Hauling out – Ready, Set, Stress!

Written by Mia:

We put Itchy Foot on land (also known as on the hard) once before and it was last year at this time. Using a crane to pull a boat out of the water and store it on land for a time is also called “hauling out” and whatever you call it, I find it terrifying! We had a few things that needed checking and replacing and we checked some prices to find out this exercise gets more and more expensive as we move west. We could get most of the materials we needed for our jobs here and there was time and lots of praise for the guys working in the yard so we decided to haul out here in Grenada.

Our list of to do’s was long and there were even a few nice to haves that snuck their way in even though they did not make the list. I thought is would outline what we have been up to. We were pulled out of the water last Thursday and since then have been very busy. We decided to pay the yard to do the antifouling job this time. Jon did it himself last time but it is a nasty job, scraping, sanding and painting paint full of copper and poison. We had a long list so it was an easy decision to get some help. On Thursday Itchy Foot got her bottom pressure washed, sanded and had a layer of very fancy silver primer applied. The rigger also came to do some work on the spreader that we found had a problem just before crossing the Atlantic. We moved into an apartment in the boat yard which has air con and endless water which to us is like the lap of luxury. We have decent wifi and a TV which Teo has been enjoying – or maybe that is not the right word, he has been watching a lot of TV which has allowed us to get lots done on the boat, but I don’t think it is doing him any good, he has developed a horrible attitude and I think he has square eyes! But seriously I am looking forward to getting back onboard and having some cozy days together family time.

Jon – “it is interesting to see what happens to a child when you remove access to TV for 18 months and then give him 6 hours a day for 4 solid days of Sponge Bob Square Pants cartoons”. Not pretty.

Friday we were preparing for a visit from Tropical Storm “Harvey” and it worked out very well that we were on land. Itchy foot was given extra straps to secure her to the ground. We got lots of rain but no high winds so we once again counted ourselves very lucky. We celebrated with yellow fever vaccinations! But seriously, you must have them for some of the countries we visit next, and we just happened to have doctors and dentist appointments scheduled. The doctor gave us all jabs, Teo wanted to go first and giggled his way through three injections, when it was my turn I yelped. The doctor was nice, a Bruin Alumn, and has offered to have a look at the drugs we have prescribe anything else we might need which is much appreciated since some of our medicine cabinet is expiring. Teo visited the dentist and had his teeth polished and now has very pearly whites!

On Saturday the guys are not working and the the boatyard is quiet. We made the most of it by taking care of odd jobs. I got up early and went to prep for the first coat of varnishing. Back in Bequia Winfield helped us with some varnishing in the companionway and around the cockpit and he gave me some pointers so I was “ready” to take on the job. Since we need the sink every day when we live onboard and we can’t use it when she is on land, this seemed like the perfect time. The preparations take a long time and the more thorough you are the better the end result. SO, instead of being done at lunch time it was more like 4pm before the first coat was finished and the brushes in cling film in the freezer. Jon and Teo laid out the whole anchor chain, washed it and painted lines every ten meters to make our anchor chain markers easier to read. The anchor locker was also cleaned to get ready to store the pimped up anchor chain. Jon replaced some seams of caulking on the keel as well which can only be done on a dry keel. We try to keep Itchy Foot’s keel under the water as much as we can. And in the evening the whole family got haircuts

Sunday was a second coat of varnish, three loads of laundry including hand washing and bleaching our curtains as we started to see signs of mold. As soon as all the laundry was hung to dry the heavens opened and it took three attempts to get it all to dry. Jon polished the Itchy Foot’s hull and inspected chips in the gel coat. He spray painted our gas bottles and inspected them to make sure they are safe, unfortunately we have to replace one. He ran water into the bilges to make sure the emergency bilge pump kicks in when it should and checked the through hulls. We are trying to focus on the jobs that are crucial with the boat out of the water and when we have all this water!

Monday we woke up to the sound of heavy rain. Need I mention the laundry was still “drying”? It was also the final coat of varnish before the guys started working at 8am. Jon replaced the gas bottle that had a broken, rusty connection. The rigger installed the mended spreader and checked the tension so we know Itchy Foot has a healthy mast. I cleaned the boat including the floors the carpets, the hatches and the walls to discourage mold which can be a huge problem in the tropics. Another perk of being in the boatyard was being close to welders, they make for perfect eclipse viewing. 

Tuesday is another pile of errands, including provisioning for the next passage, another doctors appointment, and picking up our water maker. And we have to put everything on the boat back together so we can get ready to relaunch Itchy Foot into the water on Wednesday. We are hoping things will go smoothly so we  can get back in the water and sail to Carriacou on Thursday and on to Bonaire on Friday. Fingers crossed the weather is good and we can get our last coat of antifouling applied and the wind operates with our plans.

