Sunday, May 5, 2019

Moving on Up!

Guess what we are having for dinner!

By Kathy
Dates: November 24th - December 5th

We have left the main island of Grenada and we are finally moving after arriving in Grenada in June. There is a lot of excitement on SandStar as we think about what will be ahead for us in the next few months.  We feel a bit out of practice with the boat, especially the sails. In the Bahamas we were going into the wind so much we rarely put the main sail up. Sailing is so much more peaceful and enjoyable than beating into it and we know we will get used to it and hopefully better at this sailing thing as we move north.

We are now in the last week of November and we are officially not in a hurry to be anywhere!! It is wild to think that we have no obligations to be in any particular spot until late January. This would be really unrealistic when we lived on land. We are now starting to question the day of the week every morning and we might know the month and we are usually pretty good knowing the year. During the first season we had a few more obligations and our schedule was heavily controlled by weather. It still is here but the weather is so much better in the southern Caribbean. There are no fronts where the wind clocks in all directions so you are not worried about having to find a 360 degree sheltered anchorage and there is the occasional rain but no lightning!!

For our first hop we are not going very far. We are heading to the island of Carriacou which is still part of the country of Grenada. We made a little side trip here in late July before hurricane season so we decided to skip the main harbor of Tyrell Bay and went straight to Sandy Island. It is a beautiful anchorage that is a national park. We spent a few days on a mooring ball enjoying some great snorkeling right from the boat. We also had a chance to enjoy some tasty lobster too!!

Big Bugs!

Our next stop would be Union Island which is part of the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We could see Union Island from Sandy Island so the sail up was very short. This was not our favorite spot. As soon as we arrived we got a funny vibe from it so we decided just to check in with customs and immigration, eat lunch at a pretty cool café and then take off for one of the outer islands of the Grenadines.

Cool cafe on Union Island. Smoothies and ice cream in coconut shells

A tight fit heading in and out of the dinghy dock at Union

The area that we are heading to is called the Tobago Cays. We have been looking forward to this stop for a long time. It is a protected area that is known for turtles, beautiful water and great snorkeling. But before we head out to the Tobago Cays we decided to spend some time in a small bay called Salt Whistle and the neighboring bay of Mayreau.

Good-Bye Grenada and Hello St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Salt Whistle Bay is tiny!! You have to get there pretty early in the day to get a spot to anchor or grab a mooring ball. We lucked out and got a front row spot and the bay was absolutely gorgeous!! We also realized that with the frenzy of getting the boat ready in Grenada we forgot to take our obligatory first day of school picture and decided this was the perfect setting. There were cool beach bars and we had some friends with us in the bay. The kids were able to paddleboard around on their own and up to the beach to dig lots of holes and play until they were exhausted.  This is also the area known for local “boat boys”. When you read about people interacting with the local boat boys a lot of time it is very negative but this was not our experience. When giving respect we also received respect from the locals. A “hello” and a few kind words goes a long way. As you can imagine with a bay this tiny and lots of charter boats in and out we were treated to a heavy dose of boat drama. Boats coming in to the anchorage in the dark hitting other boats, boats dragging into to reef etc… but the locals handled any drama swiftly and prevented damage to other boats.   This island is their livelihood. If a boat wrecks near the entrance and prevents others from getting in that will impact their ability to make a living on this island.

Time to get busy with school!

But plenty of time for fun on the water

The boys paddling around the Salt Whistle anchorage. Hmmm... I wonder where Sam is going. I think Raphael and Jack are wondering the same thing.

A relaxing view of Salt Whistle from the beach bar

Pretty cool beach bar

They even had a ping pong table

The SandStar and Sunsplash Boys!

Kids turn to cook dinner. Mom and Dad have the night off! 

After a few days in Salt Whistle we moved around the corner to the bigger bay of Mayreau. We are still on the same island but this had a much different vibe. This bay is big enough for a small cruise ship to anchor for the day. We watched them arrive every morning and leave every evening. We also had a handful of boat friends in the bay and the boys had a Harry Potter movie party, we had lots of sundowners, some beach time, and a nice dinner on land with friends. We also started the month of December in Mayreau so it was time to get SandStar ready for Christmas.

