I had promised my family that I would go back home for Christmas for 2019. It had been a few years since I had made the trip back home to New Zealand to enjoy Christmas with my family. Everything was looking good until an email came into our inbox with the Subject line ‘this is a long shot but I need a boat sitter!’.
This immediately caught my attention, I have always wanted a boat.
I replied right away and had a little bit of a back and forth with the captain to find out a little bit more information. Shortly after, we jumped on a Skype call and talked seriously about this boat sitting job in the Caribbean.
The sit would be for 4 – 5 months looking after a cat and a 38 ft catamaran anchored in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou Island, Grenada in the West Indies. The only issue was that the sit would be from November 2019 until April 2020… during the Christmas and New Years period which I had promised my family, I would finally be home for.
Right off the bat, Britt said she could not go back on her word on being back in Australia for Christmas as well do some house sitting in Melbourne. However, I could not let this opportunity pass. I have always wanted to live on a boat and visit the Caribbean so this was a win win.
I advised my family that yet again I would not be home for Christmas because ‘something had come up’. After some explaining, my family agreed I should not pass up this boat sitting opportunity. So, I was off to the Caribbean for the first time.
On November 14th we wrapped up our last house sit in Europe in Athens, Greece and said our goodbyes. I was hopping on a plane to the Caribbean and Britt was heading back home to Australia for a few months.
It was a long journey from Greece to Grenada, after 3 planes and 2 boats and 1 bus I arrived on Carriacou Island.
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Where is Carriacou Grenada?
I bet some of you are thinking where is Carriacou, Grenada? That was one of the first thoughts I had.
Carriacou is the largest island in the Grenadian Grenadines and sits around 30km North of the main island of Grenada. It has a population of around 8,000 and is fairly small at around 30km square.
Carriacou is a hotspot for cruisers and divers with tourists all year round because of the nice weather all year.
The catamaran I would be looking after was anchored in Tyrell Bay on the islands South West Coast. It is a spot where many ‘cruisers’ anchor their boats for hurricane season because its a large, sheltered bay with 2 marinas, supermarkets, markets and several restaurants. The perfect spot to shelter from the hurricanes, complete boat maintenance and catch up with friends.
The island does have all the essentials that you need, however, it is quite a remote place where 95% of everything you need comes in by boat. This took a little bit of getting used to as many of you know I love food & wine.
Boat Sitting Duties
Just to be clear before looking after this boat I did have a little bit of experience with boats and yachts before. So, I was not going into this boat sit completely blind – I would not recommend boat sitting (even on an anchored boat to anyone who does not have any boating experience). – even though the boat is anchored there is risk involved and you do need to know a thing or two.
My main duty while on board was to look after the cat, Pooks.
Pooks had been living on the catamaran full time for most of her life so was a well-seasoned sailor and loved the boat life. She did not have all the space in the world to run around so it was my job to keep her well entertained with a plethora of cat wands, toys, treats and her favourite food – fresh seared tuna.
She also had a litter box I would have to change every day and be her bunk buddy at night. The boat owner advised me that Pooks sleeps on her chest most nights.. and that she would probably want to do this with me too – it took her a few weeks but she slowly warmed up to me and started to sleep on me every night and morning.
My other main duty was to keep the catamaran safe, floating and tidy. One thing that I never really realised about boats is that they are constantly under attack from the ocean. There is always something that needs to be cleaned, fixed or maintained.
On this particular boat sitting assignment, I was lucky, the owners were taking the boat out when they returned to give it a full overhaul. For me, this meant my duties would not be as full-on as they would be if they were not dry docking and overhauling the boat upon return.
So my main duties for the boat for the duration of the sit would be to keep the interior of the boat clean and salt-free, deal with Pooks litter box, daily anchor checks, and ensuring the boat was safe while the owner was away.
One thing that was optional about this sit which I decided to do was to do the local ‘cruisers net’ broadcast Monday – Friday over the VHF radio. Essentially this was the local broadcast to give out the weather conditions, sea conditions, wind conditions, local events and helping out cruisers with any queries they had about the area. It was kind of like jays morning radio show – I had a blast!
Does the Cat Like Living on a Boat?
This is the number one question I got asked while boat sitting Pooks, and I can safely say that she does enjoy living on the boat.
She had many hidden little spots where she would spend most of the days sleeping, she had a plethora of toys, had little crabs to play with on the swimming stairs and enjoyed a perfect sunset every day (not even joking about this she would be perched up watching the sunset on top of the boat every night without fail).
However, when the boat is sailing, the engine is running, or when the weather was really rough she did not like it very much and will hide away for hours on end until things smooth out a little bit.
The second question I got asked the most is does Pooks like swimming? Or has she ever gone overboard?
She has been overboard twice (not while I was looking after her). Both times she went overboard was while the boat was anchored and when she was a kitten. Both times she was wearing a cat life jacket (yes they exist) and both times she got herself back up on board. Pooks is a bit older and wiser now and tends to stay away from the edge of the boat now, particularly when it is rough.
How Was My Experience Boat Sitting in the Caribbean?
