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Article by Tor Pinney                                                                                                                                        Back to List of Tor's Tips

                  

CRUISING (AND HIKING!) GRENADA
1993 Tor Pinney - All Rights Reserved

 

Funny how one cruiser will just pass through a place, while another stops and stays. The transient catches a glimpse and leaves with an impression. The one who lingers lives an experience and leaves with regret. Such is the nature of anchorages in paradise; so it is in Grenada.

For sailors on the move, the Windward Island of Grenada (pronounced GRA-NAY-DA) in the southeastern corner of the Caribbean offers snug harbors and reasonable provisioning; a crossroads for yachts heading on to Trinidad, back through the Lesser Antilles, or downwind to Venezuela.

In my case, Grenada presented an attractive landfall after Sparrow's Atlantic crossing from the Canary Islands. Having by then sailed 6,000 nautical miles from Turkey, through a succession of autumn gales in the Mediterranean and the East Atlantic, I found Grenada's tranquility, warmth and charm irresistible. The island and the people radiate a heartfelt welcome that captivates anyone who stays long enough to notice. It's a place where boat awnings go up and stay up, and the anchor chain has time to sprout a few barnacles.

Grenada is an independent island nation, which also includes the smaller islands of Carriacou and Petit Martinique, and a number of islets. Grenada itself measures only about 24 miles by 11, yet it seems much bigger. This impression is probably due to the rugged mountain range that forms the island's core, and to the time it takes to travel overland on the convoluted mountain roads.

The mountains, lying directly in the path of the Northeast trade winds, wring from the moist sea air more than 160-inches of rainfall annually. As a result, most of the island is unbelievably lush and verdant. In fact, Mother Nature has gone absolutely wild here! Mango, papaya, orange, banana, breadfruit, grapefruit, sugar cane, soursop, sapodilla, coconut, calabash, coffee, cocoa, clove, cinnamon, allspice, thyme and nutmeg abound. No wonder Grenada is called the Isle of Spice!

Here too, for cruisers wanting a break from daily boat life, is a hiker's paradise. The interior mountains and foothills are carpeted with primeval rain forest laced with streams, waterfalls and trails. The fragrance of frangipani mingles with wild spices and the musk of rich soil, while hibiscus, bougainvillea, and heliconia everywhere delight the eye. Truly, Grenada is a land blessed with stunning natural beauty.

But above all, it's the people that make Grenada so special. Their natural courtesy and open friendliness towards visitors is the island's greatest national treasure. This feeling of being welcomed is so prevalent that it takes a bit of getting used to! Grenada hasn't yet suffered the tourist overload that strains local attitudes in more popular vacation islands. It's a refreshing respite for cruising sailors who have run the gamut south from the States; the kind of place where a traveler breathes a sigh of relief.

I suppose most people, when they think of Grenada, immediately recall the U.S. armed intervention. Some still think of this little island as some kind of a war zone. Nothing could be farther from the truth! What happened was, five years after Grenada gained its national independence in 1974, an attempt was made to set up a socialist/communist state. But things went awry and in 1983, at the request of the Governor General, the United States, Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean States intervened militarily and launched the now famous "rescue mission" which instantly ousted the communist leaders and their Cuban advisors. Since then, Grenada's people and their democratically elected government have extended an especially warm welcome to Americans and to visitors in general.

Grenada's turbulent history actually dates back to the defeat of the first known inhabitants, the Arawak Indians, by fierce, cannibalistic Carib warriors from the south. The Caribs were in turn exterminated by French soldiers in the 17th century, who were afterwards driven out by the English. Both the French and the English imported black African slaves whose descendents rebelled and eventually inherited the land. Today, Grenada has stabilized and offers a safe port of call to a growing number of cruising sailors and charterers.

Arriving in Grenada by yacht is relatively painless. Customs and Immigration formalities are fast and free in the town of Hillsboro on Carriacou Island, and in both St. George's and Prickly Bay on Grenada. Unlike most other formerly British islands, Grenada does allow pets to enter once proper certificates of vaccination are shown, though they may require a local veterinarian to inspect the animal. 

 

Grenada boasts a dozen fine anchorages ranging from busy St. George's to uninhabited coves along the south coast. St. George's, the capital, has one of the finest commercial harbors in the Lesser Antilles. A separate, landlocked inner harbor, "The Lagoon", is reserved for yachts. Bordered by a perimeter road, the harbor is a bit noisy, and you wouldn't want to swim in the water there. But the aging marina, Grenada Yacht Services, has docks and facilities, and an especially good machine and engineering shop a block away. There are also mechanics, electricians and a chandlery.

