Some of the best things about sailing and cruising—maybe even the best things about it—are the people and destinations you discover along the way. That was certainly the case last spring when I washed up on the wondrous island of Grenada and met a local chap introduced not by his name, but his color: Green Man.
I’d just spent a week sailing with an old mate—author and adventurer John Kretschmer—for a story that will appear in CW later this year. On my final day, this being 2022, I needed a COVID-19 test before I could board a plane. I’d been on the water the whole time and hadn’t seen a lick of the island. I was hoping for a ride to the clinic, and then a quick tour of the place on my way to the airport.
“No worries,” John said. “I can get Green Man to take you.”
“Who?” I asked.
There was no mistaking the trim Green Man in the shining green van who collected me at the marina. Whoa. I hadn’t seen a dude decked out in such complete and resplendent tones of emerald since the last time I attended a Boston Celtics game. I buckled into his Toyota Hiace for what turned out to be quite the ride…in more ways than one.
Luckily, the COVID test (negative) was short and sweet, which meant I had a few hours to kill.
As we pulled onto the main drag, it was clear that GM knew just about everyone. We couldn’t travel more than 25 feet at a time without some honks and waves. “My brutha!”
And with that, the running commentary commenced. History. Politics. Boats. Women. Rum. There was no topic about which GM did not have a considered opinion or observation.
Above all else, however, it was clear that there was one thing he loved and valued more than anything else: his island.
He rattled off the numbers: 110,000 people, 22 miles long, 12 miles wide, 133 square miles. It occurred to me that he might know every inch of it. Grenada is nicknamed the Spice Island, so rich is its flora and fauna, and GM slowed down at just about every tree or bush to identify it: nutmeg, breadfruit, plum, banana, and on and on.
We drove up a road called Royal Reach: “Just ambassadors and politicians,” he snarled.
We careened past a wrecked Honda: “The Japanese not coming back for that one.”
There was a long dissertation on the reign of former prime minister Maurice Bishop, which led to the US invasion of the island in 1983, but I had a hard time discerning his exact take on it all. Somewhere in there, he explained that he used to be called Yellow Man and dressed accordingly—John had mentioned this to me—but had abandoned the color because it symbolized a political party with which he had no interest in being associated. “Nobody owns Green Man,” he said. Well, I thought, that’s for damn sure.
He drove me up to historic Fort Frederick, a French stronghold back in the 1700s and an essential stop for tourists like me. We pulled off at his buddy Mark’s rum shack, where I backed down a shot of firewater while GM nursed a green tea. Then, it was on to the Annandale Waterfall and Forest Park, where I wandered down to the falls while he returned some phone messages. There was a banker of some sort about to get an earful.
When I climbed back into the van 20 minutes later, he looked kind of wistful. “This is where I grew up,” he said. “This is where I swam every day.”
I could see that GM was getting a bit restless, and though I could’ve happily kept going, when he asked, “Airport?” I knew it wasn’t really a question.
He dropped me off at the terminal, where I sort of mangled a complicated handshake, and asked him if he had a card. (I was secretly hoping I might discover his real name.) Instead, he took my phone and punched in his number. “You ever need me, that’s how,” he said.
And with that, he was gone. I could hardly say I know the man, but I was left with the impression of one of the coolest, most self-assured characters I’d ever met.
You could’ve colored me green with envy.
Herb McCormick is a CW editor-at-large.