There are a number of happy reasons why much of the Caribbean cruising fleet gathers in Grenada for hurricane season. The most important is that, statistically, we’re fairly safe here compared to Antigua, St. Maarten or the Virgins, most of which, we all know, were hit hard this past fall.
Another factor is that many insurance companies don’t provide coverage in the Caribbean during hurricane season while north of 12 degrees north, but you can hang with us on Grenada’s south coast, say in Mount Hartman Bay (from which I write), where you’re still covered.
Speaking of Mount Hartman Bay, my wife, Carolyn, and I are only minutes away from Egmont Harbour, which is about the finest hurricane hole in 500 miles. (It is ringed with soft, soft mangroves, and the holding is excellent.) And then there is Trinidad. Once upon a time, hundreds of boats would shelter there despite the heat. But the crime spun out of control, and some jokers started pirating just off the coast. Damn! Ditto Los Testigos and Venezuela, which brings us back to Grenada.
Perhaps the most important things to know about Grenada are that we cruisers are welcomed with open arms, there’s almost no violent crime and the political situation is stable. I’ll admit it wasn’t always that way. We had to flee Grenada in 1979 when Maurice Bishop and his cronies smoked a tad too much ganja and temporarily took over the government. But that was then.
More recently, boats have been gathering here for many seasons in peace and harmony, and many businesses have sprung up as a result. We have our propane, bottled water and various other goods delivered right to our boat. Of course, the local laundry ladies are happy to have your folded wash waiting at the dinghy dock. There’s even a Champagne delivery guy. Fresh fruits and veggies? Yeah, our smiling Rasta mon both grows them and rows them out. Fresh baguettes and croissants? There was a French couple distributing them throughout the anchorage off St. George’s, though I think they left for Tahiti. Or Martinique. Wherever! It’s hard to keep track of such a fluid group.
The reality of the social scene in Grenada is that you’d never be able to keep track of it all if you didn’t have the Grenada cruisers net at 0730, six days a week, on VHF Channel 66. This is an hourlong free-for-all of news, gossip, weather and what have you. All security issues are discussed, as are social activities, business announcements, etc. You can sell stuff (but not mention the price) during the famous Treasures of the Bilge segment. There’s even a trivia question of the day.
Is this net usually fun? Yes, it is. And is it occasionally ugly? Yes, sometimes, but never for long. We each bring our cultural baggage with us, for better and worse.
In Grenada, there isn’t merely something to do every day. There are numerous things to do every second of every day!
Yoga is currently staged at two different locations, and you can join up for $1 a week. Tai chi is happening in Prickly Bay. Volleyball is big here in Secret Harbour. A huge crowd turns out and rotates in. The Big Electric Music Jam happens on Tuesday nights at the brewery. Don’t forget a dinghy light (that is, if you can find your dinghy at midnight).
There’s a monthly boat jumble. It hops from bay to bay for the convenience of all.
The Hash House Harriers are notorious around these parts. Not only do you get to run as a group through some of the most majestic scenery in the Caribbean, but they also make you drink beer from your shoe in baptism. The 1,000th local hash occurred in October, and the whole island seemed to be chanting, “On-on!” as the runners swept between watering holes.
Are you a tad more serious? Great! Then you can help teach West Indian youngsters to read with Boaters for Literacy or the Mount Airy Young Readers Program.
Like reggae? Who doesn’t! Every Sunday, the whole of Hog Island goes nuts with an island-wide beach party and local reggae blast that winds up at 0300 on a slow night and goes until after dawn if the locals are particularly lit. Or maybe you’re into acoustic? That’s early afternoon at the Sel & Poivre Restaurant and Cocktail Bar at Secret Harbour Marina. See the Aussie lass Vanessa, on Neptune II at the end of the dock, to join the singalong. Oh, and there’s a growing learn-to-play-guitar group as well. Who knew so many 70-year-old skippers secretly lust to be Keith Richards?
Are dominoes your thing? Texas hold ’em? Kiteboarding? Well, there’s a bay or anchorage filled with similar-minded sailors, just waiting for you to sail in, drop the hook and join up.
