Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Wrap Up

April 8 - Haul Out Day

Our appointment to be hauled out was for 1pm. We motored to Spice Island Marine (about a quarter of mile from where we were anchored) and the crew at Spice Island had us hoisted out of the water in no time. The entire process went flawlessly. They then moved us with a highly maneuverable vehicle to a narrow spot between two other boats. That is now Lahaina Roads' home for the next six months. And for us there is no more rolling sensation. We are on the hard, as they say. Now it takes a long ladder to get on board. There is no more taking a quick dip in the water before dinner.

We took a quick trip to Grand Anse to go to the bank and to a store - it was an adventure. The buses here are similar to elsewhere in that they are vans. Here, though, there is a twist to the process. Each “bus” has an additional individual whose job it is to entice and recruit more riders. Some of them use pretty aggressive techniques to reel in additional riders. One, in fact, jumped out of his bus, ran over to me (about 100 feet), then grabbed me by the arm to get me to ride on his bus. I opted out since another bus had just pulled up right where I was standing. I suppose that this is the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well. The bottom line is better with each additional rider.

The following day was spent getting the boat ready for the hurricane season. We took down the headsail, mainsail and mizzen, along with the reefing lines and preventers. The outboard for the dinghy was thoroughly cleaned and stowed, as was the inflatable dinghy itself. These were not trivial tasks. The sails are huge, bulky and heavy. The dinghy and motor are heavy too and has to hoisted from the ground all the way up into the boat, rolled up and stowed. The 90 degree weather and 85% humidity made it all that much more work. By 4:30pm we were tired and ready for a shower. It was time to sit down and relax.

Sitting on the boat on the hard in the middle of a sea of other boats is a strange sensation. You see so many boats and masts and a number of people diligently working, cleaning things and putting gear away. It’s a solemn sort of a moment in which all these (expensive) adult toys are being neatly stowed away, hopefully to be played with, six months from now. Literally, millions of dollars in boats are busily being prepared (just in this marina).

Monday morning we leave for home. Our Caribbean adventure - Part I is wrapping up.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Union, Carriacou and Grenada

April 2 - Union Island

Union Island is the most southern of the Grenadines. We anchored in Clifton Harbor, the island’s main town. Clifton is one of the larger towns we visited (although still mostly all on one main street). The airport landing strip is a stone’s throw from the main street, so it was fun to watch the planes taking off and landing so close by.
The town is colorful and is not as run-down looking as so many of the other places we have seen. It has a cute central market area with fresh produce for sale. But let me comment on the cost of the produce - it is not cheap! Most of it comes from St. Vincent or elsewhere. For example, I bought six small tomatoes and a small papaya for $9.20! I asked an expat if there was a double standard for charging foreigners and she said no, that produce was just VERY expensive.

Being that it was Good Friday, the long weekend celebration had started. (It appears that all of these islands take their Easter holiday seriously. The drinking starts on Friday and continues through Monday.) A number of the local men were hanging out in front of bars drinking rum, listening to the music, talking and checking out the ladies that walked by. We had a feeling things were going to get loud in the evening.

The following morning we headed off to Carriacou, one of the three islands in the Grenada chain.

April 3 - Carriacou Island

In Carib, the word Carriacou means “island surrounded by reefs”. One look at the charts and you realize that they knew what they were talking about. We first entered in Hillsborough to clear customs and immigration. We were successful with clearing customs, but immigration was off to lunch. They must have eaten a lot, for they were gone the rest of the afternoon.

The town of Hillsborough runs mainly along one street paralleling the beach. An assortment of restaurants, bars and boutiques fill the main street’s beach side, while on the other side are some run-down buildings, grocery stores and fresh produce stands.

