The wet season is on
“The boat in front was dragging its anchor closer and closer towards us and there was no one on board. ”
Well we did finally leave Carriacou and are now in the island of Grenada, known as the ‘Spice Island’ because it grows so many spices. We will now have to dedicate most of our time to boat maintenance work, but we have allocated one day a week for sightseeing in this beautiful lush island.
We had a lovely final day in Carriacou, walking over to a new part of the island where we found deserted beaches. We lay on one of them enjoying the peace and quiet of having a whole beach to ourselves. Then we walked back to the anchorage. As we were walking back, we saw a crowd of people who had just arrived by ferry, all wearing green T-shirts. This was a political rally for the upcoming elections and all in favour of the incumbent party. There were loud talks and Luciano was wearing a bright yellow T-shirt - the colour of the opposition party as we walked through the crowds. We got back to the boat to prepare for our departure early the following morning.
We departed Carriacou at 4.30am. It was pitch black and we had to rely on our night vision to make it out of the anchorage without hitting any boats. Now that we are approaching hurricane season, many boats are heading for Carriacou, Grenada and Trinidad in the south, so the anchorage had been steadily getting busier and busier. We made it out and the sky slowly started to show its colours as we passed through the tiny islands south of Carriacou. We headed south, aiming to pass down the east coast of Grenada to avoid the wind shadow caused by Grenada’s mountains on the western side. This worked well as the wind was nice and consistent - sailing in the Caribbean is such a joy for this reason. As we headed towards the north of Grenada, we were looking out for ‘Dry Rock’ - a small rock only 3 metres high. We were hoping we could pass by it without having to tack. The only problem was we just couldn’t locate it against the background of the larger Les Tantes (The Aunts) group of rocks. It was only when we got past it that we could actually see it, a tiny rock out on its own with a sliver of blue sea between it and the larger aunts behind it. The next obstacle was Bird Island, another islet quite far out from the mainland and potentially in our path. As we approached close, we could see that we would go past without having to tack. We saw the seabirds whirling round and diving, taking a brief rest on their island. Finally we rounded the southern coast and had to head out to sea as the wind would have been dead behind us. Eventually we were able to gybe (turn 90 degrees with the wind behind us) and headed in on a perfect track into Clarke’s Court Bay. We dropped the sails and motored the last section as the entrance was quite narrow with reefs.
We had wanted to anchor close into shore, but despite the huge size of the bay, there were lots of mooring buoys everywhere and the water was too deep for our 50m length of chain in other places. Eventually we found a lovely spot off a private island called Calivigny Island. It’s quite a long dinghy ride to shore, but it’s very pretty and we can swim here. Close into shore the water is a murky brown, in part due to being close to the shipyard and also because there is a rum distillery and the discharge from it goes into the sea. As you walk closer towards it, there is a strong sweet smell, almost like vomit but not quite as sour. This bay is a little inconvenient as it is quite a long walk to get a bus, but the more convenient bay is supposed to be very rolly and we want to prioritise our sleep. Without sleep you can’t do anything - work or sightseeing. Plus when it’s rolly it hurts your back when you sleep and makes it difficult to do anything on the boat. We have tried to be organised and created a list of all the jobs we need to do and what we would need to buy to complete them, so hopefully this will reduce how often we need to leave the boat.
Our first task was to clean the dinghy. We’ve been leaving the dinghy tied to the back of the boat and towing it as we sail from island to island. It’s held up very well considering as we haven’t had to pump it up at all, although it has a few patches when it has got pierced on something sharp at some dinghy docks. However, all the time in the water has meant that it had a lot of barnacles growing on it and seaweed covering the ropes. We have seen that other smaller boats hoist their dinghy up on the side of the boat at night and this helps to keep the underside and the ropes nice and clean. Larger boats have stainless steel davits at the back of their boat, which creates something like a shelf for the dinghy to rest on at the back of the boat. We scraped off the barnacles and cleaned the dinghy thoroughly. In the process of removing a barnacle, we made a small hole and the air hissed out of the dinghy. Then we had to patch it, timing the two minutes between each layer of glue.
