Archive for July, 2010

Grenada, the Spice Island

July 25, 2010

The Hood

Well here we are.  As I mentioned in our previous post we have settled into Mt. Hartman Bay, home of Martin’s Marina at Secret Harbor and just one of the many bays that line Grenada’s south coast.  We have found it to be a calm and quiet harbor.

To the west is Prickley Bay.  It is a popular anchorage because there is a marina, a boat yard, a marine supply store, restaurants and relativly close access to one of the bus routes.  We can walk over to the marina, but until we find some shortcuts, we won’t be walking to the other destinations.  It is possible to dinghy over if the weather is VERY calm.

Going east you come first to the anchorge at Hog Island.  On the island side of the anchorage is an old beach bar that sells beer, rum punch, and barbeques something on Sunday afternoon. On the mainland side of the anchorage are the remains of a couple Cuban gunboats.  Pass under the Hog Island bridge and you enter Clarks Court Bay.  Directly across the bay is Whisper Cove Marina.  It is owned by a French couple and although it is a very small marina, it boasts a selection of fresh meats.   One of the owners or employees is a meat cutter and butchers the animals on the premises.  On the west side of the bay is Clarks Court Marina, where they try very hard to keep the cruisers coming in.  They host weekly movies, water color painting classes, and a variety of other social activities.  Finally towards the north end of the bay is the dock that leads you up the hill to Nimrod’s Rum Shop.  The shop is a modest establishment and has been a community fixture for a very long time.  Just north of the bay is the Clarks Court Rum Distillery.  The water at the north end of the bay has a reddish brown color due to the outflow from the distillery.

We did some snorkeling in Mt. Hartman Bay and in the area between here and Hog Island.  We discovered a lot of conch, but only one had a fully-formed lip, the mark of a mature conch.  Mark found that one and managed to capture it.  We brought it back to the boat, cleaned it, and had it for dinner.  Now we have to wait for his friends to get a bit older.

Mark's Conch

Getting Around

Mt. Hartman Bay is not on one of the bus routes.  We can dinghy over to Clarks Court and catch a bus by Nimrods Rum Shop.  We do have an enterprising taxi driver, George of Survival Anchorge, who provides a ride into town every wednesday and friday.  He will stop at the bank, hardware store, grocery store, marine store, beverage store, various produce stands, and almost anywhere else that isn’t too far off the route.  The cost is $10 EC for the round trip.  And not only is this a great way to get your shopping done, but you get to meet all the other cruisers in the bay.

The buses here are like in the other islands, but more so.  They are still minivans, but the drivers fill them to the max and drive like crazy.  And although most of the roads here are in good condition, they are narrow, winding, and hilly.  It’s like an amusment park ride.  Eighteen or twenty passengers plus a driver and conductor in one van is not uncommon.  At least no one brings chickens or goats on board.

And speaking of goats, there are livestock everywhere.  At first we thought we were seeing goats, but they didn’t seem quite right.  It turns out they have sheep here that are either short haired by nature or are kept clipped short.  We learned that “long tail down = sheep; short tail up = goat.”


We weren’t here very long before our brother-in-law, Mark, came to visit.  We took one of the buses into St. George, the capitol.  As with most Caribbean towns, St. George is built around a harbor.

The Harbor

Another view of the harbor

What did I do with that map?

The Best Little Liquor Store is closed on Sunday. Mark and I are devestated


It was a sunday, so the town was quite empty.  The only people there were taxi drivers looking for fares and a few guys who wanted to take us on tours of the city or the island.  We didn’t need either.  Eventually we walked up the hill to one of the forts that overlooks the harbor and a local “guide” cornered us.  We agreed to let him show us around the fort.  He was quite a character and at one point did a commercial for his services while Mark filmed with his ever-present video camera. 

Mark films our tour guide while he does a commercial for his services.

According to Wikipedia, “Grenada gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1974. Left wing rebels seized power in a coup in 1979. After a 1983 internal power struggle ended with the deposition and murder of revolutionary Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, the invasion began on October 25, 1983. A combined force of about 7,600 troops from the United States, Jamaica and members of the Regional Security System defeated Grenadian resistance and the military government of Hudson Austin was deposed.”

