Sunday, August 21, 2011

Grenada - Carnival & Carol's visit

Friday 5 August – Wednesday 17 August

We are underway by 8:30 from Carriacou, with sunny skies winds & waves aft of the beam making for a great sail down to Grenada. Stop by the fuel station across from the marina and are docked by 2 at Port Louis Marina in St. George's. This is the off season for boats BUT it is also Carnival weekend, one of the busiest weekends in Grenada. Unlike most places that double prices for special occasions the marina is offering a 10 day special. So we are glad that we get a slip for Carnival which will overlap with my sisters visit. The marina has a good number of slips but only a few with 110 electrical outlets, most including ours are 220. We finally get to try out the transformer Steve put in before we left Kemah. After flipping the boat around to have the stern closer to the power box, and some rewiring by the marina staff on the plug and Steve on the transformer we have power and are able to have A/C . Since marinas are always hot with very little or no breeze this is a good thing, many of the boats are using generators to cool off but some are toughing it out in the heat. Once that is done we go for a swim in the marina pool to cool off but the water is about 85°, so not that refreshing but still feels good to get wet and we meet up with other boaters. During our travels south many of the boats we have met and seen have had Grenada has a final destination, if not for the whole hurricane season at least for a time. Some will continue on to Trinidad or Venezuela but many will be staying at the different marinas and bays along the south coast of Grenada so it is a large community of cruisers. They have a cruisers net on the VHF radio in the morning announcing different activities and events and have a Facebook page to check on things also.
We have arrived just in time for Carnival !!! and are told by several boating friends that many of the cruisers have signed up to take part in the Monday night Mas (abbreviation for Masquerade) one of 4 Carnival events. We are also reminded that like most islands stores are closed on Sundays and Monday & Tuesday will be holidays so stores will be closed on those days also. If we need anything it will need to be done on Saturday. Saturday morning I find out the marina laundry has decided to take that day off as well. Dave & Colleen join us as we make the rounds hitting the 3 different food markets to see what is available and picking up a few staples (diet coke, beer, wine, tonic water) stopping at the Ace hardware store and going across the street to the Carib beer plant to see if they have 4 more costumes for us to join the other cruisers in the Monday night Mas. Not to be, as they have sold out, disappointing at the time, but turns out to be a blessing in disguise. Sunday we go over to town via Promise's dinghy, knowing everything is closed as they are setting up for carnival but we get a good look at what is where in town and take a walk up to the old fort now used as police HQ with some great views of the bay. Sure miss being able to get back to the boat after a hot sweaty day and jumping into the cool waters of the bay, but since we are in the marina the warm pool water will have to do. At least there is a cold water shower to rinse off under that can lower the body heat and it is a good socializing area.
Monday Carnival starts early, I call Dave & Colleen at 5 AM to wake them so we can head out to the streets to watch the 1st event known as J'Ouvert (contraction of French for daybreak). All the participants are painted different colors, red, yellow, green & blue and the special ones get to be covered with old motor OIL. The trick we knew was to wear OLD clothes that can be ruined. Each group follows behind a truck playing extremely loud music (glad we had ear plugs) “dancing” & gyrating their way along the street painting each other and onlookers, encouraging bystanders to join in. What a blast !! And all VERY friendly !! Back on the boat, Bloody Mary' s before getting cleaned up for the afternoon event that starts at 3 PM (scheduled for 1 but remember island time) they amazingly have managed to clean up all garbage in the streets and along the side (paint is still everywhere but the rains will wash that away). Find a table at a restaurant along the route and have lunch and wait for the next parade. This parade is also full of loud music with different groups many with young kids in beautiful costumes. They follow along the same route only they are dancing along the street in the heat of the day ! We are sweating just watching and taking pictures. Back to the marina afterward, we go to the pool to cool off & hang out, should have taken naps but we didn't even though we knew there was time before the “8 PM” night parade would start. Had pizza at the marina restaurant while waiting for the 3rd parade. This event is sponsored by local businesses like Westerhall Rum, & Carib Beer the one our cruising friends joined. Trucks playing loud music followed by groups wearing T-Shirts from the sponsoring company along with simple costumes of funky hats, beads, and lighted sabers, etc. We really wanted to see our friends dancing in the streets in costume BUT by 11:30 PM and NO parade in sight from the marina, which is at the mid point, we could no longer stay awake and went back to the boat to go to sleep. About an hour later they did pass by the marina at which point many of the boaters turned off to return to their boats. They all said they had a blast, so maybe next year we will sign up early and take a nap between parades to be able to participate. Still one more parade to go Tuesday afternoon, supposed to start at 12:30 PM but we know that won't happen. My sister Carol is flying in and scheduled to arrive at 3 so I am hopeful that she might get to see the end of the last parade. Steve, Dave & Colleen go to watch the parade while I go to the airport to meet Carol, who's plane winds up being an hour late so we miss seeing the end of the parade. As I am waiting outside the airport I see people coming out with a lot of big luggage and the thought crosses my mind that I hope Carol's suitcase gets here. A few minutes later Carol comes out W/O her checked bag !!! Due to Carnival and students