Grenada, secret gem of Caribbean, a must-see sailing destination
Grenada, secret gem of Caribbean, a must-see sailing destination
Once the secret gem of Caribbean sailing Grenada is now a major must-do regatta venue (but the beautiful gem never lost its sparkle)
Over the past 12 months Grenada has transformed from a ‘perhaps one day’ to a ‘must go’ destination in the Caribbean. Previously considered a backwater by some sailors looking to tour the most glamorous destinations in the Caribbean, Grenada moved firmly on to the map in March 2020, and looks set to stay as a long-term yachties’ favourite.
As Covid-19 was sweeping across the globe, hundreds of yachts found themselves at sea with nowhere to go. Hurricane season would be coming soon, but with coronavirus sweeping through the USA and Florida in particular, sailors found themselves caught between a rock and a hard place. They would have to look elsewhere for shelter and so many headed further south than usual, away from the hurricane zone and towards Grenada, 458 nautical miles off the coast of Venezuela.
Unfortunately for those still at sea on 20 March 2020, that was the day that Grenada went into hard lockdown, closing all borders including sea ports. The Marine and Yachting Association of Grenada (MAYAG) recognised the impact this would have on yachts out at sea and quickly made a proposal to the Ministry of Health in Grenada for a protocol to enable yachts to arrive into Grenada in a Covid safe manner. Whilst this meant that any yacht arrivals would have to endure two weeks of quarantine aboard their yachts before being allowed to step ashore, it ensured the health safety of both the crews on board and the community at large within Grenada. Many other Caribbean islands hadn’t imposed such severe restrictions so early or with as much conviction as Grenada, nor were they offering themselves as a haven for those still at sea.
Less stringent restrictions might have seemed kinder at the time, but with the benefit of hindsight, Grenada’s harder line paid off for visitors as well as for the islanders, as Karen Stiell, secretariat manager of the Marine and Yachting Association of Grenada (MAYAG) explains: ‘The requirements were stringent at the beginning. It was very hard on those early arrivals to find themselves in quarantine for two weeks however we had a well-thought-out protocol for provisioning and medical support for the crews on board,’ says Stiell, who wears many hats, as a member of MAYAG, manager of Grenada Sailing Week, and a board member of the Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA).
A big part of Grenada’s success over the past year has been the joined-up approach to the challenges of Covid-19 between the government, the GTA, MAYAG and other stakeholders keen to see yachting tourism thrive on the island. The tough measures of early 2020 were a critical decision that has continued to rewards ever since, Stiell continues. ‘Over time we have come to appreciate this very strong entry protocol imposed by the government because it has helped to ensure Grenada is a Covid-free island. There was one point in December where Grenada started having some cases, but the government put stronger measures in place; in just two weeks, we were back at zero cases on the island.’
Over the course of 2020, the island saw about 700 yachts and around 1,400 people coming to Grenada. Of those, only two tested positive for Covid-19, so the yachting fraternity itself has proven to be a safe group. That said, Grenada hasn’t taken any risks, as Charlotte Fairhead, manager of Camper & Nicholson Port Louis Marina, explains: ‘The two-week quarantine on your yacht might seem a bit hard at the time, but the beauty is that once you’ve completed it you enter a paradise where everything is running as normal. The restaurants are open, beaches are open, the bars are open, in almost every way it’s life as normal.’
After so many places in the Caribbean shut their borders to yachts still at sea in March 2020, Grenada’s message of welcome hasn’t been forgotten by the yachting community, says Stiell. ‘Grenada was really one of the only places that opened their borders for those yachts. We’ve had so much positive feedback from those yachts that came here, so many emails and wishes of gratitude. Now that we’ve started to build that relationship, it’s something that we really want to see continue. And so does the government, which is why the Ministry of Health in Grenada is offering the Covid-19 vaccine to all the resident cruising community within Grenada.
‘It’s a phenomenal goodwill gesture, because obviously a lot of those cruisers are not permanent residents in Grenada, but it helps that the authorities on island understand their situation and have an excellent collaborative working relationship with MAYAG and GTA. We are all in a WhatsApp group for ease of communication and have frequent zoom meetings to discuss and resolve any issues. I think the yachties have really appreciated how the people of Grenada, as well as the government authorities, have worked so hard to make them feel welcome.’
With seven marinas and three boatyards in Grenada; and two boatyards and marinas in sister island Carriacou, we are well equipped for every aspect of yacht maintenance. Although, as Fairhead points out, you may want to stay a while in Grenada anyway. ‘There are so many phenomenal, beautiful anchorages in Grenada not forgetting the sister islands of Carriacou and Petite Martinique, there is so much to explore here. Grenada has got lots of little outlying islands that yachts can sail around and feel perfectly safe, because the crime rate in Grenada is incredibly low. It’s such a safe place for yachting.’
