Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Summering in Grenada August, 2006
Picture: Hog Island Anchorage as seen from Whisper Cove

It is another beautiful morning, the winds blew most of last night, making sleeping comfortable. The anchorage at Hog Island, is very protected, not rolly, so we enjoy the wind turning the generator blades, keeping the batteries charged up. During the day the solar panels are doing a good job as well. All the rain seems to passing to the north, over the hills.

Picture: Happy Hour at Whisper Cove
We are working ourselves into our weekly routine. Much of our time is spent at Whisper Cove Marina, a new marina just east of the Woburn dock. Nice place and good group of people. Canadians, Philip and Shelly, whose steel ketch went up on a reef in Ivan, are working hard to get a business started there. It is owned by Henry's Safari Tours Monday is movie night there, with 1EC pizza pieces and free popcorn. Tuesday and Thursday Bev goes with a group of cruisers walking the hills around Woburn. The group stops at the local fruit stands and stores for fresh baking.
Friday, we usually go to Clarke’s Court Marina. This marina is just around the point from our anchorage, and was completely destroyed in 2004 when Ivan came through. The owner, Bob, is Canadian/Grenadian, his family and his dock building company are in Pickering, and he is down here now trying to rebuild the marina. He has brought down a tractor trailer from Canada (old Wilson Transport Trailers--we have seen about 5 on the island so far), which he outfitted in Canada with washrooms using Home Depot product...looked just like Home. He has reconstructed the marina bar/restaurant but still has no kitchen so can't serve food. So he has the potluck for the cruisers, we bring the food and buy drinks from the bar, and there is Karioke afterward. Picture: Bev and Connie hamming it up at Karioke!
Saturday it is back to Whisper Cover for dominos, and Sunday is Roger’s BBQ on Hog Island. Add to that the occasional island trip organized by the cruisers, and regular boat chores, incredibly the weeks are passing quickly.
Martin’s marina in Mount Hartman Bay is being redeveloped as a mega yacht marina. The marina is basically empty, 4 mega boats at dock, and about 15 boats tucked in around the bay. The Moorings base has moved out, the hotel and marina are in disarray, no longer a focal point, but they are the only ones between here and Prickley Bay that have fuel. Prickley Bay has about 30 boats anchored there, Spice Island Marina, wiped out in Ivan, has no inwater dockage but has upgraded their land storage, and it is about 1/2 full. Most US insurance companies have put Grenada back in the hurricane box, so the Americans are in Trinidad, and the dog owners are in Venezuela. Only the self insured, fancy way of saying uninsured, like us, are spending the "windy" season in Grenada.
Sometime during the week we take the bus to St. George’s (2EC less than $1 Cdn) to sightsee, and shop. St. George’s is the capital of Grenada, and it is one the prettiest towns we have seen. We had bypassed the anchorage in the Blue Lagoon, which is fully protected but the "anchor holding" is less dependable. Within the older town area, is every possible store you might need, from boat parts, hardware, clothing and groceries. The bus station is close to the cruise boat docks, but in the summer no cruise boats are expected to visit. Over the summer we visited Fort George, enjoyed the great ocean views to the west, beach views to the south and city and mountain views in the other directions. Every day, except Sunday is market day, Friday and Saturday being the busiest in the open air town market. We tried to visit the same fruit/vegetable lady, Sister John, and we got to know her. Her farm is in the north end of the Island. Once she got to know us, she always gave us a little extra, and made sure we found everything we were looking for, even if it meant her going to one of the other ladies’ stands for us.
St. George’s is still recovering from the devastation that Hurricane Ivan left. Many of the buildings have been repaired or are still under construction. However the old historic churches and many of the fort’s buildings are still missing their roofs, and the Parliament buildings are closed, and the government is holding their sessions in the convention center.
There are many grocery stores in town, most are a good size. Foodland and Food Fair are large local stores, and Real Value in Spice Mall is just like a good size IGA we would see at home. We often walk from the Hog Island anchorage, a pleasant 45 min walk across Mount Hartman point, following a rough track up and down a couple of hills and through the cattle and goat pastures to the Spice Mall. From here, you can walk across the road to Grand Anse beach, one of the best beaches, perhaps only the only long, white sand beaches in Grenada. Only problem is that you have to be prepared to walk back, as there is no road access to where we have left the dinghy. However CK’s (great deals on booze, beer, and other package stuff) will deliver to Clarke’s Court Marina, so by the time we walk back, our stuff is usually there to be picked up.
We did a wonderful daytrip, a round the island bus trip, leaving RAFT about 830 and didn't get back until after 6pm. Another boater in the anchorage had arranged the tour in a minivan with a driver, so with 12 other cruisers we took off on a clockwise tour of the island. The roads are narrow and twisty, up and down the mountains, not as bad as in Dominica, not as good as St. Lucia, but we are still glad not to be doing the driving. Picture: Nutmeg drying indoors

We stopped at a waterfall, 2 nutmeg plants (old the "old" way, one a "modern" one still in operation). Grenada used to supply about 1/3 of the world's nutmeg, with 6 nutmeg plants, now, post Ivan, only one plant is operating at about 50 percent capacity. They are replanting the nutmeg trees but expect it will take 20 years to rebuild the industry.