returning to university the local airline LIAT is overloaded and leaving a lot of bags behind in Trinidad. They tell Carol they have a special plane scheduled to just bring over the luggage the next morning and for her to call, never answering her question of will they deliver her luggage. Tuesday evening we have drinks and dinner at the marina restaurant which is very convenient and serves great pizza and good food. Wednesday, Carol has her carry- on so has a few things to get her through the day w/o much trouble. We tour the marina, walk over to the grocery store to get her a few things and spend most of the day visiting and calling the airline to check on her luggage. Steve has an alternator repairman come out and they are down below rebuilding the alternator. By late afternoon Carol decides to just take a taxi back to the airport to see if her bag is among the ones they say they are still sorting when she calls. It is among the 100 other suitcases when she gets there, and she is able to pick it up and clear through customs with out even opening her bag. Back at the boat she finds “space” to “unpack” in the aft cabin, much happier now with her belongings. Wednesday night a small group of 7 of us go across the street to a restaurant called Patrick’s. He has since passed but his tradition of serving a feast with 20+ different local dishes to share is still being done. Carol gets introduced to many of the different local dishes, some of which she would be happy to never see again, but enjoyed many of them. We all have a great time sampling the different dishes that they keep bringing to the table. You will not leave this restaurant hungry, just wish we knew all the different things we tasted so we could ask for it again. Next time we will ask them to write down a “menu” so we know what we ate. Thursday 5 of us go on an island tour with Michael our taxi / tour guide. Leaving the marina at 9 for a 10 hour tour, we cover a lot of ground but still only see a small part of this beautiful country. We head north along the west coast to the fishing town of Gouyave (Guave) known for it's Friday night fish festivals. Heading further north to Sauteurs and the historical site of Carib's Leap AKA Leapers hill. Heading south along the east coast, a stop by lake Antoine on the way to Belmont Estate Plantation where they harvest cocoa beans and make chocolate, and where we have lunch featuring more of Grenada's cuisine. Next stop is the River Antoine Rum Distillery, the oldest water propelled distillery in the Caribbean. Their product is not for sale outside of Grenada, and it is some pretty potent and harsh tasting rum. Carol, Steve & Dave all tried some figuring the alcohol would kill any germs we saw brewing in the vats on our tour. Continuing south along the coast pass the old airport to the town of Grenville, Grenada's 2nd largest town. Next we head west into the interior of the island through Grand Etang Forest Reserve, stopping at Grand Etang (= big lake, but not really that big but fills the crater of a volcano). Then a stop at Annandale Falls, where guys hang out to put on a “show” as they jump off over the fall. All along the trip Michael was telling us about Grenada and pointing out the different fruits, flowers, and trees, we end the day knowing and seeing a little more about Grenada as we drive back to the marina in St. George's. Carol gets some “normal” food as Steve makes pork & potatoes and Colleen brings a salad for dinner on board Ocean Star. Friday Carol & I go hang out at the beach down in Grand Anse (big bay), get back in time for a cocktail happy hour over on J dock at the marina. Saturday we take the dinghy over to town to go shopping at the market and to check out a couple of stores. Carol is a little surprised at how few specialty craft stores there are to chose from. Carol & Steve walk back up to the fort so she can see the view while I wait down the hill in the shade for them. Lunch in town then back to the boat where we go over to a little beach by the marina, not as nice as Grand Anse but closer and water is clean enough to swim in (unlike the harbor at the marina). Sunday Colleen & Dave bring their dinghy over to Ocean Star and we do a day sail up to Moliniere Point to go snorkeling at the sculpture marine park. Pick up a day mooring then take the dinghies over to snorkel. You have to swim around to find all the different sculptures in the different sand patches, all were pretty cool and fun to see underwater. Not a very colorful reef as it is still recovering from storm damage, but a good # of reef fish and it made for a nice little day sail. Back to the marina after 5 so get cleaned up and go to dinner, one of the boats was showing a movie at 7 but we did not want to rush dinner so took our time with some yummy pizza then went and caught the last 30 minutes of Avatar which for me was good enough. Monday after Steve meets with the arch guy again we take Carol out for another day sail, this time heading south. We were going to try to check out a couple of the anchorages on the south bays, but a storm moved in so we turned around and sailed around the storm heading back to the marina. We avoided the rain and are later treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets before getting a taxi to take us up to Morne Rouge (Red Hill) Bay for a nice farewell dinner at LaLuna. A beautiful place located at the end of one of the worst roads in Grenada. They could use it as part of their advertising “the trip here is part of the adventure” or “once here you may not be able to leave”. Tuesday hard to believe it is Carol's last day, we go back to the beach up in Grand Anse and enjoy swimming in the beautiful water. Back to the boat so Carol can get cleaned up and packed then drinks on Promise and a tour of Dave & Colleen's boat for Carol. We all go for a late lunch / early dinner before Carol meets Michael for the taxi ride back to the airport for her journey home. It was a wonderful visit with a wonderful sister, next year she can plan to come a few days earlier to see Carnival and hopefully we can do more sailing.  

A LOT of pictures to share BUT I am having trouble geting them posted to Picasa so I will add a new blog with just the link to pictures ASAP

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