On Thursday, 4/3, the anchor is up in Tyrrel Bay at 8 AM for our final, open-ocean, trade wind sailing day of the season. Our destination today is Prickly Bay on the south coast of Grenada, a distance of 38 nautical miles. The wind is light out of the east today. Cutter Loose is barely making 4 knots on a slow but steady broad reach towards Grenada, the Spice Island. The tidal rips and the constantly changing currents near Ile de Ronde make for some interesting navigational challenges. When the trade winds are howling, the bumpy and confused sea state in this cut can be a source of frustration. But today, the water is calm. It is a day to relax and enjoy this slow-paced, off-the-wind sail.
In the lee of Grenada, the sails begin to stall and flutter in diminished wind. Moisture-laden cumulus clouds passing over the mountainous northern half of Grenada create occasional gusts which fill the sails and improve boat speed. As the capital city of St. Georges passes to port, the clouds suddenly begin to appear dark and ominous. Nearing the airport at Point Saline, the wind is gusting to 25 knots, catching Cutter Loose over-canvassed and sending its crew into rapid sail reduction mode. Now within three miles of our destination, our turn to the east places the wind-driven waves squarely on the bow. The squall diminishes in intensity on final approach to Prickly Bay. Once in the protection of the harbor, the water becomes flat as the anchor is set at 3:45 PM. From here, Cutter Loose is less than ten miles from the yard at Grenada Marine where she will rest ashore during the forthcoming hurricane season.
Each morning, departing aircraft passing overhead in Prickly Bay serve as a constant reminder that the sailing season is nearly at its end and that our remaining time here in the Eastern Caribbean is brief. On May 1st, the silver bird will carry us home. One of our priorities this season is to allow sufficient time for inland exploration of Grenada and to enjoy the camaraderie of sailors who call this place home. Prickly Bay will serve as our base for shore side activities during the next few weeks. There are two dinghy docks in this anchorage that provide access to grocery stores, restaurants, laundry services, boat supplies, public buses and taxi services. In addition, there is public Internet service available in the Bay. Despite its deserved reputation as being a little rolly, Prickly Bay is a safe and convenient place to be.
Every Saturday afternoon at 4 PM in Grenada, an avid group of 50 to 150 runners and walkers meet to participate in the weekly HASH. This event is sponsored and organized by Grenada Hash House Harriers, a local running club. The HASH is a run/walk event, normally along a remote trail through the jungle. In advance of the event, the HASH master selects a person known as the hare to mark the route with small clumps of shredded paper. The starting/ending point is usually a pub or a park, the location of which is announced via e mail a few days prior to the event.
Along the route, there may be one or more trail intersections that are unmarked, in which case, the participants must explore all of the alternative trails until the marked trail is found. The participants shout “on-on” when they are certain that they have located the marked trail. This helps to keep others on course. Runners normally complete the HASH in an hour while walkers finish within 90 minutes.
Afterwards, food, beverages and entertainment contribute to a street party celebration emceed by Simon the Hashmaster, who by day is an ex-pat marine electronics technician. Participants are a diverse group of individuals, including children, members of the local running club, university students, cruisers and the public-at-large. Several seniors in their 80s routinely participate in this event.
On Saturday 4/5, HASH #821 begins and ends at Peggy’s Bar and Grocery Store in Morne Delice, St. David’s Parish. Today’s trail begins with a steep single-file ascent through thick vegetation. Some sections of the trail seem to have been blazed just recently. The descents are often trickier than the ascents, requiring slipping and sliding one’s way down steep dirt hillsides, grasping on to tree limbs, roots and rocks where available. The crowd thins out as the HASH progresses while some participants stop to catch their breath and a sip of water.
By 5:30 PM, all hashers have arrived back at Peggy’s Bar where the music is thumping and the street party is already well underway. The Hashmaster distributes certificates to newcomers while dispensing justice to experienced runners who have allegedly broken HASH rules. After an hour or more of celebration, the crowd gradually begins to diminish as we board Shademan’s taxi for the ride back to Prickly Bay.
On Sunday afternoon 4/6, we are met by cruising friends Donna and Steve at nearby Secret Harbor Marina for a two-mile dinghy ride to the outdoor concert at La Phare Bleu Marina. From Mount Hartmann Bay, our course takes us under the Hog Island Bridge and into Clarke’s Court Bay where a series of buoys mark a dinghy passage across the reef to Calvigny Island. Since the wind is up today, this turns out to be a wet ride in Steve’s brand new AB dinghy.
Some thirty dinghies and their occupants are rafted together to listen to rock n roll hits from the 50s performed by guitarist and vocalist Doc Adams, whose functions by day as the island’s chiropractor. The return trip from La Phare Bleu to Secret Harbor is downwind and dry. We are back aboard Cutter Loose before dark.
On Monday 4/7, we join a group of cruisers on a narrated island tour provided by Cutty, a local taxi driver/tour director/amateur botanist. Cutty’s brand new jet black Nissan mini-bus (with functioning air conditioning) is an excellent way to observe the countryside and learn more about the island while getting to know other cruisers. Our tour takes us east along the southern coastal route to the windward side of the island.
