Friday, August 28, 2015

Danny & Erika

Since the early days of June its been nice and quiet down here from a weather watch point of view.  However, in the last two weeks, in quick succession we have watched the development of two hurricane systems.

Danny caused quite a stir while we were still in Carriacou and we watched and listened to the buzz as we waited for the storm to turn north and take Grenada out of it's intended path.  The downgraded tropical depression hit the northern leeward and virgin islands but passed on relatively harmlessly.

Erika came up quickly on Danny's tail and while the storm was quite a bit larger it appeared to be tracking north and therefore not a risk for us.  Over the last few days however, Erika stalled with a more southerly track and by yesterday was unleashing her strength on the island of Dominica that we love so much.  We were saddened to hear of flash flooding and resulting deaths and hope that as she moves on, Erika softens or moves away from the islands.

Just to give an idea of the size of the storm that hit Dominica - here's a satellite image from Weather Underground:

While we sat here relatively unscathed in Mt. Hartman Bay on the south coast of Grenada, about 200 miles away from Dominica, the storm was doing her best to make it uncomfortable.  Wind, being sucked up into the system from as far away as South America, blew straight into the anchorage from the south, turning it rocky and rolly for about 24 hours.  Nothing to worry about but I can't imagine what it would be like sitting through 50-60 mph winds or more.

Wind and swell blowing in directly from the south, thankfully there are reefs outside Hartman Bay that broke up the worst of it.

Today we sit serenely at anchor with the winds back out of the protected east.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Back on Grenada - Let's Take an Island Tour

We returned to Mt. Hartman Bay from Carriacou and took up our same position in the anchorage just as before, and just as before the social whirl of activities encircles us.  Today we'll be getting on with putting together the plan for our new hard bimini and some other projects but before that we put in some fun on the weekend and included an all-around-the island tour yesterday with a small group of fellow cruisers.

Cutty was our driver in his brand new air-conditioned (OMG - haven't been this non-sweaty since our visit to Canada in June) taxi van, so we started off the morning with a plan of what we would cover.

Cutty reviews the itinerary.
For the first part of the drive we made our way high up above St. George's where we saw the prison and some old forts, and beautiful views of the Caranage down below.

Old Fort George on the hill with the Carenage fronting the harbour below.
As we made our way through numerous little villages perched on the steep hillsides, everyone has a way of expressing their national pride and taking part in the annual community beautification projects to win the coveted prize.

Just a small glimpse of the display in front of one house as we zipped by.

Ancient and new petroglyph carvings in the cliff face - If Cutty hadn't pointed these out we would never have seen them here on the road side.

Our first organized stop was at Concord Falls.  If you remember we did the hike from Grand Etang a couple of weeks ago and ended up at the falls in a torrential downpour.

Three weeks ago the river was swollen with rainfall and we couldn't get near the falls.

Today, after a few dry days, the falls are much more hospitable.

We even watched some local guys test their (our) nerves with some dives.

Ready to take the plunge?
Moving on up the west coast to Gouyave (pronounced Guave) we entered a much more rural area where tourism takes a back seat to fishing and farming.  Grenada's nutmeg crop is returning after the devastation of hurricane Ivan in 2004, and they now produce one third of the world's supply (2nd after Indonesia), all of it passing through this little production facility with a total of 80 workers.  It operates as a farmer's co-operative and the majority of its employees are women.  The pictures capture the sights but what you cannot begin to imagine is the heady aroma of nutmeg that saturates the air.

To fulfill her daily wage Manasee must sort and grade 170 lbs of nutmeg each day.

All the ladies' hands flew through the cracked shells and kernels.  All parts of the nutmeg are used but the largest, most dense kernels fetch the highest price.

Our guide Cristine showed us the huge drying racks full of nutmegs.

I wish you could smell the heady nutmeg scent filling the air.  The only automated machinery in the factory is the nutmeg cracker from which the workers (I believe all ladies) sort the results.

Sorted, graded, bagged nutmegs, ready for labelling and shipping.

Labelling is done with a dye akin to shoe polish and hand-cut stencils.

Where is that next bag headed?
Can you believe that ONE THIRD of the world's nutmegs come from this little factory???

On to our next stop at the Diamond Chocolate factory.  Unfortunately because cocoa is in low season at the moment, no production was actually going on but we got to see the machinery and had an explanation of the process.  Of course we couldn't leave without sampling the wares and purchasing a few bars to enjoy later.  Perhaps further on in the season we'll make our way to the larger Grenada Chocolate Company factory and see a bit more of this process.

