Monday 27th Feb - Grenada at last
3rd March 2012 – St Georges, Grenada
Just before heading south from St Lucia, we had a small shopping expedition to make to collect our new dinghy from Le Marin in Martinique. It took us 5 hours sailing closehauled to get to Martinique to anchor at dusk off St Anne. We moved into the main anchorage in Marin in the morning and dinghied ashore in the Avon dinghy. Carol managed a bit of shopping for French cheese, coffee and other foodstuffs more difficult to come by in other parts of the Caribbean whilst Jon sorted out delivery of the Zodiac dinghy to the dinghy dock. Having deflated the Avon and got it the groceries and ourselves into the Zodiac we went back to Arnamentia before going ashore in Marin to do some other bits and pieces. We tried to do the decent thing and clear in through Customs but the office was closed and we were bidden to go to Fort de France to do so. We declined, did the stuff we needed to do and sailed back to St Lucia to anchor in Rodney Bay on Friday evening. We managed to meet up with John and Mikaela from Chiscos for a final dinner together in the wonderfully relaxed Captain’s Mike’s Bar which you reach by pulling yourself across on a floating pontoon within the marina – a more swept-up version of the one at the Elephant Boatyard in the Hamble.
We had a fixed deadline to meet as Bob Raley was arriving in Grenada on Sunday evening so it was to be another overnight passage with a strong following wind. By late afternoon, we had reached the south of St Lucia and passed the iconic landmarks most closely associated with the island – the Pitons. The picture below is probably not the photographer’s finest but the boat was bouncing around a lot! St Vincent and the myriad of islands on the way to Grenada were passed in the dark – they will be visited in what we hope will be a relaxed fashion over the next couple of weeks.
To minimise the risk of getting to St Georges in Grenada whilst it was still dark, we set off after lunch with two reefs in the mainsail. That was a good plan since the wind reached well over 35 knots at times and we barrelled along at around 8 knots. We had booked in to the Grenada Yacht Club marina which is in a very sheltered part of St George’s harbour. The yacht club is delightful, situated on a small hill overlooking the harbour – the cooling breezes and excellent, very reasonably prized food made it a great place to relax in.
We were in plenty of time to meet Bob at the airport – he was bringing out with him two cases of spares including a replacement Hydrovane rudder and shaft tube. It was the Hydrovane equipment that raised eyebrows with the airport Customs. They wanted to charge duty on it but we had no paperwork showing its value. Fortunately the Customs officer missed the section on the Hydrovane website showing the normal retail value and we departed saying that we’d come back with an invoice, even though the rudder was being supplied free of charge. Hydrovane obliged with a commercial invoice (at, obviously a significantly lower price than retail) and the much more helpful Customs people at Port St Louis in St Georges explained that with a C14 form certifying the goods as ship’s stores for a vessel in transit, which they instantly provided, we would pay only 2.5% of the value instead of around 90%. No contest really. The best bit of the whole incident was undoubtedly the bus ride Jon took to the airport. As ever, all that was necessary to get aboard one of these was to wander down the road in the vague direction in which you needed to go. The sound of blaring Caribbean music accompanied by toots on the horn and someone shouting “Need a bus, man” signals the arrival of transport. You know perfectly well that the No 1 bus route ends well before the airport. You also know that if you ask to be taken there the response will be “Yeah, we take you dere man”. The driver was young, convinced of his own immortality and distinctly multi-taskable. He could drive the bus, use his mobile phone, use the track-changer on the CD player, overtake on blind corners, compete with all other traffic on the road, wave at everyone he knew (that’d be most people, obviously) shout at other drivers and do a host of other things all at the same time. However, his right foot was less flexible. Whether engaged with the accelerator or brake pedal, it understood only one position – pedal to metal. We were still doing around 80mph about 20 yards from the airport arrivals door.
Next day, Frank and Bernd, two German friends of Bob’s, flew in from Barbados for the day. They were on a tightish schedule so we contented ourselves with a quick motor around to the beautiful Grande Anse bay. Bob and Bernd got into Iron Man mode and swam ashore before briskly walking to Jenny’s Place for a delicious lunch. The rest of us tried out the new dinghy which definitely rides better but is clearly in need of a little more horse power.
By this time we’d discovered that the shaft tube sent out by Hydrovane was longer by about 10” than the shaft it was supposed to take. A conversation with Hydrovane resulted in a decision to stick with the longer tube and go for a longer shaft to match. So, rather more hanging around Grenada was called for whilst that arrived. But, we wanted to move on from St Georges so sorted out the C14 paperwork with Customs there and then to free us up. We did some sightseeing in St Georges and took a taxi tour of the island. We also acquired a new outboard engine with a few more horses in it than our original. It’s a bit heavier so we now use a handy billy pulley arrangement to hoist it on and off the boat into and out of the dinghy but it all works well. It also has a decent sized separate fuel tank which means less faffing about with fuel and fewer opportunities for exciting ridicule when we run out of petrol.
And with our new outboard with have more “Legs” too – the harbour in St George’s
The Anglican church open to the elements after Hurricane Ivan in 2004
Our day out had been postponed due to torrential rain – far more than the normal tropical squalls that we’ve become used to - and even on the day we did venture out it was rather grey and gloomy. Nevertheless we enjoyed our whistle stop tour of the main sights on the island. First off were the Annandale Falls where we jostled with cruise ship passengers to see local lads plunge 50 foot into the pool below the falls – all for the princely photographic fee of $1US – unfortunately Carol and her camera aren’t too brilliant at action shots. However, she was more successful at the rain forest museum stop and now has a new best friend.
Allandale Falls - Jumping for Dollars A Cheeky Chappy
The Caribbean is littered with rum factories and so far we hadn’t visited one. Since the Antoine Rivers distillery has hardly changed since it opened a century or so ago we thought a visit there would more interesting than most. And indeed it was – a Health and Safety inspector would have had a field day – machinery (including a wonderfully dangerous-looking waterwheel cane masher made in Derby) with no covers, liquid cane pulp travelling in open drains from one building to another, open mashing tanks. However, everything works and the end product is pretty amazing – the 82% (164 proof) rum is so potentially inflammable that it can’t be taken on aircraft. And, ice cubes sink in it.
Slurry Tanks? No, just fermenting sugar cane!
We’d asked our driver to take us to a local place for lunch – we didn’t want anything fancy and he came up trumps. Helena’s has a delightful balcony and we were presented with a fantastic array of creole food, which for some unknown reason always includes macaroni cheese! We were not very far from Carib’s Leap, right at the north of the island, where the indigenous tribe leapt to their death rather than become slaves to the invading French in 1651.
Having taken our time over lunch and with Matthew our driver having to go slowly around the numerous landslides, we were rather late at our last stop, the chocolate factory, and couldn’t tag onto the end of a cruise ship tour. Needless to say, the free samples in the factory shop went down very well. We’re hoping to see a bit more of the island – it would be good to walk in the forest to a more remote waterfall. Carol had been looking forward to picking up the odd nutmeg or two from the forest floor – which she had done last time she was here nearly twenty years ago. Sadly, Hurricane Ivan destroyed the majority of the trees. Very few have been re-planted and they take 20 or so years to mature.