It has been a while since the last update. The simple reason is corona. It spread all over the world and every country closed its borders. During that time I was in Guadeloupe. This island is part of France and called ´Overseas Territories´. So it is part of Europe, nice for my phone subscription as it is covered here.
Ellen left from here on the 16th of March. She caught a shared taxi to the airport, not knowing when we will be seeing each other again, since I don’t know what the possibilities are in the near future. But I’m glad she could make it and can take care of her parents.
At first I thought I would stay here for about 2 weeks, because the capital, Point a Pitre, PaP in short, has good facilities for nautical parts, but that all changed rapidly. Everything went in lockdown. I was not permitted to leave my boat, only for groceries. I was surprised by this, because many times all kinds of rulings did not apply for boats. Not this time.
At first I thought this will take a couple of weeks. But the lockdown was extended time after time.
All of us where shocked by the impact of this virus. Huge measures were taken. Cruise liners where drifting at sea in search for a port, freighters where anchored in front of ports waiting to deliver their goods and sailing was completely prohibited.
Now I must say, the place I was anchored was astonishing beautiful, safe behind a reef and it was only just March, so plenty of time.
But as time passed I became a bit worried. In the Caribbean there is a hurricane season. In that time hurricanes will hit the islands on an average of 4 to 6 times. Besides that, there also will be tropical storms, which can be violent. This season starts officially the first of June and continue until November. The locals said it gets serious in August and September. But this year the seawater is warmed up more then usual. This means an active season.
The first island south out of this hurricane area is Grenada. I would like to go there for shelter, but no one was allowed to enter the country. I checked closely on the internet in search for new developments.
On the official Grenada website, they stated a private organization tries to get permissions for some yachts to enter in the near future. Only yachts with viable reason could sign up for this. Just shelter for the hurricane season was not good enough. After some research, I found that having a reservation on a yard for service was a valid reason, so I contacted some yards. The boat needs a dry dock every year for service anyway. This is a good opportunity. Finally I managed to get a reservation and signed up for entering Grenada.
Some nervous days, which turned into weeks, passed before I finally got an email stating I was accepted and added to the list of yachts waiting for permission to enter Grenada.
This is what my anchor chain looked like after two months.
It would take two and a half days sailing from Guadeloupe to Grenada. Finally, the long awaited email came in. I was given permission to enter Grenada between the 3th and 5th of June. They even let me to online purchase a simcard! Well that kind of service is unknown.
Finally at sea again
To be sure I would arrive in time and preferably in the morning, I took a head start. A small group of islands south of Guadeloupe, called Les Saints, could be a good stepping stone. Since these islands belong to Guadeloupe, I should be permitted to stop for the night. This gave me the opportunity to plan more accurately. Before I left, I received another email asking me if I was still interested in entering Grenada, for there were lots of boats waiting and happy to take my place. I immediately answered I was still very interested.
The sailing was such a good feeling. After two and a half months, I was very happy being at sea again. Just after a day sailing I arrived at Les Saintes and went for an anchorage Ellen and I stayed before.
A very well sheltered place with clear water. I took a beer to celebrate my first sailing and checked my mail. Again an email from this Grenada company came in stating they did not hear from me and urged me to reply today. Damn!! My data subscription was over the limit, but still gave me a very slow connection. It was already after 6 PM! I immediately sent emails to all the addresses they used before, saying I am already underway. It took half an hour for the emails to be sent due to this slow connection. I decided to stick to the plan and to make a big fuzz if customs at Grenada would give me a hard time.
The next morning, I left Les Saintes sailing for Grenada. On my way again, out of the hurricane belt. The sailing was good. The wind direction was not ideal, but fair enough to steer straight to Grenada. Such a good feeling, sailing again. I stashed a lot of food, knowing Grenada demand a quarantine and filled up both water tanks. That is a bit much and the boat was diving into the waves. But strapped and a line attached to the camera it was great and safe. Yes Ellen, really!
But such a wonderful experience, standing in front and being splashed by the sea!
I passed the island of Dominica, which took away almost all winds, since this island has high volcanous. Then, the next morning, Martinique came in sight. I stayed well of the coast because of all the badly marked fishing buoys.
After Martinique, I barely could see St Lucia. I was already, intentionally, too far offshore. A good wind let me pass St Lucia quite quickly and St Vincent came in sight. I will try to visit this country later on hopefully, but first Grenada.
I encountered lots of Sargasso sea seaweed. It turns into a big problem in the Caribbean.
Early the next morning I could see Grenada. Yes! Finally after all the waiting.
I arrived at the capital, St Georges, at noon and contacted Port Police by VHF radio and was ordered to enter the marina. So, they received my mail and accepted my boat! That is good. In the marina, Port Louis, a space was reserved for incoming yachts. Here I could moor and a tent was setup for crew to be temperature tested. A girl came to me offering me the simcard I ordered. I was very happy with this. I mean 14 days of quarantine and no communication, that is terrible.
I received a paper stating my arrival and I had to leave for a designated quarantine area.
Here I had to anchor for 14 days. Not permitted to leave the boat at all! Swimming around the boat was allowed, but that was all. After staying on my boat for over two months, a fortnight is peanuts!
Isolated on a boat
Friends were wondering. What do you do on a boat isolated at anchor and on your own?
I have lots of activities. Swimming, cooking, doing maintenance, browsing the internet, binge watching, etc. It all starts to turn into routines, except waking up. Every time I wake up and see these glorious views through windows and outside, it is astonishing! Flying fish hunted by barracudas, diving pelicans, sunrises, sandy beaches. I mean I had to pinch myself every time to know it is all for real!>
I contacted a sailing magazine. Technology is a big part of my sailing, but hard to share on my blog. So I approached them asking if they would be interested in some technical articles. And they were! I have already published three of them and now have a special column called “Roels Tips”.
Although not allowed, I visited some other boats in Le Gosier, Guadeloupe. A German guy on his boat “Sailing Naked”, a Canadian couple retired and now sailing the Caribe, a South African couple coming from Madagascar.
So enough to pass the time.
And then, finally, the check in. After 14 days they scheduled me for the final check. A blood test to see if I am infected. Everyone was clean of course. All sailors were on their boats for months in isolation! We where allowed to come in by dinghy. Here we are standing in line to be tested.
And after 2 hours of waiting I was cleared, got my papers from customs and could socialize after months.
And have a walk into town which has a very nice atmosphere.
I will leave St Georges and go around the island to the yard where I have a reservation. The boat will be lifted, cleaned, oil refreshed, saildrives will be tested, etc. Probably this will take a week or two regarding previous experiences . . . .