Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Leaving on a jet plane...

But I do know that I'll be back again...

Scarlet Ibis roosting - Trinidad's National Bird
Home, home, home!!! Despite the thrill of getting all the way down to Trinidad I find there's an inner voice that keeps trilling "we're going home, we're going home". Thirteen months aboard Wahoo October 28, 2014 to November 4, 2015. A long, long time and it felt great to be aboard, until it didn't. So friends and family be ready. We arrive Houston Nov 4 then New Orleans around the 13th. We plan to stay until after Mardi Gras and this time we'll be staying in New Orleans. We've already made a list and its filled with raw oysters and Galatoire's, roast beef poboys and John Boutte, Mia Borders, Kermit Ruffins, not to mention Mardi Gras. As much New Orleans fun as we can fit in. Can't wait to see everyone!!

To wrap up the trip here's how it went.
Venezuela - so close!
After 4-1/2 months in Grenada we decided to head to the last island nation in the Eastern Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago. Yes, that's two islands but one nation. We only got to Trini as 2 weeks was all we had left. Trinidad is different, doesn't feel Caribbean at all. Here in Chaguaramus (pronounced shag wah rah mus) it's very commercial as it's a major port with lots of oil and gas infrastructure. It's also the cruising centre where cruisers go to get serious work done or to leave their boats safely away from hurricanes as they fly home. We've found many friends from our trip down-island here. They've been working away getting their boats ready for this next cruising season. You can get anything here as Trinidad is huge by island standards: 1.3 million people, nearly 1850 sq mi. It's also wealthy, thanks to all the oil and gas. On the northwestern side, where we are, there are malls that equal anything you'll find in the States or Europe, and traffic to match. But get out in the country and things take a more, shall we say, island tone. 

Super Crabs to Celebrate arrival in Trinidad
It was a smooth overnight sail with our friends on Almacantar. We left Grenada around 5pm and arrived Trinidad waters around 5am but we slowed way down as we didn't want to get to Customs before 8 as they charge $100 US for overtime. Treated ourselves to a marina for the time here - like a vacation. All that hot water, electricity and wifi WOW!

Opera House in Port of Spain, Trinidad
Wrapping Trinidad in one word I'd say multi-cultural. A true melting pot of the various people who came here. After seeing the divisiveness in the US and around the globe we could all learn from the Trinidadians. These are people of East Indian, Chinese, African, Creole French and Creole Spanish descent. Most have mixed backgrounds and while  they may identify as any of those they all agree they are "Trini" first. While Roman Catholic is the primary religion there are lots and lots of others including Anglican, Hindu, Muslim and the Protestant sects. A nice touch is that they all have their own religious holidays but EVERYONE CELEBRATES THEM ALL AND GETS OFF FROM WORK. That works to all get along. The culture is vibrant and we'd loved to have been here for their Carnival. Always thought we would, but its New Orleans Mardi Gras for us!!

View of Port of Spain from Fort George

Venezuela is so close (less then 10 miles) and has had a major impact on Trinidadian culture in the past. But these days the island walks a thin line to avoid being embroiled in the disaster that is Venezuela today. So far it has worked and as cruisers we appreciate the Trinidad Coast Guard that has made sailing between Trinidad and Grenada safe again.

Scarlet Ibis in Caroni Swamp
One of the wonderful things about Trinidad is the flora and fauna. It is practically a part of South America and once was connected by a land bridge so there is a huge diversity of birds and animals. We enjoyed this part immensely. We're glad for Jesse James (his real name); he's the go-to guy for cruisers. He arranges shopping trips and movie nights but is especially good at showing off Trini food and culture. The tours he set up for us allowed us to experience a taste of Trini during our short stay.  We spent a large part of one day at the Asa Wright Nature Centre which sits high in the rain forest and finished the day with a swamp tour (that's right a Trinidadian swamp tour) into the Caroni Swamp watching hundreds of Scarlet Ibis flying home to roost for the night. Magical!! Our 2nd tour was a cultural tour of Port of Spain and Fort George ending with Afternoon Tea at St Benedict's Monastery with our British friends. Each tour was peppered with a mix of history, anecdotes and stops for street food. (Roti, Doubles, Shark & Bakes, Saheena and Chocolate). We'll spend our last  Trinidadian night anchored in quiet Scotland Bay where we hope for a swim (no swimming in the soupy waters in Chaguaramus) and to hear howler monkeys call plus a front row seat for the evening antics of birds. Finally a full moon sail on Thursday night will have us in Prickly Bay Friday morning picking up our mooring and preparing for our Nov 4th departure to the states.