From the yacht harbor it's just a minute by dinghy to The Carenage, the downtown sea wall, where food markets, hardware stores, and all manner of shops are close at hand. To make life even easier, Federal Express and DHL can deliver parcels overnight, the public phones feature USA Direct dialing (dial 872), Visa and American Express are widely accepted, and there are several embassies and consulates present (including U.S. and, in case you're sailing in that direction, Venezuelan)

 

 

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Once you've run your downtown errands, a series of cleaner, quieter anchorages beckon along the island's south shore. Rounding Grenada's southwest point and heading to windward, the first likely stop is Prickly Bay. There a Customs/Immigration outpost nestles among palm trees near the Spice Island Boat Yard. Yachts can haul out at the yard for bottom work, and the pier provides water, fuel and limited berthing. The restaurant and bar at Spice Island is a social center for yachties, featuring daily happy hours and live steel band and reggae music on the weekends when sailors and locals dance the meringue barefoot by the bay beneath swaying palms and starry skies.

Next to windward is Mt. Hardman Bay, renamed Secret Harbor by The Moorings who have built a beautiful hideaway resort alongside their modern charter boat marina. This marina is a secure place to leave a boat dockside if you have to fly home for a visit. The Moorings management is extremely helpful to visiting yachtsmen, providing not only fuel, water and berthing, but also serving as a mail drop and message center complete with phone and fax service.

Our favorite Grenadian anchorage is in the lee of Hog Island, immediately east of Secret Harbor. This small, uninhabited island lies barely a quarter mile off the south coast of Grenada. A developer is petitioning to build a hotel and marina here; local environmentalists are fighting to prevent it. In any case, it's all ours for now! Well, ours and a herd of goats'.

From the anchorage it's just a 10-minute dinghy ride to the native hamlet of Woburn, where you can catch one of the island mini-busses into St. George's for EC $1.25 (one dollar Eastern Caribbean currency = 37 US). These busses, Japanese mini-vans, are the island's basic public transportation and a cultural experience in themselves. Each is armed with a monster stereo booming out the new reggae-rap music, called "ragamuffin". Passengers are packed in like sardines, but everyone is courteous and the ride is fast and cheap.

Our neighbors in the anchorage are a medley of cruising sailors of diverse nationalities, ten to twenty boats here at a time. There's a nucleus of fellow liveaboards who, like us, are staying "for awhile". This gives the place a feeling of continuity, of neighborhood. At times, an informal morning cruisers' net springs up on VHF radio channel 72, the cruisers' monitored frequency, to share information useful to our unique community.

On Sunday afternoons the sailors gather for a pot luck dinner on the white sand beach 50 yards off Sparrow's bow. Everyone brings one dish to share, plus any fish, foul or quadruped they want to barbecue for themselves on the driftwood fire. A couple of young local men come by boat from the village bringing a tape player loaded with reggae music and a cooler-full of beers and soft drinks to sell under a palm-thatched lean-to. 

Sometimes on a Friday, they'll come out and cook a native dish made from seafood they've just caught. Our favorite is something they call "lambi oil-down", a spiced conch gumbo served over rice. A heaping plate-full sells for $10 EC ($3.75 US); the cold Carib beers are a buck. Livin' is easy here, mon!

There are more remote anchorages east of Hog Island; such as in the lee of uninhabited Calivigny Island, where a boat can lie alone, the crew free to dive the reefs and comb virgin beaches. Off-lying reefs shelter much of the south coast and the gunkholing is outstanding, if a bit tricky. An excellent, landlocked hurricane hole could be had in Port Egmont, though Grenada lies a bit south of the hurricane belt and tropical storms are very rare.

There's a great deal to see inland on Grenada, as well! Through the cruisers' VHF net, it's easy to gather a group of like-minded mariners to share the cost of a chauffeured island tour in a private mini-bus. This is probably the best (and cheapest) way to see the popular sights such as the majestic Concord and Annandale waterfalls, the botanical gardens, the volcanic crater lake Grand Etang, the spice plantations and rum distilleries, and the small villages scattered throughout the island.

