Leaving Antigua, W. I.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grenada - a Cruising Sailor's Perspective

As I was working on my most recent novel, I was traveling up and down the islands of the Eastern Caribbean in my mind, remembering the wonderful places, people, and experiences we've enjoyed for the last 8 years.  I also spent some hours going through old snapshots, looking for potential cover art and stills to put into a video trailer for the book.  As I worked, I realized that some of these things should be shared in blog posts.  With the latest book behind me, I have time again, and I decided to post some snapshots and anecdotes.

We spend our summers in Grenada, and our winters in St. Martin.  We spend the perfect sailing time in the fall and spring working our way north and south respectively, spending time in favorite spots and looking for new places.  Even after 8 years, we haven't scratched the surface.

 I'll start at the southern end of our annual migratory path.  Let's take a look at Grenada.  Grenada is about 75 miles north northwest of Trinidad, which is on the northeast corner of the South American continent.
Grenada's flag

On our first visit, in June of 2005, we arrived just a couple of weeks ahead of Hurricane Emily.  Grenada was just beginning to recover from the ravages of Hurricane Ivan, which hit the island about 9 months before we arrived.  Ivan was the first storm to hit the island in 50 years; when Emily came along, 30 percent of the people still didn't have roofs over their heads, and they were busily digging themselves out of the wreckage.  Nevertheless, they still had time to make us welcome, they still had time to enjoy Carnival, and the island, despite the storm damage, was still beautiful.

Play Actor in the Lagoon
When we first started visiting, it was still possible to anchor in the lagoon at St. Georges.  Now, a big marina has pretty well taken over the lagoon, so we anchor outside, off the beach.
Grand Anse Beach, viewed from our cockpit

We were anchored in the lagoon at St. Georges, the capital city, when a young man paddled up in his kayak to introduce himself. 
Joel in his kayak
"Good morning, captain, ma'am.  I'm Joel.  I just wanted to welcome you to Grenada.  Will you stay for Carnival?"

"Good morning, Joel.  We're Charles and Leslie, and we'll most likely be here for Carnival."

"I hope you enjoy, and I'll see you again.  Good morning to you."

We saw Joel often and met several of his younger siblings over the next few weeks.  He was 12 at the time, the second oldest in a family of five children.  He would often appear with several other boys his age, paddling makeshift boats, or sometimes swimming.  He always introduced the others politely, and they would visit for a few minutes before splashing away to amuse themselves.
When school started, Joel came by to show us his new uniform -- he was quite proud to have been chosen on the basis of scholastic achievement to attend a particularly good secondary school. For the rest of our stay, he would come by to show us his homework and get an occasional bit of help. He was studying French and Spanish along with the more typical subjects for a student his age. We found him typical of the people of Grenada: friendly, bright, cheerful, and industrious. He shared with us his career aspirations once. "I want to build a marina, right here in the lagoon. I could hire all of my family and my friends, and we could take care of yachts like yours." We wished him well with that. Unfortunately, a developer from the U. K. beat him to it, and there's not much room in the lagoon for anchoring anymore.

Ripe nutmeg with red mace
We spent a good bit of time exploring Grenada during our first season there, taking in the natural beauty and learning about the people. Grenada produces a large share of the world's supply of nutmeg, as well as bananas, chocolate, sugarcane, and a myriad of spices. It's known as the Isle of Spice, and for good reason. A walk through any of the open air markets is an olfactory treat that defies description.
Ripe cocoa pod - future chocolate bar
Banana blossom
The island itself has a signature aroma. After a day in the open ocean breathing fresh, clean air, when we sail into the lee of the island, the distinctive smell welcomes us. We're downwind of the island as we sail the 20-odd miles from its northern tip down to the capital city of St. Georges, and we first notice the lush, rich aroma of the cultivated earth, picking up the overtones of fruit and the distinctive aroma of fires fed by cuttings from all sorts of exotic trees and shrubs and the shells of nutmeg. The smell of caramelized sugar from the cane mills and distilleries weaves through it all to produce a smell that is unique to this island.
Natural Beauty
7 Sisters Falls