Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Discovering Carriacou

Mark, Darwin and I spent a few days in Tyrrel Bay, to taste the local culture, meet some expats and test a couple of local bars. We walked to Paradise Beach on the north side of the island and have to admit that it is worth its name. Little development and great views add to the beauty of the white sand and crystal clear water. A couple of puppies accompanied Darwin for some play time in the sand. We didn’t stay long, because we wanted to walk back before the sun became unbearably hot. I am still waiting for some cooler weather!

In the capital, Hillsborough, we took a local bus to a little town called Windward. This place is famous for its boat building. Not much else is going on and even the old fashioned construction of wooden boats is in its low season. The “disco” is a good place (and probably the only place) to grab a cold drink and hang out with the locals in the shade of the mangroves, while overlooking the local fishing boats, the reefs and the islands of Petite St. Vincent and Petite Martinique.

Next on the exploration agenda was Anse La Roche. The cruising guides do not mention this bay and our curiosity got tickled because of a positive note in Lonely Planet. It is a real find and probably our favorite anchorage in Grenada. The secluded beach is barely visited and no development is present. The anchorage was quite comfortable, because of the absence of high winds and waves. I didn’t mind suffering from the heat here, because the beautiful water was only a jump away and we avoided work and chores. The reefs offered nice snorkeling and tasty treasures.

Our friends Chris and Christine of Gypsy Cat joined us in Anse La Roche and we were in for social and culinary treats, with lots of sailing stories, fresh caught lobster and a beach barbecue. The only downside of our two days in this wonderful bay was the presence of a female stray dog that tried to survive in the sand, rocks and forest. She really liked Mark and me after we gave her some friendly attention, food and water. Each time we left the beach in our dinghy, she tried to follow us and in the end we had to chase her away. Heart breaking. On two occasions, she actually swam out to our big boat while we were on it, to see if we would take her on board or when we would come to the beach. Once again we had to send her back. Very sad. She is not in the best condition and there is no vet on Carriacou. Darwin also doesn’t seem to like her, so giving her a new home is quite impossible for us. We hope another beach visitor will take her home one day or at least show her the way to civilization.

Our sail to Petite Martinique, the third “known” island of Grenada, took forever, because it is directly into the prevailing wind (east). It took us more than three hours to cover the 8 miles. No other cruising boats were to be seen and few people live on the island with its 1 mile diameter and short single lane road. It took us by surprise that there actually are cars that don’t do anything else than drive back and forth on this short road. The locals couldn’t care less whether you are around or not and remain their own identity this way. Most of the people are related to each other and while it is normally possible to understand the local dialect on Carriacou or Grenada, here they appear to speak a different language!

We planned on only staying one night in Petite Martinique and move to prettier looking Petite St. Vincent the next day, but the weather didn’t allow us to do so. It rained the whole day with a massive squall announcing the night, so we opted for a lazy Sunday afternoon on Irie instead.

The following day, we hoped to anchor near tiny Mopion Island for some snorkeling. The holding was very bad and the visibility still poor, so we couldn’t detect the sandy patches. After a couple of tries, we gave up on the anchoring and had to do with a few pictures of this lovely looking sandbank.

We returned to Tyrrel Bay for more boat projects, socializing and food feasts, before heading back to the south coast of Grenada, where Irie and Darwin will stay when Mark and I go on a little plane ride or two…

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Exploring Grenada by Sea

September is coming to an end and with that the hot and steamy weather hopefully will as well. Time to crank up our energy, motivation and wanderlust level. Compared to our hurricane season from last year, however, we can’t complain. At least, this year, we can jump into the clear waters of Grenada when needed; something that was impossible in the Luperon Lagoon (DR). Why did they call that place Pooperon again?

Five consecutive days of heavy rain made our lives a bit cooler and work focused, since there was not much else to do. For Darwin this came at a good time as well, since he started biting his tail again. As a result of that wound, he was not allowed to swim (read: cool off in the water). Fortunately it looked healed again just when the sun resumed her strong self. The only negative about the timing of these rain storms was that we just started our two week vacation! Yes, we decided to actually sail a bit and explore the anchorages around Grenada…

On September 12th we left the safe, secure and social scene of southern Grenada to round the western “bend”. Impressive sunsets, with a colorful fire ball disappearing behind a watery horizon, even after a rainy day accompanied cocktail time again. The surrounding clouds were impressive. Funny how the sky “way out there” was always bluer than over the mainland, those days. It must have to do with the mountains.

There are quite a few protected anchorages along the western shore. We’ve always wanted to check Morne Rouge Bay, just south of Grand Anse, Grenada’s most popular beach where anchoring is prohibited. The beach at Morne Rouge is pretty as well, but more deserted and low key. The water is clear and the snorkeling good near the southern point. We tried to find dinner in the form of conch or lobster (yes, lobster season is open again), but all the ones we found appeared too small. For three nights, Irie was the only boat present. Other sailors are put off by the charts of the area. They show a four foot depth. Sometime

s it’s good to have a catamaran! Definitely a place to go back.

In the capital, St. George’s, we stocked up on some groceries and three pounds of fresh fish. We had to, because all our own fishing expeditions and trials in the deep Grenadian waters failed miserably so far. Our big excitement in the anchorage outside of the lagoon (inside they are expanding the Fort Louis marina and anchoring is becoming “unwanted”), was that our anchor caught from the first try. The holding here is not the best and luck was on our side this time, even though we couldn’t see the bottom with the rain and clouds. It almost made up for our three hour endeavor the previous time we anchored here.