The harbor in Mayreau. You can see the small cruise ship in the back.

Harry Potter Movie Party!

Exploring Mayreau 

Good fun for the kids!

Dinner in Mayreau with the Moose on the Loose and Mimzy crews. Where are the rest of the kids?? They had their own table!

Time to decorate!

Jack is in charge of the stockings

We don't have a tree but we do have a mast step.

The boys working on beaded snowflakes to decorate the windows and gift to other boats

On to the star of the show for this part of our trip – the Tobago Cays. This anchorage felt like you are anchored right in the open ocean in turquoise blue water. So how does an anchorage like this work?? There was a huge reef that prevented the waves from coming into the anchorage so it really felt like you were anchored on the very edge of the Caribbean. We did lots of snorkeling and this is home to a turtle sanctuary so you could spot a turtle swimming around the boat anytime of the day. There were a few islands to visit that were also part of the park that you could hike and comb the beach for sea glass. The locals also provide an opportunity to have a beach BBQ dinner. Each table is hosted by a tent with a cook. You usually make your reservation with one of the boats that visits you in the anchorage earlier in the day. We decided to treat ourselves to dinner with our friends on SV SunSplash. We got to choose between chicken/ribs or lobster and then we had lots of sides that were served family style! 

The beautiful Tobago Cays. Just miles and miles of water in front of the boats.

The friendly neighborhood turtle

The water was stunning

Exploring one of the surrounding islands

Dinghy parking sometimes involves a swim

This is how Emma washes her hair. They call this "Hair Salon" 

The kids are off exploring again

This is a crowded paddleboard. Emma is the "driving" the boys back to the boat. 

Setting up for the beach BBQ

The kids playing while we wait

Our beach BBQ feast with the Sunsplash Crew!

These islands are so small they barely make the map. Sandy Island is just a small dot under the "b" in Hillsborough

This was a great start to our second season on SandStar and now it is time to move north towards the island of Bequia.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Caribbean Here We Come!

Back in Grenada and a reunion with the Frenchie and Soulstice crews! 

By Kathy
Actual Dates: The month of November 2018

It is time to start Season 2 on SandStar!! Everyone was really excited to return to Grenada. After traveling for the last two months the Caribbean felt like coming home. It surprised all of us to feel like Grenada was home. We always thought that St. Pete and our house on 14th Street would be home and SandStar would always the boat but this was different. Grenada felt familiar after a whirlwind adventure but I think it was more about getting back on SandStar that just felt right.

There was also a lot of excitement about what this new season would bring since all of our travels would take us to new islands. But first things first, we need to get SandStar back in the water. We had a lot of stuff to unpack and put away. Remember the week we spent getting the boat ready with foil on all of the windows and decommissioning systems? We needed to do the reverse of all of those tasks to get things ready. Overall we were thankful we  spent the days sweating away in the boatyard before we left Grenada in August. It really did make a difference when we returned to a relatively clean boat with no uninvited 4-legged guests. On November 2nd just four days after returning to Grenada we splashed Sandstar and headed out of Grenada Marine.

We are ready to rock and roll back into the water!

Almost there!

The kids are excited to be back in the water

A great picture of SandStar in the lift and the marina behind. You can see this is a good place to store for a hurricane.
Photo credit: Moose on the Loose

But (and this is a BIG but) like many boat projects, some of the projects we had on the list did not quite go as planned so we scheduled another haul out a week after our splash date at another marina. 

It feels good to be back at anchor! 

We had a nice week before our next haul out at anchor in Wolburn Bay and we were able to  reconnect with old friends for bbq on Hog Island, sundowners and dinner. The kids enjoyed just being on the water again and swimming off the back of the boat.  

Whoohoo!! Back in the water and there is no difference between driving goggles and swimming goggles for Sam

Sam and Barrett discussion their burger choices on a Sunday afternoon on Hog Island 

Bathing suit shopping in Grenada. You find a Brazilian cruiser who sews nice suits on her boat and you meet up at the volleyball court to shop

Some things might be lost for good

Dinner with our friends on SunSplash!

