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!”