Our Last Days In Grenada

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By the end of September, Howard was well on the mend, so we felt ok about going home. We first said another goodbye, this time to our friends Nick and Lori-Anne, who were flying back to the U.S. Parting ways with friends is definitely one of the worst parts about cruising.

As I mentioned, it was Scott’s first visit back to the U.S. in two years. Once the boat was settled in a slip at Port Louis Marina, we flew home and ran him around like mad, spending time with family, visiting friends, old neighbors and the gang at Hendersons Marina.

Scott arrived back to a very needy cat. Howard had a hard time in our absence, and consequently, so did our incredibly great friends who fed him while we were both away. In addition to the weeks in and out of the clinic, we haven’t left Howard for more than two nights since we first brought him home. He was glad to see his Dad.

I stayed on for several more weeks at home, spending more time with friends, and stuffing myself with fresh produce! All of these fall veggies are available to us in the Caribbean, but they’re just not the same quality.

I spent time with my sister and brother-in-law, in their neighborhood of Eastport, just across Spa Creek from Annapolis, where many of the houses were decked out for Halloween.

I was also lucky enough to be home for the 20th annual “Slaughter Across the Water,” a tug-of-war match stretching between downtown Annapolis and the Eastport peninsula; that’s a tug, across the water.

The “friendly” competition began in 1998, when the residents of Eastport got fed up with a Public Works Department project that closed the bridge leading into Eastport from Annapolis. Over “a couple of pints and a some scribblings on cocktail napkins,” the Maritime Republic of Eastport was born. The newly-born MRE then proposed a tug-of-war to the townspeople of Annapolis, and a yearly tradition began.

Every year since, on the first Saturday in November, an 1,800-foot rope, half solid yellow and half yellow and black, is spooled out across Spa Creek, and carefully piled onto the deck of a boat that marks the center line. (Not being able to be on both sides of the tug, or on the water, I borrowed some online photos)

Competitors pulled in seven different match-ups, with money raised going to local charities and philanthropic causes; this year’s Slaughter Across The Water resulted in a Eastport taking the event, winning four out of the seven tugs. The event has become a day-long festival with music, crafts and a chili cook-off.

In mid November, I flew back to Grenada. Scott had moved Sea Life from the marina, and was now out in the anchorage off of St. Georges harbour. Once I had unpacked, we planned a short visit to Petite St. Vincent, one of Grenada’s nearby out islands, before clearing out of the country to head north.

We mad a last minute grocery run to Foodland, located on the carenage. Conveniently, they have a dinghy dock right across the street.

As I mentioned earlier, produce can be challenging in the Caribbean. Check out these tiny heads of cauliflower and cabbage, that Scott can comfortably hold in one hand. The cabbage is marked in Eastern Caribbean dollars, which equals roughly $1.20 usd.

We headed back to the boat, to unload our groceries. As we drove away, something strange caught our eye just beside the dock. We had walked right by this man, asleep across the rocks.

The next day we made the short trip over to Petite St. Vincent. I’d come back with a “travel bed” for Howard. The soft sides allow him to snuggle in, and keep him from moving less while we’re underway. It was a warm day, so a cold sports towel was in order.

Before long, we arrived at Petite St. Vincent, a private island with an exclusive resort.

The water colors were gorgeous, and we were able to anchor off to ourselves, not having had this much room around us in months. We soon had a visit from a yellow footed booby, who spent some down time on one of the paravanes.

The next day, we set off in the dinghy to explore the coastline, and get a peak at the resort, which spread’s out across the island.

Back at our anchorage, we now had a neighbor…a rather large neighbor.

Eager for some more clear water time, Scott took the dinghy out for some snorkeling and underwater exploration. Spear fishing was illegal in the area, but he couldn’t resist the urge for dinner when he came across some lobster. He bashed the poor things to death with the dinghy oar (hence, not using a spear or “official” fishing device), bringing back a speckled and a slipper lobster. Slipper lobsters are creepy, and look like giant pill bugs.

The entire island of Petite St. Vincent is private, but lowly cruisers are allowed to visit the resort’s beach bar, so we cleaned ourselves up and headed to shore for cocktails. We relaxed and enjoyed our drinks, looking back at Sea Life, with her big buddy, out at anchor.

At $15.00 usd a cocktail, one round was all our budget could afford, so we headed back as the sun began to set.

The next morning, we would head for Carriacou, Grenada’s nearest out island, to clear out. It was time to head north. First stop, the Grendine Islands. Here are more photos of our last days on Grenada.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

Howard Battles Urinary Issues

Sometime after Carnival, I noticed that Howard was going in and out of his litter box much more than usual, with no result. Not passing urine is a major concern for anyone, animal or human, so after almost 24 hours I called the nearby veterinary clinic, associated with St. George’s University, to tell them that we were on the way. We packed Howard into his “travel house,” and dinghied over to Prickly Bay Marina, where a man named Bernard was always waiting in his taxi for a fare.

We arrived at the clinic, checked in and prepared to wait, since we hadn’t made an appointment. Almost immediately, a vet came out to talk with us, and when she confirmed that Howard hadn’t passed urine, took us back to a room for an exam. Now unfortunately, Howard is not the best patient; in fact, he’s a terrible patient…lots of hissing and growling. So much so that there’s a “Caution” sticker on his file at our home vet back in Baltimore. There wasn’t much need for an exam it seems, as the vet quickly decided to keep Howard, and catheterize him. Ugh. Howard would be catheterized for at least two days, so we were sent home, and told that we were welcome to visit the following day.

The next afternoon, we took the dinghy over to Budget Marine’s dock, and made the quick, but hot walk to see Howard. The road leading to the clinic doesn’t get a breath of breeze, and in the middle of the day, it’s definitely “hot-sun walking.” (As a local said to Scott, with respect, while passing him on the road in Grenada, during peak heat hours; Scott received a fist bump, for his hot-sun walking).

We arrived, wiped off the sweat and cooled down in the air conditioning for a bit, before someone came to escort us back to see our cat. As soon as he heard my voice, Howard chirped, and perked up. He had a catheter tube coming out of his penis, that was taped to his tail. An iv tube was taped to his front leg, and there was a cone around his neck so he couldn’t chew at any of the tubes.

The preferred treatment for a urinary blockage is to place a catheter for three days, while giving a drug that relaxes ureter. Unfortunately, the clinic didn’t have the drug in stock, and there was none on the island; so instead, Howard was given Valium in his iv, along with a painkiller. Despite being a bit loopy, he was happy to see us.

By day two, Howard had enough of wires and tubes. He managed to get the cone off, and remove both the iv and catheter. He had to be put back under sedation to reinsert everything, and an additional sedative was added to his iv meds. With the addition of the third drug  in the mix, we noticed that Howard was much more mellow, and not as responsive at our next visit..

Everything looked great after three days, so the vet removed everything and waited for Howard to pee on his own. He couldn’t, so another catheter had to be inserted. When they sedated Howard, they found some mucus blocking his ureter. It was physically flushed out, a second catheter and iv were inserted, and an additional calming/sedative drug was added to his iv meds.

By the time we visited on day seven, Howard was almost completely unresponsive. He had so many drugs in him, and had been sedated so many times, I cannot believe he wasn’t drooling on himself. His condition had me in tears, and the vet on the case decided to cut him off of all the drugs, and send him home with us.

Back on board the boat, Howard was a mess for the next 30 hours. He had several bouts of what we thought must be his body detoxing the drugs. His temperature shot up, and he moaned as he was breathing. We laid him on an ice pack that was wrapped in a towel, and covered him with towels soaked in ice water, while a fan blew on him.

When he began to growl while in the litter box, I realized that we may have to take him back to the clinic. The thought of Howard having to start that whole process over again turned my stomach, but he needed help. We broke down and decided to go back to the clinic, which thankfully is staffed 24-7.

With no idea how to get a cab after midnight, Scott headed over to Prickly Bay Marina in the dinghy. As luck would have it, there was a Meriweather vs. “Someone-I-don’t-know” fight going on, so the tiki bar was open later than usual. Scott informed the bartender that we had a vet emergency, and asked if there was a cab in the area. She immediately came from behind the bar, and went into the crowd to talk to a man who immediately went to get his van to take us. Scott explained that I was still on the boat with our cat, and he agreed to wait (Again, Grenadians, the friendliest people ever).

