Snapshot – week 14 onboard

August 3, 2021

Reading time: 31 minutes

Oops. I promised I would post these snapshot weeks every 4-5 weeks, but finding time can be so difficult. Not only is it hard to find time to write at all, the amount I have to write about grows and grows.

Somehow I’ve let 6 weeks pass. Not just 6 weeks, but 6 very busy weeks.

I’m afraid some pretty cool stuff has happened in those 6 weeks too…

Catching up

We continued to have issues with tropical depressions, but worked out how to get a stern anchor secure to stop ourselves swinging. When I wrote the last snapshot, we were finishing up our PADI theory – we’ve now completed the open water diver courses. I had some drama when my flight home booked for late-July was cancelled and I had to rebook. I had to rehome our cat Schrodinger from afar (she is SO happy now though). We experienced our first hurricane (now that I did write about). Our barrel of goodies including the magical vaccum cleaner finally arrived. We made yet more friends, and I felt like I found some of my people. Work has become incredibly busy for me, hence the late blog.

Boat jobs in exotic locations

Mirounga decided to pretend to be a project boat. On the way back to Bequia from Canouan after the hurricane we got a fishing wire wrapped around our starboard propeller and it tore the rubber seal; a repair which needed us to take Mirounga out of the water. Our galley fridge also broke. We had some wiring issues with our electric windlass (which raises the anchor), so I had to spend half an hour winching it up by hand. This was so physically demanding that I took the skin off both my knees and several toes by kneeling on the non-slip Awlgrip deck. On the plus side, we had a new cockpit table and companionway door made by Bequia joiner Burt Forde. Colin also installed a new inverter, and both a new salt water pump and a new water filter/tap in the galley. At least every time something goes wrong, it gives us chance to learn, but my knees hurt badly for days.

Moving on

Most excitingly, we finally left Bequia. We sailed down to Sandy Lane Yacht Club on 18 July, and stayed a couple of nights before sailing on to Carriacou. That might have been my favourite sail on Mirounga yet – downwind and lovely for sitting on the nets. Carriacou is part of Grenada, a new country, so we quarantined there for three nights, taking our PCR tests on Day 1. Once cleared in, we had enough time to do some laundry and some serious wallet-damage in the chandlery. We got three of our favourite purchases to date – our Magma infrared grill, our first Breeze Booster wind scoop, and our Comfort Seats.

Carriacou, specifically Tyrrel Bay, is where we found ourselves at the start of this snapshot week.

Sunday 25 July 

We’re awake soon after 7. Breakfast is fresh yogurt from the Tyrrel Bay supermarket, passion fruit from a boat vendor, and cereal. Some of our laundry is still wet from being caught in the rain yesterday, so we finish drying clothes while we tidy up. We set off at 9am, very glad the anchor winch works after Colin made a wiring patch.

Motoring south

Once again, we’re in a tropical depression – we get at least two a week – so its very calm, flat seas. We have to motor sail, which is always tedious. We spent the time looking up Magma accessories for our lovely new grill – we need a mount, and would like a cover, light and baking tray. I’m going to have to get some of these in the UK. Given it’s so still we use our new Comfort Seats in cockpit, which is a huge improvement. Comfort Seats are a Dutch brand of folding memory foam seats with no legs. You can use them in place of cockpit cushions or on a flat deck and they can be angled into a reclining position.

Lunch underway, with Comfort Seats

Again, it being so calm, I make an early lunch underway. We eat French bread warmed in the air fryer, locally made black pepper goats cheese, and saucisson from Mason Baroz in Bequia.

On the journey we pass Ronde Island, which we’d considered as a mid-journey stop. There are lots of boats there, and we make a mental note to visit on the way north. I sat on the nets a couple of times, being careful of the sun as there’s so little wind we’ve taken the foresails, my sunshades, in.

There are some brief showers passing Victoria on Grenada’s northwest coast, but otherwise the sea is glassy smooth once we’re in the lee of Grenada.