Viewing Verandah at Asa Wright which was once a cocoa and coffee plantation
Hummingbirds from viewing verandah
Oriole and nest from viewing verandah
Even lunch is open to the rain forest at Asa Wright Nature Preserve.

Grenada Gang - Last lunch together before the Trades blow us apart
Tomorrow we'll be heading back to Grenada putting Wahoo to sleep for the next 3 months. All our buddies are scattering. It's that whole part of cruising life, saying hello and good-by as you sail along. We're thrilled to be getting back to our stateside friends and can only hope to find our sailing buddies along the way next year.  This time we're leaving problems behind. Our bottom paint is still falling off and we haven't settled with Sea Hawk Paints about where she'll be re-painted and our freezer is giving problems. But all that will have to wait. For now Wahoo will rest comfortably on a mooring in Prickly Bay being guarded by Denise from Safe Yachts and we'll be enjoying life in New Orleans.

Roy hoisting our Trinidad flag - the last "New Island" flag (#21) of the voyage we started back in Oct 2014.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Just Limin' in Grenada

Roger's Beach Bar - Hog Island (That's Roy imitating a log in the water.)

Caranage at Sunset
Another six weeks has slipped slided away, slithering quietly into the sea that has grown so warm I can use it for my bath each night. Together with our UK friends, Harvey and Rita from SV Almacantor, we rented a car for two days and explored Grenada on our own. Now, however, most of the exploring is over and we know when to take the #1 bus and when to take the #2 bus. We can walk to Prickly Bay, the Dove Sanctuary or Grand Anse; dinghy over to Lower Woburn and find our way around St. George’s. We’ve even learned the ins and outs of getting things through Customs, believe me that took both patience, time and money!! Grenada now feels like home, well maybe a 2nd (no that’s Belize), or maybe a 3rd or is it a 4th home. But this time the odds are high that we won’t be back (sighhhh). Another season sailing the Eastern Caribbean will most probably find us back in Puerto Rico for the 2016 Hurricane Season.

 Who knows, a sailor’s plans are written on the waves and in the wind!

Sunset Jazz concert to aid Dominica
Silliness prevails
as I get my Peter Whimsey on
But now that we've helped with Aid to Dominica, helped get the school children their new shoes and school supplies, helped gather supplies for the hospital, the time has come to settle into beach BBQs, sundowner’s and lunches. It’s a tough life - remember, we’re doing it so you don’t have to!

We haven’t been entirely idle - In the last week a new way to get electricity has been added to Wahoo. Hopefully it will ease the hours spent listening to the onboard power plant (our Kohler Generator). Roy has installed a wind generator which will take all that free wind and turn it into helpful watts, volts and amps to store in our batteries and use as needed to run those First World things we can’t live without. The solar panels are so damm lazy they insist on sleeping at night and you know freezers and refrigerators they want to run all the time!! What’s a sailor to do?! 

Installing the Wind Generator
Another wonderful little gadget that Roy installed is a sea water manual pump at the sink. Wonderful way to control our fresh water consumption. So much of it gets used in the galley. Now I can clean stuck-on kitchen stuff with sea water first and follow with a rinse of fresh water instead of gulping down all my fresh water and seeing it flow down the drain.

We’re also dealing with the ongoing struggle to get Sea Hawk Paint to honour their warranty. After our Oct, 2014 bottom job we found barnacles growing and paint sloughing off by December. By now we have patches of barrier (primer) coat showing. Not Good!! Being in Grenada put us in touch with plenty of others who are in the same boat!! ( HeHeHe, pun wasn’t intended but its too good to take out.) Hopefully the cruising network (see all those sundowners are not in vain) will make all Sea Hawk's twisty manoeuvres to avoid the issue much more difficult. Like the time Denis, the Sea Hawk rep, was at Island Water World and told Roy he didn’t know of ANY other boats with the issue. Really!!! Strange when we have copies of emails from over a dozen boats, to Denis, describing just this problem!! Poor memory, I guess.

Our crowd at Whisper Cove celebrating Fred and Jo (either side of me). They did the 500 NM round trip run to Dominica with supplies and a Dominican friend whose wife was stranded in the hills and no planes where flying!

But lets not let all those yachty issues interfere with the real purpose of hurricane season in Grenada - namely taking care that all the sugar cane that died so that we could have rum, didn’t die in vain!!

Folk Art we found while driving around the island

The Blood Moon dinghy drift gets started as the moon rises over Mt Hartman Bay.

No dinghy drift is complete without Spinnaker jumping among the dinghies following treats and pets.
Star of the Show!!!