During all of this, the heavens had opened, and Scott came back to the boat soaked and dripping wet. We loaded Howard into his carrier, and went to the dock..in the still-pouring rain. The van took me to the clinic, while Scott went back to get dry clothes and raincoats. He then motored the dinghy to the far side of the bay, and walked to meet me.

Once the vet arrived (he too was out watching the fight), he had me hold Howard, so that he could feel his bladder. It was full, and as he felt it, urine leaked out. Realizing the Howard wasn’t completely blocked, the vet manually emptied the bladder (much pressing and squeezing). Howard was very angry, and growling, but quiet off and on, as I think he realized the doctor was relieving his pressure.

As I continued to hold Howard, the vet was able to do an ultrasound of the bladder. Satisfied that there were no crystals or stones, he opted to put Howard on anti-inflammatory pills for five days, and sent him home, not wanting to re-start the drowsy-drug carousel. Scott and I were both thrilled, and headed back to the boat with our cat.

Unfortunately, Howard still wasn’t able to pass urine, and was also still growling when in the litter box. We had to again return to the clinic, where they inserted another catheter and iv. We felt so bad for our boy, that he didn’t understand what was going on. It broke my heart that he went to sleep, and woke up with a catheter and iv back in. We visited every day, and Howard would just want me to rub and scratch his head and face, especially the area where the cone lay against his neck.

I cannot say enough about the veterinarians and staff who helped us. The clinic was large, clean and bright, with all the facilities you’d expect in the U.S. Howard was in a cage located in the main treatment area, where people were near him all day. They all just wanted to pet and love Howard, but he was not having it. It made me so sad, as I’m sure he’d have felt a lot better getting love and attention all day, and not just during our visits.

After several more days, the doctors again felt sure that there were no crystals or stones in Howard’s bladder, but sent his urine out for further testing, just to be sure. We again brought Howard back to the boat; however, if he blocked again, we’d be facing the fact that there was a good chance that surgery was in his immediate future. The procedure involves cutting off the penis, and changing the route of the urethra, so he would urinate like a female cat (they have a shorter, and more wide urethra), allowing any stones or crystals to pass through. The recovery is challenging, and the risk of recurring urinary infections is high…oh joy.

Because Howard was so wobbly and loopy (20 mgs of Valium per dose!), we were now on round the clock shifts, so one of us could constantly be with him. We’d follow him back and forth, from the couch to the litter box, checking for progress, and all surfaces in the saloon were now covered with trash bags and towels, to keep up with the dribbling of urine.

The clinic contacted us to say that Howard’s urine test showed an angry infection, most likely due to the several catheters that had been inserted and removed. We were given an antibiotic, and hoped for improvement.

The clinic was still unable to get the preferred drug for relaxing Howard’s ureter, so I contacted my vet back in Baltimore, who ordered it for us. I then contacted our friend, Christine, to see if she would mind picking up the drug and shipping it to us. She immediately left her desk at work, went to the vet and then straight to Fed Ex…a life saver! The package was scheduled for a three- day delivery, but the coming weekend meant a delay for picking it up in Grenada.

Worried that Howard may block again before the drug arrived on the island, Scott and I reluctantly decided to take our poor cat back to the clinic, so he’d be on site, just in case. It meant another catheter and iv for Howard, and this time he wasn’t in the main area, but down the hall in a room by himself. While it may have been more quiet for Howard, there was no way the staff could keep a good eye on him there.

The first day we arrived to visit, Howard’s bedding was wet, as he’d obviously leaked urine on it. Most of the staff were too scared to go into the cage, so Scott and I changed the wet blankets out for dry ones.

The next day, in addition to being wet, the bedding also had poop on it. Sigh….we again cleaned his cage. During our visit, we noticed that whenever Howard was in the litter box, he would arch his neck, mouth wide open and move his head side to side. After passing only a few drops, he’d come out and lay on his side. His whole body would curl up, and he’d release a small puddle of urine onto the bedding. We were obviously upset by this, and alerted the staff, who told us that it was a reaction to the pain of the urinary infection….hmmm.

We arrived on day three to a pitiful sight. In addition to urine, and poop, there was blood on Howard’s bedding….blood?!? We managed to flag someone into the room, who told us that Howard had again managed to get his iv out (the fourth time, for Houdini Howard), and it had bled for awhile, before they’d noticed and replaced it. I brought to their attention that his current iv paw was very swollen, and we helped to re-tape it. Our poor cat now had parts of all four paws shaved, from so many ivs. Howard’s mood was so depressed that he just lay in my lap with his eyes closed. It was time to take him home, I’d risk a blockage.

Back on board, Howard was still doing the strange head wobble, open-mouth thing while in the box, and curling his body to release urine while laying on his side after. Scott recorded video if this, and took it to the clinic for the vets to see. They were immediately concerned, and Scott was told that Howard was having seizures. I was more than miffed upon hearing this news, as we’d tried to call their attention to it previously. Scott came home with an anti-seizure med.

We were now dealing with constipation, due to all the drugs and sedation. We took Howard in for an x-ray, that showed he was full of poop..which I’d already tried to explain. The vet administered an enema, which Howard didn’t release, and suggested we take him home where he’d be more comfortable. We also came away with some laxative, to keep things moving.

We made the ten minute walk back to the dinghy, with Howard in his carrier, and then headed for the boat. Just as we were tying to the swim platform, Howard became very agitated, so I got him on board, out of the carrier and to the litter box as fast as I could, with a trail of liquid poop behind me. I left him to finish in peace, and cleaned up the poop trail….poor animal.

The muscle relaxer drug arrived, taking the number of meds that Howard was getting to SEVEN: anti-imflammatory, Valium, painkiller, antibiotic, anti-seizure, laxative and the muscle relaxer (most all causing drowsiness). Because poor Howard was so drowsy, we were able to administer the barrage of meds with little trouble.

We were still on round the clock watch, keeping an eye on the litter box, and making sure that Howard wouldn’t hurt himself. The poor animal just wanted to feel normal, and would wobble to the door of the saloon, wanting to go outside. I would carry him out into the cockpit, and we’d look at the water, his head laying over my arm.

Soon, the vet was ready to begin weaning Howard off most of the meds, which we were thrilled about. Over the next several weeks, we whittled down, until Howard was only getting the muscle relaxer twice a day. His mood, and balance improved, and although not completely normal, he was passing much more urine each day.

We had a trip home scheduled, that had to be postponed three times. It was to be Scott’s first trip home in two years, but there was no way we could leave Howard in someone else’s care while he was so sick.

After seven weeks of hell for all three of us, Howard was thankfully doing much better, and began to wander out to the cockpit on his own, to look for fish, nap and oversee boat projects.

Notice the “poodle paws”

He even began to feel good enough to climb onto his dinghy “jungle gym.”

We could finally breath easier, but I still felt terrible for all our poor cat had been through. Scott tells me that Howard is young and tough, and won’t remember this, once he’s back to his old self. I hope it’s true.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

Dink-zilla

We purchased our inflatable dinghy and motor fifteen years ago. They have served us well, but the motor has given Scott ongoing carburetor issues the entire time. Having grown weary of constant fiddling and repairs, Scott decided to break down and buy a new dinghy motor while we were in Grenada.

We brought out brand new motor home, but Scott didn’t want to get rid of the old one….grrrr. His “plan” was to sell it, but I reminded him how much he hates selling things, how little he’d get for the well used, much jerry-rigged motor, and and how mad he would be by the end of the process. I told him to just get rid of the poor thing, but it continued to sit up on the flybridge.

That is, until one day when Scott was enjoying some afternoon cocktails, with too much idle time. While up on the flybridge, he looked at that old motor, and the wheels in his head began to turn. If one 3.3 was good, TWO 3.3s were better…and faster. It was time to get to work.

To support the weight of both motors, Scott screwed a piece of wood onto the transom of the dinghy, giving the mounting surface more room and more stability.

While Scott did this, Howard made sure all was well in the lazarette.

Once the motors were in place, Scott used pvc pipe, to allow him to steer both motors as one.

With that, the job complete, and “Dink-zilla” was born.

Now it was time for a test drive. As usual in this situation, I was summoned to take photo and video documentation of the testing. Both motors started up, and Scott stopped to enjoy the sheer sound of the two powerful 3.3s at work. Then away he went.