During our fruitless, long wait for immigration, we talked to a friendly taxi driver. A real nice fellow. I asked him how he could afford the impressive new Toyota diesel he drove. He said it was from a small business loan that the government offered. We talked about the U.S. invasion of Grenada back in the 80’s after Maurice Bishop, the communist leaning prime minister, was executed along a number of his cabinet. He said that in spite of Bishop’s acts of tyranny, he had made some good contributions by improving education and access to health care, but at the cost of civil liberties. Even today, he remains a popular person.

We gave up waiting for the immigration official and headed back to the boat, hoping to complete the check in, in Grenada. With Hillsborough being a wide open bay (the only one without a reef around it), we opted to move to the more sheltered bay of Tyrrel.

It was late afternoon by the time we anchored in Tyrrel. The bay wasn’t very interesting looking. A local came by the boat and sold us a dozen “mangrove oysters” and a fellow named Simon, in an old beat up row boat, offered to sell us bottles of Australian and Chilean wines. The prices were reasonable but we didn’t really need anything. He looked surprised when I told him no thanks - we still have plenty of wine.

April 4 - Carriacou to Grenada (Our final destination)

We pulled up anchor after breakfast. There was a light easterly breeze, so we decided first to motor. Along the starboard side of us was a tug boat towing a big barge and we could see by the way it was towing, there was a strong current at work. It was helping us move along briskly for a total of eight knots. Not bad.

Eventually, we hoisted the sails and had a leisurely sail to the coast of Grenada. As we approached the island from the north, it appeared steep, lush with vegetation and verdant, not unlike St. Vincent. But by the time we got near to the south in St. George, its capital, the land was flatter and dryer looking.

We anchored in the outer harbor and went ashore to find immigration. No luck. They were on holiday hours (apparently, Easter in these islands is a four-day holiday). We then decided to have a look at St. George. The inner part of the harbor was quite pleasant looking and is called the Carenage. From afar, it looks a bit like pictures of Portofino, Italy. But on closer inspection, the area had a more worn and rustic edge to it. Fort George, overlooks the entrance of the harbor. Around the waterfront area there are lots of old brick buildings - stores, warehouses and some government buildings. It would be a perfect place to have sidewalk cafes and restaurants, but none were in sight. Two cathedrals can be seen up the hill. When we walked to them, we noticed both were in ruins (perhaps damaged by hurricanes).

The following day we moved to the south of the island. Prickly Bay is where Spice Island Marine is and that‘s where Lahaina Roads will be hauled out and put on the hard. Prickly Bay is upscale, with huge, multi-million dollar homes lining the hills of bay. One end of the bay has a nice white sandy beach with palm trees. Part of it is owned by the exclusive Calabash Resort, a spendy looking place.

The following day we rented a car to circumnavigate the island and see some of the interior, which has a rainforest, rivers, lakes and waterfalls. Driving here is on the left - that’s always fun! The first place we went to was the Grand Etang Reserve. There was a small crater lake there, a visitors center and some shops. It was reported that Mona monkeys come by the visitors center but we never saw any.

Next, we drove to a spot where you can hiking to a series of waterfalls. We parked the car and proceeded by foot through a beautiful farming area that eventually led to a steep, wild and jungle-like path winding its way through the forest. After about a half hour we found the waterfall. We took a refreshing swim in the cool water and after a while headed back.

We then went to look for the nutmeg plant in the coastal town of Gouyave. Finding it was a bit of a challenge because the roads were poorly marked and the map we had was insufficient in detail. But after a few missteps we got on the right track and found it. The building was an old warehouse, dark and somber looking. A tour guide explained to us how a rusty and antiquated-looking machine cracked the shells open and then how workers separate the mace from the nutmeg and the final process of how the nut gets ground. Grenada is only one of two countries in the world (Indonesia being the other) that grow and export nutmeg and mace.

The factory had a small store that sold nutmeg products such as syrup, liquor and yes, wine! I didn’t buy any, already having been disappointed by an earlier purchase of ginger wine. I’m sticking to grape wine for now.

The rest of the island driving adventure was nice but by the end of the day we were glad to be back to the boat.