Cocoa,rum and spice

Ananda's blog
Keith and Stella Myerson
Mon 11 Apr 2011 20:26

12:00.20N 61:43.45W

Sunday 10th April 2011

“Ahoy there skipper!”

As we pulled into Prickly Bay, Grenada our friends Tim and Barbara, on holiday from the UK, were waiting for us on the shore!  After clearing customs, we welcomed them on board with ‘Ananda juice’ – a spicy cocktail with ginger, honey and lemon (not to mention the ubiquitous rum, of course).


Prickly Bay



It’s about 95 miles to Grenada from Tobago, our last port of call, and too far for a day sail.  So, the previous day, we had enjoyed a last minute swim off the nearby reef then an early supper and a sleep before weighing anchor at midnight.  The night voyage was a pleasant one, a close reach in moderate seas and with excellent visibility.  An obliging passenger ship, The Oceanic, with ‘peace boat’ painted in large letters on its topsides, altered course for us.  As we reached along the south coast of Grenada at dawn, Stellie baked banana muffins.

Grenada is known as the ’spice island’, a well deserved description.  Despite the terrible devastation wrought by hurricane Ivan in 2004, the interior of this volcanic island is like a giant botanical garden with exotic spice and fruit trees in abundance.  Almost anywhere, if you stop at the side of the road, you are likely to find nutmeg, cocoa, bananas, avocado, papaya, lime, pineapple, cinnamon, cloves and ginger all growing together.



The rain forest is slowly recovering, and there are lush green mountains with waterfalls.




The fish arrive at De Big Fish Bar, Prickly Bay






Grenadian school and friendly children




At the River Antoine Rum factory, a strong (73%) white rum is made in much the same way as it ever was in 1780.  A giant waterwheel powers the mill that crushes the sugar cane, and the dried residue of the cane burnt to heat the juice in giant cast iron bowls.  The juice is scooped into them with giant wooden ladles and then fermented.  The copper still is heated by burning wood, and the rum (about 1000 bottles per week - for domestic consumption only) is bottled by hand. 


The waterwheel.

No frills - ecological too.


Cane mashin’ machine.


Driven by the water wheel, the cane is crushed and the juice flows into a wooden trough (by the worker in the blue hat, who is scooping out any floating residue) and then into a pipe that leads to a large vat.  The cane residue is then heaped into the rail cart that then runs along a track.  It is then unloaded manually and then spread out to dry in the sunshine.



Hot stuff



Bottling it all up



Taking only about 2 weeks from start to finish, the whole process is virtually independent of electricity, and so production wasn’t even halted for the hurricane!  Was this one of the reasons why the Grenadians managed to cope with Ivan’s havoc and destruction as well as they did?



At the cocoa station, the beans are removed from the pods and left to ferment for a couple of days before being laid out in the sun to dry.  Ladies wearing wellington boots trudged through the trays each day to turn them over and ensure they dried completely.  If desired, the beans are then polished in a large drum using a belt driven electric fan before being weighed into sacs and sent off for export or to the Grenada Chocolate Factory.  The empty pods are used as mulch around crops, so nothing is wasted.


The cocoa trays are built on rails so they can be pushed under shelter when it rains.


..and nutmeg!

Before the hurricane, Grenada was the world’s second largest nutmeg producer.  But now that so many of these shallow rooted trees have been lost, Grenada has been overtaken by other countries.  It was sad to see the nutmeg co-operative plant at Grenville only running at a fraction of its former capacity and employing only 16 people instead of over 100 in better days. 



One hopes that the intensive replanting of the past few years will (literally!) bear fruit and improve matters.  But we saw untended nutmeg trees, with the fruit going uncollected, when we toured the island, making us wonder whether there may be other, more economic reasons why production has declined.

The south coast of the island is indented with beautiful sheltered inlets where we spent peaceful nights at anchor amongst the mangroves, watching the amazing birdlife.  An osprey dived to catch a fish off our stern, and magnificent frigate birds with their forked tails and white breasts circled overhead.  Cranes hid amongst the mangroves, well camouflaged with their long legs.

Some of the inlets had been tastefully developed, with exclusive waterside resorts including docking facilities for yachts.  Tim and Barbara were based at True Blue resort which had just opened, with bespoke metal artwork of turtles and fish and a wonderfully haphazard waterside restaurant, the ‘Dodgy Dock’. 


View from aft cabin, True Blue Bay



But we loved Le Phare Bleu, where the office, clubhouse and washing facilities were incorporated into an old Swedish lightship, as well as an exclusive restaurant on its upper decks.  Built in 1905, the Västra Banken stood guard over the bank of its namesake until, bought by the owner of the resort, it was completely restored in Germany.  The ship still has its original engine – apparently in working order, though rather smoky!  



As temporary berth holders we also had use of the resort’s swimming pool and catamaran dinghy, but with a flight home booked, there was little time to relax.  We prepared Ananda for a spell on her own, removing a deck fitting for modification in the UK, mooring her up securely and flushing preservative through the water maker.

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