Grenada: Covid19 Field Report

With a haulout booked in Grenada and a flight back to the UK all arranged, Covid-19 took over before either could actually happen. Now haulout postponed and flight cancelled, these cruisers find themselves in lockdown at anchor in Grenada, waiting.

Published 3 years ago

Spice Island Marine, Grenada

Cruising Around The Virus
By Dick McClary

St. Vincent & the Grenadines – Early March

It was in early March that the Coronavirus was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation. Mary and I – aboard our sailboat Alacazam – were at anchor in Saline Bay, Mayreau at the time. Mayreau is one of the delightful islands of St Vincent & the Grenadines in the Eastern Caribbean and is one of our favourite Caribbean anchorages. With Covid-19 cases already present in some of the islands to the north, it was clear that even this tropical paradise was unlikely to be spared the ravages of the highly contagious corona virus. Ignoring this worrying risk was not an option.

Alacazam’s haulout was scheduled for 23rd April at Spice Island Boatyard in Grenada with our flight home to the UK booked for a week later, so we had around 6 weeks before we needed to start decommissioning Alacazam for her annual layup ashore. So, do we continue cruising the islands during this period or do we sail south to Grenada and bring forward our haulout and flight home?

With rumours of islands already closing their borders to cruising sailors, it was clear that we should get back to Grenada as soon as we could – and while we could. Grenada, is a tri-island state comprising Petite Martinique, Carriacou and the main island of Grenada. Decision made.

Union Island to Carriacou

We cleared out of St Vincent & the Grenadines at Clifton in Union Island and the following morning sailed south to Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou – importantly for us, a Port of Entry for Grenada and another of our favourite anchorages. Here we came across the first indication that the Customs & Immigration Officers were concerned for their own safety. They were wearing face masks and the office door was locked. Entry papers were issued to us through a partly open window which we had to take away and complete. This was returned to them with our passports via the same route. In record time our entry papers and passports were stamped, signed and returned to us – to our great relief we had successfully cleared into Grenada! On return to Alacazam the Q-Flag was lowered and replaced with the Grenada courtesy ensign with a fair degree of alacrity.

Initially we were very happy to stay in Tyrell Bay for a while, especially when our pals John and Gill on Mehallah turned up a few days later, having sailed overnight from the French Island of Martinique. By now all Grenadian Ports of Entry other than Tyrell Bay and Port Louis in Grenada have been closed, and more restrictive regulations are in place. Unlike us, John and Gill had to pass a medical check before they were allowed entry. Had either of them failed they would have been put in quarantine aboard their boat for 14 days. Now social distancing was put in place; we had to remain 6 feet apart when ashore.

In the third week of March all incoming yacht crews had to serve a 14 day quarantine period aboard before they could go ashore for their medical check and the entry formalities. We didn’t envy anyone with a dog aboard. We feared that it wouldn’t be long before inter-island sailing or any kind of boat movement would be prohibited. We would have to stay put exactly where we were for the next few months at least. This would put us into the hurricane season – a prospect that didn’t appeal to us one little bit.

We decided to get ourselves south to Grenada while we still could – specifically Prickly Bay, at the northern end of which was our haulout yard, Spice Island Marine.

Aboard Alacazam, we discussed this decision with John and Gill. Their situation was different to ours. They had planned to get to Columbia, transit the Panama Canal and set off across the Pacific on their circumnavigation. They’re proper sailors, unlike the seasonal variety that Mary and I have become. For the time being at least, they planned to remain in Carriacou and see what transpired. There was a sad, poignant moment when Gill says “This is beginning to feel like a last goodbye” whereupon four pairs of eyes immediately welled up.

Carriacou to Grenada

The following morning we set off for Grenada, leaving the quaintly named underwater volcano ‘Kick’em Jenny’ well to port.

Sailing down the west side of Grenada, we felt very fortunate that we weren’t among the large number of quarantined yachts anchored off St Georges awaiting clearance through Port Louis Marina.

Early afternoon saw us on a sheltered mooring close to the boatyard. When our outboard fuel was used up we would be in easy rowing distance to the facilities ashore – the boatyard, Budget Marine Chandlery, bars and restaurants and a nearby grocery.