With speed still well below most other dinghy motors, but at mach five for ours, Scott happily raced through the Prickly Bay anchorage:

Once testing was complete, it was time to sit back and admire his work.

 

We still use one motor most often. But occasionally, when Scott wants to make time getting somewhere, or we have a heavy load on board, number two comes out, and we’re off and running.

Why put two 3.3 motors on a dinghy? Scott will tell you, “Because I can.” I’d tell you, “Because we can’t have enough “redneck” on board Sea Life.

Here are a few more Dink-zilla photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Cruising Life On Grenada

Spending four months of hurricane season in Grenada allowed us a chance to really get a feel for the island, and all it had to offer. Howard settled right in, seeming to know that we were going to linger for awhile. He enjoyed cockpit naps and “laundry” naps, kept an eye  out for fish and happily dried the ice machine when it was through running.

Every inch of the anchorages in Grenada’s southern bays were full of cruisers. Most were here for hurricane season, but there were also many who stay year round. The boat yards were equally as crowded, as some owners hauled out to have work done, and others traveled home.

With so many cruisers on the island, there were endless options to fill time. At any given day, you could opt for yoga, tai chi, dominoes or poker. We were moored in Prickly Bay, and the marina there hosted free movie nights, Friday evening steel drum and dance bands and their famous Bingo night.

Just a short walk from Prickly Bay, the West Indies Beer Company hosted a weekly open jam night, that was always well attended. The music was always great…singing, not always as good, but a fun evening out just the same.

Houses of all shapes, colors and styles lined the hills around us, and Budget Marine (the Eastern Caribbean’s answer to West Marine) was just a shorty dinghy ride away. Scott was eager to peruse the shelves, but came away with sticker shock; the EC is much pricier than the western side!

From Budget Marine’s dinghy dock, it was an easy walk to the Container Park, a food truck complex of sorts, with containers housing various food choices instead of trucks. The group of hodgepodge containers offered paninis, coffee drinks, ice cream, burgers, Thai and Mexican food and many other options. We enjoyed brunch and bloody marys with friends, and visited during evening hours as well.

St. Georges University is located just down the road, and as a result, many small bars, restaurants and food stands line the street leading to the Container Park.

There were many shopping options for us on Grenada. Not far away was an Ace Hardware, and also CK’s, a bulk grocery store. Further down the road was Spiceland Mall, which housed a home goods-type store, a large IGA grocery store, as well as other shops and a small eatery.

Which leads me to how we get to said stores…the local buses. On Grenada, as on many Caribbean islands, public buses are actually mini vans, and 90 cents USD, will get you a ride anywhere on the island. In addition to the driver, each bus has a “conductor.” This person sits behind the passenger, near the sliding side door, and it’s his job to fill the bus and collect money, while the driver drives.

Buses in Grenada are privately owned, and have interesting names that are proudly displayed across the windshield: Humble Thy Self, Scare Dem, Nothing Yet, etc. The more fares they can squeeze in, the more money they’ll make, so conductors constantly scan the roadsides for possible passengers (There are bus stops throughout the island, but unlike the U.S., passengers can get on and off at will). With keen eagle eyes,  they’ll noticing you long before you even come near a bus stop, or start to look for a bus; don’t’ worry about catching a bus on Grenada, it’ll “catch” you.

With half their body hanging out the open side door, conductors will whistle, or call out “Bus, Bus, Bus!!” to get your attention. At times, we were only going a short distance, and chose to walk instead of ride, having to politely wave off the many honks and shouts to get on board. On a particularly cloudy day, after waived off our I-don’t-know-how-many-ith bus, the driver responded: Sure?…..it’s gonna rae-een!

In order to pick up as many passengers as possible, buses often deviate from their set route. A bus will often detour up into to hillside neighborhood, or back up a side street to pick up a fare; sudden, sharp braking is regular, and so is backing up….on main roads. While the buses race to try and get as many fares on board as possible, it does not diminish their politeness. They will patiently wait for a passenger, no matter the age, to to get on the bus, even backing up to shorten the walk. Local children ride the buses to and from school, and conductors will see them safely to the far side of the street when getting off.

A bus inGrenada is a 14 passenger mini van, with an additional row of fold-down, jump seats. They make full use of every inch of interior space, stuffing us in like sardines. People are expected to sit on the gap between the permanent seat and the jump seat (not comfy), and also on a fold-down seat between the driver and passenger. We’ve also seen people sit next to the sliding door, facing backwards, on a hump that extends out from under the passenger seat.

And air conditioning?? The driver most often runs it for himself, while the rest of us gasp for any breeze that comes in through the open windows (I borrowed these bus photos online, as I was always too hot, crammed in or holding on for dear life to think about my camera). Reggae or dance music is played at vibrating decibels, perhaps to try and distract you from the heat.

Whatever you’re carrying with you cannot take up valuable seat space. Shopping bags are jammed in front of you on the floor, stacked up to your nose if necessary. This proposed quite a problem for Scott, as the distance to the back of the seat in front of him was so short, he had to ride with his knees to his chest.

A knock on the tin roof or side wall of the bus signals that you want to get off. This request is relayed by the conductor, because there’s no way for the driver to hear your knock over the volume of the rolling dance party. Once your signal  is received, the bus may jerk to a stop, let you off further down the road…or at the next bus stop. The sardine can-packed bus will, more often than not, have to unload like clowns at the circus to let you off, before reloading and continuing on.

As I have mentioned before, local Grenadians were the most incredibly friendly and welcoming people we’ve interacted with on our entire adventure to date. They appreciated the cruisers’ presence on the island, and the business opportunities that it afforded…in a positive way. Instead of trying to take advantage of the boaters, they truly wanted us to enjoy their island, including and mingling with the cruisers at bars, restaurants, events and gatherings.

This is especially true for a group of  bus drivers who play a huge part in providing cruisers with transportation for specific needs and special events. Like the buses, these drivers all use colorful nicknames, such as Shademan and Christ Child. Five days a week, these men offer shopping buses, making pickups at the various marinas, and then stopping at Ace Hardware, CK’s Discount Store, an ATM machine and the IGA.

Shademan is amazing with the cruisers. He’s on the net every morning, announcing what trips or services are offered for that day, and the rest of the week. We rode with him to see the pan orchestra practice, and costume making, and he also ferried us back and forth to the various parades during carnival.

Shademan also offers a Saturday shopping bus that goes into St. Georges, for the weekly market. We hopped on one Saturday, interested to see the market, and a bit of downtown. Our first stop was the Merry Baker, located on the grounds of the Port Louis Marina. We were either too early, or too late, as the shelves were nearly empty. However, being one of the first ones out of the van, I managed to get the last loaf of ciabatta bread…score one for me!

It was a clear, blue-sky morning, and the buildings across the bay were bright and colorful, as we made our way around the carenage.

We arrived downtown, where Shademan dropped us off for 90 minutes of shopping. The open market and many street stalls covered several blocks.

In addition to stalls, many people had set up shop on the sidewalks, or along the side of the road, selling produce and other goods.

We came across a man selling fresh coconut water, who was very popular…and handy with a  machete! Waiting patiently, behind piles of coconuts, people brought along their own bottles and jugs for filling.

In addition to the many planned events and gatherings, we made our own fun. A group of us who were moored in Prickly Bay decided to do a dinghy bar crawl, visiting places in the nearby bays around the corner.

Nimrods rum shop was especially fun. In addition to rum and beer, this tiny bar also sold fresh bread, boxed milk and some local vegetables…a one stop shop!

We ended our crawl at Le Phare Bleu, sponsor of the dinghy concert we attended. The really cool-looking Lightship Bar was closed, so we opted for drinks in restaurant.

After a fun day with friends, Scott and I headed back to Prickly Bay, wanting to get around the corner and out of open water, while there was still some light left.

We sadly said goodbye to our Aussie friends, Mark and Deb, who left us just after Carnival. They had their catamaran, Kefi, hauled out for two months, and were headed home to Australia for a visit. Upon their return, they would head for the Western Caribbean, and the Panama Canal, while we planned to head north.

From our mooring in Prickly Bay, we  had decent views of the solar eclipse in August, and even though the anchorage was crowded, sunrises and clear, white, puffy cloud days were still scenic.

So that’s a peek into cruiser life on Grenada. Here are more photos.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Hurricane Irma….We’re All Clear!

