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Swingin' on a Star
Ship's log for the circumnavigating Saint Francis 50 catamaran, "Swingin on a Star".
09/20/2007, Saint Georges

We decided to ship few final things to the boat before taking off to Tobago next week. Our mail forwarding service has been shipping us things FedEx and it only takes two days to get here from the US. Not bad. I have now discovered that you can actually clear things through customs in about an hour yourself, if you know what you're doing, which I did not until today.

My first stop was a the FedEx office in Saint Georges with my FedEx delivery notice. It was worth a try, right? Perhaps not, but I needed them to berate my attempt just long enough to discover what paperwork I was missing. They obliged and informed me that I needed to get a provisional release from customs. Provisional, hmmm. I didn't like the sound of that but I dutifully marched down the Carenage in the blazing sun to the shipping port to see customs. After bouncing around the customs building a bit I finally wound up in an office with the right officer.

"You don't have a proper invoice", he said. I was unruffled. This is what they always say, no matter how complete your invoice is. The invoice read, "Computer Software: $400", "DVDs: $75", or something similar. I asked what the problem was. He said, "what is computer software?" This did ruffle me. "Programs for a computer?", I offered. "Yes but is it a CD?", he demanded. "uh, why yes", I responded with no real idea as to whether it was a CD or DVD, but fairly certain that it did not matter. "Ok that's what I need to know", he replied. "How many DVDs?", was the next shot across the bow. "Uh, 75 divide by 20, approximately 4", I responded, trying to maintain a tone of respect. The dialog continued for a few more rounds. Once it had been made entirely clear how inadequate my invoice was he set about preparing the sheet of paper I needed. The expected break to chat with any of his friends who might be walking by included I was in there probably a mere twenty minutes.

I emerged from the customs office and, after shooing off the ravenous customs brokers lurking about the dock (who will charge you $50 US for this process), I made my way back around to the other side of the port where the FedEx office sits facing the waterfront. "Hi, here's my delivery notice and the customs form you asked for", I said with an upbeat air. "Where's your permit to import ship's stores?", came the retort. "What is that?", I said meekly with a down beat air. "You need it to get the special yacht-in-transit duty reduction", said the lady in a what-kind-of-idiot-are-you tone.

Perhaps I'll just pay the extra, I thought. "What would it cost to get the package as is?", I ventured? "Oh, you'd like to know, wouldn't you? Well, sure enough I'm going to tell you then." This all in a fairly curt manner with rising exasperation. "Four million, seven hundred and thirty five dollars EC", she said. Not really but it was something like three hundred US for a box of stuff worth maybe five hundred. "I'll just get the permit then, why don't I?".

In my head I said, "why didn't you tell me that I needed a permit the last time?" No, better not go public with that one until after I have the package. Instead I queried, "is this the last document I will need to collect my package?". A hasty yes was offered as the lady disappeared into the back room. I had to subpoena another employee to find out where I get such and article. The customs office you cleared in at, was the response. Lucky for me I cleared in at the Grenada Yacht Club this time around, only a little farther than the port customs office. Somewhere on the south shore would have required a taxi and probably another day.

The quest continued. I hiked around the Carenage, up over the hill between the Carenage and the Lagoon and down to the yacht club. I was terribly fortunate not to have run across any of these facilities during a holiday, after hours or on a lunch break. The customs guy at the yacht club was watching a James Bond flick on the laptop and was fairly put out that I should interrupt him with business. All the same he gave me the form to fill out and upon my return signed and stamped it a few times and went back to his movie.

Back out into the blazing sun, this time armed with a Coca Cola, I marched back to the FedEx office. Assured of my just cause and righteous array of paperwork, I yet maintained an even disposition to avoid engendering yet another form requirement. I neutrally presented my paperwork, all of which had thus far been acquired at no cost, and waited. I had to print and sign in a huge ledger in the back and pay $40US, was offered a banana (a prize for perseverance?), and sent upon my way.

As I walked down the street I reflected upon the day; delivery notice [you get from your marina or use Island Water World], customs clearance [from the port], permit to import ship's stores [from the customs office you cleared in at], package pickup [at FedEx], at about 15 minutes each if you know what you're doing. It dawned on me that not one person ever required a single piece of ID or legal documentation (other than those I acquired that afternoon without showing ID or legal documentation). The only thing I had on me at the start of the day to prove I deserved this package was the failed delivery notice from FedEx. Anyway, it's nice to have some new movies to watch.

09/24/2007 | Pablo Ramos
Man... Had I seen that guy watching a bBond flick while on duty, I would have busted out with a spoiler comment and told how it end in the most innocent mannor known to me.
10/04/2007 | Rosario
I went through the exact same thing when we were there. I had several shipments of gear sent preparing for the crossing, and each one was a different adventure of pure chaos. In other words, I feel your pain 100%!

