Boatyards – A Dirty Business

El Gato has been on the hard (the term for being out of the water) since last August.  Originally we thought we’d spend 60-80% of our time on the boat and the rest in San Diego.  But we aren’t the type of cruisers to sit still very long and with so many places to see we kept moving.  The Med, The Caribbean twice, Turks and Caicos, Bahamas, Florida to Maine are where we’ve sailed as of 2017. After over 2 years of full time cruising with a few weeks off here and there (Christmas, a visit to Chile) we decided last summer to take a break, visit kids, check out Israel and Costa Rica, and avoid hurricane season.  We left El Gato at Clark’s Court, a fairly new marina on the southern end of Grenada with hundreds of other boats doing the same thing.  As we were leaving I asked the yard manager the what if question. What would happen if a hurricane hit. He shook his head and said it would be a disaster. So much for feeling confident about our decision!  We watched the weather apps frequently while we were away and prayed the storms would not hit that far south.  Our insurance requires us to be below 12 40 Latitude or we aren’t covered. Even if they didn’t require it, we would have stayed south as we don’t want to be anywhere near a big storm.  This was the year.  Two major storms lashed the Caribbean and took with it hundreds if not thousands of yachts, homes, people, animals, businesses and vegetation.  It will take years to recover and we’ve heard many stories of people who sailed north only to lose their house (yacht) and all possessions in Puerto Rico, St Martin, St Barths, VI’s, etc.  We have not splashed yet and I worry about what we will find in Barbuda and Dominica, two of the poorest islands that don’t have a big country behind them like France England or the USA to support the rebuild and ship food and supplies.  We’ve donated to several organizations and private GoFundMe’s.  The latest is an adopt a family organization. My nephew inspired me to sign up and I will be sending a package to 2 families today. It’s easy to do and will help someone who is struggling in ways you can never imagine. Please check it out and send a small box that will be greatly appreciated.

OK so back to why boat yards are dirty.  We’ve hauled out several times for various reasons like painting the bottom with anti fouling paint (very nasty business but necessary if you don’t want to sail with a reef on your bottom), replacing engine seals (so we don’t ruin the engines or sink), putting new stripes on, etc.  Each yard is different but they all have one thing in common. They are filled with chemicals, trash, and unnatural ingredients.  Clarks Court, although new and butted up to a hillside is like a huge mud puddle after it rains.  There is no tarmac or cement ground, just dirt.  And on that dirt are all the pieces and chemicals from boat paint, bottom paint, bleach from cleaning teak decks, and a host of other things I don’t know about.  Boats don’t miraculously become shiny and bright and pretty. It takes a lot of work and products.  The boat shops attached or next to the yards are filled with so many products it will make your head spin.

Boats are stacked side by side and if your neighbor is sanding then the residue comes on to your boat.  If they are painting you could get some spray although they usually put tarps around them for that. But not always. Grinding metal? You could find this under foot or on your deck.

This brings up the question of do you stay on the boat at night or rent another place to clean up and breath fresh air.  Just opening the windows during the day brings in all kinds of dirt.  And taking a shower at the yard is an adventure too.  Water pressure and heated water is precious and not always available.

Many people choose to stay onboard to save $$ but we decided to rent an affordable room during our stay in November.  Even in November it can be incredibly hot during the daytime and when Eric is finished working he usually is soaking wet.  My jobs aren’t as physical and even then I sweat plenty.  We rented a scooter which Eric loves and I tend to ride on the back unless doing errands in the yard and then I drive around like a biker chick. The traffic is too unpredictable for me to feel comfy on the busy streets.  And in Grenada the driving is unique.  They will stop and park In the street for various reasons like at a barber shop.  It’s always on a narrow road so everyone has to stop and wait while it’s one direction only until there’s a break.  They also drive on the left as this was a British territory and before that French.

As for Grenada, we’ve spent enough time there to know people and places and feel connected.  The cruiser network is great and they speak daily about what’s going on today and all week.  Too bad we rarely had time but we did do another HASH and had a wonderful Thanksgiving on the beach with professors from the Med School.  Our landlords Inga and Hap were incredibly friendly and helpful. She is German and built her house 20 years ago by herself and it’s beautiful. An interesting character, Inga hitchhiked across Africa in her younger days.   They don’t own a car and they hitchhike everywhere in Grenada usually getting picked up by someone who knows them.  I was grateful we were staying there as I arrived with a nasty post Halloween cold and staying on the boat would have just added to the misery.  We can’t cook or clean on our boat because we are keeping the water tanks empty (nothing growing thank you) and clean up would be impossible.  So we were thankful to find a nice place.

I’m back in San Diego for a month and although Eric was scheduled to come home too, his projects need more attention so he will return in 2 weeks.

In mid January, after another week of work while on the hard, we will splash EL Gato and head up to Bequia for the Music Festival.  We will spend February in the Grenadines because once we head north we won’t be back.  Tobago Cays and Bequia are our favorites so we will play there before we sail up to the Virgin Islands.  Thirst, the Gun Boat we raced on last year is returning for more regattas and we will join them for the BVI Spring Regatta, Les Voiles St Barthes, and Antigua Sailing Week.  Which takes us into May where we have 2 charters booked in the Virgin Islands.  We feel fairly confident that by May many places will be up and running in the BVI’s, especially if they are hosting events in March. Just to be prepared, we will shop in the French Islands for all the good stuff first, and ask friends flying into the VI’s to bring goodies too.

After the charters we sail north to Bermuda!  We loved spending time with friends during the AC and decided we should not miss the opportunity to sail there on our own. Nice anchorages, and it’s above our insurance limits as well as early in the H season. From there we will sail to New England hitting some of our favorite places like Cape Cod, Newport RI, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. We missed Block Island and will check it out as well as heading up the Connecticut River to visit my sister Elizabeth and family.

In November we will sail south and start making our way towards the Panama Canal.  Galapagos, Marquesas, the South Pacific, New Zealand are all waiting for us!

Hope your holidays are filled with love and laughter. We will be cherishing our times with kids and friends before heading back to being full time gypsies!

3 thoughts on “Boatyards – A Dirty Business”

    1. You are coming to the Caribbean! Yeah! It would be great to rendevous with you guys if the timing works out.
      We will be heading towards the Western Caribbean after Christmas.


  1. So good seeing you in Miami this week! Hopefully next year when you pass through Florida I can meet Eric and El Gato⚓️


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