We arrived in St. Georges, Grenada, on June 30th, 2012, crossing the 12th parallel and entering the "safe zone" for hurricane season. Grenada's south coast would be our home until mid-November, with one quick side trip to the Grenadines (click here) and a month-long trip back to America to visit family. Grenada has much to offer cruisers, more than just being safe from hurricanes, and hundreds upon hundreds of boats gather in the various bays every summer. We visited many of the anchorages during our stay, but found our favorite to be Mt. Hartman Bay. Nestled behind a reef and tucked in well, this anchorage was quiet and calm and offered easy access to most places by foot, bus or dinghy. The cruising community in Grenada is much like that of our old hang-out of George Town, Bahamas, though much larger and more international. Germany, England, Switzerland, France, Australia, Italy, South Africa, Denmark, Canada, and the United States were all represented. The common language is English, though, as Grenada was a British colony until it gained its independence in 1974. Like in George Town, a cruiser's net is held every morning on the VHF radio, and there are many organized activities, from sports to hikes to parties. We settled in quickly and definitely got involved during our months here.
Like the rest of the Windward Islands, Grenada is a volcanic island. Though it has no active volcanoes, it is very mountainous and lush, with a large rainforest, innumerable rivers, and many waterfalls. Fruit trees grow everywhere, and local produce is in abundance at the markets. When we first arrived, mangoes were in full season. The tree behind Secret Harbour Marina (a marina in Mt. Hartman Bay) was full of them and we just filled our sacks. There are so many varieties of mangoes. Who knew? Then there are "rock figs", a type of short but fat banana; breadfruit, which is a ready substitute for potato; golden apples, a unique fruit that is shaped like a mango but tastes slightly pear-like; and various citrus, which vary quite a lot in taste and appearance from the standard smooth yellow sour lemons and big round orange oranges we are used to seeing in US supermarkets. Sometimes oranges are green, sometimes lemons are green, and sometimes limes are yellow. Go figure!
While fruits and vegetables are in abundance in this tropical place, Grenada is really called "The Island of Spice." Nutmeg, mace (which grows around the nutmegs), saffron, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice all grow on the island and can be found without much difficulty on any walk in the woods. We now have an overwhelming supply! Nutmeg is the country's main export. On an island tour, we visited a nutmeg processing plant and learned how they dry, sort, and grade the nuts, all by hand.
In the second week of August we got to experience our largest cultural event in Grenada and our third carnival of the year (after Junkanoo in the Bahamas and Carnival in the Dominican Republic). Grenada's "Spice-Mas" carnival ("mas" being short for masquerade) is celebrated on the anniversary of their independence from Great Britain, and features 72 hours of non-stop partying. It all started with the Pan Competition on Saturday night, the largest steel-drum competition north of Trinidad (where they were invented). We stayed until almost midnight listening to over a dozen bands compete, playing various calypso, soca, reggae, and newly-penned songs with fabulous skill and a tropical flare. Not only do many musicians play more than one pan at a time, they dance, twirl their sticks and "get down" and become one with the music as they play. It was a wonderful evening.
On Sunday there was a soca competition and costume competition, which we did not attend due to inconvenient travel and admissions prices. We saved ourselves instead for the biggest events and parties which started Monday morning at 4:30 a.m. Yes, the boys insisted we get up and participate in
J'Ouvert, the devils' mas. Thousands of people take to the streets of St. Georges, covering themselves in paint and dancing in ways we have never seen before. Use your imagination here, and cover your children's eyes! Some people dressed up as jab-jabs, the traditional J'Ouvert costume, slathering motor oil or creosote on their bodies and wearing a hardhat, chains, and various other cruel implements. Some jab-jabs had flamethrowers or machetes or devil masks. The origins of this mas lie in the days of slavery. While their wealthy masters dressed in elaborate, sophisticated costumes to celebrate the beginning of Lent, the slaves had their own parties and dressed in whatever they had, mocking their masters and often symbolizing everything evil. For the less-traditional crowds, huge flatbed trucks were piled two-stories high with speakers, blasting this year's carnival songs (including "Spice Island Summer," "Grenada Full Ah Vybes," "Psycho," and "Bacchanalist") and handing out paint to those wishing to join in. Chris and Josh dove right in and came out sporting every color of the rainbow all over their bodies (well, really their clothes). The festivities slowly moved towards the center of town, and we let it pass, returning to Port Louis Marina, where Liberty was docked for convenient carnival access, showers and rest.
No rest for the weary, however. We were out again at 2:00 p.m. for Pageant Mas, a more stereotypical carnival parade. This was the judged parade of the beautiful and intricate costumes, sparkling outfits with wide headdresses and feathers and ribbons and jewelry. Most bands had a leader (a King or Queen), who wore a huge themed full-body costume 10ft wide and 10ft tall. There was a butterfly-woman with great wide multi-colored wings and a sun-man with huge discs in various shades of orange. Most bands were either men or women. The men's bands were very different from the ladies', with simple outfits versus gaudy ones, solid motions versus fluid ones, and a serious composure versus a partying one, costumes more reminiscent of the traditional Ol' Mas. There were two types, short-knee bands and cloak bands. The short-knee bands wore bright baggy knee-length pants, similar shirts, and turbans or caps on their heads. They rang jingle bells and shook talcum powder around at everyone. The cloak bands wore long two-tone cloaks, uniform helmets or masks, and shoes with thick blocks of wood strapped to them. They tromped down the street with exaggerated steps and the occasional waving of mock-swords.
