Thursday, November 1, 2018

Cost Of Cruising Year Five

I give up.  Never again will I say that NEXT YEAR we will spend less!  It just never happens.

By this time, we've actually learned to cruise more economically... We spend less on food that gets thrown out, we don't provision in huge quantities.  We anchor out most of the time and have even cut down on transportation costs by learning to take the local bus system instead of renting a car.  Our entertainment costs aren't even that big!  But then the costs for keeping the boat in good shape rear their ugly heads and all our frugal ways are for nothing!

It is hard to believe that we have been here in Grenada for an entire year.  We have been either anchored in one of the bays, tied to a mooring, or sitting high and dry on the hard spending mucho dinero on boat projects!

It is easy to forget how the money is spent, so I'm really diligent at keeping records.  I enter every cent we spend into a spreadsheet that is totalled at the end of each cruising year.  This year we made a discovery that has saved us hundreds of dollars!

Using credit cards is easier than you would think in the islands.  Most places take them and we have routinely used them for groceries, dining out, bar tabs and anywhere they're taken so that we could rack up the rewards dollars and keep easy track of expenditures.

In the beginning, our Bank of America Travel Rewards card truly had no foreign transaction fees.  And while it still technically does not... they have found a way to sneak them in under our noses.  Some months ago, I was reconciling our bank statement and realized that the amounts weren't adding up.  The charges on our receipts did not match what was going onto the credit card.

It took me a while and more than a few phone calls to customer service ~ who, by the way, have NO idea what is going on ~ but eventually I realized that while technically NOT applying a separate transaction fee for exchanging the foreign currency... (drum roll please) they were applying a very unfavourable exchange rate to each charge.  Doing the math... I learned that using our credit card was costing us as much as $300 US some months!!!

Immediately we stopped using the credit card and changed over to a cash-on-hand basis.  While we are no longer building large piles of rewards bucks, the money we save in one month by using cash is about equal to a year's worth of rewards!  So if you're using a credit card in the islands, check your receipts and don't go by what the customer service people tell you.

So, let's take a look at this year's numbers. Our categories have remained relatively consistent from year to year, showing you everywhere our money goes.  This year we had a record amount of expenditures for the work we had done on the boat.  Our boatyard bill was big, but we did a lot starting with the bottom job, where we took the paint off down to the fiberglass and had a new barrier coat applied... to the cosmetic work we did on the freeboard part of the hull... to the preventative maintenance we did on the engine, rudder post and prop shaft... it all added up!  Then we replaced all of the standing rigging and lifelines, as well as some of the running rigging.  We topped it all of with a nice new survey from Neil at Mango Projects!  We highly recommend him if you're in need of a survey.

All of these boat related expenses can be deducted to leave you with the costs of simply living in Grenada.  I guess you can't really call it cruising, since we haven't moved the boat further than the next bay over for the entire year... But you know what I mean!

So, without further ado...

Next year may be very different if our plans for Puerto Rico pan out, so this might be the last year that our cruising costs are 100% time on the boat.

You can take a look at our previous years and compare:
Year Four
Year Three
Year Two
Year One

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Cruiser Lessons - Other People's Vacation Pics

Grenadian village wearing its colours!
When we said goodbye to our friends from Texas, we really expected to have an endless stream of visitors.  Why now?  We spent years sharing our dreams of the beautiful islands we would visit and who wouldn't want to come to the Caribbean with a free place to stay?  But life gets in the way, and realistically, there are very few people who ever come visit...

Of the multitude of open-ended invitations I've uttered, FINALLY somebody took the bait!  Andy is one of our old Yacht Club buddies!  He is keenly interested in our activities, not because of the fun touristy things we do... but for the "daily grind" kind of things.  He has cruising plans of his own and wants to experience the "real life" of a Cruiser!  Well OK!!! Welcome to our island!

Typical Grenadian homes nestled in the hillsides
A couple of months per year, the beautiful Flamboyant trees color the hills
Lush, sun-dappled lanes invite us to wander.
Mist-laiden air and fertile rainforest hills are perfect for growing local vegetables
Of course I could not let our guest come here without taking him on an island tour.  The weather forecast called for a lot of rain this week, so we took off right away for the tour.  Many of these places we've been before, but we can never get enough of the stunning beauty of this place.

