We might have been behind Cuttyhunk on the race from Carriacou down to Grenada but we all shared the prize of a bottle of rum in true kiwi style. Our stopover here in Prickly Bay on the southern coast of Grenada seems to have been one big social whirlwind. Never before, well possibly back in Musket Cove, Fiji (our first stop after leaving Auckland in May 2004), have we had 5 New Zealand yachts in one anchorage. We are the A, B’s & C’s of Kiwi cruisers, Awaroa with John & Helen, Balvenie with Mark & Amanda, Bandit with David & Brenda, Cuttyhunk with Chris & Irene and Chinook Wind with Dick & Ann - now where else in the world would you find that but in a little bay in Grenada in the Southern Caribbean.
The social engagements began the night of our arrival, we had caught up again with Bandit and they had booked a table ashore at the local cruisers hangout De Big Fish for their live music night. The table of 6 quickly turned into 13 with more and more boats we knew popping up, more hellos, more salty seadog stories were told, we heard all about the fish that got away, the best anchorages – all the usual cruiser yarns, but we fitted in time for a few dances, it was, after all, Valentines Day!
We have filled our days here easily. Grenada is a beautiful lush green island covering 133 square miles. Much of it very hilly with dense tropical rain forest. The hundred thousand or so locals live mainly on wooden pole houses, perched on the side of hills and in valleys, there isn’t much flat land here so the houses are dotted everywhere in amongst the bush.
We spent a full day on an island tour. 11 of us set out at 9.30am in a minibus with driver and explored the island, and gosh there was lots to see. We took in the gated “Beverley Hills” type suburb where the expat community live in their large houses overlooking many of the small bays on the southern coast. Certainly a different lifestyle to many of the locals but it all seems to mingle ok.
We headed north past the main town of St George’s on the east coast, just one cruise ship docked….a quiet day. We stopped at a small spice garden, Grenada is known as the spice island and it seems they can grow anything here (except an abundance of fresh green vegetables - maybe they just don’t like their greens!!) All manner of plants grow side by side, coco, bananas, pawpaw, guava, turmeric, nutmeg, plantain, jackfruit, breadfruit, citrus, sugarcane, taro, passionfruit and many many more. The different sizes and shapes of trees work well together, the larger ones providing a canopy and shelter for the smaller.
However on September 7th 2004 no amount of shelter could save Grenada’s main export crops of coco and nutmeg, or 90% of its buildings. Hurricane Ivan struck with tremendous force and ripped through the small island, leaving a lasting path of destruction. It has taken time but Grenada does seem to have bounced back as best they can. The nutmeg, coco and banana export businesses were devastated – replanting and rebuilding takes time and most say it will never return to pre hurricane levels but they sure seem to be making a huge effort to get the economy going again.
We visited the Nutmeg Factory, where all the nutmeg is dried, sorted, graded and bagged up for exporting. They now export less than a quarter of the volume of nutmeg post ‘Ivan’. There was no automated machinery in the factory, labour is cheap, everything is done manually. After the nutmeg factory we headed for the hills to enjoy the cooler air and a chance for the braver of us to cool off in some crystal clear waterfalls. Then it was time to take in some of Grenada’s history. We stopped at the northern town of Sauteurs for an excellent lunch in a local restaurant with an amazing view, then a walk up the hill to the local church and cemetery. At the end of the cemetery perched on the edge of a high cliff is a memorial named Carib’s Leap . A reminder of a terrible event that took place back in 1651. The local Carib families leaped from the cliff to their certain deaths 130 feet below rather than be taken as slaves by the invading French. A grim piece of history and another fine example of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. We don’t seem to be learning do we !!!.
It was mid afternoon and still so much to see on this little island. We went barrelling down the runway at the old airport, whizzing past a couple of wrecked Cuban planes, left over from the 1979 Revolution – quite a chequered history for such a small island. Then it was time for a sweetener, the Chocolate Factory. Our tour guide was outstanding, very informative and lots of fun. He explained several of the local fruits (photo above) and how you prepare them, opened a coco pod for us and had us all trying the thick creamy substance that covers the coco beans, we saw the beans draining and then had the pleasure of walking backwards and forwards over the drying coco beans in the sun to turn them over and loosen the shells. But the best was saved till last, Hot Chocolate and Pure Grenada Chocolate tasting – yummy!!! We missed the video on the making of the chocolate process (housed in a different location) so we could get to our next stop of the Rum Factory before closing time, but alas there was to be no rum tasting today, despite a valiant effort we were too late.
We meandered back down the island, stopping at Great Etang Lake on one of the highest peaks, then we weaved our weary way back to Prickly Bay arriving not long before dark. It had been a long hot day and there was nothing for it but to relax at De Big Fish Cafe for a couple of refreshments.
The evenings have been busy with regular live entertainment ashore in the shacky beach bars. Anything from solo sax players to rock bands to steel drums bands, all providing great music. Our friends Phil and Monica on their lovely catamaran Miss Molly hosted a crowd of us for our own music night, great fun! Musicians missing from the photo below were Chris from Indy Plus on lead guitar and vocals, his wife Sue on pennywhistle and their twin boys on percussion.
However life on a cruising yacht is not all bikinis and martinis and in between all the fun there are always the ongoing “boat jobs”. Skipper spends many hours on the blue jobs….oil changes, filter changes, ferrying fuel, servicing the watermaker…… the list never ends. Meanwhile the pink jobs are equally demanding with the deployment of the sewing machine to whip up national courtesy flags for Venezuela, Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba, Colombia, Honduras and Guatemala in preparation for the next few months cruising itinerary. I am now an ace at cutting out stars and sewing them on - imagine my distress when I realised I had sewn 14 stars on the Venezuelan flag upside down. Bugger!! More fishing lines have been rigged in the hope that we might catch dinner every now and again, the food lockers are bulging at the seams again and the fridge is stocked full of fresh produce.
Grenada would prove to be the parting of the ways for the mini kiwi flotilla. Chinook Wind was the first to break ranks and leave a couple of days ago heading for Panama, and now Awaroa and Cuttyhunk are on their way too , they are stopping in the Venezuelan Islands as we will but then will also be heading towards Panama. So for now it’s just the 2 kiwi B’s left in Prickly Bay, Bandit and Balvenie. We will leave when the rain stops!