We have had a very happy few weeks exploring Grenada. We circumnavigated the island : sailing down the east coast and back up the west, returning to Carriacou for Carnival on Monday and Tuesday 3 rd and 4th March
We set off for Grenada, from Ronde Island on wed 19th Feb and had a blustery and bumpy sail clawing our way east past the north end of the island and its off lying rocks and islets and then bashing down the east coast.
We spent a week or so in the various long narrow inlets on the south coast which offer lots of good sheltered anchorages: St Davids Harbour, Port Egmont (tucked into the mangroves ) , Clarkes Court Bay, Hog Island, Prickly Bay and True Blue Bay. The channels into these these bays are well buoyed, and lead you in past reefs crashing with surf, which extend out from the headlands.
We met Tony an American chap we had met in Cape Verde, and saw lots of other nice boats, lots of wooden classic ones of various sizes, tug boats and an old Danish Lightship. There was also a big contingent of international boats which looked like their cruising days had ceased, and they had grown roots in these bays, quite a community of live-aboards.
We had a jolly time at The Sunday Hog Island BBQ. This was a busy affair, on one of the little sandy beaches on the uninhabited island. There was a bar set up, a band playing and a menu of set plate of swordfish or chicken and salads for 25EC . There were lots of locals, cruisers and live-aboards . There were so many dinghies and local colourful plywood speed boats with huge outboards lined up on the beach and lots of swimmers and boats anchoring in the bay.
We have been swimming every day ( of course). The water in the south of Grenada was noticeably less clear than it had been further north. This is due we were told, to the influence of the Orinoco River in South America, were mud and silt is washed out and flows north on the currents. We now have a daily job when we are swimming, of scrubbing the hull. The weed is growing so fast in these waters that we need to keep scrubbing to keep her clean. A quick swim round with a snorkel and scraper isn’t difficult though.
The area is very well catered for by several big chandleries, and it was in one of these that we bought a 2 stroke 3.5 HP Tohatsu outboard. We had been thinking for a while one would serve us very well. It is often pretty windy here and sometimes we have to anchor quite far out, which makes rowing a bit of an effort at times. We do love rowing , and the dingy rows so well, that we honestly don’t use the out board every time! It does though, open up more exploring possibilities in the dingy in shallow water where we wouldn’t take Hestur. We had a super afternoon on a Dingy safari round and about Clarkes Court Bay, and we were able to snorkel on reefs we wouldn’t have got to other wise. Dan has made a really cool engine cover for it with material from an old cut up life jacket and dark blue denim.
In True Blue Bay, the most westerly of the southern bays we anchored near a little marina/ hotel resort which had Yoga sessions advertised. I haven’t done any for ages and felt like it would do me some good. They offered a morning deal for 35EC – Yoga and Breakfast. I will never know which aspect of that offer it was that inspired Dan to come too, but come along he did. It was a good breakfast, and we could both feel our hips the next day. I did a few sessions over the time we were there, and enjoyed them very much, Dan however didn’t join me again after that first morning? They had a dive school at True Blue Bay too. Dan (has his dive certificates) went for two dives with them, one on a reef and one wreck dive. He said it was brilliant and that the visibility was fine, as they went further north up the island.
Grenada is a big island and so far we had only seen it from the coast, so while we were there we decided to hire a car for the day. We drove up the east coast road to the 2nd biggest town of Grenville, then on to Belmont Estate. This is were they grow and process a lot of the coco beans for ‘The Grenada Chocolate Company’ ,a company whose product we have got to know very well over the past few weeks. We had a tour of the coco processing , inc. samples. We had another tour of the gardens and plants there, which was fascinating too. After Belmont we carried on to the Rivers Distillery – where they make … Rum. This was an astonishing place. It was established in 1750 and felt like it hadn’t changed since. The raw sugar cane is pressed by a big old machine powered by a water wheel, a slimy grey liquid gurgles off down a channel into one of 5 huge big cast steel shallow cauldrons. These are set in in stone above a fire and flue,each one gets progressively hotter, closer to the fire box (which is fed with the dried crushed sugar cane and wood) and the liquid is ladled between these with a bowl on a very long sick. These pots all bubble and steam with a sludgy skin on the top. After this, the liquid is channeled off to more to holding tanks, then to the still , where a clear and very strong Rum is produced.
We drove back via Pearls airfield, a now disused air strip and old crumbling planes which were caught up in the American invasion in 1979.
Back over the main ridge of the island (500odd m. alt.), we went to St. Geroges, the capital. The island is so extremely densely vegetated- palms, bananas, coco, nutmeg, bamboo, papaya… It was an incredible drive through the lush verdant interior. It was late in the afternoon by the time we were up on the higher roads and the light was beautiful. On a wrong turn or two we found ourselves on little roads in the jungle amongst colourful wooden houses perched on hillsides, on a ridge children were flying kites.
St Georges ( in the south West) was very nice, we had something to eat there that night, and sailed up a few days later to anchor off the town to explore by daylight.
