Monday, June 13th, 2011
Approaching St. George’s, Grenada from Carriacou on a late afternoon May 10th was a charming sight. The island had been to windward of us for several hours as we made our way down the coast and steep, green and richly forested it was. Fort George, which is hidden until you come around some steep cliffs, overlooks the city and was bathed in a late afternoon golden glow. The sun reflected off the stained glass windows of churches. Old brick houses lined the streets, all of which sloped steeply down to the Carenage, a common name for the harbor at a West Indian Island, and in this case one in which we would soon anchor with two anchors and go stern-to the quay where not so long ago trading schooners berthed and heaved down, careened, to repair, caulk and paint their bottoms.
St. George’s was not the only thing glowing that evening. Donald stood at the rail, craning his neck to see his friends and family on the dock. He was home. After sailing for 13 months in this voyage of the Picton Castle as Chief Cook, Donald was back in Grenada.
Grenada, known as the Isle of Spice (rightly so as this small island is second only to all of Indonesia for nutmeg production), is the most southern island in the Windward Isles. It is a spectacularly beautiful island to explore and many of the crew took local buses into the mountains where they spent their afternoons hiking to the wonders of the Seven Sisters waterfalls, Concord Falls, Grand Etang National Forest and Crater Lake. Some made a visit to Caribs Leap where a large group of Caribs escaped the French long ago, and you can still see Carib petroglyphs nearby. Guave is the main fishing town and they have a festive “Fish Friday” every week and many islanders make the trek to join in the fun, so did some of us.
Everywhere you see interesting local built wooden fishing boats hauled up on the beach. Some of us got to see a still working sugar plantation from the 1700s now making rum more than sugar; 80,000 bottles a year all consumed on Grenada, none left over for export. Took a taste, rough stuff, but the sugar factory was amazing, still powered by a water wheel – using all the same equipment and techniques from over 200 years ago, amazing.
St. George’s itself is an intriguing city to explore. You need not visit a museum to learn a little about the heritage here, for the city itself is a living, interactive museum, where the past and present collide at every intersection. In particular the crew frequented the lively market place in the centre of town, purchasing local delicacies like French walnuts (a fruit that tastes like a plum, a pear and an apple combined) and callaloo (a leafy green chock full of iron, makes a great soup) and boxes of spice to bring home for family and friends.
While onboard the on-watch crew had plenty to do to occupy their time. Work on a ship is ongoing. Naturally the crew has been working diligently on maintenance throughout the voyage, but now, an increased urgency has set in. The weather during our stay in Grenada was perfect for jobs such as varnishing and painting. Sunny, warm days without sudden downpours allowed the crew to varnish the pin rails and spot paint the bulwarks and holy stone the deck in preparation for oiling. The little small boat, Uncle C, that we acquired in Carriacou (9 foot boat built like a schooner) also needed some work and the crew stripped her down and prepared her for some re-planking. As Nadja, Donald and I prepared our food provisioning orders with local, trusted chandler Terry, the rest of the crew cleaned out and organized the forward sole and hold, ready to receive the bulk of food.
*Thank-you to Ollie for the use of his photo of the Picton Castle stern-to.