Grenada: June 8-July 16, 2009

Click on the above thumbnail for a map during this time period

Grenada -- the Spice Island

It feels like being home to be back.  We have a short list of favorite places in the Caribbean, and Grenada is among the very topmost.  There are other islands that are nearly as friendly; there are other islands that perhaps have even more dramatic scenery -- Dominica or tiny Saba come to mind; but overall this is a great place to be.  We spend our time here anchored at Hog Island.  This gives us marvelous roll-free protection that is just around the corner from Clarke's Court Bay Marina, with its enhanced opportunities for socializing with other cruisers.  Chris and Barb (Moon Sail) were for a time hosts at the Marina, and they did a great job of improving the atmosphere of the place.  Now, with their departure to points north, Renee and Cheryl (Gypsy Blues) have taken things to a new height.  They have retained the Wednesday "burgers and fries" night, and the Saturday "potluck" night.  And they have added a Friday night event that cycles between "fish and chips" and "spaghetti and garlic bread".  Further, Renee now serves lunch!  Two types of soup and a large selection of sandwiches and wraps.  He bakes his own bread, which he incorporates into the lunches, and he also sells whole loaves to marina guests.  Delicious!  The place is already hopping, and it is destined to become even more so when Steve and Linda (Seaman's Elixir) return from Denver with the Marina's new Wii to be used with the huge flat screen that is mounted above the bar.

Closer to the anchorage, Roger continues to man his open-air bar right on Hog Island, and continues to provide a barbeque on Sunday afternoons.

Cuddy continues to do his island tours and his trips to the fish fries in Guave, and continues to occasionally organize "oildowns" -- about which more later.

The Grenada Hash House Harriers continue to sponsor hashes every other weekend -- about which more later.

The well-run "cruisers' net" continues to air on VHF every morning (except Sunday) at 7:30 AM.

Duty-Free Ain't Free

The lower tray in our domestic-type GE refrigerator sustained a crack some time back.  Probably as a consequence of something heavy tumbling down from the top shelf when the door was opened after a tumultuous passage between islands.  (Yes, dear readers, some passages can be a tad bit tumultuous.)  The crack was growing, and so we decided to order a replacement tray directly from GE.  Too big for Barb to bring back on the plane when she returned from the USA.  But where to have it shipped?  Trinidad was known to be a hassle-free destination, but it would be months before we were there again.  Grenada was known to be not hassle-free, but then Barb had a phone conversation with the Grenada office of Tropical Shipping, and they informed her that they had all of the appropriate Customs and Duty agents right there in offices in the building.

So on the day we arrived in Grenada we temporarily anchored in often-rolly Prickly Bay and hurriedly walked to the Tropical Shipping offices on Morris Bishop road, where we paid Tropical twice as much for the shipping as the tray itself had cost.  We were then directed to the Customs office just one door over, where we smugly presented our Tropical paperwork and our boat papers.  The agent leafed through the papers and asked "Where is your Permit to Ship Stores form?"  Huh?  The agent explained that without the form, we would be subject to duty, which for plastic is 55% of the cost of the item.  "But we were told by Tropical that there was a Customs office here and that we wouldn't have to visit any other office," we said.  "You should have gotten the form when you checked into the country at Cariacou," he replied.  "So cannot you issue the form?" we asked.  "No," we were told.  We would have to go to one of the ports of entry to secure the form.  And thus we learned that all Customs offices are not equal.  Some are empowered to receive the form, and others are empowered to issue the form.  Further, the agent explained that Tropical had not been wrong -- they had just assumed that we already understood and possessed the all-important Permit to Ship Stores form.