A bed to lay our anchor

St Georges in the afternoon

We make an attempt to anchor at Grand Mal, but its very Rocky with poor visibility and holding. We’re very aware that we don’t know how much chain we have. Anchoring in anything of great depth and poor visibility isn’t safe. I’m getting grumpy because of the long journey – at around 6 hours its our longest yet on Mirounga. We continue to the south of St George’s and get a good hold on the second attempt, though I still can’t see the bottom. Colin goes in to check the anchor, and we feel safe for the night.

Oops

I realise I’m quite sunburnt because we’ve been on the water so long. It’s too late to do much with the rest of our Sunday, so I enjoy our new 12v fan – we bought one which can be positioned anywhere using a suction cup at Budget Marine in Carriacou. At one point a dinghy speeds towards us an I start to get annoyed at their speed until I realise its our friends Kia and John and their kids Braca and Ayla, from S/Y Atea. They’ve made a slower journey down but haven’t been in this spot long – they’re off to the nearby marina to meet Oda and her family – Oda and Kia were part of the little beach yoga circle on Bequia.

Attack!

St Georges sunset

As the sun sets we enjoy an early dinner of breakfast food – the first Heinz beans and back bacon we’ve had in months, flat breads, and fried eggs. As I’m washing up bugs descended on the cockpit, including flying ants and a huge unidentified flying thing. Colin traps it with a glass and paper and throws it overboard, but couldn’t be sure if it was a cockroach or not so I’m freaked out. We seal everything up and use the porthole bug screens for the first time. We go to bed early just to get away from the feeling of bugs on our skin.

Monday 26 July

We slept well thanks to our new fan despite having the windows closed. With the sound of the fan we hadn’t even noticed the overnight rain. We both work all morning, but note that we’re drifting around in the lack of wind. There are rain showers and thunderstorms. Colin is very tired – we couldn’t buy Diet Coke in Carriacou and he’s run out of his Bequia stash. I’m just tired.

The Lagoon

After work we lower Dog the Dinghy and head into the lagoon to the south of St Georges, where we can ‘park’ at the yacht club. This is where we started our Coastal Skipper week onboard Chao Lay with Grenada Bluewater Sailing, so memories flood back. We walk around the lagoon taking in what’s there, noting that we didn’t really see it in daylight last time. It’s not nearly as idylic as the word ‘lagoon’ suggests – there’s a busy road around it, and lots of big box stores and businesses.

We eventually arrive at Port Louis Marina on the other side of the lagoon, and eat lunch at the restaurant. Much to both of our relief, Colin gets a Diet Coke. I also realise that the giant unidentified bug last night was a cicada – it’s been bugging me all day. After lunch we take a look in the Duty Free shop – its like an airport Duty Free, full of the overpowering smell of perfume and nothing we want!

We walk back around to Island Water World, not as the name suggests a water park, but a large chandlery. We pick out what we couldn’t get at Budget Marine in Carriacou – a grill mount, a Breeze Booster port scoop (mercifully with bug screen), another fan, and some Crocs flip flops for me because Colin is so impressed with the pair he has. Frustratingly we forgot to bring our boat papers, which are needed to get items tax-free. Colin heads back to Mirounga while I start the paperwork.

On the hunt

Our next move is to the Food Fair dinghy dock. Food Fair is a large supermarket and we manage a decent shop of things we haven’t seen elsewhere, but don’t bother with fresh food. We finally get some new saucepans, and cooling racks for the bottom of the top-loading fridge. That sounds contradictory, but the fridge drains poorly and using a layer of racks in the bottom keeps things dry. I’m excited to find lovely red grapes. After just stocking up at Sandy Lane Yacht Club we somehow find more caramel digestives, but sadly no Diet Coke.

Sensing some issues down the line, I suggest we drive around to the Carenage, to St Georges proper, to continue the Diet Coke search. I wait while Colin checks three shops around the Carenage with no joy. He waits while I go over the hill to the commercial centre of the city and check two more. It seems nowhere has anything but full-sugar Coca Cola, but at least I get to walk through Sendall Tunnell.

By the time we get back onboard I have a bad headache and a scratchy throat. I struggle to do more than lie still all evening. We treat ourselves by running the engine for a hot shower. At least we seem to be getting some breeze. Still full from lunch, we have samosas for dinner.

Tuesday 27 July

The Watermaker arrives!

