Under a self-imposed moratorium from jobs aboard Blue Heeler, we took the opportunity of the good holding at Prickly Bay to go ashore and see a bit of the island. Grenada, located at the bottom of the Caribbean islands, is 34kms long by 18km wide. The smaller islands of Cariacou and Petit Martinique make up the three islands of Grenada. The population is around 100,000 of mainly African descent with a blend of Indians, Europeans and others making up the balance.
Grenada has a rugged rainforest interior with the highest peak, Mt St Catherine, around 900m. As one of the top ten growers of nutmeg in the world, the locals certainly love their nutmeg and spices so much that a nutmeg is on their flag.
I thought a walk to Hog Island from Prickly Bay Marina would be a good jaunt so with bottles of cold water and good footwear, off we went.
Walking 15 minutes east, just before you reach Secret Bay Marina there’s a decent track to the left which weaves its way through mangrove scrub for about 45 minutes until a wide bridge crosses to Hog Island. (Only a couple of months ago a couple of guys assaulted cruisers in this area so as we tromped along, my radar was on full alert or any sign of weirdos lurking in the bushes).
Hog Island attracts sailors that want to get away from it all, literally. There’s nothing on the island except for the ramshackle Roger’s Bar. On Sundays the bar hosts a BBQ – a hit with the yachties by all accounts. Following the vehicle track from the bridge around the south of the island for thirty minutes we turned northwards and reached muddy mangroves that sucked the sandals from our feet before arriving at the beach near Roger’s Bar. On the way back to the bridge we found a shorter track through the mangroves which made the trip back to Prickly Bay (and ice-cream!) 50 minutes.
The following day we took the number 1 bus into St Georges then the number 7 to Annandale Falls, located about 10kms out of St Georges along the road to Grenville. The waterfall was pleasant and the fresh water was deliciously cool. We were the only tourists; outnumbered 10:1 against the local vendors selling jewellery, nutmeg and spicy trinkets; for a fee one guy leapt from 50ft into the small pool so we could take his photo, while another guy serenaded us once we were in the boundary of the park then got us once again when we left (also for a fee).
The next day we again took the number 1 bus to the main station in St Georges, then caught the number 6 to the non-touristy town of Grenville located on the east coast of Grenada.
The 28 seater minibus didn’t leave the terminal until it was full, so after an hour with the bus filled with locals we were on our way. Bus travel is cheap – usually EC$2.50 (US$1) per short trip, and EC$6.00 from St Georges to Grenville. The trip across the island took us through the thick jungle foliage of the Grand Etang Forest at an elevation of 1900ft then down the reasonably good but narrow winding roads all the way to Grenville.
Grenville is a small town with shops similar to those in St Georges – cheap clothes, plastic stuff, small supermarkets and a couple of banks. A few eateries scattered around including Bains “The best restaurant in town” where for lunch we had fried fish, stewed chicken, rice and beans (of course!), and noodles. The beachfront isn’t particularly inviting as far as swimming goes but it was a nice day out anyway.
Taking the number 2 bus from Grenville, the return route took us along the south coast with views of the coast and of the humble homes and villages along the way. After an hour we alighted near Island Water World in St Georges where we paid the obligatory visit to this popular chandlery (there’s always something we need). From here we caught the number 1 bus back to Prickly Bay. Bussing around Grenada is an inexpensive way to travel around and see the island, so long that you’re not in a hurry.
Back at Prickly Bay, events to break the mid-hurricane season blues are organised by enthusiastic cruisers and local entrepreneurs. Yoga, Tai-Chi, movie night, dominoes or chess. Other marinas have similar events, plus volleyball or music jam sessions. Friday night entertainment at Prickly Bay is a steel drum band night followed by a local group to entertain; Saturdays is half price pizza night (our favourite night!) and on Sundays is movie night for those that want to get off the boat and enjoy a movie under the stars.
The evening breeze cools the air and we generally lime in the cockpit after our afternoon swim. My iPad, perched on a tub, is paired with the speakers through Bluetooth transforming the shell-shaped dodger into a simple amphitheatre. With our legs up we watch our favourite news shows from Aussie podcasts, then perhaps re-watch a favourite movie, glimpsing up at the stars now and again.
Although Prickly Bay had a couple of hundred vessels on anchor and moored, there can be plenty of swing room between boats. Now and again on a calm evening we can sometimes hear raised voices from nearby vessels; no doubt a result of the heat and tediousness of being at anchor for extended periods, perhaps the result of a few gin and tonics too.
Already it’s the end of September and so far the region has had a few named storms and hurricanes; Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Julia, Karl, Lisa to name the recent few. Of interest to us was a tropical wave that appeared by the third week of September. Invest 97 as it was named was lower in latitude than the others and heading directly west towards the windward islands. Each day we watched the NOAA Hurricane Watch website and various other websites to see which way this tropical wave would go.
By Monday 26th September it was still unclear where the blow would hit (Cariacou to the north of us looked likely), so we made the decision to leave Grenada and head south to Trinidad. It was an easy decision as our boat was ready to sail and all we had to do was check out. The alternative was to stay on anchor in Prickly Bay, but the thought of being on anchor with all those other boats thrashing around in winds possibly over 50 knots was a little daunting to say the least. By the end of Monday, Prickly Bay looked quite deserted; yachts headed south to Trinidad, while others ducked around into other bays to seek shelter in the hurricane holes.
Our plan was to sail directly to Trinidad. With 15 yachts also leaving, we thought it highly unlikely that pirates would come out with so many vessels out there and a tropical storm on its way. But halfway across the voyage, about a dozen boats surreptitiously turned off all their lights and AIS transceivers. While that may have seemed like a good idea at the time, the thought of a dozen or so boats out there in the darkness was slightly more nerve-wracking than pirates! As we’d already motor-sailed ahead of those now in stealth mode, we felt confident we wouldn’t run into anyone in the darkness but kept an extra good lookout just in case. At least three other vessels near to us kept their lights and/or AIS on which we thought was a good idea.
The trip only took 14 hours and we checked in at Chaguaramas on the Tuesday morning. It wasn’t long before the office was swarming with captains and crews waiting to complete the many of forms and pay the navigation fee of TT$50 to Customs. After we’d cleared I took the opportunity to stock up on groceries from the Massey store at Crews Inn then we motored around to the Carenage as the anchorage at Chaguaramas is dirty, deep, stinks of diesel and has terrible holding.
Tropical Storm Matthew passed over the islands on Wednesday night and intensified into Hurricane Matthew by Thursday. The most wind we had in Trinidad was a breezy 25 knots, while reports from Grenada were 45 knots with boats dragging in the bays, and up to 65 knots in Martinique and Bequia. Hurricane Matthew, now with winds around 150 knots is now spinning in the Caribbean Sea deciding which route to take and which islands to decimate on its path. He certainly is a slow-moving hurricane.
With a few weeks remaining in the hurricane season, it’s certainly not over yet and we continue to watch the weather from the east. Over the next few days once the wind shifts a little more southerly we will continue our plan to head to Tobago, 70nm to the north east of Chaguaramas. Meanwhile, here’s a great image of Hurricane Matthew.