Life Aboard in Grenada

Such shoreside delights would have to wait until, like all new arrivals, we had completed a 14 day quarantine period aboard starting from the date we had first entered Grenada. We had 7 days to go. Fortunately we had enough food and water aboard to see us through. As it turned out, by the time our quarantine period was over all of those ‘shoreside delights’ had closed.

For many years Grenada has had a daily (except Sundays) Cruisers Net covering most of the popular anchorages. This starts at 0730 on VHF Channel 66 and proved to be an invaluable source of information, keeping us all appraised of the changing Covid-19 regulations and other cruiser related topics. At the end of the net most of us maintained a listening watch on Channel 68. Good communication throughout this period was vital.

The following day, 22nd March, Grenada’s Ministry of Health and Tourism announced the airport would be closed to all commercial traffic from midnight that day for the foreseeable future. Oh well, bang goes our flight home. Furthermore, Grenada’s first case of Covid-19 was announced. We spoke to our UK travel agent who assured us that by the 29th April, our flight date, all flights would be back to normal. “Don’t worry”, he said.

The 25th was an interesting day. The Grenadian Prime Minister, Keith Mitchell, declared a temporary State of Emergency effective for the next 21 days, the conditions of which could be changed by the government at any time. The initial effects of this were that no-one is allowed out between the hours of 1900 and 0500hrs – effectively a night-time curfew – and only necessary movement, specifically to purchase food or in the event of a medical emergency, in the daytime. The police have powers to fine (1,000EC) or arrest (12 months imprisonment) anyone not adhering to the rules. We were still in quarantine at this point so it made little difference to us, apart from the difficulty of re-stocking our rapidly depleting food reserves once our quarantine period had expired.

Our quarantine period ended on Sunday 29th March by which time Spice Island Marine had closed their dinghy dock and posted a security guard to discourage those who may otherwise have failed to notice. However, pre-ordered groceries were allowed to be delivered to the dock, from where we could collect them providing we didn’t disembark from our dinghies. We were still confined to our boats, but we wouldn’t starve…

Things changed again on 29th March when The Hon Nickolas Steele, Minister for Health, decreed that a mandatory 24/7 curfew will be imposed beginning from 7 pm on Monday, 30 March 2020, and ending at 7 pm on the 6th day of April 2020.

So now we have a full 24/7 curfew for the coming week. The boatyard is abandoned except for a security guard on the gate and all the cruisers, including us of course, are confined to their boats for the duration. Most of us have taken full advantage of grocery deliveries to the dock and are well stocked for a week or more, which is just as well as this curfew was subsequently extended for a further two weeks until 20th April – just three days short of our haul-out reservation. So that’s our situation right now.

But we’re not alone – there are close to 100 yachts anchored or moored within the bay. Not all are occupied. Some are left on moorings to fend for themselves over the next few months. Some are liveaboards with no intention of going anywhere anytime soon, and others – like us – are awaiting haulout ashore once the boatyard reopens and a flight home has been secured. We reckon about 30% of the boats are occupied, typically with two people aboard, so there’s around 60 of us in the same boat so to speak.

Whilst we cannot motor around in our dinghies or visit other yachts, we can swim close to our own boats – and providing we stick to the rules we’re probably safer from the virus than those that live ashore.

The camaraderie among the cruisers is very evident. We now have a WhatsApp group for any cruiser in the bay with a phone who cares to join. This is used to either communicate to the group as a whole or to individual members, and a very valuable asset it is too. Primarily it’s used for coordinating food deliveries to the dinghy dock and clarifying the current regulations to which we must all abide. If anyone needs anything which could be described as an emergency, there’s a very good chance that someone within the group will be able to help him out. No-one is alone – we’re all in this together.

So my friends, look after yourselves and those around you. Obey the rules and stay safe.

Dick McClary



Please share your current experience with COVID-19 restrictions and how it has affected your cruising plans. Contact Sue at [email protected] with your field report.


The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of or World Cruising Club.

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