One of the sites we saw on the “tour” was the door to the room where Maurice Bishop was held before he was executed.  We also got to see the stone walls with divots in them from the bullets.

The dungeon where Maurice Bishop was kept

On a more positive note, we caught a bus into the country where Mark and I climbed Mount Qua Qua, one of the higher peaks on Grenada.  The climb took us up ridges between the peaks.  The trail was a bit muddy and slippery which made it interesting on the steep parts and on a couple very narrow ridges.  After we got back down we had lunch at a small local restaurant.  While there a tour bus stopped across the road and the driver started tooting the horn.  Pretty soon a monkey came out of the brush.  He climbed up on a fence and walked down to where the bus driver was waiting with a banana.  Evidently they are trained to show up when they hear a horn.

Bug on the rail. The park hostess was leaning against the rail only inches away.

View from Mt. Qua Qua. Mt. Hartman Bay is behind the mountain just left of center

A monkey waits for a banana

A few days later we took a tour with Cuddy, perhaps the most popular tour operator on the island.  Grenada is known as the spice island, so about half the tour focuses on the various spices grown on the island as well as nuts and cocoa.  Chief among the spices is nutmeg. Until hurrican Ivan decimated the nutmeg plants, Grenada was the number 2 producer of this spice.  They have replanted, but the trees are not yet old enough to support much of a crop and the recent drought hurt the crop even more.  A second product from the nutmeg plant is the spice mace.  We visited both nutmeg and cocoa processing facilities.

Jackie holds a nutmeg. The red stuff is the spice mace and surrounds the nutmeg

Bags and bags of cocoa. What a nice smell

We also visited a rum distillery.  This facility has been in operation for a very long time.  They still use and ancient waterwheel to drive the equipment that crushes the sugar cain.  The juice is fermented in open vats before being distilled to create rum.

Old waterwheel is still used to drive the cane crushers

Rum Distillery Boiling House where they ferment the cane juice

Next: Return to Carriacou

WE MAKE IT! Carriacou and Grenada

July 7, 2010

Posted from Mt. Hartman Bay, Grenada

June 16.  We got up early, went into Clifton, Union Island, and checked out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  Shortly after noon we were weaving our way out of the harbor and heading south for Carriacou.  We would be passing behind Palm Island, Petit Martinique, and Petit Nevis, so we expected the waves to be small and the wind good for sailing.  At first we were not disappointed – the waves were pretty easy and the wind quite managable.  But as we approached Carriacou we saw squalls heading for us from the east.  We were already reefed down, so that wasn’t a problem.


A squall finally hit us as we reached Carriacou.  Lots of rain, but not too much wind.  We changed our heading away from Carriacou and waited for the squall to blow through.  It didn’t take very long, but it took most of the wind with it.  We turned on the motor to help the sails and worked our way into Hillsborough Bay.  We headed for Sandy Island at the south end of the bay.  We were going to anchor there and dinghy back to Hillsborough, but it looked like a long, wet dinghy ride back, so we motored back up the bay to Hillsborough.

The anchorage had lots of room and the holding was good.  We dinghied into town, checked in, walked around a little, and returned to the boat.  Once back aboard, we had a minor celebration.  The big picture sailing plan was to leave Maryland, head south, and spend hurricane season in Grenada.  Carriacou is part of Grenada, so we celebrated as we hoisted our Grenada courtesy flag.  We don’t have to check in again until after hurricane season.

It took over seven months, but we can now raise the Grenada flag!

Sail our boat to Grenada? Might as well try to sail it to the moon!

Sandy Island

The Hillsborough anchorage was exposed to the ocean and we rolled all night, so the next morning we eased down the bay and found a spot to anchor behind Sandy Island.  It is a very small, low island with very little vegetation.  The few trees were planted in an effort to help keep the island from eroding away.

There is a reef at each end of the island.  We walked the beach and snorkled the reef at our end of the island.  There were five or six other boats there, but everyone was pretty quiet.  We had expected to share the anchorage with a couple boats we know, but they skipped past and went around the corner to Tyrrel Bay.

