May 27-June 10, 2020: Quarantine in Grenada

When we arrived in Grenada, we immediately began our two-week quarantine period.  MAYAG, the Marine and Yachting Association of Grenada, was instrumental in engineering and implementing the quarantine protocol.  While the process was involved, it ran efficiently and with surprisingly few hiccups.

While in Antigua, we signaled our desire to come to Grenada through a registration website set up by MAYAG.  By this method, the total number of interested boats could be more accurately estimated.  Later, arrival windows were posted, and yachts could register for the one they wanted as long as slots were open in that window.  There was a limit on the number of boats that could “fit” in each arrival window; in our window, there were 112 people, which might be around 50 boats.  The arrival windows spanned three days each to account for weather delays and occurred every week, starting on a Wednesday.

Arriving boats had to first check in at Port Louis Marina in St. George’s.  There, we were granted a Provisional Health Clearance, which was our permission to be in the Grenada’s waters during our quarantine.  All quarantined boats had to fly the Q flag and Grenada courtesy flag and anchor in a designated quarantine anchorage outside of the lagoon in St. George’s.

There was an established process for boats that needed diesel fuel, propane, water, food, or pumpouts.  MAYAG produced a contact list of local grocers, bakers, wine shops, butchers, chandlers, and delivery businesses that could deliver needed items to the Port Louis Marina quarantine dock.  All orders were handled over the phone or via app, and all payments were by Paypal or credit card. 

We ordered baked goods from Merry Bakery and rum, ground chuck, and smoked gouda from Fast Manicou this way (fun fact to stump your friends:  manicou is the Caribbean word for opossum).  When our items arrived at the quarantine dock, the merchants contacted us via WhatsApp, the locally preferred texting/calling app, and we radioed Port Louis Marina for permission to come in to pick everything up.  Then it was jump in the dinghy, put on our masks, motor into the marina, and pick up the items.  It was a very smooth operation and felt like a field trip after being boat-bound for so long.

For boats that needed fuel, it was the same process:  radio for permission to come in, and get diesel at Grenada Yacht Club.  Boats that needed water or pumpout went to Port Louis Marina.

So for two weeks, we hung out at anchor and tried not to get bored.  There is an excellent cruiser’s net at 7:30 AM each morning on VHF channel 66, and we listened to that most days.  Thanks to the Grenada Cruisers Facebook page, we also ended up playing bingo one night over the radio as a fundraiser for food for local families.  It was a blast.  We bought two bingo cards for $25 US, which were delivered electronically.  Then the bingo games were held over the VHF radio.  The bingo caller could “see” our electronic cards, so he could be assured that no one got overenthusiastic about which numbers had been called.  The prizes were all donated by local businesses and were quite impressive.  I ended up winning a gift certificate for a complete SCUBA dive, including equipment, at LUMBADIVE in Carriacou.  While we won’t be able to make it to Carriacou for a while, that was sure exciting!

We had some excitement one week in when the next group of boats came in; the anchorage got quite tight at that point, and we had to stare reprovingly at a few boats that looked to be evaluating spots dangerously close to us.  A flat stare can be a remarkably effective deterrent.  It all worked out, and we were glad that we were on the perimeter of the anchorage rather than packed like sardines in the front.

Finally, on June 9, those of us who arrived in our arrival window with boat names starting A-O went in for our PCR COVID-19 tests; those with boat names starting P-Z were to go the next day.  We dinghied in to Port Louis Marina and waited in line on the quarantine dock for our turn, and while the test itself wasn’t pleasant, the entire testing process was smooth and efficient. 

Day 1, waiting in line for our PCR test. We all stood in line on the quarantine dock and then had the test in the white tents.

We were to receive our test results by email the next day, and then our quarantine would be over.  The plan was for all of us to vacate the quarantine anchorage ASAP so that the newest wave of boats could come in and anchor, as there would not be room for three windows’ worth of boats to be in the anchorage.

However, we know what happens to the best laid schemes of mice and men.  The lab that was to process the PCR tests was overwhelmed, and there was no way they were going to be able to get the PCR results quickly enough (we ended up receiving ours three days later on June 12).  Instead, on June 10, a radio call and email went out at 8:30 AM telling those of us who had been tested the day before to come in immediately, this time for a rapid test.  The anchorage filled with the roar and wake of dinghies on plane as 54 people hauled ass to the quarantine dock.  We were all of one mind:  get there now, get the test, get the results, get out of the quarantine anchorage.

So now there were 112 masked people waiting on the quarantine docks: those of us that had been tested the day before and those that were scheduled to be tested that day (boats with names starting with P-Z). 

In the foreground are those of us waiting to be tested again. In the background are the people with boat names starting with P-Z.

The decision to give all of us a rapid test had been made after the Ministry of Health officials had left their office for the marina, so they showed up with nine rapid tests.  We all waited with bated breath for workers to show up with more tests, which they did. 

This photo of the “already tested” group getting their rapid tests is courtesy of the Port Louis Marina Facebook page.

We took our rapid test, waited 15 minutes, and got the good news that both the Captain and I were negative.  Hooray!  That was one of the longer 15 minutes of my life.

Apparently this means negative. The makers of the test could learn something from pregnancy tests: make it easier to tell the result!

We immediately beat feet to Customs and Immigration, which is helpfully on the Port Louis Marina grounds.  After a long wait, we had the holy grail that we had been seeking ever since we arrived in Antigua:  a Grenada Health Clearance, Immigration clearance for 3 months, and a cruising permit for 1 month.  We were legal! The Immigration and Customs paperwork can be extended later, which we will do.

Hurry up and wait. But since we were all riding the high of a negative test and an end to quarantine, none of us really cared.

With the foreboding that in every movie, being “almost there” means something awful is about to happen, we hurried back to the boat and raised anchor before any newly-arriving boats could get too close or foul our anchor.  We headed in to Port Louis Marina for a month of “spa time” for Kestrel and, incidentally, some down time for us.  We had asked to be put on the American dock, which has the proper power pedestals for our North American boat (120V or 240V, 60 Hz), rather than the European power pedestals that are 230V, 50 Hz.  The docks require med-mooring with a mooring ball, and the excellent dockhands zipped around in a tender to help us hook up.

The dockhands are helping this catamaran to dock. The dock is to the right, and boats back in to the dock and tie off to the mooring balls in front. It’s quite a dance, and having someone help from the water makes all the difference.

The boat is happy, and the crew is happy.  Hi, Grenada.  We are happy to meet you.

Kestrel snug and happy in her resort-like surroundings.