By Kate “Bob” Addison
A beautiful Tuesday afternoon finds the Picton Castle sailing sweetly across the Caribbean Sea away from Grenada and the Grenadines. The trade winds astern are pushing us along towards Panama at a respectable 7 knots and are also wonderfully refreshing on this warm, sunny day.
Grenada showed us a wonderful time, and we would have loved to stay longer to hang out with the gracious and welcoming people, who seemed to be always on the verge of laughter of a smile.
Bigger and more bustling than Carriacou, Grenada rises up out of the sea to lush green rainforest-covered mountains. The main town of St Georges is on the NW side, and here there are the docks, bus station, markets, cruise ship terminal and all kinds of shops and restaurants. Riding the local minivan buses is a good (and very inexpensive) way to get out of town and around the island. Glorious views appear around every corner and over the brow of every hill. There are places to get fried chicken or a cool drink dotted along every road, and we discovered that even if the place looks shut someone will usually appear to open up if a gang of hungry sailors appears.
On Saturday and Sunday groups of 6 or 8 from the off-watches went out on tours of the island, way up into the mountains where the air was cool and the vegetation incredible – we even found monkeys to feed bananas at the Grand Etang Forest Reserve! There were cocoa, banana and nutmeg trees planted in every valley, and papaya, citrus and mango too. Nutmeg is the national tree of Grenada, and the twin crops of nutmeg and mace are important exports. Our guide explained that every bit of land is owned by someone, and they all plant crops to grow food or to earn a dollar. There were a fair number of goats tethered by the side of the road once we got out into the countryside, and the occasional wandering chicken as well.
The highlight of the tour was a rum distillery, built in 1785 and with original machinery still working. There is a big water wheel to crush the sugar cane, and the juice is boiled and fermented in huge sickly-sweet vats before being fed into the big copper stills for distillation. This whole enterprise dated from plantation days as they say around here. We were given a sip of the finished rum to taste at the end and concluded it would be good for a sore throat if not for a delicate stomach.
Another highlight of our island adventure was the waterfalls – there are several around Grenada, and our tour took us to Concord Falls where we swam in the plunge pool – such a luxury to be completely immersed in clean, cool fresh water – we get so used to being salty!
There were other intersting ships to look at in St. George’s – a freighter, Ocean Princess II out of Kingstown was converted from the Lunenburg scalloper T.K. Pierce, her old name still visible on the stern. We had a couple of fellow sailing ships too – the Windjammers Mandalay and the Star Flyer, both take passengers sailing around the Caribbean.
Friday night in Grenada is celebrated by a fish fry, and in Guave, a fishing town on the NW coast of the island, this means a dozen or so stalls lining two perpendicular streets and selling all sorts of fried fish, plantain, breadfruit and other, unidentified but crispy, golden and savoury things. There was a band playing island rhythms on the corner, and a couple of men on stilts doing some very athletic dancing – I’m not sure if this is a tradition or if they were from a circus school but either way it was fun to watch, and the whole place had a nice, relaxed vibe – lots of local families relaxing on a Friday night.
We had our own parties too – Donald hosted us at his house for a BBQ on Saturday, and on Monday we played host to some of our friends on the island. It was a good time, with singing and dancing and lots of food. Some of our guests bought us a big pot of ‘oil-down’, Grenada’s national dish it is a delicious mild and smooth stew of chicken, dumplings, vegetables, coconut milk, and, of course nutmeg.
So, we are very sorry to leave the West Indies, but it good to be back out to sea again where the breeze is fresh and cool and there is no hectic sightseeing, shopping or laundry to be done. It feels sort of like coming home.