Sunday, May 18, 2014

Chilling out in Grenada

Waterfall along Hash course
Dana and I have now been in Grenada for over three weeks and we’re really getting to know the place. We’ve anchored in several different bays and berthed in three marinas. We get around! Later today we’ll move to another bay to get a different taste of the island and the boaters who call that bay their temporary home.

So what have we been up to over these past several weeks? Rarely a day goes by when we’re just sitting on the boat. We’re always occupied with various boat chores (like scrubbing Eventyr’s water line or scraping barnacles off her propeller). We hang out at some of the cruisers’ haunts, typically marina bars or rum shops. We go for swims off the boat when it gets too hot. Most importantly, we listen to the cruiser’s net on the VHF radio every morning to hear what’s going on for cruisers around the island. The net is run by rotating cruisers’ boats and every morning the announcer welcomes new boats to Grenada, says goodbye to those who are leaving, and allows other boaters and businesses to announce any upcoming social activities. It’s like being at camp, or on a cruise ship.

Through the cruiser’s net, and by talking to other cruisers, we’ve found lots of cool activities. My personal favorite is the weekly Hash House Harriers run/hike. Every Saturday, between 100 and 200 people (locals, cruisers, college students, etc.) meet up in a designated location and follow trails of shredded paper out through lush and mountainous countryside. The runs are four to five miles, while the hike is about two-and-a-half miles. I run and Dana hikes. The routes are ridiculously difficult, with impossibly steep ascents and descents, river crossings, and extremely technical terrain. You go from jungle to small towns to secluded beaches. It’s great! But even more fun is all the rituals and traditions that go along with this crazy activity. There are Hash House Harrier groups around the world and they originated in England in the 1930s. Some of the crazy traditions include having to drink warm beer out of your shoe and getting sprayed with warm beer for any number of reasons.

Getting ready to head out on the Hash course
Hash course heading along beach 
Local kids enjoying the passing Hashers
Dana and I participated in the Hash twice and both times were awesome. In our first Hash, we met a couple who sailed to Grenada from Austria, and Florian, the husband, is a competitive runner who blew past me on both runs. Yesterday, we brought our friends Bob and Jeanne from Walkabout for their first Hash. They’re from Vermont and we first met them back in the Bahamas. Dana and I have run into them at various anchorages all the way down the Caribbean, and now we’re anchored a few hundred feet from them in Prickly Bay. During the Hash, they hiked with Dana and ended up getting the pleasure of being doused with warm beer afterward. Despite the soaking, they loved the experience. After the hike and during the various rituals, we even got to sample Grenada’s national dish, Oil Down. This thick stew is made with callaloo leaves, breadfruit, plantains, and various meats or fishes. Delicious!

Dana and I unsuspectingly posing for a picture
Getting sprayed down by warm Carib
Jeanne leading the hike up another hill
Passing a banana plantation
Bob and Jeanne's turn
Bob enjoying the soaking
Hashing only happens once a week, so last Friday we travelled by local bus to a fish fry in one of the towns along the coast. The ride itself was an event. The local buses are small “minibuses” slightly larger than a family’s minivan in the states. However, they manage to fit 20 people into these minibuses! And once we’re all in, the driver speeds down the windy, narrow roads like a Nascar driver. Tires screeched around every turn, we passed cars on blind corners, and the driver accelerated to 60 miles per hour the second he passed any of the countless speed bumps before having to slam on the breaks for the next speed bump. With loud, fast tempo soca music blaring, it was an exciting adventure. The locals aboard seem totally accustomed to the trip.

The fish fry, by comparison to the ride there, was pretty tame. We ate fish prepared in ways I couldn’t even imagine! In addition to the standard grilled, baked or fried fish, they had fish cakes, fish stews and even tiny fish fried whole that you ate with ketchup like French fries. We took in a little drum circle music before hopping back on a minibus for a crazy ride home.

Drum circle at Fish Fry 
Sure, I'll try that crazy french fry-style fried fish
Another activity we won’t soon forget involved taking an hour-long van ride (not nearly as crazy as the public minibus) at night to a beach on the north side of the island. Upon arrival, an escort took our group to a spot where a leatherback turtle was in the process of lumbering out of the waves and up the beach. This critically endangered, ancient species lives in the open ocean, but comes to shore once a year to lay eggs. It just so happens that we’re now in the middle of egg-laying season. I was surprised by the size of the animal. The one we saw was estimated to be about 800 pounds but they grow to well over 1000 pounds. We watched as the turtle dug a hole and lay hundreds of eggs. Researches crowded around the leatherback taking various measurements and tagging her for future study. Her nest was deemed too close to the high tide line, so the researchers dug a new hole further up the beach and moved the eggs to increase the probability of the hatchlings surviving.

While the giant leatherback was laying her eggs, she went into a trance and seemed totally unaware of the world around her. At that point, the researchers indicated that it was alright for us visitors, one at a time, to touch the turtle. Flash photography was not permitted, so the pictures did not turn out great. It was an incredible experience. It’s not often you get to be part of such a rare and fantastic natural event. I’ve seen footage of these turtles on the discovery channel, but never thought we would experience it in person!
Dana touching the giant leatherback turtle
Eggs ready to be buried

We have another several days in Grenada before we catch a window of nice weather to sail down to Tobago. Tobago is well east and south of Grenada and over 80 miles away. That means another overnight sail pounding into wind and waves. I think it will be worth it. Not only is Tobago supposed to be an unspoiled gem of an island, but our friends Jon, Otis, and Beth will be flying in to meet us. We’re excited to share the adventure with my long-time friends from growing up!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mom visits Eventyr in Grenada

Sunset at Grand Anse Beach, Grenada
Last week we said goodbye to Hanna. After two months on Eventyr, she travelled back to the states to resume normal life. We had a great last day together in Prickly Bay, Granada and she flew back to Miami on the same flight with Glen and Pam, another couple who sail an Island Packet (Blue Pearl) whom we met back up in St. Lucia. Hanna complained upon her return to Texas that she unconsciously attempted to chuck an apple core out the window, but aside from that, was adjusting normally to life on land. We miss her greatly, although we keep finding fun notes she stashed thanking us and wishing us well.