The next day we decided to go and buy what we needed. There is a handy shopping bus that stops at the boatyard and takes you to a large hardware store and a big chandlery in another bay. However, we somehow must have been standing in the wrong place as the secuirty told us that the bus had come and gone even though we had got there early. We hurriedly motored over the bay to another tiny marina where the bus is also supposed to stop, but we had missed it by five minutes. We motored back to a third bay to a second hand chandlery called Treasure Trove which had several things on our list. They buy from charter companies and they have a lot of useful items. But they didn’t have everything. The chandlery in the boatyard is quite limited to things like fibreglass, ropes and antifouling, so we decided to walk to a hardware store or find a bus to a bigger chandlery. We felt a bit in shock after quiet Carriacou at how busy the roads were with fast moving vehicles and no pavement to walk on. We had to carefully walk along the narrow concrete drainage walkways on the side of the road. Unfortunately none of the hardware stores had what we needed made out of materials suitable for use on the boat. The only useful item we got was some wood filler. We made it back in one piece and started work on the dinghy lift system. We managed to complete this and it works well. We attached four short pieces of rope with a stainless steel snap shackle to each corner of the dinghy. These all meet in the middle with a stainless steel ring. This is attached to our spinnaker halyard so we can hoist the dinghy up using the winch at the mast. We attached a line at the front and back of the dinghy which we put on the cleats and this stops the dinghy from moving backwards and forwards. We also put out fenders on the side to stop the oar from scratching the side of the boat.
The next day was our sightseeing day. We started walking out of the boatyard along the road to find a bus to take us to the capital of St George’s from where we hoped to renew our cruising permit (in Grenada you get a one month cruising permit and thereafter have to renew it) and from there to head for a lake in the crater of a dormant volcano where you can trek and see monkeys. As we walked along the dusty road from the boatyard, a car pulled up and a young man said, “would you like a lift?” This was Jevon, who works for one of the companies based in the boatyard and he was kind enough to take us to a bus stop further along our route. As soon as we got in, he said “there are too many cars on the road.” After our experience the day before, we had to agree. He said that the government had brought in a 160% tax on cars being imported to try and curb this trend and pointed out Grand Anse “the best beach in Grenada”. As we drove we came across another political rally in favour of the governing party, like the one we had seen in Carriacou with lots of people gathered in bright green T-shirts. Jevon told us that the governing party has a lot of support - probably 60% in favour. This is borne out by the number of rallies we have seen in their favour and none for the opposition. Jevon showed us his yellow wrist band - he supports the centre left opposition.
Grenada goes to the polls on Thursday 23rd June. As a Commonwealth country, Grenada’s political system is similar to that of the UK, although the Houses of Parliament are known as the House of Representatives (elected) and the Senate (appointed). However, as Grenada is so tiny, it only has 15 seats in the House of Representatives. At the moment, all of these seats are occupied by the ruling centre right New National Party, a product of the First Past the Post electoral system that it has inherited from the UK. The only opposition are the three members of the thirteen total senators that are nominated by the opposition party, the centre left National Democratic Congress. The New National Party has held all of the seats in the House of Representatives since 2013, repeating this full house in 2018. We will see after 23rd June if this clean sweep is repeated again. The New National Party is led by the popular Dr. Keith Mitchell, a former statistician who captained Grenada’s cricket team in 1973.
Jevon dropped us at the bus stop. Like everywhere we have been in the Caribbean, a bus came immediately. The bus was full when we got on, but as we proceeded towards the capital several people got off until only a few men and us remained. A raucous conversation about mangoes soon broke out. For us, it felt like we were being introduced to a whole new world we didn’t know existed. Like the many words for snow and ice in the inuit languages. All of them were discussing about twenty different mangoes by name, earnestly justifying which their favourite was by flavour, size, shape, colour and texture. One of the passengers, an elderly man with a white beard was highly amused that he could better remember more mango names than the younger men. We were so engrossed in this conversation that we had already gone past the marina where we had to renew our cruising permit and had to walk back. The bus driver halted his interjections on mangoes to carefully direct us to where the marina entrance was (it was a huge marina). We may have been on a bigger and busier island than Carriacou, but that Caribbean way was still evident and we felt cheered as we went off to renew our permits. I am so sorry, but I can’t remember a single mango name. I think one may have been ‘julia’?
