Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Carriacou and Grenada

We moved from Union Island down to Carriacou and checked into the country of Grenada. We had some extra paperwork here because of swine flu. We all had to go into Immigration so that they could see that none of us were sick or had pink curly tails. Apparently, we were OK since the colorful Grenada flag was soon flying on the starboard spreader of Emily Grace.

The most populated island of the Grenadines, Carriacou has superb beaches, quaint rum shops, excellent diving and extraordinary scenery. Believed to have gotten its name from the Carib word for "land of reefs", Carriacou's coral origins are best represented by the six mile barrier reef on the eastern side of the island, while Kick 'Em Jenny, the active underwater volcano, is evidence of Carriacou's volcanic past.

We moved around to Tyrell bay which is more protected and cleaner. We caught up to Whiskers and enjoyed talking with them again and then we left for Grand Mal bay on the main island of Grenada. On the way we stopped and anchored near near the Kick 'Em Jenny active underwater volcano to do some snorkeling and have lunch. Luckily the volacano was quiet for our visit.

When Christopher Columbus sailed by Grenada in 1498, the island was already inhabited by the Carib Indians. The admiral dubbed the island Concepcion, but passing Spanish sailors found its lush green hills so evocative of Andalusia that they rejected this name in favor of Granada. The French then adapted Granada to Grenade, and the British followed suit, changing Grenade to Grenada (pronounced Gre-nay-da).

In 1979, an attempt was made to set up a socialist/communist state in Grenada. Four years later, at the request of the Governor General, the United States, Jamaica, and the Eastern Caribbean States intervened militarily. Launching their now famous "rescue mission," the allied forces restored order, and in December of 1984 a general election re-established democratic government.

We found the holding of the bottom in Grand Mal bay to be rubble and not particularly good so we went around to Prickly Bay on the southern coast and saw John and Mary again on Navigator. We each reviewed our options for the hurricane season.

We took the island public bus (about 92 cents each) to the town of St. Georges with Byron and Lynn from Voyager for the day. We climbed up to the Fort and enjoyed the views. The market was really nice. We bought bags of whole nutmegs and cocoa balls for almost nothing and Maggie even gave us bags of Tamarind with instructions to make Tamarind tea. We learned that Nutmeg is not a nut, but the kernel of an apricot-like fruit. Mace is an arillus, a thin leathery tissue between the stone and the pulp; it is bright red to purple when harvested, but after drying changes to amber.

Tom cleaned the bottom again to prepare for the overnight passage to Trinidad next week and we took an island tour to see the Chocolate Factory (http://www.grenadachocolate.com/index.html) and Belmont Estate in the Northeast area of the island. The chocolate factory makes organic chocolate largely with solar power and more details can be found at the link above to their website. We learned about the entire chocolate production process from the cocoa bean harvest, fermentation, drying and processing. Our women had their chance to assist the drying process by rotating the cocoa beans in the drying trays with their bare feet.

The Belmont Estate dates back to the late 1600s, during the colonial area, when plantations were first established under the system of land allocation under French rule. Throughout its history, Belmont has played a major role in Grenada's agricultural economy. In the late 1600s and early 1700s, it was one of the 81 plantations established on the island with coffee being its major produce. Sugarcane was introduced as the main crop later in the 1700s; the ruins of the water mill remains as testament to that part of its history. Cotton, was also a major crop of the estate, being later replaced with cocoa, nutmegs in the 1800s and bananas coming later. The estate is still a major producer of cocoa and nutmegs and a fine example of a traditional historic plantation.

Lunch at the Belmont Estate was really special and we all enjoyed the steaming hot white hand cloths that were presented to us with tongs to clean our hands before the meal. This was another first for Emily and it brought back memories of first class airline flights back during those work years for me. We wandered the grounds and saw orchids, birds, fruits and even some monkeys in cages.