A morning of work, but thankfully a quiet one as its an exciting day. Colin heads ashore to the Fedex office, and returns with Dog fully laden with heavy wooden crates. Our Watermaker is finally with us! I help him manhandle the very heavy crates onboard.

Fixing our boat in exotic locations

I retreat to the cabin to work later in the morning as we have an engineer onboard to fix our dodgy galley fridge. The engineer has two young apprentices with him, who are still at school but on a paid apprenticeship. At one point the engineer and one apprentice borrow Dog to get a part, leaving one young lad sat chatting to Colin for the better part of an hour. With the time it takes to get the part it’s almost 2pm by the time they leave, but they leave us with a working fridge. It seems to have broken because of an issue with the exhaust fan.

Colin takes them back, Dog chugging along under the weight of four men. I clean the fridge, annoyed at past-Ailsa for not using mould spray before leaving it empty for 8 days. Just removing the contents was not enough. I prepare fried egg rolls ready for Colin getting back. He returns with the news that now the outboard is having issues.

The last journey south

The sunset before the nightmare

There’s no wins and what there is is against us, so we motor all the way around to the south coast. It’s not far, but it takes us over two hours. Its around 5pm by the time we make it to Clarkes Court Bay, a large sheltered inlet with multiple bays and two marinas. We had aimed to anchor in Benji Bay but it seems to be all mooring balls, so we try dropping the hook just to the south. Its clear that bottom shelves off and we’re not confident about our position, so we abandon that idea before even trying to anchor.

In the end we set down in the cut near Calvigny Island, and everything feels secure. We settle in and refill the galley fridge, then watch the sunset with a beer. I keep an eye on our transits, which help us know we’re holding position, while it’s light enough. As we head to bed for an early night we hear the wind finally picking up.

A rude awakening

We’ve been asleep for 20 minutes when our anchor alarm goes off to tell us we’re moving. We both run outside and to the bow, and within a couple of minutes its clear that we’re not just dragging, but drifting at speed with the current. Colin runs back to the cockpit to turn on the engine before we drift into anyone.

It takes me forever to get the snubbing line off the anchor chain. The line helps to distribute weight but needs to be manually removed before we haul up the anchor. Usually I can raise the anchor and see when the snubber hook is at a point that I can shake it free. In the dark I have to keep hauling, checking, hauling, checking…

Hulls in the dark

We eventually get the anchor up, and decide it’s not safe to try to anchor in the dark. I have to pull myself together to get mooring lines and the boat hook out of the locker and remember how to set up, still half asleep. We cross to the western side of the bay to see if there are any mooring balls. There are none visible. We knew there were empty mooring balls at Benji Bay, so we make our way back. It’s more than a little stressful weaving through a crowded, unfamilliar anchorage in the dark with only one engine. It doesn’t help that I have terrible night vision, I’m not wearing my glasses, and many boats are totally unlit. My headtorch is far too weak, and my handheld isn’t going to be much use when I need my hands. I feel alone and scared on the bow in my pyjamas with an insufficient head torch – this scenario has long been one of my biggest sailing fears.

I finally start to see mooring balls because of their reflective strips. We miss the first trying to stay clear of an unlit boat, but as we come around to try to approach it properly another appears in our path. I resort to holding the torch in my mouth. I miss the ball the first time, but after a loop around another boat I catch it the second time. It’s only my second time taking an unfamiliar ball on Mirounga, and my first time ever doing so in the dark.

Safe

Once he knows I’ve got them through the eye of the mooring, Colin runs forward to help with the lines. I actually have it under control, I’m pleased to note. On a catamaran you run a line from each bow through the eye of the mooring ball, which ultimately ends up meaning you need to be in two places at once to tie them off. I had made a split-second decision to use the snubbing line cleat near the centre of the deck to keep the port line secure while I tied off on starboard. It means I can take my time getting the starboard line secure before attending to the port side. We may have just gone through my nightmare scenario but I’m glad that, as with the anchor winching days before, I’ve risen to the occasion.

In the end it takes 30-40 minutes to move and get secured. I’m understandably a little wired from all the adrenaline, so we watch a Bob’s Burgers to wind down again. We fall asleep knowing we’re safe at least. Had we tried to anchor again I doubt we’d have slept a wink.