Further up the West Coast we took a mooring in a marine nature reserve for the night. This was another fantastic area for snorkelling. The anchor and fishing ban there had done a huge amount to protect a this beautiful area. It was alive with fish. There was an underwater sculpture park here which we snorkelled on. It was a strange and intense experience. There were a lot of figurative sculptures, circles of life size figures holding hands, solitary kneeling figures and lying body on the sea bed. Quite frightening coming across them in this underwater, inhuman environment but with the bright colours and light filtering through the water somehow quite calming. Corals and weeds had started to grow on them, the fish swam past.
We sailed back up to Tyrell bay on Carriacou on Friday 28th Feb.
The following day we took a bus Hillsborough. The village which had been previously pretty sleepy and laid back when we cleared customs a couple of weeks ago was now a busy construction site. Makeshift wooden bars and food shacks were being hastily and noisily erected from colourful plywood and planks, emence speakers in stacks were thumping music into the streets, is didn’t stop for 4 days, near enough. The pageant ‘Queen’ contest was on that night and there were other events over the weekend but the main action which would take place on the streets was to happen on Monday and Tuesday. We sailed round to ‘Paradise Beach’ that evening just before sunset and met a nice French Guy who joined us for dinner.
The very short sail round to Hillsborough the next day was not without action. We very rarely tow our dingy behind when we are sailing, but usually hall it on deck, however the sea was flat and the distance short so we set off towing it. Very strangely as we sailed off the anchor ( and I didn’t see ‘cos I was steering and looking forward) the dingy flipped and lost its oars, seat and rowlocks! Dan hoped into the dingy with the new outboard and whizzed off to get the floating oars and seat. Then we re anchored and snorkelled to look for the rowlocks, bit of a long shot- but alas, I found them! When we were underway again, we had forgotten to close the galley portlight and so when we healed over in a particularly big gust, we took a lot of the wave into to galley! Soaking! Silly.
We anchored off Hillsborough, and could hear the party underway. It was very busy now. It was such a good atmosphere and we had a very fun afternoon and evening there. We we were told to be there at 5 am on Monday morning for ‘Juvet Morning’. This was when ‘Jab Jab’ came into town. The music had been constant all night. We rowed ashore in the dark and wandered through the streets , people were dressed up, and some painted with colourful paints, as it got lighter the crowds grew. It felt like we might have been the only ones who had been to bed that night. There was more and more painted people , blue, orange, yellow, red, some gold and silver then the main ‘ Jab Jab ‘ group arrived , these guys were covered in glossy black engine oil, from head to tow. They had helmets with horns, and carried engine parts, bits of meat and other accessories. Everybody was dancing with memorising hip movement, to a greater or lesser extent very ronchely to the epically loud music. There were guys on stilts. Costumes were very scanty, the oil and paint covered the skin. It was heaving by now. This carried on well into the morning. When this street party started disseminating people headed for the beach, just parallel to the main street, to swim and scrub off the oil and paint with sand. The sea was later pretty black for a while with it all. Discarded shoes, hats, clothes, engine parts lay around. The music didn’t stop though.
Later in the afternoon the Parades came though town. These came in several sets, headed by lorries with speaker stacks touring the music through the streets. Some of the costumes were very elaborate, others rater more makeshift. There were show girls with feather head dresses and impressive dancing, groups of women, men and kids. There were school precessions, guys on stilts, very tall. All with the same hypnotic hips. It was such a good atmosphere very lively and fun.
Carriacou is one of the few Caribbean islands to celebrate Carnival at this time of year ( the start of lent, the traditional time for Carnival (that’s pancake day in the UK (Whoo-hoo)). Trinidad does as well and maybe some of the north islands, but most, including Grenada its self, have shifted theirs to other times in the year. This is so they will not compete with each others and will be able to go to the other islands. There was a lot of people from other islands who came over to Carriacou for this one.
While the Parades were still touring, a steel band was set up and played on the main street. The music was really beautiful. So tuneful and upbeat, amazing to hear a big number of the drums played together.
We met various other people who were also sailing and had crossed the atlantic this year. : 3 other couples the same age as us ( which isn’t that common). Really nice folk. One boat load: a couple Nina and Ken from Switzerland and their visiting friend Karin arrived on the ferry as their boat was in southern Grenada waiting for spare parts to be delivered. They came and stayed with us for the night on Hestur.
The next day we all sailed up the coast to a beautiful white sand beach for some recuperation after the Jab Jab, the parties and 70%rum of the night before. Lovely swimming, turquoise water rocks for snorkelling round and trees hanging over the bay.
In the afternoon, when they had left on the Ferry, Dan and I went back into town to see the last of the celebrations. There were more parades around the streets. These were much like yesterdays only slightly sleeper.
It was wonderful to have been in Carriacou for Carnival, images of which will stay with me for a long time!
On Wed we cleared out of Customs (with Thursday’s date) and sailed up to Petit Martinique the last island in the Grenada group. After a walk ashore and filling the tanks with water ( took on 60 gallons, that was the first time we filled up since the Cape Verde- apart from a couple of jerry cans!- we are Frugal) , and then set off back for Union Island this afternoon to reenter the country of St Vincent and the Grenadines again.
At the Union island dingy dock we met John – a friend we had met in Grenada and also Carriacou on his boat, and at the moment we are sitting in a bar with him, using the wifi.
Missed customs this afternoon, so catch them first thing am.