We all went home again once the parade had moved on, and got ready for Monday Night Mas, the ultimate mobile street party. Remember, this day started at 4:30am. Starting around 9:30pm, the Monday Night Mas parade was a light show and drinking fest. Bands of normal, un-costumed people marched down the street behind the music trucks, wearing brightly lit hats and waving colorful light-batons. Each band had a different sponsor, and thus a different color, and they passed out beer to anyone who had pre-purchased a mug. Note that many people had at this point been drinking since Saturday, but there were no fights breaking out or riotous behavior. The friendliness and peacefulness of the people remained constant - they were all just out celebrating. We joined the pack of people dancing in the Grenada heat and went along for a while, peeling off near the marina and turning in, though the heavy beats continued well into Tuesday morning.
But Carnival wasn't over yet. Pretty Mas, or Parade of the Bands, took place on Tuesday afternoon. This was like a repeat of Pageant Mas - all the beautiful costumes, but now with the huge music trucks and no judges. There was a lighter atmosphere, more for fun and dancing and enjoying the biggest party of the year. We gathered with all of our friends in a bar overlooking the main carnival road and had a grand time watching the costumed bands and dancers come by and celebrating the end of the three-day Carnival celebration. What a cultural experience! And then….we slept!
With all the cruisers in Grenada, there was no shortage of social activities and we did our share of participating during our 4 months on the island. Volleyball every Tuesday, cricket on Friday, hashing on Saturday, dominoes on Sunday. Throw in the occasional dinghy concert, movie night, happy hour, and various marina events and we almost had to keep a schedule!
Cricket is big here, and with all the British and ex-British nationalities, a cruisers' game was organized bi-weekly. As Americans, we had to learn the game. Chris and Josh played three times, slowly learning the rules and skills. It's a lot like baseball, and at the same time quite different. First of all, you don't always run when you hit the ball with the bat. Now, starting at the age of three, every American child is taught to run as soon as he makes contact with the ball! Not so in cricket, and many an American was called out because he couldn't get to the other side fast enough. It's not easy to "untrain" your brain. Josh got it, but Chris was a wicket-magnet (meaning he was out a lot).
More to the boys' liking was beach volleyball. Chris and Josh both played volleyball more than once every week. Chris, in particular, honed his skills til he was invited to play the much more competitive doubles and "threes". When he wasn't playing with cruisers at Secret Harbor Marina, he was hoofing it to Grand Anse Beach (2 ½ miles of beautiful white sand and turquoise water) to play with some ex-pats. He loves the game.
There are 6 restaurant/bars around the south coast anchorages that catered to cruisers and hosted different events. Clarkes Court Bay Marina had hamburger night every week with a live band. Friday night at Prickly Bay Marina featured a steel pan band followed by the rock-n-roll band "Barracuda." They were the most popular band, frequenting most of the cruiser hangouts and playing a variety of music, led by the talented singer and guitarist Nicola "Barracuda" who also played solo concerts to the delight of all. De Big Fish, in Prickly Bay, showed a movie on a big projector screen once a week. Sunday afternoon could either be spent at Roger's Beach Bar on Hog Island, at the jam-session at Whisper Cove Marina in Woburn, where cruisers gathered to play whatever instruments they had and sing along, or at Secret Harbour Marina playing dominoes. Secret Harbour Marina, in Mt. Hartman Bay, occasionally held "party-nights" with live entertainment, including the up and coming Donnel Best on electric violin. Many times we met up with our friends at a bar for happy hour. It's easier than entertaining aboard, and a beer only costs $5EC ($2US), with specials 3 for $10. And last but not in any way least, Chris and Josh were finally able to meet up with some teenagers to hang out with. Josh had a few cruiser friends that passed through, and later in the season met up with Chris, the son of a med-school student living near Mt. Hartman, whom he got together with regularly. Chris met two boys on boats, Harry & Shane, who became his partners in crime, hiking, shooting pool, and staying out too late.
Nutmeg trees grow all over the island. Here the fruit has opened and you can see the nutmeg & mace.
At Grand Etang Rainforest
Beautiful tropical flowers grow wild all over the island
Nancy soaking in the jaccuzi pools at Mt. Carmel Falls
A cruiser pot luck at Clarkes Court Marina for 4th of July
Chris on a hash near Apres Tout. We hiked all over Grenada.
Tasting the seeds of a cocoa pod
Josh jumping off Annendale Falls
Nutmeg drying on huge racks
The nutmeg is sorted by hand by these ladies.
Chris, Josh & two med-school friends covered in paint at J'Ouvert
The Commancheros Pan Band, mobile for Pageant Mas
Children waiting for their short-knee band to line up
Huge 18-wheelers party trucks blared carnival music throughout the parades
Costumes from SpiceMas: scantily clad women, a Carnival King, even the youngest participate
Josh whacks the ball in a game of cricket at Clarke's Court Bay
Chris plays doubles volleyball with Lynn from Silverheels and Mike and Rebecca of ZeroToCruising
A performance by Barracuda at Secret Harbour
Donnel Best played some fundraiser events to raise money to attend Berkley College, MA
Josh and his best friend from Grenada, Chris
Partners in crime, and all things fun: Shane, Chris and Harry