23rd October 2015 we had the three coats of barrier primer on, so we decided to take a day off. This allowed Elaine to attend her saxophone lesson, watch South Africa play in the World Cup Rugby championships and do some provisioning, as the cupboards were resembling "Ol' Mother Hubbard's". By 27th, with a last ditch effort, three coats of antifouling was on, the new folding propellers were fitted, the tricolour navigation lights were installed (another trip up the mast for Roy) and the bridle replaced. By the 28th Paw Paw was cleaned, polished, sparkling like a new diamond and the blue waters were calling. Unfortunately the travel lift was unavailable for our launch as it was held up overnight by another yacht whose owners decided, while in the sling, that they needed a new zinc fitted to their propeller. So, it was one more night in the boatyard and then a short sail back to Prickly for some respite. Only one day behind schedule - Not bad considering what we were faced with!
Of course, while one is consumed by life in a boatyard, one forgets about the outside world. It becomes a little community unto itself. Fortunately our bubble was broken by the news from home that Keenan had eventually found the right moment to get engaged to Brooke. With that we got two for the price of one - a beautiful grand-daughter, Capri. From the day we met her, she stole our hearts!
As always, there would be no point to this lifestyle if there was no room to play. Besides all the activities laid on by Camp Grenada, there were a host of other activities we enjoyed throughout this hurricane season:
· Exploring new boat recipes. Roy tried his hand at cooking Chicken Roti, including baking the roti wraps. TiSento (Agnes and Bas) were our guinea pigs on this one.
· Baking various pies and breads to see what would and wouldn't work while on passage.
· Treating ourselves to an early anniversary dinner aboard - Lobster - Acquired from some local fisherman - Delicious!
· Early morning or evening walks on the beach.
· Morning coffees to jump start our day.
· Sundowners either on shore or aboard - surprise, surprise!
· Facetime "get-togethers" with family and friends - Always a perfect ending to a perfect day in paradise!
· BBQs aboard, followed by stargazing on the trampoline and interrupted only to dance under the stars to some of Bob Marley's classics, complements of a band playing ashore.
· Evenings full of laughter and scrumptious dinners aboard yachts of new found friends.
· Early morning trips by Roy to the fresh fish market for some Yellowfin Tuna and Mahi - Sushi - or making his rounds at the meat market while deciding on what to have for dinner!
· Yoga on the foredeck.
· Supporting our various teams in the Rugby World Cup. Everything was halted for this activity, especially when Ireland or the Springboks were playing. Sadly, none of our teams made it to the finals. Better luck next time!
· Enjoying our 32nd wedding anniversary outing - a romantic dinner sailor's style - bring and braai at the Tikki Bar and Restaurant with friends.
A personal achievement and one Elaine is very proud of, was eventually learning to play the saxophone thanks to lessons by Gavin on Secret Smile. After 4 weeks and hours of practise she was able to keep a promise - being able to play Happy Birthday to Roy as we sail out of St Lucia for the start of the WARC.
Our visit from Olga and Denis was jammed packed - I don't think we could have squeezed in one more thing. After a walk over to Secret Harbour where we enjoyed a coffee, we planned out the week. Activities included a beach BBQ at The Aquarium, observing the Super Moon and Eclipse from the trampoline, lazy beach days at Grande Anse accompanied by either a packed picnic or lunch at the Coconut Beach restaurant, a tour of the island which included a visit to the Belmont Estate - Cocoa Plantation, one of the Rum Distilleries and a swim at the Concord Waterfalls. We all definitely had a much greater appreciation for chocolate by days end! A day out in St George's to visit Fort Louis was followed by an evening of bingo. Fortunately none of us won the main prize - EC$400, plus a goat and a pig. Our week together was topped off with a tasty dinner treat from Olga and Denis at Le Chateau. Before we knew it, it was time to say our goodbyes, but not with too much sadness as the next time we see them we will have sailed across the Pacific, where they will be waiting to meet us in Tahiti.
An unexpected whirlwind visit from Keenan soon afterward Olga and Denis’ departure was a lovely surprise and topped off our hurricane season. Unfortunately William and family were unable to join him, but that, hopefully, is not too far off! We did, however, have time to introduce him to Grand Anse, some local cuisine at BBs and the hash, where he too lost his virginity for the second time.
Keenan’s visit was preceded by the opportunity for us to reconnect with friends Galene (Rowena and Richard), Puddlejumper (Karen and William), and Exit Strategy (Rose and Dan) before going our separate ways for the sailing season, with hopes of reconnecting again somewhere up island. We do, however, have plans to spend Christmas in Bequia with Tisento (Agnes and Bas).
And, before we knew it, another hurricane season was over. Once again, it was time for provisioning, getting laundry done and filling propane and dinghy fuel tanks in preparation for our departure from the main island of Grenada after more than five months. Although very exciting times lie ahead, it has definitely been a season of “Man plans and God laughs". Due to unforeseen circumstances, we have altered our plans to do our circumnavigation at a slower pace and will now take a year out in the South Pacific before re-joining the fleet to complete the second half of the circumnavigation. While this allows us to complete our adventure short-handed, as well as see more islands and take our time moving through the islands, it does mean that we won't be able to see family and friends in South Africa for Christmas now until December 2017.
That said though, it was here in Grenada, on 18th June 2015, when, 21 years ago, Elaine was hijacked at gunpoint in South Africa, an event which started a chain reaction that has resulted in our family being spread across 5 different countries and one that causes us to miss those whom we hold dear daily. Elaine always believed in her heart, however, that the reason for such a traumatic experience was to put her on "the path" that she was meant to be on. So, as we reflect on the wonderful lifestyle we enjoy aboard Paw Paw, the fact that we're on the threshold of an adventure of a lifetime with our impending circumnavigation, Keenan who made captain at the tender age of 26 and who is healthy and happy, our precious grandson, William, our beautiful granddaughter, Capri and our future daughter-in-law, Brooke, whom we have welcomed into our hearts, our friends and families whom we have managed to spend quality time with regardless of the distances that separate us and all the amazing people that have touched our lives since, Elaine believes that those thugs who were placed in our life that Saturday morning actually ensured Gods plan for us was indeed fulfilled. Goodbye Grenada. Thank you for your wonderful hospitality. We hope to see you again in 2018 when we'll celebrate our circumnavigation, once back on your shores. Till then, may God hold us in the palm of his hands!