So Barb caught a bus to do some grocery shopping while I walked back to Prickly Bay to take the dinghy across to the Customs office.  I was concerned that it would not be open, because there had been announcements that all vessels -- because of the Swine Flu issue --must check in to the Hillsborough Customs office in Carriacou or the Grenada Yacht Club Customs office in Grenada.  (We had checked in at Hillsborough, but no mention had been made of the health certificate we were supposed to obtain and possess for presentation on demand to appropriate officials.)  But the Prickly Bay office was indeed open, presumably for vessels to be able to check out.  Well, kinda open.  It was closed for lunch, but I could see the agent asleep in his chair behind the tinted glass of the office door.  He overslept by 15 minutes, and then roused himself to let me in.  He seemed confused and befuddled about issuing the form, but finally gave me two green copies.  He also retained one of the white copies I had been sent with.  The wrong copy, it subsequently turned out when I returned to Tropical, where I was first directed to the Duty Agent's Office.  He took one of the green copies, grumbled about the missing white copy, sent a lackey over to Tropical to get a replacement copy, filled out and gave me a blue copy, told me the fee was 40 EC, and directed me to the adjoining Customs office, where I found another sleeping agent.  This one seemed even more befuddled.  "What do you want me to do with this?" he asked when I presented him with the papers.  "I don't know", I replied.  "The agent right over there said to bring them to you.  You can ask him if you want," I said.  He didn't.  Instead, he shuffled around and did some signing and some stamping and gave me the papers back.  I took them back to the Duty Agent, who did some more signing and stamping and retaining and then gave me the package containing the refrigerator tray.

As I left the office I couldn't help but wonder how duty-free could mean 40 EC.  Unless it was compensation for running around to get the proper paperwork.  But no, wait, I did the running around. 

(The new tray fits perfectly, and we have resolved to be even more careful when opening the frig door after a tumultuous passage.  And to ship to Trinidad whenever possible.)

Transatlantic Traversing Travails

When we arrived at Hog Island the place was abuzz with talk about Neal's (PK3) intention of taking his catamaran back to England.  Many were concerned that the vessel was not sufficiently sea-worthy for such a voyage.  And word was that Neal had never really sailed it anywhere.  Several people had attempted to help Neal ready the vessel.  Most of those efforts ended badly, with Neal feeling that the helpers were being too negative and secretly maneuvering to prevent his departure.  Only one of the two engines worked, and that engine had been installed in such a fashion that the alignment was off, causing severe vibrations at certain rpms.  On two consecutive days I observed Neal leaving the anchorage for a short test run.  At the conclusion of the second run word quickly spread that Neal had (at least temporarily) given up.  Seems the auto pilot was not working.  More tellingly, a winch had pulled completely out of the deck and had been lost.  Imagine that happening in the middle of the ocean.  The vessel now sits at anchor in Hog Island, but Neal has, thank goodness, flown back to England.

PK3 leaves the anchorage on a trial run -- note the brown hills in the background

But see how green it is by mid-July

Needed: New Knees

We moved from Prickly Bay to Hog Island immediately after getting the refrigerator tray.  There, we found Receta, Arctic Tern, and Asseance (our cruising companions up the Macareo last November.)  Heather (Asseance) and Devi (Arctic Tern) were back in North America.  Almost immediately Hunter (Arctic Tern) and I began to take early morning (6:30 AM) hikes on the paths and dirt roads in the vicinity.  Steve (Receta) often joined us as well, when he wasn't busy with last-minute boat chores in preparation for his trip to Toronto.  For the first week or so it was up and down through brown and dusty scrub forest that was practically bare of foliage -- it was still "dry season".  My left knee talked to me a bit, but didn't seem to be getting any worse.  Meanwhile, my stamina was returning.  Barb left to go visit kids and grandkids in Savannah, leaving me with a "honey-do" list that was 15 items long, including such easily-accomplished tasks as "wax the entire outside of the boat".  Ann and Steve moved Receta over to Clarke's Court Bay Marina and left for an extended absence so that they could search for a condo and Ann could do last minute stuff for her latest book.  A Hash House Harrier hash rolled around, and Hunter and I decided to forgo the sometimes-iffy hash shuttle and instead get there under our own steam.  We took a series of route taxis to a point as near as the route would get to the starting place, with the idea of walking the rest of the way.  Trouble is, we had over-compensated in terms of an early start, and so the hash signs were not yet up.  Up and down the hills we walked, right past the starting place.  Much further down the road, we found someone who had helped lay out the hash route.  He misunderstood that we were searching for the start location, and so took us much further in the wrong direction to a point where the run and walk routes of the hash diverged.  At that point we finally made him understand our objective.  He explained where the start point was, and we realized we had passed it miles ago.  We got back to the start only shortly before the hash began, after having already walked more than the equivalent of a hash.  Nevertheless, when on the hash it came time to choose at the diverge-point, we both chose the longer run route, and when the path permitted, we did indeed both run, despite the fact that we both have problematical knees.  Next day, so as to forestall sore muscles, we again had our early-morning hike.  What was to be a short one turned into a not-so-short one.  Next day, we did a really long one.  Then, feeling frisky, on the next day I talked Hunter into doing some running on the dirt roads just north of the anchorage.  Our knees suffered some after that.  Hunter's soon got better, and mine began a slow daily decline which I attempted to ignore while continuing the morning hikes.  Ran into "Doc" Adams, chiropractor and blues musician extraordinaire at a Clarke's Court burger night, and he offered a complementary examination.  He convinced me that I had a serious problem that would require "RICE":  Rest, Ice, Compress, and eventually rehabilitative Exercise.  That was about three weeks ago.  I've stopped hiking, avoided walking, worn a brace, and iced several times a day.  The knee is better, but still doesn't feel right.  With his blessing I've just begun doing leg extensions, albeit with more weight than Barb thinks is wise.  Meanwhile, Heather, Devi and Barb returned to their respective vessels, and Devi and Barb have joined Hunter for the early-morning hikes.  I stay in bed and pout.  Barb and Devi come back laden with fruits they have picked on their walks -- the dry season has ended; the hills around our anchorage are a brilliant green;  fruits of all types are bursting out.  Mangos and sapodillas and "Barbados cherries" (not the same as the "usual" cherries in North America, but I learn on the web that they do grow in Hawaii and Florida) and bananas and passion fruit and bread fruit and star fruit.  There are a number of Barbados cherry trees just to the north of the anchorage.  We discovered them while going to the north approach to the "bridge to nowhere" in order to play bocci.  We spontaneously picked a bunch, and divvied them up between Arctic Tern and Tusen Takk II.  Turned out we both made cherry juice with them.  I squished them first and then strained through cheese cloth.  The result was brilliant red, and still full of pulp.  One day as an experiment in flavor I poured half a glass of cherry juice and then filled the glass with orange juice.  Was surprised when the orange juice turned out to be denser than the pulpy cherry juice.  Here is a picture of what it looked like before I stirred.  How did it taste after I stirred?  Yummy!