Grenada – water, water everywhere but not a lot of swimming.

Written by Mia:

This is a disappointing post to write. We have heard a lot about “Camp Grenada” where there are tons of kids boats and many returning seasoned cruisers all unite  while hiding from the storms. We decided to join them and spend the hurricane season in Grenada. It seems to be a strange year with a shortage of kids boats on the island, and those who are here are spread out between the anchorages. We’re not sure why it is quieter than normal, maybe the early south tracking tropical storms scared people away, who knows. But, ‘Camp Grenada’ doesn’t seem to have really happened that we can see.

It hasn’t been a washout by any stretch. Luckily we have been in the company of friends we collected along the way, as well as making some new ones. There have been some lively evenings including an open air cinema experience on Una Vida and drinks and snacks in the nick of time on Trismic, and  Flip Flops had a lovely birthday celebration for their daughter.  The Tiki bar has pizza specials and movie nights for the kids and yoga in the morning, unfortunately the bar area is swarming in mosquitoes so it’s not ideal. Also, we have made two trips to the actual movies, in a cinema, which has been a little exotic for this cruising family. And we had lovely company when we were in a marina hiding from Tropical Storm Don. We spent a day exploring the underwater sculpture park and all went to Carneval together and the kids get along really well. So a nice time has been had. The main downside of Prickly Bay (the most populated anchorage for kids boats) is that the swimming is far from inviting, something you NEED with 30C heat, 90% humidity and no air conditioning.

Our to do list for Itchy Foot was long when we arrived in Grenada and we had a week where something broke every day so the list expanded. As others headed up to nicer islands, we stayed in Prickly Bay to try to sort a few things out. It has a well stocked chandlery and haul out facilities. More on that in a later post. Not our most fun week, as Jon spent three solid days lying upside down in the engine room trying to get the generator working again.

Teo has been hanging out with the lovely kids from Pierina, Drakkar, Nahanni, Blue Zulu and Trismic on the beach often in the afternoons and one day we went to the True Blue resort and watched a cooking demonstrations and the kids made up games and later used the pool. Una Vida came and picked us up when we were stranded and needed a break so we went around the corner for a holiday. And we joined them at the pool when they moved into the marina for a few days. St George’s is a vibrant town that feels authentic and we enjoyed wandering through the steep streets and catching glimpses of the people who live there.

For all the moaning, we haven’t really given Grenada a fair chance as we have failed to travel further into the interior to explore. There are waterfalls and it is called the Spice Island so we are probably missing an opportunity. We never made it to Sandy Island which is a snorkelling paradise and we heard about a really cool distillery and the chocolate factory is supposed to be amazing but we have decided to move on sooner than originally planned.

We’ve found a buddy boat to join us for the next leg of the adventure westward to Bonaire and crystal clear waters await. Hopefully a more timely post when we get there!

Clive Returns – Like Batman Except Much Cooler

Written by Mia:

Itchy Foot and her crew love to have visitors and Clive returned for a third time back in early July and we were all excited as we raced to Grenada to meet him. We have really enjoyed the islands in the southern end of the chain and we were hoping the weather would cooperate and we could return and explore them with Clive. We pulled into Prickly Bay where we can see and hear planes taking off and landing. We had to promise to wake Teo when he arrived but even though he was tightly strung he did finally fall asleep. Clive’s plane was on time and Jon picked him up on the dock, and it was lovely to hear them chatting in the dinghy upon approach. We had a lovely catch up, hearing about Clive’s new job and boat purchase and summer plans and before we knew it, it was time for bed.

We spent a few days in Grenada watching the wind and weather reports and planning our trip back to Tobago Cays. In the meantime we met up with the lovely crew of Pierina and together explored Grenada’s capital, St. George’s. We ate chicken roti and ice cream and had a long walk around, before doing a little shopping. The town seems real and not touristy, a place you can visit a library and a fabric store, but I am sure it feels a lot different when the cruise ships are in town. We were anchored off Grand Anse beach and very much enjoyed the view and the water even if it was a little rolly. We did some snorkelling and swimming nearby and enjoyed the incredible sunset. Teo was impressing Clive with his big arms (forward crawl moves) and deep dives.

We had a fabulous sail up to Carriacou, which is a beautiful island north of Grenada. We anchored in Tyrell Bay after giving “Kick ‘em Jenny”, a live underwater volcano a wide berth. Clive treated us to pizza at the Lazy Turtle in Tyrell Bay and we had a lovely evening. The next day we checked out of Carriacou and sailed for an hour and checked into Union Island which is the southernmost customs office for St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Our plan was to return to Tobago Cays which is just a stone’s throw from Union Island.