Hope all is going well. Someday we'll bump into you again. All our best, David and Tni
10/15/2007 | Randy
Pabs: You would never get anything through customs, remind me to leave you on the boat when getting mail...

David: Great to hear from you! Hideko and I follow your travels. It will be a couple years before we make it to Europe but your blog is a guiding light for us. If you're not going to the South Pac you should come join us for a while.
Leaving the Lagoon
09/19/2007, Saint Georges

After wrapping up some heavy internet usage on the boat we prepped for departure. The lagoon is the only place around Grenada that we have found good internet access while aboard (and free at that). Prickly Bay has service but it is a little tough to lock in on the boat. Others have been down when we tried them. I'm sure things are a bit more functional during high season.

The wind was gusting a bit in the lagoon but generally 10-15 from the east. We were getting a late start at 16:00. We could have sailed south down Grenada to the point but it isn't much more than 2 miles and once around the point you are dead into the wind and also getting the pleasure of a one to two current setting directly against you along with the cape effect cranking the wind up 5 or so knots.

So off we went on a short motor. We headed south along the coast trying to make the shortest path to the point. Long Point Shoal is charted at 5 feet so I suppose we could sail right over it but I just get the heebee jeebees going over anything less than 10 feet at more than a crawl. We cut it close enough that the 10 foot depth alarm went off but left the really shallow stuff to port.

We made good time to the point averaging around 9 knots. As soon as we cleared the point it piped up to about 25 knots and got choppy. Most of the water you traverse on the inside when heading to Mount Hartman Bay is less than 30 feet. This doesn't help the chop any.

This was my first time entering Mount Hartman Bay using the western most entrance. Having been through in the other direction twice, both tracks still visible on the plotter, I felt pretty good about following my nose in. The pier and Tara Island are my main above water visual marks, but the water color is important as well. If you have good light it is a pretty easy channel to find. Like all of the narrow southern entrances here in Grenada you have to really watch the current, which viscously attempts to set you upon the leeward reef.

Upon later examination, my third track followed a course quite a bit to the east of the two exits on file. This is probably partially attributed to paranoia but also to the strong current. I had a COG and heading about 45 degrees apart for a bit.

We arrived at the dock and it was like we never left. Kelp Fiction, Blue Star, Odyssey and Monaco were all still there, along with the standard uninhabited boats.

Fred and Cindy helped us back onto the dock. The wind was blowing us straight off of the dock at about 15 knots and it took me a couple of tries to get her in tight enough, bow and stern, to tie up. We bid all of our friends a fond hello and began prepping for our departure from Grenada.

09/18/2007, Gand Anse Beach

Hideko and I celebrated our two year anniversary today by walking the length of Grand Anse beach and testing out all of the beach chairs we could find.

09/24/2007 | Pablo Ramos
Happy Anni you two bannanis
The Bus
09/17/2007, Grand Anse

Today we took a public bus, our first in Grenada. We were headed to Grand Anse to meet up with Kelp Fiction and Blue Star for sushi. The busses are actually just Vans with lots of bench seats. I have wanted to ride the bus because I wanted to see how the Grenadians live everyday life, not to mention the fact that the bus is way cheaper than a taxi (about $1US per person). I've also been missing riding roller coasters and the way the bus drivers drive makes you feel like you're on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster at Disney World. The bus doesn't come to Martin's Marina where we were staying previously but in Saint Georges and Grand Anse, taking the bus is easier and faster than catching a cab.

We left the dingy at the Grenada Yacht Club and asked a lady at the bar where we could catch the bus. She told me to just cross the street and stand there. OK. They do have bus stops, but usually you can just hail them and they will stop for you.

Just as we reached the street we heard, "BEEE BEEE BEEE", and a sparkling burgundy painted van with shiny wheels showed up. It sounded like the Road Runner and moved at about the same speed, we wondered if they would stop before they hit us. A guy opened the door and ushered us in. Each bus has a crew of two, the driver and the guy who sits right next to the door, handling the opening and closing of the door and collecting the money. Coming from a fairly conservative country I would never imagine a van with pumped up shiny wheels and extra fancy eye catching paint to be a public bus. In the bus they cranked Dance Hall or Soca even when young children and old folks fill up the seats. I enjoyed seeing almost all the passengers grooving with the music. An old lady next to me was humming along to a song, and shortly, I was humming the song with her.

I was looking around for a stop buzzer but there were none to be found. It is not a huge van so I was going to yoo-hoo when it came to our get off spot. Then an old man sitting in front of us raised his hand and knocked on the side. Immediately the man who was sitting next to the exit knocked on the ceiling to let the driver know that someone wanted to get off.

