The day has finally arrived, we still can’t quite believe the opportunity to explore the Caribbean has come our way again………but it has, the taxi has arrived and we are on our way to the airport. Cheery soul, the taxi driver, as he saunters along the M56 on the way to the airport, he tells us how inefficient British Airways are at handling luggage – we are flying BA – but will he spoil our trip, I think not!
All goes well with the check-in, each of our four bags is a carefully managed 23 kg, and only my shaving foam is confiscated by security as we board the shuttle for the first leg of the journey. Within minutes, it seems we are in Gatwick and with no money spare to enter the lottery to win a Ferrari in the Departure Hall and, as Carol tells me, no time to spend devouring the “full English” breakfast pre-flight I have been looking forward to for so long, we are boarded and on our way to sun, sand and sailing.
The flight was uneventful, as all flights should be, but we were lucky enough to sit next to one of the cast from “Come fly with me” – the lady who runs the refreshment stall, Praise the Lord! She entertained Carol by loading all the food that was presented to her, straight into her handbag, and any rubbish she passed back to Carol’s tray – leaving hers ready to accept any other gifts that came her way. She helped us exercise during the flight by asking us to let her out so she could use the toilet, every hour, on the hour, and her finale was to ask Carol to fill out her landing card for her because her eyes were not too good. It’s lucky Carol is of such an even-tempered, benevolent nature, she saved all her comment for me and just smiled sweetly at Delores as she ran for the door on landing. She was home and the formality of queuing to get off the plane, or even for immigration was not going to slow her down. We last saw her beating her way through the exit for Caricom Nationals.
Our own trip through Customs & Immigration was the normal hour long drudge, with the officials reading all the small print on each document and as we passed through Customs, I duly declared the “6” fuel filters, value £30, smiled pleasantly and in return the officer waved the heavily laden porter through with our bags – why would anybody carry paint rollers and power tools as an integral part of their holiday luggage? We had finally arrived!
The first part of an “own boat” sailing holiday is always maintenance and Moya had been sitting on her anchor for the best part of a year, so I had arranged for our agent to bring her to the boat yard a week before our arrival so the work could begin – the yard were doing everything below the waterline and Carol and I everything above. We planned to live on board whilst we, and they, carried out the work, and to make life more bearable, we planned to stay in an apartment for the first night, which stretched to a week as the cans of paint stored everywhere inside the boat forced us out and persuaded us that staying off-site, in a comfortable apartment was a much better idea.
The apartment was ideal – a small but well equipped kitchen, a large and spotlessly clean bathroom and a large, high ceilinged bedroom with a big, central fan lazily turning in the rafters. The furnishings were modern Caribbean, complete with 4-poster and nets and it was wonderfully relaxing. The apartment was located on the ground floor of the landlord’s house, so we were pleasantly surrounded by well-kept gardens, and best of all – all the windows and doors were mosquito proof! The deal included a lift to and from the boat yard each day and we would have been happy to stay longer but a boating holiday doesn’t happen if you are not on the boat.
Exactly a week from our arrival we moved onto Moya and began our existence ten foot up in the air – her draft plus freeboard. Carol announced she had lost her fridge, toilet and shower all in one go, as our available battery power had to be fully dedicated to cooling beer, but the yard facilities were really quite adequate, with the bonus of hot water in the showers – a feature not often found in boatyards as opposed to Marinas.
By now we had done most of the preparation and most of our work was painting the topsides. This was not easy, the temperature was 28 degrees and the paint was drying almost before it was off the brush, then it rained; the rainy season should have been over, but, like everywhere else in the world, normal conditions are no longer the norm. The yard was alternatively hot and dusty, then wet and muddy with the mosquitoes rejoicing in the swamp like conditions. However, we managed and the work got done. When it rained, I serviced the engine and Carol went shopping and I also managed to keep an eye on the antifouling progress, which paid for itself as we used a gallon less paint, with generous application, than we ever have before, when I had been absent – at £120 a gallon, a saving worthwhile!
It was not all work however, in the evenings we ate in the waterside yard restaurant – a limited menu, but excellent for the price and one evening we went over to the adjacent Bellaire Plantation resort for cocktails and Tapas with local friends. We even took a day off to watch England beat France in the Six Nations and each evening we had a nightcap on board listening to the night time tropical chorus of frogs, crickets and other unmentionable creatures that creep up on you in the toilets when you think you are alone. We made new friends, more steel boat owners from Scotland who had sailed as far as Cape Horn during the last ten years and all on second hand photocopied charts – and got away with it – while I worried if my chart corrections were up to date!
By 1st March the rain had given us enough respite to finish the job and Moya was duly launched back into her natural element, things were really looking up. We took on 70 gallons of water to replace the 70 we mixed with the beer whilst working in the yard and motored clear of the dock on our first journey of the year. She slipped along on her shiny new bottom, making five knots under bare poles with the engine on tick over. We went due south for a mile and then turned southeast, across the Atlantic swell, which was sweeping uninterrupted straight from the coast of Africa. With no sail to dampen the roll we dipped alternate gunnels and our well-stowed galley proved not to be so well stowed after all as pans flew from their storage shelves across the cabin. I immediately turned south again to ease the motion until I could clear Bacolot Point, then turned west, with the swell now pushing us along directly from astern. I increased speed to 7 knots, matching the wave pattern, now accompanied by much longer and comfortable slow rolls. We soon turned northwest, passing through the reef, into the shelter of Hog Island. Hog Island is Moya’s home in Grenada, we have a mooring here, and it is the centre of the cruising community (sailing!) on Grenada’s south coast. We picked up our mooring, or rather Carol did while I managed the boat – we always do it that way so that if we miss the buoy, it can be my fault! – and settled the boat down for the night, our batteries and facilities now fully restored by the brief journey.
We now expect to spend a couple of weeks on our mooring, carrying out more painting – this time the decks – but living a little too, more of which next time.
Till next time.