Another fun Sunday afternoon on Hog Island

We also did not hesitate to jump back into hashing our first full day back at anchor. The hash was in a beautiful part of the island with we were lucky to have some friends with us for this trek. This was also the first hash that the food was donated by a catering company and we were able to try some pretty interesting menu items.

Always a treat to see what the trail has to offer for the day

This was a pretty one through the rainforest

Post hash party - A little ACC representing going on!  

Your eyes are not deceiving you! I thought it was a joke at first too. 

What is manicou?? It is like a possum.

The kids dancing the night away

Day after hash shoe clean up! It was a muddy one!

Another thing we had to do before the next haul out was stock the boat with food since we had to get rid of most of our food before we left in August. We just had a few canned goods left in the pantry. This is usually a pretty easy and straight forward task on land even if you have to do the triple run between Publix, Fresh Market and Sam’s Club. On the boat this is a LONG multi-day process. After a couple of trips to the store (a trip to the grocery store take about 6 hours on the shopping bus), a trip to the meat market, and a couple of deliveries from a local we still were not done before our next haul out but we had a pretty good start. 

Trying to organize the freezer after a stock up on meat. I should take more pictures of this crazy provisioning thing but I forget when I am in the mix of it. Throw in the fact  that you bag your own groceries and it is usually a mad race to finish before the next person starts their checkout. It is not for the faint of heart.

Time for our next haul out. This time we would be hauling out at Clarke’s Court Marina.  We did what is called a short haul– just one week out of the water. That meant we needed to get things done fast and efficient. What that means in real life is that the boat was a disaster. We had about 10-15 people working on the boat for four days straight. We had to come up with a plan for the kids during the week and fast! Luckily, the marina has 4 rooms for rent above the restaurant and we were able to get one on Monday morning when the work began. The only kicker is that we had to switch rooms during the week. We were so happy to have a space to do school and hang out during the day off the boat it really didn’t bother us at all to change rooms.

Hauled out by The Hulk - one of the largest lifts in the Caribbean

The kids doing school work at the marina restaurant

Because the boat looks like this

Lots of projects going on but this was the biggie. New escape hatches!

Lunch break at a Grenadian food truck. She would show up everyday at the same time and when the food was out it was out! 

There was about 12 people working the boat - some inside, some outside, some underneath

The kid enjoying the hotel room

They were pretty happy

We splashed back in the water Friday afternoon with big smiles on our faces after a great haul out and we are now officially ready for Season 2!

The Hulk is back and ready to splash us!

Celebrating a successful week of projects with the guys who worked on the boat. 

The kids are happy to have things back to normal

Now it is time to look at weather and figure out our exit out of Grenada. Should we move closer to St. George? Should we stay until after Thanksgiving? What does the weather look like for the next 10 days? What should we do for Thanksgiving? In the end we celebrated Thanksgiving in Grenada. I use the word celebrate very loosely here since it is only a US holiday. We had some Canadian friends over for a swim party and mojitos in the afternoon (they did not know it was a holiday). Then we planned a casual dinner on the boat of steak and mashed potatoes for the five of us (there is no way a turkey would ever cook in our boat oven).

Thanksgiving swim party with Sunsplash and Moose on the Loose. Complete with mojitos and popcorn

The kids watching a movie after swimming!

We are thankful to miss the craziness of the rest of the holiday weekend since Black Friday does not exist in Grenada. But we did shop on Friday as we finished our provisioning which included a trip to the local home store to get some much needed Christmas decorations.

This is the walk to the store. A little different than the crazy holiday weekend traffic on land

Big decision on decorations

We don't have a lot of storage space so they had to pick wisely 

We are ready for the holidays!

Whoohoo!!!! Our weather window was looking good to leave the main island of Grenada on Saturday morning!

Looks like everyone had the same idea to leave on Saturday. Each triangle is a boat heading north!

Good-Bye Grenada - we will miss your beautiful anchorages

And fiery sunsets