The next island-nation south of St. Lucia is St. Vincent & the Grenadines. However, St. Vincent itself (not the Grenadines) has a bad reputation among the cruising community, for both being unsafe and uninteresting, so we made the jump all the way down to Grenada.
Going all the way back to New Jersey, our overnight passages have been nothing but trouble, and sure enough, it was another sleepless night of storm-tossed seas… just kidding, this time it was actually gentle and pleasant. Danica and I woke for our 8 am watch to the calm and islet-studded waters of the Grenadines archipelago. The southernmost of the Grenadines happened to end up under Grenada’s jurisdiction, and so our first destination was actually the island of Carriacou. Carriacou wasn’t much, so we soon sailed the rest of the way down to Grenada’s southern coast.
The most memorable thing from Grenada was an excellent, daylong taxi tour, which I think the rest of the crew would agree, was our best tour of the trip. But first, you should know that Grenada is famous for its nutmeg. It is their number one commodity. Beyond just nutmeg and mace (a second spice from the same plant, made from fibers around the nutmeg), on the island they make use of every part of the nutmeg. The nutmeg’s fruit is turned into nutmeg syrup, nutmeg jelly and jam, and even used to sweeten barbeque sauce. Nutmeg husks are used like woodchips to cover walkways. Many billboards advertised medicinal products made from nutmeg, called Nut-Med (supposed to ease joint pain). There is a nutmeg on the Grenadian flag.
So, now you know why our first destination, and one of Grenada’s main tourist draws, is going to visit a spice estate. The estate we visited did not let you see the actual fields, but they have a showroom where demonstrations are given of the spices they grow. In addition to nutmeg / mace, they grow bayrum, cocoa, cinnamon, cloves, and anise. The demonstration showed us the spices in their raw form, including a very strongly scented branch of cinnamon wood.
After the spice estate, we drove to the northern tip of Grenada, a cliff known as Carib’s Leap. It was here that after losing in their war against the French, the remaining Carib Indians all leapt to their deaths rather than be captured.
Next up was the Belmont Estate. The previous spice estate produced cocoa, but only in the raw form. Belmont is the only chocolate-producing facility in Grenada. An extremely energetic tour guide took us out to the orchard, where mango and citrus fertilize the trees to flavor the cocoa. He then climbed a tree and broke open a cocoa pod for us to try the raw seeds, still covered in white pulp. The taste was very strong, but of fruit and citrus, not chocolaty at all. Was this from their special fruit fertilizers? Since this was our first taste of raw cocoa, it’s hard to say.
The tour continued through the various stages of chocolate production, which includes a long fermentation in wooden bins covered with burlap and palm leaves, then drying in the sun or greenhouses, and finally roasting. The cocoa beans can then be sold, or turned into chocolate right there (by grinding and mixing with other ingredients). At the end we were served strongly spiced Grenadian hot chocolate. It was delicious.
After a buffet-type lunch where we were able to try “oil down,” a local dish, we went to a very unique attraction: an airplane graveyard. First, some background. In 1979, Maurice Bishop came to power in Grenada through a coup. In 1983, other members of his party, favoring more radical policies, seized power and executed him. The US then invaded, the main reasons given being protecting US students at the medical school and concern about Cuban participation in construction of a new airstrip. Ultimately the country returned to the pre-1979 system of democratic government. How do Grenadians feel about this? I suspect he would avoid saying anything disagreeable to customers, but according to our taxi driver Grenadians had “loved Maurice Bishop,” so after his execution they were in favor of anything that would get rid of the people responsible, and so most people view the invasion positively.
A strange result of all this was that, at the time of the US invasion, a couple of Cuban airplanes were stationed in Grenada. Afterwards they were not allowed to leave, and left to molder away in a field outside of the old airstrip. There they still sit, surrounded by goats and other animals that local farmers graze on the land. They are not fenced off in any way, so we were able to go right up and examine the exposed engines and broken dashboards.
Finally, we drove back towards the boat, but only after first passing through the forested center of the island. This offered us some good views, but unfortunately no sight of monkeys, which are usually around earlier in the morning. There was also a neat waterfall just a short walk off of the roadside, which also includes a small garden, and a group of guys that wanted us to pay them to jump off the waterfall. To cap off the excellent tour, our driver agreed to swing by a grocery store so we could use his van to load up on provisions to bring back to the boat.
Other than the tour, we did visit the capital city of St. George’s, which has an enormous Saturday market with a large variety of produce and spices for sale. Also in town, a stone tunnel runs under a hill to connect the waterfront to the rest the city. It is just big enough for one lane of traffic and one lane of pedestrians, nervously squeezing against the wall to stay out of the way of the cars.
We had enjoyed our visit to Grenada, especially the island tour, but it was soon time to leave. As we rounded the ‘toe’ of the vaguely boot-shaped island, after many months of cruising, we turned north. We still had a few more places to visit, but we had officially reached our southernmost point and were now headed in the direction of home.
But wait, there was one other attraction to see before we left Grenada. Halfway up the coast is a sunken sculpture garden for snorkeling and diving. We tied up to a mooring, dingied over and went snorkeling around the fish and statues. Conditions were not ideal (the water was slightly murky), but it was still pretty cool, and definitely worth stopping for.