Why is it that everyone seems to give such vague answers to this seemingly simple question? Maybe they have a fortune stashed away in some offshore bank account to fund their trip and don’t want the IRS to catch wind of it, or they’ve discovered some get-rich-quick scheme that actually works and aren’t interested in letting you in on the secret. While this could be true for some of the mega-yachts out there, it’s not likely the case for your average cruiser.
While there are plenty of cruisers who have gone a lot further than us with less, I would say we are at the lower end of the spectrum budget-wise. If your idea of cruising is pulling into the marina at the end of the day, passing your lines and some generous tips to the dock hands, then heading for the bar to start up a healthy tab, your trip is going to cost a lot more than ours did.
Insurance: Being relatively young and in good health we decided to take the risk of going without health insurance for the trip. For most minor injuries or visits to the doctor medical costs in the islands are quite low and would have likely been under our deductible anyway. A serious injury or illness could have ended our trip and left us with some very large bills so this was not an easy decision to make. Some kind of catastrophic coverage in case of a serious injury or illness requiring treatment back in the US may be a wise choice.
It’s a little late, but after getting a lot of questions about how much it cost us to go cruising, we decided we should share our initial outfitting costs along with our monthly expenses. Some of these prices are estimates and I’m sure we’re forgetting a few things, but it should be pretty accurate. We’d never taken the time to tally everything up, so it was a little shocking for us to see the total at the bottom.
33lb Rocna Anchor
50 feet of chain
300 feet 5/8 nylon rode (used)
Sails and Canvas
Second reef point added to main sail
Lee cloth and miscellaneous covers
Mast ladder materials
12 volt inverter
LED interior bulbs
15w Solar panel
Solar charge controller
Whale gusher overboard black water pump
10ft 1.5” sanitation hose
Whale Gusher manual fresh water pump
Fresh water faucets (2)
15 gallon flexible fresh water tank
Fresh water lines
Replacement topping lift line and blocks
Used Monitor wind-vane
Steering control lines and blocks
Custom stainless steel tubing
4 person life raft
Delorme GPS tracker & emergency beacon
Life jacket (2)
Handheld VHF Radio – ICOM ICM24
Used fiberglass sailing dinghy
7ft oars and oarlocks
Charts and Guides
Garmin Electronic Charts (2) US & Caribbean
Bahamas Explorer Charts (2)
Guidebooks (3) *Others we found free
How-To and Repair Manuals
World Band Radio Receiver
Coastguard Re-Documentation & Renewal
US Customs Decals
Haul-out for survey inspection
Fuel and water jerry cans (5)
Yanmar 3YM30 Spares
Foulweather jacket, bib, boots (2)
Total Outfitting Expenses
We’re back in the US* and it feels a little strange. Here are some differences between the Caribbean and living in the big city (by which I mean Denver, of course).
- I haven’t seen anyone walking down the street holding a machete yet, and if I did I would run away.
- Everywhere I look there’s a tv. When it’s tuned to the news, I keep waiting to hear, “and live from New York it’s Saturday Night!” Because it seems in every way more like a parody of the news than actual news.
- It’s sooo cold. “Can we turn the AC off?” I can’t take being blasted with freezing cold, 72 degree air.
- It’s dry. Drinking enough water is impossible. I had to make an emergency run to the grocery store for some extra-strength lotion to hold my skin together.
- My allergies are gone. Jon’s allergies are back.
- Everyone is in a hurry. I guess they need to be certain places for specific things that happen at scheduled times.
- Even the toilets are serious.
- Water comes from the tap in inexhaustible quantities, available with a flick of the wrist. For the first few days, taking a shower felt like heaven. I am still amazed that the feeling of cleanliness continues into the next five minutes and beyond; there’s no subsequent sweat-shower making regular bathing seem rather pointless.
- Sleeping through the night is easier when I don’t have to wake up every other hour to either open or close the windows, depending on whether it’s raining inside the boat or stiflingly hot.
- Crossing the street is always exciting when I’m not entirely confident which direction the cars are going to come from.
- Riding the bus is a quiet experience. Because there’s no crescendo of soca music as the bus approaches and no conductor leaning out the window asking if I need a ride, it’s important to pay attention to make sure I won’t miss the next bus that comes along. There’s no reason to say “good afternoon” to the passengers on either side of me and I don’t have to wedge myself between them because everyone is wearing earbuds and taking up two or three seats each.
- If I didn’t know any better I would assume I’m on my own here, and it makes me think how hard it would be as a foreigner in this country, not speaking the language. But I guess there’s always Siri if ever we find ourselves in need of help.