Saying goodbye to Hanna, Glen, and Pam
Dana and I took a couple days to clean Eventyr and move to the beautiful boutique marina Le Phare Bleu. I even found a surf break in Prickly Bay to bust out my sorely underused surfboard. After I got in a fair surf session and Eventyr was looking squeaky clean, Mom arrived. She’s been looking for the right opportunity to join us, and Grenada seemed like the perfect spot. Dana and I had a whole itinerary planned for the week she was aboard, and everything went smoothly (for a change). Our first day was spent snorkeling, hiking, and relaxing at the tranquil marina. Dana and I wanted Mom to ease into her week on the adventure.

Paddling out from dinghy to surf break in Prickly Bay 

Hot hike! Notice my new (via Mom) UConn tee
Snorkeling from Eventyr
Relaxing at Le Phare Bleu pool
Our second day was spent with Cutty, the taxi/tour driver, touring the whole island of Grenada. At 11 by 21 miles, it is small, but with a wide diversity of landscapes. Grenada is called the spice island, because so many fragrant fruits and spices grow here. Cutty stopped the van on the side of the road numerous times to pick us mangoes, cocoa, coffee, cashews, lemon grass, nutmeg, cinnamon, bananas, and a wide variety of fruits I never heard of. We were in awe of the flowering trees and bushes everywhere! We went into the rainforest and did a short hike to a crater lake. We posed with Mona Monkeys, who came out of the jungle when Cutty offered up fresh bananas. We toured a nutmeg processing plant and a small organic chocolate factory. Lunch was served at a rum distillery where they still make rum with the same equipment from the late 1800s. A large archaic water wheel turned a conveyor belt and crushed the juice out of fresh sugar cane. The dried sugar cane fired several bubbling pots that condensed the juice before it was fermented and distilled. The product was a 150 plus proof white rum that nearly knocked our socks off! We spent the rest of the day winding through hilly roads back to our marina.

Flowers abound!
Mona Monkeys
Acres of nutmeg
Boiling cauldrons of cane juice destined for rum
Beautiful setting of Rivers Antoine Rum Distillery
After a couple pleasant days at the marina, it was time for mom to get a taste of the “real” adventure. We left the safe and secluded marina and took off into the open ocean for our next anchorage. Ok, so we took it easy on mom that first sail and just motored 4 miles around a point to the next bay. We spent two nights anchored in a calm bay behind Hog Island, where many sailors call home. Mom, Dana, and I cruised around the bays on our dinghy and spent a bit of time on a palm tree-lined beach before attending the weekly barbeque at the generator-powered Rogers Bar. This beach bar, on Hog Island, is accessible by dinghy and cruisers and locals alike hang out, listen to reggae, and enjoy local seafood grilled to perfection. Like I said, many sailors call this bay home because they anchor here year-round. One of the live aboards invited mom to their daily water noodle aerobics session the next morning. Upon listening to the cruiser’s net (a daily broadcast from and by sailors in the vicitnity), Mom was called out by name. After announcing that day’s water noodle aerobics time and place, the friendly woman reminded, “Pat from Connecticut, we have your noodle ready.” When we were done laughing we hauled up the anchor and headed on to our next anchorage. No time for noodling.
Exploring the bay by dinghy
Seeking the shade of a palm tree on Calvigny Island beach

Leisure time activities aboard
Having eased into the adventure, Mom got a taste of some true sailing. After getting out into the rambunctious open ocean, Dana and I raised the main and jib, cut the engine and sailed 11 miles to our next stop. Although the seas were relatively lively, we were on a comfortable down wind point of sail, so we moved quickly and smoothly through the water. I caught mom gripping the rail tightly at one point, but she assured me she wasn’t too scared. After an hour, she seemed very at ease and we chatted all the way around the island to our next anchorage. I think she could get used to this cruising life!

Our final two days were spent in the bustling main town of St. George's. We visited an old fort, walked the streets in the blazing midday sun, and fended off hawkers at the spice market. Mom got a taste of the quiet secluded cruising life, along with our sometimes busy, hectic shopping trips. We had one last relaxing sunset drink on Grand Anse beach for our last night at anchor. Last night, we stayed at another lovely marina in St. George and Mom treated Dana and I to a nice dinner out. We prepared most our meals on board during the week, to give Mom a feel for how we’ve lived the past six-and-a-half months. I think she enjoyed all of Dana’s delicious concoctions (including the pain killers and dark and stormies).

View from Fort George in St. George's
St. George's
Final dark and stormy on Eventyr with Mom
Dinner with Mom

This morning we bid Mom an early morning farewell. We’ll see her again in a little over a month in San Francisco for my cousin Derek’s wedding (Dana and I will fly back and forth to the states for the event).  It was great having Mom on board and I hope she enjoyed her little taste of the adventure. Dana and I are alone on Eventyr for a while. We almost don’t know what to do with ourselves. Our next deadline is Tobago in late May for a visit from my friends since elementary school, Otis, Jon, and Beth. Between now and then, Dana and I will have to find a way to keep ourselves occupied and wait for a weather window to make the 82-mile trip further south.