For nature lovers, the real magic and beauty of Grenada awaits in the mountain rain forests. Scores of trails meander throughout the island's 3,000-acre National Forest Preserve. The Grenada National Parks Nature Center in the central mountains provides information and trail maps. Guides can be hired through various tour operators, but you don't necessarily have to have a guide to go hiking. There are some well-marked nature trails right around the Nature Center. More adventurous outdoorsmen can pack a picnic lunch, catch a bus inland and, trail map in hand, spend an extraordinary day discovering their own Garden of Eden including hidden waterfalls deep within the tropical jungle.

The Qua Qua trail is one of these treks, a 5 to 8 hour hike that begins high in the mountains at Grand Etang Lake. Cupped in the crater of a dormant volcano, Grand Etang itself is shrouded in mystery and legend. There's the unlikely story of a scuba diver who descended, intending to disprove the locals' claim that the lake is bottomless. He never again surfaced from the sepia depths; they say his drowned body washed ashore on the island of St. Lucia, a hundred miles away.

From the lake, the Qua Qua Trail rises steeply to straddle the knife-edge of a long ridge. Cliffs disguised under thick forest cover drop off either side of a path barely two feet wide in places - not a walk for the fainthearted or acrophobic! This high ground provides awesome panoramic views: north to the highest peak of Mount St. Catherine, south to the silent crater lake, east to the distant port town of Grenville on the Atlantic coast, and west to the shimmering Caribbean. The trail then hovers at the peak of Mount Qua Qua among a windswept elfin woodland before plunging down the western slope into the deep forest.

The tropical mountain rain forest is a cool, timeless world of diffused light and padded sound. The hush is pierced by the shrill of highland piping frogs, the occasional melody of a yellow-billed cuckoo, or the startling flutter of hummingbird wings. In the background whispers running water and the eerie creaking of giant bamboo thickets swaying in the zephyr. Aloft in the forest canopy African Mona monkeys play, and down in the ravines trickle the limpid headwaters of the Black Bay River. Creeks merge and form the mountain stream; the stone-and-boulder bed provides endless natural bathing pools. The Qua Qua Trail weaves a graceful dance with this young river, crossing and re-crossing it amid an astonishing variety of exotic flora. There are no dangerous animals and surprisingly few mosquitoes.

In a dramatic climax, the trail drops steeply to an upcountry nutmeg grove. Just beyond, the Upper Concord Waterfall bursts from the mountain side, cascades over a rocky precipice and carves a deep swimming pool below in a fairyland setting of ferns and mosses. Here the hiker rests - a rest that soothes the soul as much as the body. Even as the sun settles westward, urging you back to the boat, it's awfully hard to tear yourself away!

 

And so it is with Grenada; it's a hard place to leave. Grenada doesn't yet offer the glitter of some of its northern neighbors; there are no discos; no casinos. But if you're looking for a bit of the "old" Caribbean much the way it used to be - where the trade winds are steady, the livin' is easy, and the natives are glad to meet you - then this is a place you've got to see. For lucky mariners who make it to this farthest corner of the West Indies, Grenada promises all the delights of a tropical sailor's dreams.

 

Key to Map Locations

 Island Map:

1) HILLSBOROUGH, CARRIACOU - Northern-most Grenada Customs & Immigration office

2) ST. GEORGE'S - Grenada's capital has a protected yacht anchorage, Customs & Immigration, GYS boatyard and downtown shopping (see St. George's map & key)

3) PRICKLY BAY - Southern-most Grenada Customs & Immigration office, Spice Island Boat Yard

4) MT. HARTMAN HARBOR (A.K.A. SECRET HARBOR) - Home of The Moorings charter fleet marina & resort

5) HOG ISLAND ANCHORAGE - A favorite among cruisers

6) WOBURN - The village serving as land base to boats at Hog Island anchorage

7) CALIVIGNY ISLAND - Offers isolated anchorage on its lee side

8) PORT EGMONT - The inner harbor is an excellent hurricane hole - the best around!

9) GRENVILLE - Grenada's second largest town, its reef-protected harbor is used mainly by native vessels

10) CONCORD FALLS - Very impressive water falls

11) GRAND ETANG LAKE - Mysterious crater lake in the central mountains

12) NATIONAL PARKS CENTER - Provides information and trail maps

St. George's Map::

A) THE LAGOON - The yacht anchorage

B) GRENADA CUSTOMS & IMMIGRATION OFFICE

C) GYS (GRENADA YACHT SERVICES) - Boat yard and marina

D) DOWNTOWN ST. GEORGE'S - Shops and services

~ End ~

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