Wednesday 28 July

I chuckle when I go out in the mooring to check the mooring ball. Despite being in a very busy bay we’ve somehow moored next to our friend Rikki on her yacht Nari Nari. I first met Rikki at yoga in Bequia and saw the hurricaine through with her at Sandy Lane.

Safely in the dock, The Hulk looms

Work is quite disrupted as we’re preparing to haul out. I log off and we motor towards Clarkes Court Boatyard and Marina shortly before 8am with fenders on both sides and mooring lines at all four corners. We’re nervous but we get into the travel dock with no problems. We quickly close all hatches and internal doors (which can help stabilise the structure of the boat), lock up, and step off. Colin walks Dog the Dinghy round to the to dock in case we need it.

Working from a market

I settle into the Cruisers Galley restaurant to work from there for the rest of the morning. Colin oversees Mirounga being hauled out and meets the mechanics. I’m quite glad to be settled as it rains heavily on and off, though it’s quite disconcerting to see my home float by as it’s moved!

Working from the Farmers Market

I hadn’t known that Wednesday morning was the weekly farmers market in the bar, which makes working quite difficult. I make sure I say hi to our friend Vera when she walks in. It’s been 6 weeks since we saw her and her husband Jeroen in Bequia. I’m afraid I’m otherwise blocking out the noise with my headphones, so I don’t get chance to talk to Kia, John and Rikki when they arrive. Colin at least pops in and says hi to them. Otherwise, it’s a great spot to work – cool and breezy, with a very good filled croissant for brunch and a friendly waitress who keeps me in wifi tokens.

Boatyard blues

I head back to Mirounga when my battery dies, and of course I get caught in a downpour. It’s way too hot onboard but I power through my last half hour of work. We head back to restaurant together for lunch, which is an excellent lion fish special.

The best lion fish

The rest of the afternoon just feels like walking back and forth accross the muddy boatyard. I move between Mirounga, the dinghy, the on-site Chandlery (where I buy a new mooring line), and the office. I don’t really have a plan but I’m far too hot onboard and can’t bear to stay there. Work is progressing on our starboard engine but certain parts need to be made and sourced. The mechanics come to take away our now-broken outboard. If things go well we could be ready to go back in the water on Friday.

Surrender

It’s late-afternoon by the time we go to check in to the boat yard office. While we’re there, we ask about the rooms above the restaurant, and go to see one. If we stay on the boat there’s a climb, on to a step then up the swim ladder. The boat yard is very muddy in the rain, and the facilities aren’t too appealing. Plenty of people do stay on board, but that’s not us. Between having work and not wanting to pee in a bucket overnight, we’re just not up for the experience.

We pack up a clothes bag, our laptops, and laundry bags before going to book the room.

Sweet relief

We’re instantly very glad of the room. It’s in the same style as it’s sister marina hotel, True Blue in St Vincent. We stayed there in 2018 and I remember the beds being ridiculously comfortable. We’re particularly pleased to be in the room called Turtle. It’s the same name as our good friends’ boat, and has a teal colour scheme that I love. Sure, the A/C could be more effective. The kitchen could be larger. Those things aren’t really an issue – all I have eyes for is the huge comfy bed. We get our bags and lock up Mirounga. Of course I’m about to shower when I realise I don’t have my hair towel. I have to put on sweaty clothes and go back to get it…

We both have long hot showers, and I wash my hair for the first time in 9 days. There are so many knots, but I just haven’t had time. There’s a dinner special at the restaurant but we’re not hungry enough after the big lunch. In true C&A style we eat crisps and drink red wine in bed watching South Park. It’s wonderful. Colin can’t even make it through a Bob’s Burgers, and we’re both asleep well before 9. There’s loud music from downstairs but it doesn’t go on late so its not an issue in the end.

Thursday 29 July

We’ve had the best, comfiest sleep ever. I had forgotten how nice it is to sleep under a duvet, albeit a light one. I’m wondering how we get a mattress like this some day. I work from the bed all morning, drinking tea and very happy. We’ve got the A/C to finally cool the room thoroughly and it’s so nice feeling cosy while it pours outside. Colin has a half day to tend to boat stuff, so he pops in and out between showers. The rain so heavy at one point it comes in under the patio door, so have to put out towels. I can see that the water in the bay has turned brown from mud. It starts to brighten up by the afternoon at least.