We renewed our cruising permit and as we emerged from the marina, we saw a chandlery and managed to get the remaining items we needed to get going on our boat jobs. Finally we made it to the bus terminal for the commencement of our day’s sightseeing at the Grand Etang crater lake. The bus took us all the way there. Our first visit was to the information centre where we learned about the trees that grow in this national park. These include the Bois Canoe which is thought to have been used by the Carib Indians to build canoes. Apparently the trees can be used to foretell hurricanes - when the leaves turn in the wind to reveal their white undersides. Another tree is the Blue Mahoe, a tree that is native to Jamaica that was used in the replanting process in 1955 to replace the trees destroyed by Hurricane Janet that occurred in that year. The national park is also home to the west African Mona Monkey. Outside of this area, it only lives in Grenada, transported here on slave ships in the eighteenth century. Sadly we didn’t get a glimpse of them. We had chosen a day for our sightseeing when it wasn’t raining (we are now in the wet season), but it was overcast and we thought we would wait for a sunny day to visit one of Grenada’s many waterfalls. However, the overcast weather was perfect for a hike up Mount Qua Qua, a nearby peak with a clearly marked trail along a ridge. The route was fairly muddy and steep of course, but as we got higher, we got an amazing view of the lake and could clearly see its position inside the crater, which is a lot less apparent at ground level. All around the lake, lush vegetation grows on steep hillsides in a conical shape. We didn’t see a monkey, but we did see two mongoose and a green frog on the trail. At the summit there was a huge rock and a giant tripod to mark the apex. The way back down was much faster than the way up and we had time to walk along part of the shore line and out onto the viewing platform where you can see the brighly coloured koi carp that live in the lake. Two cats were watching the fish avidly from the edge of the lake, as mesmerised as we were.
On our way back we were so knackered we decided we didn’t want to cook, so we stopped at a restaurant on Grand Anse beach pointed out by Jevon earlier that day. It was early, but we were hungry and the food was very good. Afterwards, we wandered onto the beach. At this stage of our trip we’ve seen a lot of amazing beaches. So it’s good to know that we can still be wowed. We walked onto the Grand Anse beach, fine white sand under our feet. The beach is flat and lined with trees for natural shade. The water is shallow so you can swim safely. Dogs were snoozing and as the sun set, the sky bathed the sea and beach in a gorgeous rosy glow. We’re hoping we get a sunny day at some point so we can spend the day there.
The next day was a work day, we made some straps for our watermaker prefilter that has basically been ‘resting’ on a towel under the bed in the bow since the plumber advised us to remove the strainer to increase water intake. That’s now secure, which is good. Then we split up. I tried my hand at plumbing for the first time ever; replacing the base and top gasket valves in our manual toilet flush. It’s actually an extremely simple job, the only time consuming part is clearing out the calcium deposits from the pipe work. Meanwhile, Luciano worked on our anchor chain hatch. The hinges have fallen off the hatch and the hatch wood has become swollen so it no longer fits in its place; this means the anchor chain drops onto the bed when we are hauling it up and we have to keep jumping down to lift it up into place. Luciano used the wood filler to fill in the holes, some shoe polish to colour the wood (tip from our friend Peter) and finally, varnish. We have an awful lot of wood on our boat and it will all need treating to preserve the look and to prevent water getting into it. We were very pleased with our day’s work and decided a spot of paddleboarding was in order to relax in the evening. I went up on deck and pumped up one of the paddleboards. As I did so, I noticed the wind was getting stronger and stronger. Four people on the boat in front of us who had just arrived, passed by in their dinghy and waved. The wind increased. By the time I went inside to discuss with Luciano whether we should abandon the idea, the rain poured down and the wind buffeted our cockpit tent violently.
I called to Luciano to quickly come up on deck. I deflated and rolled up the paddleboard to prevent it flying away, by which time I was entirely drenched and together we lowered the dinghy from its new hoisted position where it was rocking violently; we were worried the heavier end with the outboard engine might cause it to flip. It touched the water and we moved it round to its customary place tied to the back of the boat. Then we battled with the flapping cockpit tent, chucking all of the wet ropes and straps down to the bottom of the steps inside the boat. But we had another, more urgent problem.
The large American boat in front of us that had just arrived appeared to be getting closer and closer. We checked our instruments and position, we were not moving. The boat in front was dragging its anchor closer and closer towards us and there was no one on board. We turned on the VHF radio in case we needed it and put out a load of fenders on the side and got our hooks ready in case we needed to push it away if it hit us. Then we sat and watched as it swung from side to side. Eventually in the rain, we saw a couple fighting the strong winds in their dinghy and luckily they were from the dragging boat. They leapt onboard and turned on their engine; then the woman left the boat to pick up the other two passengers in the dinghy while the man stayed to control the boat. When they were all back on board they reanchored and this morning they were gone. We haven’t seen weather like this in a while. Our position is quite exposed, but the anchor did hold well in the 30 knots of wind we had. It’s supposed to be strong winds this week; but the winds weren’t forecast at the time; we’re very glad we were on board. Luckily we will be mostly on the boat from now on and will pick the days we leave the boat very carefully. The wet season has well and truly arrived.
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