Aside from being a great cruising destination, the more competitive yachties will enjoy a busy calendar of racing events which begins with Grenada Sailing Week every January. Out of adversity and the horrors of Covid-19, the island’s reputation for hospitality and wise governance have only been enhanced. Any yacht visiting Grenada can expect a very warm welcome.
‘After months of wandering around Caribbean islands that look lovely but clearly did not want us, we were very relieved when Grenada opened her doors and offered us a safe haven,’ says Rowan Gormley, skipper of the sailing yacht PolePole. ‘What we did not know was how delightful, friendly and beautiful the island and her people are... and how professional the authorities were.
‘We will always be grateful that Grenada was forward thinking enough to come up with a plan to house us yachties in a safe place... but even more grateful to find out that our safe place was paradise on earth.’
Grenada’s Minister for Tourism, Civil Aviation, Climate Resilience and the Environment, Hon. Dr. Clarice Modeste-Curwen says, ‘In Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique we are focused on ensuring that our yacht arrivals can quarantine safely and provision with much-needed supplies in a safe way whilst wearing face masks, sanitising and observing social distancing health protocols. We want everyone to be safe always, now and when returning to visit and participate in Pure Grenada’s signature yachting events.’
The basic protocol for arrivals,’ says Chris Doyle, of Doyle’s Guides, ‘had the arriving yacht go directly into a quarantine dock in Port Louis, (open 24 hours), get a health check and temporary clearance, then return to the well-demarcated quarantine anchorage in St. George’s, and stay on board for two weeks, (swimming was allowed, but not to other boats or socialising) after which there would be a further health check, a Covid-19 test and then the yachts could clear in properly.
‘Grenada Lima kept us well informed so when the time came for me to set sail to Grenada, I was ready. I was given a three-day arrival window which made it easy. I had some questions and MAYAG almost instantly responded to emails. I sailed down and, except for arriving and docking single-handed in very squally lateafternoon weather, it was all smooth. ‘The health team that checked me in the next morning were very welcoming, and I went out to anchor. Grenada Lima had information about how to buy stores online – a choice of several businesses where you could order online and then when the shopping arrived, go pick it up when told to do so.’
Calendar of events and activities
Annual national nautical events include Grenada Sailing Week, the Royal Ocean Racing Club and Viking Explorer’s Transatlantic races; Grenada Sailing Week; WCCs World Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC Plus); Grenada Sailing Festival Workboat Regatta; the Petite Martinique Whitsuntide Regatta, Carriacou Regatta Festivals, PCYC Round Island Race and many other smaller weekend regattas and races.
Statistics of Phase I of the Integrated Arriving Yacht Protocol to 31 August 2020 - Grenada
By the end of August 2020, 489 yachts had arrived and completed 10 -14 days of quarantine with 1089 crew – with no positive PCR tests. Yachts departed from 24 countries for Grenada. Two yachts with eight crew sailed in from Cape Town, South Africa, a journey of 6,337nm and approximately 45 days and six yachts with 15 crew sailed in from St Helena / Ascension Island, a journey of 4,288nm and approximately 30 days.
Highlights of main countries yachts departed from:
Martinique = 107 yachts with 223 crew
US Virgin Islands = 93 yachts with 217 crew
St Vincent and The Grenadines = 65 yachts with 140 crew
Antigua = 65 yachts with 139 crew
St Martin = 41 yachts with 95 crew
In brief, to enter Grenada you need to:
Register on https://sailclear.com at least 24-hours prior to entering the State of Grenada.
Have a negative PCR test 72 hours or less before you set sail for Grenada. (Children five years and under are exempt).
Register for a designated quarantine mooring in the Mt Pandy mooring field - The moorings are managed by Grenmoor and cost US$10 per night for yachts in quarantine - https://gren-moor.com
Once moored use your dinghy (all crew) to report to the arrival health screening team on arrival.
A PCR test is done on the fourth day after arrival in Grenada. A Ministry of Health Clearance will be required to exit quarantine after receiving a negative test result. Results can take up to 48h to be available. If you have been fully vaccinated then you will be required to take a PCR test on arrival and be cleared in on the negative results, typically 48 hours later. Yachts that have been at sea for a minimum of four consecutive days, with no land stop, will be permitted to test upon arrival or at the earliest available testing day. Proof of route will be required by providing GPS tracker data.