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.