It is little wonder that Grenada is known as the Spice Island. The spices most people keep in small jars in their kitchen cupboard grow alongside the road here in Grenada. Cutty stops the van frequently in the middle of the road to harvest a cashew, nutmeg, clove, allspice, cinnamon or bay leaf from a nearby tree. Other drivers that we encounter on the roadways during our tour seem to have infinite patience with our frequent stops. The roads here are in good condition, but very narrow. Here’s a photo of Cutty serving beans from a ripe cocoa pod. They have a citrus taste rather than a chocolate taste.
Cashews grow as an appendage on toxic fruit…one cashew per fruit.
Dried cloves begin life as a flowering seed.
Nutmeg is a cottage industry and cash crop here in Grenada. Anyone with a nutmeg tree on his or her property can obtain a license to sell their fruit to the local cooperative. The saying in Grenada is that people with nutmeg trees on their property will always have a few dollars in their pocket.
Nutmeg trees are a distinctive yellow-green in color, growing to about 60 feet at full maturity. Ninety percent of all nutmeg trees on Grenada were lost during Hurricane Ivan in 2007. New trees planted after Ivan are just now beginning to bear fruit. In human terms, the average Grenadian lost seven years of supplemental income from the sale of nutmeg due to Ivan’s devastation. The island’s economy is inherently fragile. Most jobs are concentrated in the seasonal and volatile tourism sector of the economy. Supplemental income from the sale of fruits and vegetables helps many families to make ends meet.
On the tree, the fruit is yellow, about the size of a small apple. When ripe, the outer pod splits open and the fruit falls to the ground, whereupon it is collected by the owner and delivered to the Grenada Nutmeg Cooperative. The Cooperative pays the owner based on the size and quality of the fruit presented.
Nutmeg is actually two spices in one. Inside is the familiar oval-shaped brown nut covered by red waxy netting. The red netting is the source of the spice known as mace. At the Grenada Nutmeg Cooperative in Grenville, the mace is separated and weighed while the nutmeg is sorted on the basis of size and dried in large bins for three months before being sold to spice manufacturers.
From Grenville, it is on to the chocolate factory at Belmont Estate, followed by lunch at the Belmont’s so-called “sheeple” restaurant (an eating and drinking establishment catering primarily to cruise boat passengers). Samples of the 100% dark chocolate (no sugar or cocoa butter added) prove a bitter pill to swallow.
Next is a tour of the historic River Antoine Rum Distillery near the town of Tivoli on the northeast coast of the island. This facility has distilled rum in the same manner since 1785. As such, it is the oldest distillery in Grenada. Rum production is another important local industry, as there are rum shops (small neighborhood bars) on nearly every street in Grenada.
At the distillery, locally harvested sugar cane is shredded into small pieces by a massive two-story wheel powered by water diverted from a local stream. The processed juice from the cane is collected in basins and boiled. The resultant syrupy liquid is then pumped into foul-smelling, open-air fermentation vats where it remains for eight days before being sent to the wood-fired distillation boiler.
The result is a very potent clear liquid (150 proof or 75% alcohol) that makes one’s head feel light merely by sniffing the stuff. The bottling department consists of one worker seated at a small table pouring the product by hand into glass bottles. Free samples are available for all in the tasting showroom, where one may purchase the rum of their choice and/or pre-mixed bottles of passion fruit rum punch.
From the distillery, Cutty drives past Pearls Airport on the beach near Grenville. This facility was closed in 1984 when the new Maurice Bishop International Airport was opened on the south coast near Point Salines. Nowadays, the old airport is used for sanctioned drag racing events. Alongside the runway at Pearls are several Cuban military aircraft that were “de-commissioned” during the U.S.-led invasion of Grenada in 1983. To this day, most Grenadians express appreciation for the U.S. intervention.
After a final stop at the Grande Etang Forest Reserve to feed bananas to the mona monkeys, it is back to Prickly Bay, just in time for sunset. Thanks to Cutty’s insights and driving ability, we have come to know the back roads and villages of Grenada as a result of today’s tour.
On Thursday, 4/10 we attend cooking class at True Blue Resort, an easy 20 minute walk from the dinghy dock past St. George’s University. Resident chefs Esther and Omega demonstrate the fine art of preparing callaloo fritters and fish cakes to a group of 20 some cruisers. Callaloo is a leafy green, similar in color and consistency to spinach. Fish cakes are made from boiled salt cod. Both dishes involve mixing a batter and ladling the mixture into a sauté pan of hot oil. The result is not exactly health food, but it is a common dish that can be found on most menus in the Eastern Caribbean.
During our walk back to the dinghy dock, Marc at Mocha Spoke is busy replacing the rear brake cable on my Bike Friday. In addition to being the owner, barista and chief wrench at this coffee shop/bike rental shop and bicycle touring business, Marc is the organizer of Tour de Spice, a triathalon that will take place here in Grenada on April 27th. Mocha Spoke is a popular hangout where SGU students are cramming for final exams. The mocha frappes and intense studying here are quite refreshing.
Each day during the morning cruiser’s net, the VHF radio is buzzing with new and exciting things to do here at Camp Grenada. We will definitely run out of time before we run out of things to do on the Spice Island. Stay tuned for further adventures.