Now with the "get off" trick in hand we managed to exit at the proper location and avoided ending up in the wrong prefecture. Our first ride on the bus in Grenada was a success. The experience reminded me of riding a public bus by myself when I was little and also riding a bus in San Francisco when I first came to America and didn't speak fluent English. It makes you sort of nervous trying not to look like a rookie when you don't know the system.

A quiet evening at Port Louis
09/16/2007, Saint Georges

Hideko, Roq and I had a nice quiet evening at Port Louis Marina. It is not yet really a marina, though they say they'll be complete by the end of the year. I think that's bold. Even so they make a great burger and the Lagoon side restaurant and bar is very nice.

Our waitress was a charming young lady who wanted to work aboard a yacht and see the world. She was also pursuing the exams for the police department. Maybe yacht security? She was a lot of fun and we had a nice chat.

The Lagoon
09/15/2007, Saint Georges

We grabbed lunch at the Grenada Yacht Club today, a favorite hang out of the wintering cruisers. Beers are $3 and lunch is $25 (EC of course [$10US=$26EC]). We ordered Lasagna and they were out of tomato sauce so they put Callaloo soup on top. Interesting and assertive. I think I liked it. The GYC has a great sailing program for kids and we watched the kids graduate while we ate lunch.

The Lagoon has been flat and calm today. Very peaceful. We both worked on the Internet for hours. It is amazing how much stuff piles up when you're out in the hinterlands. A certain amount of gratuitous browsing included of course.

Morning Rain
09/14/2007, Petite Martinique

We had decided to head back down to Grenada to wrap up some final preparations before offing to Tobago. Tobago is supposedly out of the way and short on services. Just the way we like it. That said, it is always nice to stock up and take care of any Internet business before heading out to the boon docks.

We took a quick harbor tour of Petite Martinique on our way. PM is supposedly the wealthiest Caribbean island per capita. It seems like a very nice place with a nice harbor town and a large anchorage.

As we motored out of the anchorage and around the tip of Cariacou things started looking gloomy. If you're in the middle of the ocean and the clouds roll in, you reef down and sit it out in the saloon. If you are inshore and viz goes to 0 it is a bit more dramatic.

Hideko and I decided to anchor up quickly to let the weather go by. We found a little cove called Sparrow Bay and made our way in. Hideko lost the Rock/Paper/Scissors match and was up on the bow getting the anchor out just as it started to drizzle. We were set just as the little squall started to hit and it began gusting over 20 from the southwest. This was blowing us a little too far into the shallows for my comfort. It was fine really but from the dry comfort of the cockpit I shouted to Hideko that we needed to reanchor. It was really pouring now. Hideko gave me a look. I quickly revised my prior announcement, "or we can just stay here...".

There we stayed. We did drift into some 6 foot water but things quickly came east again and the rain settled down after a short white out and an hour or so of drizzle.

We had a wonderful sail down to Grenada and didn't have to kick in the motors until the wind dropped to about 3 knots from everywhere just above Saint Georges. We motored into the lagoon about an hour before sunset.

The lagoon is usually calm, and therefore hot. Like most mountainous harbors, however, the wind can pile up and dump down all at once. From time to time things get gusty. This is bad news for folks with insufficient ground tackle or for those who have not set their anchors or for those who have been in there for a month and have turned around their hook so many times that they are hopelessly fouled.

The bottom is also nasty mud. If you get set well it can be great holding. Mud isn't as easy to set in as sand though and you certainly don't want to dive on you anchor in here (not that you could see it if you did).

There's a shoal area marked on the charts just on the starboard side as you enter the lagoon. There's actually a lot of water here (20 feet in most areas) and it is usually open. We decided to anchor up there even though the lagoon was not too crowded. The first attempt was a bust. The anchor held as we worked the throttles up to about 1,600 and then we started to slip. If I can sit still for a minute at 2,000 rmps I know I am going no where in anything less than a serious storm. At 1,600 rpms we'd probably be fine in the lagoon, but I don't sleep well on probably.

We hauled the anchor up and prepped to reset it a bit to one side of the spot that didn't hold. This was actually the first time I can recall that the Rocna did not hook up on the very first attempt. I suppose I could have babied it down into the mud a bit more. We took it extra slow on the second go. I let the wind blow us down, then to idle reverse, then slowly up by 200s to 2,000 rpm. No problems.

The lagoon is great in many ways. We get Wifi Internet access right on the boat, thanks to Island Water World. Food, shops and supplies are close by. By 10PM I had also realized that it was Friday night. We slept fitfully until about 3AM when the blasting subwoofers finally stopped rattling our hatches.


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