Many people have reached out to us over the last week, inquiring whether we’re safe, and out of Irma’s path…we are well clear of her!

I have mentioned in several previous posts that we’d planned to head for the Eastern Caribbean, and make our way to Grenada for hurricane season. We arrived in Puerto Rico in late April, made our way south from St. Thomas in June and arrived in Grenada in early July. Sea Life is currently tied to a mooring ball in Prickly Bay, on the island’s south coast (just below the airplane at photo below).

Thankfully, we were well south of Irma’s path, and only had to deal with several days of large swell in the bay.

It seems there has been confusion as to whether or not we were in Puerto Rico, due to my latest post. Others just seemed to be asking in general, not knowing exactly where we are.

If you’ve met my husband, you’d know that there is no….way, in this lifetime or any other, that he’d have us in the upper Eastern Caribbean during this time of year. Not only would he be unable to sleep at night, I don’t think he’d be able to breath.

Scott has the utmost respect for weather. He cut his teeth on the waves, tides, currents, storms and surge, living on Shallow Creek, just off the Chesapeake Bay. Many weather classes were followed by a graduate degree in Western Caribbean cruising, earned over the last two years (holy cow…two years!).  The take-away??…Mother Nature rules, and we don’t mess with that.

We’re not sure why cruisers choose to be in these places at this risky time of year. I guess they get complacent, after years with no major storm hit. As we prepared to leave St. Thomas and head farther south, Scott met a couple who stay at anchor off of the island year round, claiming it has several good hurricane holes. Scott’s take? A hurricane hole is a hurricane hole….until is isn’t; Irma, case in point. Here’s a link that lists the extent of destruction to the islands affected by this massive storm.

There were days of warnings for this huge, catastrophic storm, with little to no doubt of it’s path and impact on the upper islands. Several boats arrived here in Grenada over the last week from places north,  and we were shocked not to see many, many more.

Aside from Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada is at the bottom of the Eastern Caribbean chain, and relatively safe from a major storm hit…relatively.

Our insurance covers us here, but I can tell you that if something even close to Irma’s strength heads our way, Scott will run us south, to escape the possibility of endangering Sea Life and her crew.

We are definitely missing Panama, where we spent last hurricane season. Being much farther south, and out of hurricane paths, we hardly checked weather. This year, although we are pretty well south, there is still a very real concern for storms, and we’ve had to keep on our toes.

Ok…all that said, here’s how to ALWAYS know where our CURRENT location is. I’ve mentioned this many times before, usually as we’re heading off on a passage, but it holds true all the time, whether we’re underway or at anchor:

First, go to the Where Are We Now Page of the blog. Click on “Where Are We Now,” at the bottom of the text, and you are taken to the site for our Delorme In Reach Satellite Tracker (now a part of Garmin).

I apologize for the spider web of lines and dots. Scott is a little Delorme-happy, taking the tracker along on hikes, bus rides and tours, as well as various water excursions. You can zoom out, giving yourself a broader view of Grenada. Once you’re far enough out to locate the words “Lanse aux Epines”, at the bottom of the island, begin to zoom in. The blue dot above the pi, in Epines is where Sea Life is moored. Continue to zoom in, and you’ll see our location in Prickly Bay.

Clicking on each dot opens a small window. Click on “more” in that window, and you’ll get info. like date, speed, elevation, etc.  Continue to zoom way out, and you’ll see our path over the last two years (again..two years!).

I hope this helps you keep track of our every move, so to speak. We are thankful for all of your messages and emails, and are grateful to have so many out there concerned for our safety; Sea Life is secure!

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Playing Carnival In Grenada

When late August rolls around, it means carnival time on Grenada. After attending a pan practice, and seeing the colorful parade costumes being made, we were excited for the celebration to begin, and to attend some of the events.

Carnival was introduced to Trinidad by French settlers in 1783. Banned from the masquerade balls of the French, slaves would stage their own mini-carnivals in their backyards. They used their own rituals and folklore, but also imitated and sometimes mocked their masters’ behavior at masquerade balls.

As Grenada’s largest cultural event, carnival is celebrated as a public holiday. Called Spicemas, the ten-day celebration includes event such as “Pree Day,” (a soca reggae show), competitions for the best steel pan band at Panorama, bikini cruises, all-white attire parties and the highlight of the celebration, Carnival Monday and Tuesday. Attending events or participating is referred to as “Playing Carnival,” and we were ready to bring on the play!

The first event of Carnival Monday was J’ouvert (pronounced joo-vay), and began before dawn. Participants, known as “Jab Jabs,” gather on the street that runs along the carenage (or bay) in St. Georges, covered in paint and/or motor oil (yep, motor oil…used motor oil), and parade through the streets. The celebration continues through sunrise, lasting into the late morning. I’d definitely heard of carnival parades, but this J’ouvert thing was new to me, so I did some digging.

In some of the French-based creole languages of the Caribbean, J’ouvert means “dawn” or “daybreak”. The origins of the street party come from the emancipation of slavery in 1838, which provided Africans with the opportunity to not only participate in Carnival, but to embrace it as an expression of their newfound freedom.

It is believed that some J’ouvert traditions are in remembrance of civil disturbances in Port of Spain, Trinidad, when people smeared themselves with oil or paint to avoid being recognized. The original “Jab Jabs” were thought of as devils. They wore very little clothes, horned helmets, were covered in black from head to toe, with a tail, and their tongue dyed red.

Hmmm, we didn’t know what to make of this event. Unsure of a Carnival street party in the dark, with people covered in paint and used oil, we polled long-time cruisers in the area for information, as well as cruising friends who’d been to Grenada before. They all endorsed J’ouvert, saying it was not to be missed, but told us to wear clothes that we didn’t mind throwing away afterward. What were we in for??

With peaked interest and cautious excitement, we gathered with friends at  Prickly Bay Marina…at 4am, and loaded into a van that would take us to the downtown street party. As we approached St. Georges in the dark, groups of oil-coated figures lined the streets, making their way to the carenage area, chanting and rattling chains; there was no turning back now.

The van dropped us off, just as there was enough light to see, and we made our way down to the main street – straight into the oily crowd.

We decided that “liquid courage” was a good idea, and turned to find the nearest bar. Armed with drinks, we walked our white, oil and paint-free bodies into the crowd…let the games begin!

As the sun began to rise, we were able to get a more clear view of our surroundings. The crowd was full of men, women and children of all ages, making their way up and down the street. They were covered in paint, oil and even chocolate, with many wearing shower caps to protect their hair (quite a look!). People, black with oil, held onto chains as they snaked through the crowd, while others stopped to dance in the street.

Along the way, there were “oil stations,” trucks and carts with buckets, jugs and drums of oil available, in case you needed “freshening up.” As the morning progressed, we smeared ourselves with muck along the way. Scott found some people doling out paint, and decided to add some color to his oil.

Tractor trailers, stacked high with huge speakers acted as “bands,” blaring out music, with deejays entertaining the crowd from overhead.

Now I can safely say that an event like this would be drastically different in the U.S., full of stumbling drunks, fights, fights and more fights, with an occasional stabbing or shooting thrown in for good measure. Here, drinking was secondary to dancing and laughing, and the street was a sea of oily, friendly, happy people.

Back at our liquid courage starting point, we met up with our friends who had scattered throughout the crowd. From the bar above the street, we had a good view of the oily crowd.

Pick up time was approaching, so we made our way back to meet the van. It arrived, interior covered in plastic (smart man), and when our group of cruiser Jab Jabs were all present and accounted for, we climbed in and headed back to the anchorage.

Now I’m not one for nude bathing in public, but there was no way we were going to risk getting paint and motor oil inside the boat, or even in the cockpit, so Scott and I tied up the dinghy, stripped off our clothes, threw them on the swim platform and hit the water to get as much oil and paint off as possible before stepping foot on board. We quickly shoved some food in our mouths, and hit the bed; it was 9am, and we were exhausted. Round two was just around the corner, Monday Night Mas that same evening, so a big nap was in order.

We later learned that locals cover their bodies in shortening before the J’ouvert celebration. The kitchen staple becomes a Jab Jab’s best friend, acting as a primer for the skin before the oil, and making removing the stuff easier afterward…..a tidbit that would have been great to know ahead of time, as my arms itched for days afterward!