Chores, chores, chores

After work I help to measure out anchor chain – finally, we know that we have 180ft. Our existing markers were massively insufficient for anchoring in anything over 10-15ft of water. We eat lunch in the restaurant again, this time going for burgers which are not great. I’ve been trying since finishing work to get laundry tokens but the machine has been broken. Thankfully it’s fixed and I’m allowed to buy a handful. There’s only one machine and I have three loads so I let someone finish their last load before starting mine. I’m finally washing all the towels and sheets we’ve been putting off. There’s lots of going back and forth – I alternate between blogging in the room, and the laundry room.

It turns out that The Hulk, the big green boat lift, is fully booked on Friday. We don’t want to be stuck until Tuesday (as Monday is a holiday). Thankfully we can go in on Saturday. We get the outboard back and Colin takes it out for a test drive. At one point I look out of the window to see Colin rowing back – it’s clearly still broken. As I’m going to talk to him the bakers van shows up and he pursuades me to take a look. I buy a big bag of rock buns for EC$5. I’m finally done with laundry runs at around 6:30pm.

It’s been a long day. We’re not hungry or in the mood for dinner out again. We watch the first episode of the new American Horror Stories anthology series and drink fizz in bed.

Friday 30 July

Colin has the day off so I’m not woken up as early as usual. We never want to say goodbye to this bed. I work from bed again, except a brief interlude working from the restaurant for breakfast. We get confirmation that the repair to our starboard engine will be finished today. We’re cleared to go in the water later tomorrow, so will get a lie in before leaving. We hadn’t been sure that we’d take the room for a third night, but this sealed the deal.

It turns out that the head gasket has blown on the outboard. This would be a US$500 repair and wouldn’t last forever. We decide it’s time to replace the 9 year old engine. Our hope is to have 6-7 of solid cruising months coming up over winter, and friends and family visiting. We really don’t want to be stuck without a working outboard, or waiting for repairs. Colin calls budget marine to check they have our desired Tohatsu in stock – they do. We have a long wait for taxi, almost an hour, because of an accident near Grand Anse. 

A chandlery, again

On the way to buy an expensive motor

We’re surprised at how small Budget Marine at True Blue Bay is. We had expected it to be the biggest chandlery in Grenada. In reality the Carriacou store was more impressive, and Island Waterworld might have been bigger. As well as the new outboard, we manage to get a second hatch Breeze Booster. We also buy some new chain rainbow markers for the anchor chain. I’m glad to find a couple of Corkcicles I’ve wanted so get a canteen and a tumbler. We get a ride back to the boatyard in the shop van. It’s barely functioning with no suspension and a door which has to be held shut with a latch!

Once we get back we decide to put the new outboard in our room. It’s shiny and clean, and we don’t want it on the dinghy dock overnight. We get the old outboard back from the mechanic and on to Mirounga and stow it. Then we carefully work on our measured anchor chain. We take out the old markers, and re-mark it every 30ft. It’s tricky work but satisfying. We winch in the anchor once we’re done, and go back to our room to shower. I work more on the blog, which I’ve not had enough time for recently.

Dining out, or trying

We finally make it to the restaurant for dinner, where we share fish croquettes and pizza. It’s quite loud, and hard to have a conversation. The live music for the evening starts and is a good reggae act, but we don’t want to stay out. We can’t decide why we’re feeling run down. Is it because we finally relaxed in the room? Because of the A/C? Or is it because we have colds? We go back to room for more American Horror Stories and the red wine we opened the other night. It’s hard to believe that had my flight not been cancelled, I’d have been on it.

Despite it being a Friday and not needing an alarm set we’re asleep before 10pm.

Saturday 31 July

We’re awake at around 8am. We decide to take some bags to Mirounga before it gets too warm. I’m glad of a little rain to cool the air. Onboard, I wrestle a clean sheet on to our bed. It’s bearable because I can go back to the room for a shower afterwards. I work on the blog while Colin goes to chandlery to sort out petrol for the new outboard. Apparently it needs a different mix while it’s bedding in to what we used in the old one.

