April 12 – April 29 2021; 6826 nm and 770 days after departure from La Rochelle.
I’m almost surprised myself😉 that we could do so many things since we arrived in Tyrrel bay. After a couple of days the ash from the volcano was gone and we could enjoy the island life. We had beautiful walks into Hillsborough town along the beach and through mangroves, hikes to the south east side of the island and up “High North”. We joined a diving boat for a snorkelling tour to “Sister Rocks” and “The Rose”. We participated in a beach, shore and underwater cleanup organised by a local diving school to support the worldwide “Day of Earth” Celebration. We had a lot of fun going to “Sip and Paint” at Paradise beach to be creative. El Capitano challenged again his running shoes and I tried some different exercises in participating a noodling course with Shell and Marieke at the beach. (A noodle is a swimming aid and noodling is a kind of aqua gym with a noodle😉). And, as the lobster season will be finished starting May 1, we needed to eat lobster! But the absolute best incident was that we got our second vaccination shot.
That was indeed splashy! A couple of days after our arrival we found out that it might be possible to get our second shot at the health centre in Carriacou. So we went there to ask if it would be ok to get our second shot there instead of in St George’s in Grenada. The nurse told us:”No Problem, but we only vaccine Tuesdays and Thursdays. If your 2nd shot appointment is at another day, just come at the next following vaccinating day.” That was so very convenient! Not only is it just a 5 min walk from our anchorage but also we did not have to sail back to Grenada so fast. Very nice unexpected news. Our vaccination date was in about 2 weeks so we had enough time to check out Tyrrel bay including all the nice happenings.
In such a small neighbourhood you get to know the people very fast. Having a coffee here, a drink in a bar there, listening to some live music, joining some events like the “Sip and Paint” or the noodling and you have the impression you lived here already for years. What ever you do, you meet the same people. Even at the health centre we met Diana and Richard from “Lumbadive” who organised the clean up. I like it, chatting assured😁.
But apart from all the fun stuff there’s one big topic for all sailors. It is the question where to go in the hurricane season. There are quite a few thoughts to be considered. Such as avoiding the typical routes of the hurricanes, the range of your personal insurance, your further sailing plans, possible escape routes or safe hiding holes. storm protection and nowadays corona. I asked El Capitano to explain our decision and why it is a difficult one:
- What is our long term sailing plan?
We would like to explore the Eastern Caribbean Islands after the hurricane season 2021 working our way up north via the Bahamas and spend the hurricanes season 2022 at the US east coast. Going south again after the 2022 season and explore the western Caribbean like Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, San Blas (hundreds of beautiful islands close to Panama) and go through the Panama Canal to the Pacific side. We might spend another hurricane season or two on this route, e.g in the River Dulce (Guatemala) or Columbia. This is a typical Caribbean sailing circle (counter-clockwise) leveraging the predominant wind directions in the Caribbean.
- Where am I covered from my boat insurance?
That’s an easy and straight forward topic. When it comes to the south/east Caribbean Islands and the hurricane season the magic line is 12/10 Degree North. Our insurance is not covering any damage/loss caused by a “named” storm/hurricane from June 1 until Nov 30 when you are north of 10 Degree North. In the past the line was 12 Degree North, so Grenada, Trinidad/Tobago and the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) were in the “covered” zone. It doesn’t surprise anybody that this line has been pushed further south by the insurance companies as there have been more and more claims the last couple of seasons. So if you want to be in a “covered” zone you need to go south of Trinidad and Tobago like Suriname or to the south/west Caribbean coast of Columbia. Even the ABC islands are still in the “non-covered” zone. But going from Grenada to Suriname is a pretty tough sail (against current, waves) and when you are at one of the ABC Islands or Columbia you can’t go back to the south/east Caribbean directly (against current, waves AND wind). In that case you need to go north e.g. Dominican Republic or Jamaica and work you way east between the islands and then down south the Eastern Caribbean to end up in Grenada probably again at the beginning of the hurricane season. And this will screw a bit our long term plan.
- What is the Covid situation in the potential “hurricane” countries?
We are in Grenada, been fully vaccinated and the local government managed it quite well so that there isn’t any community spread at this time. We cross fingers that this won’t change so that we can enjoy a kind of freedom which is not normal anymore in these times. Trinidad and Tobago did close their borders already spring 2020 and won’t open them anytime soon. They even just started to stop Visa extensions of the remaining cruisers forcing them out of their territory with the hurricane season approaching. The ABC islands are open with changing restrictions depending on the infection rates. In summary you can enter most of the countries with more or less complex (expensive) entry regulations (quarantine, PCR tests, fees)
- Where is the safest place in the hurricane zone?
As further south you go in the Eastern Caribbean during the hurricane season as less likely you are being hit by a storm. As Trinidad and Tobago are closed due to Covid and the ABC islands would take us too far west already, Grenada seems to be the place. Grenada is considered safe but that doesn’t mean it can’t be hit. I think Grenada has been hit four times in the last 100 years by hurricanes.
In 2020 Tropical Strom Gonzalo (55 knots) went over Trinidad, south of Grenada,
in 2019 Tropical Storm Karen (40 knots) passed 18 miles north of Grenada,
in 1877 a category 1 hurricane hit the islands with 80 knots,
and in 2004 Hurricane Ivan devastated the island with 130 knots of wind.
Being in Grenada during hurricane season forces you to be on your toes and ready for action in case a storm is heading towards Grenada.
- What is the strategy when a storm approaches?
Bottom line there are two options, you hide or you run (sail).
When you decide to hide you look for a protected bay (hurricane hole), best with some mangroves around where you get your boat tied up to, drop all the anchors you have, take off everything which could provide any resistance to the wind and pray. If the storm approaches and intensifies, best is you leave your boat alone and find coverage ashore as your live is more important than your boat. The downside of this approach is that when the storm gets stronger you definitely risk loosing your home. And you won’t be alone in that bay as there are plenty of cruisers with the same strategy. Quite often the higher risk is coming from other boats going adrift through the anchorage taking other boats with them ashore.
Running means getting out of the path of the hurricane by going 100-200nm south or escaping to the ABC islands. As Trinidad and Tobago are closed and anything but friendly to cruisers during these Covid times, you need to keep yourself off-shore not creating any attention to the Cost Guard or pirates. Did I forget to mention that Trinidad and Tobago are pretty close to Venezuela? Well, between the north tip of Trinidad and the Venezuela Coast there are just a few miles of water, though you will be in an area where you face a higher risk of piracy.
Beside of this threat it is crucial to consider from where the storm is approaching. E.g. if the storm has developed south of 10 Degree North and is approaching the Caribbean islands its travelling path usually turns more and more northerly as closer it comes. But when you have decided to escape southwards, you might run straight into the storm.
So what do we do ? We will stay in Grenada and hope that in this season no hurricane will come close. If a storm is heading towards Grenada we will run. But we don’t know yet in which direction. As a rough guidance we might go southwards if the centre of the storm is already north of 12 Degree North (Grenada is at 12 Degree North) and we will head to Curacao when the storm is at 12 Degree North or south of that line. Having this sorted for ourselves, we need to keep our provisions, fuels filled up and keep Altimate in tip top shape so that we can leave within a few hours after having decided.
This was just mentioned in case somebody might have thought sailing can get boring. It definitely is not!
Happy May Day