Here are some video scenes of our J’ouvert morning:

Carnival Monday ends with Monday Night Mas, a street “jump up” that begins well after dark, and continues until the wee hours of Tuesday morning. The parade is made up of “bands,” groups of people  wearing brightly colored t shirts and waving fluorescent wands, who dance down the street behind trucks of huge speakers. The trusty van dropped us off just before 8pm, and we secured a spot at our J’ouvert bar, to wait for the parade to begin.

As usual, this event was on “island time,” and the parade didn’t start until after 9:30. We could clearly hear music thumping from the many trucks of speakers, long before the parade arrived. In the distance, a glow of color appeared across the carenage, and before long, a sea of fluid, vivid color flooded the street. Sadly, my camera is terrible at night, so I borrowed some online photos of the colorful parade.

You could pay for a shirt and lighted wand, and march in the parade, we chose to just be spectators, knowing our stamina most likely wouldn’t make it to the end of the street party.

Things were just getting into full swing, when it was time to meet the van for pick up, but we enjoyed our time watching the colorful display of light and sound. It was just as well, we were still dragging from our J’ouvert party the night before, and still had one more day of play ahead of us.

Spicemas concludes in a big way, with Carnival Tuesday’s Pretty Mas, a costumed parade where fancy, feathered masqueraders fill the street. This is where the costumes that we’d seen being constructed would be unveiled, full of color and texture. Again, you can pay to have a costume made, and join in the parade. This was very tempting for me…not so much for Scott. Lucky for him, the cost was out of our budget, and we were again happy spectators.

We arrived downtown in the mid-afternoon, and waited in the Grenada August heat for the parade to begin. It wasn’t long before the first wave of colorful costumes came into view.

Each group was lead by a member wearing an especially ornate costume, in same color and theme of those that followed behind.

 

There were many children in costume as well, who seemed to be old pros at this Carnival thing.

Trucks of all shapes and sizes made their way down the street. The “bands” blared music that thumped in our chests, while mobile bars quenched the thirsty.

Surrounded by music from the many trucks, the paraders danced their way down the street.

 

Even this woman on the sidelines, in her 90s, couldn’t resist the music.

The ornate costumes were adorned with feathers, beads, sequins and lace, each one more beautiful as the next.

Many costumes symbolized Grenada’s plants and spices, such as sugar cane and nutmeg.

A group appeared, who were much different than the rest of the costumed crowd. They looked almost clown-like, with small mirrored pieces covering their costumes, webbed masks and bells around their ankles.

We learned that these men are referred to as Shortknee, and the mirrors function essentially as talismans, “protecting” the wearer by reflecting his enemies.

The Shortknees don’t have a band truck to follow, so they make music by a rhythmic stomping of their ankle-belled feet (the little bells are called “wooloes”), while chanting songs that are meant to “out” individuals who have offended the community’s moral codes. Shortknees reprimand in song, and express approval in showers of talcum powder. They must have approved the hell out of us, as the cloud of powder was so thick, we could taste it.

As it got dark, we headed back to what was now our “home” Carnival bar, where the music and dancing of Pretty Mas was still in full swing on the street outside.

 

 

Inspired, our friend Di learned some moves from some of the locals who shared our viewing area.

Our trusty van arrived to take us home, and again we arrived back on board Sea Life ready to collapse into bed; this playing Carnival really takes it out of you! The non-stop events of the past few days were a whirlwind of oil, lights, feathers and fun. We had a ball with our friends, as well as the friendly and inclusive local people. Spicemas was definitely a highlight of our stay in Grenada.

Here are video scenes from the very pretty, Pretty Mas:

And many, many more photos, of our time playing Carnival, in Grenada.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

Hashing In Grenada

The day after we arrived in Grenada’s Prickly Bay, our neighbor, David came over to welcome his fellow power boater. Having been in Grenada for over a year, on his power catamaran, Windchime II, he was a wealth of cruiser knowledge for us: how and where to catch the bus, what stores were in town, where to get good food and drink deals…and that we had to “hash.”

Apparently, hashing is an incredibly popular weekly hike on the island (followed by drinking), attended by locals, cruisers, expats and visitors. We’d been told about this popular event by cruising friends who’d spent time on Grenada, so it was already on Scott’s radar. David gave us details about catching a bus to the hash, and advised Scott to take a pair of gloves to wear, as the trail would be muddy.

I dug around online, and discovered that hashing started in Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur. Apparently, in 1938, three British expats were members of a prestigious social club, and wanted something physical to do that wouldn’t get in the way of their beer drinking (brilliant!). The club’s dining room was referred to as the “Hash House,” due to its terrible British food, so that name seemed as good as any.

The men started a “fun run,” based on the hounds and hares concept, and hashing was born. Trails through the beautiful Malaysian countryside were marked in flour, leading back to a drinking establishment, where “merriment and irreverent camaraderie ensued.”

Today, there are hash “kennels” in 110 countries and territories around the world, with Britain, the U.S. and Canada having over 100 kennels each (who knew?). An international hash is held every two years, in different locations around the world, and is attended by over 4,000 hashers.

Grenada’s kennel, the Hash House Harriers (“drinkers with a running problem”) was started in 1985, and is one of the largest kennels in the world, with 150-300 people of all fitness levels participating each week, which again include local Grenadians, cruisers, expats and visitors to the island.

The group of assorted runners and walkers assemble at a previously designated rum shop, a sports field or pasture, at different locations on the island each week. After an initial briefing by the leader (known as The Hash Master or Hash Mistress), hashers set off toward the trail, shouting ON ON.

Here’s “What to Expect,” as found on the Hash Harriers site:

  • Competitiveness is frowned upon in a hash. FRB’s (Front Running B?..s) are looked down on. Hashers who cut corners, SCB’s (Short Cutting B?..s), are regarded with equal disdain.
  • Run or walk at your own pace, at your own risk and with the knowledge of your own limitations. If you are unhappy about the trail ahead of you, turn back and follow the trail back to the rum shop.
  • No embarrassment is caused by cutting short your hash for any reason – it just means that you get to the beer ahead of the rest of the pack.

Hashers follow a trail of flour or shredded paper, taking the “pack” through some of the most beautiful parts of Grenada. They return to the start location a few hours later, to consume large quantities of beer, and “undo all the good that this running and walking has done to them.”

Many hashers have nicknames. It is said that your parents had no idea what they were doing when they named you, and a that a hash will fix that. A hash name is a fond nickname bestowed upon a hasher after a certain number of runs, on special occasions or when the hasher has done something so absurdly stupid that the kennel couldn’t wait to name them.

It is considered bad form to call a hasher by a name other than their nickname while at the hash. “Of course, if your parents gave you a really embarrassing name like Archibold or Cuthbert, you might keep that as your hash name.” Nicknames in the Grenada group include Rigor Mortis, Fungus Among Us, Rancid, Frog Legs and Yours for a Carib. One man was named Bo Peep, for consistently losing hashers on the trail, another received the name Grab the Pussie, after rescuing a cat from a tree and the Hash House Harrier’s most senior hasher, “Spring Chick,” is 84!

Grenada was pretty darned warm in July, and the thought of hot, humid, muddy jungle hiking did not intrigue me, despite the post drinking, so I sent Scott off to hash on his own. Hours later, he arrived back at the boat, covered in mud, and crawled into the cockpit. Even though he’d scoffed at the idea, Scott had taken the gloves that David suggested. It was a good thing too, as he needed them to grab at trees, for help in pulling  his legs out of the more than ankle-deep mud along the trail.

Unaffected by a weekly mud bath, Scott set out every Saturday for a day of hiking and drinking with his fellow hashers.

Each week Scott came back exhausted, covered in mud and sweat, claiming that at times he thought his heart would explode on the trail, but always with many amusing stories. He told me that several people would go to the hashes and skip the hiking, instead hanging out at the rum shop until the group returned. This idea appealed to me, and would allow me to see and document the odd event called hashing.

Instead of a rum shop, the hash I decided to attend has its start and end at a sports field…hmmm. There was a tent set up to serve as a bar for the day, but the beer wasn’t iced before the hash….and, there wasn’t a bathroom….HMMM. As this wasn’t my first “island” event, I’d come prepared with bathroom supplies, and decided to walk a bit of the trail for photos, while the beer was icing.

