2015-2016 Sailing to Grenada, the Grenadines, and Dominica
Man it felt great to be back on the water!
I had taken a 28-month hiatus from a long voyage that originally had me circumnavigating South America in my little 27′ sailboat, a trip that was suddenly interrupted by that crazy little thing called cancer in my immediate family. While I was home I wondered if I’d ever get back to the boat and the voyage. After some long deliberation (like two years of it), I came to at least a temporary solution. I’d get her back in the water, sail down to Grenada, and see what happened next.
So that’s what we did. Here’s a summary and breakdown of everything from miles sailed, costs, highs & lows, and the best photos.
A four-day passage maybe wasn’t the wisest for my first time back at the helm!
After almost two months in southern Grenada I then sailed to Carriacou for a couple of weeks. Then it was up to the St. Vincent Grenadines and Union Island, Mayreau, Tobago Cays, and Bequia. After a couple of weeks in Bequia I left for Dominica, during the final week of March. I wanted to get a quick taste of Dominica as that’s my intended destination for my next trip. It was really tough leaving Dominica after that “quick taste” – I can’t wait to spend more time exploring that island! I was back in St. Kitts and out of the water by April 1st.
I really saw the gamut of scenery during this trip – from large mountainous islands covered in rainforest to small sandy strips of islands with nothing but a few palms. While I was in Dominica it dawned on me that I much prefer the green, lush, rugged landscapes to the arid, flat lowlands. To each his own!
By The Numbers
Total miles sailed: 847.5 – that’s over five months. On my previous voyage I had covered 3,672.8 miles in nine months. I kinda like going slower!
Total diesel fuel used: 15 gallons. For almost 850 miles. Sailing, baby! And renewable energy!
Total gasoline used (for the dinghy): 5 gallons. Not bad for four months! I had a new two-stroke 3.5HP outboard and just took my time going ashore. I never really had the need to fly with the throttle wide-open because my dinghy can’t plane with that engine.
Money Money Money
This is a pretty interesting topic to a lot of people. Those who want this lifestyle think that they have to be rich to do it – that’s far from both the truth and the reality of most cruisers! I wrote an entire article related to this that you can check out, Finances and making money while sailing.
Springing the boat from boatyard jail and fixing it up after two years of storage really bit me in the ass. All of that came to about $7,000 – mostly because the boatyard hadn’t been billing me at all over those 28 months despite my requests to do so, and I was left with a single large bill. But it was all fairly smooth from there! Monthly costs for everything were as follows:
- December: $2,120 (including the $1,030 outboard)
- January: $878
- February: $718
- March: $734
Yes, you can do this on about $10,000 per year! As long as you have an emergency fund somewhere…
Average monthly cost breakdowns by category:
- Groceries: $320. This was higher in the beginning and lower towards the end when I started to “think local”.
- Dining out: $189. A lot of this included what I call “internet beers”, when I had to go ashore and patronize a business so I could use WiFi.
- Recreation: $122. Includes tours, diving, park entry fees, tour guide tips, etc.
- Da Boat: $193. These costs include moorings, fuel, parts, propane, and clearance fees.
- Communication: $30. I still had monthly WiFi service subscriptions wherever I went just in case I could reach it in the anchorage.
Total customs clearance fees: $73. The most expensive was Grenada ($19 per month), and the cheapest was in Dominica ($2 for six months allowed).
- Grenada has some great hiking in the interior, I just wish I wasn’t working so much and had some more time to explore the network of trails! Hiking the Grand Etang Lake trail and the Seven Sisters Falls trail were two that really stood out.
- I’m certainly glad I made it to Carriacou for Carnival! Seeing their traditions and how they evolved is one of the reasons I love traveling so much – I’d have no idea about any of this otherwise! The “Shakespeare Mas” was a total trip – head on over to my Carriacou Carnival post for a video of this wild event.
- I really enjoyed my time in Chatham Bay, Union Island. After spending months in crowded anchorages and surrounded by lights from shoreside communities, this unpopulated & quiet anchorage was a welcome change.
- For a short while I considered skipping Dominica altogether, to just save it for next year. But my “reconnaissance trip” helped me get a lay of the land, pinpoint some things I’d like to do next year, and talk to some of the locals about the best time of year to do some of the things I have planned for next time – like hiking the 114-mile Waitukubuli National Trail. While there I toured the northern half of the island and went on a colorful tour of the Indian River.
- There are average sails (as in short passages), bad sails (that make you want to quit), and sails that make you never want to leave at all, ever again. Sailing from Bequia to Dominica was one of those magical soul-lifting sails.
- Now that I actually kept better records of my expenses, I’ll have a better idea of what I’ll need for the next trip. I’ll save up so I don’t have to work so much – I definitely spent way too much time working during my time in Grenada. I’ll need more time for play!
- Speaking of bad sails (the ones that make you want to quit), getting caught in a nasty surprise storm between Grenada and Carriacou definitely tested my resolve. Forty-knot winds and a tall, quick choppy sea. Some locals were killed in that storm when their boat capsized.
- Dinghy went missing two days before leaving Dominica, along with my new outboard. It was the first time I didn’t lock it up. I’m fairly certain it wasn’t stolen – theft doesn’t really happen in Prince Rupert Bay anymore thanks to the PAYS “mafia”. I had taken my dinghy over to a friend’s boat, then hitched a ride in their dinghy to have dinner ashore. It was gone upon returning and my heart sank into my stomach. It was very windy that night. I had done a quick courtesy check to ensure they tied it up securely, but I guess I didn’t check it close enough. I still accept responsibility for that. But if I’m going to lose the dinghy, two days before the end of the trip is a good time to do it!
- Single-handing is fun. Claud Worth said, “the charm of singlehanded cruising is not solitude, but independence.” That’s certainly true – I don’t feel I’m obligated to entertain anyone and am freed of the associated responsibilities of having a “green sailor” aboard the boat. So yeah, the independence is neat. But the solitude…not so much. Especially with working from the boat so much on this trip, I didn’t have a lot of time to go ashore and make friends. I did meet some great folks, both sailors and locals, and I look forward to seeing them the next time I’m down there. But it still just felt like a lonely six months! Who’s in for the next trip?
Here’s some of the most popular pictures from the trip, as judged from interactions on my Instagram account – follow @johnpeltierphoto if you’re not already!
And that’s it for this time! Until my next trip down there…