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2015-2016 Caribbean Sailing Summary: Grenada, Grenadines, Dominica

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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.

The trip started and ended at St. Kitts Marine Works in, you guessed it, St. Kitts.  I spent about six weeks in St. Kitts “on the hard” preparing the boat and departed for Grenada December 1st.

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).

Highlights and…lowlights?

The Good

  • 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.

The Bad

  • 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 @peltierphoto if you’re not already!


Look at that shine!

Making landfall in Grenada after the passage from St. Kitts
grenada sunrise

“The days pass happily with me wherever my ship sails.” – Captain Joshua Slocum. Keeping myself busy between St. Kitts and Grenada
sailing solo

Grenada’s Underwater Sculpture Park
underwater sculpture park

Casual Wednesday at the office. This follows Casual Tuesday and precedes Casual Thursday
working on boat

Home sweet home

The base of Concord Falls, good for a relaxing dip!
concord falls

It never gets old
double rainbow

A staysail-only kind of day, thanks to FINALLY having a stiff wind and current both in my favor.

The emerald pools of Annandale Falls, Grenada
annandale falls

Prickly Bay, Grenada
prickly bay sunset

Grand Etang Lake, Grenada. This lake is the remnant of a volcano that last erupted between 15,000-25,000 years ago. A two-hour hiking trail winds around the shoreline and through the jungle.
grand etang lake

Seven Sisters Falls, Grenada
seven sisters falls

Sailing the Caribbean isn’t all blue skies and calm waters!
sailing in storm

“A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind. Live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you anyway.” – Webb Chiles
sailing sunset

Emerald Pool, Morne Trois Pitons National Park, Dominica
emerald pools

A set from a Pirates of the Caribbean movie on the Indian River, Dominica
pirates caribbean set

And that’s it for this time!  Until my next trip down there…

Amy Alton

Friday 30th of August 2019

Thanks for the summary! So many blogs don't hit on highlights and stuff. We are headed to the Caribbean to finish our circumnavigation and we are going to spend a few months between Saint Lucia, SVG, and Grenada. Just in case you need a little push to write on your blog again....I'd love to hear what you did in the past year.

John Peltier

Friday 30th of August 2019

Hi Amy, thanks for the feedback! Enjoy SVG (my favorite) and hit up Dominica if you can! I should probably have a little note on my sailing pages - I've been on an indefinite hiatus for a few years and it's killing me. The boat is in bad shape, the yard bill has ballooned out of control, and my business has been keeping me busy. I have had a great year, just not sailing! Looking forward to keeping up with the rest of your journey on Instagram.

Joseph DiFidi

Wednesday 1st of February 2017

Nicole and I have both been meaning to catch up on your adventures since you sent out the "end of 2016" email, and we both just finished reading this summary and checking out the highlight photos. This was Nicole's pick, and we loved it! My turn! :)

John Peltier

Thursday 2nd of February 2017

I just had to re-read I gotta get back there! This year...shooting for late summer/fall. Hopefully I'll have some more/better stories! Thanks!