Wednesday, October 31, 2012


'Carriacou and Petite Martinique' is a dependency of Grenada, lying north of Grenada island and south of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the Lesser Antilles. The Grenadine islands to the north of Carriacou and Petite Martinique belong to the nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Carriacou Island in the Caribbean Sea, is the largest island of the Grenadines, an archipelago in the Windward Islands chain. The island is 13 square miles (34 km2) with a population of 4,595 (1991 census). The main settlements on the island are Hillsborough, L'Esterre, Harvey Vale, and Windward.

Thank-you Wikipedia for that wonderful summary!
Now for the insightful offerings of two sailors visiting Carriacou on land for the day. Today we left our anchorage in Tyrell Bay via dingy to a bus, driven by a charming lady graduate of the Carriacou Driving School, to Hillsborough and the Windward side of the Island. It would be negligent of a good sailor not to mention that Carriacou has more than 100 rum shops where people go to 'lime' (which means to talk over the day with friends) and one petrol station where an imperial gallon (larger than a US gallon) of gasoline costs $15-16 EC per gallon. (Exchange rate of $2.67 EC per $1.00 US).

Riding along in the bus we both found ourselves ohhhing and awhhhhhing as the crystal clear waters between Carriacou and Petit Martinique became visible. The turquoise sea changed shades with the depth identifying the numerous reefs. Descending into Hillsborough a horrible sight came into view with the floating curse of a cruise ship spewing boatloads of German tourists into our Caribbean haven.

Fortunately for us we were ready for some lunch and found a delightful waterfront restaurant that was nearly empty and it wasn't because the food was bad. Our table sat just feet from the surf, the wait staff was fun to talk with, and the support staff (a grackle and a dog) provided the occasional entertainment. The only other couple that wandered in from the cruise ship were delightful, verbalizing their joy at finding our we were NOT from the cruise ship. John had chicken with mac'n cheese, pasta salad, pumpkin, plantain, rice and peas, steamed veggies, and shredded cabbage with carrots. Jan had a Chicken Roti that was 'bone in' as the locals like it. The curry, one of her favorite food groups now, was much stronger. Our waitress gave us some tips on making a Roti from scratch, soon to join the Cornish Pastie on Jan's list of favorite recipes. So, now that we know there was no need for dinner or breakfast for that matter, we moved on.

Back on a bus, this one with NO shocks or padding in the seats, and around to the Windward side of the island. Boat building is part of the cultural heritage here that continues to this day. At one point in the history of the island many Scottish and Irish boatbuilders were brought here to build the boats needed for commerce. Today you won't see a factory spewing out boat after boat, you will see a boat builder putting together a boat on the beach, no plans or complex tools necessary.

Alwyn Enoe and his son were working on this sailboat next to their house as we walked by. John had met Alwyn before when he was working on Genesys, the first Carriacou deck sloop that had been built in many years. The completion of Genesys kick-started interest in building and racing both new and renovated traditional boats. These boats are now raced up and down the islands from Trinidad to Antigua. Interesting!

Carriacou boats are designed in the old-fashioned manner: by eye, and without recourse to a tape measure. Their keels are made from greenheart which is imported from Guyana. After the keel has been laid, and the boat has therefore become something more than a rum-shop boast or a smoker’s-dream, the village celebrates the event. In past times the keel was bathed with the sacrificial blood of a goat and blessed by the utterance of secret words, but nowadays, we were told, they don’t usually mess about with the goat; they just roast it and eat it, washing it down with large quantities of Jack Iron.

The boats are framed with a local wood known as white cedar. According to Paul Johnson (himself a boat designer and builder, of course) this timber is good only when it is cut at exactly the right time of year. The Kayak (Carriacou) boat builders choose their own trees, fell them themselves, and arrange their haulage down to the shore. Then they set about cutting the timbers which will form the skeleton of the boat. Most of the frames are grown (which is to say that they are cut from one piece of wood which was especially chosen for its appropriate shape) but we noticed that in each boat a few of the frames were made from timbers which had been scarfed together. The scarfs (or joins) were short (ie they had a only a short overlap) and they were doubled (or reinforced) with pieces of plywood nailed and glued onto one side.

The deck-sloops are planked with cheap Guyanese mahogany, silverballi, which is fastened onto the frames using silicone bronze nails . Each nail costs about 70 cents US.

Not a technique which would be approved by Lloyds, or by anyone who has trained as a Shipwright – quality boat building requires the use of screws – but the method is far from unique. Indeed, we have come across plenty of boats, both on our travels and in the motherland, which were built using nothing better than galvanized nails.

Carnival (see external link below) is held in February or early March. The Carriacou Regatta, held on the first weekend in August, is a racing event for locally built boats. In 2005, the Regatta celebrated its 40th anniversary. Alwyn hopes to launch the boat for Carnival, and race ready by Regatta.

But there was other stuff that caught our eyes as we wandered along.
Flowers are an ever present joy

as are the lovely old clapboard houses with gingerbread trim and lace curtains in every window that fill in the gaps between modern concrete mansions. Pictures speak louder than written words can.