Grenada History Up Next - some of my time has been spent exercising my brain. Feel free to skip if you want. Promise, no quiz when I return.

Being in any of the islands seems to bring out an urge to see museums and forts. Really anything that gives an historical prospective and tells us more about the country we are visiting. In Grenada the gripping history is recent, bringing back vague memories of Oct 1983 and gritty images of US marines crossing an airport, rescuing Medical students (who didn’t even ask or need to be rescued!). Images and words that sent us looking for a map or an encyclopedia. (Grenada??? Is that in Spain?)  

What we were seeing on TV was the ending of a dream; the 4 year old government  of young men who came of age in that turbulent time when the “ Black Power” movement was surging in Africa, Guyana, Trinidad, and even in the USA . Their dream would allow the descendants of slaves to control their own destiny and government. Their dream was to allow a country where there is a black majority to control their fate and their government. Heady thoughts in the 70s!! It would be the only successful revolution in the Eastern Caribbean since colonial times. A revolution that had started with grand ideals and was implemented by very young men, not even the oldest were over 33. Eventually, tragically, it fell to internal struggles and outside pressures. The tragedy is stated poignantly by Ewart Layne, one of the Grenada 17, only 17 years old when he joined the New Jewel Movement and 20 at the time NJM moved against the military barracks of the corrupt Geiry Regime in a bloodless coup, 23 when his order that sent troops to Fort Rupert to restore peace ended the dream. In his book on the history of that time, “Tonight We Move” he writes of the revolution's collapse…
“ (We operated) in the historical time frame and the realities of the period (but) we were seriously lacking in life experience, fundamentally immature…Our basic orientation and instinct was to resolve conflicts by force.”

Grenada’s early history followed that of the other Caribbean Islands. Settled first by the Arawaks then by the Caribs, it was sighted by Columbus on his third voyage in 1498. The Caribs fought so fiercely for their liberty that it took the Europeans over 100 years to finally settle the islands. The Caribs preferred to leap to their death rather than be enslaved.

Like the other islands, Grenada changed hands between the English and French several times as the wars of the 18th Century played out in the Caribbean. Eventually the English won and Grenada became the capital of the British Windward Islands in 1885. Grenada was a plantation society with nutmeg as its main crop. The island became independent from Great Britain in 1974 but remains a member of the British Commonwealth.

During the turbulent years of struggle to establish Home Rule, between 1950 and 1974, Eric Gairy rose to prominence. First as a labor leader who worked for better conditions for agricultural workers, then as head of the Grenada United Labor Party (GULP) and finally as a life appointed Prime Minister in 1976, Grenada’s first general election after independence. However, as Gairy’s rule became more corrupt, brutal and totalitarian, the New Jewel Movement (NJM) rose in opposition with it young, dynamic leaders believing Gairy had rigged the 1976 elections.

Maurice Bishop
The two main leaders of New Jewel Movement were Maurice Bishop who received his law and doctoral degrees at Grey’s Inn and the London School of Economics. He returned to Grenada to represent the nurses in one of the biggest labor disputes of the Gairy regime. The other was Bernard Coard who majored in economics and sociology at Brandeis University in the USA before attending the University of Sussex in the UK. 

The New Jewel Movement was a leftist movement. They wanted to replace the authoritarian Gairy government with a people’s government founded on a socialist system. They were great followers of Che Guevara and became friends with the other leftist governments of the region. Working with the young people of Grenada they formed a Peoples Revolutionary Army and on March 13, 1979 they staged a bloodless coup to overturn the government and establish a People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG). The new government and especially Bishop were enormously popular with the Grenadians. In the first two years much good was accomplished including women’s rights, free schooling and free health care. Pre-revolutionary Grenada suffered with unemployment levels upward of 50%. Through the development of cooperatives, the expansion of the industrial base, the diversification of agriculture, the expansion of the tourist industry, and the creation of public works programmes, unemployment dropped to 14%, and the percentage of food imports dropped from over 40% to 28%. One of the most remarkable successes was the construction of an international airport in 1983 to expand tourism. This was the first airport built in the post-colonial Caribbean. Now totally refuted are the claims of the US that this airport was being built by Cubans for the use of the Soviet Union military*. In truth, we now know that the USSR was uninterested in Grenada even refusing to buy its nutmeg crop. Actually the airport was built on an older plan from the UK with funding from the IMF, Britain, Canada, Libya and Algeria with Grenada and Cuban engineers and workers. 
The Revolution's Slogan is still around

*(Declassified CIA document from April 1983)

Eventually falling world markets led to difficult economic issues. The new government developed internal problems that were made worse by some very bad personal decisions. Bishop, as a beloved Prime Minister, and Coard, as a brilliant Minister of Finance and also Deputy PM had very different ideas about the direction of the country. The split had catastrophic consequences.