First up, some pre-hash hazing… Those who show up in new or clean shoes are targeted, asked to remove their left shoe and hand it over. As a result, the crowd was speckled with single bare feet.

A beer bottle was placed in each shoe, and the offenders then had to pour the beer into said shoe and drink up. Yep, drink a beer…from your shoe….and then hike with a wet foot…welcome to hashing.

Once the shoe ritual is over, the “Hash Master” signals for the hash to begin, and it’s off to the trail.

The hashers start out together, and eventually break off to follow a runner or a walker trail. Marked with blobs of shredded paper, the trails make their way through scenic areas of Grenada, often passing by local houses and animals. False trails are laid as well, just to make it interesting.

Since I only walked part of the trail, and then headed back for the cold beer, Scott provided me with some photos from the group’s Facebook page, which give you an idea of the beautiful scenery along the hash trails.

Oh, and let’s not forget the mud…

So much mud that hashers resort to just sitting down and sliding, jumping or falling through it…

Once everyone has hashed their way through the mud and bush, and arrive back at the meeting site, the after-hash ceremonies begin. First up, a ceremony to initiate the virgins, or first-time hashers. Newbies are asked to stand together, given a welcome and then completely doused in beer by the group.

Over eager hashers, who may prematurely start the dousing, are made to stand with the virgins, sharing their beer bath. Our friend Jolene was an over eager hasher, as you can see here, she’s not too happy about getting caught, and the coming bath.

Next victims…hashers who have done something specific to catch the Hash Master’s eye. Such as these two poor souls, who showed up almost an hour after the hash had begun.

They were made to drink from the “Dotty Potty,” (named after a former Hash Mistress, who was particularly fond of doling out punishment) while, of course…..being sprayed with beer.

And unfortunately, it was this man’s birthday, so he was made to drink a beer while wearing the “Wizard Sleeve.”

And you guessed it, he was also…sprayed with beer.

This poor man received the trifecta of punishment, after being brought to the hash by a “friend.” He had to chug a beer for his new shoes (thanks for the heads up, friend), received a beer bath as a virgin hasher and then had to both drink a beer and have another beer bath for his birthday. Said friend was put on warning.

After virgins and other “offenders” have been properly “punished” and soaked, it was time for food. Barbecue chicken and oil down are hash food staples.

While we were on the island, the Grenada Hash Harriers had its 1,000th hash, and celebrated with week-long activities leading up to the big event: waterfall hashes, a rum shop hash, a karaoke contest, an island tour and a party boat leading to a coastline hash.

Scott attended the day-long, waterfall hash, followed immediately by the boat ride to the coastline hash the next morning. After his day-long trek, Scott decided to just go for the boat ride and the beach, while the others hashed. Afterward, the group spent time on the beach, and enjoyed watching the usual post-hash hazing.

When the big day arrived, I decided to attend. There were eight trails set, for all levels of hikers, as the kennel expected many would be traveling to Grenada for the 1,000th hash.

My friend Di walked the “baby” trail with me. We considered upgrading to trail two or three, but decided against it once we saw people already sliding down a mud hill at the turn off.

We arrived back at the meeting place quickly. It was again in a sporting field, but this time the beer was cold upon arrival, and there was a bathroom; only one however, for hundreds of people. It was quickly clogged, shocker…so it was back to the bushes for me.

Scott eventually arrived, after completing trail five’s much longer route, and then it was time to enjoy drinks and friends.

We were also entertained by these girls, who put on a dance show, with cues from a father with moves as well.

And this insane man walks every hash, while bouncing a soccer ball on his head.

With so many additional people, communication was confused about the check in and check out process, which tries to assure that everyone gets back safely. As a result, more than a few hashers seemed to still be out on the trail, as dusk was approaching. When they did not return, several people went back out, after dark, to re-hike the longer trails in search of the stragglers.

Luckily, many of those originally thought lost had in fact just failed to check in upon finishing. However, those who searched the trails found more lost hashers than originally thought missing. Instead of 11 people, those searching found 22 lost hashers on the dark trails. Luckily, all were led safely back to the meeting point.

So that’s hashing in a nutshell. Scott had a ball each Saturday, stomping through the mud, water and bush. He made many new friends, taking away great memories of Grenada.

Here are many more photos of hashing, the trails and the beautiful scenery along the way.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Preparing For Carnival – Pan Practice And Costume-Making

Spending hurricane season in Grenada meant we would be on the island for its carnival celebration. We’d experienced several carnival parades and such during our time in the Western Caribbean, and were excited to be in Grenada for theirs. Being so close to Trinidad, and in the Eastern Caribbean in general, we looked forward to a much bigger event.

Several weeks before carnival began, there was an announcement on the morning net, about a “pre-carnival” event. “Shademan”, one of the local taxi/event drivers (they all go by crazy nicknames), was taking a bus up to watch the local steel pan orchestra practice, and also to see costumes for the various parades being made. We were excited at the idea, and quickly replied to reserve our spot on the bus.

After the usual cramming in like cattle (more on this later), we made the short ride (thankfully) in Shademan’s bus, and arrived at a community center with a large, open concrete area in front of it. Spilling out from under a tarp were pans of all sizes.

I’m used to seeing one or two pans played at a waterfront bar, but never this many in one place, and never of so many different sizes.

We watched several sections practice, made up of children of all ages.

Different sections of the orchestra practiced together, as others players arrived. Here’s a video of a section of the orchestra practicing:

Over time, more players arrived, and by dusk the orchestra was practicing with a complete group.

When they took a break, the band’s director came over to welcome us, and took time to tell us about the orchestra, the pans and how they’re made.

Pans are built using sheet metal. Historically, they have been built from used oil barrels, but currently many instrument makers do not rely on used steel containers, and instead have the bodies manufactured according to their preferences and specifications.

The metal is first stretched into a bowl shape, known as “sinking,” which is usually done with hammers, or the help of air pressure. The note pattern is then marked, and notes of different sizes are shaped and molded into the surface. Each one creates a different note, subtly different from the ones around it, according to their position and size. The note’s size on the pan corresponds to its pitch; the larger the oval, the lower the tone.  Next, the notes are softened and tuned, to get the right notes for each playing area, as well as the desired pitch.

The size of a pan varies from one to another, with the length of the skirt (the cylindrical part of the oil drum) generally corresponding to the high or low range of the drum. A pan may have almost all of the skirt cut off, with many soprano-range notes.

Or, the entire drum may be used, with only a few notes per pan, in which case one person plays a group of pans.

In an orchestra, instruments are grouped together to create sections: horns, woodwinds, strings and percussion. Each section contains instruments that play in various parts of the musical scale, from the very high notes (soprano) to the very low notes (bass). The Steel Drum family of instruments is the same.

I found this great chart, with visuals,  showing types and sizes of pans we saw at the orchestra practice.

p1cph1-t.jpgLEAD                             Melody                                   Soprano
p2cph1.jpgDOUBLE SECONDS       Contra Melody, Harmony         Alto

dble-guitar-t.jpgDOUBLE GUITARS       Rhythm/Chords                       Tenor

cello-pans.jpgTRIPLE CELLOS           Rhythm/Chords Low                Tenor

tenor-bass-t.jpgTENOR BASS               Bass/Rhythm                          Baritone

six-bass-t.jpgSIX BASS                    Bass Line                                Bass

We learned that most bands are a real part of the local community. Young children are encouraged to join a band, from as young as five years old. They learn the art of playing the steel pan, but also are educated in community values and social standards.

After our pan lesson, the director led us into a building where costumes were being made for carnival. We expected a much larger room, and couldn’t believe how much production was going on in the small space.

Women were hard at work sewing and gluing, surrounded by piles of fabric, laces, trims and beads.

Headbands were piled on tables, headpieces hung from the ceiling, and skimpy outfits lined the walls.

The room was filled with different colors and textures, and screamed..Carnival is coming!

We were then lead into an even smaller, adjacent room, which was crammed full of finished pieces. Amid the room full of feathers and sequins, a man was cutting fabric…for still more costumes.

We came back outside to find the air filled with the sound of music and the smell of food. The food tent was up and running, selling barbecue chicken and oil down. The national dish of Grenada, oil down is a one-pot dish found at all island events, and is also made by locals for gatherings of family and friends.