Barbados cherry juice and orange juice (before stirring)

On July 4 another hash came around, and we rented a car and attended.  Barb, Devi and Hunter hashed, and I stayed in the car and pouted.  Afterwards, we took the car to La Sagesse for a "barbeque and blues" event which featured some great ribs and the talented Doc Adams Blues Band.  The music was infectious, and I found myself on the dance floor, albeit with most of my weight on my right leg.  But I've gotten ahead of myself.  The Wednesday night burger night at Clarke's Court on July 1 was on Canada Day, and all attendees were encouraged to wear red and white.  The best "costume" would be awarded a free burger meal.  Preceding the burgers a young couple with a grant to survey sea birds in the Caribbean gave a talk on their project.  See pictures of the July 1 and July 4 events below.

Young couple undertaking a survey of Caribbean sea birds

Part of the crowd for the tropical bird talk on July 1

The winner (right) of the Canada Day costume contest

Jeanie, Chuck and Gary ("Doc") Adams

Panist at the July 1 burger night

Devi, Hunter and Barb listen to the pre-hash instructions on July 4

The hash starting place as seen from the beach

Hunter dashes at the end of the hash

Doc Adams Blues Band at La Sagesse on July 4

Hunter and Devi get it on down

At one point everyone was on the dance floor

Enjoying the band

The "doc-etts": Jeanie (right) and the bass-player's lady

Cuddy's oildown

At this time of year, when produce is readily available, tour guide Cuddy organizes an occasional "oildown" for cruisers.  Actually, many rum shacks host oildowns on weekends in order to attract customers.  Cuddy coordinates with a particular rum shack in mid-island and arranges the transportation.  On Saturday, July 11, buses (large vans) from at least three separate marinas/anchorages converged on the shack at mid afternoon.  Locals were also welcome, and many were already lounging in the area when we arrived.  The raw ingredients had already been laid out, but much work remained.  USA southerners will already have a feel for what an oildown is -- it is kinda like a low country boil.  Large pot in which many ingredients are cooked together.  Except the ingredients are all placed in the pot at the same time for an oildown, unlike a low country boil where different ingredients require different cooking times and so their addition to the pot must be staged.  There is no "oil" in an oildown, but the "oily" mouth feel derives from the addition of coconut milk.  Not coconut milk from a can, mind you, but coconut milk created on the spot.  Coconut milk is not the water that spills out when a coconut is cracked.  The milk is formed by grinding the white flesh and adding water and then squeezing the result.  The liquid squeezing is the milk.  The remains of the grinded flesh is discarded, but not thrown away.  Rather, it is retained for feeding to animals.  What else goes into an oildown?  Oh, not much.  Just lots of bread fruit and green bananas and yams and callaloo and cabbage and string beans and carrots and dumplings and  chicken and seasoned pork and ground turmeric.  Most of these ingredients require some preparation, and cruisers were encouraged to pitch in and help.  After the pot was filled to the brim, with different ingredients layered in, the pot was placed on an open fire, supported by three large rocks.  Ninety minutes later we had ourselves a feast!  Wow.  Almost as good as the low country boils I used to make back in Savannah, GA.