The locals really love the sailors here, and of course, they love their local music too. So, to show their appreciation, they have a giant all-day concert on a semi-sunken steel commercial boat. All the sailors come in their dinghies — and stay in their dinghies with their growing piles of empties — to take part. But people can’t sit still. They stand up and attempt to dance, and what fun it is to watch them fall in the water repeatedly.
Do you have kids aboard? There’s so much for cruising kids to do that parents sometimes lose track of what kid is attending what activity.
Most harbors have their taxi mons. In Mount Hartman Bay, ours are Shade Mon, Survival Anchorage George, Rasta Chris and Chico. They will take you anywhere, with good rates, and will never leave you stranded. Their vehicles range from funky old cars to brand-new air-conditioned vans with broadband Wi-Fi!
There are island tours, barhopping extravaganzas, grocery-shopping trips, treks to Budget Marine and Island Water World — you name it. If you can get there on wheels, these smiling guys have you covered. I will note that the tour of the chocolate factory isn’t nearly as much fun now that the genius inventor of the place electrocuted himself.
We love all the local Grenadians in Secret Harbour. They value their collective reputation highly. They never bait-and-switch on prices like that taxi dude in Madagascar who drove us out into the bush, jumped out of his vehicle, did some one-handed pushups and some handstands, ripped off his shirt, flexed his ginormous muscles, puffed out his well-defined chest, practically tore off the car door on my side, stuck his face within an inch of my mine and said loudly with lots of spit, “I want to renegotiate the fee!” (I replied, while cringing, “Sounds reasonable to me.”)
The whole south side of Grenada is littered with fine anchorages, each of which is both dinghy and vessel accessible. So we are a 10-minute tender ride away from numerous rum shops, Euro bars and eateries that range from the most informal and inexpensive to the most high-class bring-your-credit-cards establishments.
Need to haul and leave your boat? Can do! And many of the yards will dig you a hurricane trench or surround your vessel with an extensive number of joined-together poppets. Whatever you want to make your vessel secure, they’ll find a way to provide it.
If you anchor off St. George’s, shh, listen. There! You hear that conch shell blowing? That means a local fishing boat is docking. If you’re willing to go elbow-to-elbow with the local ladies, you can buy a flopping fish that was swimming just moments ago.
Clearing in and out of Grenada is easy and fast (well, relatively, meaning same-day service) either at Port Louis or in Prickly Bay. Basically, it costs about a buck a day to stay the season here, payable every 90 days. For those coming to visit, or cruisers ready for a break, there is even a modern airport. And did I mention that there are good medical facilities should the need arise?
It is impossible to get bored here. It’s more likely all the choices might drive you to Trinidad. It’s only a 75-nautical-mile beam reach away to the isle of Tobago. The Tobago Cays, to the north, are even closer.
Our routine here in Grenada fits us well. Each day, at 0600, I put the kettle on and tune in to Chris Parker’s weather. This gives us a superb overview of everything happening in the Caribbean, stormwise. By 7 in the morn, I’m writing. A half-hour later, Carolyn dons headphones and listens to the net to sign us up for various “excitements,” as she calls them. After the net, Carolyn works on the boat, varnishing, polishing or cleaning. At around 9, we break for coffee and fresh doughnuts — she uses the same dough to also make our lunch bread.
We break at noon for a long, sensuous lunch. By 2, we’re usually ashore. I hike in the mountains or stroll through the bush (lots of loose bulls here). We then occasionally join a group. I’m coaching a few future Hemingways for free. Then we usually attend happy hour at one of the nearby watering holes. There’s almost always a cruisers-special dinner nearby, but Carolyn’s cooking is so spectacular that I hate to take a step down at a gourmet restaurant.
Is Grenada truly safe from storms? Absolutely not. Hurricane Ivan hit here in 2004, and scores of boats were wrecked. What a mess!
That’s the bad news. The good is that you’ll be so busy you won’t have time to worry. Our biggest complaint about Grenada is that it is so exhausting. Why exhausting? “We’re having too much fun,” Carolyn shouts happily as she signs up for a taxi ride to Clark’s Court to thump the fresh veggies. Along the way, she’ll take a side trip to the meat market and a drive-by at the beach barbecue to see who’s there.
Our cup runneth over in Camp Grenada!
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After hurricane season in Grenada, Fatty and Carolyn Goodlander are back in the Virgin Islands.