A sad memory of Grenada was saying farewell to John and Mary on Navigator. They have cruised with us now and again almost since the very beginning of our trip in Connecticut. Our path will take us to Trinidad and their destination was West to Bonaire and to Panama. Although we will most likely head there in several months, their schedule will move them too quickly for us to catch up. I have no doubts that we will keep in touch and connect when we decide to settle down back in Massachusetts.

We all checked out of this spice island and readied ourselves for the overnight 82 mile trip to Trinidad…land of wild parrots, monkeys, leatherback turtles and steel drums.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

St Vincent and the Grenadines

From the Pitons it was a short trip to St Vincent. We chose Wallilabou Bay since it was where the Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed. We had just watched the original movie and one of the sequels that were loaned to us by Navigator, so it was pretty cool to be in the same bay where much of the movie was shot. We saw the town and the gallows where the pirates were hanged in the movie as well as many of the props used by Disney.

At this anchorage, we grabbed a bow mooring and a local man, Randolph, rowed out and took a long line from the stern to a piling near shore. This allowed the boat to face the open sea and made this anchorage more comfortable. We gave him some of Emily’s clothes that she had outgrown since he had two daughters younger than her. He was grateful and told us later that they loved the clothes. Again the water was clean and clear and we snorkeled around the boat. There was a cool arch that had been carved into the lava rock by the sea that we explored.

Just a mile up the road we hiked to a nice small waterfall where we could swim beneath the cool fresh water. We saw the usual goats and cows tethered to a tree now and again and wonderful mango and banana trees just bursting with fruit. We found bushes that produce small pure white seeds that the locals make jewelry out of and we collected some for later crafts projects.

The next day before we were to leave, Randolph delivered a 5 pound black fin tuna to our boat. I had told him I had had no luck fishing on my own and really wanted a tuna to make sushi. He rowed out before sunrise and had caught this fish on a hand line…unbelievable! The fish could not have been fresher. Kim gutted it and put it on ice and we pointed the bow towards Bequia (pronounced Beck-way).

We anchored in Admiralty Bay in Bequia near Voyager right off a nice white sand beach. The water was clear so we snorkeled around the reefs here. In two days we saw 3 turtles around the boat and reef.

We got a tour taxi to take us and the Voyager crew around the island. The first stop was to The Old Hegg Turtle Sanctuary. We met the founder, Orton “Brother” King and got a good explanation of his facility. His project involves monitoring beaches, checking nests, trying to protect mother turtles and eggs from poachers, collecting hatchlings, and taking them to the sanctuary to keep them safe during the most vulnerable years of their life.

We learned that The Sanctuary is making a big difference in the survival of these creatures. He has been in operation now for over twelve years and has already released 2000 three-year olds with his special mark (a hole drilled in the back end of the shell). Divers are seeing these marked turtles throughout the waters of the Grenadines.

Our second stop was to the The Whaling Museum. Whaling has taken place for 130 years and is part of the culture of the island. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries whale meat was a staple food for Bequia's population and provided valuable nutrition. Bequia is one of the few places in the world where limited whaling is still allowed by the International Whaling Commission. Natives of Bequia are allowed to catch up to 2 Humpback whales per year using only traditional hunting methods of hand thrown harpoons in small open sailing boats. We heard that they rarely catch their limit and last year they caught only one. Our tour guide was a 14 year old girl and she told us the meat was very tasty. We also visited several model shops where the artisans made detailed models of whaling boats and will even make a model of your ship if you have the time to wait. Maybe some Dear reader will commission a model of the Emily Grace...Christmas is coming up.

The Tobago Cays, which incidentally are not in Tobago but in the Grenadines, are one of the most beautiful places on this earth. It is an archipelago of 5 small islands set behind a long Horseshoe Reef. After our quick 20 mile trip from Bequia, we anchored behind the reef between a couple of the islands in the crystal clear, gin colored waters. We had stunning views everywhere we looked, from the waves crashing out on the reef to the white sand beaches lined with coconut palm trees of the individual cays. It is so pristine, with no civilization in sight and only accessible by boat. In fact, the Tobago Cays have recently been turned into a national park in an effort to preserve the natural beauty and abundant wildlife.