First stop ~ Concord Falls  These Mona Monkeys put on a show!
Concord Falls
It was quite cool and we were just starting out, so no swimming... yet!
Egg plan in captivity
Typical homes on the water
The Spice Isle gets it's name from the many spices that grow here, one of which is nutmeg.  Grenada has many nutmeg farmers, small and large. The nuts are harvested all over the island and brought to the various processing plants scattered throughout.  We got to see another of these today, and were lucky that they were in production.  

Andy surveys the sea of nutmeg
This is the first time we've seen the ladies separating the cracked shells from the nut inside.  The nutmegs are run through a machine that cracks the outer shell, which then falls down a chute to the waiting ladies.  They are paid a pitiful wage for their flying fingers to remove the shells from the nuts and sort them in to bags to be processed.

She graciously smiled for our photo op

The stencils 
The nutmegs go through various drying and grading processes before being sacked for shipment to all corners of the world.  

The bags are labelled by origin, and destination using metal stencils and paint.  It's amazing to think that it all comes from this rustic little place on an island in the Caribbean!

Nutmeg shells are used for mulch and landscaping island wide
Having been on many an island tour, we know which places are the BEST!  And if you're looking for the best chocolate experience... Diamond Chocolate Factory is it!  Chocolate is another of the big exports here in Grenada.  They are still growing, processing and making chocolate like they've been doing for hundreds of years... 

Tiny flowers grow to be cocoa pods!

Every tour is a private tour!
Sorting table

Things move slowly here on the island.  They make hundreds of bars per week, but only do certain things on certain days.  We saw the sorting of cocoa beans, but the workers making the chocolate were just finishing up for the day.  

Chocolate is made here in these buildings that are hundreds of years old!
No beans drying today.  Giant trays roll out on rails so that beans can be dried in the sun
Who cares about drying beans?  It's all about the chocolate anyway!
Many different bars to choose from - all delicious!
The view from Leaper's Hill

By the time we reached the northeast corner of the island, we were all starving!  Chico, our driver, called ahead and arranged for us to stop at Helena's in Sauteurs for some delicious roti.  We picked it up and drove on up Leaper's Hill to check out a place Bruce and I had never been.

It is said that back in the 1600's, the last of the Carib Indians leapt to their deaths from this hill so that they could escape the invading French.  We milled around through the beautiful cemetery and church grounds, and looked down to the waters below where the indians met their death.

One of only a few marble headstones on the island

The monument at Leaper's Hill

After a quick stop at the secret ice-cream place... Yes, it MUST be a secret, because this is the first I've heard of it... we loaded back into the van and set off on the second half of our tour!  So many places to visit... so little time!  I've still got lots I want to show Andy and time is marching on!  No tour is complete without a quick stop at the BEST rum distillery in the Caribbean!  River's Rum!

They're still making rum from sugar cane as they have for hundreds of years!  The scent of fermenting sugar is thick in the air as we join our tour-guide for a look around. 

This little stream runs the paddlewheel that crushes the cane!
Once the juice is squeezed out, the husks are taken by cart to be dumped onto a huge pile for drying
Workers load cane into the juicer
One last fermenting barrel from days gone by
Fermenting is now done in huge concrete vats.  You can almost SEE the smell!
The most difficult job here is keeping the fires stoked for the distillery
We did a quick tasting... funny how this stuff get's more and more rough each time we come here!  No time to linger, we still have the best stop of the day, and I want to have plenty of time.  It was getting to be late afternoon and while it was plenty hot here on the coast, we drove back up into the mountains where the air is still cool and moist.  

It's hardly fair that they keep the beautiful waterfalls, with their inviting pools where it's almost never hot!  We've visited Mt. Carmel Falls several times, but it has always been too cool for swimming.  This time I was determined!  I'm swimming if it freezes me!  We enjoyed the cool air on the hike down into the valley.  This is one of the most serene and beautiful places we've been to on ANY island!

Quiet serenity
And there it is!  Mt. Carmel Falls
We shucked our outerwear and waded into the chilly waters.  Once we got in, it really wasn't that bad!  