We arrived into Tobago Cays in the afternoon and jumped into the glorious water as soon as we could and were greeted by the welcoming committee and my favourite, trunk fish. They are amazingly relaxed and come right up to check you out, plus it doesn’t hurt that they have a cartoonish triangle shape and look like they are coming to kiss you. And then it didn’t take long for the main event, and we spotted lots of turtles, too! When we woke up the next day, the water was the most amazing emerald green and we took the dinghy ashore to snorkel off the beach. Teo and Clive went exploring and saw some iguanas and we did some snorkelling off the beach. We spent three days there and saw lots of turtles, trunk fish, rays  and star fish, and at one point a school of tiny sardines took shelter under Itchy Foot and we saw about twelve baby barracuda come fishing. Baby barracuda are the only type I can tolerate. Tobago Cays it is a truly amazing place and we feel very fortunate to have had the chance to visit twice.

On the way back south, we visited Mopio, a amazing tiny strip of sand with a gorgeous reef around it. We didn’t see any turtles here but we did see some of the most amazing aquarium like conditions of any of our snorkelling so far, it was full of little, adorable, colourful, playful fish. When we got ashore we had lots of fun running from the water one side of the island to the water on the other side. It was all of three long steps over a tiny hill of sparkling white sand. There was even a little parasol and next time we plan to have the place to ourselves! After our brief stop in Mopio we went to Petit St Vincent where we were joined by Blue Zulu to celebrate Itchy Foot’s 20th birthday! There were bubbles and cake, we even poured some on her deck. The private resort of Petit St Vincent has an outdoor cinema and Clive and Mia went ashore and giggled our way through “Live and Let Die” sitting in directors’ chairs watching the movie under the stars.

Jon and Clive gave Itchy Foot a scrub on her belly as a birthday present and headed to Union Island to check out in preparation for our sail south to Prickly Bay as our time was quickly coming to close. All too soon we were waving him off with tears in our eyes and happy memories in our hearts.

Tobago Cays – Turtles, Trunk Fish and Squalls.

Early in July we left Mayreau and went around the corner to Tobago Cays.

Since we decided to cross the Atlantic I’ve been excited about visiting Tobago Cays. I could explain why but it’s simpler just to show you an aerial photo of the area:

OK – now we’ve established why we wanted to come here, we can talk about what it was like!

The weather wasn’t perfect, a little overcast and a bit too windy to get the crystal clear waters we were looking for. But it was safe enough to be there and we weren’t sure we’d be able to return this far north again when Clive came to visit, which was our plan.

Tobago Cays is protected by a huge horseshoe shaped reef with several little islands jutting out of the shallow sandy sea behind. Nowhere in he area is deep and it’s all sandy so anchoring is easy enough, there are a couple of areas yachts are prohibited from entering to ensure that the turtles which breed in the area aren’t disturbed, but mostly it’s open. We picked a spot windward and oceanward of the islands, with only the reef, hidden below the sea between us, the Atlantic and ultimately Africa. It’s very strange to anchor in a spot that looks so open and exposed, but the reef does an excellent job of eating the swell from the ocean and other than being open to the full force of the wind it is a great anchorage.

We anchored and before we even had time to get into the sea we were greeted by the local turtle population. Along with the ever so fearless trunk fish these guys were constant companions. Getting into the water we were rewarded with so much sea life and good visibility. With out a doubt some of the best snorkelling we’ve experience so far on Itchy Foot.

One of the unusual side effects of not being anchored behind land is that you can see the squalls coming from a long way out. They roll across the ocean and bring with the huge torrents of rain and strong winds – nothing to worry about but exciting nonetheless.


After a couple of days enjoying this magical place it was time to head south to Union Island – the last port of entry for St. Vincent and the Grenadines and where we had to check-out. Then a lovely sail down the windward coast of Grenada and into Prickly Bay where we had agreed to meet Clive who was arriving in a couple of days.

We loved Tobago Cays and thankfully got to return again with Clive. I’m very glad we came here off season and instead of when the usual 50-100 charter boats area present. When we were there, we were one of only ten in the whole area.

More about Tobago Cays and the other islands in this area when we post about Clive coming to visit.

Mayreau – lots of vowels, little money.

Written by Jon:

Back in late June we were still making our way south to meet Clive and stopped in Mayreau on the way. Mayreau is picture postcard pretty. Our first stop was Salt Whistle Bay which has a reputation as being one of the pretties in the Caribbean. What I wasn’t expecting was that it would also be one of the poorest places we’ve visited so far.

