A PERIPATETIC JOURNEY
not all who wander are lost
The trip around the south end of Grenada was bouncy! We hadn't needed to head straight into the wind for a few months! Fortunately it was a short motor around to Clarke's Court Bay. Our week and a half at Clarke's Court and Le Phare Bleu was quite social. Rum Tum Tiger, Tell Tales Again, and Maple were all in the bay and we got together in some combination almost every night. Janet and Darryl on Maple kindly took the girls for a full 24 hours so we could make more efficient preparations for haul out. The day before our haul out, we emptied our refrigerator and freezer so they could thaw. Over the months, we had gradually lost fridge and freezer space to the 3-5" of accumulated ice on both left and right sides of each. We had a few surprises as the ice melted: long-lost blocks of cheese emerged on the fridge side and two packages of our favorite kielbasa from Kelsick Market in Gloucester VA were freed from the ice in the freezer. The crew of SV Maple were the lucky(?) recipients of everything salvaged from the ice.
The Le Phare Bleu Marina was named after the circa 1900 Swedish lightship moored to the dock. The lightship housed the cruiser's lounge, book exchange, showers and bathrooms, a small museum, and a bar/music venue on the upper level.
We spent about a week at the Le Phare Bleu marina so we could have power and water while we cleaned and prepped Counting Stars for summer storage on the hard. The marina has a restaurant, bar (on the lightship), and a pool. We were particularly excited about the pool and being able to cool off in it after hours of boat work in the heat. Sadly, the pool closed for renovations two days into our weeklong stay. The kids were absolute troopers during this hot and hectic week, pitching in to help in many ways, but also finding time to read in the shade of palm trees on the beach. They also enjoyed the chance to spend time with friends of all ages before heading back to the States.
It was sea turtle nesting season in Grenada, so one evening we went with a small group (including Mike and Eva from Tell Tales Again) to a commonly used nesting beach at the north end of the island. We left the marina around 5:30pm and arrived at the sea turtle center just after 7:00. After a brief presentation, we continued to the remote beach and waited. And waited. Biologists and volunteers were on the lookout for sea turtles, texting back and forth with each other. Brian and Kendall chatted with Mike and Eva while the kids tried to get a little sleep on tables and benches nearby. Marin was startled awake by a centipede crawling on her neck (remember the Carriacou centipedes?), so she, Eoin, and Isla went to the van and stretched out on the seats to sleep.
Finally, around 10:00, our guide received news that there was a turtle on the beach. We woke the kids and the guide led us single file down the beach to the nesting spot. She was a leatherback measuring at least 5' from the front to back of her carapace and over 4' at the widest point just behind her head. We used only the red lights on our headlamps to see her (white lights would have been frightening and disorienting to the turtle). When we arrived, she had almost finished digging the hole in which she would lay her eggs. She was measured and information from her id tags was read and recorded. We learned that she had first been tagged on Grenada a few years previously. Kendall sat on the beach with Isla in her lap and asked Isla what she thought. Isla's response in a voice filled with awe: "She's beautiful."
Soon the turtle began to lay her eggs. This phase of the nesting process did not take long and once finished, she began to fill the hole. For at least an hour, perhaps more, the turtle filled the hole, then moved along the beach disturbing a wide swath of sand in order to conceal her nest from predators (birds, reptiles, humans). Finally she was satisfied with her work. She turned and slowly made her way toward the breaking waves. We were allowed to follow her down the beach at a safe distance so we could watch her disappear into the sea. It was an incredible experience. We returned to the van to begin the hour and a half drive back to the south end of the island. It was a long and exhausting evening, but everyone agreed that the experience was well worth it.
Counting Stars was hauled out on June 6 (blog post addressing the haul out coming soon!). We rented rooms at the boatyard and spent the next couple of days finishing boat chores, cleaning, changing oil etc, pickling the watermaker, organizing guardianage (hiring a local company to keep an eye on the boat and oversee repairs while we're away), meeting with contractors (rigger and sail maker), and spending time with friends. We had already said good-bye to Curt and Nancy; Mike and Eva sailed west a few days later. Two days before our flight back to the States, SV Element arrived in the bay and we enjoyed an evening out with the crews from Maple and Element.
On the morning of June 9, we climbed the ladder to Counting Stars and sat in the cockpit for a few minutes to reflect on the past 12 months. We'd lived aboard for exactly one year, and had been traveling for 8 months. We had survived the first year of boat school, made some wonderful friends who touched our lives and hearts in so many ways, hadn't hit anything (above or below the water), still loved each other, and were ready for more travel and adventure. It hadn't always been easy or fun or comfortable or even exciting, but it had always been us together, working toward the same goals: to be together as a family, to travel and see new places and meet new people, to be fully involved with our kids' education, to become more self-reliant, and to reach beyond our comfort zones. And fortunately, most of the time it was truly enjoyable, exciting, and rewarding.
It will be a busy few months back in the States going to camp (the kids), working, visiting friends and family, and traveling. We'll also be researching new downwind sails, a backup watermaker, reading up on routes west through the Caribbean, ordering boat parts and supplies and toys (maybe a drone!), choosing next year's boat school curriculum, and keeping in touch with friends in the Caribbean.
We left Sandy Island soon after we woke and headed towards Grenada, giving Kick 'em Jenny a wide berth. Underwater eruptions in early May had raised the alert level, prompting a request to mariners to observe a 5km exclusion zone around the volcano. Although it is extremely unlikely that the volcano will erupt just as someone is passing over it, the potential consequences of such an event are scary. These include ballistic projectiles and decreased water density caused by gas bubbles (meaning: boats could lose buoyancy and sink).