I waited in the pool while the guys climbed up onto the rocks below the falls.  In my mind I kept thinking about a comment someone once made about rocks and coconuts coming over the falls.  Try not to think about that!  

We had an awesome time climbing around and soaking our bodies in the clear, cool mountain spring water.  If "Spend an afternoon piddling around in a secluded waterfall pool" isn't on your bucket list... it SHOULD BE!

The sun was getting low and it was already gone from this ravine, so we figured we should leave before it got dark!  I wouldn't want to have to negotiate the trail back up to the road in darkness!  

We didn't get to everything on the list - there just aren't enough hours in the day. But I think we gave Andy a good taste of what Grenada has to offer, while keeping some things for next time!

Andy is not your normal sort of visitor.  While he was mildly interested in touristing, he was more interested in trying cruising life on for size.  He wanted to experience the daily life sort of things - find out what is available in the grocery stores, the markets and the pharmacies.  Between long periods of rain, we took him around to all of our known haunts and we talked to people about what Grenada might need from a humanitarian standpoint. 

Andy is very interested in doing some missionary work and we were able to visit one of the nearby churches on Sunday.  It was everything you could want from "Black Church"... There, I said it.  And I mean it in the most wonderful way!  There was singing, and more singing, and preaching and even more singing.  The parishioners swayed - all decked out in their finery.  I felt sort of dowdy in my cruiser clothes.  Andy said it didn't matter what I wore - but to me it did.  Not from the standpoint of "keeping up with the Joneses", but from a standpoint of respect.  The people there were so welcoming, they made sure we were seated comfortably and even gave us water to drink.  Afterwards we were invited back for a snack!  I didn't take any church photos out of respect, but you can enjoy these from one of the older, more historical churches in town.

No visit to Grenada is complete without a stroll about the streets of old St. Georges.  We wandered through the market square, then picked up some doubles and made the climb up to the old fort for a picnic and a look around.

The clouds muted the colors, but it's still a spectacular view!

Coincidentally, it was on this very day back in 1983, when the historic coup took place!  

As I said, it's been a very rainy week here in Grenada.  We have spent long hours just sitting in the boat, sweating from the humidity and enclosed space.  I felt really badly about it, but Andy was a gracious guest and never complained.  If he wanted to know what it's like to be a Cruiser, he was getting a large dose of it.  We often get stuck on the boat for days at a time by wind or rain.  You just have to learn to entertain yourself, and we spent the hours either talking or reading... and cooking... lots of cooking and eating... and somehow the hours passed.

Bruce and I celebrated our birthday on one of those shut in, rainy days.  Our big plans to go out to dinner ended with me cooking onboard...  But, we made up for lost time with a birthday dinner at the marina where the local Pan Band played!

Several friends joined us and it was a fun, festive evening!

Happy Birthday to US!

All week we kept planning things that got rained out.  Andy's time was dwindling to a close and we hadn't even taken him snorkelling!!!  The last full day dawned sunny and we suited up!  We dinghied over to the wall on the southwestern side of the Bay.  There is deeper water and some rocks over there and we hoped it would be better visibility, even though there was some surge coming in.  It was terrible!  The water was so murky you couldn't see a thing!  We abandoned that spot and raced across to the southeast side where we found a more protected spot.  It was still a little cloudy, but we enjoyed the swim.

A big creepy wormy critter was crawling on the bottom!
Tiny feather duster worms!
Little fishes hide in the broken conch shells
Pink tipped anemones waved at us from a crevice!
We still had sun and one more spot to try... Funny that the place we tried last, turned out to be the best visibility and the most sea life!

We were eventually driven back to the boat by threatening skies.  It looked like it would be more of the same, but never really did more than sprinkle.  We were able to get out to dinner at one of our favorite places, Aziz, but plans to meet up with friends got mixed up, so it was just us.  

We hope that Andy had some fun and accomplished all of his goals for this trip.  If there's one thing to learn, it is that weather is king.  It rules our lives and our actions and is the maker of all of our plans.  I think we had enough of a balance of touristing, relaxing and investigative work to call this a success!  

Thanks so much to Andy for coming and breaking up the monotony of staying in one place for a long time, and also for bringing us some much needed goodies from the states!  And it was a lot of fun for us to give you Cruiser Lessons!