Just one of the many thousands of blooms along the way - Grenada always seems to be in flower.
 Finally, just before we passed out from hunger we stopped for lunch at the north eastern end of the island at the River Antoine rum factory.  This rum factory has been in production since the early 1700s and is one of the few remaining where they still grow their own sugar cane (most now use molasses as the starting point).  We sat for lunch overlooking the cane-field, watching the seaside palm trees waving in the distance.

A delicious lunch and a cooling breeze complimented the wonderful view.

This is the oldest functioning waterwheel in the western hemisphere - still pressing the watery syrup from the sugar cane.  There is no operating manual for this mill - all working knowledge is orally passed down from father to son.

Cut cane awaiting the mill.

The actual press was build 235 years ago and is still in full operation!

The bagasse (remains of the cane after pressing) is used for fuel or compost.

Pulling the bagasse from the mill.  Bet he's wearing regulation flip-flops for this job!

By the first furnace we chuckled - they burn bagasse, and boxes from the competition.

They recently had to replace one of these ancient copper boiling pots.  They can only be acquired from collectors or the remains of other rum distilleries, to the tune of about $6,000 USD.  Got any lying around??

The final product is knows as Rivers Rum.

Two large stills where the wood burning furnaces are fed 24/7 by hand.

And finally, the tasting.
Rivers Rum comes in two white varieties:  75% alc/vol for the local market and 69% alc/vol "tourist rum" so that those with airplane tickets can fly with the less flammable version.  Whichever you buy is likely to strip paint if not careful.  They also produce two "ladies' drinks" at about 19% - passionfruit punch and guava punch.

We finished up the remainder of our tour with a drive down the old airport strip (replaced in 1994 to be closer to St. George's after the U.S. "intervention")

Driving down the old airport runway, which now gets used for drag racing.

Would you buy a "Swiss" watch from this guy?  Actually, it's the old duty-free shop at the airport.

The Prime Minister's plane (one of the ones left at the end of the runway) landed here the day before the Intervention.
The final leg of our drive was over the middle of the island and past Grand Etang lake that we had been unable to see in the mist three weeks ago.  The trail we took that day rises above the lake up the central ridge.

Another one to look at carefully - this is a  Rainbow Eucalyptus with bark of brilliant colours.  Sorry for the photo quality but we were zipping by on the road.
What a day - we arrived back at Secret Harbour at 5pm, happy, exhausted and full of local knowledge.  Cutty was a wonderful guide with an abundance of local knowledge both of the island and also of the botanical environment as well.

We concluded our day with dinner and drinks at the marina to the soulful sounds of Gary on the sax and another great couple of cruiser singers whose names escape me at the moment.

We're all definitely ready for bed!
And lastly, you know I always like to get to the stats:  we traveled 60 winding, hilly miles around this little 21 x 12 mile island, crossed the central mountains at an elevation of about 1900' (580m), pretty much missed the south-western parish of St. David's and made 6 great new friends from Tempo, Shameless and Moody Mistress!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


An update on tropical storm Danny as of this morning:  it looks like Danny is going to reach H-status in the next couple of days and will pass into the Caribbean at the northern end of the island chain.  This is good news for all of us down in Grenada, but not so good for friends up-island.  For those that are affected - please stay safe!

Perhaps we won't rush back down to the big island, but we'll definitely be following the forecasts.  There are a couple more hikes we'd like to get in, now that our main chores are done.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

All Play and No Work?

Just in case you think that all we do is play carnival, hike and sip sundowners on an azure sea, we decided to take a break from that life and spend a day on boat cleaning.  Truth be told, this is probably a more normal day for us, but today was a tad more intense.

What did we get up to today?

Number one reason we came to Carriacou was to be in the clean waters where we could happily get in and scrub Mowzer's bottom.  Yes, she's a dirty girl with slime, moss and barnacles galore.  It's taken us all day and a few sessions but we have scrubbed her right to the bottom of her keels and reduced a whole colony of life.  That colony tried to take up residence on us but fresh water and soap dealt with that, although I might be itching just at the thought of it for a while.  Hopefully we've added a little to Mowzer's speed as well as reduced the ick-factor.

Henry taking a turn, scrubbing away on the green slime at the waterline.

Mollusks, green slime and crabs just as a starter - got to get it all off the bottom and especially the prop. 