We arrived right around sunset and a friendly, chilled out boat boy offered to rent us a mooring but we were happy on anchor. He hung around for a bit making jokes with Teo. He told us that he is from St. Vincent and it is pretty normal to go work on the islands. We watched a gorgeous sunset and really soaked up the magic of the moment.  The next morning we headed ashore and took a walk to the other side of the island, there is a road from one side to the other and the bit in between  is known as ‘the village’. The people on this island don’t have much money, it seems that their only source of income is tourism and the season for visitors is quite short, November to May. We got chatting to a local guy, Phillip, who was friendly and was happy to show us around, he remembers when he was younger and they had no fresh water on the island, drinking from a very small pool of water, not even big enough to call a lake, more a pond. Now the houses on the islands collect rain water from their roofs and store it in large black bins for the dry season.

We continued down out of the village onto the far side of the island and found a beach which we had largely to ourselves. This is the bay the cruise ships anchor in during the season and gorge out the source of income to the island – all quite now.  That afternoon we played on the beach and swam in the clear waters. Teo realised that if he had his mask and snorkel on he didn’t need to stop for air and could keep swimming indefinitely, so up and down the bay we went. We also made friends with a local stray dog which we helped after it got tangled in a fishing net on the beach.

Then back to the village and we met Phillip again from earlier who took us to a bar where he hangs out and was kind enough to teach Teo how to play the drum. After a musical interlude we wandered back through the village and he showed us his family house, their kittens and even a baby goat that was less than a day old. He walked us back down to our boat, chatting about life on the island and the government in Saint Vincent.

Teo had been asking to make a sword for a few days, so before going back to the boat we went around to the windward beach to look for drift wood. We sat, enjoyed the view and then carried our suitably sized drift wood home. Unfortunately, on returning to the dinghy we discovered that somewhere during the day we’d lost the dinghy keys! Teo and I rowed the dinghy back to the boat while Mia retracted our steps. Thankfully, she found the keys where we’d sat on the beach looking for drift wood, but that was only after walking the entire length of the island again!

The poverty of the island is striking with the only sign of new development coming from a christian mission which was expanding. The island has a population of 271 people and three churches. Electricity didn’t come to the island until 2002. What surprised us most was that the seemingly rich and fertile land around the locals huts and houses wasn’t being used to grow anything. We wondered why the common areas weren’t planned with fruit trees to supplement the local diet. No doubt there is a complexity or detail we’ve missed, but it struck us as strange.

Despite the hardship and dependance on tourism, the locals we met were generous, welcoming and very laid-back. We’d gladly return.

After a good night sleep we woke up early to head around to Tobago Cays and hopefully some of the best snorkelling in the Caribbean.

Canouan – a rude awakening.

Written by Jon:

We left Bequia back in late June and time was marching on as we had to be down in Grenada to meet our friend and semi-regular crew Clive who was flying in from Norway early in July.

Leaving Bequia we had a lovely little sail down to Canouan. We dropped the hook along a stretch of coast next to a couple of other yachts and started to make dinner. Just before Teo went off to bed the wind shifted and picked up in strength. It wasn’t a dangerous situation but we we’re too happy with the anchorage so we decided to move along the coast to the bay outside the main town. We’re not too happy anchoring in the dark, especially somewhere new to us, but on the charts it was straightforward and I could see that the navigation lights were working. Anyway, 30 minutes later we were safely anchored near the only other sailing boat in the bay, a catamaran. Then off to sleep.

I woke up early, to the sound of an urgent voice on the VHF radio. The skipper of the catamaran was calling all the other boats in the bay (us) to warn them that they awoke to someone walking around on the back of their boat. The opportunists had swum out to their boat in the early hours of the morning and when they were disturbed by lights coming on they jumped back into the sea and disappeared into the dark. I stayed up on deck with a torch for a while, until the sun came up, and it was clear that there wasn’t anyone around. As it turns out, nothing was stolen from the catamaran and everyone was OK. But, it was a reminder why we leave our VHF on overnight, why we put our washboards in (doors) and lock them, and why I’ve just installed an alarm on the back of the boat.

The places in the world where poverty rubs shoulders with the wealthy, where many of the local people often have so little and their government is corrupt and favours the wealthy at the expense of the poor, you will have crime and these paradise islands are no exception. What makes it particularly sad is that 99% of the locals we meet on a daily basis are friendly, welcoming and generous with their time and smiles – irrespective of how little they have.

We found a private little beach on Canouan with some lovely snorkelling and swimming. We had a great day together enjoying the sea, picnicking and relaxing. We were lucky enough to find a private hotel beach, staffed only my security guards and maintenance staff – it was closed for the season – but they were very welcoming and let us use the beach if we wanted. Rather than stay another night we sailed onto Mayreau and Salt Whistle Bay.