One of the nice things about living on a sailboat is the freedom of movement it provides. You get tired of the scenery in front of you? No problem, you simply "lift the hook", shake out the sails, and off you go to another island or anchorage until the mood strikes you to move on again. You can't really do that when living in a house! On the other hand, the bad thing about living on a sailboat is the constant space, water and electricity rations, not to mention the potential loss of hearth and home when tropical storms and hurricanes head your way, and of course having to pump a lever a minimum of 20 times every time you use the toilet!
A house and pet sitting opportunity came our way for the month of July. With luxury items made available to us - like a flush toilet, plenty of running water for showers, high speed internet, an air conditioned bedroom, fresh mango, avocado and lime trees in the garden, and a to-die-for ocean view - we gladly accepted the offer. And in addition to caring for the house, we became surrogate parents to a Staffordshire terrier dog named Burley, and a mixed tabby cat named Finnie.
As strange as it may sound, living in a house took a bit of getting used to, especially for Jeffrey who hasn't lived off the boat for any amount of time for a number of years. But once we moved things around a bit and gave the house (and especially the dog!) a good cleaning, we soon settled in and started to enjoy the creature comforts that a house provides. It was while living in the house that we decided to haul Roxie out of the water, and I can't tell you how nice it was NOT to have to live on the boat while she was out of the water (as most boat owners do) as boatyards are typically dusty, noisy, and very hot and buggy as there's very little breeze.
Between managing the house and animals, and daily trips to the boatyard to oversee repair work, we were very busy while staying in the house. In addition to that, while having access to a washing machine I decided to strip the boat of all our clothes, bedding, towels, cushion covers, anything made of cloth, and gave them a good washing. It was good to freshen everything up, but I bet I did at least 50 loads of laundry and then, when we moved back onto the boat, everything I had dragged to the house had to be hauled back to the boat, unpacked and organized again...so I'm not sure that this make-work project of mine was such a brilliant idea in the end.
And then we also developed car problems. We have a little Suzuki jeep in Grenada which makes it much easier and more comfortable getting around the island, shopping, etc. than it would be taking the local music-blaring, crazy-driving rasta buses. Don't get me wrong, taking the local bus is a great "cultural" experience and we've definitely been-there-done-that millions of times, but after a couple of years I'm now much happier with some AC, soft music, and a seat to myself! Anyway, there aren't many car repair shops in Grenada, even fewer with certified mechanics, fewer still who offer any kind of guarantee on their work, and even fewer yet who honor price estimates. So essentially what happens is that your car ceases to be their responsibility once it leaves their shop, regardless of whether it's actually fixed or not, and you usually don't get away without paying at least double the previously agreed upon price. This, at least, has been our experience in the past. Anyway, why I'm telling you all this is that, quite literally, on the day we moved into the house our jeep refused to start. This is probably because a part that we had had repaired about a year ago, for which I believe we paid triple the estimated price, wasn't actually fixed properly and decided to pack it in again. Thankfully the home owners had a couple of vehicles that they had invited us to drive in their absence, which of course we now had to do, but the long process of getting the jeep repaired started the day we moved into the house and we didn't actually get the jeep out of the repair shop until after we moved out. Oh, I should also mention that we paid double the estimated price this time, and it's still not fixed properly!
Another thing we thoroughly enjoyed while in the house was having access to a coal-fired grill. Jeffrey became a master grill chef, albeit sometimes the fire did start out alarmingly high, but he grilled up some pretty great beef steaks, lamb chops and chicken, veggies to perfection, and even plain old hot dogs never tasted so good. We often invited boat friends to partake in the great views and barbecue meals with us.
Now, about our rent-a-pets...
I grew up on a farm and had always had a menagerie of farm animals, dogs, cats, bunnies, etc. as pets. Jeffrey, on the other hand, had been a city boy, had had dogs in the past but admittedly was not a "cat person". That was until Jeffrey met Finnie. Finnie was a pretty cool and very friendly cat, and before too long I would catch Jeffrey sneaking in some little cat cuddles, and then eventually his affections for Finnie were out in the open. Finnie was very low maintenance - basically he was happy as long as his food dish was full. He was your typical cat though - he slept around the house most of the day, went out for a bit of cat activities around sundown, returned in the middle of the night, ate some food and then scratched at our bedroom door so he could sleep for the rest of the night sprawled out on the bed with us. In my next life I definitely want to come back as a cat!
Burley the dog was a little more of a handful!! To begin with, he sort of looked like a pit bull terrier and to be honest Jeffrey and I were a little scared of him at first. In addition, Burley's owners basically let him do what he wanted, when he wanted, with minimal training/discipline, so we moved in and inherited one strong little bundle of mostly out of control dog! Added to this, he desperately needed a good bath, and had a fairly long list of emotional/skin issues (suffice it to say that his breed doesn't do particularly well in the tropics), but despite all this, with a lot of love and some constant and consistent training from us, he thankfully calmed right down, suffered no emotional/medical trauma under our care, loved his weekly baths, and turned into a pretty easy-going little dude. Based on his turned around behavior, we are now considering starting our own "Dog Whisperers of the Caribbean" TV show. Anyway, both animals flourished under our care which pleased both us and the owners immensely, although we hear that Burley is back to his old bad habits again now that they're back!
One more thing happened while living in the house. We heard through the boat grapevine that a friend of ours, a British gal named Sue, had been in an accident - she fell off a ladder from around 15 feet up while trying to get down from a boat that was hauled out in another boatyard. She was in hospital with a broken pelvis and ankle, so we now added hospital visits to our to-do list. Believe me, when I saw her bruised and broken body, I was extra careful on the ladder getting on and off Roxie when she was hauled out!
You don't want to get seriously injured in a third world country, especially without travel insurance or friends. Sue was supposed to be in hospital for 6 weeks, but her regular doctor went on vacation and her new doc decided she was fit to be released, so after only 2 weeks she was essentially kicked out of the hospital. Only problem was - well besides the obvious "not being fully healed yet" part - she had no place to go. In her present condition there was no way she could return to a boat, she had missed her return flight to the UK while she was in hospital and wouldn't have physically been able to manage a long flight yet anyway, she had no travel insurance to offset of any of her expenses, and she couldn't afford to stay in a hotel or apartment for a month or two. Upon hearing Sue's newest dilemma, Connie and Jeff decided to come to the rescue and invited her to stay with us in the house for our final week there. So we added nursemaid to the to-do list and then, since she had broken up with her boyfriend just before her accident, we added spiritual and emotional guidance counsellor and cheerleader to the list as well!
Ya see now what I mean about being busy while living in the house??
Anyway, 4 weeks later the house/pet owners returned from their vacation and we moved back onto the boat. Between the mess left behind after interior maintenance work and moving ourselves and 99 bags of freshly laundered possessions back onboard, the boat looked like a bomb had gone off inside. We launched her back into the water the next day - looking much spiffier than when she was hauled out - then we motor-sailed to a nearby anchorage where we slowly started to put the interior back in order. We really missed Burley, Finnie, the air-conditioning, the grill, and especially the flush toilet, but we soon readjusted to living back on the boat again.
And now it's "Carnival" in Grenada....and we're back to being busy and exhausted again!!!