*Yep, this post was due over three months ago.
But most of the time we concentrated on slowing down. We met up with friends we had met along the way and made some new ones, spending probably too many evenings drinking good beer at the West Indies brewing company.
In search of the most convenient spot to initiate our soon arriving new crew members, David and Rachel, into the cruising life, we moved over to Mt. Hartman Bay and landed with a thud – there was a sudden gust – on the dock. I had convinced myself that our guests would be arriving at 10pm that evening, so with some time to kill we joined friends at the brewery (again) and then decided we would just walk several miles to the airport. Luckily, the walk didn’t take terribly long because their flight actually landed at 8pm. They were just exiting customs as we walked up and it occurred to me that military time conversions are not second nature to me and therefore worth double (or triple) checking.
David and Rachel left for their round-the-world adventure a year before we did, and we left Colorado a month or two before they returned so it had been two years since we last saw each other. It probably sounds strange, but knowing that they would come to visit us in Grenada if we made it by July was a big factor in our decision to continue south. They sent word that they were ready to buy plane tickets around the time of our long beat to windward along the south coast of Puerto Rico, when we were both pretty over being on the boat and weren’t sure what to do next. We didn’t really want to turn back after all that work and weren’t comfortable with staying put, so their willingness to travel to Grenada gave us the shot-in-the-arm we needed to keep going ourselves and we’re so glad we did.
It was wonderful to see our friends again and introduce them to our new lifestyle. The week flew by as we did our best to take in the island while comparing our traveling experiences and exchanging stories.
|Of course we took them to the brewery.|
|Overlooking Mt. Hartman Bay|
|We showed them how we make the most of a ridiculously steep incline.|
|We tried to get a glimpse of the crater lake at Grand Etang.|
|But instead just enjoyed the cool breeze.|
|Grand Anse beach|
|I wasn’t alone in my love of goats. I think we fed all of them at Belmont Estates.|
|We finally left the dock to go sailing and snorkeling at the sculpture park in Moliniere Bay.|
|Unfortunately Bobbie didn’t have her little engine quite yet.|
While David and Rachel were visiting a new development was underway for us. We hadn’t planned on returning home at all after we set sail last year because it’s not really in our budget. But when my old coworker informed me that she was heading off to basic training for four months, it just seemed too serendipitous not to reach out to my old boss to see if they could use any help while she’s gone. Turns out, they can. For six weeks. So Jon and I are flying home in a couple of days to visit our friends and family with the added bonus that we will be able to reimburse ourselves for the plane tickets and keeping the boat on a mooring while we’re gone. Jon will be returning after only three weeks to take care of the boat and finish start some of our too long ignored projects. But more on that later. For now it feels pretty good to say, “See you soon!”
Yep, that’s Bobbie with her tiny new motor. I wouldn’t say we finally broke down and bought an engine, as it has been pretty easy to row to shore from our prime spot in Mt. Hartman Bay in Grenada. But when we heard someone on the morning net offering up a 2 horsepower 2-stroke for a decent price we decided to jump on it.
Now we’ll have an easier time making it to shore if we end up at the back of the fleet on our way up island, and we’ll be able to check out all those far flung snorkeling sites. Hopefully when the novelty wears off we’ll continue to row occasionally – you know, to prevent any loss of muscle tone – but right now we’re highly enjoying zipping around (still slower than everyone else).
From Bequia we had only 76 miles to travel to get to the southern tip of Grenada. The forecast everyday was for 25 knot winds and six foot seas. Normally we wouldn’t go out in those conditions, but we were ready to get it over with and reach Grenada in time to prepare for our friends upcoming visit on July 10th. We left Bequia with the wind blasting behind us. I felt as nervous as I had when we first started sailing back in Maine and insisted that Jon and I both wear our life jackets and harnesses. This helped to eliminate my need to think through each step I would take if Jon were suddenly knocked off the boat, so I was able to relax a bit. Once we left the protection of the islands, the waves picked up and we entertained ourselves by trying to guess just how big they were, comparing them to the biggest we’ve seen.
Later that afternoon we anchored in Charlestown Bay, Canouan, just outside the moorings which held the only two other boats in the harbor, both charters. Squalls were predicted for the next day and we decided to stay put to wait them out. That next morning I declared that I would not be leaving the boat at all and was just going to relax. I had had my fill of long hot walks and decided I’d seen enough until we reached Grenada. Jon felt obligated to go ashore for a look around but must have been feeling equally ready to be done moving, as he returned without any clear and convincing evidence of any need to go ashore.
