We Play Carnival

We made it back to Mt. Hartman Bay and dropped the hook in our old spot.  Mark caught his flight back to the States the next day and I commenced to settle into living in Grenada.  This includes simple things like getting to and from the store, planning and preparing meals so I don’t starve, and figuring out how to amuse myself in between working on the boat.

Suffice it to say that I have survived so far.  I will do a subsequent post on day to day life once I can collect some pictures, but now I would like to talk about Carnival.  Each island has a carnival celebration and the dates vary, so you could conceviably wander the islands visiting one carnival after another.

John on Celtic Dream is dating Donelle, a local woman, and he is really tuned in to island events.  He was our organizer for Carnival and fell into the role of Carnival Information Man on the morning net. 

According to the SpiceMas website, Carnival runs for about a week.  It starts on Wednesday, Aug. 4,  and ends Aug. 10, the following Tuesday.  Fearless Leader John identified four events that he thought would be great to “play” (you don’t go to Carnival, you play Carnival).


The first event was Pantastic Saturday, a battle of the steel drum bands at the national stadium.  Patrick, our intrepid driver and his conductor, Kiesha, picked us up at Martin’s Marina in Mt. Hartman Bay and took us to the stadium.  on the way we passed Andrew, a Dominican river guide who is acting as crew for Suzy on Spirited Lady.  We picked him up and took him along.

The national stadium is a nice facility.  We bought tickets, wandered in, found the beer stand, and went looking for seats.  The crowd was fairly small and we easily found a row of seats for our group.  We looked around and soon saw lots of friends from other boats.

It’s hard to imagine a pan group if you have never seen one.  The pans are literally 55 gallon drums with an end cut off.  The top of the drum is then beaten in to form areas that when struck with a small mallet, create a distinct note.  The volume and tone produced are amazing.  I’ve seen individuals play a couple drums with a soundtrack backup, and groups of five or six people play them with some drums being bass and other being lead.  There may be other divisions, but I don’t know what they are.  The groups playing in the competition had 35 – 45 members.  Even with that many people they had a hard time playing loud enough for the music to be heard well in the seats.  Mark from Reach figured out that nothing prevented you from walking out on the field and standing in front of the stage.  I went out for the next group and the sound was much fuller and richer.

One of the Pan groups performs

Each group played a warmup song, then a recording of the song they would do in the competition was played, and finally they played the song themselves.  Moving their equipment on and off stage, and playing their songs took an average of one half hour per band, so there was a lot of time to wander around between groups.

Everyone loved the pan kid

By about midnight there were still 3 or 4 groups left to play, but we decided to have Patrick pick us up and go back to our boats.


The next event we planned to play was Jouvert (joo vay) also known as Dirty Mas.  This parade started early, so we had Patrick pick us up at 4 AM on Monday and take us into town.  He dropped us off near the beginning of the parade route and off we went to join the revelers.  Along the way we stopped at one of the little rum shops and bought a couple beers – at 4AM.

Each group's truck provided loud music.....

....and lots of energetic encouragement

The locals wore a mix of weird costumes and old clothes.  Groups were identified by a color and they had containers of paint (reputed to be body paint) which the proceded to smear on passersby. 

Pretty in pink

These are predominantly black islands, so we stood out in the dark of night and got a bit of attention from the locals.

Dave tries to blend in

Students from the local college feeling in the pink

The parade approaches the harbor

The feeling in the crowd ranged from just plain fun to a bit wierd, which is not all that surprising given the time of day and general activities.  We wandered along with the mass of humanity and eventually got to the harbor as the sun was rising over the mounntains.  Eventually we worked our way back to where Patrick would pick us up and take us home.

Jouvert players L to R Andrew, IB, Donelle, John, Eric, Dave, and Lynn

Some take the paint thing more seriously than others

Mama would beat our butts if we came home like that

The hardcore skip the paint and use motor oil

#6 looked tempting, but we skipped the breakfast specials

Fancy Mas

We got some food and took naps and were ready to go again early in the afternoon.  The next event was the Pageant, also known as Fancy Mas.  This is the parade you think of when you think of Carnival.  The cosumes were magnificent.  We found a spot on the parade route and watched them go by.  Sprinkled among the locals were students from the local college and some cruisers who bought costumes and joined in the parade.

Marchers in blue

Marchers in purple

Some students from the university marched in the parade

Where's Waldo?

Monday Night Mas

After the parade we had some dinner and walked around a little, then we went to the place where the next parade was forming.  This was Monday Night Mas, which comprised groups sponsored by various local companies.  The special thing about this Mas was that it happens after dark so everyone has lights.  Sponsored means you buy a package which includes a t-shirt, hat, lights, and other things and the sponsoring group provides a truck with unlimited beer and rum.  Unlimited means all you can drink before the parade starts, because once you are marching you can’t get to the truck.  We didn’t know about this catch, so we remained relatively sober.

The group between parades. l to r Eric, Donelle, John, the Impressionist crew, Diane, Lynn, Ken, and Steve

Seven people from our anchorage joined the group sponsored by Lime, one of the two big Caribbean phone companies.  One by one the groups started down the parade route and soon it was our turn.  We fell in with the mass of humanity behind the Lime truck.  Music boomed and a guy on top of the truck directed us to wave our lights in various ways so we could look good as we passed the judging stations.

Eric, Dave, and John get ready to wind for Lime

On we went, winding (dancing) as well as we poor white tourists could manage, waving our lights with the group, and blowing our whistles on cue.  What a hoot!  The Lime crowd expanded and compressed as the street narrowed and widened.  People were  into each other and trying to keep dancing.  We might have gone a half mile when Ken and Lynn from Silverheels III dropped out, but the rest of us kept going.  A little later, Diane from Jabulony passed the warning to us that there were pickpockets in the crowd.  I did a quick inventory and realized my camera was gone from my pants pocket along with about $40 EC.  At first I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to put a damper on things, but then Dave from Persephone told us someone stole his new cell phone and Diane told us she lost some money.  I told them about my camera and money and we just dropped out.  It was a sad way to end an event that had been a lot of good fun.  We located the rest of our group, called Patrick, and had him take us back to our boats.  We found out that someone cut Ken’s pocket and took his money, so these people were very good at what they did.

This experience does not seem to be typical to Grenada.  Every Grenadian we have mentioned this to is quite upset that we would have such a bad experience in their country.  Word is that a group of people travel from carnival to carnival to pick pockets.

A couple days later Dave and I went downtown to pick up some things.  He stopped at Lime and explained to the manager how his new Lime phone was stolen while he was marching with the Lime group.  She was mortified that this would happen and was genuinely concerned that we would think poorly of her country.  She sold Dave a new phone at a 40% discount, got his remaining minutes transrerred to it, and assigned it his old phone number.  Then she turned off his stolen phone so would be useless to whomever stole it.  Finally she processed his credit card so he wouldn’t have to wait in line.  We thought it was very gracious of them to try to make things right.

So Carnival is over for another year, but it takes the island about a week to wind down.  We would love to do it again next year – if not here then in other islands in the Caribbean.

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