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July 2007

Carriacou Liquor LicenseAt the end of July, our eight month cruising season ended.  We compiled a few statistics.  Since leaving Fort Myers Beach, Florida on December 6, 2006, we have sailed 3,320 miles to Chagaramus, Trinidad.  We have visited 18 countries, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  We visited 60 different islands by going ashore and anchored at an additional 10 islands where we did not go ashore.  We are proud of our accomplishments and look forward to cruising many more miles in the Caribbean.

Here is what we did in July.  We arrived at the small Grenadian island of Carriacou in late June.  Carriacou is an island with one gas station but over 100 rum shops.  Many of the rum shops are small one-room establishments located about every ¼ mile along the road.  They often sell a small number of grocery items as well as cold beverages.  Each shop has a hand-painted sign with official licensing information reading “Mr. or Mrs. (Owner’s Name) license to sell spirituous or intoxicated beverages”.  As we walked and hiked around the island, we knew that as long as we had money, we could always get a cool drink and a snack at a local rum shop.

 Nutmeg fruit

 

In early July, we sailed south to Grenada and said good-by to our friends Sandy and Ray from Summer Wind as they hauled their boat out of the water and returned to the U.S. for several months.  We were introduced to the island of Grenada with a one-day tour of the central and southeastern areas of the island.  The destruction of 2004 hurricane Ivan was still evident throughout the island.  Most of schools, houses, and businesses have been rebuilt or repaired, but many churches are just beginning the process of rebuilding.

 

Nutmeg fruit from the tree

 Mace from nutmeg

Damaged trees are beginning to come back.  Grenada’s nutmeg production was reduced by 90% after the hurricane.  It will take about 12 years for the crop to get back to full production.  Many nutmeg processing workers are out of work and farmers are getting much less money for their small crops.  We toured a nutmeg processing plant where they separate the mace from nutmeg, dry the mace and nutmeg, shell the nutmeg, grade the nutmeg by floating it in water, then pack the nutmeg and mace in bags for shipping.  Touring the processing factory was like a trip back in time since much of the equipment appeared to date back to the 1940’s or 1950’s.

Mace separated from nutmeg

Grenada is lush and fertile, much like Dominica.  We saw many of the same vegetables and fruits growing wild in Grenada that we saw in Dominica.  Another stop on our tour was at a rum factory which has been in production since 1785.  Sugar cane is crushed by a water wheel powered by river water and many of the production processes have not changed significantly since the days of early production.  Bottles are hand-filled by placing bottles under a large insulated beverage cooler with a spout (similar to the ones used on the benches of sport teams).  The rum is over 75% alcohol (over 151 proof) and smells and tastes like gasoline.  We needed a large cup of water after a small sip of rum.  Local Grenadians love this rum and often spice it themselves with native lemongrass, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and other spices all packed together in a large glass container with rum.

Local buses in Grenada are very efficient.  They are privately owned and operated 12-passenger vans that run on standard routes and will pick up anyone that waves them down along their route.  A one-way fare is equivalent to about $.50US.  It is rare for them to refuse anyone transportation, even if they are crowded.  One morning we were two of the 21 adult and children passengers in a 12 passenger van riding into town.  There is a driver and usually a “conductor” that instructs everyone on where they should sit (this is an especially important job when things are crowded).  You really get close to your fellow passengers as the vans fly around the winding Grenada roads at high speeds.  The more crowded the bus, the less you slide around from side to side. 

Grenada monkeyA crowded local bus took us with our friends Susan and Hale from Cayuga to hike in Grand Etang Forest Reserve.  A monkey welcomed us to the Forest (they have been well-trained to come out for fresh fruit by cruise ship tours).  We had a muddy hike around the Grand Etang volcano crater lake and then up to Mount Qua Qua which gave us wonderful views of eastern and western coasts of Grenada at 2,000 feet.

Grenada is a popular spot for many cruisers to spend hurricane season since it has been spared by hurricanes during many years.  While in Grenada, we connected with many cruising friends that we met during our journey south and said goodbye to them as we prepared to leave for Trinidad.  We were hauling our boat out of the water in Trinidad for hurricane season.  Trinidad is also a very popular spot for cruisers to store or reside on their boats during hurricane season, since it is south of the hurricane zone.  Many insurance companies require boats to be as far south as Trinidad during hurricane season.  Our boat was scheduled for haulout on July 23 and we were carefully watching for a good weather window for our trip.

Friendly Grenada monkey

We left Grenada for Trinidad around 5:30 pm on Friday, July 13th (we ignored the old sailors superstition that you never begin a voyage on a Friday and the more recent superstitions about Friday the 13th).  After 14 hours we anchored in beautiful Scotland Bay, Trinidad.  We have often been welcomed to a new island by sea life, but in Trinidad a flock of small birds were immediately attracted to our red sail cover over the mizzen sail and begin to look for a proper nesting spot in the boom all while we were motoring to find an anchorage!  We waved towels at them to discourage their exploration, but finally had to cover all the holes in the boom to prevent a nest. At anchor in Scotland Bay, we could hear the King Kong like roar of red howler monkeys in the trees on the surrounding hillsides.  The roar sounds as if it is coming from a gorilla rather than a medium-size monkey.  Around sunset we could hear and see pairs of green parrots fly by as they traveled to their evening home.  Scotland Bay can only be reached via boat and locals often spend the day or weekend along the shore.  Unfortunately, the locals also leave their garbage on the shore and the beautiful shoreline looks like a garbage dump.  

Venezuela in the distance

During the week before we hauled the boat, we took a mooring at TTSA.  We took a day sail over to Chacachacare Island , only 6 miles from mainland Venezuela and inhabited only by the lighthouse keeper.  This island was a leper colony for decades and also housed a small convent of nuns.  Today, the ruins of both are still standing and accessible for exploring.  We explored some ruins and walked up to the lighthouse (the second highest lighthouse in the world) and had a wonderful view of Venezuela from the peak.

 

Mainland Venezuela in the distance 


Silk cotton treeWe also toured the Nariva Swamp, on the eastern coast of Trinidad.  Our tour guide, Jesse James of Members Only Taxi Service introduced us to popular Trinidad cuisine inspired by the extensive Indian population.  Doubles, a popular snack made from fried chickpea dough and filled with curried chick peas were served for breakfast.  For lunch we had our choice of beef, chicken, goat, or vegetable rotis also made with chickpea dough.  Our guides in the Nariva swamp pointed out numerous birds and red howler and white faced monkeys.  The monkeys in the swamp were shyer than other monkeys we have seen and they were well hidden high up in the trees.  However, we could easily hear the roar of the monkeys as we walked through a rain forest island in the swamp.

 

 

Roots of silk cotton tree in Nariva swamp

Livin the Dream’s haulout at Peake’s Yacht Services was handled very well by their experienced professionals.  We spent four days preparing the boat for two months of storage on land and flew to the United States at the end of July.  We will spend two months visiting with family and friends before we return to Trinidad on October 1.