Coard and Bishop
An attempt was made to form a co-Prime Ministership between Bishop and Coard. No records indicate what made Maurice Bishop change his mind and only, difficult to read, hand written minutes tell of Bernad Coard’s decision to put Bishop under house arrest on Oct 14, 1984. What we do know is that the decision was followed by island-wide demonstrations urging Coard to free Bishop and eventually a huge gathering of Grenadians freed Bishop. Bishop in a serious error in judgement led his followers to Fort Rubert (now Fort George) in the capital city of St George instead of to Market Square where he was expected to speak. This created more confusion and a stand off. Shots were fired from or at the fort, to this day no one knows which way or by whom. Ewart Layne, the 23 year old general and head of day to day operations of the army sent a contingent of young solders to keep order. Things got seriously out of control with fire coming from both sides, People who had come to hear Bishop speak were seen jumping from the heights of the fort. On Oct 19, Bishop and 7 others were lined up and executed. General Hudson Austin, head of the Peoples Republican Army who had been another of the young leaders in the original NJM, staged a military coup to try and prevent chaos and only 1 week later the US invaded in what was called Operation Urgent Fury so similar to a 1981 mock battle on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico called "Amber and the Amberines” (Grenada and the Grenadines?). The stated purpose of the mock operation was to free “Amber” and replace its government with one that was friendly to the USA.

In the US this little military action is largely forgotten though we might want to remember that it was the first of the "docudrama" wars.

In Grenada, that airport is now named the Maurice Bishop International Airport.

Today Grenada is indeed ruled by a USA friendly government and we find it a peaceful, friendly island. Though overshadowed by its near neighbour, Trinidad and Tobago, it seems more prosperous than most of the other English speaking Caribbean islands (with the exception of St Martin, St Barths and Anquilla). There is a huge economic disparity and well paying jobs are hard to come by. While the US invested $80 million after the US invasion, later it allowed Grenada to languish. It was the Chinese who helped finance the new National Stadium and other projects. Grenada was hit hard in 2004 by Hurricane Ivan and is still slowly recovering. Its nutmeg plantations were virtually destroyed and, as it takes 10 years to grow a new tree, that industry is only now beginning to recover. Cocoa became the main export as cocoa trees grow much faster. So when you see Grenada Chocolate Bars in Whole Food Stores pick up a few.

Politically the country is democratic. Today's Prime Minister heads a Centrist Right government which is causing a lot of grumbling. He follows a more leftish government and the people we spoke to feel he bought the election. There are still agricultural co-operatives; we visited both a cocoa and a nutmeg co-op but in general the cooperatives were dismantled after the invasion. Health Care and Education are still free though supplies are seriously needed, two of the many causes championed by the cruising community. The Southern part of island is definitely more prosperous thanks to the airport, the cruising community, St George’s University and the tourism that clusters around the beautiful 3 mile long Grand Anse Beach. In the North things are much much harder. Agriculture and fishing are still important economic engines with exports of yellow fin tuna going to the EU each year and high hopes the nutmeg crop will rebound. We have found that the revolution is proudly remembered as the Grenadians continue moving forward.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Life on the Hook in Oh So Sweet Grenada!

Double rainbow over Mt Harman Bay!

Mt Hartman Bay from the walk to Prickly Bay
Wahoo to right of the tower
It's getting close to two months since we dropped anchor in Mt Hartman Bay, Grenada, on June 22nd. This is the longest time we've spent in one place since we moved aboard. In 2012, our first long stay was on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala, at least it felt long but was only 3 weeks (August 8th to August 29th). We ran from a hurricane threat in Belize and then flew into an actual hurricane, Issac, in New Orleans. In 2013. We stayed in Belize from 12/10/13 to 2/23/14 but we moved around in Belize a lot San Pedro, Belize City, Placencia, many cays and back around again. So being in one spot - an entirely new feeling!
South Coast Grenada - we're that anchor in Mt Hartman Bay

Like all new places it took awhile to get oriented, especially as Grenada is so spread out. We are actually NOT within easy walking distance to any large grocery stores or even an ATM. There is a small market in Woburn that we can reach by dinghy. The harbours are at sea level, the island is hilly, so all walks give us a good cardio workout as we go up and down the terrain. Here on the South coast there are 12 bays and most boats are anchored or moored in 6 of them. We can dinghy to all but the most populous, Prickly Bay. Prickly is a 15 minute hilly walk so that works too.  