The next day I stepped foot on the island to accompany Jon to the immigration office where we checked out of St. Vincent. Several hours later we navigated our way through the hundred or so boats anchored in Carriacou to check in. Our sightseeing on the island was limited to the dock for immigration and the dock of the Purple Turtle where we ate a delicious pizza with callalou (a spinach-like vegetable), bacon, and egg, and drank our first couple of Stags. We called it a night so we could get up nice and early to complete the final 37 miles of our long voyage.
Within the first hour of leaving Carriacou, we were questioning our decision to go out that day. We were headed downwind with only the jib out when the first squall came through, so we reduced sail and comfortably managed the 30 knot gusts. The wind calmed a bit so we put up the main sail, but not long afterward the wind kicked up and hovered on either side of 30 knots for 30 tense minutes. This was around the time we were nearing the underwater volcano, Kick ‘em Jenny. We thought that instead of going around the outside of the cautionary zone we would run for the cover of the other islands on the inside track of the volcano. The wind and current had other ideas and we ended up going straight over the volcano as the boat ahead of us had also done. We didn’t think much of it until a couple weeks later when we were talking to friends who directed us to various news articles, informing us that when the volcano is degassing, all of the bubbles could lower the water’s density to the point that a boat could lose buoyancy and sink! I guess we’ll make sure to go around it on the way back.
Soon we could see mainland Grenada in the distance. I didn’t want to get too excited and say we had reached our destination while we still had 25 miles to go before we would be safely anchored, but the increasing proximity to our goal brought increasing relief. Mostly it felt surreal to find ourselves at this milestone – the island we had talked about for months where we would be able to stop and rest for awhile – and I’m not sure if it’s really even sunk in yet that we actually did it.
We’ve been pushing onward in a southerly direction for nine months, with the first few months spent working to escape the cold and the last hurrying to get out of the hurricane zone. We’ve visited 35 islands in nine countries and traveled 3500 miles. Spending the next four months in the same place seems an impossibly long time. That is, until I think about the work that we should probably be doing on the boat before we make the long return trip. But those thoughts can wait for now. My plan for the next several days and maybe even weeks, is to settle in and just enjoy not moving.
Anytime we’re anticipating doing an overnight sail, we’re always a little bit nervous. Just the idea that the weather might go bad in the middle of the night when I’m tired, a little seasick, and mostly blind, starts to tie my stomach in knots. But while there is usually a moment or two of discomfort or anxiety, overall it isn’t as bad as I fear it will be.
When we left Martinique for our last overnight before Grenada, it’s fair to say that we were both dreading it. The forecast called for 20 knot winds with gusts to 25 and 5-6 foot sees. We were very relieved to find mostly 3-4 foot waves for the majority of our 100 nautical mile journey.
Our plan was that as long as the weather was comfortable we would pass by St. Lucia, then steer clear of St. Vincent on our way to Bequia (which is actually part of St. Vincent). Mainland St. Vincent has developed a bit of a bad reputation among cruisers for its questionable safety, so we knew we wouldn’t be stopping there unless we did some more research first. Since the weather was decent, we were happy enough to pass over our planned bail out point in Saint Lucia and sailed through the night.
Early in the morning the next day, Jon was having a nap as we sailed just a mile or two offshore down the coast of St. Vincent. I thought – not for the first time – that the islands are really the most beautiful when you’re looking at them from a distance. Which led me to other sentiments that I’m just now realizing are already plainly iterated in the song, From a Distance. After one rain squall I saw a rainbow. We were completely becalmed and motoring for the next downpour, and afterward I saw a giant pod of dolphins and smelled the strong fragrance of spices wafting over from the land. It wasn’t as good as having a whale jump out of the water right in front of your face on your watch – twice – but it was alright.
We were anchored in Admiralty Bay, Bequia, by 2:00pm, with plenty of time to clear in before the customs office closed. We really enjoyed strolling the Belmont Walkway which connects to another trail wrapping halfway around Admiralty Bay so we walked it multiple times, stopping for a drink at one of the beachfront bars. We took a long walk up to the top of Mount Pleasant and back down to Ravine Bay to see the blow hole there, and it did not disappoint. We stopped multiple times at the Whaleboner, hoping it would be open so we could have a drink. Although the fact that it was closed down meant that we were able to take photos of ourselves at the bar without actually paying for any drinks, so it worked out perfectly.
|Just a little obstacle in the road.|
|Overlooking Admiralty Bay|
|Overlooking Ravine Bay|
|No blog post is truly complete without a photo of goats.|