Coconuts for the oildown

Green bananas, breadfruit, and yams

Grate for the coconuts and turmeric

More bananas and breadfruit

Cuddy giving lessons on preparing the breadfruit

Barb pares a breadfruit

Cuddy slices up a breadfruit

Breadfruit workers

Cracking open coconuts with the back of a machette

Cracked coconut -- the white flesh must still be removed

Annette (Koolau) hard at work

Removing the white coconut flesh

The pot fills with coconut flesh

Cuddy peels a small yam

Some yams are much bigger

Scarou in front, his brother in back, and the owner of the rum shack on the right

Scarou was stung; I asked about the insect and was taken into the woods to see this nest

The owner of the rum shack that hosted the oildown

Placing the first layer (breadfruit) in the pot

Grinding coconut

Ground coconut and turmeric have filled a container

Seasoned pork -- to be added to the pot at the correct layer

Adding a layer of seasoned pork

Callaloo about to be added to the pot

Cabbage and green beans and green bananas and breadfruit ready to be added to the pot

More greens (callaloo?) for the pot

Pot for boiling is filling up!

Flour for the dumplings

Making dumplings

The oildown site was on the top of a peak -- here we look to the south ...

... from the flat roof of someone's house!

Looking down at the coconut squeezing from the flat rooftop

Squeezing milk out of the ground coconut

Straining the pulp out of the coconut milk

The "waste" coconut pulp after squeezing

Taking the pot to the fire

Cooking begins

Loitering during the 90-minute boil

Barb and two gimps

While the pot boiled Cuddy took a group out to look at local fruits -- here he offers a mango

"All spice" on a tree

Star fruit

An adornment on a wall adjacent to the prep area

Pineapple, mango, papaya picked near the prep area -- not for the oildown pot but to pacify the restless pot-watchers

Small bananas (locally called "figs") gathered for distribution to Cuddy's guests

Rik (Koolau) engaged in deep conversation with two locals

Annette (Koolau) keeps the ladies enraptured

Scarou, Chuck and another man enjoy Clarke's Court rum

Photo courtesy of Connie Elson (Tashtego)

Boy, that Clarke's Court rum is good

Don and Heather (Asseance) cuddle

And then the oildown is ready!

A heaping plate of oildown

Enjoying the delicious flavors

Rash Cases

Back on Union Island Barb and I developed rashes.  Not widespread, but more like localized bites or reactions to toxic plants.  In fact, the spots on my knee looked a lot like the poison ivy I used to get as a kid in South Dakota.  The rashes gradually  disappeared.  Then, on the eve of Barb's trip to Savannah, a similar rash reappeared, with most outbreaks on her torso.  She was miserable while in Savannah, and still had an outbreak when she returned.  She went to see a dermatologist here in Grenada, and was told it was some type of allergic reaction.  She treated the symptoms and the rash receded and disappeared, only to be replaced by a set of discrete raised bumps.  Back to the dermatologist, who noted that the new outbreak was only on skin exposed to the sun.  So the latest diagnosis is that Barb is suffering from sun poisoning.  So, at least in the short term, Barb will be attempting to wear long pants and long sleeves and floppy hats.  We will see how that works.

Too Late to Get With It?

We hope not.  We have recently begun compensating for our lack of access to National Public Radio by loading up our iPod with podcasts.  Available for free on the web.  What a neat solution.

Letters from Heaven?

When Barb returned from Savannah she bore new letters for the transom -- the old had gotten faded and cracked.  I removed them easily with a heat gun, but then Barb and I struggled mightily with the problem of removing all of the old glue.  When at last the transom was clean I put the new letters on.  Barb jumped in the dinghy to document that process.  Here is the result:

Um, how do you spell it again?