We get confirmation that we’re going back in the water at 1pm. It’s time to finally accept we’re leaving the cool, comfy room for good. We fit new the outboard, and I get a final load of laundry done. I’m trying to be as up to date as possible before flying home next week. We have pizza for lunch and collect the laundry, and take our remaining belongings from the room.

Again?

Shortly after 1pm we’re watching Mirounga be hoisted up by The Hulk. As she’s set down into the water the dock manager asks Colin to try the engine. He wants to make sure the repair has worked. There’s very little water coming through the exhaust (how the engine is cooled), so it’s clear something is wrong. My guess is the impeller, which is the little paddle wheel that brings the water in.

I get onboard and manage to cut my palm on a sharp bit of the gate in the process. I quickly cover the sharp metal with plastic and electrical tape. The dock hands leave us to check the engine issue out. Sure enough, the impeller has lost all of its paddles after only 2 months in use. Colin fits a new one and the engine appears to be running. The dock hands appear again to throw our lines onboard, and we leave.

As Colin is manoeuvring out of the lift dock, he’s having trouble keeping Mirounga straight. Something isn’t right. He gets out but it seems the repaired starboard engine isn’t going in to gear. Once again we only have one engine. There’s a strong current but Colin manages to navigate out of the busy bay. 

Hog Island

We head out to sea to get clear of some reefs and round into the Hog Island anchorage.

When we anchor we feel much better knowing how much chain to use, and are secure. That said, we’re too close to some reef off our stern to be comfortable. We decide to take a mooring ball instead.

This one is a really tough one to grab, with so much marine life that the eye won’t slide through the ball as it should. I see a crab run off it as I lift it. I get the eye on the first go but it’s too heavy and I drop it before I can get our lines through. On the second attempt the boat hook gets stuck and I almost lose it. I have to move nets from my usual spot on the starboard side to catch it on the third go because Colin is having trouble steering. By this time I’m crying tears of pain and frustration. It feels like the muscles in my forearms might pop. I get the lines through the eye but they’ve been tangled by my move to the port net. With Colin’s help we get both lines straight and secure.

Defeat

I’ve added a couple more cuts to my hands, and I’m feeling defeated and despondent. I’m upset and annoyed that getting settled is always so hard. It’s always stress. I realised that in the three nights off the boat, in the hotel, I was so less stressed, and I worry I’m just not cruising material.

I’m also stressed out that we’re on a mooring ball but have no way to pay the owner if they come by – we’re now down to our last EC$6 (about £2). I think we should walk to an ATM, which seems to be half an hour away, but Colin tells me to rest. In the end, I can’t relax, and we tidy up because it’s chaos inside the saloon. Colin starts bedding in the new outboard, which needs to be run gently for the first 2 hours of use and not at full throttle until after 10 hours. He also spends time figuring out the watermaker instructions and location. 

After we’re showered I make mushroom pasta for dinner using dried mushrooms that my dad shipped in our barrel. We watch Central Park, and drink a local bay leaf hot chocolate from Belmont Plantation with some rum in it. It’s been a long week.

Down time

That was the fourth or fifth hectic week we’ve had in a row. Coupled with work being full on for me, it’s exhausting. We now both definitely have colds, and I think it’s definitely because our immune systems relaxed in the hotel. It used to happen all the time when I worked at the Parliament – everyone would get a cold at the start of recess when they finally stopped running at 110%.

The next day we ended up walking 12km in our hunt for cash. We need to get that starboard engine working. We really need to start being more careful with cash. There was one expected boon when we discovered the West Indian Brewing Company, but things aren’t slowing down. We’re impatient to start the water maker installation.

As I write this, three days after going back in the water, we’ve just hauled out again. We’re going to stay tonight in a room but can’t justify more.

I somehow need to get a Covid test this week, ready to fly home to the UK on Friday.

Home. I need it. My home. I need family, friends, CATS, hugs, hills, cities, temperatures in the teens, sleeping in real beds under duvets, a break from work, and a decaf flat white from Caffe Nero.

I’m going to miss Colin, we’ve not been apart for more than 5 nights since 2002. We’ll be apart for over a month.

When I come back to him, and Mirounga, I’m hoping I feel refreshed and ready to take on anything.

A.