We made a day stop at the town of Gouyave (pronounced 'gwahve'), where we were warmly welcomed by two men sitting on the fishing dock. After a brief walk through the main town, we stopped for a tour of the Gouyave Nutmeg Processing Station, where we saw the workers sorting, processing, and packaging the nutmegs. It smelled incredible in there! Next, we took a short walk on a road leading out of town for some beautiful views.
Our next stop in Grenada was a mooring field near the underwater sculpture park that Marin had been particularly eager to visit. We picked up a mooring ball, launched the dinghy, and tied to a buoy near the sculptures. It is a popular tourist site, and many people choose to take guided snorkeling tours. There were two such groups there when we arrived; we followed one at a discreet distance to more quickly find the sculptures. Since their 2006 installation, they have suffered some damage, but were nonetheless impressive. The water was a bit murky so we don't have very many photos, unfortunately. We spent the night on the mooring ball, then motored the short distance to St. George's.
On our second try, we got a good anchor set (the anchorage outside St. George's is known for poor holding) and went to shore to explore. We stopped first at the Port Louis Marina, where we found our good friends, Mike and Eva from SV Tell Tales Again. It was nice to catch up with them both in their slip and later at the marina pool.
Next we went over to town to explore. The Saturday market was huge, with spices, fruits and vegetables, clothing, handmade items, and even watch repair. It was crowded with both locals and visitors undeterred by the off and on rain showers. As is our usual habit, we also walked uphill to get some better views. We returned to Counting Stars after spending the afternoon by the pool with Mike and Eva. In the morning we would leave for Clarke's Court Bay at the south end of the island.
On the morning of May 25, we raised the anchor and moved over to a mooring ball at Sandy Island. This tiny, uninhabited island is part of a nature preserve and is known for both its snorkeling and its natural beauty. It was around noon when we picked up our mooring, so we had lunch and planned to wait until afternoon when the sun wasn't as strong to explore ashore. We watched another catamaran approach and quickly realized it was Maple!
We had a lovely afternoon on Sandy Island. The girls took turns burying each other in the sand, while Eoin and the adults snorkeled and then sat on the beach. Later we hosted the Maple crew for sundowners and made plans to meet up again soon as we were planning an early morning departure for Grenada.
The snorkeling, while not as impressive as the Tobago Cays, was nevertheless interesting and featured a large diversity of fish. There seemed to be tens of thousands of baby fish in the water and it was quite an experience to swim with them.
On May 23, after a brief overnight stop at Petit St. Vincent, we dropped anchor in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou. Since Carriacou is part of Grenada, Brian went to check in. Once formalities were completed, we went ashore to look around. Having completed the school year just before leaving St. Lucia, we were all enjoying the freedom of 'summer vacation.' Mornings were no longer devoted to lessons, and we'd been able to do a lot more swimming, snorkeling, exploring, and relaxing on board.
We had read in one of our guidebooks that nearby there was a trail to the second highest point on the island. Without going into every detail, we will say we had an adventurous afternoon with a steadily disappearing trail, intense heat, bushwhacking, enormous centipedes, cacti and stinging nettle plants, and no scenic view. The kids all maintained good humor despite the discomfort caused by the centipedes and stinging nettles. On the way down, for a brief time, we found ourselves between a free-range cow and her wayward calf. As her calls to the calf became louder, the other cows in the area, including a large bull, moseyed over to investigate. Fortunately we got to the other side of the calf before the cow and her posse reached us. Once mother and calf were reunited, the other bovines fortunately lost interest in us.
The combination of the beautiful views, great snorkeling, and incredibly friendly island residents quickly made Carriacou one of our favorite places. The next day, we decided to ride the local bus to Windward, a town on the - you guessed it - windward side of the island. Windward is known for its boat building. It turned out that a beautiful wooden boat we had first seen in St. Lucia, and again in a few other anchorages as we made our way south, was a Carriacou schooner that had been built in Windward. We'd heard that another was under construction and we were hoping to see it.
We took the bus to Hillsborough, then boarded a second bus to Windward. The driver knew where we wanted to go without us telling him, and let us know when we'd reached the stop for 'the boats'. We walked a little way along the road enjoying the views and cute cottages. On the road we met Jeff, a local resident, who stopped to chat with us. He invited us to his house where he introduced us to his wife, Anne, who gave us a bag filled with ripe plums and guavas from their trees. After talking with them for a little while and enjoying the view from their porch, we continued down the road. It was quite warm, so we stopped for cold drinks at a small store near the waterfront. As we sat in the shade with our drinks, we chatted with a group of older men sitting outside the shop, sharing our stories. Before he retired, one of the men had delivered power boats from the U.S. East Coast. He also offered advice for us as we continued our trip through the Caribbean. Later, he walked with us to the bus stop.
Back in Hillsborough, we visited the Carriacou Museum and had lunch before heading back to Harvey Vale/Tyrell Bay. As we walked down the beach toward the dock where we'd left the dinghy, we met up with a group of Brownies (Girl Scouts) on an outing. The girls were about the same ages as Marin and Isla and were very curious about them. They asked Marin and Isla about our trip and taught them some local games.
McGlynn family 5 (Isla, Marin, Eoin, Kendall, and Brian) sailing Counting Stars