That's much better!
Meanwhile, when not in the water, I removed the sunscreens from the front windows, scrubbed them down and washed the windows under them.  After six years of full-on sun the stitching on the screens had pretty much vanished, so I pulled out the machine and repaired them all around.  Let's hope we get another six years out of them, and we can certainly see out the windows with much more clarity.

Front sunscreens all clean and repaired and back in place.  Also, see the nice little shades I made for the front hatches?  Now we can keep our hatches open even when it rains :-)

And finally, what has all the cruisers abuzz?  Talk of Invest 96 which we are all watching as it becomes more organized in the mid-Atlantic and has been named this afternoon as tropical storm Danny.  Today the thought was that if it does reach H status (we don't use that dreaded word), it may be a category 2 and would most likely make landfall in the Dominica/Martinique area next week.  However, the prediction models are pretty disparate at the moment and there are thoughts it could hit anywhere from Grenada to the Virgin Islands.  We'll be heading out of Carriacou to get down to the south shore of Grenada tomorrow and we'll watch it carefully from there.  This is our first "significant feature" so we definitely don't want to get caught out where we shouldn't be.

Grenada is the southernmost island before Trinidad & Tobago and South America - hopefully well south of any nastiness.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Return to Carriacou

As we were living it up during carnival, Gwen & Guillaume on Slow Waltz mentioned that they were going up to Carriacou for a haul-out, and a little get-away sounded like a fabulous idea - especially as we had rather rushed through this northernmost island of Grenada on the way down.

Carriacou lies just 16 nautical miles north of Grenada and on this crossing the wind and seas were very calm, such that we had to motor sail the entire way.  Instead of much sailing excitement, we enjoyed the sights along the way.

One of the rocky outcroppings is called London Bridge.  On the day we came south, along with the orange alert for Kick'em Jenny there were reports that the bridge had fallen.  We were happy to see it still sturdily standing.

London Bridge has not fallen down.

The chain of rocks extending off the north shore of Grenada, ending with the Bridge.

The Sisters, with Grenada in the background.  At least there was some navigation to pay attention to.

At one point we were surrounded by small jumping fish, which brought on the sea birds.  Take-off and "feet up"!

We even managed to thread ourselves between squalls - the sky behind us was black with rain, this one passed in front and we stayed remarkably dry.
We settled into the anchorage at westward facing Tyrrel Bay with anticipation of some great sunsets in our future.  In the meantime, we made plans with Slow Waltz to do some hiking over the weekend.

We got in a short walk on Saturday and then on Sunday set out early morning to expore the hills above Tyrrel Bay.

I always dry my fish on the line, don't you?

Yep - this is just about the state of the internet some days.

Don't trip (over) the anchor line!

Checking that the boats are still there in the anchorage.

Lovely pastoral views across the island to the north-east with Union Island in the distance.
Somewhere up in the hills we reached a crossroad and reluctant to go downhill, we continued on until we had actually walked into Hillsborough - the main town on the island.  Being a Sunday there was ZERO activity around other than a ferry that had just arrived from the big island.  We took a quick look around and made note of a few shops that would be open during the week, and then headed to Paradise Beach on the north-west corner of the island.

Our goal was to walk to the end of Hillsborough Bay Beach and around to Paradise Beach; just get past the wreck and around the corner.

Have I got a real-estate deal for you!

To get past the wreck we had to pick our way through the mangroves.

And just when we thought all obstacles were out of our way, this little girl showed up.  Her mother kept a very close eye on us to make sure we passed quickly.

Of course we rewarded ourselves on reaching Paradise.

Carriacou has some beautiful villa-style houses along with more quaint accommodations, but all are surrounded by beautiful flowers and trees.

Back at Tyrrel Bay, it was lunch-time so we stopped at the Lazy Turtle for pizza.  Here's a beautiful idea of what to do with that shell collection you've been lugging around!

Walking back to the dinghy we met up the family from "Three Little Birds".  They have got the most patient dog in the world!  Apparently this happens regularly and she is quite content.

Did I mention that it is incredibly hot and humid at the moment so we were all in desperate need of a swim/shower to cool down and clean up.  However, we'd left ourselves a bit late and it was a quick affair to get back to Iguana's for 3 o-clock Grenadian Train Dominoes.  Thanks to Edie and Blair back in Bequia we weren't complete dominos virgins and had a basic understanding of the game - it didn't help our scores though and I think the tables were quite happy to have some new victims (company?).

Grenadian Train - a variant on Mexican Train - a variant on dominoes.  Who knew there was so much fun to be had!