The Voyage of Vagus V
Year 1
Clarkes Court Bay Marina, Grenada
Start Date: November 7th, 2004 Location: Clarkes Court Bay Marina, Grenada
End Date: November 7th, 2004
"Every path has its puddle"

The title was the "thought for the day" from the moderator of the local morning VHF radio cruiser net. Our cruising plans certainly hit a big puddle when Hurricane Ivan hit Grenada! We arrived in Grenada on October 20th after a one night stopover in Trinidad. It is still the rainy season and Trinidad is lush and green for a reason. When it rains, it rains and is humid. If you stand still for a few minutes, you can watch the mold grow between your toes. We stayed at a friendly bed & breakfast spot called Sadilla House in Trinidad. The hosts picked us up at the airport and we had the top floor to the house all to ourselves. What a change going from Burlington at about 10C to Trinidad at 31C and 95% humidity. I could see water droplets on my perspiration.

The next day we flew with our overstuffed bags (they reached the weight limit to within 1kg) into Grenada. The drive in from the airport is hard to describe. They now believe that there were tornadoes in the eyewall of Ivan and that was consistent with the level of destruction. The trees and shrubs were making a valiant attempt at coming back and the people were working to put the island back together. Virtually every building was damaged with some totally destroyed. If a building was standing, it had a blue tarp spread over its roof to keep out the rain. The taxi dodged both debris still on roads and the work crews still trying to get the roads back to shape. We passed the army barracks where soldiers from the other Caribbean Islands that were helping out with the relief efforts were staying. We finally wound down the road to Clarkes Court Bay Marina - power lines were still down and telephone poles hung out over the roadway. The gate was locked as the Marina was still closed to repair damage. As we arrived, sounds of diesel generators filled the air - at least there was power! We finally got our first sight of Vagus sitting, along with six other boats, at a dock that was once part of a much larger marina.. There were still three boats on land (one leaning drunkenly against the bar building), and two in the mangroves. A large salvage tug was working to free a 60 foot ketch from the mangrove's grip. We got through the gate and unloaded our suitcases (actually food cases to get us through the initial days).

We finally saw Vagus close up. We were lucky. The surveyor said that she was lightly damaged. Lightly damaged is a very relative term. With boats sunk, dismasted, and with massive holes in them for comparison, Vagus was lightly damaged. She still floated on her lines. One side had all the stanchions, lifelines and toerails broken or damaged. The other side that was against the dock, had a series of gouges through her gel coat. The bow took the impact of another boat bashing against her. The fiberglass was heavily scored and the bow roller flattened, but, unlike the boat beside us, we still had a bow. Virtually every shroud had been damaged as the mast impacted the boats beside us. All the instruments at the top of the mast were gone. The mast cap was also gone. We agreed before we arrived that we would not start cleaning up the outside until we got the inside livable. We opened up below and were surprised that everything was where we put it. Even our food supplies were there. The insides, except for mildew everywhere, was in good shape. We quickly opened everything up to air out the boat. We picked up some fresh water at the marina. One battery bank was dead and we had to use our other bank. First I had to add water as the water level was below the battery plates. By now it was getting near dark. Darkness comes quickly in this part of the world. We got the propane going, found some Chunky Soup and a bottle of wine that survived Ivan and had dinner. Karen made the bed and we called it a day - actually day one in paradise.

The next week is a bit of a blur putting Vagus back together and getting provisions. It was hot work and it was three days before I get the refrigerator running - finally cold water (then cold beer, life is good).

There are a lot of stories here. The Marina owner/manager, Bob, had just completed the next phase of construction of the marina and watched it get beaten up with Ivan. He did incredible work getting the boats sorted out after the storm and keeping the marina safe from looters. We met Grenadian people who we asked how their house fared - squashed flat was typically the reply. They were often living in their basements and had lost most their furniture and belongings. The young sailing instructor down the dock from us still has nightmares from the storm's fury. He hid under a pool table at the yacht club in St Georges where they believe winds got to 165mph. And then there are Graham and Ann, an English couple on Rasi (means luck). Graham and Ann were boat sitting on a friend's boat in the marina, waiting to get their own boat off a reef. They were in England when Ivan struck and had left their boat moored in Mt. Hartmann Bay. Another boat broke free, came down on Rasi and broke her mooring lines. The storm then carried Rasi over 2 reefs and out to sea then brought her back three bays west ,over another reef, and deposited her onshore by the airport, about 70 feet from deep water. The boat managed this trip with mast intack and minimal hull damage. Unfortunately, the damage came after that. The boat was looted. From the objects taken, they believe that the looters were not just locals, but other cruisers. In the process, all the ports were smashed, cupboard doors ripped or smashed off and their belongings strewn about. What was not looted was damaged by the rain water that got in through the smashed ports. This included a complete set of world charts that were ruined. Rasi is an older 45 foot Beneteau that they had spent 2 years fixing up and pictures of her show her to be a beautiful boat. They have now spent over three weeks, with another two to go, trying to get a tug to pull her off the reef. On top of this, after 32 years of insuring the boat, they had decided to forgo insurance this year. So they are left struggling truly on their own.

So now we are starting on the road to get Vagus back to sailing condition. As the old saying goes - how do you eat an elephant? Answer: one bite at a time. However this is the Caribbean so it is more like one nibble at a time! It looks like we will be able to get our rigging sorted out over the next few weeks so we can sail Vagus. We also have to get the bottom cleaned as there is a reef attached to her hull - complete with a resident trunk fish who appears quite territorial. We now have to find a yard to haul her for the fiberglass work and painting. This may have to wait until the New Year as the yards are quite busy. So, we have to get into island time and see how the work flows.

Copyright © 2003-2005 Jim and Karen Lait
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