We found this cowfish exoskeleton on Sandy Island

Tyrrel Bay

June 18  We spent a couple days at Sandy Island and then motored around the corner to Tyrrel Bay.  We found a nice spot to anchor near the beach at the north end of the bay, not too far from the commercial dock.  Tyrrel Bay is one of those places we have been looking forward to seeing because we know a couple who were based there for the five years they were cruising.  They are Roland and Kathleen on M’Lady Kathleen.  They decided to head home this year, but we did get to see them in Culebra as we passed by each other.

Tyrrel Bay has a street that runs along the waterfront.  There are a couple small stores and a few bar/restaurants.  There are also produce stands that are open some of the time and the occassional person selling freshly caught fish.  It’s a sleepy little place most of the time, but Friday night the Lambi Queen Restaurant hosts a really good steel drum band.  In addition there is the Halaluja bar, which is an old power boat anchored in the harbor.  Happy hour featured three beers for $10 EC – not a bad deal, indeed!

We found we could walk about a quarter mile to L’Esterre where there is a small bakery.  Just beyond that is Paradise Beach which is just across from Sandy Island, our previous anchorage.  We could also catch a bus to Hillsborough if we needed to do any serious provisioning.  They have a good fish market there and a nice museum.

Is there any other kind?

View of Sandy Island from Paradise Beach

The buses in Carriacou as in most of the Carribean, are minivans.  They run on routes that are common knowledge to the natives, but not published anywhere I have seen.  The drivers will pick you up or drop you off almost anywhere and the price is typically very reasonable.  Some of the drivers seem to have failed kamakazi school, because no matter how hard they try, they don’t seem to crash.  One afternoon we caught a bus that was full of school children.  It was pretty entertaining.

Typical view from the back of the bus

There was the typical boat boy selling fruit, but in addition there was one selling wine by the bottle or box, another selling oysters from the mangrove lagoon, and yet another (actually a boat girl) selling some delicious smoked fish.

Simon, the fellow who sold wine also offered tours of the island.  We took him up on it. Simon is a nice guy and knows quite a bit, but you have to ask questions to keep him talking.  We visited the eastern (windward) side of the island.  That coast is constantly beaten by waves and erodes away.  He made a couple stops in the town of Windward.  The town is known for building traditional Carriacou wooden boats.  We saw one that is nearly done and scheduled to be launched on July 11.  We also saw a boat that was just the keel and ribs – essentially the skeleton of the boat.  It’s quite interesting to see them under construction.

Simon, wine salesman and tour guide, looks at the windward coast

Carriacou sloop, about a month to launch day

June 28.  We stayed in Carriacou a bit longer than we intended, but finally got a day of weather that we liked, so we set off for Grenada.  The wind was fairly steady on the beam and we had a very pleasant sail.  We were only about an hour out when I caught a nice size blackfin tuna. About halfway to Grenada you pass Kick ’em Jenny, an underwater volcano.  There is a website where you can check on the volcano’s activity.  Luckily it was minimal, so there was only a 1.5 kilometer exclusion zone.  We passed pretty close by, but didn’t see any signs of activity.

Just as we reached the north end of Grenada the fishing reel buzzed and in short order we had another blackfin tuna on board.  Jackie predicted I would catch something because she had filled the freezer with her “catch” from the Hillsborough fishmarket, but neither of us dreamed we would catch more than one fish during the trip.

Making room for the freshly caught tunas

Mt. Hartman Bay, Grenada

By the time we cleared the south end of Grenada both fish were cleaned and stowed.  Good thing, because we were dead into the wind.  We rolled the jib and began motoring into the wind and bumpy seas.  Then the motor stopped.  We rolled the jib back out and Jackie started sailing the boat while I checked below.  I changed the fuel filter and got us going again.  There are a lot of bays on Grenada’s south side, but we picked Mt. Hartman Bay because it was close to us, close to town, and didn’t have a reputation for being rolly.  We motored in and dropped the hook.

It has taken us over seven months, but we are now as far south as we plan to go.

Next: Life in Grenada