My Turn as Net Controller
The cruisers call it Camp Grenada for a reason. Every morning we are all tuned to channel 66 on our VHF radios for the "Cruisers' Net". Each morning a different cruiser is Net Controller telling us where Yoga, Tai chi and Grenada Chain dominoes will be held, the marinas vie for our business by offering tasty lunch and dinner specials, 1/2 price pizza and movie nights. The wonderful bus drivers arrange shopping buses from the marinas to take us to banks, ship chandleries, grocery stores, hardware stores and fruit markets for the low price of 10EC per person, less than $3US. The inter-prising ones like "Shademan and Paul's Best Red Cab take us to learn how Pan Bands put on carnival or up to the Northern beaches to help with the turtle hatching or, for those hearty cruisers, each
Saturday is Hashing - you know, the Drinking Club with a running problem (in New Orleans we just call it the Red Dress Run). 

On the net, cruisers plan social activities, exchange helpful info on boat parts and services, buy and sell their "Treasures from the Bilge". During the day the VHF crackles with cruisers calling each other to make plans or get help. Occasionally just to give general info and, most importantly, there's always a Shout Out if a boat starts to drift.

The "Oil Down" - Grenada's National Dish
Land crabs, chicken, callaloo and other veggies plus dumplins cooked in an iron pot with coconut milk

We've met and have happily been adopted by Devon, who has a van to take us places but who also arranges to fill our propane tanks and do boat chores. Should we have to leave Grenada he will arrange mooring and watch out for our boat as he's doing right now for our friends on Caribbean Dream. Wonderful man that he is Devon drops off mangoes and avocados from his own farm, just 'cause!
Here he's cooking an Oil Down for "his cruisers" under the trees on Calabash beach.

Another day he took us to Grenada Rum Distilleries. One of which still makes rum using a water wheel and hand throws the cane stalks. 

         Older boiling kettles were so much more picturesque - but eventually it will still be Rum!

See the arm - See the canes!
River Antoine Distillery dates to 1785

Rum is the oldest of the distilled spirits - the oldest rum distillery, Mount Gay, is on Barbados and dates to 1703
And of course, Roy bought some - Blend 37, a 40 year old rum!!

Besides rum there was a visit to Belmont Estate where they grow nutmeg and cocoa, the two leading exports from the spice island of Grenada. Belmont Estate has been growing spices for 207 years and here I am ringing the bell that called the hands to work. We were also giving a lesson in "dancing" the cocoa beans.

Fellow NOLA cruisers from SV Lagniappe at the dinghy drift
But dinghies remain our main mode of transportation and fun. There was a dinghy drift the night of the blue moon and a dinghy concert last Saturday. For both of these cruisers tie their dinghies together and pass around food and adult beverages. Plus we enjoy many dinghy trips to Whisper Cove and La Phare Bleu marinas for lunch. Sunday afternoon is a good time to visit Hog Island - who doesn't want to visit a beach bar! 
Dinghys and more dinghies at the concert.

We've taken the Grenada bus into the capital city of St. George's where there's a tunnel that connects the Carenage (In the 18th Century ships were "careened", pulled over onto their sides, so the bottoms could be cleaned and repaired) to the rest of the city. There's also a huge fruit and vegetable market as well as a meat markets and a fish market. Traveling by bus in Grenada is quite and experience. We dinghy over to an adjoining bay and the small town of Woburn, climb the hill and wait for the #2 bus. Like elsewhere in the Caribbean on the bus everyone is friendly, says hello and you better understand that bus drivers fit 14 into 10 passenger buses.

Walking through the tunnel

And of course we've had Grenada carnival with its wonderful costumes and parades!

Amazing that we got any work done, but Roy has installed the new jib furler that Lindy brought and cleaned the bottom of the boat. It gets much much dirtier the further South we travel plus there seems to be some issue with the bottom paint. We're not alone in noticing that it isn't holding up. I've done my normal amount of bread baking, cooking and cleaning (a woman't work is never done - well except when I'm reading, swimming or sunning). But we've even managed to stain, oil and wax the interior of Wahoo.
Roy under Wahoo scrubbing away!

Who wouldn't be having a great time here in Spicy sweet Grenada when mangoes are EVERYWHERE!! 

Grenada's favorite mango is Ceylon!
My Mango Basket is Overflowing!!!

Sipping Rum Recipe

40 year old rum
Rock glass
Ice (optional)