Then we toured the northern towns, had lunch at a small beachside "hut", and then were off to the River Antoine Rum Distillery. This one still uses riverpower and a waterwheel to crush the sugar cane, and wood fires to power the boiling and distillation process. Unfortunately the waterwheel wasn't running while we were there, but we did get to sample the 140-160 proof Rum -- Firey stuff. The chocolate factory was next..here the factory is powered by solar panels, which of course the guys were all interested in. Everybody bought the chocolate bars...very good. The return trip was through the central mountain area, where the forests are still showing the evidence of Ivan. The trip gave us a good overview of island, and we will do further exploring, by taking local buses to the various communities
One day we left about 930 and caught the local bus to head for Grenville, the 2nd largest town on the island, on the east coast. We went with Rick and Connie, (Calaloo) and had to walk the first mile, up hill, to catch the bus. Have we mentioned before that Grenada is a very hilly island, and it seems every trip starts with the walk up the very steep lane from Whisper Cove to the main road. On this trip, we continued walking inland to the crossroads we call "the Cliff", a five road intersection with roads leading to St. George’s, Woburn, Fort Frederick and Grenville. The road to Grenville, snakes around the coast, up and down the steep hills, around hairpin turns, across narrow bridges over V shaped mountainous valleys, through several small villages. It is a beautiful trip.

Picture above: South coast of Grenada
All this in a bus, actually just a van, that the driver pushes to the maximum (about 40 mph) sounding the horn at every turn and hill, passing anything that might slow him down and the conductor watching for potential riders and trying to pack in as many as possible. The road, is paved and barely 2 lanes wide. We are amazed that there aren't more accidents. Bev is always happier to be sitting in the rear, the front passengers' perspective it is like an amusement park ride. We arrived in Grenville safely, certainly getting value for the 5EC fare. We walked around the streets, checked out the stores, churches,market, waterfront, and had lunch. It was a very busy small town. Then we got to to do the roller coaster bus ride back. Ended the day with a movie at the marina…a very full day.
August 22nd. Our first weather worry. The morning the weather reports, indicated that we could have a tropical depression heading our way, and it could come in quite quickly. Winds in a TD should be less than 45 knots, but even that is something we have to prepare for. So today we spent most of the day preparing RAFT, taking down the foredeck tent, wrapping ropes around the sails, setting a second anchor. The evening report is much better, looks like the storm shouldn't be as bad, hopefully just some bad squalls (30-35knots). But we are ready in case it is worse, and today was good practise. The next day was spent watching and waiting, and by Thursday (24th) afternoon TD5 passed between Grenada and Carriacou, and in the anchorage we experienced SW winds up to 30 knots for most of the day, but all the boats were fine, no dragging or issues. TD5 did get upgraded into Hurricane Ernesto and head off toward Florida.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bequia to Grenada July 2006