However there were other boats that caught our attention for their contrast to the traditional ones we were looking for.
There was Speedy, a customized little ocean going hotrod that needed to be underway so it didn't sink (note the weight of the motor), a Bequia double-ender (with a cabin to make it a live aboard-unusual for that particular boat) being expertly sailed through the reefs and a 42' modern looking locally built (first boat for this particular builder) racing sailboat all sitting there in front of us off a single dock.

At this point it was time to get back to Elephant's Child having sweat enough for the day. So we boarded another shock absorber-less bus driven by another graduate of the Carriacou Driver's (racing?? ) School and made our way back to Hillsborough where we needed to catch the bus that would take us to Tyrell Bay. Phew....we're almost there!

We can see the boat but wait a minute, where is the dingy? We walked out the dock and could see the painter fastened to the cleat but no dingy. Hmmm, there is an underneath to this cement dock. Great, there's the dingy....but not so great, it won't come out. Well, the story comes out OK in the end. Jan sat in the dingy and pushed up on the bottom of the pier while John bounced on the front. I guess it must have been that more than generous meal we had in Hillsborough, because the weight we 'applied' to the dingy resulted in it's release.

Note to John: we have a stern anchor for the dingy—use it!

We made it back just in time for a Sundowner and beautiful show courtesy of the Lords and Ladies of the Sky.

Another day in Paradise.

Sunday, October 28, 2012


We've been a bit lazy keeping up the blog so before getting to the fun at hand we're going back a bit.

Clark's Court Bay Senior's Dingy Races Leaving Elephant's Child at anchor near Calivigny Island we dingy'ed in to watch a bit of the races. While the 8 year olds were having lunch the Senior Masters stole the dingies and headed out to do battle.
Being first might not be all THAT important, although bragging rights would be worth a drink or two, however imagine being last! We think we spotted the most likely candidate for this position as he seemed to have a hard time knowing which side of the dingy to sit on as he (was that tacking?) maneuvered around. His dingy seemed to have the least amount of free board of all. What was particularly remarkable was his ability to go in reverse! After a while it became a bit painful to watch so we ventured on to the book swap in preparation for our journey north where fewer opportunities would present themselves.

Cruiser's Net This is a broadcast in Grenada by the cruising community every morning but Sunday that deals with information, sources of services, things for sale, social events and so on. Saturday meant that the Cruiser's Net would be particularly animated, and entertaining due to the rolling tones of Morgan Dodge aboard s/v Nirvana. He added, as only a Southern Lawyer could, embellishments designed to entertain and inform keeping us glued to our radios.
As we listened last Saturday on the morning of our departure for St. Georges Harbor, there was a warning of two 100' trees floating off the entrance to St. Georges. Given the ideal sailing conditions to head in this direction we were preceded by a catamaran that spotted one, hailing us via the VHF. As you can see from the picture hitting this would have ruined our day. Our Cruise to St. George's Harbor from Clark's Court Bay After John gave an overview with the charts to Jan, we proceeded with a trip that Elephant's Child had done many times. It was a perfect day, by choice. As John so smartly says, there is no time line for a reason. Safe sailing happens when the weather is right rather than when someone needs to be somewhere at a particular time. As we rounded the southwestern corner of Grenada we could see the new runway that was built by the Cubans, capable of handling the heaviest Russian transport aircraft, and thought by many down here to be the real reason for the US military invasion. Interestingly, when we were traveling around the island with Cutty on our tour, we were taken to the old airport where drag races take place. We both thought that was odd given how expensive any car is on the island. Coming into St. Georges Harbor we docked at Grenada Yacht Club to fill up with water. Elephant's Child holds 150 gallons which cost us $25 EC (East Caribbean Dollars or roughly $7.00 US). The attendant, a native Grenadian working on what was his Thanksgiving Day, was a delight to talk with. Koran, as he was named, although born two years after the assassination of Maurice Bishop (Prime Minister of Grenada just prior to the US invasion), was knowledgeable and opinionated about the history and political infighting that characterizes Grenadian politics then and now. Koran thought that if Maurice Bishop, his hero, had been able to put in place his policies, supported by the Cubans, that there would have been huge benefits in terms of political stability, education, jobs and health care.

Two go shopping So....there we were at anchor in St. Georges Bay. We were treated to two turtles passing by the boat at anchor before deciding that it was time to get to the chores including shopping for provisions. Given that we would not be seeing a real grocery store for a few weeks, it was a major shop. Into the dingy, motored to the dingy dock just to be greeted by a Christmas Tree all aglow. John's absolute favorite music on the planet is Christmas music in October. :)

Here were are at the IGA, the shopping completed and John's reward near at hand. He's thinking how good it's going to taste and how long (months) until the next opportunity would present itself for that orgasm in a glass. We pushed the cart to a table and John walked over to his favorite smoothie bar only to find out that Mangoes (his absolute favorite) were out of season. Given the look of disappointment on that 6 foot 3 inch rather large Scotsman's face, Jan was surprised they didn't send out for one from the neighboring island.. All that taken in he settled for a grapefruit smoothie.