Our next stop was 2.5 miles north of St. George’s, in a bay called Dragon Bay. We entered and approached the shore for more protection, when a group of fishermen on the beach started yelling. “Don’t anchor there, use the moorings!” It took a while before we understood what they were getting at. Two pink mooring buoys are located near the entrance of the bay. We turned Irie around and carefully investigated this area close to the rocks. There appeared to be no painters on the buoys and fishing nets and floats were attached to them. Mark jumped in the dinghy to talk to the guys on the beach to confirm what they wanted. They needed the bay to fish with their big net. After a few tries we finally managed to attach ourselves to one of the mooring balls. After a look around with our snorkel mask, the mooring seemed to be in decent shape and the big nets contained lots of bait fish. Our keels rubbed against them once in a while and the fishing float banged against our hull. The swell was also more uncomfortable than deeper in the bay, but other than that, the night was uneventful. By next morning, the fishermen still hadn’t started their fishing. It is their bay, of course, which is why we followed their wishes, but to us it appears as if they simply don’t want boats to anchor in Dragon Bay anymore.

The reason one checks out the Dragon Bay area is the underwater statue garden. Mark and I snorkeled around Moliniѐre Point, but more than a few women’s statues lying on the ocean’s floor, we didn’t find. Next time, we bring a statue detector or underwater museum expert.

The winds were enormously light, so we decided to motor sail to our next destination, just like a few other boats. It had been a while, so we justified it to be able to continue our trip. When we arrived at Ronde Island, one of the islands between Grenada and Carriacou, we were surprised about the relatively calm waters. People had warned us about the swell here and depending on that we would just have lunch here or stay for the night. We anchored off the beach in some of the clearest water we’ve been in. This comes close to the Turks and Caicos and Bahamas!

With a visit to the beach we decided to stay and enjoy an afternoon of relaxing and snorkeling. It felt like being part of an aquarium. The visibility was awesome and the fish were plentiful and quite unique. During the night, the notorious swell arrived and the current and gusty wind played funny games with Irie, keeping us from spending another peaceful day here. Next time, we will have to put out a second anchor.

When we first arrived in Carriacou, now almost two months ago, we ran out of time because we wanted to attend carnival on the “mainland”. Now, we’re back to be part of the Tyrell Bay community for a few days. There are still a lot of boats, but it is quiet enough and the atmosphere on shore is different than Grenada. We find the people more friendly, the area quite laid back and the mingling with the locals interesting. Next on the agenda: Petite Martinique and Petite St. Vincent, after stopping in the Hillsborough area.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Life in Grenada

When we arrived in Carriacou, the northern most island of Grenada, we
were hoping for some well deserved peace and rest, enjoyment and exploration for a week or so, before getting on with the chores. Since leaving St. Martin, we had to keep moving to stay ahead of the hurricanes and Grenada would be our final destination this season. No rest for the weary, though, and soon enough Grenada turned into another St. Martin for us with many projects, stress and business related subjects. But first, we enjoyed our freshly caught tuna!

Checking into Hillsborough on Carriacou didn’t pose any problems and after a quick stop at Sandy Island for some snorkeling, we arrived in Tyrell Bay, surprised at the amount of sailboats. Wherever we stopped along the island chain south, there were just a few boats. The majority of cruisers had made their way to safer Grenada or Trinidad well before July started. We knew of a few boaters interested in a Wirie, so instead of relaxing, we started building another set of our WiFi devices ( Then, we heard about carnival in St. George’s, the capital. If we left that weekend, we would be in time for the big celebrations on Monday and Tuesday. So we did!

Before we realized it, we had arrived on the island of Grenada. Anchoring outside of St. George’s proved to be a bit troublesome for us. The holding (old pieces of coral) was very poor and we dragged each time we tried to set our anchor with the engines. It became a bit frustrating, looking at other boats getting the job “done” in five minutes and leaving into town. Luckily, there was no wind for a few days. After two hours, we finally got settled, but the day was gone.

Our South African friend Frik, who we met in Luperon (Dominica Republic) last year, has his sailboat in the capital and it was great catching up with him. Carnival itself was very loud, day and night, but the parades were all right. The atmosphere was festive and the costumes skimpy and less elaborate than the ones we watched in St. Maarten.

St. George’s is a good place to stock up on groceries and other products at better prices than the rest of the country. The food in Grenada is more expensive than we expected. One thing, fresh fish, is delightfully cheap, because it is subsidized by the government. Another highlight about the capital is its waterfront along The Carenage. Called “One of the prettiest harbors in the Caribbean” in many a guidebook, the collection of colorful, old fashioned buildings looks attractive indeed.

One of the reasons we wanted to spend most of hurricane season on the southern coast of Grenada is its many suitable anchorages. Prickly Bay is the most convenient one, with a marine store, a boat yard, a marina, easy access to buses into town, a big beach, and cheap happy hours. The anchorage does get rolly and crowded at times, which is when you move to another area. Hog Island anchorage is very protected and relaxed, with an empty beach on the island and Roger’s Beach Bar, when he’s around with a cooler full of goodies. Our favorite anchorage is around the corner from Hog Island, just into Clarke’s Court Bay. It is quiet, easy access to shore provides walks around Hog Island or to a secluded beach, the water is clear and internet is available with the Wirie! As in all anchorages around here, the water is pretty deep.

This blog is not a very exciting one, because –other than some social events- we haven’t really done anything fun or special yet during the month we have been here. While other people “play”, we’ve been occupied days and weekends on end with stuff we (feel we) have to do. Wiries, boat projects, lots of cleaning and running other errands have kept us very busy, believe it or not. Internet access has been our most important factor in finding good anchorages, which is not really the way you want to live life when you cruise, but it is very important to us. We hope all the activity, business related problems and boat projects are coming to a temporary halt soon, so we can take a couple of weeks “off” to see a bit of the country and the surrounding islands. More about that in the next blog, hopefully…