And the snorkeling in the Tobago Cays was fantastic! Before we got our anchor down, we had spotted two or three turtles around the boat. We quickly got the boat shut down and dove in. We were soon surrounded by green and hawksbill turtles. We were just floating among them, watching them eat sea grass and occasionally coming up for air. You could even hear them ripping up the grass and chewing and now understand why the locals call turtles the goats of the sea.

We dove several times over the next two days and saw a school(?) of 17 sting rays and several schools of squid which are always fun to watch. Tom has resorted to buying fish from the locals rather than waiting for a bite on the fishing rod. It sure does taste good as sushi and on the grill!

We moved to Union Island to check out of the Grenadines and to check for news on the internet. After an internet fix, it’s off to check into Carriacou and Grenada..the spice islands!


Friday, June 12, 2009

Martinique and St. Lucia

From Dominica we pushed south to Martinique to catch up with Bay Pelican in the port of Le Marin. The charts promised a flat calm anchorage and it was that. It was also hot and buggy and not suitable for swimming. One of the neatest things about this life style is that we are free to move our home if we don’t like what we see. We managed to eat a few more baguettes and pastries and we moved on to St. Lucia.

We found Rodney Bay in St. Lucia to be much more pleasant. Cooler breezes, clean water and free WiFi on the boat. Tom managed to SCUBA and clean the bottom again and Kim got two coats of varnish on the caprails. The scenery is more rustic and the people are friendly and welcoming. The entrepreneurs come out to the cruising boats in anything that will float selling fish and vegetables and offering to take dirty laundry and will fill any other need you may have.

We moved further down St; Lucia’s coast to the famous pitons. Located near Soufriere, these primeval twin peaks are St. Lucia's most famous landmark. Towering nearly 3,000 feet above sea level, the majestic peak of Gros Piton, along with its twin peak Petit Piton, dominates the western coast of St. Lucia. The lush green slopes of these pyramid shaped icons rise abruptly from the sapphire blue waters of the Caribbean. Covered with thick tropical vegetation, the massive outcroppings were formed by lava from a volcanic eruption 30 to 40 million years ago.

We nestled Emily Grace into the waters directly beneath these giants and grabbed a park mooring that put us within 100 feet of the shoreline. We enjoyed a day of snorkeling and enjoyed a meal ashore with more cruising friends aboard Voyager, a custom trawler complete with full dining room and a fireplace!


Friday, June 5, 2009

Crafts at the Lawler Academy of the High Seas

Many folks have asked how Emily keeps busy now that school is out for the summer. Well, Kim has been steadily feeding the right side of her brain (creativity) throughout the year with music lessons on the keyboard and one craft project after another.

Of course Leggos and Playdough get top billing for versatility and neither rust or make too much of a mess. Both of these media are universal. Below is a shot of Emily and Marvin playing together. Marvin only speaks French, but that made no difference to either child.

Each country visited provides an opportunity to learn about a new culture or language, but also we make all the courtesy flags that we must fly after clearing in. Below is Emily painting the stars on the flag for Dominica.

The ten green stars, which are the traditional symbol of hope, represent the ten parishes of Dominica. The Sisserou Parrot is the national bird of Dominica and symbolizes flight towards greater heights and fulfillment of aspirations. The Parrot also comes from the Dominica Coat of Arms, representing the official seal of the country. The Dominican flag's stripes form a cross representing the Trinity of God... And so it goes...each flag has a story.

Kim has even made a few attempts at painting with Emily on canvas. She has a good eye and can paint many animals from memory where the teacher prefers looking at the real thing or a picture. Both teacher and student paint the same scene. The top paintings were done by our eight-year-old crew.

Emily already has several boxes filled with shells collected and identified from the beaches we have strolled. Several of the shells made it into the shadow box above.

Finally, Kim has taught Emily to knit and the short video shows our student on the first project; a scarf for Dasher.