Happy New Year, friends!
When we left off in November, we were in Grenada, slowly getting back into the swing of liveaboard life. Mel continued to be a translation machine from the boat, and we worked through the never-ending list of boat jobs, including:
* replacing our house batteries after frying one of them due to a loose terminal
* waxing the hull (task ongoing)
*replacing windows in an effort to fix some leaks
*shortening our forestay, which involved Mel going up the mast three times
But luckily it wasn’t all work and no play. We explored the various Grenada cruiser hangouts, like the restaurant at Prickly Bay Marina, where we participated in a trivia night with our friends Adri and Paul on S/V Leila. To our surprise, we ended up winning…and the prize was free breakfast for 4! It was definitely a proud moment and highlight of our time in Grenada.
By the middle of December we had completed enough boat tasks to be ready for our shakedown sail. We decided to make a run for Carriacou, the next island north of Grenada. Unfortunately for us, the wind was coming from the northeast, which was—of course—where we needed to go. The wind was also creating quite a swell, which slowed us down quite a bit. What should have been a 6-8 hour sail ended up taking us 17 hours. We finally dropped anchor in Tyrell Bay in the wee hours of the morning, and decided to take a couple of days off after that.
We lolled around Carriacou for a few days, debating what to do next. Case counts were going up all over the world, and we figured it was just a matter of time before Omicron reached the islands. It felt a bit like early March 2020 all over again. Restrictions would be sure to follow. As much as we wanted to visit other southern islands like the Tobago Cays and St. Vincent, the bureaucracy and cost to enter these islands was prohibitive, and we decided, along with Adri and Paul, to take advantage of the next weather window and do a three-day passage to St. Martin.
Passage to SXM
We left at 9 a.m. on the morning of Tuesday, December 21 and dropped the hook in Marigot Bay in St. Martin at 8 a.m. on Christmas Eve. The passage was a bit of an adventure, with big swells and winds to match. The first day was the hardest, as we adjusted to life at sea and sailing/sleeping in shifts.
On the second night, a kestrel joined us in the cockpit. She just hovered behind the dodger on and off for about an hour. It’s surprising how welcome the company of a bird can be at 3 am. Later that night, our auto pilot failed, so we had to hand steer the rest of the way. It was tiring, but with the sails trimmed properly and a good audiobook, the two-hour night shifts passed relatively quickly. By day 3, we had settled into a routine and our bodies had adjusted to both the motion of the ocean and the abbreviated sleeping pattern. We even did a bit of cooking using the pressure cooker (a fantastic cooking tool at sea).
Arriving in SXM
Normally, upon arrival after a passage, we would pass out for a few hours, but since we’d arrived right before the holidays, there was no time to rest! We lifted the dinghy from its perch on deck and dropped it into the water, attached the outboard, then raced to the chandlery to clear in before they closed at midday. The clearance process on the French side was the same as it had always been. We simply completed the form on the computer, showed our passports, and that was that. We weren’t asked for proof of vaccination or PCR tests. In fact, no one was even wearing a mask in the store (we still wore ours).
By noon, we had new sim cards for our phones to stay on top of things back at our AirBnb, and we serendipitously ran into Paul and Adri at a waterside restaurant (they had arrived just a few hours before us). We toasted to a successful crossing and relaxed after our lunch, filled with a sleepy excitement to be back in SXM, our Caribbean home away from home. We couldn’t wait to rediscover all our favourite haunts after two years away!
Where the wind takes us next
As predicted, Omicron has reared its ugly head here in the islands, and St. Martin is no exception. We got our boosters last week, and have been keeping a low profile and mostly sticking to ourselves. We are very grateful to be on the boat, where isolation is the norm, but also wish we could be closer to home to help family. We are thinking of everyone back home, especially as school goes online and everyone’s lives get a little more challenging, and are keeping our fingers and toes crossed that this is the last lockdown before some semblance of normalcy returns.