Summertime and the Living is Easy - in Grenada
by Ruth Lund
From the first time my husband and I dropped anchor in Grenada, in 1998, we felt it. That feeling of being in a good place - safe, clean, beautiful, interesting and welcoming. Nineteen years later it is true that some things have changed, but not the basic elements that produce this upbeat, positive feeling.
Like The Three Bears and the "not too hot" and "not too cold" porridge, the Spice Island is not too big and commercial, nor is it too small and undeveloped, to be an ideal cruising destination. While economic infrastructure and tourism have increased, there are still quiet bays, sparkling waterfalls, forested mountains, deserted beaches and pristine snorkelling, diving and turtle-watching sites, to which you can escape.
The hilly terrain, cut with deep inlets and dotted with colorful reefs, creates numerous sheltered anchorages. You can decide to drop your hook in one of the popular anchorages and take on a dizzying round of social activities, or you can park your boat in a quiet, private bay and commune with nature. Many cruisers move from one bay to another during the summer months, depending on their social whim or boat needs. And if you find Grenada too frenetic, you can nip up to Carriacou or Petite Martinique for a slower pace, with no need to clear in or out. Variety truly is the spice of life in this three-island paradise.
Grocery outlets now offer a big international range, but at the market, marketing board outlets, and numerous little stalls you will find a wonderful selection of fresh, local goods at reasonable prices. Grenada is an island that grows things - bananas, mangos, citrus, avocados, cocoa, root crops, honey, herbs and spices - and from these also produces many delicious things such as chocolate, fruit juices, chutneys, hot sauces, rum and beer. Peter de Savary, developer of Port Louis marina, rightly says that this focus on agriculture is one of the reasons the island "retains its authenticity and charm".
Marine services are one of the biggest economic growth areas. The tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique boasts 11 marinas, ranging from the world-class, full-service Camper & Nicholsons marina in Port Louis to smaller docks geared to assist boats pre- or post-launching; four boatyards, one of which can haul boats up to 242 tons; two long-established chandlery companies and another coming on stream shortly [see ‘North Yacht Shop' in this month's Business Briefs on page 10]; and a wide range of technical marine services providing most repair and maintenance skills that boats require. Some services now come right to one's yacht, such as trash collection and water/booze/bread deliveries, which, together with easily accessed WiFi hot spots, make life on board extremely convenient and easy.
Unlike on some islands that "die" during the summer, there is always something to do here. Of course this may be hard for cruisers who are not used to stressful decision making. Full Moon dinghy drift in Mt. Hartman, or dance the night away at the Full Moon Party in Benji Bay? Dinghy concert in Le Phare Bleu, or toes-in-the-sand barbecue in Hog Island heaven? Early morning noodling (aquarobics with "swim noodles") or Yoga, or Tai Chi? What a dilemma!
For the community-spirited there are opportunities to "put something back" into the country. Assisting kids in the Mt. Airy Readers' program, running the cruisers' VHF net, collecting goods for the Carriacou Children's Fund, hunting the invasive lionfish and supporting many other worthwhile causes. The cruising community here is a caring community with people willing to help when a boat drags or there's a medical emergency.
For sporty, outdoors types there is river rafting, mountain biking, dinghy racing, hiking, and most important, "hashing" every Saturday afternoon, to which folk of all ages and walks of life have become addicted. Local families, students, retirees, expats, cruisers, all delight in getting muddy and sweaty while running, walking and sometimes crawling through varied terrain all over the island.
For the less energetic, but perhaps intellectually agile, dominoes, chess, pool, trivia, card and craft sessions, local cookery classes, book swaps, boat jumbles, Gouyave Fish Fridays and Prickly Bay's big bingo evenings (at which you can win a cow or a goat), all keep boredom at bay.
For me, the real winner is the astounding depth and range of the musical talent - the jazz, reggae, soul, rock, rhythm and blues, parang, pan and drumming groups. With new young singers and musicians constantly coming to the fore and testing their performance at various watering holes around the island, cruisers get top-class entertainment in the form of open-access concerts - free, that is provided you don't drink too much. The Dinghy Concerts at Le Phare Bleu marina featuring different local and international artists are a unique musical experience not to be missed. An evening at the Grenada Museum in St. George's reveals a world-class jazz saxophonist. Jam sessions draw musical world travellers, happy to share their distinctive styles. A lively Spice Basket production combines music and theatre to introduce the island's rich history and culture.
In late June and early July the Fisherman's Birthday weeklong festivities celebrate the Feast of St. Peter in Grenada and Carriacou, both of which have excellent fishing grounds.
In August/September Grenada's Spicemas Carnival is the highlight. Cruising sailors will find the Carriacou regatta and the PCYC Round Grenada regatta, which stops overnight in Carriacou, ideal opportunities to blow away the boatyard blues. In October/November/December the Caribbean gears up for Christmas with Carols Evenings, parang music and parties galore.
You may also wish to stay on in January/February for the Budget Marine Spice Isle Billfish Tournament, the largest tournament in the Caribbean; the Island Water World Grenada Sailing Week, with classes to suit everyone (racing, racer/cruiser, cruising (fun), classic and J/24) and the Grenada Sailing Festival, where traditional boats and their intrepid crews show us all a thing or two about sailing.
For the "summer early birds" next year, the months of April and May will offer two great musical events: the Pure Grenada Music Festival and the Carriacou Maroon & String Band Music Festival. Food and drink lovers will enjoy the Grenada Chocolate and Uncorked Beer & Wine Festivals and the more athletic can take part in the Tri de Spice Triathlon.
Depending on your budget, you can chose a sophisticated or simple lifestyle in Grenada, and all ages feel at home here. While the majority of cruisers are silver-haired (though you'd think they were teenagers to see them dancing the night away), the safe, clean anchorages also draw many young cruising families, and the university crowd adds a special energy, making for a great mix.
Since "Ivan the Terrible", the hurricane of 2004, Grenadians remain alert to the season's weather. Avoiding the H word, they refer to summer as "the rainy season", during which it is warm and humid, but with almost always enough breeze to keep you cool and the wind generator going. I'll probably be shot for saying this, but another advantage of summering in Grenada is that it is close enough to Trinidad to get there quickly should a serious storm threaten, or if you require major provisioning/boat work/medical attention.
Last, but not least - it is the people of Grenada that make this such a great place. Unfailingly polite and welcoming to visitors, it is their warm acceptance, even at an official level, that makes it doubly enjoyable. So don't spend your summer dug in and strapped down, shaking in your boots listening to weather reports, come to Grenada for the time of your life.
See more articles about Grenada in the Compass Archives:
• ‘Camp Grenada' by Ellen Birrell on page 24 at www.caribbeancompass.com/online/november11compass_online.pdf
• ‘A Grenada-to-Grenada Cruise' by Don Street on page 21 at www.caribbeancompass.com/online/march13compass_online.pdf
• ‘Revisiting Grenada - and Seeing It for the Very First Time' by Frank Virgintino on page 18
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