Shopping complete, crew back aboard just in time for another Sundowner in the cockpit as the sun went into the sea. We'll let the pictures fill in the words we're at a loss for.
As John would say, The Lords and Ladies of the sky have outdone themselves many nights. A typical, if there is one, sunset where yotties are begins with a Sundowner (gin and tonic, rum and coke or dark and stormy on Elephant's Child) followed by a cushion to sit on in the cockpit. Looking around the anchorage you'll see nearly all sailors hanging out in the cockpit watching the show.It was a spectacular show. Again, the Lords and Ladies must have sent out for extra bright highlighters before setting to work on this one.

Hurricane Savvy sailors spend a few minutes every day checking on the weather, watching the developing systems exiting the African coast and the full blown hurricanes although well west of us that still represent potentially unsafe sea conditions. Grenada is about as safe as it gets in the Caribbean given it's latitude. But we have had a sharp reminder that Mother Nature writes her own rules sometimes as we watch that wayward child, Sandy, taking a highly unusual course. We hope our friends and family in the North will awaken on Wednesday with roofs over their heads, trees upright in the yard and boats still safely at their docks. Our thoughts go out to those Cruiser's in the Chesapeake Bay especially.

St. George's Bay to Carriacou.
Leaving St. George's Bay we passed Carib Leap
where the native people, the Carib's, jumped off a cliff rather than surrender to the British or French (we're not sure which).

We had a wonderful sail up with little use of the motor on a couple of occasions.
Our three lines with a little pink octopus on the hook of each didn't attract any fish, much to our disappointment. Ever since Jan had that Curry Tuna Roti she's been looking for more!

Given the generous amount of time and favorable wind we stopped in a bay for lunch and a snorkel before moving on to Tyrell Bay.
Our first night here was a little uncomfortable from swells (predicted) courtesy of Hurricane Sandy. The morning came early with roosters crowing before dawn and the baying of a donkey being 'encouraged' to do something he would have rather skipped from the sounds of it. This afternoon well after the hottest part of the day had passed John narrated a dingy tour of Tyrell Bay including a trip into the Mangroves. The mangroves are a common place for boats to be secured (if that's possible) when there's a big storm coming. Still, the storm surge may take a yacht into the mangroves to a resting place that it isn't possible to retrieve the boat from. We passed the marina where Elephant's Child had her bottom spruced up just last month as well as many other boats in various states of condition. Then we spotted some pelicans and got our cameras going with some fairly good results. We decided that the relaxed pelican must have modeled for some current catamaran designs. They certainly had some attitude!

Saturday, October 27, 2012


The wind was on the beam almost the whole way. We stopped at Isle de Ronde for a snorkel and a quiet lunch.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Well the outboard is on the stern rail, the dink is upside down on the foredeck and the fridge is full as we leave the flesh pots of Grenada for the simpler life in Carriacou.

We had some more great days in Grenada though.

The River Antoine Rum Distillery

One noteable stop on our island tour was the only rum distillery on the island to still crush the raw sugar cane using a waterwheel. Some of the works date back to 1785. The crushing plant would have any modern Health and Safety inspector gibbering over the lack of guards and the exposed chains but as Creedance Clear Water Revival said “Big Wheel Keeps on Turning” and the cane keeps on getting crushed using the same bit of British built machinery that has done the same job for 160 years.

The juice runs down a channel gathering a few additional flavorsome ingredients as it goes into the first large copper cauldron. Then it is boiled to concentrate the cane syrup. In this plant the cane syrup is moved from boiling copper to boiling copper by hand using a LONG spoon. Heat is provided by burning 'bagasse' or the sugar cane stalks residue after crushing.

Once it is concentrated it is moved into large open vats and allowed to ferment. The birds, bats, bugs and lizards play in the rafters overhead with plenty of opportunities to add some more flavorsome ingredients to the mix. The final step is the distilling of the fermented syrup in a classic pot still and they produce two grades, the fiirst is the usual 40% alcohol but the second is the famous Grenadian 'STRONG RUM' or 'JACK IRON' at 76%. Yes 76% alcohol, but “Elf and Hatey” has stretched out it's long wagging finger to stop this. They claim it is too inflammable to be allowed on aircraft so no tourist sales. Therefor they restrict it to 70% on most runs but do produce the real stuff on occasions. Well we had a very small tot to check it out and boy o boy it is strong stuff.

Another factory visit

This was a cottage industry drying herbs, cutting flowers and producing a nutmeg based pain relief spray which is being sold world wide. Just when you think you have a handle on a place like this you spot a certificate on a wall. A GOLD certificate won at the Chelsea flower show, they don't give these away with a bag of crisps. It turned out they had won 10 such certificates in 13 years. The cottage looked a little run down but it was more than a hundred years old and had ridden out several major hurricanes without major damage.


Today we took the dink a couple of miles up the coast to visit the underwater statue park. The pictures say it all.

Just amazing.