Overall boat sitting in the Caribbean was an amazing experience. I won’t lie it was a little bit hard being on the yacht for almost 5 months alone. Sure there was other cruisers and some locals who I made friends with – but living alone on a yacht with only a cat was tough sometimes.
Looking after a yacht was awesome. I have always wanted to buy a yacht and get into sailing so this was a perfect opportunity for me to ‘test the waters ‘out on living on a boat for an extended period.
How Did I Pass the Time While Boat Sitting?
Carriacou is a very small island, so there is not a whole lot to do. However, I had no problems filling in my days here.
As you can imagine the Caribbean is a very relaxed place, where things get done at a slower pace. So I had to make myself a fairly strict schedule and stick to it to not slip into the local way of life.
My general day to day usually looked something like this:
- 6:00 am: Wake up and jump in the ocean. Then check all the local weather sites and get my morning broadcast together.
- 6:30 am: Broadcast the cruisers net.
- 7:00 am: Play with Pooks, change her litter box and feed her.
- 7:30 am: Start work for the day
- Noon: Head out for a kayak around the bay or a run/hike, the gym, or dive. If its Wednesday or Sunday head down to one of the local bars and play Mexican Train Dominoes.
- 2:00 pm: Head back to the boat, jump in the water and check the anchor, bridal and the exterior of the boat.
- 2:30 pm: Head back to work for a few hours
- 6:00 pm: Enjoy a ‘sundowner’ drink with Pooks while the sunsets.
- 6:30 pm: Either cook dinner or meet up with some of the locals for dinner at one of the local restaurants. (the supermarket was fairly expensive so it was around the same price to go out for dinner).
- 8:30 pm: Back to the boat to play with Pooks and turn on the lights.
What Went Wrong?
We always get asked for house sitting horror stories, things that have gone wrong and unexpected events. We have been really lucky over our 40 odd house sits and nothing has gone wrong.
However, on this sit there were a few minor hiccups, which is no real surprise when you are looking after a yacht in such a remote location.
Boat Fuse Situation
The first issue was the fuses on the boat. The boat is from South Africa and has some parts that are specific to South Africa. One of these SA specific parts is the fuse system. The boat owner had advised me there were 2 fuses left and the fuses had been playing up – so keep that in mind when using electronics.
Within about a day I had gone through the 2 fuses and was on the hunt for SA style boat fuses on a small island in the Caribbean – it took me around 2 days of hunting and trying different fuses but I got something working.
About 2 weeks into my stay Pooks got constipation r – there was a local volunteer vet on the other side of the island to me that could not come out to the boat but I could bring Pooks to if need be – Luckily the vet gave me some magic pills that sorted her out within a couple of days and I did not have to take her in the tender to shore and then on a local bus to the vet!
Bitten By A Dog
Around 3 weeks into being on the island I was bitten by a local dog on both my legs. I was going for a hike and two dogs which were not on leashes ran out from behind a house and attacked me. Long story short I had to go to the local hospital and get fixed up. I had bites on each of my legs which needed antibiotics. The worst part about this was that I was unable to swim for around 6 weeks until they healed.
Luckily this little hospital visit did not end up costing me anything because we are always covered by World Nomads Travel Insurance!
You read that right – boat crash. One of the reasons why I was on board while the owner was away was to make sure the boat was anchor safe while anchored in a busy bay – this included watching out when other sailing vessels anchored nearby. One day it was really windy and a French sailing vessel was trying to anchor next to me when I hear my neighbour yell out to me.
I ran outside and saw the French vessel heading straight for the bow of my boat. I quickly got the fenders out and stopped the boat from hitting too hard – due to the wind the vessel kept bouncing off my boat and back again – this caused its hull stuck in my anchor / bridal lines.
We tried to push the boat free with the tender but no such luck, it was well stuck. We secured the French vessel to mine and got thinking about what we could do. A local and I grabbed a couple of masks and jumped in to see if we could free the boat from my anchor chain but had no luck, my bridal line was wrapped up in the French vessel’s propeller.
It took us a few hours but we managed to unwrap the bridal line and free the boat – luckily I was home at the time and there was no damage done to either boat.
How to Get a House Sitting Job in the Caribbean
For this boat sitting assignment, the homeowner reached out to us. She found us on Instagram and thought that we would be a perfect couple to look after her boat. In our house sitting course, we explain the importance of being active on social media as a house sitter to appeal to other animal lovers and homeowners.
However, if you are just starting house sitting or don’t have your own website / social media accounts set up you still have options.
While I was boat sitting in the Caribbean I was always on the lookout for my next house sit – the best 4 sites that I found for finding house sits in the Caribbean were Trusted House Sitters, House Sit Mexico, House Carers and Nomador.
These sites seemed to have the best range of house sitting opportunities in the Caribbean and honestly did not seem to have too much competition compared to some other places in the world.
I would recommend housesitting in the Caribbean for everyone. It was a unique experience that I am very happy I had – I had some great friends here, experienced a totally different way of life and got to hang out with a cat on a catamaran for 5 months!
I hope you enjoyed my experience house sitting in the Caribbean – I wrote this post to inspire those of you who are wanting to start house sitting or are curious about boat sitting in the Caribbean.
If you are new to house sitting don’t forget to check out how to become a house sitter or our house sitting course!