Breadfruit is a staple ingredients in the dish, and vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, are added. Meat and fish, both salted and fresh, and crab are also used. Flour dumplings, lots of fresh coconut milk and turmeric, a key ingredient, round out the dish. Fresh turmeric gives the dish its signature deep gold-yellow hue and adds overall flavor.

There is no one set recipe for oil down, and each household and parish makes it to suit their taste. The oil down served at the pan practice was some of the best we had while on Greneda…delicious! I found a really interesting article about the history of oil down, where its ingredients came from, and how it’s made. Read it here.

By now, official practice was over, and the orchestra was playing for fun. The thunderous sound of all those pans was amazing. Here’s a video of these talented musicians, one of which having an extra good time:

We stayed and enjoyed the music, and our oil down, until Shademan came around to gather us back to the bus. It had been such an interesting, informative and fun evening! We were glad to have had a behind-the-scenes look at carnival preparations, as well as a delicious dinner, and were now extra excited for the upcoming festivities! Here are more photos of our evening of pan music and costume-making.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

Our Grenada Island Tour With Cutty

Scott and I try to see and learn as much about our surroundings as possible in each location we visit. On Grenada, cruisers raved about seeing the island with Cutty’s Tours. We were told that Cutty, a local Grenadian, is full of knowledge about the island’s history, culture, animals and plants, so when there was an opening in one of his tours, we jumped at it. Settle in…we saw a lot and learned much.

First, a quick bit of island history…

Christopher Columbus sighted Grenada in 1498, during his third voyage
to the Americas. However, it wasn’t until 1609, that English tobacco planters attempted to settle the island; within a year, most were killed by the Carib Indians. Forty years later, the French purchased the island from the Carib, for a few hatchets, some glass beads and two bottles of brandy (not a bad deal!).

As you might imagine, not all of the Carib were pleased with the deal, and skirmishes continued until the French chased the last of the Indians to the northern end of the island. Rather than submit to the colonists, the remaining Carib, men, women and children, jumped to their deaths from the island’s cliffs.

Like many Caribbean islands, control of Grenada shifted back and forth between France and Britain, until France seceded the island to the British under the Treaty of Paris, in 1783.

Grenada received its independence on  February 7th, 1974. By 1979, the state of the island’s politics had become a concern to American officials, when the leftist Maurice Bishop seized power and began to develop close relations with Cuba. In 1983, another Marxist, Bernard Coard, had Bishop assassinated and took control of the government. Protesters clashed with the new government, violence escalated and in little more than a week, Grenada’s government was overthrown.

There were nearly 1,000 Americans in Grenada at the time, many of them students at the island’s medical school. Citing concerns for danger to these citizens, and fears of a repeat of the Iran Hostage Crisis, President Ronald Reagan ordered nearly 2,000 U.S. troops to Grenada. They soon found themselves facing opposition from Grenadian armed forces, and groups of Cuban military engineers, who were on there to repair and expand the island’s airport.

The fact that U.S. forces had to rely on minimal intelligence about the situation, and about the island, didn’t help matters (maps used by many of them were, in fact, old tourist maps of the island!) As a result, Reagan ordered in more troops, and by the time the fighting was done (in a matter of weeks), nearly 6,000 U.S. troops were in Grenada. Nearly 20 of these troops were killed and over a hundred wounded; over 60 Grenadian and Cuban troops were killed.

The invasion resulted in the appointment of an interim government, followed by democratic elections in 1984 (The country has remained a democratic nation since that time). Grenadians appreciated the fact that there had been relatively few civilian casualties, as well as the return to democratic elections. The date of the invasion is now a national holiday on the island, called Thanksgiving Day, which commemorates the freeing, after the invasion, of several political prisoners, who were later elected into office.

On to the island sights, sounds and smells…

The volcanic, mountainous island of Grenada, with its many rivers and waterfalls, was formed as an underwater volcano approximately 2 million years ago. Six smaller islands at the southern end of the Grenadines island chain belong to the island as well. Here’s a good image of the island, that I found online:

Being on the southern edge of the hurricane belt, Grenada has suffered only three hurricanes in fifty years: Janet in 1958,  Ivan in 2004 and Emily in 2005. Here are some  images of Spice Island Marine, located near us in Prickly Bay, before and after hurricane Ivan.

Known as the “Spice Island,” Grenada is a leading producer of many spices: cinnamon, clove, ginger, mace, allspice, orange/citrus peels, and especially nutmeg. They are all important exports for the island, and provide twenty percent of the world’s supply. In addition, Grenada is the world’s second largest producer of nutmeg exporters, after Indonesia.

We began our tour with a view down to the harbour at St. Georges, and it wasn’t long before Cutty pulled the van over, to root in the roadside plants and trees. We all waited near the van, as Cutty showed us juvenile coffee beans, cinnamon bark, turmeric, bay leaves and grapefruit.

Our first stop was Annandale Falls, one of Grenada’s many waterfalls. Located just steps from the main road, we made our way to the viewing deck, passing wild cilantro along the way (three long leaves, at center of photo). Some of the locals put on quite a show, jumping into the water below the falls, from the rocks above.

Next, we made our way into the rain forest, and Grand Etang National Park. This area of the island receives a whopping 160 inches of rain a year, in contrast to 45 inches in the lower elevations. In addition to views of a volcanic crater lake (a naturally water-filled crater, of one of Grenada’s extinct volcanoes), we were here in hopes of seeing the Mona monkeys who live in the area.

Our Aussie friends, Mark and Deb were also on the tour with us, and we all patiently waited while Cutty called out to the monkeys. It wasn’t long before they came into view, and he soon coaxed them out from the edge of the treeline.

The Mona monkeys are thought to have first come to Grenada in the 18th Century, on ships coming from Ghana, and are now mostly seen in the island’s interior.  Like hamsters and chipmunks, the Mona store food in their cheeks. They are vegetarians, eating mainly fruit, but will sometimes opt for a tasty looking insect or a lush leaf.,…which there are no shortage of in Grenada.

Scott, Howard and I had plenty of up-close-and-personal time with the monkeys in Roatan, but “monkey business” never gets old.

Back on the road, Cutty again pulled over, rummaged in a nearby tree and emerged with nutmeg. Opening the outer shell revealed the nutmeg seed within. It’s red, lacy outer covering is dried to produce the spice mace.

Next, we stopped at the home of Denis Noel, and his home on the 300 acre Balthazar Estate.

We visited briefly, and discovered that he’d led quite an interesting life. Inside, the walls were lined with photos of Noel with foreign dignitaries from all over the world, during his time as Grenada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

After leaving politics, Noel diversified operations of the family estate. He packaged and marketed herbal tea from lemongrass, and was the first Grenadian to cultivate the noni plant and market noni juice. The noni fruit smells terrible, but has countless medicinal benefits.

You can read more about this incredibly healthy, but stinky fruit here.

In the year 2000, he released Nut-Med, a pain-relief spray, combining nutmeg with conventional analgesics. It became internationally famous, and was registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States.

As a young man, Noel was a member of the Grenadian Ministry of Agriculture, and flowers from the Balthazar Estate earned six gold medal awards over a ten year period, at the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show in England. The estate is currently Grenada’s largest producer of cut flowers, and the table inside the house was full of beautiful wrapped bouquets.

As we walked back to Cutty’s van, there was a whiff of chocolate in the air. I followed my nose to a nearby building, and discovered the Grenada Cocoa Association.

Inside the open doors, bags filled with cocoa beans were piled high. It was a delicious smell, but as I snapped these photos, we were not so politely told to leave. No bother, I’d gotten a snoot-full of chocolate smell, and was happy to evacuate the building.

Keeping with the chocolate theme, our next stop was the Grenada Chocolate Factory.

The company was founded in 1999, by two men who had the idea of creating an Organic Cocoa Farmers’ and Chocolate-Makers’ Cooperative. The chocolate is produced in a tiny Caribbean house, and is made from organic beans grown by local island farmers who are all shareholders in the company, and who earn well over twice the going rate for their beans. The local, fresh beans are used, rather than those that have been shipped half way around the world, and might be months or even years old.

Because small batch chocolate-making is extremely rare, the company had to create many of their own processing methods, designing special small scale machines and refurbishing antique equipment to meet the requirements of their unique situation. Most of the machines were designed in the early 1900’s, in a time when quality had precedence over quantity in the world of chocolate-making. Many of the machines were also reconfigured to be powered by solar energy.