Bequia was delightful, a large anchorage, much easier than it appears on the charts. Check in was very easy, 70 EC for 7 days. The small town is easy to walk, and has a selection of small stores, chandleries and restaurants.
One of our more interesting hikes was across the island to the Turtle Sanctuary. It was very interesting, the owner Mr. King has been trying to save the sea turtles from extinction for the past 11 years. He finds the baby turtles and raises them in pools, protected from predators for about 5 years and then releases them back into the ocean. He has released over 800 turtles. This is a long process, since turtles don't lay eggs until they are 25 years old. But this spring, he had not been able to get any baby turtles, so he is concerned.
This is carnival weekend in Bequia (June 25th) Since we are anchored right off the town, just north of the main channel, we can enjoy the music and parade right on RAFT. The music and parade started about 4 am and lasted until early morning. It wasn't really much of a parade, but the local Bequians were having a good time, dancing, shouting, and imbibing to their loud music. They call it "jump up"
In brisk 20-25 knot easterly winds we had a great sail to the Tobago Cays, anchoring behind the horseshoe reef by mid afternoon. The Cays were everything we expected, very beautiful, an incredible reef that protects the anchorage, allowing the winds but not the waves to sweep in from Africa. We also we fortunate that this late in the season we only had about six or eight boats to share the anchorage with. Bev did do some snorkeling, but with the brisk winds and accompanying big seas, didn't get to do the horseshoe reef.
As things were not expected to settle down, we decided to head to Salt Whistle Bay and duck into the lee of Mayreau Island. This is another gorgeous anchorage, with beaches on both the eastern and western side to explore. The local beach bar is unique, with circular booths whose construction technique is similar to a fieldstone fireplaces. Obviously built to withstand a hurricane!
And speaking of which, it is now July, and we are getting anxious to get further south. Although nothing yet is predicted, we checkout out of the Grenadines in Clinton, (couldn't anchor in harbour, too rough so picked up a mooring ball) Cost 64EC including 13EC for overtime charges Then we had a great sail down to Hillsborough, Carriacou where we anchored off the commercial dock to check in. Luckily for us there was a commercial ship in, so customs and immigration were available, cost 50EC for cruising permit and 40EC for overtime charges. Would have been better if we had travelled on a weekday. A quick tour around Hillsborough showed us nothing is open on a Sunday and everybody goes home. Fortunately the ATM was working so the trip to town was not a complete loss. We up anchored and sailed on to Tyrrell Bay where we found about 40 boats in this lovely anchorage.
We have been investigating Carriacou, as a possible place to spend the hurricane season. Carriacou is a small island, about 13 sq. miles, about 20 miles north of Grenada. There are about 1000 people living on the island, and it is not a tourist location. Most of the boats are with us in Tyrell Bay, on the south west corner of the island. We hadn't considered staying here, until we met some other boats who have, and will, and they kept singing the praises of the island. It does have a fantastic hurricane hole, and Ross got a tour of it, with one of the other boat skippers who was here for both Ivan and Emily and came through without any problems. All the boaters work together, when there is a warning, to get the boats into the "holes", and secured to the mangroves. We are certainly hoping we don't have to experience this, but it is good to know that there is quite a system in place here. It also is a very friendly and safe island. But there isn't a lot to do, you can easily walk from one side to the other, which we have been doing. There are lovely beaches and you can swim in the harbour where we are anchored. We are still investigating our options.
But from now on, the weather is our prime concern, and much of our day is spent getting, listening to, and discussing what is happening, and how it will or won't affect us. Its payback time for living in paradise. Our morning starts at 0630 listening to Eric out of Trinidad, then 0700 Chris Parker and then 730 we can get the weather from the Grenada Cruiser Net. After determining that there is no imminent or coming "bad stuff" we can get on with our day.
We are rediscovering what "living on a boat" as opposed to travelling is all about. We decided we wanted to meet some of the local people, and thought maybe we could do some volunteering. We visited the library, tourist information people, and the Ministry office, really wanted something with adults, literacy, environment ie clearing nature trails or (re)building homes. What was offered to us was helping at a Youth summer program. We went for 2 days, but it wasn't what we what to do, and certainly not every day. They have 120 kids aged 8-16 and are trying to run summer school in the morning and games in the afternoon. But they have no equipment, and no organization and the teachers (and it is run by professional teachers) spend most of their time lining the kids up, Ross calls it "queuing up", and trying to get the kids to be quiet. We will try again when we move down to Grenada and check out the "doing something" opportunities there, it is a larger island, 100,000 people.
We had a wonderful downwind sail from Carriacou to Grenada, wind and waves on the stern quarter pushing us along, no banging and splashing. Only when we turned the corner at the southwest end of Grenada, to head to the anchorage did we have to deal with the wind on the nose. But that was only for 3 miles and we put the motor on and hammered our way through. We maneuvered our way through the reefs that protect the entrance to the bay, called for assistance one, and then anchored RAFT beside Avalon V, George and Mary out of Trenton, whom we haven't seen since Luperon. It was the first passage in a long time, that the inside of RAFT did not look like a warzone.
Hogg Island is going to be our home for awhile. First impressions are good, a small bay, protected by reefs from the ocean swells, and mangroves around the outside. Mangroves provide fantastic surge control, not reflecting waves back, like you get from hard shores. Plus the mangrove plants are extremely strong, well anchored. If nasty weather should come, we would tie RAFT to the mangroves, which are better anchors than the ones we carry.
Immediately after we had anchored, George and Mary came over to welcome us, have a celebratory drink, and give us the "whats available and where to get it" info for Grenada. They have been here for over a month, but have also spent at least one other summer here. We put RAFT back in anchoring mode, put the foretent back up, put the fuel jugs back up on the deck, drop the dinghy and put the motor back on, and start exploring this new island.