Having stocked up on chocolate bars, we continued on to Belmont Estate. The first Grenadians of East Indian descent to own an estate on the island purchased the property in 1944 (Only Europeans owned agricultural estates at that time), and it is still in the family as a fully operational, agricultural property.

The property houses a restaurant, several gift shops, a small museum and a farm with many different animals and plants. In addition, Belmont has their own chocolate production on site.

We wandered the grounds, passing vanilla beans, noni fruit, guava, passion fruit (which we learned is an invasive vine), and several mud-caked turtles, some who seemed to be quite nimble walkers.

On our way out we stopped into the museum, where Cutty talked about the island’s various fruits, nuts and spices on display.

Traveling along Grenada’s lush and scenic roads, Cutty pointed out large barrels outside some of the island’s homes. He told us that they are used to ship items to friends and family in Grenada, from other countries. From November 1st, until December 31st, the barrels ship duty-free from the U.S. and Canada, as long as they contain clothes, food and toys…ho, ho, ho!

Our lunch spot was a scenic restaurant at the River Antoine Estate, producers of Rivers Rum. We enjoyed a buffet of local foods, and views of the estate’s lush, tropical grounds, on the edge of the Caribbean Sea.

With full bellies and renewed energy, it was time for rum! “Rivers Rum,” as it’s referred to on the island, is still made almost exactly as it was back in the 1700’s, in the same place and on much of the same equipment.

Central to the entire process of manufacturing at Rivers Rum is a water wheel, dating back to the 1800s. Fed by a nearby river, the wheel has been crushing cane for hundred’s of years, making River Antoine the oldest functioning water-driven distillery in the Caribbean. Being mechanically inclined, both Mark and Scott were fascinated by the huge, antique wheel and it’s workings.

No machines or pumps are used here. Piles of sugar cane are hand-fed up a wooden chute, and crushed by the water wheel-powered grinder.

The fresh-squeezed juice flows down a wooden sliding gate to the boiling house, where it is filtered (by hand) to remove bits of cane, stirred (by hand) and brought to a boil in cast-iron pots over a fire that is stoked by dried cane stalks and wood, which explains the massive piles of stalks around the crushing area.

The juice is then ladled from pot to pot (by hand), which thickens the sweet liquid. Tempering lime is added to help separate unwanted impurities and aid fermentation.

After boiling for a few hours, the thickened liquid is ladled (by hand) into another gate/chute that directs it to cement fermentation tanks. Without the addition of yeast, the boiled cane juice takes about eight days to ferment. Once all of the sugar has been converted to alcohol, it is drained from the concrete tanks into a pot still below. In the final step, it’s pumped (by hand) into bottles held near a pipe.

Daily production only yields about 35 gallons, which is far less than the demand. The resulting raw rum to be bottled as Rivers Royale is 75% alcohol by volume, and this overproof rum is the strongest we’ve found in our Caribbean travels (on the right, below). It’s alcohol content is too high for visitors to carry home by plane, as it’s considered a combustible liquid! As a result, Rivers began producing a “tourist-friendly” rum, coming in under the wire, at 69% (on the left).

 

The tour ended at an open pavilion, offering samples of the clear rum that was most likely distilled just the day before, if not that morning. We were welcome to “drink all you like,” and soon discovered why. The clear “fire-water” offered to us in tiny cups smelled like lighter fluid, and didn’t get past my lips.

Scott, on the other hand, finished his fire sample handily, explaining to the group how to properly taste the stuff: first take a breath, drink the rum and then exhale (apparently, drinking moonshine has its advantages). He then happily went back for seconds…I’m fairly certain he was the only one.

We were nearing the end of our tour, and our heads were spinning with all that we’d seen and heard. In addition to the many fruits, spices and trees mentioned, Cutty also pointed out clove, almonds, tamarind, avocados, lemongrass, cherries, cocoa pods, jasmine, ylang-ylang and several types of apples and mangoes (the island has 200 species of mango).

Here are more interesting tidbits that we learned from Cutty:

The Caribbean Argo Company imports wheat from Canada and the U.S. They produce flour and ship it throughout Caribbean.

During the U.S. invasion of Grenada, in 1983, the U.S. accidentally bombed a mental hospital…oops! President Regan approved funds to build a new one.

Michael Jackson’s infamous doctor, Conrad Murry, was born on Grenada.

Children on Grenada are required to go to school from 6-14 years of age.

Many countries have funded projects in Grenada:

Canada provided money for a medical center; China built many homes, and also paid for a new cricket stadium. At the stadium’s opening, the anthem of Taiwan was accidentally played, and the band leader was fired; Venezuela gave Grenada $16.5 million in grant funding for projects, such as prefab housing, and the redevelopment of the St. George’s Market; Japan has given the island money, in exchange for voting in favor of whaling at United Nations meetings.

The soursup fruit contains calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, and is also a source of vitamins C and A.

Soursup grows naturally in Grenada,  and the U.S. is paying the island to grow it for use in cancer research.

We came away from our day-long tour with a true appreciation for Grenada’s beauty, and all that the island provides her people. Here are more photos of our island tour with Cutty.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”

 

 

 

 

 

A Dinghy Concert

Not long after we settled into Prickly Bay, there was talk on the net of an upcoming dinghy concert. Apparently, Le Phare Bleu Hotel & The Lighthouse Bar sponsor a “dinghy concert” several times a year. A floating barge houses the stage, with two more flanked on either side, for seating and a bar. Cruisers and locals come by dinghy, tying to the barges, and each other, for an afternoon of music.

A dinghy concert you say??…awesome!! However, the concert was several bays over, and involved going out in open waters to round the bend. Our 3.5 horsepower dinghy motor would make for a slow, slogging go, and despite being inflatable-friendly, we feared the Aluminum Princess would not be well received in a large group of rubber dinghies; they just don’t understand her.

Luckily, our friends Mark and Deb, who we’d recently met in Martinique, offered to ferry us over on their dinghy; it was larger, with a more powerful motor. We gladly accepted, and the four of us were off on our way.

It was a lumpy ride, but we made good time and soon arrived at the bay near Le Phare Bleu. Many cruisers had arrived ahead of us,  and we tied on to the growing amoeba of dinghies.

As dinghies of all sizes continued to arrived, the group grew in size. We spotted our friend, “Tall Mark,” (red baseball hat) coming in on a homemade pontoon boat!

Water taxis shuttled those without dinghies, as well as many locals, from Le Phare Bleu over to the barges.

The ever-growing group included families with children, as well as pets.

A sailboat arrived and anchored just off the barges, ready for the day, with several inflatables of their own.

We settled in, and waited for the live music to start.

The band soon took the stage and began to play for the floating crowd.

As the music played people lounged in their dinghies and on floats,  sought “relief” in the water and enjoyed the day.

Cruisers swayed in their dinghies, and locals danced on the barges.

The hat twins took it all in..

Here’s a short video of the dinghy concert crowd, and the music:

 

A man in the dinghy next to us flew his drone off and on during the afternoon. I later found this overhead photo he took. We are at the lower left of the group, in between the small, dark blue dinghy and the larger fiberglass dinghy.

As time passed, we ran out of drinks…quite a conundrum. Scott took it upon himself to make his way to the bar. He crawled over the mass of inflatables, asking to “play through” as he went.

As he made his way across the amoeba, Tall Mark signaled him to use the pontoon for his final leg. Once aboard, Scott pulled it over to the barge, and climbed up…success! Our Prickly Bay neighbor, David, was there to greet him.

At the bar, Scott procured said drinks, and then surveyed his route back.

With two beers, and a cup of over-proof rum in hand, Scott made his way through the pontoon, across the dinghies and back to us, not letting anyone hold his precious cargo along the way.

While these photos capture the basic gist of Scott’s quest, here’s a video of the real-time journey, which I found hysterical:

Before long, dusk was approaching. The band stopped playing, allowing those on dinghies to travel safely back to their boats before dark. We untied ourselves from the shrinking amoeba, and headed for home.

With the wind behind us, we had a quick and comfortable ride back to Prickly Bay. Mark and Deb dropped us at Sea Life, before heading back to Kefi.

Our day of music, floating and fun was a good time for all. Whoever thought up the dinghy concert idea was a genius! Here are more photos of our fun afternoon.

“Shells Sink, Dreams Float. Life’s Good On Our Boat!”